Washington Nationals fans are left feeling without MLB. In the meantime, they should turn their attention to college baseball and MiLB.
After the MLB and MLBPA met for over 16 hours on Monday, fans woke up Tuesday morning with optimism that the 2022 season will start on time. Unfortunately, initial reports that the two sides were close to a deal seemed to be exaggerated. The two sides were still drastically apart on multiple topics, leading to Commissioner Rob Manfred officially announcing that the season will not start on time.
The first two series of the season have been canceled and who knows how many extra games will follow. Fans are upset and have every right to be. Many look forward to unwinding and forgetting about their problems by watching America’s pastime, yet MLB continues to shoot itself in the foot.
With no indication on how long before the two sides come to an agreement, fans are left looking for a placeholder. Fortunately, college baseball is in full swing and the minor league season is set to start on time, allowing fans to still get their baseball fix. For those that are unfamiliar with either, they are in for a treat.
College baseball is full of excitement that often goes unnoticed — from the sky-high bat flips that would be frowned upon in the majors, to the electric atmospheres that have a constant playoff feel.
Parody is alive and well with plenty of teams from smaller conferences making their presence felt. Coastal Carolina is a prime example. Part of the Big South, they shocked the world when they won the College World Series over Arizona in 2016. If that’s not enough, last year’s playoffs saw Conference USA tied with the Big 12 for the fourth most teams to make the playoffs with four.
College baseball is also littered with its own exhilarating storylines, with NC States Tommy White coming to mind. In 12 games, the freshman slugger is hitting .431, with nine homers, and 29 RBIs.
If you don’t feel like following your alma mater, there are plenty of fun teams to root for. Vanderbilt and Florida are perennial powerhouses, while UVA, ODU, and Maryland are all solid teams for those in the DMV.
For Nationals fans, the team has the fifth pick in the draft and an opportunity to select the next cornerstone for the franchise. With a need for position players in the farm system, LSU’s Jacob Berry, Stanford’s Brock Jones, Texas Techs Jace Jung, and Cal Poly’s Brooks Lee are all players to keep an eye on. MLB Pipeline has them rated at the top college bats entering this year’s draft.
Minor League Baseball
Baseball is the one sport where no one makes the jump immediately to the majors, with players usually spending 2-3 years in the minors. Of course, there are exceptions, with Ryan Zimmerman only spending a few months in the minors before being called up.
MiLB lacks the lust of MLB, but still provides plenty of amusement. Each organization has at least five minor league affiliates — including rookie league, A-, A+, AA, and AAA. Fans are given a glimpse of the next wave of superstars in addition to the players that were just drafted.
The Nationals have started a rebuild and are committed to a youth movement. Washington is focused on the development of top prospects Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry, Jackson Rutledge, Brady House, and Cristian Vaquero.
Behind them, there are plenty of intriguing players to keep an eye on at all levels of the Nationals system. Like defense? Jackson Cluff and Donovan Casey are two of the slickest defenders in Washington’s farm. A fan of home runs? T.J. White has impressive raw power that will catch people’s eye. Speed? Lucius Fox and Jordy Barley have 142 and 78 stolen bases respectively.
AAA starts of their season on April 5, with the other levels starting in mid-late April.