Through the mess created between the Major League Baseball and its Players’ Association has emerged some hope for those fans that want to see legitimate baseball played in 2020.
Monday night, it was reported that a 60-game will be put into place so that games will be played this summer. Players will report to camp on July 1 and play games beginning on the weekend of July 24-26.
While a 60-game regular season won’t change much for the Orioles, it’s worth asking the question of what it means for the organization’s top prospects.
Of the team’s top 10 prospects, according to mlb.com, five have an expected arrival to the major leagues after the 2020 season — including the team’s top three prospects: Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall.
The five prospects expected to make an impact in 2020 are: first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, outfielder Austin Hays and pitchers Michael Baumann, Dean Kremer and Zac Lowther.
Hays was the first player from the team’s 2016 draft to make the big league — he did so in 2017 — but didn’t play for the Orioles in 2018. Last season, he slashed .309/.373/.574 in 21 games and 68 at-bats for the Orioles, a promising sign for a potential long-term contributor.
The biggest name on that list, though, is Mountcastle.
A 2015 first-round pick, Mountcastle has yet to make his MLB debut. Last season in AAA, he slashed .312/.344/.527 with 25 home runs and 83 RBIs in 127 games for the Tides. Now, at just 22-years-old, it’s time to see what he can do at the major league level. While he might not stay at first in 2020, depending upon what the Orioles do with Chris Davis, Mountcastle would’ve made his debut in one fashion or another.
As for the trio of pitchers in Baumann, Kremer and Lowther, their impacts would’ve likely been felt in 2021.
If rosters are expanded to 30 players with a handful of players ready to be called up, opportunity exists for pitchers like Keegan Akin and Cody Sedlock to see significant innings in the shortened 2020 season.
In short, prospects near minor league maturation will be benefitted by expanded rosters and the potential to show what they’re worth at the major league level.
While an announcement hasn’t been made yet, it’s expected there will not be a minor-league season this year. With a lack of at-bats for players like Heston Kjerstad, Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson and a lack of innings for Rodriguez and Hall to throw, development could be stunted.
That’s where the Orioles’ farm system will take a hit.
As players deep in the system, even if they were high draft picks, struggle to find opportunities to get on the field, some might only have a handful of opportunities before spring training commences in 2021.
While Rutschman and Hall weren’t expected to join the Orioles until 2021, and Rodriguez until 2022, it’s reasonable to assume those dates can be pushed back without much seasoning in the minors. Therefore, it’s possible Rutschman doesn’t see a game at Camden Yards until 2022.
Make no mistake, the Orioles are only going to bring up their talented crop of prospects when they’re ready to play at the major league level. With general manager Mike Elias’ draft class of 2019, an abbreviated one in 2020 and a future class of 2021 on the way, the Orioles have the elements of a successful rebuild in place.
But the Orioles will wait until each prospect is ready before they officially turn the corner. And if the coronavirus pandemic means a delay of those debuts, then so be it.
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