The delay or cancellation of the 2020 MLB season means fallout for every team and individual player. It’s going to hurt franchise’s on-field plans — in that they’re losing a year of contractual control — and the players, who lose money and opportunities.
Impending free agents will be hit, though one-time American League MVP Mookie Betts, who may or may not play one season in a Dodger uniform, will be an interesting study. The lower-tier and older free agents will undoubtedly suffer.
» MORE: Options to restart season
But here we’re focusing on a pool with which Braves fans are quite familiar: younger players. Some are still prospects, even if not by baseball’s standard. Some haven’t established themselves, making every pitch or at-bat that much more valuable. Some are established but seeking that next level.
These Braves are hit harder (on the field) by this uncertainty:
Starter Bryse Wilson
Wilson’s future with the Braves already was murky, which is a strange thought to write about a 22-year-old. It speaks more about the franchise’s superb pitching assortment than about Wilson, who would be pitching every fifth day for a handful of other organizations, but can’t secure a regular role in this one.
The Braves have Wilson under team control through 2024, into his mid-20s. And while Wilson provides solid pitching depth — you can’t have enough of that, they say — he also remains one of the team’s more expendable trade pieces whose value might be higher in another setting.
This was a pivotal season for Wilson, as far as his Braves future is concerned. He would make spot starts and perhaps get some work out of the bullpen in between Triple-A outings. Wilson is still growing as a pitcher, understanding he needs to be less fastball-heavy, and estimating his prime performance is still difficult at this time.
All this said, if there’s a shortened season with broadened rosters, the Braves will rely on him more than before. So you can flip this narrative into a positive: Wilson could see his major-league chances increase in that event.
The same logic applies to Touki Toussaint, who had fallen behind Wilson in the Braves’ order, and Kyle Wright, who was leading the charge of youngsters battling for spots.
Third basemen Austin Riley and Johan Camargo
General manager Alex Anthopoulos revealed that the Braves probably would’ve carried Riley and Camargo on the initial roster, then re-evaluated the situation when minor league baseball started. Both Riley and Camargo were having superb springs, and the team’s best-case scenario with its third-base competition was unfolding before its eyes.
Now, who knows? If there’s a season, Riley and Camargo will be important contributors. Like Wilson, the shortened season might give each opportunities they wouldn’t have had (as consistently) over a normal year. Even so, their fine work of the spring was undone. They’re building from scratch like everyone else.
More so than either player being “hurt” by the suspension, it’s just disappointing for both considering how they were performing. Each had a fire lit under him and wanted to take the job. We’ll never know how it would’ve played out under normal circumstances.
Shortstop Dansby Swanson
Once again, we won’t see Swanson play a season uninterrupted. We know his floor — a solid shortstop who will compete for Gold Gloves — but we don’t know his peak. Swanson’s career has been plagued by untimely injury. Circumstances out of his control strike again here.
It still feels like there’s another layer to the 26-year-old. It would’ve been intriguing to see him coming off his National League Division Series showing, when he hit 7-for-18 with three doubles in his first postseason series. That stretch teased more to Swanson’s outlook than his average regular-season stats.
Swanson will be one of the more fascinating Braves to follow if play resumes. How he performs across the next season might determine if the Braves opt to extend him or seek an alternative. He’s under team control through 2022.
Worth mentioning ...
Starter Felix Hernandez appeared to have made the team. His spring work went unrewarded. He’ll probably still factor into the team’s plans for a shorter season, and maybe the delay can somewhat help in the sense of keeping his innings down. Similar can be said of Cole Hamels, who re-enters free agency next winter.
Several Braves relievers could be free agents after the season, including Mark Melancon and Shane Greene. In a condensed season, there will be positives and negatives toward their case. A canceled season would be disastrous for everybody.
Slugging outfielder Marcell Ozuna faces the unknown, too. Ozuna declined the Cardinals’ qualifying offer and took a similar one-year pact with the Braves. A canceled season likely means his next deal is a pay cut from his $18 million salary. A shortened season would still let him make his case for a multi-year contract, even if there’s less time to do so.
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