X-New York Yankees 95-67
The last three years have been very interesting for the New York Yankees. The Yankees have made the playoffs in each of the last three years, but there they could not overcome the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox who respectively were each too much for them. In 2018, the Red Sox disposed of the Yankees, while in 2017 and 2019, it was the Astros who showed New York the door. And if losing were not enough, the Yankees have been stewing this off-season after the news broke about both the Red Sox and Astros were stealing signs over the last few years which has drawn the ire of the Bronx Bombers who now feel slighted. But even though that the Yankees are angry as they don’t know what could have been for them over the last three years, they must still find a way to get past that as they look to win the World Series for the first time in 11 years.
And as the Yankees have designs on winning the World Series in 2020, all eyes will be on their starting pitching. The Yankees may have publicly complained about the Astros stealing signs, but it didn’t prevent them from signing former Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole this off-season. After Cole began his Major League Baseball career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, he became a household name in his two seasons with the Astros. Last year Cole had his best season as he went 20-5 with an earned run average of 2.50, while also leading the American League in strikeouts with 326. And as Cole has been a nemesis of the Yankees in recent years, New York decided to bring him into the fold as both sides agreed on a nine-year deal for $324 million this off-season.
Make no mistake about it that Cole is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but is he ready for play in New York City? When it comes to free agency, it has been either hit or miss for the Yankees as some players have been unable to live up to the pressure that comes along with donning the pinstripes in the Bronx. However Cole checks all of the boxes in regards to being able to succeed with the Yankees, and he should be one of the best pitchers in the American League in 2020.
And the Yankees will need Cole to be on top of his game as they have a slew of question marks behind him in their starting rotation. Starting pitcher Domingo German was rolling last season as he posted a record of 18-4 in 24 starts for the Yankees. But German’s season was cut short after he violated Major League Baseball’s personal conduct policy which will carry over into 2020. MLB’s policy resulted in German missing the final 18 games of the regular season and playoffs in 2019, and he’ll also have to miss the first 63 games of this season.
After winning 19 games for New York in 2018, starting pitcher Luis Severino had to deal with an injury filled 2019 as he was only able to make three starts last season. However all signs pointed to Severino once again being a big part of the Yankees rotation until it was discovered last month that he will need Tommy John surgery that’ll put him on the shelf for the entire 2020 which is a huge blow for New York.
Along with Severino, starting pitcher James Paxton was expected to be a big part of the Yankees rotation this season after he won 15 games last season. But just as the injury bug his Severino last month, it struck Paxton as well as he underwent surgery that will sideline his 3-4 months.
In six years with the Yankees, starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has been solid, but he has never been able to live up to the immense hype that was heaped upon him after arriving from Japan. Tanaka has been able to succeed when he keeps his pitches in the lower part of the strike zone. But in two of the last three years, Tanaka has posted an earned run average that is well north of 4.00 as hitters have figured him out. However with Tanaka entering his final year of his deal with the Yankees, will he be able to put together his best season in the United States?
New York has relied heavily on their bullpen in recent years, and even though that they lost relief pitcher Dellin Betances to the New York Mets in free agency, the unit will still be solid. Relief pitchers Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino can be unhittable at times last season as each player posted an earned run average below 2.00 as they’ll now be the go-to guys for Yankees manager Aaron Boone in the seventh and eighth innings.
Relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman has ten years under his belt in Major League Baseball, and most hitters have still yet to figure out his electric fastball. And as Chapman turned 32 in February, he can still consistently hit 103 miles per hour on the radar gun as his pitches so difficult for opposing hitters to pick up coming off of his 6’4″ frame.
Decades ago the Yankees were given the nickname of “The Bronx Bombers”, and rightfully so as this team over the years has proven to be able hit with the best of them. The current Yankees can hold their own, and even with some injuries, this lineup will be okay in 2020.
Injuries have plagued outfielder Giancarlo Stanton throughout his career, and 2019 was a shining example of that as he missed 144 games. However all sings point to Stanton being healthy this season, and New York is hopeful that he can put up similar power numbers to what he accomplished in 2017 as a member of the Miami Marlins when he clubbed 59 homers en route to being named as the National League MVP. And a healthy Stanton will be a welcome sight for the Yankees as fellow outfielder Aaron Judge was sidelined in spring training with a pectoral injury that’ll see him miss a lengthy portion of the season.
But even without Judge, the Yankees can hold their own offensively as this lineup racked up 306 homers last season. In a short period of time, second baseman Gleyber Torres has established himself as being one of the better players at him position, while he has the potential go yard 40 times this season.
