I think we can all agree that 60 games is a very small sample for what is known as the longest season in all of sports. Even with that said, there should still be plenty of fun for all of us baseball lovers. A lot of people, including me, are going to be watching to see how many Astros get hit by pitches. The Dodgers should feel blessed for this season because now everyone won’t be laughing at them for making that trade for Mookie Betts. Of course we will all be watching to see the health of these players and how teams will adjust in playing during a pandemic. One thing this shortened season will bring us is more randomness than a typical season. 162 is a lot and that allows better teams to win and continue winning, separating themselves from lesser competition. This year will allow some slightly above average teams who get hot early to start off with an extremely big advantage. Watch out for divisions like the NL East and AL East, where they are three deep to win the title and another that’s young and looking to make a name for themselves. The schedule will be laid out where each division will play eachother for 40 games and then play the same division, just in the other league, for 20 games. This league is getting younger and there are plenty of stars for fans to cheer for, not only this year but for plenty of years to come. There are scrappy vets that look at this season as maybe their best chance to win the trophy, so sit back and enjoy baseball this summer! Below are my predictions from each division.
5. Seattle Mariners
I feel like this franchise is looking in the rear view mirror and seeing the years of Félix, Cano and Cruz, and going, “Man, what happened”? This franchise hasn’t won the AL west since 2001 and that was their best chance. This 2020 roster is lacking the star power in the rotation and in the lineup. Kyle Seager has been good for them but never took the leap. Last year he hit 23 homers and had a .237 BA. Now that’s even though he was hampered at the beginning of the season with a thumb injury and hit 17 homers after the all-star break. Hopefully Mitch Haniger can come back from offseason surgery and be what he was in 2018 and maybe if Mallex Smith can take his .227 BA and makes it more .250-.260, he will be an issue on the base paths. Leading the MLB last year with 46 steals, Mallex tried to add launch angle to his swing last year, which is totally against his profile. The pitching to me is the real issue with Seattle. They have no star power in the bullpen, or even in the starting rotation. They added Taijuan Walker in the offseason, but he is more of an arm than someone who will win them games. Marco Gonzalez was the only guy to get more than 5 starts and throw under 4.00 ERA. Their defense was also ranked 28th last year and with a staff that isn’t exactly striking guys out, there are even more runs available. Playing 20 games against the Astros and Athletics isn’t easy and they also play the NL West, which has top level talent. I see these guys finishing last this year and hoping they can see some promise from the youth.
4. Texas Rangers
This Texas team could make some serious noise in this shortened season. Led by their starting rotation, the Rangers took Mike Minor and Lance Lynn and turned them into some really quality starting pitchers. They are hoping to strike gold once again with the addition of former Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. Hindered by injuries for most of last year, he hopes to go back to his career ERA average of 3.14, instead of last year’s 5.80. They also added inning eaters Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson. Now their bullpen isn’t exactly stellar but it’s not the worst so I can see them at least competing more often than not. Especially if Lynn can get better and Kluber can fix some things. The hitters aren’t world beaters but they can still produce. Their best prospect, Willie Calhoun, hit 21 homers last year and still had a .269 average. If that average can improve slightly I can see him do some damage on the bases with a team who isn’t afraid to run, being as they lead 2019, as a team, in steals. Elvis Andrus is declining, but he didn’t show signs that everything is gone. They added a veteran in Todd Frazier who brings a sub-par average, but has the power to get the ball out of the park. This team is also a hell of a lot better with Joey Gallo. His loss, for most of the second half of the lesson last year, was a strong reason for the cause of their demise. He does have an injury history, but with only 60 games I can see a scenario where he is healthy and sends them flying out of that brand new stadium in Texas.
3. Los Angeles Angels
This team is full of “What if’s”, if you ask me. We all know they have the reigning “Best Player in Baseball”, Mike Trout, coming off another MVP season. A man who can do everything defensively and will be the biggest worry in every pitchers mind game in and game out. But, Trout is having a child due at the beginning of August and he has had some comments that lead people to believe that he may opt out of playing some games this season if Covid starts to flare up. He is putting the health of his wife and newborn first so we can’t fault him for it but, what if Trout isn’t there? The biggest hole in this team has been pitching for a while now. They have no real “ace” with Ohtani coming off Tommy-John surgery. He won’t be likely to pitch often this year, in my opinion. We also have to wonder if the Angels are losing games, will they push the star prospects health in a shortened season? They also have Griffin Canning who has shown promise in the minors, but he showed elbow issues in spring training. So that tells me that all the weight would be on newly acquired Julio Tehran, who we have seen in Atlanta won’t lead a pitching staff to excellence. So what if this pitching staff is worse than years past? Now if Upton can stay healthy all year, he has shown he will produce. Ohtani will still bat and he has shown promise. They also went out and added an elite bat in Anthony Rendon. So if this line can stay healthy, they can win games with 7-10 runs consistently. But will they be able to win every game 8-7?
