Wednesday, May 29, 2024
AL CentralAL EastAL WestAmerican LeagueAnalysisAtlanta BravesBoston Red SoxChicago CubsChicago White SoxCincinnati RedsCleveland IndiansColorado RockiesDetroit TigersLos Angeles DodgersMiami MarlinsMilwaukee BrewersMinnesota TwinsMLBNational LeagueNew York YankeesNL CentralNL EastNL WestOakland AthleticsPhiladelphia PhilliesSan Diego PadresSt. Louis CardinalsToronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

(Somewhat) Bold Predictions for 2020

1. Rafael Devers will hit over 45 home runs

Even though Devers hit thirty-two home runs, it’s clear there’s more in the tank. Nobody had more hard-hit balls in 2019 than the 22-year-old, but because he was only 180th in the league in launch angle, many of his would-be home runs were just loud doubles. If he can start elevating the ball more, there’s no limit on what Devers can do.

2.The Yankees show more flaws than expected, and though they still win the east, it’s a lot closer than anyone expects

Look, I’m not going to say that the Yankees aren’t a good team:they are an exceptional team. However, even with the amount of talent the Yankees have assembled, they are not without flaws. Their lineup is nearly exclusively right-handed, and only Aaron Judge and D.J Lemahieu are above-average defenders or get on base at an elite rate. The rotation after Gerrit Cole is injury prone, and each of their late-inning options are on the wrong side of thirty. The Yankees will simply overwhelm the AL bottom feeders with their depth, but their lack of balance on offense and dependable arms on the pitching staff will prevent them from running away with the east.

3.  The Twins break their own record for home runs

The Twins set a major league record for home runs in 2019, and the scary thing is that they could be even better in 2020. Only Jorge Polanco played over 140 games, and full seasons from Mitch Garver and Nelson Cruz, who combined for 72 home runs despite neither playing 110 games, will only add to their home run totals. The addition of Josh Donaldson, who smashed 37 home runs with the Braves last year, makes the most powerful lineup that much more potent. 

4. Fransico Lindor becomes the hottest name on the 2020 trade market

I’m not buying the Indians. Even with a career year with Carlos Santana, they were only middle of the pack in offense, and their only addition this offseason was Cesar Hernandez, who is unquestionably a role player at this stage of his career. A rotation minus Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber and a bullpen heavily dependent on Brad Hand won’t be enough to overcome a mediocre offense, especially with the Twins and White Sox each improving this offseason. All of this leads me to believe that the Indians will be out of it by July, meaning that superstar shortstop Fransisco Lindor will be the talk of the trade season. 

5. The Central is won by two upstarts- The Reds and the White Sox

These teams have gone a combined 20 years without winning a division, but they have each built a team that could make a run in October. The White Sox improved last year with the breakouts of Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, and Lucas Giolito. These three young stars, along with the powerful Eloy Jimenez, should get even better in 2020, and they will be joined by rookie sensation Luis Robert. The White Sox spent the offseason supplemented their core with veterans, including Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, and Gio Gonzalez. The Reds, meanwhile, had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball but an offense that ranking just 25th in runs. To generate some more thump, Cincinnati signed Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas, both of whom should have a lot of fun hitting in the bandbox that is Great American Ballpark. The saying goes that winning the offseason doesn’t mean winning the regular season, but the acquisitions made by both teams are perfect fits to supplement an already strong core. 

6. The Tigers lose even more games than last year

The Tigers are a terrible, terrible baseball team. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Their offense was bottom five in the majors in runs, home runs, and OPS, and their only offseason additions were one-dimensional first baseman C.J Cron, whose power will be evaporated in spacious Comerica Park, and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who has a career on-base-percentage under .300. Their pitching staff was equally atrocious, as the only teams with a higher ERA were the historically inept Baltimore Orioles and the mile-high Colorado Rockies. With no impact prospects close to the majors, there is little hope of things getting better. Their outlook grew even dimmer as their division-mates White Sox and Twins both improved this off-season. Betting on a team to exceed 114 losses is a risky proposition, but the Tigers are just that bad.

