Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is the biggest star in the sport to test positive for the coronavirus thus far. He was one of four Atlanta players to test positive, along with Will Smith, Touki Toussaint, and Pete Kozma.
Of the four, Freeman reportedly had the worst of it as far as symptoms go. While Smith and Toussaint were asymptomatic, Freeman was bedridden for days with a fever, chills, and muscle aches, according to his wife’s Instagram. However, the latest updates from Brian Snitker are that he’s feeling much better. Unfortunately, that’s not enough for any of them to return to the field. Even though all players are now showing little to no symptoms, they have to produce multiple negative tests results to return to play.
You’d expect that to happen before the season starts, but you just never know with only ten days until Opening Day. From personal experience, I’ve had multiple friends test positive for the virus weeks after their symptoms faded, so it’s possible that Freeman will not be available when the season kicks off on July 24th. If that happens, where might the Braves turn?
Duvall has plenty of experience at first base, manning the position 37 times in his big-league career. If Freeman isn’t able to play at the beginning of the season, he will find himself in the lineup most days, whether it be in the outfield, as the DH, or at first base.
The Braves have played Riley at first base several times at Spring Training this year and last year just in case an injury to Freddie Freeman ever occurred. While this may not be an injury, Atlanta is still prepared. Putting him at first will also allow both Camargo and Riley to receive everyday at-bats, as they continue to compete for reps at third base and DH once Freeman returns.
Like Duvall and Riley, we know Travis d’Arnaud will be on the Opening Day roster. However, he could begin the season as the everyday first baseman. d’Arnaud has played there 19 times over his career, and the Braves have a more than capable third catching option that can platoon with Tyler Flowers in Alex Jackson.
Culberson isn’t on the 40-man roster right now, but that should change before the start of the season, regardless of whether Freeman is ready. Either way, he’s more of a backup option that can play every position late in games and pinch-hit. The Braves don’t plan on him starting much.
Alonso is a journeyman that recently spent last year split between the Rockies and White Sox. He hit below the Mendoza line in 2019, but he’s recorded a respectable .259 average with 100 home runs in his career. Alonso even made the All-Star Game as recently as 2017, when he hit .266 with 28 homers for Oakland and Seattle. Still, Alonso is a longshot to make the Opening Day roster, considering he’s not on the 40-man and the Braves’ other options to fill in for Freeman.
O’Brien is an outfielder that also played some first base in Spring Training. He showed off his incredible power before play was stopped in March. However, his inability to make consistent contact has kept him from making an impact at the major-league level to this point in his career. I don’t see that changing for the 2012 second-round pick this year, no matter what happens to Freeman.