Updated: Jul 22, 2020
Brad Mills USA Today
After an almost four-month-long delay, Major League Baseball is back. The dramatic back and forth negotiations between the owners and players have ended and Opening Day will take place on Thursday, July 23rd when the New York Yankees travel to Washington DC to play the defending World Series Champions Washington Nationals.
There are a lot of question marks for many teams entering the 2020 season. Will the Nationals be able to repeat? Are the Astros still going to be contenders? How does a 60 game season affect teams? To answer your questions and provide a preview of the 2020 MLB season, the five members of the Good Griefs provided their predictions with heavy analysis on every division and every team heading into the season.
So now, here are Chris Blake, Cole Banker, Ian Alvano, L.A. Rice, and Kyle Leverone's predictions for division standings, record predictions, playoff field, and World Series matchup for the 2020 MLB season.
Chris- New York Yankees (38-22)
The Yankees are the best team in the American League East, and you can drop the word “East” there too if you’d like. They have the most complete roster in the American League. If you need proof, look at the names they have on the bench; Miguel Andújar, Clint Frazier, and Mike Tauchman would all have a chance at starting roles for the majority of other Major League clubs. It’s a shock that it’s taken me four sentences to get here, but I should mention the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole this offseason, giving them one of the better rotations in baseball to complement an already lethal lineup that includes Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and many more. Aroldis Chapman is out for the foreseeable future after recently testing positive for COVID-19, but, surprise, the Yankees also have depth here. Even after watching Dellin Betances join the cross-town-rival New York Mets, the Yankees still boast the best bullpen in baseball with Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, and, eventually, Chapman.
The Rays are a very solid team with a better starting rotation than the Yankees, but just don’t have enough in their lineup to be able to challenge New York for the American League East crown. Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, and Tyler Glasnow are the stars in the rotation, but Trevor Richards and Ryan Yarbrough provide great depth in the back end. Hunter Renfroe supplies some much-needed power, but the lineup still lacks a true star. Tampa Bay has a deep bullpen, made up of Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Chaz Roe, and Oliver Drake, among others. Tampa Bay will be a top five team in the American League and will host the Wild Card Game.
The Red Sox maintain one of the better lineups in the American League, even after dealing Mookie Betts. J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers are as good an offensive trio as any and Boston will put plenty of runs on the board. The pitching will be the weakness for Boston in 2020, and it will be a major one. Chris Sale is recovering from Tommy John surgery that he got in late March, David Price is a Los Angeles Dodger, and Eduardo Rodriguez is working his way back from COVID-19. Outside of Brandon Workman and Matt Barnes, the bullpen is filled with question marks.
The Blue Jays have such a young and exciting core of Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, and Lourdes Gurríel Jr. it’s hard not to fall in love with them, but they have holes. The offense has plenty of potential, and could put up some big numbers this year, but it’s no guarantee. Meanwhile, the starting rotation and bullpen each have one star, Hyun Jin Ryu and Ken Giles, respectively, but are weak outside of them. Toronto projects well for the future, but they will have to wait until then to reach the playoffs.
The Orioles make the best case for the worst team in baseball. John Means is likely their most promising player in the big leagues, but is reportedly dealing with arm fatigue and will miss Opening Day. Renato Núñez has great power, and fans can hope for a comeback year for Chris Davis. Austin Hays put up 0.9 fWAR in just 21 games last season, and is only 25 years old, but the sample size was too small to put too much stock into. With a solid division surrounding them, 2020 will be tough for the Orioles.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (35-25) 3. Boston Red Sox (30-30) 4. Toronto Blue Jays (29-31) 5. Baltimore Orioles (19-41)
Cole- New York Yankees (40-20)
The clear frontrunner in the American League, the Yankees easily sit atop the AL East. To think the Yankees were a game away from the World Series and were not fully healthy is a scary thought, especially when you consider what they were missing and who they have added since then. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will both be fully healthy, as will Luke Voit, who displayed impressive power in his short run before the injury. Combine these sluggers with young stars like Miguel Andujar, Gleybar Torres, and you right there has an exceptional core of players. This isn’t even mentioning All-stars DJ Lemahieu and Gary Sanchez, each also elite players in their positions. The one lack for the Yankees, if you could find one, that kept them from getting back to the World Series was starting pitching, and that was solved with the acquisition of Gerrit Cole. It’s tough not to see the Yankees contending for a ring in 2020.
Behind the Yanks, the Rays find themselves in the unfortunate spot of having to look up at the best team in the AL when they themselves have the makings of a World Series contender. Adding Jose Martinez and Hunter Renfroe adds some more pop to an already impressive lineup, and with a strong pitching staff led by 2018 Cy Young Blake Snell, the Rays are a dangerous wild card team.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (36-24) 3. Boston Red Sox (30-30) 4. Toronto Blue Jays (29-31) 5. Baltimore Orioles (19-41)
Ian- New York Yankees (38-22)
Gosh, it pains me making these predictions. In all truthfulness, the Yankees are legit. Their bullpen speaks for itself, with flamethrower Aroldis Chapman leading the pack. They can absolutely mash the ball. Aaron Judge hit two bombs in an exhibition game last week, that’s scary to think about. DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres might be the best middle infield in baseball. The Yankees have threats practically everywhere. It’s hard to see this club losing games this year. Yanks will go deep this year. Just how deep is the question? Next up is the Tampa Bay Rays. Charlie Morton might be a CY Young candidate. The way he pitches this year dictates if the Rays get a wild card spot or not. Then they have Blake Snell as well, their pitching is set. The Rays will definitely have to hit in order to be competitive this year, simple as that. Third place in this division goes to the beautiful Boston Red Sox. It should be interesting in Beantown this year. Who knows how Chris Sale will pan out this year? On the offensive end the Sox look good. Martinez, Devers, Bogaerts, and the new acquisition of Alex Verdugo will allow them to score runs. I worry about their bullpen, especially if they have to face both the AL and NL East. The Sox don’t have good enough pitchers to win this division or get a wild card. They’re close, but not yet.
Toronto is interesting to me. They’ll hang with Tampa and Boston. Vladdy Jr is awesome but with a short season I fear it will take him awhile to get going. They got Ryu so that’s also a plus. 3B Travis Shaw has a big year this year, but there’s a talent depth from them and the rest of the division. Not to mention the uncertainty of where they’re going to play. Do the Blue Jays have a stadium ready? Too much uncertainty to rate them high. Yes, the Orioles are next. Chin up Baltimore fans. Trey Mancini’s story is amazing. He’s battling chemotherapy like a warrior. He is likely to miss the season. The O’s just don’t have efficient offensive production. I got them winning 20 games.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (34-26) 3. Boston Red Sox (31-29) 4. Toronto Blue Jays (28-32) 5. Baltimore Orioles (20-40)
L.A.- New York Yankees (38-22)
Is there any argument that can go against this one? Even though the New York Yankees have only won 1 World Series title since 2001, they have not had a season below .500 since 1992. After winning 103 games last season it is hard for a squad to make significant improvements in the offseason especially with young star players at most positions. One position of concern for the Yankees over the past few years has been their starting pitching. To strengthen their only weak link they signed the second-best pitcher in baseball, a man by the name of Gerrit Cole to a 9-year $324 million-dollar contract. Even though the Yankees were two wins away from a World Series birth in 2019, Aaron Judge missed 60 games last season and Giancarlo Stanton only played in 18 games. Their surprisingly good first basemen Luke Voit also missed 44 games last season and after coming back from injury he was not the same player. 2018 American League Rookie of the Year runner up Miguel Andújar only had 47 at-bats before a nagging shoulder injury forced him into surgery and to miss almost the entire 2019 season. It is simply remarkable what the Yankees accomplished in 2019 without most of their stars out. Relatively unknown players like Mike Ford and Mike Tauchman stepped up in a huge way and were a big part of the Yankees' success.
