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Yankees minor-leaguers face more delays heading into the 2021 season

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Major League Baseball has announced that the minor league season will be delayed for the Double-A level and below.

MiLB: AUG 13 Florida State League - Mets at Yankees Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a tumultuous last twelve months that saw the cancellation of an entire season and a significant downsizing of the minors leagues, there was another round of news to welcome in 2021. Major League baseball officially announced that the season for Double-A and below will be delayed until all major leaguers and Triple-A players have finished their spring training. This news is not necessarily bad for many teams but leaves a lot of questions for the Yankees and their affiliates.

Baseball America was the first to report that a memo had been sent to minor league team on January 4th announcing a delay of the season for many minor league franchises. Due to the realignment and the ongoing legal process that has accompanied it, the schedules for a minor league season have yet to be announced which minimizes the disruption this announcement caused. This delay will directly affect the Yankees’ two newest minor league affiliates — Double-A Somerset and High-A Hudson Valley.

The stated reason for the delay is a desire to allow players to socially distance during spring training. Reducing the number of players in camp will help baseball manage this process while increasing the likelihood that minor league baseball returns with fans in the stands.

The Yankees are scheduled to play opening day on April 1st, and the earliest minor league players will be reporting to camp is the last week in March. This will push the start of the minor league season well into May, perhaps as far as Memorial Day weekend.

It also has created a dynamic where there is a good chance that both major league and Triple-A rosters are expanded to start the season. Similar to last season, teams are going to want a healthy pool of players to draw from as they face COVID protocols in addition to the normal attrition that happens early in the season.

There is the possibility that the Triple-A could start in an alternate site setting as they did last year. These teams frequently travel on commercial flights raising serious concerns about players being exposed during travel.

One way this could have an interesting affect on the Yankees is the composition of their 40-man roster. The team currently has six players who have never played an official game above the High-A level. One more member of the 40-man, Estevan Florial has one game with the Yankees last summer as his only experience above High-A. This is by far the highest rate of players who have not faced a season of high-level minor league play of any 40-man roster in baseball.

Will the Yankees push players like Oswald Peraza and Yoendrys Gomez into Triple-A action when they likely project to one of the Single-A levels?

While the season delays on the front end, it will add flexibility on the back-end. Minor league teams are expecting their schedules to include one off day a week and take them through October. This is a major shift for teams that generally finish their regular season around the first weekend of September.

This later schedule will provide teams the chance to rehab players in game action all the way into the playoffs. Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery at the end of 2019 are some examples of players who ran out of minor league games and returned late in the season before they were stretched out.

The minor league season will once again be different from years past. Following the cancellation of the 2020 season and a massive realignment the minors will face a late start to the season. The delay could have the Yankees moving some of their young players to Triple-A faster than they hoped, but could also help a late season rehab assignment if the need arises. The teams that adapt the best may find the advantages to the changing and still-not-set system.