Why MiLB season is not affected by lockout

Last week, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred canceled the first two series of the 2022 season, marking the first time in league history that an owner-imposed lockout will compromise the regular season schedule. The owners and the MLB Players Association are scheduled to meet again on Sunday, but it remains unclear when a new collective bargaining agreement will be reached and the season will start.

For as much uncertainty as there is concerning the big-league season, there's little ambiguity about what will happen with the minor leagues. Their season will, by and large, play on as normal, beginning Sunday with the launch of MiLB spring training.

1. Why aren't the minors impacted by the lockout?

It's simple. The CBA is a contract that governs the relationship between the MLB Players Association, a union, and the league. Minor-league players, with few exceptions, are not part of the union. Their standing, then, is not impacted by the league locking out the players, or any kind of development with the CBA.

2. Who are the exceptions?

The aforementioned exceptions -- that is, the minor-league players who are part of the union -- are those who are on their teams' 40-player roster. Those players have not been allowed to report to camp, and will not be allowed to play in minor-league regular season games until a new CBA is agreed upon and ratified by both the owners and the union, resulting in the end of the lockout.

3. Does that impact any notable players?

Yup. Let's illustrate this by using a recent ranking of the league's top 20 prospects. The first group will not be allowed to partake in camp or games until the lockout is lifted; the second group is already in camp and will play on as asked.

Are on the 40-player roster/not eligible to play:

No. 3, Julio Rodríguez (OF, Mariners)
No. 4, Shane Baz (RHP, Rays)
No. 9, Gabriel Moreno (C, Blue Jays)

Are not on the 40-player roster/eligible to play:

No. 1, Adley Rutschman (C, Orioles)
No. 2, Bobby Witt Jr. (SS/3B, Royals)
No. 5, Grayson Rodriguez (RHP, Orioles)
No. 6, Riley Greene (OF, Tigers)
No. 7, Francisco Álvarez (C, Mets)
No. 8, Spencer Torkelson (1B, Tigers)
No. 10, CJ Abrams (SS/2B, Padres)

As a reminder: players have to be on the 40-player roster to appear in big-league games. Additionally, they must be on the 40-player roster after a certain amount of time in order to avoid being eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, the annual winter event designed to prevent teams from hoarding talent. (This offseason's Rule 5 Draft has not, and may not, take place because of the lockout.)

4. When does the minor-league season start?

Let's break down when each of the four leagues will begin in a handy bulleted list:

Triple-A: Tuesday, April 5
Double-A: Friday, April 8
High-A: Friday, April 8
Low-A: Friday, April 8

It's worth noting that the Triple-A season was extended by six games in February. Those teams will now play 150 games apiece.

5. How will the minors be affected by the MLB season?

If and when the owners and the union reach an agreement, there will be two basic ramifications for the minors. Foremost, players on 40-man rosters who were previously not allowed to partake will be free to resume their careers. Secondly, teams will be able to promote players from Triple-A, freeing up additional roster space and playing time. That may sound like an obvious and silly consequence, but think about it this way: until the lockout is lifted, teams may be more conservative with their promotions so as to avoid having a logjam of players at the higher levels. In other words, the minors will return to being a player development mechanism rather than the only show in town for MLB and its affiliates.

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