Going into 2020 a healthy Yankees team will be looking forward to living up to their World Series hype. Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka will lead their strong rotation while their bullpen is undoubtedly the best in baseball with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle, and Adam Ottavino. They have a top 5 catcher in baseball, Gary Sanchez, and an elite middle infield with Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu. Their outfield depth is the best in baseball with Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton (who will DH a lot), Mike Tauchman, Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks, and Miguel Andújar who will spend the majority of his playing time in the outfield this year. Those are seven players that could start in most outfielders in the Major Leagues. The Yankees will be the top dog with the Tampa Bay Rays close behind. Tampa's rotation is elite with Charlie Morton, 2018 Cy Young Award Winner Blake Snell, and future Cy Young award winner Tyler Glasnow. I give the young and exciting Blue Jays squad a slight edge over the Red Sox because of how horrendous Boston’s pitching will be this year.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (35-25) 3. Toronto Blue Jays (30-30) 4. Boston Red Sox (28-32) 5. Baltimore Orioles (21-39)
Kyle- Winner: New York Yankees (37-23)
For my rankings, I did a rather lax check on each team's roster and position in the standings from last year in addition to using my great vastness of knowledge I have for every team. However, this pick didn't take too much thought or research at all. Gerrit (who spells Garrett like that?) Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ - a great top three in the rotation right there. The only team that rivals that rotation in this division is the Rays, but what differentiates the two teams are the bats. Hard to argue with Sánchez, LeMahieu, Stanton, and Judge. The Bronx Bombers are officially back if you've had any doubts by now. They've arrived. They're here, and they're here to make noise in these silent ballparks this season.
The Toronto Blue Jays finish up in third. I like the Hyun Jin Ryu and former National Tanner Roark combination at the top of their rotation, as those two will get their teams a couple wins this season. Additionally, keep an eye out for the league's new young star in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He's gonna need a couple more years of development to really pan out, but he'll still be exciting to watch this season and the next few. Red Sox are an easy fourth place. Nothing too scary about them, but they have a couple of bats in Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez that'll get them some runs, but just a couple bats won't get you too far, unfortunately. Rounding up the AL East, we have the Baltimore Orioles finishing up 1-59 (one win against the Red Sox) just for fun. Enjoy your season O's fans!
2 - Tampa Bay Rays (35-25) 3 - Toronto Blue Jays (30-30) 4 - Boston Red Sox (24-36) 5 - Baltimore Orioles (1-59)
Overall: New York Yankees (5)
Chris- Minnesota Twins (36-24)
The Twins took the American League Central by storm last year, and I expect them to defend their division title in 2020. Minnesota has an offense that rivals the best in the American League, and it may even be the best. The Twins added Josh Donaldson this past offseason after setting the single-season team home run record last year. The Twins lineup will punish opposing pitchers. Nelson Cruz will sit in the middle of the order as he’s shown no signs of slowing down as he crosses the age-40 mark. I could go on and on about this lineup, but I’ll close by saying that Miguel Sanó is currently projected to be batting eighth. Yes, that Miguel Sanó, the one who hit 34 home runs and posted a 137 wRC+ last year. The Twins rotation is led by 26-year-old José Berríos, who reached the 200-inning mark for the first time last season. Jake Odorizzi and Kenta Maeda round out a top three of the rotation which is solid enough for Minnesota to make a run in the playoffs this year. The bullpen is stronger than the starting rotation, with Taylor Rogers handling the closing duties and Sergio Romo and Trevor May handling the set-up roles. Tyler Duffey and Tyler Clippard will also contribute after strong 2019 campaigns.
Cleveland, like in years past, has equipped itself with a very good starting rotation. Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger are known aces, while Carlos Carrasco looks to return to his past dominance after a healthy offseason. The rotation is rounded out by one of the better fourth-and-fifth-starter combinations in the bigs with Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac. Francisco Lindor, José Ramírez, and Carlos Santana will power the offense, but it likely won’t be enough to dethrone the Twins. Fun fact: the projected first four hitters in Cleveland’s lineup (Cesar Henrnandez, José Ramírez, Carlos Santana, and Francisco Lindor) are all switch hitters. Brad Hand remains a force in the bullpen and will lock down close games for Cleveland in a shortened 2020 season. Cleveland will barely miss out on the second wild card spot in the American League.
Boy do I love this White Sox team, and it pains me to put them third in the division, but their time will come soon. If I’m being honest, this core of Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, and Lucas Giolito excites me more than the Blue Jays’ young core. The White Sox went in big this offseason, signing Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, and Edwin Encarnación. I still think Cleveland finishes above them, but give this Chicago team one or two more years to really hit their stride and it will be a show.
I’ll be frank, the Royals are bad. However, there is good news; I think they are the most exciting of the ‘bad teams’ this year. Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Jorge Soler, and Hunter Dozier make up a good top of the order. The pitching is what will fail this team. The starting rotation is nothing to write home about, and outside of closer Ian Kennedy, the bullpen is in an equally dismal state.
The Tigers don’t have much to look forward to in 2020, but help is on the way! Pitching prospects Casey Mize and Matt Manning are on the horizon and should be rather fun to watch when they both make their debuts in the next couple of seasons. Until then, the best thing for Tigers fans to root for is Miguel Cabrera chasing 500 home runs (his total currently sits at 477).
2. Cleveland Indians (33-27) 3. Chicago White Sox (32-28) 4. Kansas City Royals (23-37) 5.Detroit Tigers (20-40)
Cole- Minnesota Twins (39-21)
Home runs. That’s the first thing that came to mind when I penciled in the Twins as the winner of the AL Central. This team had FIVE players hit over 30 dingers last season en route to a record-setting 307 home runs as a team, and they recently acquired Josh Donaldson, another established power hitter. Jose Berrios leads a pitching staff that is quietly 9th in terms of team ERA, and that is certainly good enough to support this powerful offense. In only two years, the Twins went from being the worst team in baseball to a legitimate contender. Despite being swept by the Yankees in last year’s ALDS, Minnesota solidified itself as a new threat to the Yankees and Astros in the American League, and they’ll be back in 2020.
The White Sox are trying to write a similar story. After being miserably bad for a long stretch, the Southsiders have created a deep roster with a great mix of young potential and veteran presence, enough to challenge for a wild card spot. Expect the Indians to take a step back this year, as they seem to be taking a rebuilding approach to the future after dealing Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer last year.
2. Chicago White Sox (33-27) 3. Cleveland Indians (31-29) 4. Kansas City Royals (22-38) 5. Detroit Tigers (18-42)
Ian- Minnesota Twins (36-24)
The Twins are the dark horse of the MLB. With the Yankees getting so much love and the Astros getting so much hate, the Twins fly below the radar in the AL headlines. This is a team that won over 100 games last year and was the second-highest scoring team in baseball. Minnesota is well rounded and almost have no weaknesses. Their ace Jose Berrios will shut people down and on top of that they added Kenta Maeda. They got a home-run hitter in the offseason as well. Josh Donaldson. You ever heard of him? The Twins won’t allow many runs and will hit the long ball well. Minnesota is going far in the playoffs. Here is where this division gets interesting. I got Cleveland about three games back of the Twins. Lindor is one of the best SS in the league and he’ll be ready to roll. I also think Carlos Santana will have a big year at 1B. The reason why they won’t win their division is their bullpen. Frankly, I think the White Sox have better arms, but Cleveland will still finish ahead. White Sox are next. Boy they’re going to be great, just not yet. They will be good thanks to the likes of Moncada and Yasmani Grandal. Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez, and Dallas Keuchel boast a great pitching staff. One of the best in baseball. In the big games this year, the Sox won’t have enough experience. Look out to competitors in the future though.
There is a big drop off here. Next, I got the Royals. They have a new manager, but that won’t help that much. Their pitching is meh, and their hitting is even more meh. I don’t see Kansas City winning more than 25 games. Lastly, there’s the Tigers. They will be bad, but they provide an interesting case. A farm system that is growing rapidly provides the opportunity for maybe a big trade. They got the number one pick in the draft, but I don’t think we see him this year. Detroit is building.
