With the collective bargaining agreement stalemate, and Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the first two series of the Major League season will be canceled, minor league baseball appears to be set to be the only baseball left to be played. This was the case on August 12, 1994 until the end of that season, and right now, we don’t know how long it will be until MLB and the MLBPA reach an agreement.
This begs the question about how this will affect the minor league season. In many ways, the answer is not at all, but in a more global sense, it is a huge impact due to all of the uncertainty.
40 Man Roster Issues
First and foremost, this lockout impacts players on the 40 man roster. Keep in mind with Major League rosters being capped at 26 players, the 14 players who were supposed to play in the minors are now not permitted to play with their respective organizations.
This past offseason, the New York Mets added Mark Vientos, Ronny Mauricio, Adam Oller, and Jose Butto to their 40 man roster. They’re now not eligible to play in games or participate in Spring Training. The same goes for players like Travis Blankenhorn, Khalil Lee, Patrick Mazeika, and Nick Plummer who were likely ticketed for Triple-A to start the season.
Spring Training Battles
If we look back to the pandemic shortened season of 2020, MLB had a very abbreviated “Summer Camp” with players reporting on July 1 and beginning the season on July 24. In 1995, the strike and lockout meant Spring Training was delayed. When the two sides finally agreed to a deal, Spring Training was just three weeks. We’re very likely to see something akin to that again.
As a result, we are not going to have the opportunity to see Spring Training battles breath. At least at the moment, Tylor Megill and David Peterson appear poised to battle for the fifth starter spot. With no real Spring Training, and both pitchers being shut down because they are on the 40 man roster, it would appear the Mets would be all the more emboldened to sign another starter.
Speaking of Spring Training battles, there are those veterans who signed minor league deals. For example, this offseason the Mets signed Daniel Palka who has played 154 Major League games in his career and Matt Reynolds who has played 130 games. They would be permitted to play in Spring Training, where they would not be paid, and they can then report to play in Triple-A Syracuse regardless of the status of the CBA negotiations.
Rule 5 Draft
As noted, players not on the 40 man roster are permitted to participate in Spring Training, and they can begin their minor league seasons when they are slated to begin. That is an enormous benefit for players like Carlos Cortes, Brian Metoyer, and Hayden Senger. Each of these players were on the bubble for Rule 5 protection, and the Mets opted to expose them to the draft.
This means Cortes, Metoyer, and Senger will get to play and improve. That will also give teams an opportunity to get a better look at those three players in determining whether they should be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Of course, that also works in the inverse with the Mets getting a deeper look into players they might be targeting.
Keep in mind, there isn’t much precedent here for this. In 1994, because there was a strike but not a lockout, teams were able to proceed with their business as usual and hold the Rule 5 draft in December (even if it was delayed twice). For the 2020 season, the Rule 5 draft had already taken place in December 2019 because COVID-19 was not yet a concern.
Another important note here is as MLB cancels games, it becomes easier to carry Rule 5 drafted players. As a result, the risk in selecting a Rule 5 player has been greatly mitigated. Another factor at play here is we may see players get drafted based on early season results who may not have been otherwise considered. To sum up, this is a quagmire.
At the moment, the Mets have their minor league mini-camp. Minor League Spring Training is also set to officially begin this week. As of right now, according to their official schedule, the Mets are slated to play their first Spring Training game on March 12 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Of course, games were supposed to begin February 28, but it was delayed due to the lockout. As of right now, there is no official word if games will be delayed further. That said, there will likely be some form of a Spring Training game schedule even absent a CBA being in place to allow the minor leaguers to prepare for their season. The season for the Mets full season affiliates are set to begin as follows:
- Syracuse Mets – April 5
- Binghamton Rumble Ponies – April 8
- Brooklyn Cyclones – April 8
- St. Lucie Mets – April 8
For those Mets fans who want to attend a baseball game, the Brooklyn Cyclones home opener will be on April 12 at 7:00 P.M. against the Jersey Shore Blue Claws (Phillies).
Right now, the Mets are paying Buck Showalter a lot of money to manage a team which is not set to play. That leaves Showalter with the job of preparing to prepare for the season. In some ways, that’s extremely beneficial for the new staff with new coaches like Eric Chavez to come to work together.
It also gives them an opportunity to work with the minor leaguers in Spring Training, and perhaps, depending on the length of the lockout, to travel to work with some of the minor leaguers. This presents an enormous opportunity for players like Brett Baty, who is battling with Vientos for that future third base job. More than that, it allows some of the more unheralded prospects like a Harol Gonzalez to make an impression in camp and get an advocate from the Major League coaching staff in their corner.
That just speaks to just how different everything will be for minor leaugers. Yes, the players not on the 40 man roster will have no change to their schedule. They will report to Spring Training at the same time, and they will play the games like they normally do.
However, they will also get more exposure to Major League coaching, and they have more of an opportunity to distinguish themselves. Moreover, they will get to prepare for their season and work on their games while fellow minor leaugers who are on the 40 man roster will be at home unpaid and without a chance to work with their coaches to improve their game.
For once, it was nice watching another team struggle through a bad bullpen, but you still would’ve hoped the New York Mets made more of their opportunity against that dreadful Philadelphia Phillies bullpen:
1. Deepest condolences go out to Marcus Stroman who lost his grandmother.
2. The fact Stroman pitched through the pain of losing a loved one is another in a long series of how no one should ever question his heart or dedication. Again, this is the type of player and person the Mets want to keep around past this season.
4. That spark Michael Conforto provided the Mets offense sure seemed short lived.
5. On that note, the Mets offense is aware they don’t have to wait for the ninth for a rally, right?
6. It’s really difficult to pinpoint what’s wrong with Jeff McNeil other than bad luck. His batted ball numbers are extremely similar to previous seasons. With that being the case, they just need to stick with him.
7. The Mets really need to switch McNeil with Luis Guillorme defensively. Aside from struggles in a COVID impacted season, McNeil is a good third baseman. Guillorme is other worldly at second and not so great at third. It’s time to fix this.
8. Zack Wheeler dominating the Mets is just another example of just how impossibly bad Brodie Van Wagenen was as a GM.
10. deGrom is so amazing two earned over six innings is considered a bad start. When your worst is better than 99% of the league’s best, you know deGrom’s season is beyond hyperbole.
11. The Mets have a bit of a Pete Alonso problem. He’s just nowhere near his 2019 form, and he just seems to be getting further away. More troubling is the struggles hitting at home.
12. That’s not exclusive to Alonso. The Mets also have a Dominic Smith problem, and basically [INSERT PLAYER] problem. McNeil was noted above, and Conforto’s power had seemingly disappeared.
13. Brandon Nimmo appears nearing his return, and the Mets offense seems to need him. That’s problematic considering there are more than enough bats already in this lineup.
16. David Peterson had a strong start. He needs to start stringing them together.
17. Francisco Lindor had a huge game winning hit, and he increasingly looks like the player he was in Cleveland.
18. There’s been focus on Guillorme’s batting average, but he’s got a terrific .403 OBP. Considering he’s an eighth place hitter, you can’t ask for more than that. That goes double when he just finds a way on base in the late innings.
19. It’s funny. The Mets have gone 6-6 in a 12 game stretch against the NL East, and their 4.5 game lead is now 4.0 games. The only real change now is the order of the trans behind them.
20. At some point, the Mets need to go on a run. To that, Noah Syndergaard does say the Mets are a second half team . . . .
The New York Mets kept getting injured, but they keep winning games, especially at home. They just won three out of four from the Colorado Rockies, and they remain in first place:
1. The Mets are so injured right now their injured players are getting injured.
2. Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco each having difficulty with their rehab assignments and with their probably not being back until August if at all, it’s a reminder you should never part with pitching. Pitching is fragile, and you never have enough of it during the course of a season.
3. The more fans inanely boo Francisco Lindor the more great plays he makes in the field.
5. McCann is taking a bad situation, and he is making the most of it by stepping up and playing a pretty good first base. We are also hopefully seeing some signs of life at the plate with his having a a double and homer in this series. At least that’s the hope.
6. Cameron Maybin setting a Mets record for hitless plate appearances to start his Mets career shows you just can’t but a hit for $1.
7. Billy McKinney had quite the Mets debut with some very good defense in the field and doing well at the plate. It was just one game, but it at least appears like McKinney could be part of the equation even with everyone is healthy.
8. While you hope moves like McKinney work, we are getting increasingly to the point where the Mets may have to do something drastic. In the short-term, taking a look at Carlos Cortes makes a lot of sense. If the injuries to J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil are that bad, it may be time to consider calling up Mark Vientos who is scorching hot in Binghamton.
9. We are not talking enough about the job Jose Peraza is doing for the Mets. Yes, he’s below average at the plate and at second, but he is at least a credible presence on what is moving towards a Double-A roster. It also helps that when he gets his hits it seems to be big like his game winning homer in the first end of the doubleheader.
11. This is just a different team with deGrom. Yes, we know the frustration with the lack of run support. That said, he gives this team a swagger, and he eats up a lot of innings allowing the bullpen to rest and be great when needed.
12 People can complain all they want about replay, but when deGrom and Jonathan Villar were called out the primary objective of replay was achieved – it got the call right. Now, there is an easy fix where fielders should not be rewarded for pushing runners off the base. Hopefully, that is something which will be taken up this offseason.
