The ultimate goal of the minor leagues is to ultimately contribute in some way to the success of the major league team. In the lower levels, that means player development, and given how far away from the majors players are, to foster a sense of winning.
But as the ladder gets higher, with players closer to the big leagues, changes to the major league team has a more immediate, tangible affect on the minors. On the Dodgers current road trip, for instance, two likely members of the Triple-A rotation — Mike Kickham and Edwin Uceta — were recalled to the majors, and Kickham was subsequently designated for assignment. Also recalled in the last week were Oklahoma City starting catcher Keibert Ruiz and reliever Alex Vesia.
So far it hasn’t really changed much since OKC doesn’t start its season until Thursday, but with games coming soon those effects will be more tangible in Triple-A.
The MLB operations manual for 2021 accounts for this, allowing for 28-player active rosters in Triple-A, up from the 25-player limit in 2019, the last minor league season. But Triple-A teams are also allowed five extra spots, essentially to account for the major league taxi squad but also allowing for some maneuverability as well.
“We’re just going to have to go our way through it for the first few weeks, and see how this plays out,” said Oklahoma City manager Travis Barbary. “Hopefully we have enough bodies to deal with it. It shouldn’t be an issue.”
The major league taxi squad is only used when a team is on the road. In the first month of the season adding a player meant only taking him away from the alternate training site, where there were 3-4 games per week. With a minor league season and six games per week, plus travel to other cities, the calculus changes a bit when deciding which players to hold for the majors in case they are needed.
“Depending on how they’re going, what we need as far as valuing playing time, major league experience in the clubhouse, that’s kind of what we do,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “If it’s a pitcher, we can still manage it, throw bullpens, manage their innings if they’re with us on the taxi. But a position player’s a little more difficult, because you just can’t replace those live at-bats, those regular season at-bats they would be missing on the taxi squad with us on the road.”
Back in 2015, the first season with Andrew Friedman at the helm in the Dodgers front office, the roster churn was high, jumping at numerous opportunities to incrementally upgrade the team whenever possible. That year, Oklahoma City logged a franchise-record 334 transactions. I wonder if, with various roster machinations, a high injury rate across the sport, and the presence of the taxi squad will lead to a new record for OKC.
- Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic detailed the jump in injuries across MLB in the first month of 2021.
- Jorge Castillo at the Los Angeles Times dove deep into the Dodgers’ “significant loss” of Dustin May needing Tommy John surgery.
- Dustin Nosler at Dodgers Digest looked at the effects of May’s injury on May and others in the organization.
- Though California’s move into the yellow tier means 67-percent capacity at outdoor stadiums, Dodger Stadium won’t yet increase to that capacity, mostly because of distancing requirements that remain, writes Steve Henson at the Los Angeles Times.
- Darien Nuñez, a 28-year-old left-hander on the Double-A Tulsa roster to open the season, was one of the prospects featured by Forest Stulting at Baseball Prospectus: “He had solid feel and command for all his pitches. His stuff seemed to overwhelm High-A hitters, so he might be quick to move up the ladder.”
- Trevor Bauer pledged to donate $1,000 per strikeout this season to various charities through his “K’s for a Cause” campaign. In April, his 51 strikeouts were tied for his third-most in any month, which meant $51,000 for Think Together, to help middle school students in southeast LA in afterschool STEM and robotics programming. For May, Bauer will donate to just keep livin Foundation, started by Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves in 2008 to implement after-school fitness and wellness programs. Bauer’s May donations, which will include at least his seven strikeouts from Tuesday’s start, will go to Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School in Inglewood and Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles.