In addition to dictating when and how the major league season will resume, the agreement between MLB and the players will have a tremendous impact on the minor leagues. More specifically, moving the draft to July and reducing it to as few as five rounds completely alters the landscape of short-season leagues at the lower levels. For the Cubs, that means adjusting the way rosters for the Eugene Emeralds and two Arizona Rookie League teams in Mesa are constructed.
The draft normally takes place in the first couple weeks of June, right around the end of the college baseball season. After players are signed, they go through their physicals and typically report to Mesa for a week or so. From there, most of the college guys are off to Eugene at the beginning of July. That’s not going to happen this year.
Depending on when in July the draft is held, picks probably won’t arrive in Eugene until the end of the month at the very earliest. That influx traditionally pushes young international players and those drafted out of high school or junior college the previous year back to Mesa, but that won’t happen as early in 2020. That means several less polished players will get more playing time at a higher level for six weeks or more, which could be a good thing in terms of development.
Just a year removed from their prep days, pitchers DJ Herz, Tyler Schlaffer, and Porter Hodge are going to get long looks as starters. Likewise, international players like Luis Rodriguez, Benjamin Rodriguez, Jose Miguel Gonzalez, Joel Machado, and Richard Gallardo should see more action than they otherwise might have.
The best case scenario right now is for the resumption of baseball activities happens at some point in May, with full seasons opening in June. As of today, short-season leagues are scheduled to open on June 17. Will the Cubs even have enough players to fill rosters in Eugene and two AZL teams? And what about the development for those players, who are currently missing out on extended spring training.
This would normally be a time when young professionals are getting acclimated to a new culture while receiving high-level instruction in Mesa. It’s difficult enough for seasoned veterans to keep up their training given the current state of things, so you can imagine how detrimental this shutdown is for teenagers just trying to get started.
It’ll be a while before we know exactly when everything is going to start back up, but the ripple effects of this break on player development are going to be felt for years to come.