Baseball is starting to seem like a real possibility in 2020 again, but there are some stipulations. Not only will it be without fans, but the schedule and divisions will most likely be adjusted as well.
In particular, it seems that the NL and AL are merging for the year. Effectively creating three, 10-team divisions based on geographic location. The whole West World is combining forces.
This would make the Dodger’s year far more competitive as we noted in our last update on the 2020 MLB season. This West collectively had the best record out of all of these divisions in 2019 and added new stars like Rendon, Betts, and Kluber. Plus the West accounts for 6 of the top 10 farm systems in baseball.
But how does the season look in this 10-team division for the once postseason-locked Dodgers. We gave our Power Rankings of the new West World Division.
We’re biased here, but the Dodger’s are arguably better than their 106 win team last year. We lost Ryu, Maeda, Verdugo, Hill, and some other contributors. However, we gained Mookie Betts, David Price, Brusdar Graterol, Alex Wood, Jimmy Nelson, and Blake Treinen.
The playoff rotation of Buehler, Kershaw, and any mix of Price/Urias/May is deadly. The bullpen gained a flamethrower and a closer 1 year removed from one of the best seasons we’ve seen in decades. And of course, Mookie freaking Betts at the top of the lineup everyday and he may not even be our best player.
If anything, a shortened season will help the Dodgers with their mix of tired veterans, and growing stars. It will take a lot for the Dodgers to not settle into a playoff role this year. Whatever this season becomes, if the Dodgers win the equivalent of the World Series, no one will discredit this team’s greatness.
And as much as we hate to say it, the Astros still come in at 2nd until we see how much they truly depended on their trash scam. They lost Gerrit Cole and aces Verlander and Greinke got a year older.
Yordan Alvarez will forever haunt the Dodger’s front office. They hope top prospects Whitley and Urquidy can solidify into front end starters. But after that, the farm system is officially dry.
So while the Astros are running out of time, they still have Cy Young pitching at the front of the rotation, a lock down bullpen, and a lineup loaded with hitters. However, they’re in the decline and are officially the new super villains of the league. Everyone will be at their best against them.
Considering their punishment included lost draft picks, it will take trades or time to replenish the Astros farm system. Either way they will lose talent in the now. It’s either that, or their stars will for the most part leave and try to forget their disgraced title and the Astros empire will begin to decline.
There’s potential for them to miss the playoffs this year and begin their slide into mediocrity. But the more likely scenario is they spend another year competing to make the playoffs and prove the haters wrong.
Year after year this team is underrated for some reason. They won almost a 100 games and most MLB fans could not name their two Gold Glovers or even their MVP finalist for some reason.
They did lose minor contributors in Phegley, Roark, Treinen, Anderson, and Profar. But they didn’t lose any of their key cogs. In fact they hope to add 3 new ones from their farm system.
They have two LHP studs in Luzardo and Puk. And with a shortened season, both can be inserted in the rotation for the full year. Their defensive stud of a catcher, Sean Murphy, will also see consistent playing time this next year shifting Oakland to a new head battery.
Other than that, they didn’t make many off season moves besides keeping Diekman to an already solid pen. But they really didn’t need to add anyone. Their pen and starting rotation are very competitive with a high ceiling. They have underrated studs at every position besides 2nd base where they are looking for someone to step up.
As long as they stay healthy, the A’s will be looking to get the recognition they deserve this year. And if they stay under the radar, the Dodgers and Astros could be surprised and be looking up at the A’s by the end of the season.
The Rangers gave themselves a nice lineup shift. They traded away Mazara, DeShields, Top Prospect Clase (who was just suspended for PEDs), and lost veterans Forsythe and Pence to FA.
However, they signed veteran Catcher Chirinos, 3B Todd Fraizer, and gave out minor league contracts to a litter of older players looking to rebound like Cody Allen, Matt Duffy, Derek Law, Edison Volquez, and more. Which is good because the bullpen is an area of weakness and there’s plenty of room for competition.
But everywhere else the Rangers are solid. The rotation is now 5 dependable veterans in Kluber, Minor, Lynn, Gibson, and Lyles. Lynn and Minor enjoyed resurgences last year. Kluber is hoping for the same after his injuries and they could provide a very scary 3 headed monster.
