Juan Soto, the Washington Nationals wunderkind outfielder, has been placed on the COVID-19 list after testing positive for COVID-19, per reports. Soto is asymptomatic, which is good news, and will be sidelined until he has two negative tests at least twenty four hours apart.
This is a big blow to the Nationals, who will be without one of their best players for an unknown amount of time. Soto was second in the Rookie of the Year balloting in 2018, when he slashed .292/.406/.517 in 494 plate appearances as a 19 year old, and was ninth in the Most Valuable Player voting in 2019, when he put up a 4.6 bWAR while slashing .282/.401/548.
For all the positive momentum and warm feelings we have had in the run up to the return of baseball this week, the news of Soto’s positive test is a reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to loom as a major health issue for the league. Outbreaks could end up de-railing the entire season, but even if things don’t get that bad, there’s going to be the ongoing uncertainty over whether any given player might test positive, how long they would end up being out, and how that impacts a team’s fortunes.