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2020 MLB season preview
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2020 MLB season preview

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And now a 2020 MLB season preview, for the strangest MLB season we’ve every seen.

Yes, baseball should be rounding into the dog days and the home stretch on July 23, not just getting started, but all the “shoulds” have been thrown out the window in 2020, so here we are. Let’s break it all down while we try hard to forget why things are the way they are, at least for a little while. Let’s get weird.

Earlier today Bill ran down everything you may have, for very good reasons, forgotten between the end of last season and the beginning of this one. Now let’s do a quick look ahead at what we might expect in the 60-game sprint that is the 2020 MLB season. One which will be full of a number of different rules, procedures, and sets of logistics. One in which all 30 teams, as always, have unique battles ahead of them.

2020 MLB season preview

AL EAST

New York Yankees
Roster and schedule
Outlook: A supremely talented team with big bats, a deep bullpen, and who are happy to have, arguably, baseballs best pitcher, Gerrit Cole at the top of the rotation. The biggest question is healthy, particularly the health of their big sluggers, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The team to beat in the AL East.

Tampa Bay Rays
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: The Rays have excellent depth, a strong rotation and bullpen, and a coaching and front office staff that optimize strengths better than any club in the game. Being without MVP candidate Austin Meadows early in the season due to COVID-19 could be a problem, but the Rays should be playoff bound.

Boston Red Sox
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Still a formidable lineup but they will feel the loss of Mookie Betts. A much bigger problem is a thin pitching staff thanks to trades and injuries. You will be able to score a lot of runs on this Red Sox team.

Toronto Blue Jays
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: The young core of Vladimir Guerrero, Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette is ready to impress in their first “full” season together. Overall, though, the roster is still building, with questions on the pitching staff in particular. All of that may be overshadowed, however, by the fact that the Blue Jays, as of this writing, still do not have a home park for 2020 and do not know where they will open their home schedule a mere six days from now.

Baltimore Orioles
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: One of the worst baseball teams in living memory in 2019 will enter 2020 without its best player, Trey Mancini, who is out battling cancer. Watching young players like Anthony Santander and Austin Hays get their feet wet and mature will be the only reason to watch the O’s this year.

AL CENTRAL

Minnesota Twins
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Last year’s home run-happy Twins are back again and now they have slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson in the fold. The rotation is improved, but it may still be a bit short of what a well-rounded contender would like to have. Still, with the Twins facing the game’s easiest schedule thanks to their facing nothing but teams from the two Central Divisions, they should have a fairly easy go of things and will have plenty of time to figure out their best pitching options before the postseason.

Cleveland Indians
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: The delay to the season helps the rotation get healthier and, even without Corey Kluber around anymore, Cleveland’s 1-2-3 starters are formidable. The outfield is a particular weak one for a contender, but if José Ramírez can avoid the swoon that felled him in the first half last year and look more like the 2018 model, he, Francisco Lindor, and friends should make up for it. They’re not quite to the Twins’ level, but they should contend and, if Minnesota unexpectedly falters, could overtake them and reclaim their AL Central crown.

Chicago White Sox
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: A plethora of great young talent augmented by free agent pickup Yasmani Grandal make the White Sox a fashionable pick to make noise in the American League. The problem, though, is that there are currently five playoff spots in the AL and a good 6-7 teams that look better, so even if the White Sox surprise, they are probably still a year or two away from making enough noise to matter.

Kansas City Royals
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: A slow and steady rebuild continues apace, but the Royals still have a long way to go. That’s especially true if they continue to lead the league in the worst possible category: players hitting the injured list after positive COVID-19 tests.

Detroit Tigers
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: The Tigers added a couple of recognizable veteran names in the offseason, but it’s all just window dressing for a teardown rebuild that is still years from bearing fruit at the big league level. They’ll battle Baltimore, once again, for the league’s worst record.

