Over the weekend Baseball America reported that Major League Baseball is considering expanding the player pools from their current 60-player limits. That number isn’t large, but it’s being reported that another 15 spots could be added. There are a few reasons that this would be a consideration. First is that it does give teams more options to look at if and when they would need replacement players at the Major League level for either injuries that happen – and if you are paying attention to pitching staffs around baseball you’ll note just how many pitching injuries there have been – or for illness if and when that happens.
Another reason could be for development purposes. As things sit right now there simply aren’t enough players to play real games at the alternate sites. Take the Cincinnati Reds site at Prasco Park as an example. Recent additions have given them enough fielders to have someone for every position to fill out one team. There are six outfielders, six infielders, three catchers, and 12 pitchers on the Prasco Park roster.
Still, that’s not really enough to play games full of players. That’s led to coaches filling in defensively at spots in the field simply to have enough people to try and get in 3-4-5-6 inning scrimmage-type games, depending on who is pitching that day. And that’s another thing, too. There aren’t enough pitchers to even play a full game scrimmage because you need to be able to spread out days when guys can pitch so you can have live hitting/pitching match ups every day.
There are about 225-300 players in a given farm system each year. Not everyone is active at the same time – some guys are out for the year with injuries, some guys are just out here and there with smaller injuries – but there are still 200+ active minor leaguers once every team gets playing in nearly every organization. As things stand right now there are 25-32 of those guys playing this year. Being able to add a number, even as small as 15 players, would be quite beneficial to those guys in order to simply get some time against other professionals in an organized setting to help with development.
Right now there is no guarantee that there would be an Arizona Fall League, or instructional league. If that doesn’t happen, it’s another place where players once could continue their development that isn’t available to them in a scenario where the league doesn’t take place.
Right now there are six weeks left until the regular season ends. Adding additional players would only last, of course, up to that point. If a team were to make the playoffs, in theory at least, the alternate site would continue to operate until their season ended. Still, six weeks of on-field time is of value versus zero weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how this goes in the next few days.