2. Oakland Athletics
Man, this team is deadly. Last year they let the world know that the Athletics are here and they are for real. This lineup could go toe to toe with anyone else in the league. Led by 3 studs Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien and Matt Olson. These guys all hit 30+ homers and over 90 RBIs last season. Last year they had a down year from Khris Davis who hit 23 HRs and a .220 average weren’t getting the job done, so if he can get that close to his 40 HR pace the three years prior and hit .240, this roster will be better. Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano are also showing the signs that they are taking their game to another level. They do all this hitting in one of the hardest stadiums to hit. Traditionally, the coliseum is known as a pitchers park which helps out with this team’s “weakness.” With a group of hitters that good people are going to say your pitching staff isn’t good. But the athletics have arguably the best bullpen in the league. Consistently producing closers year in and year out. Liam Hendriks last year took the reins of closer from Treinen and didn’t look back. Finishing with 25 saves and an ERA of 1.80. They do lean on a younger group of guys, though. A.J. Puck and Jesus Luzardo are two guys who are projected to make the starting rotation as rookies. They’re also getting their best pitcher back from a PED suspension, Frankie Montas, who went 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA before the suspension, which proved to the ball-club that he is for real. I have high hopes for this team. I see solid veterans with guys who are in their primes paired with prospects who are ready for their moment. I foresee them taking at least second if they don’t take the division.
1. Houston Astros
The biggest villain in the MLB has no plans on laying down to outside opinions. The cheating scandal that has plagued this team all offseason has given them a chance to look into the mirror. This roster is elite, top to bottom, and even has top tier prospects in the wings waiting to be called up. Alex Bregman is a top 10 player in this league. Jose Altuve has been the best second baseman in baseball for years. If Carlos Correa can stay healthy then he can be a stud. I mean, he is only 25 and is supposed to be entering his prime. Yuli Gurriel took his game to another level that I may not think is sustainable, but he isn’t a slouch by any means. People will argue, but Houston may have the best outfield in baseball. Yordan Alvarez took leaps last year with 27 home runs in 87 games. George Springer hit 39 home runs and is always a threat for 100 runs and RBIs. Kyle Tucker will fight with Josh Reddick for that final spot and if talent wins, Tucker will make an immediate impact on this team. The pitching staff is led by two proven veterans in Verlander and Greinke. I think the shortened season will help them out especially because their bodies don’t need to stay 100% for 162 games, but only 60. Greinke himself has been an excellent first half of the season guy so no wear and tear should have him primed. Verlander had offseason groin surgery and this lay-off has given him time for his body to heal. He has had time to even work on new mechanics to get even better. Now those guys go 7 innings and then hand the ball to the shutdown duo of Pressly and Osuna and it’s GG. The loss of Cole is gonna hurt and the gap between them and the other teams in the division won’t be as big, but they will win games.
5. Detroit Tigers
I feel like this ball club needs to take a hard look in the mirror and use this shortened season to the best of their advantage. For starters, they are the worst bet to win the title this year, to let you know how people feel nationally. So they need to walk a fine line of trying to win now and realizing that they need to test this top ranked farm system. Two guys that are showing signs of hope are Casey Mize and Matt Manning. According to MLB.com, they were ranked No. 7 and No. 24, respectively, prior to the season’s start. So maybe they take this opportunity and throw them in the bullpen, let them see some MLB talent and get a feel for the pro level. Now I know with arbitration things get tricky but when do you feel like being good? Miquel Cabrera is on the back end of his fabulous career. So why not let him mold this talent and maybe he can actually improve the team that way. I wouldn’t expect this team to win more than 20-22 games. I feel more people in Detroit would tune in to see the future than a team who isn’t gonna win the title.
4. Kansas City Royals
If you were to ask someone in Kansas City about this team, you would hear a lot of optimism. Mike Matheny will try to make a splash with this shortened season in his first year. He can’t complain about the group of guys hitting for him. Alderberto Mondesi looks like a sure fire bet to lead the league in steals this year, snagging 43 bags in 102 games last year. Whit Merrifield brings consistency in the lineup after batting .300 BA last season. He may not have the speed that he once had, losing 25 steals off last year’s number, but he did add a couple more home runs. Hunter Dozeir took a leap in his career having a career year last year. Now this will be the year he proves it’s for real. 2019 Gold Glover, Alex Gordon, had his lowest strikeout percentage of his career. Jorge Soler hit 48 home runs and drove in 117 runs last year with a lineup that wasn’t firing on all cylinders. So if everyone stays healthy and takes small steps in their games, I can see them winning some games. Sadly, they will have to win games 10-8 because the pitching in Kansas City is nothing to ride home about. Brad Keller was their best guy with a 4.19 ERA. He is only 24 and has shown he has sub three ERA potential. I wouldn’t doubt this team wins more games than expected and they ruin one other team’s chances at a Division Title.
3. Cleveland Indians
These top 3 in the division can be interchangeable if you ask me. Cleveland is coming into this season believing that their window to win it all is closing. Talks with Lindor have stopped and people believe that he won’t be an Indian here in the future. Hell, we have seen in years past that they will trade high profile players if it helps out the salary cap. If Lindor is in the lineup you can expect him to play like the best shortstop in the game. Jose Ramirez was a tale of two halves. Starting off last year looking like the biggest bust of the year, but he turned it on big time and was the Jose of old. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the rest of the hitters aren’t really inspiring. Most of them are young and still developing, but they really don’t have any consistency. The pitching is the crown jewel of this team. Dripping in young talent; Shane Bieber, Aaron Sevale and Zach Plesac are all under 25 and are proving they have real talent. Bieber is already drawing comparisons to Kluber. Mike Clevenger when healthy is an absolute stud striking out opponents left and right. They also went 48-28 against the division last year, and we know the divisional games make up 2/3 of your schedule. I can see this team giving up the fewest runs in the league and in that case there is no reason why they don’t win a lot of games.