AL WEST

Houston Astros
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Gerrit Cole is gone and there have lost a number of other pitchers to injury during Summer Camp, but they are still one of the most talented teams in the game. X-factor: in a very, very strange season, a team that can keep its head and its emotions in check may have a big advantage. To that end, having the calming influence of Dusty Baker in the manager’s chair this year could give the Astros an edge other teams with younger skippers whose impulse will be to manage the living hell out of every game do not have.

Oakland Athletics
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: The A’s have won 97 games and bowed out in the Wild Card game each of the past two seasons. They look only slightly different this year — some journeyman starters gone, some longer-term options returning from injury or suspension, and the ascendance of prospects helping out as well — but they remain formidable. The biggest question will be the health of their starting pitchers.

Los Angeles Angels
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Anthony Rendon will begin the year on the injured list. For the Angels to progress beyond the “Mike Trout and the Eight Dwarves” model of recent years, he will need to give the Angels what they paid for and the revamped starting rotation will have to prove that it can be durable, even in a 60-game season. Big bounce backs from Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons would help too. If everything goes right, this can be a dangerous Angels team. But a lot has to go right which has not gone right in the past several campaigns.

Texas Rangers
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Improving. Their rotation is a strength thanks to last year’s standouts, Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, being joined by newcomer Corey Kluber. The offense is still a work in progress. They do not yet know how their new ballpark will play. Even if everything comes together well, they have the same problem the White Sox have: too many good teams in front of them to truly make an impact on the postseason race.

Seattle Mariners
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Rebuilding with no real hope to be had for many years. Best case scenario is that their decent young prospects, currently not on the big league roster, get some looks during the garbage time that will be most of the M’s 2020 season. In the meantime, a lot of losses will be racked up in Seattle.

NL EAST

Atlanta Braves
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Losing Josh Donaldson to free agency and Nick Markakis to an opt-out puts even more pressure on phenom Ronald Acuña Jr. and slugging second baseman Ozzie Albies. They’ll need others to step up — including Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson — but the lineup should still be decent. A young rotation will miss Cole Hamels to start the season but Mike Soroka is a budding ace and their other younger starters all possess even modest upsides that are better than the solid work they showed last year.

Washington Nationals
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Losing Anthony Rendon is going to hurt, but this is Juan Soto‘s team now and he’s a beast. Starters Max ScherzerStephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin give Washington an impressive 1-2-3 punch. The bullpen, however, remains a chronic problem in D.C., and that may be a particularly big deal if the starters aren’t stretched out after this strange summer.

New York Mets
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil lead a pretty good offense and Jacob deGrom is looking to collect a third straight Cy Young Award. A big problem, though, is the loss of Zack Wheeler to free agency and Noah Syndergaard to the knife. Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha have been brought in to replace them but that’s a tall order.

Philadelphia Phillies
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Despite adding all manner of star power before 2019, the club finished at a disappointing .500, failing to post a winning record for an eighth consecutive year and missing the postseason once again. New manager Joe Girardi should help matters — his predecessor, Gabe Kapler, never really did the team any favors — but rebounds from Rhys Hoskins and Jean Segura and an MVP-caliber year from Bryce Harper will help more. Having Zack Wheeler in the fold should help take the pressure off Aaron Nola. The bullpen is still a concern.

Miami Marlins
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: They brought in some veteran stabilizers like Jonathan Villar, Jesús Aguilar and Matt Joyce, but this is still a thin as paper offense. The pitching is no great shakes either. Miami will likely be the worst team in the National League once again.

NL Central

Cincinnati Reds
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Adding Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos, and Shogo Akiyama to join Joey Votto and Eugenio Suárez may make the Reds one of the most dangerous offensive teams in baseball. The starting rotation is quite solid as well, with Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and a Trevor Bauer who has a lot to prove. Wade Miley and Anthony DeSclafani represent a pretty strong back end of the rotation as far as back ends of the rotation go. The back end of the bullpen and the setup guys are strong. Really, other than middle relief, there aren’t a ton of weaknesses here. The Reds have been in the doldrums for some time but they will be a fashionable pick to win the Central this season.