And even as injuries will also sideline players such as catcher Gary Sanchez at the beginning of the season, players such as first baseman D.J. LeMaheu who was second in the American League last season in batting average (.327) will be able to keep this offense afloat. Another player who will make the most of his opportunity this season will be outfielder Clint Frazier.Frazier has been a highly touted prospect in the Yankees system over the past several years, but with injuries to players such as Judge, while Stanton also has the propensity to be available, this is a golden opportunity for the coveted 25-year old to show what he can do as a power hitter.
After being so close in recent years, the theme for the 2020 Yankees will be redemption as they look to get back to the Fall Classic, and win it all for the first time since 2009.
Y-Tampa Bay Rays 91-71
The Tampa Bay Rays continue to be “the little engine the could” of Major League Baseball. The Rays continuously have one of the smallest payrolls in Major League Baseball, but that does not prevent them from competing at a high level. The Rays won 96 games last season which led to them earning the second wild card berth in the American League. Tampa Bay was not content with just making the playoffs as they traveled to Northern California and knocked off the Oakland Athletics in the A.L. Wild Card Game before they gave the Houston Astros all that they could handle in the divisional round. Yes, the Rays will once again be pesky in 2020, but will they have enough to win the A.L. East as well?
What allows the Rays to compete in the very tough American League East is their quality pitching. Last season the Rays led the A.L. in team earned run average (3.65), while they were second in opponent’s batting average (.230). After winning 21 games in 2018 en route to winning the A.L. Cy Young Award, starting pitcher Blake Snell took a huge step backwards in 2019 as he only posted a record of 6-8 with an earned run average of 4.29. Snell was not healthy last season, but he is expected to bounce back in 2020. And when Snell is healthy, he can give opposing hitters fits with his power fastball coming from his 6’4″ frame.
Aside from Snell, starting pitchers Ryan Yarbrough and Charlie Morton each have the potential to win 15 games. Last season Morton led Tampa Bay in victories with 16, and in the late stages of his career, he has become a power pitcher. In each of the last two seasons, Morton has reached the 200-strikeout plateau, and he will look to do it for a third consecutive year at the age of 36.
Tampa’s lineup is not filled with big named players, but one hitter to give an eye on will be outfielder Austin Meadows. The Rays acquired Meadows in 2018 as part of the deal that sent starting pitcher Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates. And Meadows has quickly developed into a quality Major League Baseball player as he led Tampa Bay in home runs last season en route to being selected to his first All-Star Game which is something that he should be able to build off of as he looks to make an even bigger impact in 2020.
The Rays will spend most 2020 flying under the radar once again, but come October, this team has what it takes to still be playing.
Boston Red Sox 86-76
After steamrolling over all of their competition in 2018 en route to winning the World Series, the Boston Red Sox took a huge step back last year. The Red Sox won 108 games in 2018 to win the American League East, but last year they were only able to win 84 in 2019 which saw them finish in third place. Fans in Boston are accustomed to seeing their beloved Red Sox contend for the postseason as they’ve made the playoff in four of the last six seasons, while they’ve won four World Series Titles since 2004, but things will be very different for this club in 2020 as they are in flux.
When the Red Sox won it all in 2018, they did with the help of Alex Cora as their manager. Cora joined the Red Sox fresh off of being the bench coach in 2017 for the Houston Astros when they won the World Series. And upon coming to Boston, Cora looked to infuse some of what the Astros had into the Red Sox. But unfortunately for Cora, he was linked to the Astros “sign stealing scandal” that rocked Major League Baseball this off-season, and as a result of this, he is no longer the manager of the Red Sox.
This forced the Red Sox to his the reset button as they’ve now chosen former Milwaukee Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke to replace Cora as their manager. What Roenicke brings to the table is five years worth of managerial experience which includes leading the Brewers to one National League Central Divisional Title. But Roenicke will be facing his toughest test as a manager as he looks to keep the Red Sox afloat amidst their turmoil.
Aside from losing Cora, the Red Sox will enter the new season without their best player over the last several years. After being unable to sign outfielder Mookie Betts to a long-term deal, the Red Sox decided that it would be in their best interest to trade the former American League MVP. And the Red Sox were able to find a trading partner as Betts is a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Betts trade would see Boston get some quality prospects such as Alex Verdugo in return, but it’s going to be difficult to replace the talent of a four-time All-Star who also has four American League Gold Gloves to his credit.
The Red Sox still have talent in their lineup as shortstop Xander Bogaerts is coming off of his best season. Bogaerts has come into his own in regards to being a patient hitter which is evident by his career-best .384 on-base percentage last season. Bogaerts also has plenty of pop in his bat as well, but he must improve his fielding at short as he committed 10 errors last season.
Third baseman Rafael Devers is now the everyday guy at the hot corner in Boston as he knows how to hit for power and drive in runs. Devers is only 23-years of age, but he has the potential to go yard 40 times this season. However just like it is for Bogaerts, Devers must improve his defense at third as he committed 22 errors last season for Boston.