2. Cleveland Indians (33-27) 3. Chicago White Sox (32-28) 4. Kansas City Royals (24-36) 5. Detroit Tigers (22-38)
L.A.- Minnesota Twins (36-24)
The Minnesota Twins are one of the most underrated teams in the Major Leagues. Many people do not realize the Twins won 101 games last year under their first-year head coach Rocco Baldelli. They used a combination of their young power hitters and above-average pitching to go from 6 games under .500 in 2018 to 40 games over .500 in 2019. This was no fluke, as the Minnesota Twins key addition of Nelson Cruz and the significant improvements from catcher Mitch Garver, shortstop Jorge Polanco, outfielder Max Kepler, and pitchers Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi led them to great success. Their bullpen was the third-best in the Major Leagues according to ERA and they were tied for the American League lead with the New York Yankees with 50 saves. They capitalized on a weak AL Central in 2019 (other than the always sold Cleveland Indians ballclub) before getting dominated by the Yankees in the ALDS. This Twins club will look to build off of their solid ballclub in 2019, and even though the AL Central is much improved, their offseason additions gave them an even better outlook going into 2020.
In my mind, Minnesota is the clear frontrunner for the AL Central crown in 2020. Their much improved and potent lineup only got better after the addition of Josh Donaldson. Donaldson will be playing his natural position of third base after he produced a 4.9 FWar in 2019 with the Atlanta Braves and Miguel Sano will slide over to first base. Sano has always had issues regarding his weight and work ethic, but he produced well with the bat in 2019, smacking 34 home runs in only 105 games. Max Kepler had a breakout season last year and is now considered one of the best right fielders in baseball. Byron Buxton is still only 26 years old and if healthy will be amongst the elite centerfielders in the American League. He hit well in 2019, rating above average in almost every offensive category, but he was limited to only 87 games. The under the radar offseason additions of Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacin, and Rich Hill strengthen their rotation immensely. The Twins will be my dark horse to win the AL Pennant this year, and with the White Sox offseason additions, I put them in second place. Edwin Encarnacion has hit over 32 homers in eight straight seasons and Dallas Keuchel is a former Cy Young Award winner. The Indians digressed in the offseason and the Kansas City Royals will be better than last year. Poor, poor Tigers.
2. Chicago White Sox (33-27) 3. Cleveland Indians (31-29) 4. Kansas City Royals (24-36) 5. Detroit Tigers (19-41)
Kyle- Winner: White Sox (35-25)
Okay. Hear me out. This is a sprint. This season is no 162-game baseball season, so you're gonna see some picks from me that won't make too much sense to the intelligent baseball fan. Maybe that's because I'm not an intelligent baseball fan... Or maybe you're not. But this season is going to come down to one team going on one 10-game run, and I have the White Sox doing that. They have a good rotation (made up of half of former Nationals) in Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Gio González and Reynaldo López in addition to a couple great hitters in Yoán Moncada, José Abreu, and Tim Anderson. The Minnesota Twins are still going to have a good season, but they're going to end up a little short to the White Sox. Indians are gonna be alright. I don't really have anything bad to say about them, but with this red-hot White Sox team in their division, they're going to fall a bit short of the postseason. Royals - sorry… just keep building. You'll be up there eventually. Tigers - on a more serious note than the Orioles pick, they have a definite possibility of going 0-60.
2 - Minnesota Twins (33-27) 3 -Cleveland Indians (31-29) 4 - Kansas City Royals (20-40) 5 - Tigers (0-60)
Overall: Minnesota Twins (4), Chicago White Sox (1)
Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle
Chris- Houston Astros (36-24)
The Astros had maybe the worst offseason of all time. The team gets busted for the biggest cheating scandal of the modern era. The manager and general manager get suspended and fired. Gerrit Cole, the second-best pitcher in baseball, jumps ship in free agency. People are taking bets on how many times Astros players will be hit by pitches. However, after all that, they are still the best team in the American League West. Their lineup is still potent with Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Michael Brantley, and Yordan Alvarez when he returns. In my opinion, the Astros are the most interesting team in baseball in 2020. The world will be watching for any signs of regression from Astros hitters in the post-cheating era (or so we think). Even without Gerrit Cole, the Astros have one of the best starting pitching trios in baseball. Justin Verlander should have a year or two left in the tank and will be accompanied by Zack Grienke and a post-Tommy-John-surgery Lance McCullers Jr. While middle relief could be somewhat of an issue for the ‘Stros, Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna will be able to take care of the later innings.
The Athletics are a well-balanced team that should make the playoffs if all goes to plan. Their lineup has depth to complement its stars, such as Marcus Semien, who finished third in MVP voting last year, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Mark Canha. The rotation is slightly above average, but has potential for more. Sean Manaea, who had a shortened 2019 season due to injury, and Frankie Montas, whose season was cut short due to a suspension for PED use, will both look to bounce back with strong 2020 campaigns. The A’s enjoy a solid bullpen led by star closer Liam Hendriks. I have Oakland finishing in the second wild card spot.
The Angels finally made a splash this past offseason, signing Anthony Rendon to a seven-year deal. Rendon will join an elite middle of the order for Los Angeles, surrounded by Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. While the Angels tried to address their starting pitching needs in the offseason, it won’t be enough to get them to the playoffs. Hansel Robles and Ty Buttrey are a solid closer and set-up man duo, respectively, but the rest of the bullpen is not good enough to mask the deficiencies of the starting rotation.
The Rangers will have a top ten starting rotation if players perform as expected, but they will be left out of the playoffs due to a subpar offensive attack and a weak bullpen. Outside of Joey Gallo, Shin-Soo Choo, and maybe Danny Santana, the lineup lacks any substantial threats. The good news, though, for Rangers fans is that Gallo is one of the most intriguing bats in the game, and the starting rotation, after adding two-time-Cy-Young-winner Corey Kluber, should keep the season interesting.
The Mariners will likely extend their MLB-leading playoff drought to 19 seasons in 2020. However, on a roster that appears to be lacking in talent, there is plenty of intrigue. Taijuan Walker could provide value to the club this year if he stays healthy. Additionally, Yusei Kikuchi will have a chance to bounce back after a disastrous 2019 season, and Justus Scheffield, still just 24-years-old, will look to finally break out. If that isn’t enough to keep Mariners fans following along, every day is another day closer to Jarred Kelenic’s debut.
2. Oakland Athletics (34-26) 3. Los Angeles Angels (31-29) 4. Texas Rangers (27-33) 5. Seattle Mariners (22-38)
Cole- Houston Astros (38-22)
Even without Gerrit Cole, the Astros are primed for yet another run at the World Series, and it still starts with pitching. Justin Verlander continues to defy age and post one all-star season after another, and Zach Greinke exceeded expectations in his first season as an Astro in his 2019 debut. With Lance McCullers Jr. on his way back from injury, Houston’s starting rotation will be dynamic, and with Roberto Osuna heading a strong bullpen as well, the Astros will be just fine without Cole. At the plate, expect more of the same that we’ve seen the past five seasons. There are no easy outs 1-9 in this lineup. A big reason why Houston was back in the World Series a year ago was AL Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez, who’s an addition to an already star-studded lineup solidified the Astros’ spot as a World Series contender yet again.
Behind the Astros, the LA Angels are a team with too much offensive talent to be perennially mediocre, and I think that finally changes this year. The addition of Anthony Rendon and a fully healthy Shohei Ohtani finally push the Angels over the Oakland A’s and back into competition for the AL West title.
