Back again, and on Thursday, Philadelphia placed a host of players on the IL without an injury designation, hinting that they were potentially COVID-19 cases. After a few hours of speculation, the Phillies confirmed this was the case. Among the four were infielder/outfielder Scott Kingery and reliever Hector Neris. Kingery delivered on his prospect hype in 2019, posting 2.7 fWAR across 126 games. Most impressive to the Phillies was his defensive versatility, as Kingery saw time six defensive positions. Neris was the team’s best reliever, compiling a 2.93 ERA across 68 appearances. So far, there is no indication Kingery, Neris, or the others on the COVID-19 injured list are in danger—or in danger of missing the start of the season.
As more players hit the COVID-19 injured list, the list of players opting out of the 2020 season is also likely to expand. To date, four active-rostered players have decided to forgo the baseball season. Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is the biggest name. He is joined by teammate Joe Ross, a starting pitcher. Veteran right-hander Mike Leake, a contender for a spot in Arizona’s rotation, has also opted out. Infielder/outfielder Ian Desmond of the Colorado Rockies is the final of the four. As the season nears, these four will likely be joined by many others to deem the risk of the 2020 season not worth the reward.
Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana recently underwent surgery for a lacerated nerve on his pitching hand. The injury will likely force him to miss the start of the 2020 season and dampen Chicago’s bid for supremacy in the hotly-contested National League Central. Though he has been a relative disappointment with the Cubs, Quintana remains a competent, reliable arm within Chicago’s rotation. The Cubs currently project to be in a tight race with the Brewers, Reds, and Cardinals for the division crown. Not having Quintana will undoubtedly make the task of securing a playoff bid more difficult.
Miguel Andujar, a third baseman by trade, is likely to be used as a utility player by the New York Yankees this season. A season-ending injury to Andujar in 2019 opened the door for a breakout season from Giovanny Urshela. Coming off a massive .314/.355/.534 batting line, Urshela earned the every-day gig to start the season. Now, Andujar, who was mighty impressive as a rookie is 2018 (.297/.328/.527), is looking at inconsistent playing time and a possible shift to the outfield. Much like fellow former top prospect Clint Frazier, the wealth of depth within the Yankees lineup leaves quality players without the chance for regular playing time. Andujar will likely join Frazier as one of the most rumored trade chips in baseball this summer.
In other Yankees news, left-hander James Paxton is said to be ready for action following back surgery in early February. Originally expected to miss the first month-plus of the season, the delayed start to the 2020 campaign has Paxton poised to be part of New York’s rotation come Opening Day. Paxton’s debut season with the Yankees was a relative disappointment following a few star-level seasons with the Mariners. Still, he remains capable of dominating when healthy. In a rotation with Gerrit Cole at the top, Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka may pair to make one of the AL’s more formidable mid-rotation pairings.
Blake Snell’s 2019 season—his follow-up to a Cy Young-winning 2018—was a massive letdown. Snell struggled to a 4.29 ERA across an injury-riddled year. Now healthy, Snell is looking to bounce back as the Tampa Bay Rays seek the impossible to keep pace with the New York Yankees in the AL East. Tampa Bay’s lineup is the opposite of New York’s with a complete absence of star-level players. However, the Rays boast an excellent, deep pitching staff. Snell is joined in the rotation by Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow. The bullpen is fronted by the excellent Nick Anderson, and few franchises are adept at utilizing openers as Tampa Bay. The Rays are poised to be a legitimate Wild Card contender once again in the American League.