The wake of the MLB season finally coming into sight instantly brings to the surface questions that have been there all along but now take center stage. It’s one thing to figure out how all the MLB clubs can get back to work, its another thing entirely to develop a way to continue to develop the members of every player not part of the 60-man squads.
Rumblings of preliminary plans is about all we’ve gotten to see or hear. Most fans probably leave it right there in reality, MLB is back begins and ends the discussion, in Pittsburgh though, let’s just say development is kinda important.
We have heard some pretty good ideas though. One is an extended Arizona Fall League where each team would supply a full squad. I like the sound of that but don’t feel it would entirely solve the issue. Expanded instructional leagues could help pick up the pieces but nothing is solid yet.
One thing I want above all is for the league to develop the plan with an eye toward making sure nobody in the system feels like this has been a total loss year. In other words, if Travis Swaggerty was on track to arrive in 2023, let’s make sure when all is said and done, none of our solutions move that target.
There is so much to think about. Even if safety and health were not an issue, MLB will be occupying a large percentage of players for the reserve pool so you can’t just pop up and have a regular AAA season anyway. Once you start shuffling the cards to build that pool you would be forced to place players at different levels together. So, competition and development need to be viewed through an entirely untested and unproven way.
We are just starting to get a view of how some clubs will construct that reserve roster and the philosophies are all over the place. Some teams like the Rangers seem inclined to put top prospects who are seemingly a year or two away from making the show on their reserve squad. The Pirates look poised to formulate theirs from much of what we saw in Spring Training 1.0.
Maybe laying out the objectives would help, let’s try it.
1. Provide a place for all MiLB players to continue development and continue their clock
2. Pay all MiLB players at least on a pro-rated bases like their MLB counterparts
3. Keep MiLB players as safe as the MLB players will be
OK, that all sounds good on the surface, right? Some leagues are set up for safety already. The Appalachian league for instance is already a tight geographic area for travel. Maybe its as simple as allowing some of these to have expanded rosters and absorb a couple levels like Low and High A players together. Hey, Rob doesn’t think we need Low A anyhow so perhaps this is an opportunity to show the warts in that thinking.
Perhaps a partnership with the Dominican Summer League could be an option where draft picks and free agent signees could be placed to receive low level instruction. Only issue I see with that is the amount of college players selected in the draft this year, they may be too far along for that to be a blanket solution.
The point of all this is really to illustrate, this isn’t an easy situation. I’d rather them take time and think through all of it, than to see them attempt to placate this group of players with a half-hearted and poorly thought out plan. Planning will ultimately create the best situation for everyone involved and getting it right is far more important than getting it fast. Patience on this issue is key.