Some of the Houston Astros top prospects will be adversely affected by the minor league season being canceled.
Though we’ve long suspected this would be the case, it was still tough news when Minor League Baseball formally announced there will be no 2020 season. Major League Baseball is not providing its affiliated teams with players, so the teams have no choice. This will have a detrimental effect on the minor league teams as well as some of the Houston Astros top prospects.
Of the team’s top 11 prospects, six were not named to the 56-man player pool. It’s possible, though not particularly likely, that they could be added later on, but unless that happens, they won’t be playing any organized ball this year. This can’t be good for their development.
There’s a reason they didn’t make the pool, though, as these prospects were slated for some level of Single-A ball this year. They’re not really close to being ready for the majors yet, so it’s easy to see why they weren’t included. But unfortunately their ascension to the majors will have to be put on pause.
The most glaring one, for me, is catcher Korey Lee. Currently ranked as the team’s No. 8 prospect, the Astros’ 2019 first round draft pick is the franchise’s hopeful catcher of the future, with above average raw power in his bat and a cannon behind the plate. A missed 2020 season might push his projected timeline back to 2023, meaning the team will have to continue to bridge the gap until then.
The most highly rated prospect who didn’t make the pool is shortstop Freudis Nova, ranked as the fourth-best in the system. His defense isn’t an issue as he’s proven to have a rocket for an arm, but his bat needs further developing, specifically in the plate discipline department. He’s only 20, but his .259/.301/.369 line at Class-A last year shows there’s plenty of room for growth.
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Colin Barber is the team’s highest rated outfielder, but he’s just the No. 11 prospect, which highlights how they’re lacking in top end outfield talent now that Kyle Tucker is in the majors. He was the fourth round draft pick in 2019 and had a solid debut, but his timeline is also getting pushed back.
Also, let’s not forget about the team’s 2020 draft picks and the undrafted free agents they signed. These players won’t be able to get their feet wet in Rookie League action this year, so they’ll have to wait around until (hopefully) next season to start their professional careers.
Teams Could Fold
MiLB’s CEO said that more than half of the minor league teams could become financially insolvent or be forced to sell as a result of the lost season. There were already plans in place to shrink the number of affiliated teams, but this is going to be bad for business and for many people and communities whose livelihoods depend on these teams.
The Corpus Christi Hooks are owned by the Astros, so they’re probably going to be fine. That might be the main reason why the Astros are using Whataburger Field, the Hooks’ facility, as their alternate training site once the season begins. I would be surprised to see the Round Rock Express go under, so hopefully they’ll be fine as well.
The organization’s lower level affiliates, however, might not be so lucky. Time will tell if they’re able to survive, and who knows if the organization will continue to use them in 2021? It’s a difficult time to be involved with minor league baseball.
There’s no telling how much this is going to affect the minor league players who are missing out. Hopefully they’re all able to shake off the rust in 2021, but until then all we have is uncertainty and disappointment that these potential future stars are having their dreams put on hold.