This time of uncertainty and inactivity is tough on all of us, as humans and as baseball fans. And the baseball that we care most about, Baltimore Orioles baseball, is also affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every major league team is more or less hurting in the same way, but having no games is particularly tough for a rebuilding Baltimore Orioles team in a key developmental year.
Despite expectations of another last-place finish coming into Spring Training, spirits were high as more of the Orioles’ top prospects are reaching the high minors, and some were supposed to debut in Baltimore after a couple months in AAA.
Lack of Live Play Affecting Player Development
But now with a shorted season or no season at all, not a single player at any level in the Orioles system is able to improve their skill set by playing competitive games, training with experienced coaches, or following a professional schedule over the spring and summer.
Scouting at a Standstill
Speaking of development, the same grim reality is true at the high school and college level. The Orioles and other teams turn to amateur ball an important aspect of improving the farm system and speeding up the rebuild.
Amateur seasons were cut short after just a few weeks, so most meaningful games were not played, including the College World Series where Adley Rutschman first broke out to the masses in 2018. Scouting is more advanced than ever, so teams already have a good sense of who they feel comfortable drafting, but the Orioles could have used those four months to find some gems.
Changes to the MLB Draft and Intl Signing
MLB and the NCAA both threw some wrinkles into this year’s draft with the Orioles picking #2 overall. Commissioner Rob Manfred said that the draft will likely be just five or ten rounds, down from forty, so that teams can save money on signing bonuses.
Adding to the wrinkles, the NCAA announced that all spring athletes will have an extra year of eligibility, so many baseball juniors and seniors will go back for another year with extra scholarship space. The top prospects won’t change, but we could see many in later rounds stay in school to prove themselves in 2021.
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The international signing period will likely be delayed until the winter, so even if we have the shortened season, the thirty or so players the Orioles will sign won’t get a chance to play and they’ll only debut next year. In just year two of Mike Elias’s leadership, the Orioles are still behind other teams in the international market, but again this hurts their development in the long run.
Bad Baseball is Better than No Baseball
Not everything is terrible, even though it may seem that way. Bad baseball is better than no baseball, but at least we don’t have to see the Birds get blown out every few days, and they just might be in the race in a short season where randomness has more of a factor.
Hopefully, injuries will not have that much of an impact because players have all this time to heal. We still haven’t a timetable for Trey Mancini‘s return, but I would assume he is at least close to ready by the time the league is.
I have personally found a higher appreciation for baseball, and I hope you have too, in this time where our past time is in the past. The Orioles will play again at Camden Yards, and we will all get to rediscover our love for Birdland and baseball. Please stay inside and stay safe so that this comes sooner rather than later.