2. Los Angeles Angels (34-26) 3. Oakland A’s (32-28) 4. Texas Rangers (27-33) 5. Seattle Mariners (21-39)
Ian- Houston Astros (34-26)
Cheaters never win. In this case, the cheaters will have won a little bit. Although it’s painful to say, Houston shouldn’t really have a problem with the west. They did lose Gerrit Cole but Verlander and Greinke are more than capable of picking up the slack. George Springer will still be solid in the outfield. The Astros have the pieces to generate runs with Gurriel, Altuve, and Bregman. Their main problem will be dodging 100 mph fastballs coming at their heads. In second place, give me Oakland. The A’s will be battling it out with the Angels all year long. Oakland has two superstars in the making that will have breakthrough years this coming year. Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien should give A’s fans sufficient hope for the future. They do have Mike Fiers as a solid arm, but in the end of the day I think they fall just short of the wild card. Angels are next. The 60-game season does not benefit the Angels. I think they’ll struggle to begin the year and turn it around late. They’re super talented but since it’s such a new team, things could be slow to start. Julio Teheran the Colombian ace is an interesting story to watch to see how his move to the AL goes. All eyes will be on the best player in the league Mike Trout, of course. However, stud Anthony Rendon will add everything to this Angels roster. Not to mention Ohtani should be able to pitch and hit this year. The Angels are super talented, but a slow start damns them in the end.
The Texas Rangers have a team with intriguing figures. Their rotation looks pretty good. If Corey Kluber can stay healthy, he will assist Mike Minor and Lance Lynn in a pitching staff that certainly has potential. We’ll see if new acquisition Todd Frazier can add anything to an aging lineup. Rangers just can’t compete in this division and don’t win over 30 games. Lastly, are the Mariners. Felix Hernandez left last year, and other then that Seattle doesn’t have much to talk about. Dee Gordon is exciting, fast, and should have a good year. Besides him, what excites you? An old Kyle Seager? Seattle is a question mark that will struggle this year.
2. Oakland Athletics (31-29) 3. Los Angeles Angels (30-30) 4. Texas Rangers (27-33) 5. Seattle Mariners (23-37)
L.A.- Houston Astros (36-24)
I hate to do this, but the Houston Astros are the kings of the AL West. Cheaters and all, you cannot deny the talent this ballclub possesses. They have won the AL West the past three years and have been in the World Series two of the past three seasons. Houston won in 7 games against the Dodgers in 2017, but of course, lost in 7 games to the good guys, the Washington Nationals, in 2019. The Hollywood ending of Washington defeating public enemy number one will be engrained into my mind for a lifetime. In 2019, the Houston Astros on paper had one of the best rosters ever assembled. They had a former MVP at second base, a former Rookie of the Year at shortstop, the 2019 runner up for MVP at third base, their DH Yordan Alvarez was the 2019 Rookie of the Year, and centerfielder George Springer will get close to $200 million as a free agent next offseason. Their top two pitchers are both former Cy Young Award Winners in Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke and their closer Roberto Osuna has 154 career saves and he just turned 25 years old. They also had Gerrit Cole who was lights out for them last season. The Astros won 107 games last season, and it was their third season in a row winning at least 101 games. The Astros rotation last year also included Gerrit Cole who was a part of the three-headed monster of Cole, Verlander, and Greinke. They were unstoppable. Of course, all of their previous accomplishments include an asterisk next to them after the well-documented cheating scandals, but there is nothing that can deny their talent as a ballclub. After their manager AJ Hinch was suspended then fired for the scandal, the Astros hired veteran and respected manager Dusty Baker. Baker has never accomplished a World Series victory as a coach, but he will strive to win his first on a 1-year contract. The Houston Astros have one of the most talented rosters we have seen in baseball over the past two decades.
Entering the 2020 season with all of the offseason madness that went on with the team I still believe they will win the AL West crown. Gerrit Cole leaving the team and signing with the Yankees was a significant blow, but Verlander and Greinke will lead the rotation and Lance McCullers will be a strong third starter after missing all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. Jose Urquidy also proved that he will be a strong fourth starter (even though he will be on the IL to start the season) after a great performance in Game 4 of the World Series pitching 5 innings and only allowing 2 hits with no walks. They have all of their starting position players returning in 2020 and a full season from DH Yordan Alvarez (he is on the IL as well). Top prospect Kyle Tucker will also receive a lot of playing time in right field over the poor hitting Josh Redick, and Tucker will look to produce like he did when tearing up the Minor Leagues. The Astros will be facing a lot of heat entering 2020, but the momentum towards the Astros hate train has slowed down with the events that have transpired as of late. The Oakland Athletics are a very strong ballclub and once again will contend for a wild card spot in the American League, but the Astros have the better lineup and rotation. The Angels are much improved after they add Anthony Rendon, but their rotation is still very weak, and the Texas Rangers made a couple of good moves like Corey Kluber, but they have many holes. Look for the Astros to have an easy AL West crown this year.
2. Oakland Athletics (32-28) 3. Los Angeles Angels (28-32) 4. Texas Rangers (27-33) 5. Seattle Mariners (23-37)
Kyle- Winner: Houston Astros (36-24)
Hard to pick against this Astros team, similarly to the Yankees. Yet it is so hard to pick this team. I know you catch my drift. I won't deny the elite-level lineup they have (although I don't know if that's because they're good baseball players or just good at cheating) with Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and George Springer leading the team. Also, any team with Justin Verlander on it has an advantage right out of the gate. Angels are coming in second this year with newly acquired Anthony Rendon at third base and Mike Trout in the outfield, and it's going to be tough to stop that duo. The Athletics could be competitive, but I don't think they're any large threat to the division, and the Rangers and Mariners will easily fall below .500 in the beginning and stay there for the remainder of the season.
2 - Los Angeles Angels (32-28) 3 - Oakland Athletics (29-31) 4 - Texas Rangers (25-35) 5 - Seattle Mariners (19-41)
Overall: Houston Astros (5)
Geoff Burke/USA Today
Chris- Washington Nationals (34-26)
The reigning-World-Series-champion Washington Nationals are the best team in the National League East because of one reason only: they have the best top of the rotation in all of baseball. The trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin was deadly last year, and if they want to win the division this year, it will have to be just as dominant. The offense is a point of concern. Losing Anthony Rendon was, obviously, disappointing for Nationals fans, but it could look even worse if the offense sputters this year, which wouldn’t shock me at all. The additions of Starlin Castro and Eric Thames will help, but it doesn’t offset losing Rendon in free agency. Keep in mind, too, that the Nationals didn’t win the division last year, that was the Atlanta Braves, but more on them later. I have the Nationals in first place for a reason, though. Juan Soto is a superstar and Trea Turner is an above-average offensive weapon. The offense just needs to do enough to keep them in games and let the starting rotation do the rest. Will Harris will be a welcome addition to a bullpen that often found itself on the ropes last year. Harris will join Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle in the late-inning situations, but middle relief is still cause for concern. This was the toughest division winner for me to predict, but I’m banking on Washington’s rotation to pull its weight once again.
The Atlanta Braves are a close second for the best team in this division. The lineup is dangerous with Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman at the top. They lost Josh Donaldson to the Twins in free agency, but will get a portion of that production back with the addition of Marcell Ozuna. My biggest issue with the 2020 Braves is their lack of reliable starting pitching. Dallas Keuchel and Julio Tehran are no longer on the staff, and the pressure will be on young Mike Soroka to repeat his sensational 2019 season. Max Fried has been good, but not great in the past, Sean Newcomb spent most of 2019 coming out of the bullpen, and Mike Foltynewicz has posted an ERA under 4.00 once in six big-league seasons. The Braves bullpen is above average, consisting of one elite arm, Shane Greene, and three semi-reliable pitchers in Mark Melancon, Luke Jackson, and Chris Martin. It wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta won the division, but my best bet is that they end up hosting the Wild Card Game.
The New York Mets are an interesting team, so much so that I wrote an article on them back in March detailing their team and why I thought they’d perform well in 2020. Well, the season got delayed, Noah Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery, and here I am writing another season preview for the Mets. There’s no denying they have a good, young lineup. Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, and J.D. Davis are all not only solid hitters, but they are all 28-years-old or younger. Even without Syndergaard, the Mets still have a deep rotation after adding Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Oh, and they have Jacob deGrom, the best pitcher in baseball, and Marcus Stroman, another valuable arm. Finally, the Mets have a great bullpen. Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo are great late-inning arms and if Edwin Díaz and Jeurys Familia find their groove in New York, look out. Finally, signing Dellin Betances gives the Mets another known and reliable piece for the bullpen. I think the Mets end up playing in Atlanta in the Wild Card Game.
The Phillies made some moves this offseason, signing Didi Gregorius and Zack Wheeler to contracts and bringing in Joe Girardi to manage the club. There’s offensive talent on the roster in Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, but they’ll likely need to see improvements from Rhys Hoskins and some other supplemental pieces in order to take a step forward offensively. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler could both receive Cy Young votes if they get on a roll, but that’s no guarantee and the rest of the rotation has plenty of question marks. Outside of Héctor Neris, the bullpen could use upgrades, especially with Seranthony Domínguez and David Robertson out with injuries.
The rebuilding Marlins once again find themselves at the bottom of a talented National League East division. Miami did make some strong moves this past winter, signing Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson, and Jesús Aguilar, giving them some offensive firepower. Outside of those new names and third baseman Brian Anderson, however, the offensive projects to be choppy. The starting rotation is among the worst in baseball, and the bullpen lacks much high-end talent besides Brandon Kintzler.
2. Atlanta Braves (33-27) 3. New York Mets (33-27) 4. Philadelphia Phillies (30-30) 5. Miami Marlins (22-38)
Cole- Atlanta Braves (37-23)
The Braves possess one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, and the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna from St. Louis only to its potency. After winning the division in 2019 and finishing just three wins shy of the 100 mark, there’s no reason to expect anything less than another trip to the postseason. There is also a lot to be excited about in the rotation. Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, and Mike Foltynewicz are solid pieces around ace Mike Soroka that have had recent success. The Braves are the only team in this division that significantly improved this offseason, and they should be considered the favorites headed into 2020.
The loss of Anthony Rendon for the reigning World Series champions Washington Nationals is a big blow offensively, but a lethal rotation led by perennial All-Star Max Scherzer keeps the Nats firmly in the playoff conversation, more so than Philadelphia, who added a proven bat and fielder in Didi Gregorious but failed to address the team’s pitching flaws. The Mets are a popular sleeper pick, but I fail to see why. Playing in perhaps the toughest division in baseball and without any major moves this past offseason, it’s tough to see them being a significant threat.
2. Washington Nationals (35-25) 3. New York Mets (32-28) 4. Philadelphia Phillies (28-32) 5. Miami Marlins (16-44)
Ian- Washington Nationals (34-26)
Say what you want. However, respect the defending Champs. 34 games might be low for the winner of this division. If anything, it’s a compliment to how the NL East will shake out once baseball begins. With such quality teams playing at such a high level, I don’t expect a landslide in this division. That’s exactly why I think the Nats will be winners with just 34 games won. The Braves will be close, maybe a game back and will snag a wild card. It really is hard to bet against Atlanta considering their young talent and dangerous rotation. However, Nick Markakis will not be playing this year and question marks still concern Freddie Freeman after his life-threatening battle with COVID-19. The Mets are next. Ah yes, the New York Mets. Chris Blake’s self-proclaimed “most interesting” team in baseball. The team that gets hit by the injury bug so brutally. If they would have had a one-two punch of deGrom and Syndergaard maybe this rankings list looks different. Syndergaard being out for the year because of Tommy John surgery is exactly why the Mets are here. They need him to compete because there are great hitters in the NL East and AL East. I’m saying the Mets finish one game over 500.
Snooze fest! Who cares about the Phillies and Marlins? I’m kidding, kind of. The Phillies finish three games under 500. Didi Gregorius will be awesome this year. However, I’m skeptical of the production from Bryce Harper (boo you stink) and Andrew McCutchen. Personally, I don’t think the Phillies have the offense to keep up with all-star pitchers and hitters in both the NL and AL east. Then there’s Miami. Marlins will finish in lost, big shock. Don’t really know what Don Mattingly is doing there. They’re building for the future, I guess. Marlins go 19-41.
2. Atlanta Braves (33- 27) 3. New York Mets (31-29) 4. Philadelphia Phillies (27-33) 5. Miami Marlins (19-41)
L.A.- Washington Nationals (34-26)
This one was an easy one for me, and not because I am a Nationals fan, but I think that the Nationals are much better than the other teams in the NL East. The 2019 World Series champions found their identity in 2019 and they are heading into 2020 without very high expectations. You have heard the story over and over again. The Nationals began the season 19-31 and not only made the playoffs but went on to win the World Series against a cheating Houston Astros squad that had the most talent ever put together on one team. The Nationals have the best starting rotation in baseball and it is not even close. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin are all clear-cut aces for any franchise, but the Nationals have all three of them. Anibal Sanchez is a solid number four starter, and after a rough first six starts in 2019, in his next 24 starts his ERA was 3.30. By the way, he almost pitched a no-hitter in game one of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis. Austin Voth will be the fifth starter and he pitched very well in a short sample size in 2019. Voth is 28 years old and it will be his first year as a full-time starter for the Nationals. The bullpen was the story for most of last season, and Sean Doolittle's struggles down the stretch proved how much Washington had to rely on him. Doolittle was lights out in the first half, but after having to pitch multiple days in a row and even both games of a doubleheader, he had a horrendous stretch of poor play. The addition of Daniel Hudson, quite simply, saved the Nationals season. They had the best three and four combos in baseball with Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto while postseason hero Howie Kendrick batted .344 with a .966 OPS and 17 home runs in 121 games. The Nationals used a combination of timely hitting and great pitching to record a magical run and win the World Series title.
Going into 2020 the Nationals digressed over the offseason. They did make a couple of good moves especially when they signed Will Harris who is one of the best relievers in baseball, but Anthony Rendon signing with the Los Angeles Angels is a crushing blow. Rendon in my mind is the best third baseman in baseball, and Carter Kieboom is slated to be the starting third baseman. Kieboom was once a top prospect, but he has struggled mightily with the glove in Spring Training. This is not all his fault because he never played third base in the minor leagues. The Nationals are going into 2020 under the radar and many people are picking the Braves or the Mets to win the division. The Nationals offseason included the resigning of Stephen Strasburg, Howie Kendrick, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Daniel Hudson. They also signed Starlin Castro to play second base, and after I originally disliking the signing I think he will be a good addition. Castro has produced around the league average with the Miami Marlins, but with Soto and Kendrick protecting him in the order Castro could have a good year. Eric Thames was also signed to play first base, and I am looking forward to watching Thames mash home runs every day and play solid defense. The Will Harris signing is a huge boost to the back of the bullpen and the Nationals can rely on Doolittle, Hudson, Harris, and Tanner Rainey to get big outs. The Nationals are underdogs heading into the 2020 season but are my pick to win the National League East. The Braves will be good, but I do not trust their rotation and their bullpen. Josh Donaldson was a huge loss for the Braves and their lack of aggressiveness in getting free-agent outfielders will lead to Ender Inciarte playing almost every day. The Mets will also be much better, but I am not a fan of their 3-5 starters with Steven Matz, Michael Wacha, and Rick Porcello. All three of those pitchers are projected to have below league average FIPs next season. The Nationals, Braves, and Mets will be close in the standings all year but look for the Nationals pitching depth to lead them to a division title down the stretch.