Milwaukee Brewers
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Losing Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal and Eric Thames takes a lot of home runs out of that lineup. Having Ryan Braun on the shelf to start the season doesn’t help matters. Pitching is in much the same boat with Zach DaviesChase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacín, and Gio González all gone. Maybe those guys don’t knock your socks off, but they combined for 94 starts last season. There will be a lot of hole-filling going on in Milwaukee. Christian Yelich cannot do it alone.

Chicago Cubs
Roster and Schedule
Outlook:  Anthony RizzoKris Bryant and Javier Báez remain a great core, but the core is surrounded by less this year than they have been in some time. New manager David Ross need both Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish to pitch like aces this year and would’ve needed that even if they hadn’t lost José Quintana to thumb surgery. An x-factor is how much production the Cubs will get from rookie second baseman Nico Hoerner. The Cubs still have enough talent to remind the National League of what they were a couple of years ago, but everyone is gonna have to meet, if not exceed expectations for them to do it.

St. Louis Cardinals
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Jack Flaherty leads a pitching staff that helped the Cardinals win the NL Central last year and pitching should be strong once again. The offense, however, was middling last year. They’ll need a return to form from Paul Goldschmidt and a number of other guys to step up, however, in order for them to have hopes of repeating.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Hey, with the Blue Jays not being allowed to play in Pittsburgh, the Pirates are guaranteed to be the best baseball team to call PNC Park home this year! Less great is the fact that the lineup and the pitching staff are not good at all, the rebuild is truly only beginning now, a year or two too late, with new general manager Ben Cherington in place. They will join Detroit, Baltimore, and Miami for the race for the first pick in the 2021 draft.

NL WEST

Los Angeles Dodgers
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Anything less than the World Series will be seen as a disappointment. Fair? Given how random the postseason can be, maybe not, but this team has been built to win for a very long time and they need to win in order to not be seen as a 1990s Buffalo Bills-style failure. Bringing in the $365 million man Mookie Betts to join MVP Cody Bellinger in the outfield was designed to do just that. A rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Ross Stripling, Alex Wood, and Julio Urías is one of the strongest in the game. The only question, as always, is how reliable the back end of the bullpen will be. Overall, though, the Dodgers are probably the strongest team in baseball. Late October or bust.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: A new-look rotation of Madison BumgarnerRobbie RayZac Gallen and Luke Weaver  is kind of spiffy. It’d be more spiffy with Mike Leake, but he opted out of the season. The offense has a new look too, with Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun joining last year’s MVP candidate Starling Marte in a lineup that has a lot of upside. The bullpen looks less than great, however, and while the Dbacks may find themselves in the Wild Card conversation, it’ll be hard to picture them putting a real scare into the Dodgers.

San Diego Padres
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: A healthy Fernando Tatís Jr. and a year of seasoning under starter Chris Paddack‘s belt — along with veterans Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer, each of whom are capable of more than they showed in 2019 — will make the Padres a lot of people’s pick to surprise in the NL this year. Kirby Yates leads a potentially dominant bullpen. The biggest questions involve who will step up in the rotation behind Paddack. Garret Richards? *takes a long drag on a cigarette* Why that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long, long time.

Colorado Rockies
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: The same story as usual: Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Trevor Story will hit the daylights out of the ball and they’ll get very little help as they do it. Any hope for the Rockies involves getting big seasons from Daniel Murphy, Raimel Tapia, and David Dahl. The pitching was a strength just a couple of short years ago, but last year the Colorado rotation cratered. It’ll be up to German Márquez, Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland, and Antonio Senzatela to relocate their mojo.

San Francisco Giants
Roster and Schedule
Outlook: Buster Posey has opted out. Madison Bumgarner left for Arizona. A rotation led by Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija will at least sort of make this team look like the San Francisco Giants we’ve known for a long time, but it’s just superficial. This is a team that is about to crater, I suspect. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’ll be a short season, it would’ve been a long summer in San Francisco. Enjoy watching Mike Yastrzemski play. He seems OK. Enjoy watching Gabe Kapler manage if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

And that, folks, is your 2020 MLB season preview. In a few short hours the battle plans of the 30 major league clubs will finally begin to meet the enemy, and we’ll see how much they were worth.