The 23 Teams That Can Win The World Series: Part 2

In the mere hours after the publishing of yesterday’s column, MLB saw its whole postseason realigned, Juan Soto test positive for COVID-19 and Clayton Kershaw go on the IL with a back injury and not make his Opening Day start.

Let’s hope for better luck today.

The one positive out of yesterday’s news is that, despite the absurdity of it, MLB’s new 16 team postseason makes the idea of 23 teams having a shot to win the World Series seem less ridiculous.  Think about how much this benefits the Toronto’s (Sorry, Pittsburgh’s 2.0s – wait, no, Buffalo’s) and San Diego’s of the league.  What about the loaded NL Central?  It’s no longer impossible for four of their teams to make it now (That’s a hint at the projected standings way at the bottom).

Still, it is incredibly frustrating this change came down literally an hour before the first pitch of the 2020 season was thrown.  It’s now a hassle for teams who set their rosters a certain way – based on how competitive they thought they were going to be in a 10 team playoff format – to re-adjust, not to mention pressure from ownership groups who now see a greater opportunity to win (And therefore make bad decisions).  Everyone in the media already wrote their articles (Cough), did their podcasts and made their predictions for the 10 team postseason.  Now they’re scrambling (Cough, cough).

It will be fun, sure.  But the timing was ridiculous, just as the timing on everything this MLB season has been.  

As for the four teams covered yesterday, things have changed a bit.  The biggest issue with Washington heading into the season yesterday was their lineup, and now their best hitter will be out for what’s going to likely be at least two weeks.  It was going to be tough for them to sneak into the normal playoffs, but with Soto’s injury, the 16 team format probably cancels out any advantage that gave them.

The Dodgers will be fine without Kershaw.  Their depth was written about extensively this past week – having Dustin May be ready to step in like that is a luxury no one else has.  He figures to be Kershaw’s long-term replacement in the rotation, and why wouldn’t he be?  May’s stuff is pure electricity.  Obviously the Dodgers would like to be careful with their young starter, but last night was a perfect example of not letting him get into bad situations.  The worst pickle May got himself into was two on with one out, and the Dodgers pulled him as soon as he let the second man on.  That’s your pitcher being awesome and the team being careful at the same time.  

So, with every other team beginning their shortened 2020 season today, here are the cases for 20 of them to win the World Series.  But first, let’s finish off those who have no shot first.

Nope:

  • Mariners

We’re on about year three of just having zero clue of what the plan is in Seattle.  General Manager Jerry Dipito has refused to fully rebuild or going all-in on crafting a championship squad, and instead has made miscellaneous, seemingly non-impactful trades the past two years.  What does that get you?  A team with two prospects as its two best players (Justus Sheffield and J.P. Crawford, whom the later is 25) and Shed Long Jr. at second base.  The Mariners might have some good players available for your fantasy baseball team, but it seems as if Dipito is playing that game with his actual big league roster instead of on ESPN.com.

  • Marlins

Almost every player in Miami’s lineup is like if you inserted the first bench guy off nine random teams’ roster into a single lineup.

Almost is the key here.  Lewis Brinson is awesome and is no replacement level player.  Jorge Alfaro is productive, and he has Francisco Cervelli behind him.

But the rest of the offense is troublesome.  The Marlins basically need a career year from the likes of Jesus Aguilar to Corey Dickerson to Jonathan Villar.  If that happens, they could be getting somewhere.

Significant improvement needs to come from the rotation, which might be better off bull-penning two times and letting Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Jordan Yamamto throw as starters (Lopez and Yamamoto weren’t good last year, but they’re only 23) the other three games.

The bullpen is loaded, but that just isn’t going to be enough.  Using them as much as they would have to would likely result in a burnout come playoffs.  If the starting pitching or offense was there, Miami would be among the likes of Kansas City this season.

  • Orioles

Like Detroit, Baltimore is not necessarily trying to compete this year, and even if they were, the roster talent wouldn’t give them a shot.  Aside from some Adley Rutschman at-bats, the Orioles are probably not a squad to even keep an eye out for.