2. Atlanta Braves (32-28) 3. New York Mets (31-29) 4. Philadelphia Phillies (28-32) 5. Miami Marlins (23-37)
Kyle- Washington Nationals (35-25)
"Oh come on, Kyle. The only reason why you're picking the Nats is because you're a fan." Yeah. You're damn right. Also… They have the best rotation in the entire league, so you can stop whining. Any rotation that starts with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg (and then followed by Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez) is going to get my pick for the division. The Nats also have a much more defined and legit bullpen with Daniel Hudson, Tanner Rainey, Will Harris, and Sean Doolittle. Let's go through the lineup now! Kurt Suzuki has proven himself a capable catcher in the league. Trea Turner is back, and we can't expect anything but solid production from him next year. I'm in for the win for a Juan Soto MVP next year, and Victor Robles and Adam Eaton in that outfield rounds up that lineup beautifully. Shall I keep going? No? You want to discuss your fourth-place Braves? Okay.
The Phillies are going to be the Nationals' biggest competition, as I believe either team could be interchangeable at the top of the division. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler is another elite 1-2 at the top of the rotation and will win this ball club a good number of games. They've also got some great bats to give those pitchers some runs. The Mets also have some good-looking names on their depth chart. Jacob deGrom, another one of the league's best hurlers, is complemented by Marcus Stroman in the rotation, and names like Pete Alonso, Robinson Canó, and Jeff McNeil will help this team compete as well. The Braves? In fourth? Outside of Mike Soroka, who is going to win you guys games on the mound? That's what happens here in the NL Beast. NEXT. The Marlins round it out with another abysmal season.
2 - Philadelphia Phillies (33-27) 3 - New York Mets (31-29) 4 - Atlanta Braves (28-32) 5. Miami Marlins (17-43)
Overall: Washington Nationals (4), Atlanta Braves (1)
Chris- Cincinnati Reds (34-26)
The Reds aren’t the popular pick to win the division, but after the moves they made in the offseason (and the addition of the DH to the National League), I’m all in. A Reds veteran, Eugenio Suárez, has been one of the most underrated players in the game for a few years now, and he will now have more help running this offense thanks to the additions of Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos. Cincinnati also signed Shogo Akiyama, a 32-year-old outfielder from Japan who is projected to take on the leadoff role. The starting rotation is what I really want to talk about though. Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Trevor Bauer lead the staff and Wade Miley and Anthony DeSciafani are solid pieces in the back end. This rotation has a relatively high floor and a very high ceiling. If Sony Gray can repeat his 2019 success that he found away from New York and mad-scientist Trevor Bauer gets hot, this rotation could elevate from ‘very good’ to one of the most feared in the game. The Reds are solid everywhere as they have a bullpen that should be able to close down games with Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, and Amir Garrett. The National League Central will be one of the tightest divisions in baseball, but I’ll put my faith in this talented and captivating Reds team.
The Chicago Cubs are a confusing team every year in my eyes, and in a shortened season that mistrust is only elevated. They’re solid one through five in the order, with the usual crew of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, Kyle Schwarber, and Willson Contreras doing the majority of damage. The rotation could be shaky, as Jon Lester and Tyler Chatwood have been inconsistent over the past few seasons. Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish are established pitchers, but they aren’t as dominant as you’d like for your top two starters. The bullpen is the biggest source of uneasiness. If Craig Kimbrel can’t recover from a turbulent 2019 season, the Cubs will be working with an unsteady bullpen in a season when blowing leads will be extra-costly.
The Cardinals won the division last year, but they are far from the same team. The already mediocre lineup saw Marcell Ozuna depart for Atlanta, and Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter, and Yadier Molina are all a year older on the wrong side of 30. Jack Flaherty is electric, but the rotation is somewhat average after him. With Jordan Hicks opting out of the season and John Brebbia undergoing Tommy John Surgery in June, the bullpen lacks a true closer, unless you count Andrew Miller, who hasn’t recorded double digit saves since 2016. This team just has too many holes and lacks a defining strength for me to believe they will make the playoffs again.
The Brewers made the playoffs last season, losing to the eventual World Series Champions in the Wild Card Game, but they won’t make it again in 2020. Milwaukee’s roster was ravaged in free agency as Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Eric Thames, and Drew Pomeranz all joined new teams. Christain Yelich is the best hitter in that lineup, as he would be with most clubs, but the gap is substantial enough for concern, although Keston Hiura’s development will be one to keep a close eye on. On par with previous years, the Brewers starting rotation will struggle mightily. The bullpen is no doubt a strength with Josh Hader, who has now won back-to-back National League Reliever of the Year Awards, but it won’t be enough to make up for gaps elsewhere in the roster.
The Pirates are in full rebuild mode. The starting and relief pitching departments are barren, but there is some talent in the lineup. Josh Bell made a name for himself last year, and Bryan Reynolds is a promising young talent. The future will be better than the present for the Pirates and their fans...hopefully.
2. Chicago Cubs (30-30) 3. St. Louis Cardinals (29-31) 4. Milwaukee Brewers (27-31) 5. Pittsburgh Pirates (23-37)
Cole- St. Louis Cardinals (33-27)
The NL Central is easily the most wide-open of any division in this year’s shortened season, but I’m sticking with the reigning division champs here, simply because no one else will step up and take it from them. The Cardinals quietly finished 20 games over .500 last season and established an identity of solid starting pitching and elite defense. They are bringing back the same pitching staff, with the addition of a healthy Carlos Martinez, so run prevention will once again be the club’s calling card. What will ultimately determine how this team fends off its biggest competition, the Reds, is how their young hitters step up to fill the roles of Marcell Ozuna and Jose Martinez, who both left this past offseason. Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill need to take big steps forward to fill these holes. All this being said, the biggest storyline headed into the season is rookie star, Dylan Carlson. He finally has his chance to live up to the resounding hype he has received in his buildup to the big leagues, and if he can deliver on just some of what experts have been raving about, the Cardinals are a whole new team.
Cincinnati is primed to take a big step forward from their 75-87 record a year ago. Offseason acquisitions of Trevor Bauer and Mike Moustakas adds to an already impressive rotation and gives some pop to an underrated lineup. They are going to be a handful to St. Louis, but I’m not completely sold on them being an immediate favorite in the division. The Brewers, who finished just two games behind St. Louis in 2019, have no starting pitching to speak of and lost a lot of offensive talent, including Mike Moustakas. There is not much built around Christian Yelich to see them sustain a run at the division. The Cubs took a noticeable step in the wrong direction last year, and with a first-year manager, I don’t see them competing for a division either.
2. Cincinnati Reds (32-28) 3. Chicago Cubs (27-33) 4. Milwaukee Brewers (25-35) 5. Pittsburgh Pirates (19-41)
Ian- Milwaukee Brewers (35-25)
I haven’t seen the Brewers get as much love as I thought I would. The central will be loads of fun this year. I definitely think it will have the tightest division race, considering any of four teams could really take the crown. I expect the Brew Crew to pick up where they left off last year. The second-best player in the league, Christian Yelich is healthy. Josh Hader will come furious and is going to have a huge year. Brewers will do very well and Yelich hits above 315. Here is where it gets tricky. Give me the Cardinals in second place. After a god-awful performance in the NLCS, darn I’m so sad. The Cards look to bounce back in a big way. I know Yadier Molina is old, but this season really isn’t that long. That should be very beneficial to the team, as Yadi is able to stay fresh throughout the year. Paul DeJong also has a big year and the Cardinals get back to the playoffs, being one game back from the Brewers. I go to school in Lexington, KY which means I hear the saying “this is our year” a lot. Reds fans are delusional, truly. However, the Reds have a good year this year and maybe in two years I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and rock with them. Trevor Bauer is tough to dislike. I say he has a big year in Cincy, but the Reds aren’t there yet. Joey Votto produces on average, but they still need more pieces. The Reds are starting to scratch the surface, but I don’t believe the hype just yet.
