The minor league season is set to begin in just four days, with the four full-season affiliates of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action. As you likely know already, MLB did away with many of the minor league teams, so the Pirates no longer have affiliates in Morgantown and Bristol. That leaves just the Gulf Coast League and the Dominican Summer League for the short-season teams. Last time I asked, the Pirates said they would have two DSL teams and there was a possibility of a second GCL team, but far from definite on that front. Baseball America had an article yesterday looking at the DSL and GCL schedules and start times, and there is possible bad news with one of the leagues.
We will start with the possible bad news. The DSL season might not happen. There is still a major problem in the Dominican with Covid, with limited testing available and very little vaccination going on, though things are starting to pick up (they are at 8.4% of the population with at least one shot, compared to 43.3% of the U.S., as of yesterday). That has put the season in doubt. That’s not as big of a deal for the Pirates as it seems. The players are already there and they have two teams, so there’s a built-in opponent with zero travel cost or worries. The 2021 season may just turn into a long Spring Training with intrasquad games on their own schedule. That affects the fans more than the players, since they will still see game action, but we wouldn’t be getting any stats from the league, though I should be able to get some reports.
If the season does get going, it’s supposed to begin July 12th and run until October 2nd. The DSL usually starts at the very end of May and runs until the end of August, so they basically pushed it back five weeks just to give more time to hopefully get the season in.
The GCL season seems to be set to go with no issue. It’s not 100% definite now, but it’s as close to definite as possible. That league is set to begin on June 28th and close September 18th. That’s a bit of a later close to the season than normal, but approximately the same starting date. The article doesn’t note if that means that they will play more games, but I have heard the possibility of having more “camp days” which means teaching day mostly, sometimes situational games, or just regular intrasquad exhibition games that go 5-6 innings.
The good part is that the four full season teams begin soon and they will be loaded with prospects, especially the Greensboro pitching staff and the Bradenton offense. Full rosters will be released soon, but a sneak peak of those teams shows that they will both be fun to follow this year on a daily basis.
PS: I sent out a couple of questions to different people to clarify some things on the short-season schedules, so there could be an update here if I hear back soon.