  • Pirates

Ben Cherington took over as GM after the conclusion of the 2019 season, signifying an acceleration of a rebuild that had kind of begun under Neal Huntington.  Starling Marte got shipped to Arizona, and the Pirates replaced him with former Diamondback Jarrod Dyson, which isn’t exactly an upgrade to the major league roster.  Pittsburgh’s two best pitchers – Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer – are both out this season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, which leaves Joe Musgrove as the ace (Yikes).  Despite an intriguing bullpen, the Pirates just don’t have much else to support it, and Josh Bell could likely be the next veteran on the way out.

  • Tigers

The most indicative reason why Detriot can’t win the World Series this year is that they’re probably not even trying to.  The Tigers are in the midst of what’s been an impressive tank job/rebuild the past couple years, which has garnered them prospects such as Casey Mize, Riley Greene and recent No.1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson.  The Tigers have been pretty cognizant of their ill-fated rosters over the past three years, and haven’t tried to improve them dramatically yet.  Even in a 60 game sprint, the talent just doesn’t seem to be there around the diamond for this team despite a young and hopefully still developing rotation, which will likely feature Mize at some point this season.


Now for those who can win the World Series in 2020, sorted by alphabetical order:

  • Angels

The Angels are not helping their division’s case to not be entirely confusing.

This could be the best team Los Angeles has put around Mike Trout.  They went out and signed Anthony Rendon to a mega-deal, have an exciting youngster in Jo Adell  ready to make his debut and get one of the most exciting and intriguing players in baseball back on the mound in Shohei Otani.

Yet, not everything feels great about this Angels team.  The effectiveness of Albert Pugols waned significantly last year.  Tommy La Stella is fine (Play Luis Rengifo instead!).  Justin Upton needs to stay healthy and be productive – he struggled in 63 games last year.  Then there’s the pitching staff.

Los Angeles had seven pitchers make more than 10 starts last year – no one started more than 18 games in 2019 (In the lead was Andrew Heany).  

Literally none of those who started games for the Angels last year were good.  Ohtani will certainly help with that.  Griffin Canning could also.  The 23-year-old struggled in his rookie season with a 4.58 ERA, but an ERA+ of 99 of indicates it wasn’t a total disaster.  Canning has been the Angels star in the waiting for awhile now – him not improving would be a disappointment.

Aside from Ohtani and the hope of Canning, the Angels don’t have much else.  That’s why Canning’s success is paramount.  Heaney has had a single good season in his career, and Dylan Bundy – Los Angeles fourth starter – hasn’t had a good year ever.  Their bullpen probably isn’t one good enough to be confident in them bull-penning successfully, which makes a fifth starter even more questionable.

Los Angeles’ offense just doesn’t seem potent enough to push them through their issues.  Trout will likely win MVP again, Rendon and Ohtani will be awesome and Adell should be awesome, but this isn’t an order that strikes enough fear yet.  It may not matter thanks to the new playoff format, but .500 seems like a fair play for this team.

  • Astros

Written extensively about here, Houston enters this season as one of the more confusing teams in baseball.  It feels wrong to say they can win this thing given that cheating may or may not have significantly influenced their success the past three years, but it also feels ridiculous to say that with no real statistical evidence to back that up.  Knowing what we knew prior to the details of the cheating scandal, this team probably has the best lineup in baseball.  Whether those guys are actually good at what they do or not, well, we will likely just have to see.

  •  A’s

This is one of the more A’s-esque teams in awhile.  It’s a lineup that half strikes fear and half underwhelms.  It’s a rotation full of maybes.  Yet, it just feels wrong to totally count them out.

Oakland is actually riding on a lot of youth this year.  Franklin Barretto, A.J. Puk (who has a shoulder issue that doesn’t seem great), Jesus Luzardo and even 2020 first round pick Tyler Sodorstrom could all have major roles for this  team.

It’s Barretto’s turn at second base after the departure of Jurickson Profar.  Profar’s 2019 was an anomaly offensively, which is where Baretto seriously struggles.  That could be a big downgrade for Oakland offensively if the 23-year-old rookie can’t develop at the plate.  Puk, who easily could have been Oakland’s ace this year, is starting the year on the IL and it doesn’t sound like things are great.  Jesus Luzardo had COVID-19, and is projected to be ready for his first start, but assuming players will be able to just come back from the illness without long-term effects seems negligent.  In addition, this is also his rookie year, and with pitchers, we don’t know what we’re going to get (The same case can be made for Puk).