Sorry Cubs fans but the “W” won’t be flown as much you think. The Cubs barely made any moves in the offseason. I think this will hurt them. In a highly competitive division, they need rotation and different players. Kris Bryant to me will be highly underwhelming and leave Chicago after this year. Baez and Contreras will have good numbers like they did last year but that’s really it. Rizzo will hit 20 plus homeruns, but the Cubs don’t have the arms to get them in the playoffs. I worry about their bullpen when they get into sticky situations. Cubs finish a game behind 500. You heard it here first. The Pirates are in a tough position. They shouldn’t be bad but considering who else is in the NL Central they won’t have a winning record. I do think they’ll play will against the AL Central but that’s just not that many games. I love Josh Bell. I really think he’s a future all-star and could be the game’s best 1B in a couple of years. The pirates win about 24 games, I say.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (34-26) 3. Cincinnati Reds (32-28) 4. Chicago Cubs (29-31) 5. Pittsburgh Pirates (24-36)
L.A.- Cincinnati Reds (33-27)
I said this on Episode 5 of the MoeCast, and I will say it once again. I am in love with the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds were not contenders in 2019 and they went 75-87 which put them 16 games back of the first-place St. Louis Cardinals. The Cincinnati Reds have not had a winning season since 2013, but I am picking them to be the clear winners in the NL Central. Their rotation was led by All-Star Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo last year and they both had career years. Castillo proved to be an ace and his changeup is considered the best in the game. The Reds also traded for Trevor Bauer at the deadline and their 1-3 starters are considered one of the best in the league. Eugenio Suarez was their story offensively after the third baseman mashed 47 home runs and improved defensively. Joey Votto had a terrible season last year, but the emergence of outfielders Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker allowed the Reds to be semi-competitive. Their bullpen is one of the best in the National League with Amir Garrett, Rafael Iglesias, and Michael Lorenzen. In a hitter-friendly ballpark like Cincinnati, it is a huge advantage when there is a lot of depth in the rotation and bullpen, but it helps that the Reds lineup is also extremely strong.
The Cincinnati Reds are the only team that I am projecting to win their division after having a losing record in 2019. It is hard to believe the expectations that the Reds have entering 2020 after not having a winning season for six straight years, but when looking at their lineup and rotation it is justifiable. Their lineup and outfield are very deep, so much so in fact that that they recently sent down Aristides Aquino, even though he broke the rookie home run record last year with 14 homers in one month. The Reds made significant additions to their lineup heading into the 2020 season like the addition of Shogo Akiyama who is a left-handed hitting outfielder from Japan who put up consistency great numbers there, All-Star Mike Moustakas who will start at second base, and slugger Nick Castellanos who was signed to play outfield, but most likely will spend most of his time at DH after the National Leagues adoption. The Reds have a great rotation, very good bullpen, and a lineup that features 1-6 hitters that match up with anyone in baseball. The Cardinals will be solid once again in 2020 even though they will have one of the worst offenses in the league. Their defense and pitching will lead them while the Cubs will struggle due to many holes in their lineup and a thin pitching staff not holding up. The Brewers losing the second-best catcher in baseball in Yasmani Grandal and stud 3B/2B Mike Moustakas
will lead them to take a major step back this year.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (31-29) 3. Chicago Cubs (29-31) 4. Milwaukee Brewers (27-33) 5. Pittsburgh Pirates (21-39)
Kyle- Winner: Chicago Cubs (34-26)
This NL Central division is looking like it might be a little jammed. A lot of people have the Chicago Cubs in third or fourth place, but if we're being honest, I love this Cubs roster. They have three above-average starters in Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, and Kyle Hendricks and an older version of Craig Kimbrel in the closing spot. And when you get to the lineup, you have to face Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo, and a homerun threat in Kyle Schwarber. I like this team. Don't sleep. The St. Louis Cardinals won't have much help from the "best fans in baseball" this year, but they will still get some help with a couple of decent hitters in Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong, and their leader Yadier Molina. They will fall short to the Cubs. The Reds have a couple of solid players, but not enough to make a push for the Wild Card or Division Title. The Brewers, with Christian Yelich back and a solid bullpen, will be an okay baseball team but won't make a big splash. Pirates - I have nothing to say about them - they deserve this fragmented sentence, and nothing more.
2 - Cardinals (32-28) - Reds (30-30) 4 - Brewers (28-32) 5 - Pirates (24-36)
Overall: Cincinnati Reds (2), Chicago Cubs (1), Milwaukee Brewers (1), St. Louis Cardinals (1)
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Chris- Los Angeles Dodgers (37-23)
The Dodgers added to their riches in February when they traded for Mookie Betts, giving them three former MVPs on one roster. This move wasn’t made in an attempt to win the division but in an attempt to finally capture a seemingly elusive World Series title. They’re in a prime position to do that this year with Betts and Cody Bellinger leading a relentless offensive unit that also includes Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Corey Seager, and Joc Pederson. There isn’t much of a drop off when looking at the rotation, which is headlined by Clayton Kershaw and Walker Beuhler. Seeing David Price opt-out of the season hurts their starting pitching, but they have a good enough depth of arms to overcome that. 22-year-old Dustin May could get some starts, which would help his Rookie of Year resume, but may also work out of the bullpen. Kenley Jansen was less dominant in 2018 and 2019 than he was earlier in his career, but was still able to accumulate 71 saves over the past two seasons and will be more than serviceable in 2020. Joe Kelly and Pedro Báez are acceptable relief arms, and new additions Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol each have high upside. The Dodgers are easily the best team in the National League, let alone their own division. The real question will be whether they can finally finish off a playoff run.
The San Diego Padres are an exciting young and exciting team with their best days ahead of them, but they’ll still be good this year. Their pitching is likely their biggest strength, with Kirby Yates, one of the best closers in all of baseball, leading a premium bullpen. The starting rotation is anchored by 24-year-old Chris Paddack, who is followed by good, but not outstanding arms. The lineup isn’t too far behind the arms, with young superstar and future-MVP in my mind Fernando Tatís Jr. in the leadoff spot and Manny Machado and Tommy Pham in the middle of the order. The Dodgers have the division locked down, and I don’t see the Padres sneaking into a wild card spot this year, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they have a very bright future.
The ball flies in the dry Arizona weather, especially when you have Starling Marte, Ketel Marte, and Eduardo Escobar at the top of your lineup. I’ll admit that I’m more compelled by the Diamondbacks the more I look at their roster, but I still think third place in the division is fair. If Ketel Marte can produce as highly as he did in 2019, the offense will be just fine, but it’s not a certainty he reaches the numbers that got him MVP votes last year again. Madison Bumgarner joins a balanced, but not overpowering starting staff, and the bullpen follows along the same lines. The Diamondbacks could make a run and threaten to steal a wild card spot, especially in a 60-game season, but I’m not counting on it.
The 2020 Rockies are similar to teams of years past in that they will score plenty of runs, especially at Coors Field, but the pitching will let them down. Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and Charlie Blackmon will give the fans (at home) a show, but it won’t result in a playoff berth - or a winning record. Germán Márquez and Jon Gray have both shown flashes of high production, but not enough to inspire much hope. Meanwhile, the bullpen will be unable to hold the few leads that the starting staff manages to give them.
The San Francisco Giants are in for a rough season. After finishing eight games below .500 last year, they lost Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith, and Kevin Pillar in free agency, and will be without Buster Posey, who has opted out of the season, in 2020. The Giants roster is comprised of many well-known players who are past their primes, including Opening Day starter Johnny Cueto. I don’t want to be all negative though; Mike Yastrzemski showed that he can put up good numbers last season and will be fun to watch in 2020.
2. San Diego Padres (31-29) 3. Arizona Diamondbacks (30-30) 4. Colorado Rockies (24-36) 5. San Francisco Giants (23-37)
Cole- Los Angeles Dodgers (43-17)
The Dodgers have the most talented team in the National League, and it’s not close. They have owned the NL West for the past seven seasons, and don’t expect a changing of the guard in 2020 either. In yet another monster offseason, the Dodgers landed both Mookie Betts and David Price from the Red Sox that adds to an already deep roster. Even with Price opting out of the 2020 season, LA is set in both offense and pitching. Buehler, Kershaw, and Stripling will head the starting rotation that led the MLB in team ERA last season at 3.36. Adding a former AL MVP to a lineup featuring the reigning MVP in Cody Bellinger, along with fellow sluggers Justin Turner and Max Muncy, to name a couple, makes the Dodgers the heavy favorite to represent the National League in the Fall Classic this October.
