If not for COVID-19, today would have been MLB Opening Day. Shane Bieber would have toed the rubber and the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers would have played Game No. 1 of 162. Now, we have no idea if/when baseball will resume, and how many games will be played. Below are my predictions for what would have been the 2020 MLB season. Chances are, no matter when the season gets started, they’ll be wrong. A 81 or 144-game season will look a lot different than a 162-game season. But I miss baseball, so I figured I’d publish these predictions anyways. Hopefully reading about baseball gives us all a little respite from everything else going on right now. So enjoy!
This offseason will forever be remembered for the “Banging Scheme.” The Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal took with it three managers, one general manager, and riled up almost every player and fanbase across the country. The likes of Mike Trout and Trevor Bauer spoke out against the Astros atrocities, while the Astros bungled each statement after the next.
But now, it is finally time for some baseball. Not that the sign-stealing drama is going to die down. But after four months of the offseason, it’s finally time for Shane Bieber and Corey Kluber and Jake Flaherty and Gerritt Cole to toe the rubber. The New York Yankees added one of the best pitchers in baseball, the Boston Red Sox traded a former MVP, to the World Series-favorite Los Angeles Dodgers no less and the Los Angeles Angels finally got Mike Trout some help – albeit in the infield and not on the mound.
I’ve predicted at least one of the World Series participants correctly in each of the last three years, including nailing my Cubs over Indians’ prediction in 2016, though I really do wish I had gotten that one flipped. So you can take these to the bank. Congrats Rays and Dodgers’ fans: one of your teams’ is probably going to make the World Series. But please don’t blame me if/when they don’t. Baseball is an unpredictable sport filled with random variation. As they say: “You can’t predict baseball.” So enough with the introduction, here are my 2020 MLB Predictions
Statistical Credits: Baseball Savant and FanGraphs
|AL EAST||AL CENTRAL||AL WEST|
|Red Sox||83-79||White Sox||80-82||Angels||85-77|
AL Wild Cards: New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics
- AL East: Gerritt Cole (6.4 fWAR (ZiPS Projection)) was exactly the type of offseason addition the Yankees needed. But with injuries already starting to pile up with Luis Severino out for the season and Aaron Judge and James Paxton on the mend, it’ll be the Tampa Bay Rays who come out of the AL East on top in 2020. Charlie Morton (3.8 fWAR) lead one of the best rotations in the MLB, while a retooled offensive should give the Rays more power in 2020. Add in a deep bullpen and one of the best farm systems in baseball, and it might add up to an AL East crown. Boston comes in a distant third after trading Mookie Betts and David Price, while the Blue Jays are still a year away with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3.1 fWAR) still figuring things out. As for the Orioles, they’ll once again be the worst team in baseball. But hey, the 2019 No. 1-overall pick, Adley Rushman, is only a year or two away from the majors!
- AL Central: While the Indians, once again, cut payroll this offseason with the Corey Kluber trade, Minnesota and Chicago both improved their respective rosters. Though the Twins didn’t land a top-flight starter, they did add Josh Donaldson (4.0 fWAR), to an already potent lineup, as well as a number of intriguing rotation options in Kenta Maeda (2.7 fWAR), Rich Hill (1.7 fWAR) and Homer Bailey (1.0 fWAR). The White Sox made free agent or trade acquisitions all across their roster, headlined by Yasmani Grandal (5.1 fWAR) and Dallas Keuchel (2.4 fWAR). The Twins’ offseason should solidify their position atop the Central, while Chicago could challenge the Indians for second place. As for the cellar dwellers, Kansas City and Detroit will be more respectable than Baltimore, especially if the Tigers call up some of their young arms, but it’ll still be a long season for both squads.