The lineup as well has serious potential. Joey Gallo was on an MVP pace before a broken hand. Danny Santana showed 5 tool potential. Andrus is solid year in, year out. Calhoun was a top prospect not too long ago. Choo continues to produce. Chirinos only has to hit .200 to be a better catcher for them. And Top Prospect Solar is looking to make his impact this year.
However, they just don’t have the depth to truly compete with these top tier teams. It will have to be an incredibly lucky season for the Rangers for them to sneak into playoffs.
We’ve already done a full deep dive on the Padres. So we’ll try to keep it brief when justifying why the NL West last place Padres, are actually the second best team in the division this year.
They drastically underperformed last year largely due to Tatis missing half the season, overestimating other prospects too quickly, and a rough starting rotation.
Tatis brought together an otherwise incoherent lineup. He helped put traffic on the bases for a slugger heavy lineup. He scored 61 runs and drove in 53 from the top of the lineup in only 84 games. They were 39-44 in games Tatis played vs 31-48 in games without him. That’s a win % of .464 vs .392.
Chris Paddack started the year out eyeing the Cy Young with a 1.91 ERA in his first 6 starts. He was still able to finish the year 9-7 with a 3.33 ERA but struggled month to month as better teams began to figure out his 2-pitch combo. Still he was the ace of a rotation that was otherwise average at best. Disappointing for a team with a closer with a 358 ERA+.
But that was last year. Tatis is now healthy and it’s a shortened season. Paddack has added a new pitch to his arsenal. Padres added long shots Brian Dozier and Jurickson Profar for an opening at 2B and Juan Lagares for OF help. They added pitching depth in SP/RP Drew Pomeranz, emerging RP stud Emilio Pagan, and a bundle of relievers on MiLB contracts that will probably have a chance with expanded rosters. Lastly the big acquisition of the winter was Tommy Pham, one of the few 20-20 threats with a batting average left in the Show
Top 100 Prospects LHP Mackenzie Gore, RHP Luis Patino, and OF Taylor Trammell are all ready to break into the league. The way they talk about Gore, you have to worry that he and Paddack become the next Greinke Kershaw death combo.
Overall the Padres added Depth just about everywhere while building a more balanced lineup. If their prospects all take a step forward next year, they could become the surprise of the west in a short season. If not, they’re still on the climb for years to come.
Although there was a large gap, the D-backs came in 2nd in the Nl West last year and were projected 3rd this year. They were arguably a surprise with Ketel Marte emerging as a possible superstar with a big supporting cast of other over achievers.
They don’t have any significant help expected to come from their farm this year, although they are the #6th overall so surprises could happen. They instead went to the stove.
The big fish was signing Madison Bumgarner. After that, they turned the outfield into a strength by adding Starling Marte, Kole Calhoun, and Jon Jay. they also signed plenty of bullpen help like Junior Guerra and Hector Rondon. Beyond that, they arguably replaced anyone they lost on the market with a better player.
The Diamondbacks are good, but they don’t really stand a chance against the heavyweights in this division. Their only hope is sneaking into the playoffs and getting a 2014 Bumgarner performance.
The Angels are another team that constantly seems to underperform for a team with Mike Trout. This offseason they signed top dog Anthony Rendon, Julio Teheran, Dylan Bundy, Jason Castro, and again, a bunch of relief pitchers for cheap.
They lost Calhoun, but no one else of particular value. Joe Maddon worked miracles for a once lost Cubs organization. Rendon is a 6 WAR player in himself mixed with most likely 2020 MVP Mike Trout. Top 10 Prospect Jo Adell wants his shot in the outfield. Castro is average, but still better than what the Angels had last year. But their offense hasn’t been the issue. It’s their pitching.
Teheran is consistently slightly above average and statcast still supports that despite his slow speed. And Bundy is supposedly very unlucky and it could be the fact that he played for a hopeless Orioles squad. And if Heaney can stay healthy, he may be able to produce to his once lofty expectations. But their pen is still shaky beyond Robles, and Robles is not an elite closer by any measure.
They will probably regret pulling the Rengifo –Pederson/Stripling trade for a while. Stripling would be the ace of this team, and Pederson a top 10 contributor to WAR. Puljos is still an anchor on this lineup and the farm doesn’t have much to offer.
The offense will produce, but how many games will pitching throw away? Most likely, the Angels will try and sell any short term assets they have for prospects this year or in the offseason. They could receive half a team of all stars for Mike Trout at any moment.