The Braves will be without both of their top two catchers for today’s opener, manager Brian Snitker announced to reporters (Twitter link via David O’Brien of The Athletic). Both Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers are exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19, and while both have tested negative, they’re back in Atlanta rather than with the club in New York. Alex Jackson, who was on the team’s taxi squad, will get the starting nod behind the plate. Catcher William Contreras, also on the 40-man roster and in the 60-man player pool, will likely be brought up as the backup.
It’s a sudden depletion of the Braves’ catching depth and a stark reminder of how quickly a club’s depth can be compromised in a strange 2020 season. Jackson will be unexpectedly thrust into a starting role for at least today — the timeline for d’Arnaud and Flowers to return can’t be known just yet — despite having just four MLB games under his belt. The former No. 6 overall draft pick carries plenty of power but has also had longstanding issues making contact (career 30 percent strikeout rate in the minors — 34 percent in Triple-A). His defense, too, has been an ongoing question that has resulted in Jackson at times getting looks in the corner outfield.
Contreras, the younger brother of Cubs star Willson Contreras, has never appeared in a Triple-A game — let alone in the big leagues. He’s a well-regarded catching prospect, but his .255/.315/.354 output at the plate between Class-A Advanced and Double-A in 2019 was a notable step back from 2018’s .285/.347/.436.
Both d’Arnaud and Flowers will technically be placed on the Covid-19 IL as a means of facilitating the promotion of Jackson and Contreras. Unlike other injured lists, however, there’s no minimum stay on the Covid-19 IL. It remains to be seen just when d’Arnaud and Flowers will be cleared to return, though the hope is that both catcher’s symptoms will be abate in short order.