- AL West: The sign-stealing scandal is never going to go away, but the Astros are still one of the best teams in baseball. Alex Bregman (6.7 fWAR) and Jose Altuve (4.4 fWAR) headline one of the best offensives in baseball, while Houston has more than enough pitching depth behind Justin Verlander (5.4 fWAR) to at least shoulder the loss of Cole. The Athletics will once again make the West a two-team race, but with a couple holes in their lineup, and a young, albeit potentially very talented rotation, Oakland’s best bet this year is probably another wild card. The Angels finally surrounded Mike Trout (9.1 fWAR), the best player in baseball, with more talent, but even with a healthy Shohei Ohtani (4.4 fWAR), Los Angeles just doesn’t have enough pitching to compete with the Astros and Athletics just yet. In a new ballpark, Texas should make some strides, especially with the addition of Kluber (3.6 fWAR), but the Rangers are still a year or two away. As for the Mariners, they’re starting to put together an impressive farm system, but this year they’re probably in for another 90+ loss season.
|NL EAST||AL CENTRAL||AL WEST|
NL Wild Cards: Washington Nationals and New York Mets
- NL East: Though the Nationals are the reigning champs, they should be in for a dogfight in a loaded NL East. With an impressive collection of young talent, headlined by Ronald Acuna Jr. (4.7 fWAR), plus a plethora of prospects to potentially trade for a Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado at the deadline, it’ll be the Atlanta Braves that once again come out on top in the East. With Stephen Strasburg (5.3 fWAR) back in the fold, Washington should be right behind them, though a gaping hole at third base could be an issue. With a new manager, the New York Mets should be in the mix as well, they certainly have the talent, but things do tend to go awry quite often in Flushing. A rotation led by Jacob deGrom (6.1 fWAR) should be enough to squeak the Mets into the postseason though, barring another bullpen collapse. Philadelphia should also find themselves in the mix, but another big offseason splash in Zach Wheeler (3.5 fWAR) probably wasn’t enough to vault the Phillies past either of the Top 3 teams in the NL East. And the Marlins, with a couple offseason moves, might be respectable, but respectable won’t yield more than 60-65 wins, at best.
- NL Central: The NL Central Champion Cincinnati Reds. It might be a little crazy, but after offseason additions of Mike Moustakas (2.3 fWAR), Nicholas Castellanos (1.4 fWAR) and Shogo Akiyama (1.1 fWAR), Cincinnati might just do it. The Reds have the lineup, while Trevor Bauer (4.4 fWAR) and Luis Castillo (3.9 fWAR) headline what might be the best rotation in the division. The Cubs did practically nothing this offseason, have an aging rotation behind the oft-injured Yu Darvish (4.0 fWAR) and continue to talk about trading some of their veteran pieces. Milwaukee gave Christian Yelich (5.6 fWAR) a monster extension, but let too many pieces walk in free agency, while the St. Louis Cardinals have to many questions on offense with the departure of Marcell Ozuna. Of course, then there’s the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have decided not to spend and instead will spend the next 2-4 years at the bottom of the NL Central.
- NL West: The Los Angeles Dodgers won 106 games in 2019, and then they added Mookie Betts (5.4 fWAR) and David Price (2.9 fWAR). Just give them the division title already. The Padres and Diamondbacks may have put up a fight without those two additions, but instead, they’ll be left competing with the Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals for a wild card spot. San Diego’s farm system is finally starting to bear fruit, with Fernando Tatis Jr. (3.9 fWAR) on the rise and MacKenzie Gore on the way. The Diamondbacks made a few shrewd moves this offseason, adding Starling Marte (2.6 fWAR) and Madison Bumgarner (2.4 fWAR) and have done a stellar job avoiding a complete tank, with a number of outfield prospects on their way. The Giants have just begun a rebuild of their own while the Rockies, man, what’s up with the Rockies. Just a few years ago, Colorado almost won the division, and now it looks like they should trade Arenado and tear it all down.
Wild Card Round
New York Yankees over Oakland Athletics
Washington Nationals over New York Mets
New York Yankees over Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays over Minnesota Twins
Los Angeles Dodgers over Washington Nationals
Atlanta Braves over Cincinnati Reds
Tampa Bay Rays over New York Yankees
Los Angeles Dodgers over Atlanta Braves
Los Angeles Dodgers over Tampa Bay Rays
- World Series MVP: Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers
- AL MVP: Mike Trout, OF, Angels
- NL MVP: Mookie Betts, OF, Dodgers
- AL Cy Young: Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins
- NL Cy Young: Luis Castillo, RHP, Reds
- AL Rookie of the Year: Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays
- NL Rookie of the Year: Gavin Lux, 2B, Dodgers
- AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash, Rays
- NL Manager of the Year: David Bell, Reds