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2020 Minor League Season Cancellation: A Player’s Perspective

Written By: Wrenzie
Follow him on Twitter: @GiantProspectiv
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW

Breaking News: I was reaching out to several Giants prospects for the creation of this post. One of those prospects is Alexander Canario, a legitimate top 10 prospect of the organization. A few days ago, when the initial 60-man Giants roster pool was announced and the minor league season is canceled, I reached out first to a part of Alex’s team and my good friend Luis Martinez (if you follow me on Twitter, give him a follow as well!) if I can speak to Alex and get his opinions on the topic.

Normally, I get a positive response from Alex and Luis as I am in a good relationship with them over the past year or two. However, Luis told me that Alex is not in a good mood because he was not part of the initial roster. He advised me to wait a few days and a few days I waited. I waited and the whole Canario team is unsure as well over the past days. I kept seeing those additions like Camilo Doval, Luis Toribio, Will Wilson, and other names that are getting included in the roster and really baffling me that Alex is not yet getting invited to the summer camp.

So, around 7 PM, I greeted Luis a Happy 4th of July and I asked him how’s the current Canario situation rolling, whether I will get an interview of him or he will be off to the United States. He said that the Canario camp is still waiting for the news. Then a few minutes after, Luis told me that Alex received the invitation call to summer camp just a few moments earlier. However, he told me not to broadcast it to the public just yet, most likely for the sake of confirming the topic.

Of course, I was really pumped to hear that. I was doing fist pumps and I’m screaming “F YES!” deep inside but I have to respect the Canario camp’s wishes of not being the first to unleash the news. I’m right in the middle of the situation as I was receiving messages that Alex is packing his things after he received the call and it looks like he is aboard one of the three chartered flights to San Francisco tomorrow.

A few hours after, I was given the green light by Luis to release the news and share his Tweet about Alex’s inclusion to the 60-man roster. So I asked Alex’s reaction to the call and he told me that he is super excited to be included in the roster and he’s hoping that he’s going to stay in the roster when the regular season starts as a potential backup so that he can be given the opportunity to show off what he’s put on in the offseason. When I asked about the things that he’s put in the work in the offseason, he told me that he improved his physique, now listed at 210 pounds, and improved his swing mechanics over the off-season.

I was really looking forward to include Alex here in this article but it is for a really good reason that he is going to be in Oracle Park and/or Sacramento to learn from the best of the best coaches that the Giants organization has to offer. I am now honestly looking forward for loud contact coming out of his bat. For now, enjoy this clip of him when he is still in the Dominican Republic!

Now, to the actual topic on hand.

I am not a journalist at all. I am just a Giants fan who loves talking about Giants prospects, the MLB Draft and baseball in general. If you are going to look for local Giants journalists, I can definitely recommend you to give Kerry Crowley a follow on Twitter. If you want to get into the realm of sportswriting, come support him and his project. It’s going to cost you money but I can assure you that you will get the most out of your buck.

Over the past week, the unfortunate but inevitable news has come upon us. The 2020 Minor League season has been canceled. That is following the news that MLB has informed the teams that they are suspending Minor League contracts and will allow Minor Leaguers to play in independent ball, as long as the MLB teams will allow that said player to play.

This has put various Minor League affiliates in a pinch. Ballparks have been used as Airbnb hubs, markets, movie places, etc. just to have some sort of money flowing through their business. Like a house burnt by a fire, it is a really difficult task to rebuild from the ground up once again as these businesses rely primarily on ticket sales to survive. Also, some of those affiliates will ultimately meet their demise as MLB will let go of some of the affiliates. As with the case of the Giants, it will most likely be the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the Northwest League.

On all fronts, this is a no-win situation. For the fans, be it casual or super hardcore prospect followers like me, it sucks not only that I can’t watch baseball in the Minor League level but also not see the development of Giants prospects in a competitive setting. For the ballpark employees, this is their livelihood. This is where they get the money to feed their families. However, purely, in my opinion, the biggest group hit by the cancellation is the baseball players themselves. Without them, there will be no baseball to be played for us fans to watch and generate ticket sales for the employees to take home for their families. The players are what I consider to be the proverbial “blood” of the sport.

However, there are two types of demographics of prospects to consider in this situation. First are the prospects that are already in the 60-man pool. These are the cream of the crop, the crème de la crème of the farm system. Those prospects are kind of like expected to be there alongside the Major League squad not only to get much-needed reps but also to accelerate their trajectory and ETA in the Major League stage. It also includes prospects that are on the cusp of reaching the Majors and had proven in Spring Training that they can help the Major League club win games in the 60-game sprint that is the 2020 MLB season.

For the San Francisco Giants, these guys currently include Joey Bart, Marco Luciano, Heliot Ramos, Hunter Bishop (before he got popped by the coronavirus), Patrick Bailey, Will Wilson, Tyler Cyr, Rico Garcia, Jaylin Davis, Conner Menez, etc. and it’s likely that there will be more names that will be included once the roster gets finalized.

And then the second half of these are the guys who are not likely to be included in the 60-man roster. These are the guys who are not generally considered to be prospects who still need a few more years of seasoning to develop and are some who are not as highly regarded as their compatriots. These players will not play competitive baseball in the Minor Leagues at least until Fall if ever they are considered to be one of the prospects that are going to be included in the Fall League if there ever will be one this year. But for some, there will be zero game action at all for the whole year.

