Braves among teams releasing minor leaguers this week

Braxton Davidson takes batting practice during spring training in 2016. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

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Braxton Davidson takes batting practice during spring training in 2016. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

The Braves are among the teams releasing minor leaguers in the past week.

With the minor-league season to be canceled (not official, but an inevitability), and many players not released at the end of March because of the coronavirus halting baseball operations, this week has featured a mass exodus of minor-league talent from almost every organization.

The Braves, who didn’t release any players before the pandemic, have cut two dozen players from their lower levels. The team will pay its remaining minor-leaguers through June. Thus far, every reported team will do so except the A’s, who elected to stop paying minor-leaguers their $400-per-week allowance at May’s end.

The Braves are still “working through (their) options” beyond next month, according to a person familiar with club decisions.

Among the team’s reported cuts was 2014 first-round pick Braxton Davidson, who never played above A-ball. The Braves released 30 players in total.

“I really appreciate y’all (the fans) an hate I couldn’t wear an Atlanta Braves uniform at the big league level,” read part of Davidson’s statement on Twitter. “I wish I could compete one more time with my boys ... Ready to get back on the field and compete with whatever team signs me because this story is far from over...”

Baseball America reported the following Braves prospects have been released:

Right-hander Shairon Bennett

Right-hander Walter Borkovich

Right-hander Alex Camacho

Right-hander Luis De Jesus

Right-hander Carlos De La Cryz

Right-hander Luis Diaz

Right-hander Caleb Dirks

Right-hander Greg Leban

Right-hander Jose Olague

Right-hander Ryan Shetter

Right-hander Leonardo Vargas

Left-hander Jose Manuel Fernandez

Left-hander Ramon Linares

Left-hander Nestor Bermudez

Left-hander Carlos Caminero

Left-hander Orelvis Rijo

Catcher Denzel Bryson

Catcher Brandon Chapman

Catcher Zack Soria

Catcher Hagen Owenby

Catcher Randy Ruiz

First baseman Braxton Davidson

First baseman Brendan Venter

First baseman Ray Hernandez

Third baseman Yerangel Medina

Third baseman Jordan Rodgers

Shortstop Nelson Celesten

Right fielder Randi De La Cruz

Right fielder Joel Reyes

Left fielder Christian Zamora

Many of these minor leaguers would have been cut in March, but the pandemic ceased MLB operations. Players are also released around the major-league draft, which is approaching on June 10 but will only include five rounds instead of the standard 40. The Braves could release more players in the future.

As Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper pointed out, the Braves released 31 players over the same time frame in 2018, and 24 players last year.

The release numbers have varied by team. The Mets reportedly trimmed their organization by 39, per Baseball America. The Astros reportedly cut 17. The Cubs reportedly let 28 players go. The Royals and Twins are the only teams reported to have not cut any players, as of Friday afternoon.

What’s most different about the roster-trimming process this time is the timing – the cuts happening all at once – and the looming uncertainty.

Without a minor-league season, and with numerous minor-league teams to be eliminated (a pre-pandemic development), many players will be left without a seat at the end of the music. In other words, some will no longer have the chance to pursue their baseball aspirations.

While the draft is shortened, players who weren’t selected will be free to sign with any club, which could help replenish lower levels, but for a maximum $20,000 bonus.

That means much of the higher-regarded talent has motivation to opt for school over the minors, though the player would have the advantage of fielding offers and picking his destination – an unprecedented development. Think similar to undrafted free agency in the NFL, just with an even financial playing field.

But as those new hopes begin, others' ambitions conclude. Over 1,000 players have been cut this week, according to ESPN. Many of those players have seen their careers end, as the opportunities grow slimmer in the minor leagues.

"For more than a year, MLB has planned to contract about a quarter of minor-league teams before the 2021 season," ESPN insider Jeff Passan wrote. "Compounding that with a drastically shortened amateur draft -- just five rounds this year instead of the typical 40 -- and the delay of international free-agent signings until as late as Jan. 15, minor-league systems could be as thin as they have been in years."