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Tracking MLB Opt-Outs

by NBC Sports EDGE Staff
Updated On: July 26, 2020, 3:58 pm ET

It's relatively early into MLB Summer Camps, and we've already seen a few players decide they will not be playing in the 2020 campaign. 

To help you with your fantasy drafts as we get closer to the start of the truncated year, we'll give you a look at the players who won't be taking the field this summer, and the fantasy impact(s) of those decisions. We'll update as players opt-out, so it's a good idea to add this to your bookmarks as your draft day gets closer or you need to make moves on the waiver wire. 

A reminder that if a player is considered high-risk, they can opt-out and still receive compensation. If a player does not have that designation, they still have the right to not play during the pandemic, but they will do so without being paid.

Here's a look at the players who have decided not to play so far during the shortened 2020 season.

Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants

Posey made the decision to opt-out on Friday; citing that the and his wife had adopted twin baby girls that were born prematurely and will need to be in the NICU.

The 33-year-old struggled for most of the 2020 season with a slash of .257/.320/.388 along with seven homers in 114 games for the Giants. San Francisco would have likely have Aramis Garcia as the starting backstop for the 2020 campaign, but he's not likely to play in 2020 after undergoing hip surgery. Tyler Heineman and Rob Brantly are non-roster invitees who now have a chance to open the shortened year as the starting backstop. It's possible we could see top prospect Joey Bart spend time with the Giants this year, and his plus power could make him a useable fantasy player; particularly in two-catcher or NL-only formats. 

David Price, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Of the players who have decided they won't be playing in 2020 so far, Price is by far the biggest name and the one with the most fantasy relevancy. Acquired by Los Angeles in the deal that also shipped superstar outfielder Mookie Betts to Los Angeles, the southpaw was expected to pitch in the middle of the Dodgers' rotation this summer after striking out 128 hitters in 102 innings for the Red Sox in 2019 with a 4.28 ERA. 

The Dodgers still have a good deal of depth in their rotation even with Price exiting. Julio Urias is now listed as the third starter for Los Angeles, and while the 23-year-old has durability questions, his fantasy stock rises in this shortened campaign since there's likely to be no innings cap. Alex Wood and Dustin May likely take the final two spots in the rotation and both -- particularly May -- have the ability to be relevant this summer. 

As for Price, he should still be a decent option as a 34-year-old in 2021 until that August, but there'll be risk because of his own injury history and the long layoff.

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Nick Markakis, OF, Atlanta Braves

Markakis decided against playing on Monday; citing health concerns. The veteran outfielder was coming off a .776 OPS season with nine homers in 116 games, and was expected to be a part-time player who received starts in the corner outfield as well at designated hitter for Atlanta this summer. Now, those at-bats will likely go to Adam Duvall and Austin Riley -- assuming Riley doesn't win the starting gig at third base, of course. This also could open up playing time for Drew Waters and Cristian Pache; two prospects that have considerable fantasy upside and appear to be just about ready to play.

Ian Desmond, OF, Colorado Rockies

Desmond was one of the first players to decide to opt-out of the 2020 season, and his decision is not just based on the COVID-19 pandemic, but also a statement against the racial issues both inside and outside of the game of baseball. The 34-year-old has not lived up to lofty expectations since signing his big contract with the Rockies, but he did hit 20 homers with a .255/.310/.479 slash over 482 plate appearances in 2020. Desmond may not have been an everyday player for Colorado this year, but it does open up opportunities for players like Sam Hilliard, Garrett Hampson and perhaps Raimel Tapia to open the shortened season. 

Jordan Hicks, RP, St. Louis Cardinals

Hicks announced on July 13 that he would not be participating in MLB's planned 60-game campaign. He is a Type 1 diabetic and is still in recovery mode after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last June. The 23-year-old right-hander should return to the closer role in St. Louis at the beginning of the 2021 season. Carlos Martinez looks to be the best bet for saves in the Cardinals' bullpen for 2020, though he could transition back to the starting rotation. Giovanny Gallegos is currently missing from summer camp due to undisclosed reasons. Ryan Helsley is an intriguing sleeper.