2. Chicago White Sox
The hype is real about this club and I’m bought in. I feel like when you try to find out about this team, everyone believes they will be taking the next step this year. They have young promising talent all of the diamond. Eloy Jimenez took his rookie year and had some bumps but he showed a lot of promise. He has a high profile and projections can put him in a category of a 40 homer guy on normal circumstances. Yoan Moncada broke out in a big way. He took his batting average up 80 points and he ranked in the 90th percentile in exit velocity and hard hit percentage. That tells me that when the bat hits the ball, it’s moving. You pair that with a .300 average and I can see some serious potential. Tim Anderson won the batting title with a .335 average. The star prospect this year is Luis Robert. A true 30/30 home run and steals guy, has done nothing but dominate in every league he has ever played in. I’ve seen in some places that he can be In the same range as Ronald Acuña. Now he will be a rookie but with that kind of praise, you can see the optimism. They also have a guy in Nick Mandrigal who had a .377 OBP and stole 35 bags last year in the minors. One thing all these guys also have is speed. That’s going to benefit if management lets these young guys go after it. I couldn’t think of a better season to learn how to be a better base runner. Jose Abreu signed a fresh deal and added one of the best power bats at catcher In Yasmani Grandal. The pitching also has some top tier prospects. Lucas Giolito finally proved why he was ranked so high a couple years ago. Dylan Caese and Robin Lopez who are both under 26, have shown the team they have tools that they can work with. They also have Michael Kopech waiting to take the league over with a fastball that touches over 100 MPH but reports are showing that he is opting out of this year sadly. I see a bunch of young guys who can look at this shortened season as a way to get into the playoffs and get some serious winning experience.
1. Minnesota Twins
Last year was a remarkable year for the twins. They broke out and made the playoffs and had the best regular season since 1965 for the franchise. Multiple guys made a statement with career years. Max Kepler changed his swing last year to be more of a fly ball swing and it worked out tremendously. His average took a hit but his power numbers and especially his home runs showed the improvement in his swing. Eddie Rosario set career highs in Runs, HR, and RBIs while also lowering his strikeout rate. Jorge Polanco also saw career highs in this same categories, came into last year with something to prove. Coming off a PED suspension last year he showed signs that he is a high average and middling speed guy that can really set up a lot of run appeal. Nelson Cruz came in and was a natural fit. He brought power and was hobbled by a wrist injury early so look more into his final four months. They even added a former MVP in Josh Donaldson to man 3rd. He had a plethora of injuries In 2018 but used last year with Atlanta to prove to us, and himself, that he still has the talent. This lineup will also have the chance to hit in Milwaukee and Cincinnati. Jose Berrios is an Ace, but you can even argue that he’s scratching at the elite tier. His numbers keep getting better while also proving he can pitch late into games. They brought in some veteran help with Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill. Their bullpen has tons of depth as it tied for league lead in saves last year. I feel that these 3 starters are going to be able to go 6-7 innings and hand the ball over to a shut down bullpen. While that is happening the lineup is busy putting up 7+ runs. They should make some serious noise this year and may take advantage of this shortened season. Especially if these hot bats can all get hot at the same time.
5. Baltimore Orioles
What is there to really say about this Orioles squad. I mean, you can ask their fans and they have no problem saying it – the Orioles stink. Now they do have some solid prospects in the pipeline and the next coming of Buster Posey in Adley Rutschman. Now sadly, him and their two best pitching prospects are still two plus years away. Austin Hays on the other hand looks ready to take over center field. In only 21 games, he had a batting average over .300, he hit a home run in 1/5 games and even had a really low strikeout rate. I could see some potential for him to maybe take this step and be better for when those prospects are ready to come up. Ryan Mountcastle should also see playing time bringing some power and BA in the minors but he did strike out some. Nonetheless this team was never going to fill Camden Yards so no crowds shouldn’t be outside the thinking of ownership.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto has a very promising young team that if the right dominoes fall in the future, could be a force for years to come. Former #1 over all prospect according to MLB.com, Vladimir Guerroro Jr made some splashes last year. Everyone saw his power potential last year at the Home Run Derby. I would say there are a lot of people out that there expect him to make a big jump this year and show off why he was so highly touted. Bo Bichette was the real darling last year. The dude started his career with an 11 game hit streak. It’s hard enough for veterans to get this done but in your first at bats speaks to his vision. He finished with a .930 OPS and showed his defensive excellence as well. Cavan Biggio adds another solid ass young bat in this line up. His average of .234 was much to be desired but he showed promise. My favorite stat for him was the fact that he never got caught stealing. In a shortened season, getting an extra bag here and there could make the difference. Danny Jansen didn’t make the splashes that other young guys did, but he had the pedigree in the minors to show positive regression is coming. Gurriel Jr made serious strides last year before an injury hampered him. All these young bats are still figuring out the league and are possibly 2 years away, but we should enjoy watching them learn this league along the way. Ken Giles is a legit closer who I feel could sneakily lead the league in saves. Their starting pitching isn’t that good if we can be honest. The jewel is the lineup, but I feel they will steal more games than people think being the 4th best team in their own division.