Designated hitter J.D. Martinez had his breakout season in 2015 as a member of the Detroit Tigers, and he was vital member of the Red Sox when they won it all. Martinez has tremendous control at the plate from the standpoint that he is a very patient hit which is a rarity for sluggers. And just as Martinez has skyrocketed to stardom, you can expect him to once again be one of the more feared sluggers in the American League.
Boston will hit in 2020, but will they find enough pitching to keep them afloat in the American League East? Aside from trading Betts, the Sox also shipped starting pitcher David Price to Los Angeles. The elbow issues that were prevalent for starting pitcher Chris Sale in 2019 have once again arose as Tommy John surgery will sideline him in 2020. Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez came out of nowhere to win 19 games last year for the Red Sox, but will he be able to replicate that success in 2020 after he led the A.L. in walks last year with 175? And after Rodriguez, the Red Sox are extremely thin in their rotation which means that the bullpen which includes the likes of relief pitchers Marcus Walden and Brandon Workman will be taxed this season.
Last year the Red Sox were done in by a long West Coast trip to begin the season which they were never able to recover from. However this season things will be different as their first ten games will be against teams that finished last season with a losing record which includes a four-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays and three with the Baltimore Orioles.
Toronto Blue Jays 73-89
The Toronto Blue are full on in regards to their rebuild, but the future is bright for this club north of the border. The Blue Jays have some of Major League Baseball’s brightest young stars on their roster which has created quite a buzz around this team heading into the new season. But just how close is Toronto in regards to once again contending for a playoff spot?
Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. burst onto the scene as he showed the potential that many observers were talking about. In 123 games with the Jays last season, Guerrero hit 15 home runs while also driving in 69 runs. Guerrero finished sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, and going forward the biggest thing for him will be being able to develop the natural talent that he has been blessed with.
Like Guerrero, shortstop Bo Bichette is the son of a former Major League Baseball player as he dad Dante helped the Colorado Rockies reach the postseason for the first time in 1995. In just 46 games last year as a rookie, Bichette showed that he is a very polished hitter as he hit .311 to go along with an on-base percentage of .358. Bichette has also quickly figured out how to navigate the gaps in the outfield at the Rogers Centre, and his ability to spray the baseball around will be vital to the success of the Blue Jays going forward.
Second baseman Cavan Biggio is the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio who finished his Major League Baseball career with 3,060 hits. And although that the younger Biggio has not yet learned how to hit for average like his father did, he has a knack for getting on base, while he also hit 16 home runs last season to finish fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Toronto will enter the new campaign looking to improve a pitching staff that had a team earned run average of 4.79. Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins went out to this off-season seeking to improve the Jays pitching staff as he signed former Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year deal for $80 million.
Ryu joins Toronto after he led the National League in earned run average last season at 2.32, but you have to be skeptical about a pitcher who will turn 33-years of age this month who was just able to put together his best season in Major League Baseball.
The Blue Jays are still several years away from being contenders in the American League East, but they will be an exciting club to watch in 2020.
Baltimore Orioles 50-106
Believe it or not there was a time when the Baltimore Orioles franchise was the envy of Major League Baseball. From 1966-1983, the Orioles won three World Series Titles in six trips to the Fall Classic as “The Oriole Way” was in full effect. But by the 2000’s, the winning ways of the Orioles had dissolved to the point that the franchise failed to record a winning season during the decade. Baltimore would enjoy a rebirth in the early-to-mid 2010’s which included three playoff appearances and an American League East Title. But the losing that has smothered this franchise over the last 20 years has once again resurfaced as the O’s set a club record by losing 115 games in 2018, which was followed up by suffering defeat 108 more times in 2019. The baseball fans in Baltimore have to once again get accustomed to a term that they are all too familiar with in regards to their beloved team which is “rebuilding”. And as not much is expected of the Orioles here in 2020, will they find a way to be a factor in the A.L. East?
One everyday player to keep an eye on for Baltimore will be outfielder Trey Mancini. Mancini now has three full years under his belt with the O’s, and he is coming off of his best season as he blasted 35 home runs in 2019 to go along with a .291 batting average. Mancini is a solid player, but he is not a star; however he’ll be vital to the Orioles in 2020 as he is one of the few players on this roster that gives the fan base in Baltimore hope.
Starting pitcher John Means was the only hurler for Baltimore last season who won at least 10 games. Last year the Orioles were last in the American League in team earned average (5.59), while they were 13th in opponents batting average (.271). And as no returning starting pitcher for Baltimore was able to make at least 30 starts in 2019, don’t expect that much to chance for this unit.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has the difficult task of attempting to navigate the Orioles through this rebuild. And after Hyde didn’t have any success in year one in Baltimore, it won”t be that much better for him the second time around as the other teams in the American League East will look to beat up on the beleaguered Orioles once more.