Aside from the young pitchers – both of whom have questions – Oakland’s rotation and pitching as a whole is worrisome.  2020 will be Sean Manaea’s first full year back from shoulder surgery – how he fairs over a larger sample size than 2019 is a question mark.  Frankie Montas is awesome, but you’re looking at him and Mike Fiers as the real, solidified options in this rotation, and with Fiers you’re getting average at best.  Plus, the bullpen aside from Liam Hendricks is troubling, so that safety net isn’t there as well.

Oakland’s offense is going to have to carry them this year, which is doable, especially if Khris Davis can hit baseballs again.  But there’s a chance the pitching staff just doesn’t allow them to hit their full ceiling.  At the same time, if anyone is used to pulling off miracles, it is the A’s.

  • Blue Jays

One of the more fun teams in baseball, Toronto (Or, Buffalo) might have a very, very limited shot at making serious noise in the playoffs, but the amount of youth and potential present on the roster makes them not one to rule out given the expanded playoffs.  If every single one of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, Nate Pearson and even Austin Martin show up, ball out and demonstrate that they will all eventually hit their ceiling, then the AL has a problem on its hands.  But to expect 4-5 AL Rookie of the Year caliber performances from five guys on one team is obviously unreasonable, and the pitching – although improved – just quite isn’t there yet.  Next year is where Toronto should have their eyes set, even though all it takes is a good two months.

  • Braves

In a normal year, this Braves team may not get a shining endorsement.  Their loss of Josh Donaldson stings a bit, and leaves them with a lack of power.

But, the power aspect to the game won’t be as prevalent this year – the sheer volume of homers will be drastically lower thanks to the 60 games.  In perhaps a flukey year, teams with varied offensive approaches could go farther than we anticipate.

Atlanta has Ronald Acuna Jr., which could be all that matters for them offensively as well.  He’s a NL MVP candidate and will be tasked with doing some stupid statistical feat this year – is 20-20 instead of 40-40 in play?

Austin Riley is sitting there as a potential solution to a problem.  The Donaldson hole leaves Johan Camargo back at third, where Riley could easily step in and play.  If he delivers, the power void could be resolved quickly.

The Braves question marks have nothing to do with the regular season.  They should win their division (although it is much better than given credit for) and their pitching is good enough.  But come playoff time, how will their youth – especially in their rotation – perform?  They got walloped last year, which might have been what needed to happen to ensure future success.  There isn’t exactly a bullet-proof bullpen behind them – it’s a lot of names that collectively struggled significantly last year.  Atlanta can win the World Series.  They just have to put the whole thing together now.

  • Brewers

Milwaukee’s rotation is a deep, dark hole of underperformance and question marks, but there is arguably no team built better for this 2020 season than the Brewers.

The Brewers have stretched pitching strategies to their limits over the years. They have no regard for long inning, traditional starters.  This year, they could probably get away with letting Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes be their one and two starters and bullpen the other three outings.  Adrian Houser also makes a good case to be a third starter if the Brewers want to turn him loose.

Aside from that, you’re likely getting average returns from the rest of the options Milwaukee has in the rotation.  Stretching Woodruff and Burnes long into their starts will reduce work from relievers on non-bullpen days, and would likely be effective into the playoffs as well.  The innings structure of the staff would be all about preventing a meltdown in the playoffs, because no other team will be dealing with that come October.

If the Brewers can devise a formidable pitching strategy, they should be in pretty good shape.  Their lineup has some holes, but the power in the outfield should be able to make up for it.  This is also a year where small-ball offense will rise, which benefits the Brewers greatly.  There are few teams smarter than Milwaukee in baseball, and those will teams will be the ones who can make noise this year.

  • Cardinals

The NL Central is extremely competitive, but a couple teams in the division have less questions than others.  The Cardinals are one of those.

Like perhaps their biggest divisional foes, pitching is what drives this Cardinals team.  Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson are a top two young duo of starters in baseball.  Miles Mikolas is solid, and there’s no reason to think Adam Wainwright will decline just yet.  

That rotation plays, and it plays well enough to mitigate other concerns.  Last year the offense lacked power, and there were no changes made to the lineup in the offseason.  A rebound year from Paul Goldschmidt could take care of that, or 60 games and its power to change offensive strategy could as well.