There is no clear 2nd place team in this division, but if one of these clubs were to make a run at the Dodgers, one would figure it would be the Padres. Offensively, the Padres are quietly one of the more talented and deep teams in baseball, as they have the right balance of proven veterans, such as Wil Myers and Manny Machado, and promising young talent, like Fernando Tatis Jr. However, the clear lack is pitching. The remaining three teams in the West are at least a year or two away from providing any real competition to Los Angeles.
2. San Diego Padres (30-30) 3. Arizona Diamondbacks (28-32) 4. San Francisco Giants (26-34) 5. Colorado Rockies (21-39)
Ian- Los Angeles Dodgers (40-20)
This should be the no-brainer of the national league. The Dodgers are heads and shoulders better than the rest of their division. I can’t wait for their matchups against the AL West. Mookie Betts should be a joy to watch alongside Bellinger. Can’t forget about Seager, Turner, and Max Muncy. Man, this team is stacked!! We haven’t even talked about the pitching yet. Kershaw and Walker Buehler, good luck to opposing hitters facing them in a series. Walker Buehler goes crazy this year with an ERA under 2.00. Nobody touches LA this year. Diamondbacks finish second, but never really compete. Some of their new additions are intriguing. I do think Madison Bumgarner turns out to be a good move. Starling Marte should also add something to the offense this year. In a league with other very competitive teams, Arizona doesn’t get a wild card spot at the end of the day. Padres are next. Manny Machado hits above 300 and continues to perform at an all-star level. San Diego is talented, but still not on the same page as the Dodgers. Padres and D-Backs are probably interchangeable. Should be fun to watch both of them play.
I say the Rockies disappoint this year, which really isn’t a huge bold prediction. They underperformed last year as well. Arenado is not the best 3B in the game, Rendon is. Charlie Blackmon is still fantastic, but a shortened season does not help the Rockies as they love playing at home. Lastly, we have the Giants. The Giants will struggle this year. They aren’t as talented as the rest of the division. Pitching and hitting just isn’t good enough. They need to do something next offseason. Buster Posey has opted out this year, which is another kick in the groin. Giants win 23 games.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks (31-29) 3. San Diego Padres (31-29) 4. Colorado Rockies (27-33) 5. San Francisco Giants (23-37)
L.A.- Los Angeles Dodgers (38-22)
No one on the planet believes that the Los Angeles Dodgers will not win the NL West this year. The Dodgers won the NL West for the 7th straight season in 2019 as they coasted to a division title with 106 wins. They had the 2019 MVP in Cody Bellinger, a top 5 left-handed power hitter in the Major Leagues in Max Muncy, the best utility man in baseball in Chris Taylor, and a former or current all-star at almost every spot in the field. Their rotation was electric and Clayton Kershaw and Walker Beughler led the Dodgers to many wins. The Dodgers lost to the Nationals in the NLDS after dropping Game 4 and Game 5 after another postseason collapse from Kershaw. Kershaw is not as dominant as he used to be but he pitched to a 3.03 ERA and he earned another All-Star game appearance. Rookie catcher Will Smith made a good impact with the club and top prospect Gavin Lux had an impressive debut season after being called up in September. Their bullpen was shaky due to Kenley Jansen not being his normal self. Joe Kelley in theory was a good signing for the club but he was sporadic in many situations and blew Game 5 against the Nationals after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sent him out for his second inning of work in the top of the 10th. The Dodgers performed very well in 2019 without Justin Turner, AJ Pollock, and Joc Pederson performing great. They used a combination of their all-around talent to win their most games in one season in franchise history.
The Dodgers will be even stronger in 2020. The Los Angeles Dodgers were one of the best teams in baseball before this past offseason and then they acquired the second-best player in baseball for practically nothing. His name is Mookie Betts and if you did not notice they also got an above-average starter in the trade a man by the name of David Price. The Dodgers starting lineup features a former All-Star at every single except for second base (even though he will not start the season with the club, Gavin Lux is a top 5 prospect in all of baseball and will be a rookie this year) and catcher (Will Smith is also a respected prospect who produced well last season). Their rotation is led by Clayton Kershaw and Walker Beuhler, with Julio Urias, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling following them. All five of these starters would be middle to top of the rotation pieces for most teams. The Dodgers also strengthened their bullpen. Jansen is on the decline, but they added Blake Treinen on a 1-year deal and acquired Brusdar Graterol, a 21-year-old reliever who throws over 100 MPH and can pitch multiple innings, in the Mookie Betts deal. The Dodgers were already the favorites in the National League heading into 2020 but with the addition of Mookie Betts to their lineup, Los Angeles is the World Series favorite. Looking at the rest of the division, the Arizona Diamondbacks will surprise people this year. They have a great lineup and a solid rotation to back them up. The Diamondbacks will be the number one ranked wild card team in the NL. The Padres improved but they still do not have much pitching depth and their younger hitters need to develop. Look for Manny Machado to improve this year as well. The NL West is the Dodgers division but the Diamondbacks will be good and the Padres will be on the rise. The Rockies and Giants are two teams that are heading in the wrong direction with not much hope in the future.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks (33-27) 3. San Diego Padres (31-29) 4. Colorado Rockies (26-34) 5. San Francisco Giants (24-36)
Kyle- Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers (40-20)
Within the Yankees and Astros category, this Dodgers team falls. They have a great top-three in their rotation with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urías. You make it to the seventh inning with one of those guys, you have to face Pedro Báez, Blake Treinen, and Kenley Jansen. Furthermore, they probably have the best lineup in the league, to highlight three: Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Mookie Betts. Easy pick here with the Dodgers. The Colorado Rockies come up in second with a couple of good bats in Daniel Murphy, Nolan Arenado, and Charlie Blackmon. The Padres dig themselves out of the last place pit from last year with the help of Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. The Diamondbacks don't scare me, and the Giants will be quite bad. I just wanted to add this piece mentioning some of the players that 1) Still play for the Giants, 2) I've completely forgotten about because they've moved to San Francisco, or 3) I can't believe still they play at all: Jeff Samardzija (1), Buster Posey (1 - should be the manager in a couple of years), Brandon Belt (1), Pablo Sandoval (1 and 3), Brandon Crawford (1), HUNTER PENCE (1 and 3), Billy Hamilton (2), Wilmer Flores (2). That's all.
2 - Rockies (32-28) 3 - Padres (29-31) 4 - Diamondbacks (25-35) 5 - Giants (19-41)
Overall: Los Angeles Dodgers (5)
Will Newton / Getty Images
Chris- Oakland Athletics vs Tampa Bay Rays
Cole- Los Angeles Angels vs Tampa Bay Rays
Ian- Cleveland Indians vs Tampa Bay Rays
L.A.- Chicago White Sox vs Tampa Bay Rays
Kyle- Tampa Bay Rays vs Minnesota Twins
Overall: Tampa Bay Rays (5), Chicago White Sox (1), Cleveland Indians (1), Los Angeles Angels (1), Minnesota Twins (1)
Chris- New York Mets vs Atlanta Braves
Cole- New York Mets vs Washington Nationals
Ian- Atlanta Braves vs St. Louis Cardinals
L.A.- Atlanta Braves vs Arizona Diamondbacks
Kyle-Philadelphia Phillies vs St. Louis Cardinals
Overall: Atlanta Braves (3), New York Mets (2), St. Louis Cardinals (2), Arizona Diamondbacks (1), Philadelphia Phillies (1), Washington Nationals (1)
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