At the time of this writing, we are a little bit over a week before Spring Training begins and the anticipation level is growing more as it approaches. After all of the drama and moves, baseball fans are ready to turn the page towards a new chapter and begin the 2020 regular season.
Fans want to get a peak at their new stars developing prospects and some want to see what their veterans may bring to the table this year. The regular season is one of the more difficult aspects to predict. A total of 162 games allows for many events to take place. The MLB has more parity than their opposing sports, such as the NBA and NFL.
We already predicted the National League West’s standing order. Since then, the landscape changed again. The Boston Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Even though that didn’t effect the order of the standings, it did seem to spread the gap even more between the first place Dodgers and second place Arizona Diamondbacks. The same can happen with the American League West, but we are going to give predicting the season’s end a shot.
5. Seattle Mariners
Much like the NL West, picking the AL West’s fifth place team isn’t too difficult. The Mariners seem to have a bit more of an upside for the future than the San Francisco Giants, but they are still a long way from being competitive in their division again.
The team isn’t completely void of talent. However, Daniel Vogelbach and Kyle Seager are hardly enough to carry the team very far on the offensive side. Marco Gonzales is the only notable pitcher on the entire pitching staff. While the rest of the players have some potential for success in the future, many haven’t and may never prove it.
The Mariners are picking a smart time to rebuild their team, as the competition out west is quite deep. Hopefully for them, they can build a franchised poised for success after the storm of Houston and Los Angeles is over with.
4. Los Angeles Angels
Placing the Angels at fourth is difficult. Most baseball fans want to search for a reason to get Mike Trout into the playoffs. He is a once in a lifetime talent and many expect him to be at least a top ten player of all time when it’s all said and done.
The Angels are on their way after signing Anthony Rendon, but they will sorely feel regret for missing out on Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. The need to add to their pitching staff is still evident. Next year may be quite different if they are able to land another piece to their rotation and lineup.
Shohei Ohtani will help address both areas of need, but he is coming off Tommy John surgery and expectations should be relatively minimal for him. Aside from Ohtani, the rotation consists of Andrew Heaney and Julio Teharan at the top. They both make for solid bottom of the rotation pieces, but it’s not a good sign if they are manning the top of any starting rotation.
Their lineup doesn’t have as many holes as it did last season, but there are still areas that need to be addressed. With the Joc Pederson trade falling through, Justin Upton and Brian Goodwin are the starting corner outfielders and Albert Pujols is still their starting first baseman.
3. Texas Rangers
All three teams at the top of the AL West are loaded with potential and questions marks. The Astros evidence suggests that they should be at the top, but due to the cheating scandal, all of their past success gets taken into question. The Athletics and Rangers have both shown improvement over recent years and the Astros’ loss of Gerrit Cole could prove to be their key to success.
Still, the Rangers should make a serious run at a Wild Card spot and expect success. However, we shouldn’t predict an Astros’ decline to account for a 29-win differential gap that was in 2019. The Rangers are definitely on their way to a playoff run.
They addressed their starting rotation after adding Corey Kluber during the offseason. If Kluber proves to be the pitcher he was before an injury riddled 2019, the Rangers can make an argument for having the best rotation in the division. The rotation has a lot of potential for success behind Kluber in Mike Minor, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson.
The Rangers’ ultimate downfall will be their bullpen and holes on the offensive side of the team. The bullpen specifically doesn’t have much write about, while their offense could use some help behind Joey Gallo, even with the addition of Todd Frazier.
2. Houston Astros
Placing the Astros at second may seem like a bold prediction. The team has dominated the division since 2017 and still has a lot of the talent that has gotten them to the point that they are in.
Yes, the cheating scandal does have a slight impact on their expectations. It more has to do with the ripple effects that the situation has placed on the team itself. They will have to adjust to a new manager after the firing of AJ Hinch and will have to deal with being the villain this season.
Still, baseball fans should expect the Astros to be a threat this season. They still has a solid pitching staff led by Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. Their bullpen is still efficient and the lineup is lethal behind Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. The talent was always there for the team, but it will be interesting to see if their overall production declines after the cheating scandal in the offseason.
The Astros will likely still be a playoff team moving forward, but distractions, change and the loss of Gerrit Cole will close the gap the Athletics were chasing the past two seasons.
1. Oakland Athletics
This may appear as a bold prediction for many, but it shouldn’t be incredibly shocking. The Athletics were six games out in 2018 and ten games back the following season. They have been knocking on the Astros’ door and may be able to capitalize on their rival’s shortcomings.
Their rotation lacks an ace, which could effect them once they reach the playoffs. However, they have enough depth to sustain success in the regular season. The same could be said about their bullpen. A lot of their pitching success is lenient on potential. The positive outcome is based off the short, but successful sample sizes from Sean Manea and Frankie Montas. The two top of the rotations starters will have the veteran presence of Mike Fiers, who had a career year in 2019.
Their lineup had a lot of success after last season. They still have Matt Chapman, who is an elite third baseman defensively and offers 30 or more home runs offensively. Oakland also has solid contributors in Mark Canha, Matt Olson, Ramon Laureano and Marcus Semien.
The team should expect a bounce-back season from Khris Davis, who had a disappointing 2019 campaign. He hit over 40 home runs in three of his four seasons with the A’s and its reasonable to expect similar success this season.
The A’s have a lot more positives than negatives when it comes to their team and may be an ace away from being a serious championship contender.