A shortened season could mask even the most glaring weaknesses, opening up opportunities for parity in each division. It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that the Marlins sneak their way into the playoffs. All it would take is a hot start to get the worst of teams to believe, and why wouldn’t they, with only 60 games to decide five playoff spots in each league. The Braves are without many flaws, and typically, they would seem like a shoo-in to the postseason. However, there are a few areas that could spell disaster in this shortened campaign.
Coming into the 2020 season, it seemed like the Braves would have depth for days amongst their starting pitchers, but that has begun to dwindle fast. Felix Hernandez opted out of his contract because of the coronavirus. Cole Hamels, who the Braves signed to a one-year deal, is still nowhere near ready. And it’s not going to be easy to rely on guys who have yet to make their major league debuts because there is no minor league season.
The Braves are still in decent shape with Soroka, Fried, Newcomb, Folty, and Wright. They also have a couple of young arms with experience like Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson. However, it wouldn’t take much for this group to crumble. If Folty’s struggles from last year continue, and neither Wright nor Newcomb prove to be viable rotation options, it will be challenging for them to overcome in a shorter season.
The addition of Jhoulys Chacin yesterday eases this concern a bit. However, Foltynewicz was sitting in the high-80s in the Braves’ first exhibition game, looking like a poor man’s version of Julio Teheran. The Braves have options, but there are only two guys they can rely on right now without blinking, and there isn’t a lot of time for them to figure things outs.
Over a 162-game season, the Braves probably would have had no problem figuring out what to do at third base. Now, there’s a lot more pressure for them to make the right decision from the start. Odds are one of Camargo or Riley will be more than serviceable, but they can’t afford to watch one slump for several weeks before making a switch.
It doesn’t make things any easier that Camargo is now dealing with a minor injury before the season. Who knows when he will be ready, so it looks like it will be Riley’s job to lose… for the first few games at least. But if he struggles early on, not having a minor league season could prevent him from having any impact at all in 2020.