Let me first preface this by saying I’m not breaking any news here. I don’t have any inside intel and it’s not widely reported one way or the other.
But honestly, a minor-league season in 2020? It ain’t happenin’.
The MLB Draft starts up on Wednesday evening and it’s hard to imagine a worse time to be drafted. At least not in terms of forces within the game creating an unwelcoming environment.
The short answer is that there will be five rounds of selections and then teams can sign an unlimited cache of amateurs for $20,000 apiece — and not a penny more.
It’s not hard to see why that’s a crappy thing for the players. Slot value for the last pick in Round 10 (!) last year was $142,000 and change.
It won’t just screw players this year, either. There’ll be a backlog of capable players going back to college — like how Brent Rooker was selected in the 38th round by the Twins, only to go a year later in the first round — which will be good for the NCAA game but screw a number of other things up.
Draft-eligible juniors will be especially hurt, since they’ll go back to college if unselected and unmoved by the thought of a $20,000 bonus — only to be a potential senior-sign next year where that might be the same offered bonus even if they manage to go inside the top-10 rounds.
Remember Brian Dozier? He was a senior-sign in the eighth round in 2009 and got only $30,000. The player before him? He got $150,000. The player after? How about $105,000.
Ever heard of Brandt Walker and Ryan Buch?
All of this is an apt precursor to the fact that the players won’t really be treated as actual entities until they make the major leagues. If we’ve learned anything from this labor strife going on, it’s that owners will stop at nothing to count their pennies. Literal pennies as it pertains to minor-league payments.
These guys aren’t even minor leaguers yet. Yeesh.
So it’s hard out here to be a draft prospect — at least those who won’t go in the first couple rounds. But it’s kind of like the old NCAA saying. “I went pro in something other than (insert sport here).” A lot more of these guys are going to have to scratch and claw to get by — only to have to do it again if and when they finally make a minor-league roster.
But let’s take a look at the existing minor-league situation for the Twins. There’s virtually no chance there’ll be a season. Some guys might end up on what amounts to a taxi squad — if and when MLB actually gets it together for a 2020 season — which won’t be an entire year lost of development, but also probably not far off.
Will guys like Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach be on that taxi squad? Since they aren’t on the 40-man roster, one would ostensibly imagine not. But at the same time, would the Twins have to weigh having them around as part-time players — with or without whatever the 40-man implications would be — versus having them basically take a redshirt season.
That’s not ideal for Larnach, who was a college player when he was drafted and would be 24 before he plays in any meaningful games again. It’s also not ideal for Kirilloff, who’ll only be 23 in November but, don’t forget, has already missed an entire season due to Tommy John surgery.
Certainly it’s not ideal for any prospect to miss an entire season. For both of those guys, it would be sub-optimal. In fact, most of the Twins’ higher-end prospect depth is close-ish to the major leagues — possibly cushioning the blow when it comes to lost years of development.
But as far as the prospects who’d be most affected, that’s a totally different list.
Let’s dig in:
Keoni Cavaco — SS — GCL Twins (Rookie) — No. 7 on MLB.com’s Top-3o List
Cavaco is one of the babies of the system, as he just turned 19 a week ago. He was one of the youngest players drafted last year, and by definition he’s going to be hurt by missing an entire minor-league season due to his age and proximity to the big leagues.
But that isn’t all.
Cavaco struggled mightily in the GCL. Like, he slashed .172/.217/.253 in 25 games. An 18-year-old Royce Lewis hit .271/.390/.414 in the GCL as an 18-year-old and was bumped up to Cedar Rapids in 2017. Kirilloff — probably a more fair comp in terms of pick spot — went straight to Elizabethton and slashed .306/.341/.454.
It’s only 25 games, to be sure, so it’s not like this is a future indicator of much of anything necessarily. But if you go through the years backward at that level, here’s what some other guys have done:
- Luis Arraez (18) in 2015 hit .309/.377/.391 in 57 games
- Byron Buxton (18) in 2012 hit .216/.324/.466 in 27 games
- Jorge Polanco (17) in 2011 hit .250/.319/.349 in 51 games, the year before he hit .223/.299/.301 in 34 games
- Eddie Rosario (18) in 2010 hit .294/.343/.438 in 51 games
- Miguel Sano (17) in 2010 hit .291/.338/.466 in 41 games
There was one player in 2010 who hit poorly and became a pretty good MLB regular — Niko Goodrum. In 2010 as an 18-year-old, Goodrum hit just .161/.219/.195 in 36 games.
The difference was that Goodrum was coming out of Fayetteville, Ga. — not exactly a hotbed of high-school talent. At least not compared to Cavaco, who is from Chula Vista, Calif. and played at Adrian Gonzalez’s alma mater.
It’s entirely possible that it means absolutely nothing — but add to it a year off and it’s far from ideal, anyhow. Again, it’s helpful that he’s young for the level.
