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Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Spring training is just getting started. Opening Day is more than a month away.
But what the heck. Let’s project the final standings and playoff outcomes for 2020 based on rosters as currently constructed and a healthy dollop of informed speculation.
Trades, injuries and other factors will undoubtedly shift the calculus between now and October. But here’s what our crystal ball foresees as of now.
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Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Houston Astros 95-67
Los Angeles Angels 86-76
Oakland Athletics 85-77
Texas Rangers 78-84
Seattle Mariners 65-97
Like it or not, the Houston Astros are the toast of the American League West, the favorites to repeat as division champions and challenge for another pennant despite the sign-stealing scandal that rocked the franchise and the entire game this offseason.
The Los Angeles Angels are prepared to make noise after signing third baseman Anthony Rendon to join AL MVP Mike Trout. The small-market Oakland Athletics could make a run after winning 97 games last season, though they made no significant offseason upgrades.
The Texas Rangers acquired veterans Corey Kluber and Todd Frazier this offseason and appear intent on contending, but they are a longshot to improve upon last season’s 78-84 finish.
The Seattle Mariners won 68 games in 2019 and made zero meaningful moves, so assume more of the same—and perhaps even a regression—in 2020.
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John Bazemore/Associated Press
Minnesota Twins 90-72
Chicago White Sox 85-77
Cleveland Indians 81-81
Detroit Tigers 72-90
Kansas City Royals 67-95
After adding third baseman Josh Donaldson to an already potent lineup, the Minnesota Twins are favorites to repeat as American League Central champions. They could use more pitching, especially with right-hander Michael Pineda out until May as he serves the remainder of his 60-game performance-enhancing drug suspension, but this is a club that’s set to contend.
The Chicago White Sox made major offseason additions, including catcher Yasmani Grandal, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and left-handers Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez, and they have an emerging young core that seems poised to make the leap. Hard-throwing righty Michael Kopech is a guy to keep your eye on as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
The Cleveland Indians dealt former ace Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers but held onto shortstop Francisco Lindor (for the moment, at least) and appear stuck between a rebuild and a retool.
Then there are the rebuilding Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals, who made no notable trades or signings and will only battle for last place.
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New York Yankees 101-61
Tampa Bay Rays 91-71
Boston Red Sox 81-81
Toronto Blue Jays 76-86
Baltimore Orioles 59-103
The New York Yankees signed ace Gerrit Cole to bolster their starting rotation. They have a strong bullpen and a dangerous lineup. Injuries to starting pitchers Luis Severino and James Paxton are ominous early signs, but the Yanks have the talent and depth to soldier on.
New York’s only legit in-division competition is the Tampa Bay Rays, who added powerful bats in Jose Martinez (via a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals), Hunter Renfroe (via the San Diego Padres) and Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and led the AL with a 3.65 ERA in 2019.
The Boston Red Sox traded franchise outfielder Mookie Betts and lefty David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they look like a ho-hum team in transition.
The Toronto Blue Jays have rising stars such as third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and shortstop Bo Bichette and inked 2019 MLB ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.32), Japanese righty Shun Yamaguchi and veteran hurler Tanner Roark. But they’re at least a year away from cracking .500. As for the Baltimore Orioles, the only quandary is whether they’ll stay over the 100-loss mark (bet on it).
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Chris Carlson/Associated Press
Los Angeles Dodgers 101-61
Arizona Diamondbacks 83-79
San Diego Padres 80-82
Colorado Rockies 74-88
San Francisco Giants 69-93
After acquiring outfielder Mookie Betts and lefty David Price from the Boston Red Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers improved a roster that was already a top title contender. They haven’t won it all since 1988, but they’re in position to change that.
The Arizona Diamondbacks proved their desire to win in 2020 by signing left-hander and postseason legend Madison Bumgarner and acquiring center fielder Starling Marte from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The San Diego Padres have gobs of young talent, headlined by budding superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., but they may be a year or more away from serious contention.
The Colorado Rockies did nothing to improve their fourth-place roster in 2019 and might end up trading franchise third baseman Nolan Arenado at or before the July trade deadline.
The San Francisco Giants are strapped with untradable veteran contracts and are headed for an unavoidable rebuild despite bringing back fan favorites such as outfielder Hunter Pence and infielder Pablo Sandoval.
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Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
The St. Louis Cardinals won the NL Central last season and are deep enough to repeat despite losing outfielder Marcell Ozuna to free agency.
The Milwaukee Brewers lost catcher Yasmani Grandal and infielder Mike Moustakas on the open market but added outfielder Avisail Garcia, first baseman Justin Smoak and infielder Ryon Healy. They lack a proven ace but will welcome 2019 NL MVP runner-up Christian Yelich back from injury.