3. Boston Red Sox
Shame me all you want, but I just don’t think I can believe in this team like they are the Red Sox of old. Yes this team is stacked at talent in the lineup. Let’s start with maybe their best bat J.D. Martinez, he has the rare hitter profile that can hit over .300 and still mash 40 homers. He had some back issues but still pushed through and delivered. Rafael Devers broke out and cemented his bat in this lineup. He had high praise in the minors but his 100/100 runs and RBI season was stellar with 32 homers. The underlying numbers tell you that it can be consistent. Mr. Consistent Xander Boegarts, has done everything to let Boston know he is for real. He has supported all the batted ball data that showed his success and the fact that his age and where he hits in this lineup, he will be a force for many years. He is a top tier SS that is arguably the deepest postion in baseball. The biggest thing for this team is the loss of Mookie Betts. This sucks for Boston fans because he was their best player for years and always carried himself as a professional. So now they lose him and they didn’t exactly get a “Kings Ransom” for what is a top 5 hitter in the league. Alex Verdugo is the jewel right now who poses a solid BA and good power. He has speed to get some bags, but is dealing with back related stuff. That normally tells coaches to let him be easy running. Benintendi needs to go back to what worked because last year wasn’t it. So let’s say all those things work out for the lineup, they will average 7 runs a game, in my opinion, but their pitching is gonna give up 5-6 a game so they will need that 7 to win. Chris Sale had Tommy John surgery so he is done for the year. Rodriguez has Covid-19, so his health is up in the air and then you have Nathan Evoldi. That’s it really. Will they win games? Yes, but they will also have to play some stiff competition and I think they will be hurt by playing such tough teams in this division.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
If you looked at this roster as a person who doesn’t really follow baseball that much, you would think this team is probably a middle tier team. They have serious strengths in pitching. 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell used this extra time to get his health back in check. His 2019 was much to be desired but he still showed some promise. Charlie Morton is my favorite pitcher on the team. He shows up day in and day out and gets it done. He had career lows in ERA, WHIP, strikeout percentage and ate innings. Tyler Glassnow has a short, but mighty, season last year. He dominated batters left and right while showing some serious control. Now this was a short sample size so maybe over the course of the season he would of evened out, or would he of had a CY Young season? That could be the upside with this guy if he can stay healthy. The mental woes of his days in Pittsburgh are gone and he should blossom this year. What may be the best part about this team is their bullpen – Roe-Castillo-Alvarado-Anderson. Good luck beating them. These guys did lose a key piece in Emilio Pagan but the coaching in Tampa has plenty of guys who will step in and succeed. That’s so comforting for a starting rotation to know that they just need 6 strong innings and then it’s GG. The biggest question for this team is their hitting, but it’s weird to just look at them as individuals. They have a way of hitting in key moments that don’t pop up on the score sheet. Austin Meadows hit 33 homers and maintained a .291 average. So it makes you wonder if the Pirates could of handled that talent any worse? He is the key cog here. They have Brandon Lowe who showed some promise last year but couldn’t stay healthy. The biggest wildcard will be their biggest FA signing. A stud from Japan, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, has a swing that screams power and is a threat to send baseballs over the fence each time he makes contact with the ball. He has high praise and when you pair that with Hunter Renfroe, who is very hot or cold, these two will hit home runs and it could come in bunches. In a shortened season I don’t think it’s a terrible strategy to think that they could get hot early and take serious advantage of a good month.
1. New York Yankees
This team is looking at this season to hopefully start their dynasty run. Yes the season may be shortened, but at the end of the day there will be a champion and the Yankees are an obvious bet be just that. In a hitter friendly park, they have 4+ guys who can hit 35+ home runs (per 162 game). Aaron Judge is the biggest name on the team. He hasn’t had a healthy offseason, but should be ready for the start of the season. When healthy he showed his raw power and ability to send the ball to the moon. He hasn’t had the chance to string a couple healthy years together to truly prove his hype. Giancarlo Stanton said he feels healthy so that’s crucial. When healthy, Stanton has produced strong numbers. D.J. Lemahieu was the MVP last year finding some new gear in his game. He was a First Team All-MLB selection as well as a Silver Slugger. No one thought that when he left Colorado that he could get even better. His metrics don’t show a huge drop coming and they might of found a key piece for a short run at the title for a couple years. This team isn’t just built for now, they are also built for the future. Gio Urshela is 28 and looks primed to take his game to another level. Luke Voit is a masher who if he could stay healthy, has a 40 home run and .280 batting average kind of potential. Miguel Andújar only got to play 12 games last year but wants to prove to people that his rookie year wasn’t a fluke. Fully healthy I can see him being the x-factor that really separates them as great. Now once you try to hold that lineup to less than 4 runs, you then have to try and score on this pitching staff. The prize gem of free agency, Gerrit Cole, signed a big contract and looks to make it known he is the best pitcher in baseball. He proved a lot last year with 326 SOs with a 2.50 ERA. He was unstoppable and looks like an easy W when on the mound. James Paxton should be able to step into a more middling role and relax. Hopefully that can help him finally stay healthy for a year. Masahiro Tanaka didn’t blow people away last year, but he was serviceable. J.A. Happ should be able to stay a float for 4-5 innings at a time. That’s all you need from these guys because the bullpen is full of killers. Chapman is still dealing, Britton was a top level closer in his day, Ottovino could close for another team in this league and then another stud and another and etc. I can see a world where once this team gets 2 runs on you by the 5th inning, it’s practically over.
5. San Francisco Giants
This team straight up confuses me. Looking at their roster you can see that they won’t win many games so you would hope they have young talent to develop, build the future. Wrong. They are the oldest damn team in the majors. Madison Bumgarner has moved on to Arizona. Their starters of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija aren’t going to put fear into the opponents. Kevin Gauseman has always showed skill but followed but getting blown up so I see more hot and cold games from him. Their bullpen isn’t terrible and maybe Tony Watson can surprise people with some saves. The lineup doesn’t have a lot of bats to instill confidence either. Their best hitter is Hunter Pence who they just signed this off season. Buster Posey has opted out of playing this year so maybe we will see Joey Bart play some and get to be the heir apparent to replace Posey. Ultimately I don’t see this ball club competing at all and this may be the start of a string of losing seasons for years to come.
