By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and there is increasing optimism surrounding the status of Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes for the start of the 2020 season. Cespedes was unlikely to be ready for Opening Day. Still, with the beginning of the season delayed, the slugger has made significant progress in his recovery from multiple heel surgeries and a broken ankle. Cespedes missed the duration of the 2019 season, and he was limited to a mere 81 and 38 games respectively in 2017 and 2018. Cespedes being healthy to start the season hardly means he’ll weather the entire regular season. However, with the DH now an option for the Mets, Cespedes will have an everyday spot in the lineup without risking injury in the field.
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has tested positive for COVID-19, and he is said to be symptomatic. As always, Chapman’s health is a more meaningful concern, but it does have a massive effect on New York’s on-field product. Chapman’s diagnosis will obviously keep Chapman away from Yankees camp for the next two weeks. It will likely force him to miss the start of the season. On the plus side, New York’s bullpen is loaded with talent, with Zach Britton likely to slide into the closer role with Chapman sidelined. However, removing Britton from the primary set-up role. Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, and Tommy Kahnle will be thrust into more prominent positions out of New York’s bullpen.
On Friday, Giants catcher Buster Posey announced intentions to opt-out of the 2020 season. San Francisco’s already rough lineup will take a massive hit without Posey’s presence. The catching job will now start the season as a platoon between Rob Brantly and Tyler Heineman, a far-from-inspiring combination. Prospect Joey Bart, as discussed on Friday, is already an elite defender and will likely be ready to assume the starting gig at some point this season. However, his bat is still a work-in-progress, and Bart is likely to struggle offensively in 2020. San Francisco’s offense is going to be among the worst in baseball this season.
White Sox prospect Michael Kopech, expected to be a part of the team’s starting rotation in 2020, has opted out of the 2020 season. Kopech missed all of 2019 following elbow surgery. By next spring, Kopech will be nearly two years removed from competitive baseball. Long-term, Kopech boasts a fastball that hits triple digits on the radar gun and a wipeout slider. It’s a combination capable of dominating hitters, and he projects to be an excellent complement to ace Lucas Giolito. On the plus side for Chicago, left-hander Carlos Rodon, who missed most of 2019 following elbow surgery, looks poised to make an impact in 2020.
Outfielder Starling Marte has arrived back to Diamondbacks camp following a few days away for undisclosed reasons. Acquired by Arizona in January, Marte is coming off another stellar season, hitting .294/.342/.503 with a career-best 23 home runs and the lowest strikeout rate of his career (16.0%). Marte joining Arizona’s outfield allows the team to shift MVP candidate Ketel Marte back to the infield. Arizona has a solid starting outfield, with Marte manning center and Kole Calhoun and David Peralta flanking him. The acquisition of Marte paired with the team’s signing of left-hander Madison Bumgarner makes Arizona’s playoff hopes obvious. Keeping pace with the Dodgers in the NL West is borderline impossible, putting the Diamondbacks in the crowded group of teams looking for a Wild Card spot in the NL.
Toronto announced intentions to shift Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to first base and DH for the 2020 season, likely signaling an end to his time as a third baseman. As a rookie in 2019, Guerrero Jr. was a relative disappointment, racking up a mere 0.4 fWAR across 123 games. However, there was plenty of cause for optimism. Long-term, Guerrero Jr. continues to project as an MVP-caliber slugger with plus-power and excellent plate discipline. The biggest negative for Guerrero Jr. in 2019, aside from his defense, was his batting eye. In the minors, Guerrero’s worst strikeout rate was 13.4%, way back in High-A. In the big leagues, that ballooned to 17.7%. Expect that number to improve, and Guerrero Jr. to quickly establish himself as an offensive force for the Blue Jays.