MLB may expand fall league for minor leaguers

Considering the 2020 minor league season most likely won’t be played, reports have surfaced regarding a potential expansion of the annual Arizona Fall League.

Major League Baseball is still in danger of having zero games in 2020, due to a continuation of more petty back-and-forth between team owners and the Players Union, but for minor league players there’s still hope for them to one day finally take the field this year.

According to Josh Norris and J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, MLB is not only thinking about adding more teams to the already six-team AFL format but also creating a similar league in Florida for the fall months.

The specifics aren’t exactly concrete yet, but MLB is planning to add to the current AFL pool of teams, allowing all 30 MLB teams to construct its own fall team as opposed to AFL’s original layout of just six teams made up of five players from each big league organization.

Cooper and Norris also mentioned pay — a rather significant topic for current minor leaguers, given most are still receiving only the $400 stipend teams agreed to pay months ago (not to mention the fact that hundreds of minor league players have been cut over the last few weeks). AFL prospects are usually paid quite well (at least compared to regular season wages), earning roughly $2,250 per month, plus $750 for housing. It will be interesting to see if teams will still pay those amounts if now they must pay an entire roster of players (we’re talking quite an increase from just $15,000 per month for five prospects to compete in Arizona).

Also, the Baseball America report on MLB’s interest in more fall ball this year even includes a planned start date, preferably beginning Fall Baseball “within weeks” of kicking off the MLB 2020 regular season. This suggests possibly a late July or August start (obviously depending on when MLB and the MLBPA work through their many differences). Additionally, beginning the fall season relatively soon after Opening Day would allow teams to determine exactly which minor leaguers or prospects make the 20-man taxi squad implemented this season at the big league level and which will be sent to Arizona — or possibly even Florida — to play in the fall league.

Either way, it’s good to see that there are at least active discussions regarding a possible season for minor leaguers, as well as the numerous coaches and other personnel unemployed at the moment. Playing some form of fall season will offer not only much needed development for the sport’s next group of stars, but also a source of income.