St. Louis might lack the oomph, but they’re solid all around, and in a season full of questions, that might be all you want to ask for. 

  • Cubs

From a talent perspective, they aren’t many more teams that are in better shape than the Cubs.  It’s astonishing to think that this team hasn’t made it into the NLDS since 2017, but a crazy NL wild card race in 2018 (Also, Tony Wolters) and a massive letdown last season led to a manager change with David Ross replacing Joe Maddon.  

The hope is that a change in leadership is the jolt this team needs.  The pitching last year was not great – their second best starter was Cole Hamels, who had an ERA+ of 117. Tyler Chatwood, who takes his spot in 2020, was decent in a small sample size.

The bottom line is that this staff is getting old.  Jon Lester is 36 and was bad last year.  Yu Darvish will be 33 soon and has been good every other year recently.  The Jose Quintana trade keeps looking worse every day.

The talent we once thought was there in the pitching staff just isn’t anymore.  That would be okay with a great bullpen, but the Cubs have the opposite of that.

Chicago’s offense is probably good enough to mash everyone and win the World Series for them.  No one should be shocked if they can do it.  But even in a year where pitching seems a tad less valuable, the Cubs just don’t have enough of it.

  • Diamondbacks

Arizona’s busy offseason couldn’t have come at a better time.  For a team that was going to be in a tight NL Wild Card race, the expanded playoffs serve as a massive boost to the Diamondbacks playoff odds.  If they aren’t the second place team in the NL West, then there are going to be serious repercussions.

The Diamondbacks were the most average team in baseball last year, and they made moves to fix that.  They have a trustworthy ace in Madison Bumgarner now, who spearheads an intriguing and most importantly solid rotation.  It felt like Arizona was another productive bat short last year, and Starling Marte will provide that after the D-backs acquired him from Pittsburgh.  

Certain spots in the lineup are still questionable.  Christian Walker needs to be good again with the DH being a full-time position now.  Jake Lamb needs to regain his All-Star form.  Kole Calhoun hitting for legit power would be nice.

The pitching staff has a ceiling.  The bullpen is still worrisome, and the rotation, while solid, feels like one that will just barely get the job done.  That’s not going to win you much in the playoffs.

But the potential is there.  If Luke Weaver can be the guy we saw pre-injury last year, that’s an awesome No.2 or No.3 starter.  Zac Gallen is young and promising.  Robbie Ray as potentially the fourth guy isn’t bad.  Merrill Kelly is getting you average production, which is fine at the No.5 spot.

They have other places they can go if anyone struggles.  Alex Young will be a nice addition to the bullpen, but could be moved into the rotation if need be.  The same goes for Jon Duplantier – counting on him isn’t a good bet though.  Still, Arizona has options.  Whether those options just hold steady or actually improve things will determine how far they make it.

  • Cleveland

For a team that has severely lacked outfielders for the past two seasons, Cleveland has filled the holes on the grass well.

Though young, Oscar Mercado and Jordan Luplow were quite productive last year, and seem to be the solution alongside Franmil Reyes – who was a nice power bat pickup by Cleveland last trade deadline – or Delino DeShields (which is less inspiring, but likely better than Greg Allen).

They finally have the right pairing for a pretty loaded infield.  Cesar Hernandez is a bit of a question mark at second base, but is a nice flyer regardless.  Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are sick on the left side, and Carlos Santana smacked 34 home runs last year.

As it has been for practically all of the 2010s, Cleveland’s pitching is their heart and soul.  Even without their two-headed monster of Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber, talent still exists.  Shane Beiber seems destined to be the next ace in Cleveland, and Mike Clevinger isn’t a bad No.2 starter alongside him.  Aaron Civale gets an elevated role this year, and at 24 years old, he becomes the third of Cleveland’s five starters to be that age (Beiber and Zach Plesac both are as well).  

It’s an impressive group that’s capped by the veteran Carlos Carrasco, who can hopefully improve after a down year last season.  Cleveland has impressive youth in their rotation, and it will likely churn out a lot of value.  The offense could be good enough to sneak them into these extended playoffs, but how far they go will be determined by how those young mound-minders respond.

