MLB’s top prospects the biggest victims of MLB lockout


This should be a great spring training for Oswald Peraza. It would be his second. But last year was a toe-tap in the ocean. 

The young shortstop was part of the wave of prospects who did not play minor league ball in 2020 due to the pandemic shutdown. With the Yankees contending, they stocked their satellite facility with players who had a chance to help the 2020 club rather than touted prospects, the way many teams, especially non-contenders, did. 

Peraza was placed on the 40-man roster after the season and, thus, was invited to 2021 spring training. He was just 20. The native of Venezuela went 1-for-14 before he was sent to the minor league complex to prepare for his season. And it was quite a season. Peraza climbed from High-A to Double-A to Triple-A. 

Baseball America just ranked Peraza as the 55th-best prospect in the sport. He generally is viewed as the Yankees’ second-best prospect, behind another shortstop, Anthony Volpe. But if all were normal, he would be one step ahead of Volpe to reach the majors — at least to begin spring training. 

But all is not normal. The MLB-issued lockout persists. The owners and the union are set to meet Monday with the expectation of a Players Association counterproposal. But the sides, to date, have only moved millimeters toward each other (actually, the sides might argue not even that) when miles are needed. 

Oswald Peraza is one of the Yankees' top-ranked prospects.
Oswald Peraza is one of the Yankees’ top-ranked prospects.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Spring training is due to open Feb. 16, which is a little more than three weeks. That is in peril. Perhaps the real drop-dead date for a deal is the third week or so of February. That would allow seven to 10 days to get lots of business done and players to camp in an ongoing pandemic and still would leave roughly four weeks to train before the scheduled March 31 openers. That would assure no regular season games would be lost. 

But, of course, much will be lost. Because beyond those counting billable hours or trying to build up a tough-guy persona, there are no winners during a labor stoppage. But there are classes that endure collateral damage worse than others. Peraza falls into one of those buckets — the player on the 40-man roster who is not going to make the big league team out of camp. 

That player can’t use team facilities now to begin pre-camp work with other players and, more important, under the structure and tutoring of their organization’s coaches. He can’t go to minor league camp when it opens. And if major league camp is shriveled from six weeks to, say, four, the need to ready those with a chance to make the Opening Day roster will intensify, meaning less work with a player like Peraza, who then will be sent to minor league camp when the rules allow, behind those who have been working there. 

Neither side is going to relent on what it wants in a new five-year collective bargaining agreement based on the short-term pain of individual players. But this pain has ramifications. This would be a disruption in development for the second time in three years, as organizations are still playing catchup from the lost 2020 minor league campaign. 

Every team has players who would feel this sting. The Mets, for example, put two of their better prospects, Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos, on the 40-man roster this offseason. Both had, at minimum, an outside chance of reaching The Show at some point in 2022. But any disruption to development could scuttle that. Imagine if the sides remain unrelenting into March or beyond, and these players cannot even get to their minor league teams near the start of the season. 

For foreign players, this all could be worse. I was told Peraza has gotten his visa paperwork together for whenever a lockout ends and he just needs to apply for entry. But another Yankees 40-man roster player who will be behind for the same reasons as Peraza, Yoendrys Gomez, does not, which will cause further delays. 

Ronny Mauricio
Ronny Mauricio
Getty Images

The Yankees have not publicly revealed their shortstop plans for 2022. Prior to the lockout, they had no intention of lavishing a long-term deal at the position — in part because Peraza and Volpe were close to the majors. Was that obfuscation? When the new luxury-tax rules, in particular, are known via an agreed-to CBA, will Hal Steinbrenner pivot and approve the signing of a Carlos Correa or Trevor Story (the last two big unsigned members of the greatest free agent shortstop class ever)? 

If not, one Yankees possibility was to perhaps stopgap with a combination of a defense-oriented shortstop, such as free agent Andrelton Simmons, in conjunction with Gio Urshela and see if Peraza, with strong defense and rising offense, could force his way to the big leagues by midseason. 

In the best world, the Yankees would be able to begin gauging Peraza in pre-spring workouts, then have him in front of manager Aaron Boone and the major league staff in actual spring training, then have the outset of a full Triple-A season to continue the monitoring. All of that is dubious now. Plus, Peraza did not play Winter Ball. 

The pathway actually could open further for Volpe, by the mere fact he is not yet a 40-man roster player. He already has stationed himself in Tampa awaiting the opening of the Yankees’ minor league facility for pre-spring training workouts. 

Anthony Volpe
Anthony Volpe is not yet on the Yankees’ 40-man roster.
Robert Sabo

Many teams are holding off opening for now, mainly due to continuing concerns about COVID-19. In addition, a brief canvassing found no teams yet ready to open official minor league spring training earlier if there is no major league camp. Clubs are concerned about COVID-19 and finances, since those minor leaguers would have to be paid earlier and also, under new rules, supplemented for housing. 

Still, if the lockout persists, I can imagine a few organizations thinking about at least Instructional League-type camps of better prospects prior to minor league camp, which generally begins the first week of March. The Mets have made no official decisions yet, but with a new general manager and manager, it could be a way to speed up familiarity. 

It also could be a way for players with major league experience who signed minor league deals to be seen longer by team officials as a way to improve the odds of making the team. For example, the Mets need lefty relief help, and Alex Claudio, who has appeared in 352 MLB games, is on a minor league deal. 

There are stipulations by which veterans are allowed to sign minor league deals and attend spring training. But it would not be surprising, if the lockout persists, that some in that category who want to try to improve their shot of making a team and were, at best, borderline to get a major league deal, sign a minor league pact sooner to get in front of that team’s officials. Examples of veterans who fall into that category (though I have no idea what their plans are) include Matt Harvey, Juan Lagares and Austin Romine. 

But many veterans who are borderline also are potentially going to be collateral damage. There is going to be a condensed signing period whenever the lockout concludes, and there are those who were involved in the 1994-95 shutdown who will tell you that their careers ended prematurely because they fell through the cracks. 

On both ends of the scale, from Peraza types to veterans, there is going to be collateral damage that will worsen the longer the lockout continues.



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