MLB Mulls Plan For Teams To Add 15 More Players To Alternate Site
The cancellation of the minor league baseball season has left thousands of players out of work. Only the few dozen selected by each organization for a spot in their 60-man player pools have had any formal development since spring training was shut down March 12.
That might be about to change.
Sources have indicated to Baseball America that MLB is considering allowing teams to add roughly 15 additional players to their player pools.
Currently, teams are allowed to have 28 players on their major league rosters. That means there can be no more than 32 players at each alternate site at a given time, which is not enough to play full intrasquad games every day.
The Red Sox’s current alternate training site roster, for example, lists 29 players. Seventeen are pitchers and four are catchers. If you’re counting, that leaves just eight other position players—six infielders and two outfielders (Cesar Puello and Jarren Duran).
The lack of players and imbalance in roster composition leads to a few less-than-ideal situations. First, the games are usually less than nine innings. Two players BA spoke with this week said intrasquads have been roughly five innings each day. In a year when innings and at-bats are paramount, that’s not optimal.
Second, the uneven distribution of position players and pitchers—necessitated in some cases by the desire to have a mix of upper-level, veteran players who can contribute in the major leagues as well as some of the organization’s top prospects—means either players are going to have to play out of position or coaches will have to fill in as players on a regular basis.
With plenty of players, including many lower-level prospects for whom the 2020 season could have been instrumental, readily available, adding roughly 15 players to each team’s player pool would quickly alleviate that problem and allow teams to play full intrasquad games with players only.
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More players at alternate sites also gives teams more protection in case of injuries or COVID-19 outbreaks. The 2020 season has already seen 95 players make their major league debuts, including many who would not have gotten the chance if not for outbreaks on their parent clubs.
Marlins righthander Humberto Mejia, for example, made his first career big league start despite never pitching above high Class A after Miami returned to play following an outbreak that jumbled their Opening Day roster.
There is also still the question of whether there will be an Arizona Fall League, either in its traditional form or an expanded version with a companion league in Florida. There are many questions about whether such a league can be done safely, and multiple front office officials have also said they fear it may be cut for cost purposes. If there is no fall prospect league or instructional leagues for player development, then adding more players to a player pool would become even more important.
Even for players who are working out at alternate sites, innings and at-bats are going to be stunted since games at those facilities didn’t begin until after the league restarted following protracted negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA.