Cincinnati Reds: What shortened-season may look like for minor leaguers

A shortened-season for the Cincinnati Reds and every other MLB team is all but a guarantee. But what about the minor leagues?

The longer we go without a concrete plan, the more likely we are to not see minor league baseball in 2020. The minor leagues had been a point of contention earlier this offseason with talk of contraction, but now the season itself hangs in the balance. If there is no minor league season, what might that mean for the Cincinnati Reds top minor league talent?

While we still don’t yet know if Major League Baseball’s 2020 season will commence, the idea of a shortened season is gaining a lot of steam. It’s looking more and more like major league players will take the field, albeit in front of zero fans, in late-June or early-July.

But what does that mean for the Reds minor league affiliates. A lot of that may depend on what plan MLB decides to adopt for the 2020 season. If teams are isolated in Florida, Arizona and Texas, as one plan has suggested, then it’s hard to see any semblance of a minor league season.

It was recently reported that Major League Baseball is looking to begin the season at team’s home ballparks, something that is surely music to the ears of Cincinnati Reds fans. While the season may begin at Great American Ball Park, however, no fans would be in attendance.

So, while rosters are likely to expand, and players like Aristides Aquino, Cody Reed and Alex Blandino may now be part of the Reds Opening Day roster, what does it mean for other minor league prospects who weren’t on the bubble?

Tyler Stephenson was likely headed to Triple-A before the pandemic hit. The Reds breakout star of spring training, Jose Garcia, was likely to have started 2020 in Chattanooga, playing for the Lookouts. Players like Tony Santillan and Tejay Antone were destined for the Bats rotation in Louisville.

In any given season, several minor league players are shuttled between the major and minor leagues. The so-called taxi squad saw players like Josh VanMeter, Matt Bowman and Lucas Sims in 2019.

What might the taxi squad look like in 2020 and how would the Reds and every other major league team keep their top minor league talent fresh if there’s no minor league season? That remains to be seen, but I’d wager that clubs might use their spring training facilities or perhaps MLB would allow clubs to carry all 40 players on a teams roster, but activate only 26 per game.

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There’s no doubt that minor leagues are extremely vital to the short and long-term prospects of an organization. But, in 2020, we’re likely to see anything close to what we’re used to. Hopefully the Reds and other franchises throughout MLB are able to come up with a plan that keeps their taxi squad ready for action.

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