The first thing you should know about baseball this week: It’s Summer Camp. Major League Baseball has decreed it. It’s a fun name. Got a ring to it. It’s far better than Spring Training, Part II, v2.0 or the sequel. Might be the league’s best decision in the last four months, which, is saying something.
The second thing you should know: 60-man rosters don’t necessarily mean 60 men.
In the case of the Rangers, it’s officially 55, but it really means 57 (providing the Rangers complete paperwork with pitchers Edinson Volquez and Juan Nicasio). No, they aren’t signing Yasiel Puig or anybody else from outside the organization. 60? Well, the Rangers will wait.
Most teams are taking the same approach. That was the thing that stood out most about the great pool of players that teams announced Sunday afternoon. Flexibility is a must for baseball in the age of the coronavirus.
“There are teams like us who have submitted 55 to 60 and teams that have submitted low to mid 40′s and kept their flexibility and options open,” Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained Sunday. “There are some teams that want to run a smaller camp for other reasons.”
Other reasons, of course, mean concerns over COVID-19 and adhering to the protocols MLB has put in place to try to avoid a sport-stopping outbreak.
The other thing you should know: The Summer Camp roster looks a lot like the one from spring training.
For now, the Rangers have gone light on the prospects. Josh Jung, last year’s first-round pick will participate, which is notable. He’s had 44 games of professional experience, none of them above Class A. He’s not here to win a job in July. Or in September.
“I’m not going to put limits on anybody,” Daniels said. “We still don’t know if we are going to have a development camp at some point. If you balance guys who are here to perform and guys who are here to prepare for the season, he falls more on the development side.”
For now, he might be the only one.
Even catcher Sam Huff, the Rangers’ other top prospect, has a more viable route to playing in the majors this year. There was a shot he would have been a September call-up anyway. It may still be spring training — oops, Summer Camp — but the calendar is about to say July and the Rangers aren’t going to totally ignore that.
“I think it’s some of both [development and preparation] with him,” Daniels said. “He’s grown a lot and not just from a baseball standpoint. To be around some veteran players and some really good staff, there’s value in that.”
Look at it this way: Had the season played out, Huff was going to Double-A Frisco to play for and learn from Bobby Wilson. Wilson will be one of the key members of the eventual taxi squad staff. He will get to spend the next three weeks around veterans Robinson Chirinos and Jeff Mathis, which was part of the reason he came to spring training — the first one. The Rangers can extend that learning period into a summer session without compromising at-bats or playing time.
As for the rest of the 18 players who will be in camp as non-roster players, several could take “outs,” at which time the Rangers would look to add more prospects such as Bubba Thompson, Steele Walker, Ricky Vanasco and Cole Winn.
In the meantime, here are other things you need to know:
- COVID outbreaks: If a team places an individual player on the COVID-19 IL, it can add another player to the 60-man pool, but, when that player returns, the team would have to either outright or release the replacement. That puts the breaks on some prospects for now. If, however, a team loses three or more players simultaneously, that’s an “outbreak.” The 60-man can grow temporarily and all the replacement players may be retained.
- Nick Solak was listed as an infielder on the original spring training roster; he’s now listed as an outfielder. But he’s also taking ground balls at first base.
- The Rangers released veteran infielder Matt Duffy. Essentially they chose Yadiel Rivera, a truer shortstop, over Duffy. Rivera will almost certainly be on the opening day 30-man roster. Duffy, meanwhile, signed with the New York Yankees.
- Know the name of Alex Speas. The reliever hasn’t pitched above Class A and that was two years ago before Tommy John surgery. There was belief Speas was going to fly through the minor leagues this season, as others have recently done, and pitch in the majors before the year was over. He throws 102 mph.