  •  Mets

The strategy invoked by Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen when he took over in late 2018 is not going well.  Win now moves that featured highly-touted prospects being sent out the door without regard for the future deserve to result in this current Mets lineup.  There’s a lot of potential, but it all coming together seems unlikely.  The Robinson Cano trade keeps evolving as a disaster, and Brandon Nimmo seems unlikely to live up to his projected hype.  Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto certainly make up for that in terms of joy and sanity, but they may not do so in terms of wins.

The Mets rotation is solid if everything goes right.  The loss of Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John surgery bites, but they’ve actually done an okay job making up for it.  Marcus Stroman – despite going on the IL to begin the season – is a good No.2 starter.  Michael Wacha is due for a rebound season back into a competent middle option.  Rick Porcello takes a lot of crap and has his faults, but as a flyer, No.4 starter, you will take it.  Steven Matz is one of the more disappointing players in baseball over the past half decade, but potentially a lower pressure situation could bring out the best in him.  The bullpen needs Edwin Diaz to turn back into his 2018 self, because there isn’t much else back there to support him. 

New York is in a tough division where a lot of other talented teams are trying to be competitive as well.  Unfortunately, the Mets might be close to the end of that line.

  • Padres

Written extensively about here, the Padres have a lot to look forward to this season.  It’s a significant test for their youth.  The pressures of such a short 60 game season could potentially make them better in the long-run.  In addition, youngsters tend to do better in small samples, not worse.  If everyone lives up to their hype, San Diego could easily find themselves in the expanded playoff, and potentially make a run.

  • Phillies

This is another team like the Mets and Cubs that has a ton of talent, yet isn’t one we can totally trust simply because of the resume they have of letting us down.

Philadelphia has spent a ton of money and it’s paid off well.  The Zack Wheeler contract was a bit much this past offseason and represents them pushing their cash a little too far, but the spending has paid for Bryce Harper, Didi Gregorius and Andrew McCutchen at three of eight position spots.

Philidelphia’s lineup is loaded.  Harper, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto balanced with Jean Segura and Gregorious is nasty – the other spots may not matter (and they’re not bad either).  

It’s the type of lineup that can overpower pitching problems, which the Phillies might have.  Aaron Nola showed some regression last year after an awesome 2018, but should rebound given a short season.  The rest is anyone’s guess: Jake Arrieta is 34 and pitched like it last year.  Vince Velasquez has not developed as Philadelphia would have liked to see.  Wheeler, despite earning himself that massive contract, is probably getting overpaid a little too much and is likely just a No.3 starter-mold.  The fifth starter is still TBD – they’re probably best off handing the job to highly-touted right-hander Spencer Howard, who’s their last gasp at having a single young pitcher live up to expectations.  

The bullpen is fine and isn’t one that will bail out this rotation, leaving it all up to the offense to do so.  If the pitching can be everything we hope, Philadelphia could find themselves close to the World Series.  If it’s not, this front office might have seen its last days.

  • Rangers

This Rangers roster reeks heavily of a team like Arizona last year, where they will be middle of the pack practically everywhere.

They’re not bad.  They’re just not necessarily great, either.  The top three in their rotation is impressive: Corey Kluber, Mike Minor and Lance Lynn is a solid group.  But behind them is Kyle Gibson – who’s struggled to make it happen at the MLB level, and a bullpen with more names than actual production.  

Is it enough to overcome the offense?  Joey Gallo is awesome and is one of the candidates to push for 30 home runs or something crazy over the course of 60 games, but the rest of the lineup is bleak.  Todd Frazier is washed, Rougned Odor doesn’t provide the pop; neither does Isiah Kiner-Falefa.  Danny Santana should be someone’s fourth outfielder, not their centerfielder.  

Scoring runs is destined to be a problem for this Rangers team.  But few teams have as reliable of pitching as Texas does.  In the postseason, that can be all that matters.  They just have to get there first, and that’s the problem.

  • Rays

Alongside Milwaukee, no team is better built for a 60 game sprint than the Rays, and saying that almost feels like a criticism.