13. It seems the adjustments Joey Lucchesi has made are working. That said, this is a pitcher who should not be relied upon for more than three innings. If utilized properly, that means Lucchesi could have an immense amount of value to this team.
14. At some point, you have to wonder if this is doing more harm than good to David Peterson‘s development. In all honesty, it’s difficult to see in which area of his game he is progressing.
15. The Mets are messing with Thomas Szapucki like they once did with Chris Flexen and Corey Oswalt. They need to let him pitch, especially when they are just going to wind up going with bullpen games anyway. His not stepping on the mound harms his development and may set him up for injury. Next thing you know, you hear the he can’t be good nonsense.
16. The Mets scored a total of 10 runs in a four game series and still managed to win three out of four. There are two reasons for this. First and foremost, the Rockies are bad. The second and perhaps more important reason is teams win games with good pitching and defense. Despite the injuries, the Mets still have that.
17. Even with all the injuries and people wondering why things aren’t as good as we thought they might be, the Mets are still on an 88 win pace. Just imagine where they will be when everyone is heatlhy and performing.
18. Brodie Van Wagenen has a lot of gall showing up at Citi Field for a game even with Edwin Diaz having a great year and finally fulfilling his promise.
19. It is good Luis Rojas is finally being recognized for the job he is doing. It should be noted he is essentially doing all the same things he was doing when he wasn’t popular. It’s just that people now recognize how the other things he does so well are so important when you have no one to play.
20. The Mets are getting back Taijuan Walker just in time. This is yet another big early series against the Braves, and the Mets really need to create more separation between the two teams as the Mets continue to navigate their injuries and head towards June, which is always a nightmare.
Put another way, they need to look at their prospect pool, and they need to identify MLB projectable prospects. At the same time, they’re going to want to avoid pressing their top, top guys into action too soon thereby damaging their development and/or trade value.
Taking everything into account, the name which stands out at the moment is Carlos Cortes.
Cortes was the Mets 2016 20th Round draft pick. He gained notoriety as an ambidextrous fielder. At second, he played right-handed, but in left, he played left-handed, which is his natural side. In essence, as a fielder, he’s Pat Venditte.
Cortes was drafted as a second baseman where it was believed his promising bat would play better. Cortes has been moved off the position and back to the outfield for a few reasons.
First and foremost, the Mets have an abundance of middle infield talent and not much outfield prospect talent in their system. Another reason is Cortes’ relative struggles in the field.
Through two minor league seasons, he had a .948 fielding percentage and 3.80 RF/9. To put it in perspective, Murphy was putting up better numbers than those. While the struggles were to be expected with the position switch, apparently, the Mets just didn’t see enough there to continue with Cortes at second.
That said, it’s a tool he carries. No, Cortes is not going to be your second baseman. However, for a start or two, he could be that. In some ways, you can liken him to Wilmer Flores on that front.
That’s not to say he’s the next Flores. Rather, the ability to even stand at a position has value at the Major League level. Like Flores and many before and after him, Cortes is going to lie and die by his bat.
— Mets Farm Report (@MetsFarmReport) May 24, 2021
Cortes has done some impressive things with the bat since being drafted like homering to right in Brooklyn. That’s no easy feet. Despite his being 5’7″, there’s real power in that bat.
We really saw that bat play in Australia during the winter. In 14 games, Cortes would hit an astounding .392/.429/.706. That was made all the more impressive when you consider he didn’t play in a game in 2020 like most minor leaguers.
That didn’t exactly carry forward to the Double-A season. He’s hitting just .239/.316/.418. However, Cortes does have a four game hitting streak right now, and he’s been a bit unlucky with a .269 BABIP.
There are positive underlying numbers like a 10.5 BB% and .179 ISO. He’s actually spraying the balls fairly evenly. In sum, he’s using all fields, has pop, and he’s not an easy out.
The question is whether the versatility and the bat where is at now should lead to a call-up. The honest answer is no. No, it should not be considered.
But, that’s a position for when everyone is healthy. At the moment, the backups to the backups to the backups are now injured. That’s not hyperbole. That’s the state of the Mets.
With that in mind, the Mets have to ask themselves whether they want a retread Major Leaguer on his last legs, a minor leaguer like a David Thompson who hasn’t taken that leap, or a Cortes should get the call-up.
Unless the Mets can swing a deal, preferably one better than Cameron Maybin for $1, the answer seems to trend towards Cortes. At the very least, he can play second and left, and he can be a fun novelty with his being ambidextrous in the field. And who knows? Maybe, he’ll really hit well.