We are well into the lockout imposed by Major League Baseball on December 1st, 2021. This has effectively put a freeze on all things MLB-related and Thursday’s news of a request by the league for federal mediation in the bargaining process - followed by the union’s refusal on Friday - feels like the nail in the coffin for spring training starting on time. How long the lockout lasts and what the changes happen to the landscape of baseball remains to be seen. Your guess is as good as mine, but for now the overwhelming feeling is the preseason and even the start of the regular season is in serious jeopardy.
At the major league level, at least.
Evan Lang recently pitched a survivor’s guide for baseball fans during the lockout. You can get your fix for the game through numerous other sources, the main draw being the minor league ranks. Minor league camps will open in late February as planned and all four Rockies’ full-season affiliates are slated to open their regular season in the first full week of April.
One thing to note: The MLB lockout has no effect on the minor leagues except 40-man players would not be able to play. In terms of minor league Opening Day or other minor league operations, nothing changes. Minor League Opening Day remains April 8.— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) February 2, 2022
While this does spare us from a spring with no baseball, it also comes with a catch. Players who are on the 40-man roster are not eligible to participate in baseball until a new CBA is reached.
For the Colorado Rockies - who currently have 38 of the 40 roster spots filled - this will have some effect beyond the product at 20th and Blake.
Rockies 40-man MiLB Pitchers
|Player||IP since 2020|
|Player||IP since 2020|
On the pitching side, a lengthy delay can affect multiple arms who are in consideration for big-league time in 2022. Ryan Feltner and Julian Fernández made their major league debuts last season, combining to throw 13 innings for the Rockies. It was Feltner’s fourth stop in the system in 2021 but - when combined with a briefer stint in Triple-A Albuquerque - he threw just nine total innings above Double-A. Fernández, meanwhile, experienced his first game action last season since going under the knife for Tommy John surgery in 2017.
Noah Davis also experienced his first game action since T.J. in 2020, but only 35 of his 100 innings were spent in the Rockies system after coming over in a mid-season trade from Cincinnati. Oliveraz pitched his first full-season in the Rockies organization at age 21, but struggled with his control all year at High-A Spokane. Rolison, who many expected to make his major league debut last season, lost much of the year due to an appendectomy in June followed by a broken bone in his throwing hand in August.
Rockies 40-man MiLB Hitters
|Player||PA since 2020|
|Player||PA since 2020|
For the position players, there are fewer players needing to catch up from injury but a delay could still affect multiple near-ready players. Elehuris Montero took a major stride in his development in his first year with the organization in 2021. After a tough 2019 season - that included a significant wrist injury - his continued growth at the plate and in the field in 2022 is an important piece for Rockies’ future. Like Montero, Ezequiel Tovar also made a major impact in 2021 and figures to be a prominent major league piece in the future. After being added to the 40-man roster in the off-season, Tovar is now susceptible to missing development time due to the lockout.
Alan Trejo, Ryan Vilade and Colton Welker all made their major league debuts in 2021 and figure to be in the mix for roster spots in 2022. Although Trejo found success in Triple-A Albuquerque in 2021, he registered uninspiring totals in 50 plate appearances over 28 games in the big leagues. As the roster is currently constructed, he may be leaned on for quite a bit more big league time in 2022 due to a lack of depth in the middle infield. The more time he misses facing big league competition in a preseason environment, the tougher it may be for him to succeed at the game’s highest level.
Vilade’s taste of the majors was brief, appearing in just three games. At just 22 years old, he still has plenty of development time left to go. But as a right-handed hitter in an outfield that is primarily left-handed, a lockout may hurt Vilade’s chances to earn more playing time above the minors. Welker’s 2021 played out similarly to Rolison’s. Viewed as a potential call-up, Welker lost 80 games to a PED suspension in May and did not see game action until late July. His path to more playing time is already murky, and after totaling just over 150 plate appearances in 2021 any delay in 2022 does not seem to be doing any favors to his development.
There’s a spread of player archetypes on this list. Some, like Trejo and Fernández, are expected to find their footing in the big leagues this year. Others - Montero, Feltner and Vilade - are on the cusp of getting their first extended look at the majors. Davis, Tovar and Oliveraz are affected differently as they’re expected to continue their ascent through the minors next season but Rolison and Welker are banking on 2022 as a bounce-back campaign with eyes on a majority of their time being spent in the majors.
But all missed an entire season in 2020 due to the pandemic. And now a lockout by the league is threatening to throw another wrench in the gears of their development. As Rockies fans, being deprived of watching these players is a loss. But as an organization, the more games that are missed due to the lockout, the more the future of the Rockies’ on-field product is put at risk.
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In their annual talent rankings, Baseball America pegs the Rockies at the 24th ranked franchise overall. While expressing praise for talent the Rockies have in the DSL and ACL, Baseball America sees the “largely barren” upper levels as the biggest reason for the bottom-tier ranking. Zac Veen was listed as the franchise’s lone Top 100 prospect.
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