The Rays would be better than you think in a normal season.  Sure, they carry the same traits someone like Kansas City does – lack of power, small ball, etc.  But neither of those are totally true.  Tampa Bay has Hunter Renfroe, Yoshi Tsutsugo (a slugger from Japan who would have been excellent for the D-backs… let’s carry on) and Brandon Lowe in their lineup, two of whom they accquired this offseason.  That’s added to Ji-Man Choi who can hit 20 bombs in a normal year and Austin Meadows who could emerge as one of the best outfielders in baseball soon.  This offense is more than fine, and with their depth, is even scary.

Combine that with a pitching staff that isn’t going to be as bullpen-reliant as you think and this is a team that in a normal year is likely a contender.  The short season makes them even better than that.  Tyler Glasnow has NL Cy Young potential, Blake Snell has already won that award, and Charlie Morton is the perfect No.3 on any team.  That’s three awesome starters, and Jalen Beeks could also get some looks too.

Tampa Bay will have to use its bullpen less than expected this year, and this was a group destined to have a heavy workload.  Now that’s lifted off their shoulders, making them somehow even more effective.  If the Yankees succumb to some of the concerns mentioned yesterday, then the Rays will be right there for the taking.

  • Red Sox

Talk about a fall from grace.

Since the Red Sox hired Chaim Bloom, here is what the former Fangraphs writer turned Rays executive turned GM has had to endure:

  • A demand from ownership to cut payroll significantly, with the only viable way of doing so being trading Mookie Betts away with a contract
  • The Astros sign-stealing scandal implicating Alex Cora leading to his departure as manager a year after winning the World Series
  • The start of the 2020 season being delayed until July 23 due to a global pandemic
  • Betts then inking a 12 year deal with the Dodgers while the Red Sox planned to reengage contract talks with him when he becomes a free agent

That is brutal, and literally none of it is Bloom’s fault.  Now he’s staring at a team that still has a world-class lineup with zero pitching whatsoever, which lines them up likely right in the middle of the pack – the worst place to be.

The offense is the case for the Red Sox to remain in the mix this year.  Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi (hopefully on a rebound year) and possibly Michael Chavis are all great at the plate.  Almost no one has that many good hitters, and in a year where lower strikeout numbers will go far, Boston’s balanced attack could pay off well.

The pitching just has to survive, which is a tough sell.  Chris Sale’s Tommy John surgery was probably the difference between this team getting a Wild Card spot or not, especially factoring in the expanded playoffs.  Now, Martin Perez and Nathan Eovaldi are their best starters with Eduardo Rodriguez still having COVID-19 symptoms.

The bullpen has some arms, but it’s likely not enough to outweigh the rotation.  They don’t have enough quality arms to bullpen games effectively.  

In 2018, Boston’s offense was the most dominant force in baseball.  It was borderline historic.  Expecting that same output from this group is not realistic, but this year could provide an interesting case study into how much value a group of hitters can truly provide, because the pitching certainly won’t be doing so themselves.

  • Reds

Arguably the team that had the busiest offseason, the Reds big-time spending should pay off.  This team is legit.

Assuming Trevor Bauer doesn’t have long term problems adjusting to Cincinnati’s tiny, waterfront ballpark, the Reds have one of the best 1-2 punches in the rotation out of any team in baseball.  Bauer and Luis Castillo combines one of the best young pitchers in baseball with one of the best in recent years.  Add in Sonny Gray – who had a surprising rebound year in 2019 – and Cincinnati has about as formidable of a three man rotation as you can get.  They also snagged Wade Miley, who should quit being doubted after stringing together quality back-to-back years.  Additionally, Anthony DeSclafani finally put it together last year, and though he’s starting this season on IL, him as your fourth or fifth starter means you’re in pretty good shape.

The lineup is a murderer’s row.  Bringing in Mike Moustakas and Nicohlas Castellanos adds potentially 30-40 home runs to this offense in this shortened season.  Over the course of 162 games, that could be 70-80.  Engenio Suarez sneakily hit 49 home runs last year and has emerged as a true slugger.  Joey Votto will be the typical OBP monster, and Shogo Akiyama – a fantastic hitter from Japan – will love Great American Ballpark. 

Cincinnati is deep too.  They have a million outfielders behind Akiyama, Castellanos and Nick Senzel: Michael Lorenzen, Jesse Winker, Travis Janikowski and Aristides Aquino all exist as either fun or effective options at DH.  That’s notwithstanding Christian Colon and Kyle Farmer in the infield too.

