2-8-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement On Twitter)
Exactly one month from today the Minor League Baseball Season will officially open for 90 affiliated teams across the United States. For the Pirates this means the Bradenton Marauder, the Greensboro Grasshoppers and the Altoona Curve players will officially take the field for the first time since Getting Better at Baseball Camp 3.0 got into full swing back on February 20th; with the Indianapolis Indians-and all other Triple-A Squads-beating them to the punch by three days.
Now, if you’ve been reading the plethora of articles written by and/or watching the videos posted by Jason Mackey, Alex Stumpf, Tim Williams and Justice delos Santos from Pirate City in Bradenton, it has become more than apparent that there are certain players missing from the practice fields; outside of the obviously noticeable absences of Bryan Reynolds, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Mitch Keller and the like.
Back in November-prior to the MLB Lockout-the Pirates added Liover Peguero, Travis Swaggerty, Canaan Smith-Njigba and Travis Suwinki to the 40-Man Roster in order to protect them from the MLB Portion of The Rule 5 Draft; that might not even take place anymore. At the time they joined Diego Castillo-added a few days earlier due to his impending Minor League Free Agency-, Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras as players with little to no Major League experience; and in turn, those who were likely to begin the season at Indianapolis, or Altoona in the case of Peguero. However, it’s not like these players would be the only ones taking up a roster spot as the Indians prepare to face off against the Omaha Storm Chasers on April 5th.
As it stands the MLB Active Roster is set at 26, which ultimately means that the other 14 players would help make up the 28-Man Roster in AAA. Yet, with those players-which includes the aforementioned prospects-not able to be there, the void must be filled. Sure, there are players already earmarked for a Triple-A assignment-not on the 40-Man-like Mason Martin, Cal Mitchell, Bligh Madris, Trey McGough, Hunter Stratton, etc., but clearly there are not enough.
So, in order to make up the difference, Ben Cherington and Company-spearheaded by the Director of Coaching and Player Development, John Baker-will have to decide whether these positions can be taken care of internally, or if Minor League Free Agents are the answer; all while trying to balance the Domestic Reserve List, assess the developmental needs and abilities of each prospect, predict how long the lockout will last and prepare for the potential return of players to the 40-Man Roster. None of this sounds simple, because it’s truly not.
Yesterday in his weekly Five Pirates Thoughts At Five, Gary wrote about some potential complications that could arise concerning players such as Cruz, Contreras and Swaggerty due to an abnormal Spring Training schedule, as well as some hypothetical, yet totally conceivable scenarios involving Madris, Cody Bolton and Cam Vieaux. Honestly, Gary could have used several other players in these examples, but each of his points still stand; and so do all of the questions that follow.
Following a shortened 2020 Spring Training and subsequent 60 game MLB Season it was determined that four weeks would be the minimum amount of time needed for players to prepare, in an attempt to prevent injuries. And, even though it was reported by league sources, the concerns originated from pitchers and agents; but that really doesn’t matter at this point. What is important is that this four week guideline pertains to players preparing for a MiLB Season just as much as those preparing for a MLB one; which basically brings us full circle.
In one month I will be standing on grass in left field at People’s Natural Gas Field, as my 5 year-old rolls down the hill for the hundredth time. As I look across the field, who exactly am I going to see? And, will it be any different a few weeks later when I’m standing behind the Tiki Terrace at Canal Park?
Those are the questions; I guess I’ll have to wait for the answers.