It’s been a long time. A very, very long time. But we’re back in business and today will see Minor League Baseball play their first official game since September of 2019.
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Some quick general information about the season
With protocols in place there are going to be some differences in how things operate at the minor league level. Perhaps the biggest one that will be noticeable for fans outside of limited attendance in many areas is the radio broadcasts. This season – at least for now – broadcasters are not traveling with the team. What will happen in some situations is that the road broadcaster will watch the video feed and broadcast from that viewpoint. That will lead to plenty of situations that won’t arise during home games (noting who is in the bullpen loosening, noting defensive positioning, etc) since they are going to be at the mercy of the camera crew and producer at the ballpark to show them what’s happening.
In some cases there are teams that won’t even have broadcasts at home. In the league Daytona is in there are two teams that don’t broadcast their games. That means that if you want to follow along with the game you get to only follow the box score like it’s 2008 all over again.
The Louisville Bats
Louisville is now in what is being called the Triple-A East. The Bats will open up at home with a 6-game series against Columbus – a team that is mostly made up of players they faced off against a lot in the last month as both cities were hosting the alternate site teams for their respective big league clubs. Braden Shipley will get the opening day nod and be followed by Tony Santillan, Vladimir Gutierrez, Riley O’Brien, and Bo Takahashi.
All of Triple-A games will be available to watch on MiLB.tv. That appears to also mean that there should be radio/audio broadcasts for all of the games, too, if that’s your preferred method of following along.
What they said
I don’t think MLB was getting themselves into (taking over the minors). Our rules seem to change every day because something pops up. What are you going to do about transportation – the number of buses, whether you can fly or not. Now we have a 28-man roster with a 5-man taxi squad. Obviously there’s been a lot of changes. The combination of covid and MLB taking it over really is going to make this first month interesting. – Manager Pat Kelly
The Chattanooga Lookouts
From the brink of being contracted to hosting the Rocket City Trash Panda’s on Tuesday night, the Chattanooga Lookouts are back! They are now in what is being called the Double-A South. The rotation could be all kinds of fun to follow with Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo at the top of the rotation. The two of them are expected to pitch the first two games of the season, but the probables have not yet been announced by the Lookouts.
Chattanooga will be available to watch on MiLB.tv this year. Finally! They had been the lone hold out in Double-A for a few years running.
An interesting note for the opening series is that the Rocket City Trash Pandas, aside from having the best name and mascot in baseball, also have several former Reds prospects on the team. Packy Naughton is on the pitching staff, while Ibandel Isabel and Mitch Nay will be among their infielders.
What they said
“I’ve told him (Hunter Greene) that we don’t round up in the big leagues. I believe what we all saw on video was 104.9, so he still has one click to go, because we don’t round up in the Reds organization.” – Reds Senior Director of Player Development Eric Lee said to the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Monday.
The Dayton Dragons
The Dayton Dragons are now the Cincinnati Reds High-A affiliate. And they are now in what is known as the High-A Central League. That’s going to take some getting used to. The Dragons will open up the season on the road against the Great Lakes Loons. All series this year are 6-game series and will run Tuesday through Sunday. Each Monday is an off day throughout the entire season.
Dayton will be available to watch on MiLB.tv this year for all of their home games and many of the road games as plenty of teams in the league are also participating in the package.
What they said
“He’s an impressive kid. Two outings before we left he was back up to 98, really trying to just see what he had in the tank. It was impressive stuff. We added a slider to the arsenal for him. So now we’ve got another dimension to play with for him. That’s been within the last three weeks that we’ve done that, but it’s going to be a pitch he’s going to be able to use and nobody’s seen it from him. So as far as his arsenal goes we’ve been able to ramp it up a little bit.” – Pitching coach Brian Garman on opening day starter Lyon Richardson.
The Daytona Tortugas
Like Chattanooga, the Daytona Tortugas seemed to be on the verge of contraction from minor league baseball for a time, but they pulled through to the other side and came out swinging. Easily the roster with the most top 25 Cincinnati Reds prospects on it, Daytona fans should see a strong mix of big time power bats and big power arms.
The Tortugas are going to start on the road against the Palm Beach Cardinals in a league that is now called the Low-A Southeast. The Cardinals share a facility with the Jupiter Hammerheads and they are working things a bit different this year at home – no fans will be in attendance for games on Sunday, Tuesday, or Wednesday all season long. The players will have to wait a few more days to play with fans in the stands.
Unsurprisingly a lot of guys will be making their professional debuts from this team. Opening day starter Christian Roa will be among the guys debuting on Tuesday evening. Among the position players who could be on the field making their debut are infielders Michel Triana and Gus Steiger, as well as outfielder Austin Hendrick.
Only one team in the Low-A Southeast League currently has the MiLB.tv package set up and they are in the other division in the league, meaning you only get the opportunity to watch Daytona play six times this year unless another team in the league adds the functionality.
What they said
“I know for me it’s how I’m going to be able to control my excitement. Being out there, being in front of a lot of fans – especially at the home games. I’m going to be excited man. I’m going to be anxious, especially in the box and just how can I control those nerves, how can I control that excitement and just stay within myself.” – Austin Hendrick on how he feels about getting the season started.
The most intriguing follows this year
To be honest, it’s just great to have minor league baseball back. Even before I knew what it was like to not have it to look at and follow every day I enjoyed watching everyone develop and get out there and play. After a year of not having that it’s going to be a truly different experience, I’m guessing. Still, while I’m excited to follow everyone and see how they have not only progressed when we weren’t watching, but how they’ll progress this season when we can, it’s time to pick out a pitcher and a position player that are the guys that are the most intriguing to follow.
There could be a few picks here that would make tons of sense. Picking Hunter Greene would be the easy option. The guy has thrown 105 MPH and he hasn’t pitched in a game that counted in the standings since July of 2018. But we also got to hear reports on him from Prasco last year and while it was limited to just one inning – we saw him on the mound with the Reds on national television this spring, too. Absolutely follow Hunter Greene this season. But the guy that I’ve got my eyes on as a bit of a slightly “under the radar” watch is Lyon Richardson.
If you read above you can see the quote from Dayton Dragons pitching coach Brian Garmin about an increase in velocity from Richardson as well as the addition of a new pitch. Richardson barely touched 95 MPH in 2019 when he was in Dayton and sat 91-93. He’s hitting 98 now. And he’s always shown good control. Toss in that he added a slider and it’s as good of a reason to be excited to see exactly what he can do this year.
The Position Player
Much like the pitcher to pick, there are more than a few good options for the position players. 2020 1st round pick Austin Hendrick will be making his professional debut with Daytona tonight. Michel Triana signed a 7-figure bonus in July of 2019 as an international signing out of Cuba and will also likely be making his professional debut with Daytona tonight. Both guys would be very defensible picks here. But I’m picking their teammate and owner of plus-plus power Rece Hinds.
Last year he spent August and September at Prasco with the Reds alternate site team. He was probably the only guy there until the final week who was at the site who was never really being considered as an option to get the call to the big leagues. Hinds was the 2nd round pick in 2019 and played in three games for the Greeneville Reds before a quad injury cost him the remainder of the season. When it comes to plate appearances in games he’s got a total of eight of them in his professional career. But reports out of Prasco were good, particularly given that he was facing pitchers who were AA, AAA, and MLB caliber guys on a daily basis.
5/4 Game Preview
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