Can Gerrit Cole lead the Yankees to the promised land, or will the loaded Dodgers stand in their way? And which team(s) could spoil the big-market expectations?
Sixty predictions for the abbreviated 60-game baseball season:
- The Orioles struggle to the worst record in the league, padding their farm system with yet another top draft pick.
- Chris Davis hits closer to the .262 average he posted in 2015 than his .179 mark from last season.
BOSTON RED SOX
- Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez officially overtakes the injured Chris Sale as ace of the Red Sox.
- Boston doesn’t repeat the mistake it made with Mookie Betts, locking up third baseman Rafael Devers to a long-term contract before he makes it to arbitration.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
- Outfielder Luis Robert will become a household name once he arrives on Chicago’s South Side for his big-league debut, with veteran slugger Jose Abreu taking him under his wing to help with the transition.
- The White Sox will miss 24-year-old right-hander Michael Kopech, who could have provided a key difference at the back end of the rotation before he opted out of the 2020 season.
- The Indians will announce a name change at some point during the 2020 season, likely the Spiders in a nod to the city’s baseball history.
- Cleveland will take the division race down to the final weekend, but ultimately fall short of the Twins in the American League Central race for the second year in a row.
- Right-hander Casey Mize will reach the big leagues during the 2020 season, but it might not be pretty right away against the slugging lineups of Detroit’s AL Central rivals.
- The Tigers will avoid a last-place finish thanks to the additions of C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, who will help shore up a soft lineup from a season ago.
- The Astros might not miss reigning AL strikeout and ERA champion Gerrit Cole during the shortened regular season, but they will if they have to face his new team, the Yankees, in the playoffs.
- Carlos Correa should have a bounce-back season after playing in just 75 games last year because of injuries, with a return to his All-Star form of 2017 likely.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
- Whit Merrifield will continue to be one of the best under-the-radar players in the big leagues, though he continues to go virtually unnoticed on a losing roster in Kansas City.
- Jorge Soler will capture a second consecutive AL home run title after pounding 48 long balls last season, though 20 might be the top total in the shortened campaign.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
- The addition of Anthony Rendon, who led the majors in RBIs last season while guiding the Nationals to their first World Series championship, will give the Angels the best 1-2 punch in baseball with three-time MVP Mike Trout.
- The shortened season and a potent offense will give the Angels a chance to make a run at the postseason, but their starting pitching will again be their downfall. The key might be whether two-way standout Shohei Ohtani is healthy enough to provide quality innings on the mound.
- After slugging a major-league-record 307 homers a year ago, the Twins will lead the majors in home runs for the second straight season.
- Right-hander Jake Odorizzi will turn in his best season yet, albeit with a small sample size of 12 or so starts, before he hits free agency in the offseason.
NEW YORK YANKEES
- Catcher Gary Sanchez leads the league in home runs for the short season, going on a tear reminiscent of his 2016 rookie season.
- After a slow start, prized right-hander Gerrit Cole turns it on down the stretch to lead the Yankees to the World Series, where they fall to the Dodgers.
- The Athletics’ bright young staff has brought comparisons to the days when Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito were starting their big-league careers. Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo could help Oakland end its postseason misery.
- Bob Melvin, who has two AL Manager of the Year awards and has reached the postseason five times in nine seasons with Oakland, will start to be appreciated. His calm style will have the A’s in contention again.
- The Mariners would love to replicate their 13-2 start of 2019, but more likely they will contend for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. The focus will turn to their top prospects, led by 21-year-old outfielder Jarred Kelenic, who might make his major league debut.
- Seattle will use the shortened season to determine whether outfielder Kyle Lewis, second baseman Shed Long, shortstop J.P. Crawford and first baseman Evan White are every-day players and where lefty Justus Sheffield and right Justin Dunn fit in their future rotation.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
- Left-hander Blake Snell regains his 2018 AL Cy Young Award form, making the Rays a serious threat come playoff time. Snell went from 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA in 2018 to 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA last year.
- Outfielder Manuel Margot breaks out, following in the footsteps of Austin Meadows as the next great Rays player to leave the team that traded him shaking its head. Margot and minor league outfielder Logan Driscoll came from the Padres in exchange for right-hander Emilio Pagan.
- Teams generally try to make a push to be contenders when opening a new stadium. The Rangers might be the exception, although their veteran staff, which includes newcomer Corey Kluber, a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner, might be good enough to keep them in the running in a 60-game season.
- Slugger Joey Gallo made strides at the plate last season, batting a career-high .253 (he hadn’t hit above .209 in his first four seasons). If his wrist has healed after surgery, he could take another leap.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. makes a run at a batting title, an honor that surprisingly eluded his Hall of Fame father during his 16-year major league career. The younger Guerrero hit just .249 in the first half of his rookie season last year, but he improved to .293 after the All-Star break.