Wander Javier — SS — Cedar Rapids (Low-A) — No. 8 on MLB.com’s Top-3o List
Javier is still only 21 — and just barely so — but he’s been through a lot to this point. He missed the entire 2018 season with shoulder surgery, and his return to Cedar Rapids last year left a little to be desired.
Well, more like a lot. He hit just .177/.278/.323 in 80 games. He was unprotected and unselected in the Rule 5 draft, and that’s not a problem that’s going away. The Twins will again be tasked with the decision to protect him or not — and they almost certainly will not — and again teams will be given the chance to select him (also, probably not).
But missing two of the last three years and posting an OPS of just .601 in the one played is a pretty rough three-year patch.
But it isn’t impossible. Again, he’s only 21. Lewis Thorpe missed all of 2015 and ’16 — his age-19 and -20 seasons — and still made it to the big leagues at 23 last year.
Akil Baddoo — OF — Fort Myers (High-A) — No. 13 on MLB.com’s Top-3o List
He’s not nearly as highly regarded, but when I see Baddoo’s stat line from 2018 at Cedar Rapids I’m reminded a little of Aaron Hicks. Baddoo hit .243/.351/.419 with 124 strikeouts and 74 walks in 113 games.
At Low-A Beloit in 2010, Hicks hit .279/.401/.428 with 112 strikeouts and 88 walks. A year later with the Miracle, he hit .242/.354/.368 with 110 strikeouts and 78 walks. In 2012 at Double-A New Britain, he hit .286/.384/.460 with 116 strikeouts and 79 walks.
In other words, I think it’s rare to see minor-league hitters with tools for days who also command the strike zone this way. Baddoo didn’t just walk, either; he had 44 extra-base hits in those 113 games as well.
He only hit .214/.290/.393 in High-A Fort Myers last year in 29 games — but that’s burying the lede a little bit. He had Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of the season. Based on his last game played — May 11 — it would seem likely he’d have been ready sometime early this season, if not right away.
I didn’t shoot a message out to any minor-league contacts in the organization — they’ve got some things going on this week — but it feels fairly safe to say he’d have gotten a chance to get back on the horse fairly quickly in 2020.
Then there’s the other added wrinkle — he’s Rule 5 eligible this winter. Now, he hasn’t played in over a year at this point and it’ll be 19 months when the Winter Meetings come around for the draft…but it only takes one. There’s a reason why people still talked about if some team like the Tigers might take Javier in last year’s Rule 5 draft.
Plus Baddoo only turns 22 in August. Teams will gamble on youth, especially with an extra bench spot on a 26-man roster. Someone might do the Wily Mo Pena thing and stash him for a year before having him go back to the minors in subsequent years.
But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. He’s already going to miss most of this year and last — don’t make it another one.
Yunior Severino – SS – Cedar Rapids (Low-A) — No. 24 on MLB.com’s Top-3o List
Severino’s path has been especially messed up since the Braves were hit for illegal tactics when it came to signing international free agents a couple of years ago. He landed with the Twins for his age-18 season and hit .263/.321/.424 in 49 games at Elizabethton — more than respectable for someone more than two years under the league’s average age.
A broken thumb waylaid his 2019 season, as he hit just .240/.287/.370 between the GCL and Cedar Rapids. By not playing in 2020, Severino will have played just 77 games over the span of three seasons at a very crucial time in his development.
And since he signed in July of 2016, Roster Resource has him listed as Rule 5 eligible this winter. It’s basically Javier 2.0 — assuming their info is correct. It usually is.
Brent Rooker — OF — Rochester (Triple-A) — No. 12 on MLB.com’s Top-3o List
The list has been younger players to this point, but Rooker is an unusual case. He’d seem likely to be on the taxi squad/expanded roster — but it’s impossible to say since he’s not on the 40-man roster. Maybe there’ll be some sort of exemption for that.
But it cuts both ways. He could play all of 2020 blocked by Nelson Cruz in the big leagues but still getting plate appearances in Rochester in an ideal year. Being on the taxi squad but blocked not only by Cruz, but Miguel Sano at first base and a crowded outfield means not playing in the big leagues much, if at all, but also not getting much-needed plate time in Triple-A.
Rooker only played in 67 games last season and will be 26 in November.
There’s still a fair chance he’s the heir apparent for the Twins at DH, or maybe at first base with Sano DH’ing frequently. But his future probably isn’t in the outfield — at least not in this organization — and he won’t have any chance of getting it sorted out in a lost 2020 either way.
A lost 2020 season truly bites for Brent Rooker — hard.
Misael Urbina/Emmanuel Rodriguez — OF — DSL Twins (Rookie) — Nos. 21 and 26, respectively, on MLB.com’s Top-3o List
Really the main thing here is that they’re the two top-30 prospects who are the youngest in the system. Missing time hurts them the most because early development is crucial for players as raw as Urbina and Rodriguez — July 2 signings in each of the last two seasons.
Urbina just turned 18 in April. Rodriguez turned 17 in February. Between them, they’ve played a total of 50 pro games — all on Urbina’s slate.
This missed development time may not be a huge hurdle over the long-term, but in the short-term, again, it really bites.