4. Colorado Rockies
Would you trade Arenado if you were the owner of the Rockies? He is 28 years old and is currently in his prime. Regarded as the best third baseman in the league, he has made it clear if the Rockies don’t win, he isn’t coming back. He has an opt out clause in 2021. They have a bright star in Trevor Story that is an elite shortstop with rare power/speed combo. Charlie Blackmon had a .314 average and 112 runs and people said it was a down year. How are they so bad with these three studs? David Dahl was once the prospect in the Rockies system and he has come along nicely. I personally think Dahl is just a boring player. He will hit .300 and maybe 20 homers and not steal a lot of bags. Hopefully the speedy prospect Garret Hampton is able to take some playing time this year and win a job. Pitching is young and we have to remember they are pitching in Colorado. Jon Gray was really coming into his own last year and his home/road splits weren’t that different. German Marquez went 12-5 last year but his numbers were worse than 2018. His stuff can be nasty but he just doesn’t pitch well at home. Luckily I believe he will start the year off with some road games so maybe he can catch some early heat. The bullpen isnt all that great. If they want to win more games, I would suggest they put Scott Oberg into the ninth inning instead of Wade Davis. Scott has solid home numbers and Wade has not gotten the hang of things here. If you trade Arenado, you may get the chance to get a haul in prospects for future years. Personally, I would take the best offer I could.
3. San Diego Padres
The Padres are coming in with some hype this year. They have a lot of promising young prospects making headlines, they have elite arms in the bullpen and a promising young ace looking to go all in on this shortened season. Who knows if any of those things will even net anything positive, but there is reason for hope for SD. Manny Machado is the big piece on the team that is supposed to elevate the talent around him, but he really hasn’t performed up to that mega contract. Now yes he did hit 32 home runs and I’ll admit, that’s impressive having Petco Park as home. His average was a suspect .256, his strikeout rate was a career high and his steals went down tremendously. The problem with him is, he isn’t playing all that bad. He just isn’t playing up to par of what he is getting paid. Eric Hosmer is hoping to change his launch angle and be more “fly ball heavy” which suits this juiced ball we have. That’s some sneaky big news because he has always had hard contact so that should in theory, produce a spike in homers. Fernando Tatis was a stud the second half of the season and was deserving of some rookie of the year talks. He has 30/30 potential (home runs and steals) and he hit for a .317 average last year. His ceiling seems endless and could dominate the league for years to come. Outside of those guys it’s a wash. Tommy Pham came in off a trade and he can produce when he plays. The problem is he is coming in with a tear in his knee and has been open about playing through it. The pitching staff also has some solid talent as well. Chris Paddack was on an innings limit last year to protect the arm, which was a wise move, but with this shortened season I see no reason why they don’t let him go all out to show coaching what he has. His rookie year he was a 3.13 ERA and held opponents a to a .204 batting average. The dude is lights out. Lamet can hit high 90’s on his fastball and has shown some ability to get some swing and misses. They might have the 2019 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, McKenzie Gore, in the bullpen to get some experience this year. As I said earlier it’s gonna be lights out when the ball gets to Pagán-Yates. The Padres could win some games but if Machado has a streak of mediocrity, I can see them actually finishing 4th in the division. I’m not buying all the hype with these guys.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
The big headline for this team is the signing of Madison Bumgarner. He helped lead a dynasty in San Francisco and will hope to bring that juju over to Arizona. Last year he had a pretty good year overall. His 3.90 ERA is good with the way the ball was flying last year but when you look more into the numbers there was something alarming. His home/road splits were dramatic. At home he had a 2.93 ERA and a .93 WHIP, while having a 5.29 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP away. Now that he is away from Oracle Park, will the numbers be more towards the latter? I think it’ll be more towards last year with solid underlying stats. He isn’t the ace on the team though. Zac Gallen may be my favorite young pitcher in the MLB. The dude has dominated at all stages of the game. In the minor league PCL division the ball carries, the average ERA about all pitchers is over 5. Gallen had a 1.77 ERA and struck an average of 11 of nine innings. Move to the MLB he has an average of 2.81 and still striking out guys at a 10.8% clip. The stuff is nasty, he has great composure and his track record shows he can perform. Pair him with Luke Weaver who before his injury last year had a 2.94 ERA and stuck guys out over 20% of the time. I expect solid numbers out of this starting three and the bullpen has some decent talent to get the job done. Unlike other teams witch solid pitching, this lineup doesn’t have a bunch of bums. The Marte combo at the top of the line up looks to be something pitchers should be worried about. Starling Marte is coming off a career year in about every stat while keeping his biggest asset, his speed still a factor. He had an 80.6% steal percentage and is more of a headache for pitchers on the base paths. Having to worry about a guy on first who can get a free base at the beginning of the game bothers pitchers. If your not totally focused on Ketel Marte, he will make you pay. He finished 4th in MVP voting last year having a career year. The best part about last year was, it’s sustainable. All of his advanced stats point to the fact that this will continue. Maybe the batting average won’t be .329 but I shouldn’t expect a serious drop. Eduardo Escobar is also coming off a career year which net him 35 home runs and 118 RBIs. That three will put up runs guaranteed and will go toe to toe with a lot of lineups. I don’t see them winning the title this year but something in me says they will make more noise than people think.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