The Reds are contenders this year.  A tough division could hold them back a bit, and the bullpen lacks some depth, but with this rotation and offense, it shouldn’t matter.  Stop labeling this team as a sleeper.  They’re better than that.

  • Rockies

Colorado and Boston are extraordinarily similar teams this year.  All hitting, zero pitching.

And just like Boston, it will be the Rockies offense that will have to produce potentially historic outputs to make this team successful.  Colorado goes as far as their offense takes them.

The Rockies have their own murderere’s row.  Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado in the same lineup is unfair.  Throwing in the potential of Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, Brendan Rogers and David Dahl makes them look unbeatable.  A lot of those guys haven’t done much yet, though we’ve seen limited samples from Hampson and Rogers.

The pitching just needs to be treated as a net zero. The rotation has a higher ceiling than Boston’s – we’ve seen Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray both be good in years past.  German Marquez has nasty stuff but it doesn’t always translate to good numbers – the same goes for Antonio Senztatela.  But actually getting everyone to produce will be tough.

Colorado hits a ton of home runs, but they’re also well-rounded at the plate.  While that helps them this year, the decreased innings from pitching staffs all across baseball doesn’t at all.  Everyone’s staff gets better this year, and should be better going into the playoffs as well.  Colorado’s pitching could be so bad that less innings stagnates them, making the offense’s role that much more important.

  • Royals

One of a couple “There is no way but in a world far far away you could see it” teams on this list, Kansas City basically gets a nomination here due to their past.  What happened in 2014 (and even 2015, to an extent) was one of the most improbable occurrences in baseball during the 2010s, and some of those key players are still around.  

They have a super scrappy lineup.  Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi and Salvador Perez are awesome at their jobs.  They’ve added some power recently – Jorge Soler hit 48 home runs for them last year, and though he will miss time due to recently testing positive for COVID-19, Hunter Dozier provides some pop as well.  Maikel Franco is a low risk flyer who can also potentially hit 20 home runs or so in a 162 game season.

Their rotation is a disaster aside from Danny Duffy.  They don’t really have options after him: Brad Keller and Mike Montgomery are meh and Jakob Junis is on the IL to start the year.  Even with Junis back, it’s still bleak.  The highly-touted Brady Singer is starting Saturday, which provides some excitement and hopefully success going forward.

Pitching is what gets you to the World Series, but the offense we’ve seen needed to get teams there in previous years isn’t needed this season.  Kansas City still has the formula that got them there in 2014 and ’15 present on this roster.  That will have to be their saving grace.

  • Twins

Minnesota’s attempt at acquiring competent pitching last year went okay.  Jake Odorizzi pitched well for them and Michael Pineda was fine.  At the same time, Martin Perez didn’t work so well, and the Twins ended up started some guy named Randy Dobnak in a playoff game.

This offseason, they were done messing around.  In comes Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey and ready-for-a-larger role Devin Smetzler to the Twins rotation, giving them a bottom line of competence behind Jose Berrios.

The Twins won 101 games last season with a faulty rotation.  They made it not matter until the playoffs.  Now, throwing in veterans like the names mentioned above gives them not only experience but a group that won’t give the offense no chance.

Certain numbers indicate Minnesota’s offense was historic last year, and they only added to it in the offseason.  Josh Donaldson takes over at third base, where he’ll take the reigns from Miguel Sano who likely sees split time with Nelson Cruz at DH and potentially in the outfield (That depends on Byron Buxton’s health, which is always a question).  The Twins still have a massive glut of talent amongst their position players – Sano, Willians Astudillo, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave and Ehire Adrianza are all bench players for Minnesota, and all provide tons of value in respective situations.

The Twins could absolutely win the World Series.  But while the pitching they acquired serves as a new precedent and a massive upgrade, all of those guys were available for a reason.  At the end of the day, all of them are just okay, and that is not where this Minnesota team wants to be, nor should be.

  • White Sox

The White Sox are really, really good, and if starting pitcher Michael Kopech hadn’t opted out of the 2020 season, Chicago could have been a serious player come October.