7. The Athletics, boosted by a group of young starters, make yet another Wild Card run

With the splashy additions of the Rangers and the Angels, many people are sleeping on the Athletics. They shouldn’t be. Only the Astros, Yankees and Dodgers have won more games than the Athletics over the past two years, and this year’s version may be the strongest yet. That’s because the A’s, after years of mediocre at best rotations, finally have some promising young arms. Top prospects A.J Puk and Jesus Luzardo each will begin the year in the rotation, where they will join established starters Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas. With Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien leading the offense and Liam Hendriks shutting things down in the ninth, the A’s should be a very formidable team. 

8. The Phillies are a complete mess, and the stars begin to feel the heat

The Phillies just don’t work together. The offense doesn’t do anything well: They were eleventh in the NL in home runs, ninth in average, and eleventh in on-base-percentage last year. Adding Didi Gregorius and his 87 OPS+ won’t help the cause. The rotation is a question mark behind Aaron Nola, who himself is coming off a disappointing 2019. The acquisition of Zach Wheeler provides some stability, but he won’t help Jake Arrieta turn back the clock or Vince Velasquez become an adequate major league pitcher. The Phillies bullpen was also ravaged by injuries last year, and they are already off to a bad start this year, losing veteran David Robertson to Tommy John surgery. With the Phillies likely to struggle to compete in the powerful NL East, the ravenous Philadelphia media will go after the big-name players, namely the $330 million man Bryce Harper.

9. Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. both finish in the top three in the MVP race

This isn’t that much of a shock, considering Acuna finished fifth in the voting in 2019 and Soto is one of the brightest young hitters in baseball. Even though both are fantastic already, I see both taking the leap to legitimate MVP candidates. For Acuna, that means maturing into a more patient hitter, which would increase his already solid walk rate and an average pushing .300 rather than .280. For Soto, it means hitting for power (because 34 home runs just don’t cut it anymore) and improving defensively. Regardless of whether this is the year these two take their talents to the next level, there already have the look of generational players and we should feel lucky to be able to watch them do their thing on a nightly basis. 

10. The Marlins are surprisingly competent

There might not be a sadder team in professional sports than the Miami Marlins. They’ve never won a division title (though somehow have two fluky World Series wins), they regularly fail to reach 10,000 fans, and many of their former star players are wreaking havoc already in the league. When you take away the stigma surrounding their brand, however, you realize that the Marlins are a fairly decent team. They don’t have any A level players, but they have a plethora of B- ones, including Brian Anderson, Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson, Jesus Aguilar. Similarly, their pitching staff has several mid-rotation arms, led by Caleb Smith and Sandy Alcantara, both of whom are coming off strong seasons. No, the Marlins won’t contend for a playoff spot, but they will show competency for the first time in the Jeter era.

11. The Cubs run officially ends, and big names are on the way out

When the Cub won a World Series in 2016 fueled by a group of young stars, they looked well-positioned for a possible dynasty. Alas, four playoff wins in the last three years, including a disappointing 84 win campaign in 2019, has left more questions than answers on the South Side. The young players simply haven’t lived up to the massive expectation levying on them during their World Series run: Albert Almora has become a bench bat, Kris Bryant hasn’t been able to repeat his 2016 MVP campaign, Kyle Schwarber’s production has been limited by strikeout issues, and Addison Russell was non-tendered after a domestic violence suspension. With an aging pitching staff already showing signs of slowing down, there simply isn’t enough talent on this roster to contend for a championship. With Schwarber, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Bryant all free agents after 2021, the Cubs will have to seriously consider entering a rebuild. Jon Lester and Jose Quintana, both possible free agents after the year, are obvious candidates to be moved, but if the Cubs really wanted to blow up, they could move Bryant, who would bring back a massive return. 