On paper it’s hard for anyone to think this team isn’t going to win the division. They are just oozing with star power and solid talent everywhere. Kershaw/Buehler will be an easy bet for back to back wins. Buehler has his pitching mix locked in and it shows. His strikeout rate is up and his walk rate is down. He at times looks as if he can’t be hit. Offseason chatter has some people projecting him as the best pitcher this year. They have highly touted prospect Julio Urias and Dustin May waiting to step into starting roles. Ross Stripling can duel and Alex Wood looks to benefit from David Price opting out this year. And if your lucky to score a couple runs on the starters you probably won’t on the bullpen. Jansen is one year removed from his chest surgery and I feel will be back to elite form. The roster features the 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger who broke out in a huge way last year. At the begging of the year he was on a .400 BA pace with inflates that .305 average. He still hit 47 homers and 115 RBIs and that doesn’t look like it will slow down. Corey Seager is looking like an early bet to be most improved player as his underlying stats point to a step in the right direction. Max Muncy is a solid BA and home run guy in the middle of that lineup. Justin Tuner has always been Mr. Reliable when healthy and they have a top 3 prospect Gavin Lux who looks to take the MLB by storm. His slugging was over .600 in the minors while having a .347 average, the dude is a stud. Oh, they also have the newly acquired top five bat Mookie Betts. Like good luck if your a pitcher. Mookie might have a learning curve to the new park but that just might mean he turns it on in the playoffs. Coming off the sting of the Houston Astros news I expect this team to come with a vengeance.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
As a fan of the Pirates, I’m so disappointed. I shouldn’t be because we all know that this franchise doesn’t win but I always get my hopes up. I mean when you look at the Archer trade you have to be upset. Meadows and Glassnow have thrived and Archer has only been good for 18 innings since then. Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams have shown signs that they can be something to build on. Jameson Taillon has opted out of this year with Chris Archer. The bell of the ball is Mitch Keller, who is a lot of people pick for a breakout this year. His 7.13 ERA is very misleading. The guy would let up a couple early hits and runs, I blame the nerves. The dude is living his dream in the majors and we have to expect that moment to weigh on someone. Then he would get better and better as the game went on. I felt like coaching would pull him a little early and that got to his head as well. His 12.9 K/9 isn’t an outlier based on his minor league numbers. Be patient with him fans, we need this hope. The hitters are a story of “almost” to me. Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds look like solid BA guys and locks to get on base. Cole Tucker is already a fan favorite who has some promise. Josh Bell broke out last year and showed he can be a 40 homer guy. But I feel like nothing ever works out at the same time. I don’t see great things in store for this team and if they finished 3rd in the division, the pitching staff all took some stride and the young hitters locked in their spot, I would call it a win.
4. St. Louis Cardinals
Hot take alert, but I don’t see the Cardinals being better than the Reds. The good? They may have the best pitcher under 25 in their rotation. Jack Flaherty has hype coming into the majors but was a little slow to start. He was still really good his rookie year with a 10.6 K/9 and an ERA at 3.34. The second half of last season was something different though. His last 15 starts he had a .91 ERA and was scoreless for every inning during that span except 9. Like holy shit that’s next level. Will he keep that pace up? Hell no and if he did, he would be the best pitcher ever. Expect somewhere in the middle so what 2.90? I’ll take that all day. Outside of Jack there really isn’t much left of the rotation. Wainwright is aged, Miles Mikolas is average and Dakota Hudson could be something but we really don’t know. The bullpen has questions because Jordan Hicks has opted out so they have closer questions. Will it be Gallegos or Martinez? Will Andrew Miller slot into set up role? The hitters aren’t exactly wowing anyone either. The outfield is ok but Fowler doesn’t do much, O’Neil doesn’t get playing time for some reason and Bader is unproven. Matt Carpenter regressed to what he was the first half of 2018, Wong is boring, Goldschmitt isn’t playing like the Goldy of old and Yadier Molina is still playing baseball If you believe that. Maybe I’m just high on the Reds but this could be the year where the Cardinals fall.
3. Cincinnati Reds
Management looked at its team and where it plays and leaned into it. Great American Ball Park is the smallest park in the league so even subpar hitters can succeed in Cincy. The signings of Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos should bring some serious fire power to this lineup. Mike has always been a power guy who has a high hard contact rate. His strikeout percentage is as low as its ever been as well. Nick was hindered by the ballpark in Detroit. His hitter profile never fit there and when he moved to just an average ballpark, his numbers flourished. His time in Chicago was 51 games where he hit for a .321 Average and over 1.000 OPS. So now let’s move him to Cincinnati and maybe those numbers could be better. Eugenia Suarez was the Reds brightest star last season. He finished second in home runs with 49 and raked in over 100 RBIs. His swing looks solid and his metrics look sustainable so I don’t see a dip in his production. Now sadly their prize prospect Nick Senzel has dealt with a lot of injuries which has dampened his progression and Joey Votto finally looks like age is catching him which is sad considering this may be his best team he played on. The pitching has some solid pieces to it. How solid you may ask? Well it is ranked the third best rotation in baseball according to MLB.com. Luis Castillo has nasty stuff and in only his second full year in the league, his strikeouts have spiked. Yes he gives up walks at a high clip but with development he can be an elite arm for many years to come. Sonny Gray found new life with the Reds last year and finished as one of the best pitchers in baseball down the stretch. He had a career year with bests in games played, wins and his highest strikeout total. His ERA and WHIP were low and the mechanics finally looked right for Sonny after all these years. Trevor Baur is bringing the swagger to round out this three headed monster. His numbers aren’t gaudy but I think he will bring a locker room presence and a fire that can help this team win some damn ball games!