The rotation is good even without Kopech.  Lucas Giolito blossomed into everything we wanted in 2019, and the team signed Dallas Keuchel to a four year contract in the offseason to give the group some experience.  Gio Gonzalez is a solid option at the third spot, while Dylan Cease is a bit of an unknown and Reynaldo Lopez shouldn’t be counted on too much.

As written earlier this week, the White Sox have ways to plug these holes if they want to.  They also have an intriguing bullpen that could work out in their favor.

Chicago’s pricey offseason will do them well.  It made their lineup daunting, which is impressive considering the youth they possess.  That can backfire on them, but it’d be more likely to do so over the course of 162 games rather than 60.  It’s a tough division, but if Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert live up to their potential this season, the White Sox should be in the mix at the top, and could potentially go deep in October.


Division Predictions

Win totals will not be listed due to the 60 game season

AL East

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Tampa Bay Rays
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles

AL Central

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Cleveland 
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Detroit Tigers

AL West

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Oakland A’s
  3. Los Angeles Angels
  4. Texas Rangers
  5. Seattle Mariners

NL East

  1. Atlanta Braves
  2. Philadelphia Phillies
  3. Washington Nationals
  4. New York Mets
  5. Miami Marlins

NL Central

  1. Cincinatti Reds
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Chicago Cubs
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. San Diego Padres
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Francisco Giants

Playoff Predictions

Here’s how MLB’s new 16 team postseason – which they unveiled an hour before the season began Thursday – works.  Eight teams in each league make the playoffs.  The top three seeds are the division winners ordered by record.  The next three are the second place teams in each division ordered by record.  Then, the final two seeds are the two best records remaining the league.  So, as seen below, the Yankees are the projected AL East winners, the Twins are the Central’s, and the Astros are the West’s, with the Yankees having the best record of all of them.  Then, Tampa Bay is projected to finish second in the AL East, having more wins than the White Sox and A’s, who each finish second in their respective divisions. Then, Cleveland and Toronto are projected to have the two best records remaining. Got it?  Good?

AL Seeds:

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Minnesota Twins
  3. Houston Astros
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Chicago White Sox
  6. Oakland A’s
  7. Cleveland 
  8. Toronto Blue Jays

NL Seeds:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Cincinatti Reds
  4. St. Louis Cardinals
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks
  6. Philadelphia Phillies
  7. Chicago Cubs
  8. Milwaukee Brewers

Then it becomes the NBA playoffs.  The No.1 seed plays the No.8 seed, the No.4 seed plays the No.5 seed but in a best of three series.  

Wild Card Series:

AL:

#1 New York Yankees vs. #8 Toronto Blue Jays: Yankees in 2

#2 Minnesota Twins vs. #7 Cleveland: Twins in 3

#3 Houston Astros vs. #6 Oakland A’s: Astros in 3

#4 Tampa Bay Rays vs. #5 Chicago White Sox: Rays in 3

NL:

#1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. #8 Milwaukee Brewers: Dodgers in 3

#2 Atlanta Braves vs. #7 Chicago Cubs: Cubs in 3

#3 Cincinatti Reds vs. #6 Philadelphia Phillies: Reds in 2

#4 St. Louis Cardinals vs. #5 Arizona Diamondbacks: Cardinals in 3

Division Series:

Then, the winner of the No.1 vs No. 8 seed plays the winner of the No.4 vs. No. 5 seed series in a best of five series.

AL:

#1 New York Yankees vs. #4 Tampa Bay Rays: Rays in 5

#2 Minnesota Twins vs. #3 Houston Astros: Twins in 4

NL:

#1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. #4 St. Louis Cardinals: Dodgers in 4

#3 Cincinnati Reds vs. #7 Chicago Cubs: Reds in 4

Championship Series:

Then the winners of the Division Series play each other in the best of seven LCS series like normal.

ALCS

#2 Minnesota Twins vs. #4 Tampa Bay Rays: Rays in 5

NLCS

#1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. #3 Cincinnati Reds: Dodgers in 6

World Series:

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Dodgers in 6

Awards Predictions:

AL MVP: Mike Trout

NL MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr.

AL Cy Young: Tyler Glasnow

NL Cy Young: Walker Buehler 

AL Rookie of the Year: Luis Robert

NL Rookie of the Year: Carter Kieboom