Felix Hernandez, SP, Atlanta Braves

It was going to be weird to see Hernandez wear a uniform other than Seattle's this year after he had spent 14 seasons with the Mariners and finishing in the top three of Cy Young voting three times; winning in 2010. While he was once a fantasy stalwart, he really hasn't had that kind of impact since 2015, and he was not a lock to make the Atlanta rotation before the COVID-19 shutdown. It appears that Sean Newcomb will be the fifth starter for Atlanta to open the shortened campaign, with Kyle Wright and a host of talented prospects like Ian Anderson next in line. 

Mike Leake, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Leake was the first player to decide he would not be playing this summer. The 32-year-old was traded to Arizona in a deadline deal last summer from Seattle, and was expected to fill one of the spots in the back of the Diamondbacks' rotation this season. Because Leake doesn't miss many bats and has a propensity to give up the long-ball, he wasn't a great fantasy option, anyway, but it takes away a streaming candidate -- particularly in NL-only formats. His spot in the rotation will likely be taken by Merrill Kelly, with Alex Young acting as the sixth starter if Arizona chooses to deploy one.

Michael Kopech, SP, Chicago White Sox

Kopech informed the White Sox on July 10 that he would not be playing this season, and general manager Rick Hahn said the team fully supports the young right-hander's decision. Kopech, a former top prospect coming off Tommy John surgery, probably could have made a claim on a rotation spot at some point this summer had he decided to participate. Or he could have been a swingman, which may be a valuable role in Major League Baseball's condensed schedule. The year off should help Kopech from a health and strength point. He will aim to be firing on all cylinders for 2021.

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Washington Nationals 

Zimmerman made the decision not long after Leake; citing concern over his newborn child and the rest of his family. The 35-year-old former All-Star was not likely to be an everyday player for Washington this season, although he might have been an option at DH with the designated hitter now a part of the National League for at least this season. The Nationals appear set on going with a platoon at first base between Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames; with Kendrick getting the starts against southpaws and Thames getting the bulk of his playing time against left-handers. Whichever player isn't in the lineup could serve as the DH that day for the defending world champions.

Joe Ross, SP, Washington Nationals

Ross is the second member of the Nationals to decide not to play during the 2020 campaign. The former top prospect has battled injuries throughout his professional career, and he posted an ERA above 5.00 -- 5.48 to be exact -- for the third consecutive season while appearing in 27 games last year. Ross was expected to compete for one of the final rotation spots this summer before opting-out, but it appears that plumb gig will now go to Austin Voth

Welington Castillo, C, Washington Nationals

Castillo announced that he was opting out on July 3. He had signed a minor league contract with the Nationals in January after struggling to a .209/.267/.417 batting line over 251 plate appearances last season with the White Sox. Once a valuable fantasy catcher, Castillo likely would have been nothing more than an emergency option this year in Washington.

Collin McHugh, RP, Red Sox

McHugh informed the Red Sox that he was opting out on July 18. He has struggled to recover from an elbow issue that popped up last season in Houston and then followed him into Red Sox camp this spring. The 30-year-old right-hander had signed a one-year, $600,000 contract with Boston in early March.

Tyson Ross, SP, Free Agent

Ross was released by the Giants before the start of Summer Camp, but instead of joining a new team, he's going to join his brother Joe in sitting out the 2020 season. Once a very intriguing fantasy option, it doesn't appear likely that the 33-year-old is going to have relevancy in that regard again.

Hector Noesi, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Noesi cited family concerns as the reason for his opt-out. The right-hander struggled in 27 2/3 innings with the Marlins in 2019; posting an ERA of 8.46 and a WHIP of 1.59 in 12 appearances. He'll likely be organizational depth for another organization in 2021 -- assuming he plays during that campaign.