Earlier, Major League Baseball announced that minor league baseball at the Double-A level and below would not start until May 4, but the original plan was for Triple-A baseball to start on time. Last night, MLB announced that Triple-A baseball would follow suit and also not open until May 4 at the earliest. Because of the delay, MLB will also have alternate sites again in 2021.
The delay also means that the Triple-A season is expected continue into late September.
The decision to delay the season came after MLB discussed the problems with maintaining COVID protocols with minor league players. ESPN’s Jeff Passan notes that minor league teams fly commercial, which makes it difficult to keep the players isolated from the virus. Additionally, keeping minor leaguers in one place makes it easier to test the players who may be called up to the majors at any time.
With the rapidly-increasing availability of COVID vaccines, MLB hopes to be able to vaccinate most or all minor league players by the time the season starts in May.
Details on the alternate sites are still being developed. It is unknown how many people will be invited to camp or even where they will be held. But Passan reports that the alternate sites may continue even after the regular minor league season starts. It sounds like players who are likely to be shuttled on and off the 26-man major league roster might be kept at the alternate site rather than playing in the minor leagues. How that would work once the minor league season starts is unclear. It doesn’t sound like MLB has figured that out yet.
In any case, we’re going to have to wait even longer to see any minor league baseball in 2021. But it does appear like we are going to see it in some form eventually.