The Chicago Cubs are straddling the line between buying and selling, especially in regard to third baseman Kris Bryant, per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The Cubbies went 84-78 in 2019 and missed the playoffs. A similar—if not identical—finish seems likely.
The Cincinnati Reds signed Moustakas away from the Brewers and inked versatile veteran Nick Castellanos and Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama. They also added Pedro Strop to help the bullpen and netted Wade Miley to boost the back end of the rotation. They’re a sneaky contender, even if they’re not quite ready to chase a Commissioner’s Trophy.
The only squad in the division with virtually no hope of contending is the Pittsburgh Pirates, who shipped Starling Marte to Arizona, didn’t do much else and are ticketed for last place.
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Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Atlanta Braves 92-70
New York Mets 85-77
The Atlanta Braves bid adieu to third baseman Josh Donaldson via free agency but added outfielder Marcell Ozuna. They also signed closer Will Smith and veterans Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez to buttress the starting rotation. They have oodles of young talent on the roster and in the minors, and they are the favorites to win a third straight NL East crown.
The New York Mets added a formidable late-inning arm by signing free agent Dellin Betances away from the New York Yankees and took a flier on 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, who posted a 5.52 ERA in 2019 with the Red Sox and will compete for a spot in a loaded rotation fronted by two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
The defending champion Washington Nationals extended righty Stephen Strasburg, employ ace Max Scherzer and have ample young stars, including 21-year-old outfielder Juan Soto. But they lost third baseman Anthony Rendon and should slip in a stacked division.
The additions of infielder Didi Gregorius and right-hander Zack Wheeler up the Philadelphia Phillies‘ odds of taking Bryce Harper back to the postseason, though they’re a fringe player in the NL East with a lack of a proven ace and questions in the bullpen.
The Miami Marlins, meanwhile, will be the club every team feasts upon despite some interesting young pieces and decent veteran additions such as Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson and Matt Kemp.
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Morry Gash/Associated Press
Based on these projections, the Dodgers, Cardinals and Braves would win the three National League divisions, with the Brewers and Mets claiming the two wild-card slots.
As stated, this is based on informed speculation, and the whims of injuries, trades and more could change things. But we’ll put our money on the Mets winning the Wild Card Game behind two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom but losing to the Dodgers in the division series.
We’ll also take the Braves over the Cardinals in a hard-fought division series considering the depth of their pitching staff and their emerging offensive nucleus.
That sets up a potentially great National League Championship Series between Atlanta and L.A. that may go seven games. In the end, we’ll give it to the Dodgers, who are loaded and seeking their first title in more than three decades.
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Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Over in the Junior Circuit, the Tampa Bay Rays would host the Los Angeles Angels. Home-field advantage would seemingly give them an edge, but we’ll guess Mike Trout’s desire to shine in the postseason will move the Halos on to the next round.
At that point, however, Los Angeles will be dispatched by the New York Yankees, who are loaded with more hitting and pitching and would also enjoy home-field advantage.
The now-hated Houston Astros would have their work cut out for them with the powerful Minnesota Twins. America would probably be rooting for the Twinkies. But we’ll bet on the ‘Stros, who have won a title and a pennant in the past three seasons and retain much of their core, plus steadying veteran skipper Dusty Baker.
That leaves a showdown between the Yankees and Astros, with New York ace Gerrit Cole going against his former squad, which, prior to his arrival, eliminated the Yankees in the tainted ’17 American League Championship Series, among other subplots.
This one could go either direction and would surely ratchet up the drama, but let’s presume fate flips a coin and sends the Bronx Bombers to the World Series and the ‘Stros packing.
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Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
This is the Fall Classic MLB is dreaming of: baseball’s two most massive markets fighting for the game’s most glistening prize.
Anyone could win. Hopefully, it’d go seven games, which would be a distinct possibility. It’s folly to make a pick in February, but we’ll do it nonetheless.
The Dodgers will win in six. The Yankees will be denied championship No. 28 for at least a year. Los Angeles will get its first parade since 1988. Iconic players, including lefty Clayton Kershaw, will don long-overdue rings.
That’s based on Los Angeles’ addition of Betts and Price, who could revive his career in the NL West. Plus, the Dodgers just seem due. They’ve had a string of strong seasons and are starved for a championship.
That doesn’t always translate directly to a title, as Los Angeles has shown with a string of near misses. But at some point, a franchise as wealthy, loaded and perennially dangerous as this one is destined to cross the finish line.
With a stacked pitching staff and a deep lineup, here’s betting 2020 is when it happens, even against a club as powerful as the Yankees.
Or maybe not. It’s spring, after all.