2. Chicago Cubs
I almost put this team third in the standings but I think people would of called me too crazy. Say what you want but this team is the same team as last year and they didn’t exactly beat the pants off people. Jon Lester is another year older and he isn’t exactly aging like fine wine. His ERA was 4.46 and his strikeout rate went down and his walk rate went up. Now Kyle Hendricks is a rock for 6-7 quality innings. He won’t strike people out that much but he plays a solid game. Yu Darvish was a tale of two seasons. His first half was extremely suspect and his underlying stats weren’t sparking confidence. But over his last 13 starts something clicked, he struck out dudes at an alarming clip while keeping control of everything, he had 118 punch outs while walking 7. Things just looked better and it seemed like he narrowed in and just loosened up. The rest of the rotation will get the job done from time to time but the bullpen won’t bail them out. Kimbrel had a bad season but he also came in half way through, didn’t get a proper camp and feel for things in Chicago. I think this year will be much better for him but everyone else around him might struggle. The lineup has the same key cornerstones as years past. Anthony Rizzo might as well be Mr. Consistent as he has delivered the same numbers year in and year out during his career. Javier Baez is a defensive prescience and his bat can be relied on at times. Kris Bryant took the league over with his MVP year but just hasn’t blossomed into what was thought of him in previous years. Kyle Schwarber will be the x-factor for this lineup. For the first time he should see action everyday and will bring a serious power prescience. If all those things work there should be no reason why they don’t make the playoffs. But new skipper Joe Ross will have to get this team to take their game to another level. Because they will be just another above average Cubs team that’s good enough to almost get there but not win the title at the end.
1. Milwaukee Brewers
This could be the year for Milwaukee. The fans believe, the coaches thinks this roster is special and the players know that something is in the air. The rotation may not be filled with big names they still get the job done. Brandon Woodruff is hoping to be the ace for this team showing last year he has some serious swing and miss stuff. He was able to get his velocity up on his pitches that led to him striking guys out at roughly a 30% clip. His health is something to question but with this shortened season I wonder what would hold him back from going all out. Adrian Houser was killing things down the stretch last year having a sub three ERA over his last 10 starts. Brett Anderson will go out there and eat innings and not get blown up too too bad. They signed a 33 year old in Josh Lindblom who hasn’t pitched in the MLB since 2017. But this past year in the Korean league he went 20-3 with a 2.50 ERA so he has some stuff to compete. The bullpen is a strength in my eyes. Freddy Peralta will be a good middle reliever to get to Knebel and Hader. Knebel is coming off Tommy John so he will be getting eased in but I think he could even take saves from Hader. Josh is the best arm on the team and coaches want to make sure he is in those situations, so if the 2-4 guys are up in the 8th, you better believe Hader will pitch. The lineup features a favorite for MVP Christian Yelich who will look to secure that award with the championship. He has seen his game take new levels since going to Milwaukee having a batting average over .320 and hitting 30+ home runs. Last year especially hitting 44 homers and an OPS over 1.100. There is no question he has the sauce it’s just having the people around him be in position to him to hit them in. Keston Hiura has some serious tools and hype that will be the perfect compliment to Yelich. He impressed everyone last year in a short 84 game span. He hit over .300 with 19 home runs and an OPS over .900. The guy has the tools, his pedigree was a top 20 prospect and he plays in a park that is fit for him to succeed. Justin Smoak is hoping to revive his career in that same ball park. This team plays like a team and is well coached. The fans love this team and want nothing more than to see them succeed and I think something magical could happen in such a short time span.
5. Miami Marlins
This team will suffer from playing in such a tough division and especially this year with scheduling. Miami could win less than 15 games this year and people won’t be surprised. The lineup doesn’t have a bat to fear. Johnathan Villar would be their best bat but his stats came from
Camden Yards and Marlins Park is not hitter friendly. Digging deeper shows me that his game isn’t fit for this new stadium and I see a drop in production. Nick Anderson showed some promise last year having his best hard contact year. The prospects are still a couple years away and Isan Diaz who was highly touted last year hit below the Mendoza Line. Their pitching is their best attribute and that’s not saying a lot. Caleb Smith looks like an arm to build around and was dealing last year before a hip injury derailed his progress. Sandy Alcantara was also showing signs that he can be a stay in this rotation. Losing Zac Gallen was tough but he is ready for the now and they got a top 10 prospect in return. The team will pull together a win or two but it’ll be another long season for this franchise.
4. New York Mets
This team is too good to be bad in my opinion. They have arguably the best pitcher in baseball Jacob Degrom. He continually balls out on the diamond, he had a 2.43 ERA and stuck dudes out 11.3 K/9, yet he only went 11-8? What is that? Thor won’t be out this year while he recovers from Tommy John and hopefully Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz can be better. Will they be Noah? Probably not but they need to be better to win more games. Their bullpen has some solid ass arms to win them games late. Edwin Diaz was once the best closer in the game but his average last year wouldn’t reflect that. He has a lot of innings going into last year and this time off could benefit him mentally and physically. Seth Lugo looked good and Jeurys Familia is hoping to be back to closer form. They have solid bats as well. Pete Alonso was Rookie of the Year in 2019 and hit 53 home runs to lead the league. Now pitchers were able to adjust to him later in the year but he will still hit bombs. I see regression coming in the form of a lower batting average and maybe more towards 40 homers. J.D. Davis has some underlying metrics that point to him taking a bigger step this year. He has always hit the ball hard and his average is only getting better. Ramos last year had a launch angle of zero, I repeat in a year where all fly balls were leaving the yard, Ramos didn’t even try. That will change and Robinson Cano should have the whole year to give it his all and shake off those bad vibes from his PED suspension. Cespedes is hoping to comeback and maybe Ahmed Rosario will be what he was supposed to be. If this team was in a different division in the NL I could see a better finish but sadly 4th place seems destined.
