#Braves‘ Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Touki Toussaint and Pete Kozma tested positive for COVID-19. Freeman has a fever, Brian Snitker said it’s “going to be a while” before they get him in camp. Smith and Toussaint are asymptomatic. Kozma is on satellite roster, also has symptoms— David O’Brien (@DOBrienATL) July 4, 2020
The most important thing is these players and their health. Everyone here at Rotoprofessor wishes them a speedy recovery.
That said, from a fantasy perspective this obviously has massive implications. Freeman entered the year as our #2 ranked first baseman (and 12th ranked overall). Now it’s unlikely he’s ready for Opening Day and who knows how many games he’ll miss. Given the sprint of 2020 every game is significant, and what happens if he’s sidelines for a month?
From Atlanta’s perspective there is one clear name who should step into the vacant spot…
There had been questions whether or not Riley would start on Opening Day, with the potential to play the OF or 3B. However talk had been that Johan Camargo would open the year at the hot corner and the team has Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte, Ronald Acuna and Nick Markakis for the OF (with the odd man out potentially filling the DH role).
Riley doesn’t have much experience at 1B, though he did appear in 10 games there between Triple-A and the Majors in ’19. The team does have Yonder Alonso in their 60-man player pool, but there’s a reason that he was a non-roster invitee and isn’t currently on the 40-man roster. While the name has value, don’t forget he hit .199 with 10 HR over 335 PA last season and generally has struggled to hit for much power.
As for Riley, there’s no question that he made a splash upon his arrival in ’19, despite hitting .226, as he slugged 18 HR over 297 PA. The big issue came from his approach, as he posted a 36.4% strikeout rate and struggled to make contact against all types of pitches (Whiff%):
- Hard – 17.29%
- Breaking – 25.58%
- Offspeed – 29.03%
His Launch Angle (20.6 degrees) and Hard% (42.3%) both support ample power, but is that enough? Will he maintain a 22.0% HR/FB? It’s not impossible, but he needs to make contact in order to tap into it. Considering his 14.1% SwStr% at Triple-A between ’18 and ’19 that’s no guarantee.
In other words, while Riley could be an intriguing source of power the risk likely far outweighs the potential reward.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Savant
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: