Committee for minor leaguers has been formed to help ongoing labor battle

Friday, December 3, 2021

-Clint Manry 

MLB is currently in the middle of a lockout, and while the league has recently announced improved housing conditions across the minor leagues, many in the industry feel that not enough has been done. Therefore, on Thursday, Advocates for Minor Leaguers announced the formation of a player-steering committee, which, according to ESPN, “will provide strategic advice and leadership regarding the ongoing labor battle to provide better conditions across baseball’s development levels.”

Led by director Harry Marino, the committee met yesterday and decided to make its existence public in an attempt to voice support for the Major League Players Association. 

Marino believes the recent concession by MLB to help with out housing for minor leaguers just goes to show that the balance of power is indeed shifting:

“For decades, we Minor League players have been exploited by Major League Baseball’s owners, who have abused their unique antitrust exemption to pay us less than we are worth,” the steering committee said in a statement published by ESPN on Thursday. “This year, most of us will make less than $15,000. Many of us will work second and third jobs, struggling just to make ends meet and put food on the table. Without question, the mistreatment that we endure as Minor League players is the most urgent labor issue facing the sport.”

Unlike MLB players, the minors are without a union, so this committee appears to be its best shot at unifying the minor leagues and fighting for the interests of its players. Marino says the first course of action is to publicly support the MLBPA, which strategically, may help the minors with issues down the road. 

Marino had some strong opinions toward MLB, comparing the league’s recent lockout to its abuse of minor leaguers when it comes to wages:

“The owners who have voluntarily decided to shut down Major League Baseball are the same individuals who abuse a legal loophole to pay Minor Leaguers poverty-level wages. As in the past, they use restrictive contracts and collusion to pay the vast majority of professional baseball players less than their actual worth.”

ESPN’s write-up hinted at a specific issue that this newly-announced committee may intend to address: the uniform player contract for minor leaguers. As the contract currently stands, minor league players are tied to the same team for at least seven seasons, which prevents them from seeking competitive pay. Marino states that this arrangement is “fundamentally unfair”

There’s obviously a lot going on right now as both MLB and the player’s union continue to look for common ground on a new CBA. But it’s also a perfect time for the minor leagues to get in on the action. Hopefully when it’s all said and done, not only will MLB come up with a viable compromise, but so will the league that’s left out of these negotiations. As Marino stated on Thursday, “the minors now have a collective voice”… and rightfully they intend on using it.

Michael Harris II takes biggest step forward among Braves prospects per Eric Logenhagen

 Monday, September 27, 2021

-Clint Manry

I don’t exactly agree with his choice, but on Monday ESPN’s Eric Logenhagen named outfielder Michael Harris II as the Braves prospect who’s made the biggest step forward in 2021

Harris, in his age-20 season, played all year with High-A Rome, easily putting together the best numbers of his two-year pro career. In 101 games, the prospect slashed .294/.362/.436 with seven home runs, 26 doubles and 27 stolen bases.

The Braves third round pick from 2019 has evolved into a national star ever since spending most of last season at the Braves alternate site. Heading into the 2021 regular season, Harris was named on several well-known prospect lists, and I ranked the outfielder sixth on my Braves Top 30 in June. In August I moved him up to fifth, just behind catcher Shea Langeliers (who I believe should’ve actually been Logenhagen’s choice on Monday and also my pick for the Braves minor league MVP). 

With a full season of High-A ball now completed, it’s all but guaranteed that Harris will begin 2022 with Double-A Mississippi, where the toolsy prospect will get a taste of higher competition. At this rate, Harris could even find himself with a shot at the majors by the second-half of next year, assuming all goes well with both the M-Braves and then of course Triple-A Gwinnett. However, with him still so young and the Braves so deep in terms of talented prospect outfielders, perhaps it’s more realistic to look for a 2023 ETA to the majors. Either way, Harris is progressing nicely, and there’s no doubt he’s one of the top-five prospects in the organization.