It should go without saying, there are much larger problems going on than the absence of baseball in our lives. We are all hoping a somewhat normal world will return in the summer but it is looking more and more likely that we will be without meaningful baseball this year. Hopefully, I am wrong and just being a Negative Nancy but I think we have to gear ourselves up for that scenario.
There are many items that still need to be hammered out between MLB owners and the players, even with the agreement that, among other things, players will receive their service time from 2019 if the 2020 season is canceled. We also learned that MLB owners will pay minor league players $400 per week until the end of May. Honestly, this is a win for minor league players, at least in this context. While the overall pay is a small amount, unfortunately, this is actually a raise for some of the players. If the season is canceled, it hurts everyone’s development. I cannot imagine being an athlete and not being able to train properly. However, there are prospects that will be hurt more than others by missing a season.
Jay Groome was an easy first choice of who would be most affected by missing an entire year of development. Groome’s career has been ravaged by injuries after being drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft. He missed part of the 2017 season with an intercostal strain and forearm soreness. He started a few spring training games but was pulled from his last start. It was then reported that in May 2017, Groome had to have Tommy John Surgery. The surgery cost Groome his entire 2018 season and he did not get back on the mound until August of this past year. While he did look very impressive when he returned, he has only pitched 66 innings of professional baseball since 2016.
Antoni Flores received a $1.4 million contract after being signed by the Red Sox during the 2017 J2 signing period. He blasted onto the scene during the 2018 Dominican Summer League, where he slashed .347/.439/.510 in his 13 games and was then promoted to the Gulf Coast League. He was limited to only two games due to minor injuries and general soreness. He was promoted to Lowell (Low-A) in hopes his dominance would continue. (Narrator: It did not continue) His body got a touch ‘softer’ and his once explosive defense backed up and he was less twitchy. His strikeouts jumped to 28% and he only slashed 0.193/0.293/0.227 for a wRC+ of 68. This was probably the first time in his career that he has struggled and hopefully, it wakes him up and he gets back to playing well. However, with a missed season, he could really fall off the wagon and get left behind by other prospects. Here is to hoping he is still able to receive some coaching during the off-season.
Howlett has two things working against him. For one, he did not have a great 2019 season. On top of that, some of the top prospects in the system already have third base covered. I thought the Red Sox got a steal when they picked Howlett in the 21st round back in 2018. He has an advanced hit approach at the plate, made even more evident by his 12% walk rate in Greenville last year. However, a 14 swinging strike rate shows he still has some things to work on. Missing another year at this crucial turning point in his development could stifle his chances of making something of his skills.
Feltman did not start pitching until his senior year of high school but became a lights out reliever at Texas Christian before drafted by the Red Sox in the third round of the 2018 draft. It was thought at the time that he would move quickly through the system and make his Fenway debut sometime in 2019. Unfortunately, he spent his entire year in Portland and saw his swinging strikes drop six percentage points and his walk percentage pick up those same six percentage points. It was reported that Sox coaching staff was tweaking his arsenal to combat major league hitters. The Red Sox bullpen is not great but unless Feltman can harness the walks he will have trouble cracking the roster. He needs another year to make some more adjustments to the arsenal and return to his dominant ways.