After the news that the Minor League season is canceled, I reached out to several Giants prospects that either I have a connection with in the past and present, or formed a brand new connection. Luckily, most of them replied. These players don’t really have a generate a lot of noise at the moment but I’m really grateful for their honest replies and had a lot of fun catching up to them.

The overarching thing that all prospects that replied to me is their disappointment because they are all looking forward to playing baseball not only to compete but also to show off the work that they put on to their craft in the offseason.

This is what Najee Gaskins, the 20th round selection of the Giants in the 2019 draft who played in the Arizona League last year, told to me after I asked the question.

“It’s sad man. I feel like we have been set back drastically (in their development). I know once (the coronavirus pandemic) started, we were probably not going to have (a Minor League season), but there was still hope, you know? Missing a whole year of baseball is never good, and a lot of (the facilities) are still shut down so it’s hard to develop when nothing is open. I don’t know, it’s just tough.”

Najee’s just been working out non-stop every day when the facilities closed that he thought that he’s been doing too much when there is no baseball to be played. He’s been doing a lot of running and lifting on his own in his confines. Also, he is hitting in a group every day with current Dodgers prospect Andre Johnson and Juan Gamez of the Cubs organization, where he mentioned that Andre is a teammate of his in their HS days. As to his future plans, he looks to continue to work out and hopes to play in Winter ball to get some much-needed reps.

Here is what Harrison Freed, the 2019 13th round selection who played in the Northwest League, has to say about the topics of the cancellation of the season and the possibility of playing in Indy ball:

“(It’s) very unfortunate to have my “first” full season of pro ball turn out like this. It’s not fun to miss a season but it’s allowed me (and I’m sure others) to really dedicate time to specific parts of my game and work on them.
Personally, I am not sure if I would (play in Indy ball). I would love to play games and get into a league, but only if the Giants advise me to do so. It is definitely something to consider, though!”

Harrison said that he is fortunate enough to have access to a hitting facility all throughout the quarantine period where he is working on a set routine at the plate, that allowed him to have a good hitting and lifting routine. He’s also faced live pitching, where he had the chance to face against Drew Storen, most recently with the Phillies. Harrison noted that while he had good at-bats against Storen, the former Nationals closer still has it in terms of stuff as he’s tunneled his fastball-slider combo very well and mixed in a cutter to keep him honest in what was his first live hitting in a while.

The hitting facility that Harrison is currently training has Trackman and a high-speed camera. But, he’s noted that the Giants coaches have been very helpful and thoughtful of him, reaching out to him twice a week to check on his progress and if ever he has any questions. Also, the Giants gave him a Blast Motion, a piece of equipment that gives information like bat path angle, swing speed, time of contact, and much more.

One of my favorite players in the system is P.J. Hilson, the 2018 6th round selection, who is one of the most electric players in the system in terms of sheer athleticism. Hilson has played the previous two seasons in the Arizona League and is inside the top 30 of both my 2020 Giants Prospects Primer and by FanGraphs. Here’s his take on the topic:

“(I’m) very disappointed. I was looking forward to this upcoming season and was ready to put these countless hours (of work) to the test! (I) had big plans and goals this year but hopefully, I can still showcase some of that in the near future. I really do want to play (and I’m) just waiting on what my agent will say (about playing in Indy ball). I don’t want to violate any rules.”

When asked about the things that he worked on in the off-season, P.J. responded that he’s worked on all facets of his game. He’s been working hard to improve on his first step in the outfield. He thought that his first step is already pretty good but having an even better first step gives him more mobility in the outfield to make the low catch probability balls a little easier to catch.

Offensively, he’s been working hard on having a better foundation on the batter’s box and working on his swing plane better to try to stay in the strike zone better with the bat. He’s creating a lot of energy whenever he swings but he’s noticed that he can’t stay strong on the ground and lose his footing, resulting in his swing not staying on the path that he would like and resulting in swings and misses. He’s also added that he’s trying to hit live pitching whenever he can, but from where he lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas, there’s not a lot of decent pitching to hit off. He’s noted that he’s getting reps against Tyler Zuber of the Royals at times.

On the pitching side of things, Trevor McDonald, listed 29th in my 2020 Giants Prospect Primer, is the Giants 11th round selection last year that spent his pro ball debut in the Arizona League. Regarding the topic, Trevor shares the same sentiments as well.

“I hate that (the minor league season) got canceled. I was definitely looking forward to playing my first full season of pro ball. I’m still putting in the work at home and will be ready whenever we do get called back out (to the field)!”

McDonald’s also said that he’s been working with his craft and staying in shape in the off-season, where he said that he’s greatly improved his changeup and is ready to take over as his third pitch in his repertoire alongside his low to mid-90s fastball and his sharp slider. Also, he’s worked with improving the advanced metrics with his fastball, telling me that he has his four-seamer at around 100% spin efficiency.

Just like what I did with my blog, I envision Prospects Worldwide to become a haven for Giants prospects, most especially the unheralded ones, and let their voices be heard not only by the Giants community but also by baseball fans worldwide. I want to highlight their personality and passion for the game. I am grateful for the responses that I got from the prospects and I am waiting for the next set of prospects to give their thoughts on the subject matter. Moving forward, I am also looking forward to doing more prospect interviews to bring their name into the light like hey, they are Giants prospects too!


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