Well…we were all excited. Baseball was in the air. What was thought to be a shockingly low 35 COVID positives in nearly 1200 players, coaches, and team personnel, has turned out to be many more as the numbers keep rolling in and some testing has been delayed. There have been tough times in Braves summer camp. The initial group of testing did not go well as 4 players tested positive.

The King has Left the Building

A day after the above breaking news, and several tweets showing excitement and eagerness to get back on the field in his first year outside the Mariners organization, Felix Hernandez opted out of the 2020 season with the Atlanta Braves. The news came after his first bullpen which had some people speculating that he could have had poor results and/or had been told that he wasn’t going to break camp with the team. I have no opinion on the matter other than I wish Felix the best and hope he considers a 2021 rebound with the Braves.

No Nicky Kakes in 2020

In a surprising turn of events, not 24 hours after Felix’s opt-out, folowing a phone conversation with Freddie Freeman, Braves outfielder Nick Markakis opted out of the 2020 season.

“I was excited to get back to playing just as much as everybody else,” Braves player Nick Markakis, a former All-Star, said per Braves reporter Grant McAuley on Twitter. “I think the biggest thing is I talked to Freddie Freeman and just hearing the way he sounded on the phone just opened my eye.

Nick Markakis

The Impact of Freddie Freeman and COVID on the MLB

A buddy of mine from my New Orleans days, Benjamin Hochman, who is now a Sports Columnist for the St. Louis Dispatch, wrote a piece on the spin-off impact that “tough guy” Freddie Freeman’s battle with COVID will have on the rest of the league. Here’s an excerpt:

“If Freddie Freeman, an MVP-caliber player in his prime, can feel this way from COVID-19, then, yeah, so can other seemingly “tough” athletes. And that’s the thing. For many people, the aura of invincibility plays into the pandemic. There’s the feeling that they won’t get the coronavirus, or if they do, they’ll beat it quickly, because they’re young or in-shape or strong or something. And that mindset was perpetuated this spring and summer in sports.”

Benjamin Hochman

Immediate Impact on the 2020 Braves Team

LH Bats

Our last piece discussed the need for a LH bat for the 2020 season and that was before Freddie Freeman tested positive AND Nick Markakis opted out. Now, there’s only 1 LH bat on the entire 40-man roster and 2 switch hitters:

This is a real problem, especially considering the murderer’s row of RHP the Braves will be facing in 2020. I expect this to be addressed via a MILB deal sooner rather than later, and maybe an additional trade before the season starts.

Starting Pitching

While the story was a good one and I was personally excited to see King Felix try to revamp his career in a Braves uniform , the truth is the Braves will be fine in starting pitching, and could continue the idea of piggybacking starters without any additions. For now, Touki gets removed from this discussion, but he’s asymptomatic and could be back at camp within a week or 2.

A Shrinking Player Pool

Since COVID Positives do not count against the player pool, what was 56 players has now shrunk down to 50. While I don’t expect the Braves to add any players to replace the COVID victims, replacing Markakis and Felix on the player pool should be a no-brainer considering neither are under contract for 2021.

Let’s hope today and the rest of the days that lie ahead of us bring better news for baseball and our world.