After much delay and speculation, the new baseball season is almost upon us with a 60-game schedule providing us with plenty of questions and not too many answers heading into the new campaign.
But despite all the upheaval, 30 teams are ready to play ball once again with all the excitement and anticipation the start of any new season brings.
So on the eve of what’s sure to be one of the most unique campaigns in living memory, here’s a look at each division, team-by-team, and just what we might expect following that eagerly anticipated first pitch.
American League West
Without doubt, the Houston Astros are the team to beat in the American League West as they look to repeat last year’s 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 have high hopes for 2020 after a busy offseason that saw them hire Joe Maddon as their new manager and make a huge splash by signing third baseman Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $245 million deal to join stars Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, as the Angels look to make the postseason for the first time since 2014.
The Oakland Athletics won 97 games last season, though they made no significant offseason upgrades so will have to make do with what they have if they are to improve on that record.
The Texas Rangers acquired veterans Corey Kluber and Todd Frazier in the offseason and appear intent on contending as they move into their new home, but with a 78-84 finish in 2019 have plenty of work to do.
The Seattle Mariners won just 68 games in 2019 and after making no meaningful trades, it’s probably wise to expect more of the same—and perhaps even a regression—in 2020.
American League Central
Having added the services of third baseman Josh Donaldson to an already impressive lineup, the Minnesota Twins are favorites to repeat the American League Central championship they won in 2019.
During a free agent spending spree this offseason, the Chicago White Sox added catcher Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel and Edwin Encarnacion, veteran additions who will be paired with a large pool of talented young players, helping this team look like it is finally ready to compete.
Having dealt Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers the Cleveland Indians look like a team somewhere between an organization in transition and a side in freefall and it’s difficult to see them making a significant move in 2020.
Perhaps the most interesting battle in this division is the one to avoid finishing in last place which looks certain to be between the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals, who made no notable trades or signings and will only battle it out for the wooden spoon.
American League East
After signing ace Gerrit Cole to bolster their starting rotation, not to mention a strong bullpen to support their dangerous lineup, it’s no surprise that the New York Yankees are many people’s favourites for the 2020 World Series and that’s’ despite injuries to starting pitchers Luis Severino and James Paxton.
The Tampa Bay Rays led the AL with a 3.65 ERA in 2019 and have since added powerful bats in Jose Martinez, Hunter Renfroe and Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo as they look to be the only real challengers to the Yankees in 2020.
Having traded franchise outfielder Mookie Betts and lefty David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers it’s difficult to see the Boston Red Sox make any kind of challenge this year and can probably be filed in the “Team in Transition” section.
Rising stars such as third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and shortstop Bo Bichette have given Toronto Blue Jays fans something to get excited about this year, but the reality is, they look at least 12-months away from being a .500+ team.
As for the Baltimore Orioles, the only real talking point is whether they’ll stay over the 100-loss mark.
National League West
The Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988, bt the acquisition of outfielder Mookie Betts and lefty David Price from the Boston Red Sox has only improved a roster which was pretty useful anyway, meaning they could be in a position to finally mount a challenge.
By signing left-hander and 2019 postseason legend Madison Bumgarner, not to mention employing the services of centre fielder Starling Marte from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Arizona Diamondbacks are certainly laying down a marker for the truncated 2020 season.
With a plethora of young talent, headlined by budding superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., The San Diego Padres have plenty to be optimistic about, but despite being severely delayed, the 2020 season may have come a little too early for them to mount a serious challenge.
The Colorado Rockies did nothing to improve their fourth-place roster in 2019, meaning it’s unlikely they will pose anything like a serious threat and will most likely consolidate.
Meanwhile, 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.
National League Central
Last season’s NL Central winners, the St. Louis Cardinals may have lost outfielder Marcell Ozuna to free agency but their roster looks deep enough to be able to repeat that feat once more in 2020.
The Milwaukee Brewers have lost the services of catcher Yasmani Grandal and infielder Mike Moustakas, but more than made up for it with the addition of outfielder Avisail Garcia, first baseman Justin Smoak and infielder Ryon Healy, not to mention welcoming back 2019 NL MVP runner-up Christian Yelich back from injury.
The Chicago Cubs went 84-78 in 2019, eventually missing out on the playoffs, but if new manager David Ross can turn around his team’s defence, there is nothing stopping them going one step further this year.
By prizing Moustakas away from the Brewers, while adding versatile veteran Nick Castellanos and Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama, not to mention, Pedro Strop and Wade Miley, the Cincinnatti Reds could just be an outsider for the division.
As for the Pittsburgh Pirates, when they let Starling Marte go to Arizona, they all but waved goodbye to any chance they had of contending in 2020 and will do well to avoid last place.
National League East
Having added outfielder Marcell Ozuna, closer Will Smith and veterans Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez to bolster their starting rotation, not to mention plenty of young talent at their disposal, it’s probably no surprise that the Atlanta Braves are the favorites to win a third straight NL East crown.
But don’t write off the New York Mets, who The New York Mets signed free agent Dellin Betances as well as 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.
As for the defending champions, the Washington Nationals, they extended righty Stephen Strasburg, as well as adding ace Max Scherzer, who joins plenty of young stars, including 21-year-old outfielder Juan Soto who featured in that 2019 World Series victory.
The Philadelphia Phillies look like being little more than also-rans in the NL East in 2020 with a lack of a proven stars and plenty of questions hanging over the bullpen.
Meanwhile, despite some interesting young starlets to complement decent veteran additions such as Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson and Matt Kemp, it’s difficult to see past the Miami Marlins being the whipping boys of the division in the coming season.
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