Coronavirus is all over the news and, sadly, it has severely affected professional leagues around the world. Public health is, and should be, the main priority. Of course, I can’t lie: I miss watching games, especially baseball games. I’d like to watch the Yankees play this year, and I hope it is possible.
No one knows, as of now, when we will have baseball on our TVs. What we do know, however, is that it won’t be in April and it likely won’t be in May either, although there might be an outside chance for that to happen. Nevertheless, June or July are looking as the stronger bets at this point.
Boras “pitches” a couple of ideas
Scott Boras, the sport's most powerful agent, made a couple of pitches on Wednesday and proposed both a 162-game schedule season starting in June and a 144-game calendar beginning in July. Both would have the World Series being played deep into December. I don’t know how realistic it is to play a baseball game on Christmas Day, for example, but I would guess that MLB prefers to avoid that scenario.
The two most likely outcomes at this point are: A) playing a short campaign, maybe somewhere between 80 and 120 games, with postseason baseball in October; and B) no baseball this year.
Of course, we all want baseball to return ASAP, but we might have to prepare for the possibility of no games this year. I prefer to think that some sort of shortened schedule will be sorted out eventually, so if you ask me, I will go with option A.
Now, MLB and the Players Association will have to hammer out lots of details, such as compensation for a shortened season, prorated salaries, and more. Yesterday, they agreed on granting a full-year of service time to players in 2020 regardless of how many games the schedule includes.
Youngsters and minor leaguers: the most affected group
Established major leaguers will be affected anyway, but besides the decreased pay because of an hypothetical prorated scheme (fewer games, less money), minor leaguers will lose valuable reps, innings, and at-bats that would provide experience with an eye on tomorrow.
Every farm will be affected by a shortened season, and the Yankees are no exception. They have a system deep with talented arms in the low levels. Pitchers like Roansy Contreras, Miguel Yajure, Luis Gil, Yoendrys Gomez and Alexander Vizcaino need to work to become more consistent and to hone different aspects of their respective games.
Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia need to face and dominate Triple-A before receiving a real shot at the bigs. Luis Medina needs lots of reps against quality competition to prove that last season’s control gains were no fluke, and Jasson Dominguez, more than anything, needs to play a lot of games and have the most possible at-bats.
Albert Abreu and Nick Nelson also belong in the group of hurlers that need to refine control and command, and a shortened season will cut some development time off their careers. The ETA of some prospects, especially those in the low minors that are further away, could be pushed back a year.
Minor leaguers, prospects and young players not yet established in a specific role stand to be the biggest losers of the postponed start of the season. By pushing back the beginning of the year a couple of months, injured veterans are given more time to heal and reclaim their positions and roles. Of course, teams are happy about that development, but the time may end up taking some golden opportunities for the youth.
For example, James Paxton and Aaron Hicks were, not that long ago, set to miss at least a couple of months of the 2020 campaign. That could have opened a slot for a young hurler like Garcia, Schmidt, Nelson or even Mike King, and Hicks’ case was going to result in extra at-bats for Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar and the like. Now, both Hicks and Paxton could be ready for opening day.
Starting pitchers, especially, could have a lot of valuable playing time cut off. Making a dozen starts at Double-A isn’t the same as making 25 or 30. The odds of someone making a Deivi Garcia-like leap from Class-A Advanced to Triple-A are, obviously, lower.
Only time will tell how things are going to play out. But youngsters and prospects appear to be the most affected group as a result of the coronavirus crisis when it comes to Major League Baseball.