3. Washington Nationals
Let’s get this out the way now, the Nationals won’t repeat as champions. Last year a lot of magical things happened and the dominoes all fell the right way at the right time. Anthony Rendon is an Angel now and I don’t believe anyone will fill the missing 126 RBIs and .314 average. That’s a big bat and as much as Howie Kendrick tries, it isn’t happening. Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera and Eric Thames are the faces to make up that deficit Howie. They have Carter Kieboom ready to tell people that his .128 average isn’t what he really brings to the table. Ryan Zimmerman isn’t playing this year to help Carter with the playing time but that hurts the Nationals as a team. Juan Soto is a stud who is looking to be one of the best young outfielders in the game. He was impressive when he made his debut at 19 and now he is a step ahead of the game compared to others his age. Victor Robles hopes to bring the speed this team desperately needs. The pitching staff is still elite with Scherzer, Corbin and Strasburg. Max has been an top tier pitcher for so long and now he is starting to show cracks. His health is diminishing with nerve issues that do scare me for his status. Let’s say they start slow and he starts to feel tight, I see a realm where he just sits. Stephen Strasburg has a healthy season for what feels like the first time in forever, and he produced mightily. His postseason ERA under two has a lasting impression I feel on his value. I think we saw his best career year and thankfully it netted a title because I don’t think he will stay healthy. Corbin is an awesome arm who has been steady and consistent year in and year out since being in Washington. The weight of the team falls on these guys so if they aren’t delivering ace like performances, this team will lose.
2. Philadelphia Phillies
I bet it was awful to be Bryce Harper watching his former team win the Pennant. No one doubts Bryces willingness to win and want to compete at the highest level. His average last year wasn’t too far off his career average, he still mashed 35 homers, stole 15 bases and all in all put in a pretty solid season.
The issues weren’t really with him but everyone else. Rhys Hoskins was supposed to take a step up from his 34 homer .246 BA 2018 but instead most of his numbers took a downturn. He struck out more, his ball never had a ton of velocity leaving the bat and just didn’t seem right at the plate. Jean Segura didn’t perform like when he was with Arizona or Seattle as his walks, runs and average were all low compared to career numbers. Andrew McCutchen has his season cut short by injuries. J.T. Realmuto delivered and made himself a case for the best catcher in the league. They went out and added Didi Gregorious but I feel like that move looks better on paper than in real life. Most of his production came from hitting in Yankee stadium and Philadelphia isn’t a pitchers park but it’s not New York. Let’s just say that their pitching as a whole was not very good. Their ace, Aaron Nola, had his worst statistical season last year and just didn’t look right on the mound. At times he could look like the former CY Young candidate but then he could also give up 6 in the first 3 innings. He didn’t get much help from his other starters which probably didn’t help his motivation either. Jake Arrieta had his wheels fall off fast last year, Nick Pavetta and Vince Velasquez were anything but consistent. The bullpen was extremely suspect all year and they didn’t add any pieces that make me feel comfortable. Zack Wheeler should slot in as the number two behind Aaron but he didn’t have a lot of stuff that put fear in his opponents. His career 3.77 ERA tell me that he has the stuff to be good in this league and maybe a new pitching coach to tweak his mechanics is all he needs. I have faith this ball club will win games but this division Isn’t going to be easy. They went 36-40 against the NL East last year and 10-9 against the Marlins. If those can bounce the other way, watch out.
1. Atlanta Braves
What is there not too love about the Braves. I mean yes, the name could be changed but the guys wearing that jersey are studs that plan to make some noise. Coming off back to back 90 win seasons, this team knows that winning games isn’t just what’s expected anymore. They need to make it to the playoffs and go far. I mean they have the talent to do it, right? Freddie Freeman may be the best first baseman in baseball. He had a career high in RBIs and Runs while being close to his highest walk total ever. He will be eased in at first because of his Covid symptoms and from what I’m reading he had it bad, like the worst of any player in the league. Ozzie Albies is a guy who people wouldn’t say is the best second baseman but his stats point to him atleast being top 3. He hits in a lineup with studs right around him, his home stadium is nicknamed “The Launch Pad” so his power will still be there as well. His numbers have steadily increased as he got more and more familiar with the league. Ronald Acuña is the headliner for this team though. He was drawing Mike Trout comparisons early and he didn’t disappoint last year. He hit 41 homers while swiping 37 bags. His average is around .280 and he doesn’t strikeout at an alarming clip. He will score runs and score his friends game in and game out. Those three guys could be the best trio in the MLB and it’s worth and argument if you feel otherwise. Dansby Swanson was a former #1 overall pick who is showing signs of his game improving. Austin Riley came out hot at first last year but became a strikeout or homer kinda guy. The addition of Marvell Ozuna shouldn’t be swept under the rug either. His 2018 numbers suggest that there is more to his bat and he dealt with some bad injuries last year. They had a deal for Yasiel Puig to round out that roster but he had Covid so they voided his contract. The pitching staff is the biggest question mark and it’s solely because of the youth. Mike Soroka looked like a certified ace last year pulling a 2.68 ERA in 29 games. His strikeout rate was meaningful and his hard contact rate was low. He finished 2nd in NL MVP and should blossom. Max Fried was improving down the stretch and Mike Foltynewicz showed at times he had the stuff for the majors. The bullpen has a strong group of veterans that will be a good committee to back up these young guys. All in all I believe in this group and believe that things are going to bounce right for them.