12. The Brewers are baseball’s most disappointing team

I didn’t like the Brewers last year, and I really don’t like them this year. The Brewers have had a mediocre starting rotation for years, and this off-season they finally fixed their problem by… signing Josh Lindblom and Brett Anderson? Lindblom was effective in the Korean league, but has just six career major starts, while Anderson has never been more than a third and fourth starter and has started over 17 games just once since 2015. In prior years, the Brewers’ offense may have been strong enough to overcome a lackluster rotation, but they simply don’t have the firepower this year. Losing Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas and Eric Thames have decimated an offense that was already way too dependent on former MVP Christian Yelich. While Yelich and promising sophomore Keston Hiura will make sure the Brewers don’t completely collapse, they will fall well short of a third consecutive postseason appearance.

13. The Dodgers win the most games of their historic run

Even if the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988, they have some truly fantastic teams during their recent run. This year’s version has a chance to be the best one of them all. It’s not just the acquisition of perennial All-Star Mookie Betts to play alongside reigning MVP Cody Bellinger. Even with stalwarts Clayton Kershaw and Justin Turner aging, the Dodgers have two elite youngsters ready to help carry the load in Gavin Lux and Dustin May. They will hope to get a full season from Corey Seager, who has been plagued by injuries since finishing third in the MVP voting in 2016. The Dodgers are locked and loaded for yet another postseason run with as deep a roster as they’ve ever had before,

14. The Rockies finish with the worst record in the NL, but Arenado stays put.

Playing at Coors Field catches up with a pitching staff sooner or later. After two years with a somewhat functional rotation, the Rockies pitching completely collapsed in 2019. No starter was healthy enough to start over 30 games, while only two finished with an ERA under six. High-paid relievers Wade Davis (8.63 ERA) and Bryan Shaw (5.61) were similarly atrocious. Simply put, no team can compete with a pitching staff like this. A team with Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story is never going to completely tank, but it’s going to be a long season in Denver.

15. Jack Flaherty wins the Cy Young Award

There hasn’t been a lot of diversity in the recent NL Cy Young voting: Since 2011, seven of the past nine awards have gone to Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw. Yet at the end of last season, one pitcher looked as dominant as any of them. Over his last 16 starts, Jack Flaherty held batters to a .139 batting average while compiling an otherworldly .093 ERA. Sixteen starts are quite a large enough sample size, large enough, in fact, to get me to buy into Flaherty as my Cy Young pick for this year. 

16. The Padres are within striking distance all year, but ultimately fall just short

Other than the Dodgers, the NL West is one of the worst divisions in baseball. The Diamondbacks are perfectly average, and the Rockies and the Giants are arguably the two worst teams in the NL. Then there are the Padres, who have a tremendous blend of young and veteran talent despite being straddled by the contracts of Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer. The Padres’ biggest weapon is their bullpen: With Emilio Pagan, Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates, they can shorten any game by three innings. This takes a load off their pitching staff, which is essentially Chris Paddack and a bunch of nobodies. The offense isn’t great, but Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado should generate enough offense to keep the Padres competitive all summer long. Having the Dodgers in their division and a bunch of strong, more experienced teams as wild card competitors will hamper the Padres’ chances, but they will position themselves for a postseason run in 2021.

17. Peter Alonso falls into a sophomore slump, but Vladito, Eloy Jiminez and Tatis Jr. breakout

Hitting 50 home runs is hard. Hitting 50 home runs two years in a row is even harder. Hitting 50 home runs two years in a row after the league has a full off-season to watch a film of you for the first time is downright impossible. Pete Alonso will take an inevitable step backwards in 2020. He will still be a productive hitter, but the league will find ways to limit his light-tower power. While Alonso will take a step back, I see three sophomores taking steps forward. Guerrero Jr. and Jimenez each showed flashes of brilliance in their rookie campaigns but struggled to maintain consistency. Tatis, meanwhile, was terrific from the moment he stepped on the field, but his year was cut short with a back injury. All three of these youngsters are future superstars, and I see each taking a major step forward in 2020.

18. The World Series Champion won’t be the Dodgers or the Yankees 

Baseball never goes as expected. So when the whole world is picking either the Dodgers or the Yankees to win the World Series, you have to feel like something is going to go wrong. Yes, the Dodgers and the Yankees have ridiculously stacked rosters. But am I going to bet that either one of them will be able to put their decades of postseason failures behind them? I’m taking the field.