It is an unfortunate reality that the 2020 MiLB season is going to be canceled. At the moment, hundreds of MiLB players have been cut, the MLB draft was limited to five rounds, and it is extremely likely that the number of minor league teams will be cut from 160 to 120. Not only are these changes short-sighted and bad for minor league players and organizations alike, but they will have a lasting impact on the game, with ramifications for years. From a dynasty perspective, the MiLB season is normally something to follow as certain prospects breakout, while others regress. Dynasty leagues are often won by analyzing the minor leagues and with those stat lines unavailable this year, it becomes even more essential to trust video, prospect reports and any live feedback you can get. With that being said, here are five players who will be impacted most by a canceled MiLB season, whether it’s because they are returning from injury, had a chance to make an impact at the MLB level this season, or simply needed some live ABs.
1. 3B/SS Jordan Groshans
Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Highest Level: Low A
The 29th-ranked prospect according to Baseball America coming into 2020, Jordan Groshans has a ton of hype surrounding him. In 2019, he slashed .337/.427/.482 while showing consistent pop and even more growth potential. However, the problem is that he only played a mere 23 games before being slowed by a nagging foot injury. Coming into 2020, Groshans was poised to make the jump up to High-A Dunedin and was said to have a clean bill of health during spring training — meaning all signs were pointing to a big breakout year. (Groshans agrees — see his tweet below.) Now that the MiLB season is all but officially canceled, it will be almost two full years since Groshans has faced live in-game pitching. I’m still high on Groshans and believe that, come 2023, he will be the third baseman of the future for the Jays (assuming Vladito transitions to first), but it is fair to question if this long layoff from in-game ABs will have any impact on his future performance.
I miss destroying pitchers ERAs man…
— Jordan Groshans (@groshansj10) May 12, 2020
2. RHP Brent Honeywell Jr.
Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Highest Level: AAA
If there was ever someone who needed some baseball, it would be Brent Honeywell Jr. Honeywell has completely missed all of the 2018 and 2019 seasons due to a myriad of arm injuries, including Tommy John surgery and a fractured elbow. Apparently healthy and throwing again during spring training, Honeywell unfortunately underwent another arm procedure in May that puts his return-to-play timeline in question. On the bright side, with the 2020 MiLB season likely canceled, it can be argued that the additional time off will give him more time to recover, but at this point I firmly believe he just needs some reps. Let’s hope we can get back to seeing him dice up hitters with filthy pitches like the one below.
3. RHP Forrest Whitley
Team: Houston Astros
Highest Level: AAA
Prior to 2019, Whitley was the consensus top pitching prospect in baseball and expected to make immediate contributions at the major league level. Of course, his 2019 season didn’t exactly go according to plan, as Whitley had a 7.99 ERA over 59.2 injury-plagued innings. With that in mind, the MiLB season cancellation couldn’t come at a worse time for Whitley, as he was looking to bounce back in a big way and prove he can be an ace-like pitcher. At this point in time, it’s hard to put a lot of stock in Whitley until he can get some innings under his belt and prove that 2019 was the outlier, not the norm.
4. UTIL Ryan Mountcastle
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Highest Level: AAA
Mountcastle is a unique case: Based on his 2019 numbers and the 2019 on-field performance of the Orioles, it could be argued he should have been called up last season. In AAA, Mountcastle slashed .312/.344/.527 with 25 home runs while playing defensively at first, third, and left field. While Mountcastle will likely be on any major league expanded roster this season (if there is a season), not being called up last year and potentially missing a full year of service time this year could have major impacts on his future. With players looking to get to free agency as soon as possible, this cancellation comes at an unfortunate time for Mountcastle, who will potentially lose upwards of two years of service time.
5. The 2020 MLB Draft class
With the MLB and the MLBPA fighting, and negotiations becoming uglier by the day, the 2020 draft class must feel a little bit like guests at a dinner party where the hosts won’t stop screaming at each other. Like, seriously, it’s bad enough that hundreds of draft eligible players are going to be forced to decide between signing for peanuts (my bad, $20,000) or finding other places to play, but for those few who were lucky enough to be drafted, this cancellation couldn’t come at a worse time. Many of these prospects had extremely abbreviated or even no high school or college seasons, and now are missing out on their first teachings of the pro game, which is extremely important in a player’s developmental cycle. It really is a shame that their first taste of pro ball is coming in this format. On the bright side, there were some exciting prospects selected, and as a Jays fan, I am ecstatic that Austin Martin fell to the fifth spot.
Stay tuned for first-year player draft fantasy rankings: Despite their rude introduction to pro ball, some of these prospects really do deserve your love.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire | Featured image by Alyssa Buckter (alyssabuckter.com)
Whitley was the first player to come to mind when I saw this headline. Honeywell is a great pick as well although he’s hurt (again) anyway. Great work!