With the strong possibility of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season being wiped out, it could greatly affect some of the players the Colorado Rockies signed to a minor league contract in the offseason.
Consider this for a moment. In a recent ESPN+ (subscription required) article, the top 10 draft busts of the past decade were laid out for readers to behold. Among them was Michael Choice, who was drafted 10th overall by the Oakland A’s in the 2010 draft. After scuffling through a career that has seen him play in 96 Major League games since being drafted (including 86 with the Texas Rangers in 2014), the Colorado Rockies signed him in the offseason to a minor league deal.
The now-30-year-old Choice has spent the last two seasons in the Mexican League and has a .188/.253/.320 slash line in 272 MLB at-bats. To say that it’s a gamble the Rockies took by signing him is an understatement. However, most minor league signings are just that … chances taken by a Major League team to try to find lightning in a bottle (most recently, for reference, see Ryan Howard and the Rockies).
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But what happens when a minor league season doesn’t happen? It’s never been a concern before but it certainly looks like a strong probability in 2020 as baseball tries to figure out a plan after COVID-19.
Among those signed by the Rockies to minor league contracts before baseball’s stoppage were players such as Kelby Tomlinson, Mike Gerber, Chris Owings, and Eric Stamets. Each has Major League experience and each has something to prove if they’re going to make an impact with the Rockies in 2020.
Yes, as I write this article, I am assuming there will be some kind of MLB season this year, even though the prospects of it are looking more questionable. If there is a season, there will be a spring training in place to get players in playing shape. Much of the focus will be on those who will make a daily (or at most every fifth day in terms of starting pitchers) impact on the Rockies, especially with reportedly fewer games being proposed.
So where does that leave players like Choice, who will likely have no minor league games to prove themselves? With a 30-man roster and a 20-man taxi squad as has been discussed, there certainly are possibilities to make an impact. However, opportunities to make that impact (at least in 2020) and get a shot at MLB playing time could be minimal with a condensed spring training part II.
We will hopefully know more about what the 2020 season looks like on all levels soon depending on whether Rob Manfred unilaterally imposes a new season or if a deal is agreed upon. If a season happens, we’ll be watching what contributions players like Choice will be able to make in a season unlike any other where opportunities to impress may be very hard to come by.
Update: It has been reported that Choice is among the minor leaguers who has been released by the Rockies.