Yes, I know the obvious answer to this article is that any Braves player that tests positive for COVID-19 will be affected most by this pandemic. Hopefully, this is something we will not have to worry about and it will end sooner rather than later.
Let’s be realistic here though: on the baseball front, there is little to talk about other than the outfall that the coronavirus has on the Atlanta Braves. Spring Training coming to a sudden halt is unprecedented and could have a substantial effect on the team’s plans for what will likely be a shortened 2020 season. For the regulars in established roles, this should matter little other than their rhythm being broken. For others, it can change the trajectory of where their season was headed.
Sean Newcomb was well on his way to receiving another crack as a starter, and I do not think this pandemic is going to alter the Braves’ thinking. However, Atlanta did have two pitchers who were in the midst of a competitive Spring Training battle for a fifth spot, a couple of hurlers in entirely different scenarios.
Felix Hernandez, a potential Hall of Famer who was showing glimpses of a bounce-back season, had a good thing going. And now, he may have to show once again what his body is still capable of offering. On the other hand, there is Kyle Wright — a top prospect that finally seemed to have put things together, though likely could have benefitted from a bit more development time in the minors to start the season. I am not sure if baseball will try to have a condensed Spring Training of sorts when they feel it is safe to resume play, but it almost feels like this camp battle will be a wash by that point.
While he was set to miss at least a month of the season, Cole Hamels will probably be ready when this is all over, which means we may not see either one in the rotation. Hernandez and Wright missed out on an opportunity to show Atlanta what they are capable of at this stage of their careers, but perhaps they will still be able to battle things out with Sean Newcomb.
The outfield prospects
Many were hoping we would get a chance to see Drew Waters or Cristian Pache by season’s end. However, they will miss out on valuable development time now, and considering both have only seen a handful of at-bats at the AAA level, a shortened season hurts their chances of making it to the majors. Looking at the bigger picture, this could have a considerable effect on the Braves’ future plans in the outfield.
Obviously they have Ronald Acuna Jr. locked down for the foreseeable future, but outside of him, Adam Duvall and Ender Inciarte are the only other outfielders under contract past this season, with Marcell Ozuna and Nick Markakis hitting free agency. Unless one or both of these young gentlemen set the world on fire in AAA, this could move back the timetable of their big league ETA and force the Braves to make a signing they otherwise would not have next offseason to fill their outfield. It could also mean that Ender Inciarte, who at one point many thought had little chance of being on this year’s roster, might buy even more time as the team’s starting centerfielder.
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