- The Blue Jays won’t see Canada again until 2021. After their plan to set up shop in Pittsburgh was scuttled Wednesday, they may end up having to play without a settled home site, taking the last at-bat in half of their games in other clubs’ venues.
- After finishing 12th in NL Most Valuable Player voting in 2018 (while winning Rookie of the Year) and coming in fifth last year, Ronald Acuna Jr. moves up even further on the list.
- The Braves make a strong push deep into the postseason before ultimately losing to the Dodgers.
- Robbie Ray will look more like the 2017 All-Star who delivered a 2.89 ERA than the 2019 struggler who had a 4.34 ERA. He will team with Madison Bumgarner to give the Diamondbacks two strong left-handers in the rotation.
- After the tragic death of his wife during the offseason, outfielder Starling Marte finds comfort in the desert and delivers one of his best seasons.
- Kris Bryant might have lost a season of service time when his grievance failed, but he makes up for it with a season that significantly boosts his free agent prospects for 2022.
- The veteran Cubs rotation of Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood shows its age and the Cubs miss the playoffs.
- The high strikeout totals of Eugenio Suarez continue, but so does the offensive production. A season after hitting 49 home runs, he improves on his 15th-place MVP finish.
- Right-hander Raisel Iglesias and left-hander Amir Garrett team up to give the Reds one of the more formidable back ends of a bullpen in the NL.
- With talk he could be traded, and after expressing disappointment the team did not improve its roster in the offseason, All-Star Nolan Arenado renews his commitment to Colorado.
- Left-hander Kyle Freeland moves closer to his 2.85 ERA from 2018 than his 6.73 mark from last season.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
- The long wait for a title by Dodgers fans will end with a World Series triumph, but will the team’s faithful be satisfied having not witnessed it in person?
- Right-hander Brusdar Graterol, and his 100 mph fastball, will get a chance to close at least a few games this season. He arrived in the Kenta Maeda trade with the Twins.
- Infielder Jonathan Villar, first baseman Jesus Aguilar and outfielder Corey Dickerson all draw attention at the trade deadline.
- The Marlins will finish with the worst record in the NL, which would mark their third consecutive last-place finish in the NL East. Their 16-year playoff drought longest in the league and second-longest in the majors will never be in danger of ending.
- In his return from a broken kneecap, former NL Most Valuable Player Christian Yelich struggles at the outset before getting into contention for September Player of the Month honors.
- Outfielder Avisail Garcia finds his first season in the NL to his liking and is a key contributor for the offense.
NEW YORK METS
- First baseman Pete Alonso does it again and leads the NL in home runs for the second time in his two major league seasons.
- Rick Porcello, the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2016, pitches far better than the combined 4.79 ERA he posted over the past three seasons as he tried out the NL for size.
- With no fans in the stands and a sense of urgency from the 60-game schedule, Bryce Harper looks more like the guy who signed a $330 million deal than the player whose batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage were all below his career norms last year.
- After recording a 3.87 ERA in 2019, Aaron Nola goes back to earning Cy Young Award votes again as he did in 2018 when he finished third following a 17-6, 2.37 season.
- The shorter season does wonders for 31-year-old right hander Chris Archer, who will be more than a run better than his career-worst 5.19 ERA last season.
- After producing a 7.13 ERA in 11 starts last season as a rookie, right-hander Mitch Keller establishes himself as a rotation piece for the future.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
- Right-hander Chris Paddack announces himself as an ace of the future with a sub-2.50 ERA that improves on his 3.33 mark last season.
- Third baseman Manny Machado shows more consistency than he did in his first season at San Diego in 2019, but shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. shows more MVP potential after an impressive rookie season.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
- With the benefit of having already played in a major league game without fans in 2015, Jeff Samardzija improves on his 3.52 ERA from last season.
- The Giants end up with their fourth consecutive losing season, matching the worst run in franchise history.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
- Right-hander Jack Flaherty picks up right where he left off in the second half of 2019, when he was 7-2 with a 0.91 ERA in 15 starts.
- With Jordan Hicks out after Tommy John surgery, fellow right-hander Carlos Martinez continues to thrive in the closer’s role after recording 24 saves last season.
- Left fielder Juan Soto continues to establish himself as a force in the NL, improving on his ninth-place finish in 2019 MVP voting.
- Carter Kieboom struggles to fill the shoes of Anthony Rendon at third base, but he shows enough to prove that he eventually will be a more-than-adequate replacement.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)