COVID-19 has the entire country in panic mode, effectively suspending the play of sports nationwide. This is understandable, as it is currently impossible to gauge just how many people have the virus due to the lack of tests available. What we do know is that we have already seen two NBA stars come down with the virus, and that travel is the most significant factor in its spread. Not having sports absolutely sucks, especially when it is the best way for many Americans to take their minds off of this crisis, but these extreme measures had to be taken for the safety of millions.
Being a sports site, there is not much else to talk about currently besides the effect this will have on the city’s teams in the short and long-term. As far as returning to action, there is no way of knowing exactly when this will happen. The only real gauge we have on this potential timetable is that the Chinese Basketball Association, which shut down in late January and has instructed American players to be ready to return and prepare for action as soon as April 2nd. That would be about a ten-week layoff. With that being said, the change of seasons, as well as the severity in the United States compared to China could play factors in this as well.
Some decisions have already been set in stone. The PGA has canceled every event leading up to the Masters, which was postponed as well. The NCAA has decided not to proceed with March Madness and any winter or spring sports.
This thing is a whole lot bigger than baseball or sports in general, but chances are it is going to have a considerable impact on the Atlanta Braves in their scouting department.
In late 2017, the MLB came down hard on the Braves’ John Coppolella regime for infractions committed by the team in the international market. This led to the forfeiture of thirteen international players they had signed, who effectively became free agents. At the time, this was a massive blow to the organization, who had just signed what many considered to be an elite class headlined by Kevin Maitan. However, none of these players have set the world on fire to this point.
Removing thirteen prospects and taking away a third-round draft selection will hurt the depth of any farm system, but it is the future restrictions that cost the Braves most. The MLB put strict limits on the Braves in the international market for three seasons, disallowing them from signing any player for over $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period and their international bonus pool money for the 2020-21 signing period was reduced by 50 percent as well. John Coppelella also received a permanent ban from the MLB.
The Braves have made the most of the situation up to this point. They found a fantastic replacement for Coppolella in Alex Anthopoulos, and while they have been limited primarily to bringing in players through the MLB Draft, they have done an excellent job doing so. However, with all of the outfall from this virus, they could see a substantial drought in the pipeline.
The Braves will not get much of a chance to evaluate the prospects on their radar to the best of their ability. Essentially, all levels of the game have been suspended. They won’t get to see high school prospects in their senior seasons and will only have a 15 game sample size for their college prospects. Senior athletes at this level will also receive another year of eligibility, which could narrow the number of prospects entering the MLB draft.
It is going to be a tough year in the Braves’ scouting department, and I am sure the turnover that has gone on over the past two years will not help matters much either. We will see how this plays out, and if the MLB Draft even occurs in June. Hopefully, the team will be playing baseball by then, and this crisis will have been at least contained.
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