MLB Power Rankings: Who's got the edge when 60-game season starts?
Finally, there will be a baseball season.
The owners and players spent weeks fighting over money matters. That never got figured out, honestly, but the commissioner mandated a 60-game campaign, which will begin either July 23 or 24.
The list of unknowns surrounding how things will play out in a brief, shortened season in which everyone’s been sitting around for months is a mile long. The biggest mysteries surround the in-season impact of the coronavirus. With the number of cases rising in many states across the country, will the season even be able to go on uninterrupted?
Every team is being thrown one curveball after another. Do certain teams have advantages because of the schedule format? That’s hard to say. None of these teams was built for a two-month season.
Teams will also be playing abnormal schedules, with 40 of the 60 games coming against division opponents and the remaining 20 against teams from the corresponding geographic division in the other league.
But we can try to sort these teams out. Here’s an attempt at ranking the 30 major league teams as baseball is finally on track to return in 2020.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
They’ve been the National League’s best team for the last three seasons, and now they’ve added Mookie Betts to their cavalcade of All-Star caliber position players — even if his Dodger tenure lasts just a few months. Far and away the best team in their division, the Dodgers should have little trouble racking up wins in a schedule that's two-third division games.
2. New York Yankees
Once again, injuries will be the story for the Yankees, who will obviously benefit from Gerrit Cole's new place atop the rotation. The good injury news? The long layoff has allowed James Paxton and Giancarlo Stanton to get healthy. The bad injury news? Luis Severino had Tommy John surgery, and Aaron Judge still wasn't swinging a bat as of late May. What did Aaron Boone do last season while dealing with a constant flood of injuries? He won 100 games.
3. Houston Astros
With no punishments stemming from the cheating scandal that actually impacted the construction of the roster, the Astros remain as capable of winning the World Series as ever. Their lineup remains baseball’s finest. There are some questions about the depth of the starting rotation, though, after Gerrit Cole’s departure. Still, I’d take a 1-2 of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke any day — and now those old guys don't have to log so many innings.
4. Atlanta Braves
They won the NL East last season and got overshadowed when the division-rival Nationals won the World Series. But that doesn’t take anything away from how talented Ronald Acuna and this group of position players is. Now the pitching needs to catch up. The Braves fortified the bullpen this winter, now they need to hope the rotation can keep up. The good news? That bullpen might get plenty of use in a new world of pitching-staff management.
5. Washington Nationals
The defending champs lost their biggest bopper for the second straight offseason, this time Anthony Rendon leaving for sunny Southern California. But after getting a Bryce Harper sized hole blown in the middle of their lineup last winter, all the Nats did was win the World Series. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin all still wear curly Ws on their hats and form the most terrifying 1-2-3 pitching punch in the game. They won't be able to overcome a slow start this time, though. After 60 games last season, they were 27-33 and in fourth place.
6. Cincinnati Reds
No team in the NL did more offseason work than the Redlegs to shoot to the top of a winnable NL Central. A lineup that featured underrated hitmen like Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto now claims Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas, too. The rotation has some stars in Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray. This is probably the best team in that division on paper. Now they need to go out and prove it. Without having to suffer through the cold April and May weather across the NL Central, Cincy's boppers could start mashing in a hurry.
7. Minnesota Twins
A team that set the record for the most home runs in a single season in baseball history just added perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, who was excellent in his first healthy season in a while in 2019. But after Jose Berrios — who’s terrific at the top of the rotation — I’m not sold on their starting staff. It might not matter, though, if the Twins, now able to avoid playing in the snowy Twin Cities in April, can keep on slugging.
8. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are always good. It’s time to face facts that there might never again be an AL wild card race the Rays aren’t involved in. With Tyler Glasnow returning from injury to combine with Blake Snell, they would figure to be capable of reaching October once again. In fact, perhaps no team is better suited to handle a potentially new normal when it comes to juggling a pitching staff. Kevin Cash is always deploying his arms in funky combinations.
9. Chicago Cubs
The mood in Wrigleyville is less than chipper four years after a championship season. But "World Series or bust" expectations are sure to breed frustration. Firing Joe Maddon didn’t seem entirely necessary for a team that just needs to get some consistency from its pitching staff. If the starting rotation provides new skipper David Ross with enough juice, a lineup featuring Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo would seem to be more than able when it comes to competing for a division title. Kyle Hendricks could be one to watch. He's got a 2.78 career ERA in the second half. Well, there is no first half this year.
10. New York Mets
If only the NL East wasn’t so damn loaded, the Mets would be a nice pick for the postseason. They still have Jacob de Grom and Marcus Stroman at the top of their rotation, though Noah Syndergaard was lost to Tommy John surgery. We saw what Pete Alonso & Co. could do during winning stretches last year. They had a .623 winning percentage over the season's final three months.
11. Oakland Athletics
The A’s have two studs at the corners on the infield in Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. They also have some other guy not named Matt. His name is Marcus Semien, and he almost won the AL MVP last season. If they get the same kind of pitching performances they got in 2019, they’ll be the clear No. 2 in the AL West and a good bet to make the playoffs. Again.
12. Chicago White Sox
They loaded up this winter, but it’s the young core that’s coalesced on the South Side that could bring an end to a decade-plus without October baseball as soon as this year. Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, not to mention Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech in the rotation, is what made the flurry of offseason activity so exciting. The pitching depth should only be improved thanks to the layoff, with Kopech, Carlos Rodon and Dane Dunning potentially in the mix as season-long additions.
13. Cleveland Indians
Even after trading Corey Kluber, even after doing nothing super splashy to improve the team this winter, the Indians are still postseason contenders. They have two of the better offensive players in the game in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez on the left side of the infield. And their rotation, even sans Kluber, might be baseball’s best. Mike Clevenger (who should be ready to rock after a springtime injury), Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Zach Plesac and more? That’ll play.
14. Philadelphia Phillies
They got a guy they hope will be an ace in Zack Wheeler, combined with Aaron Nola for a nice 1-2 punch. But will they have enough pitching to prevent another underachieving season? Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, Didi Gregorius — it all looks nice on paper. But we saw what happened last season, when they were a far cry from competing in the loaded NL East. Maybe Joe Girardi can figure out something Gabe Kapler couldn’t. Will two months be enough time to coalesce around a new skipper?
15. Arizona Diamondbacks
The NL West outside of Chavez Ravine is really a race for second place. So let’s give it to the Snakes, who have a pretty great 1-2 pitching punch of Madison Bumgarner and Robbie Ray. Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar are under-the-radar excellent. But everyone besides the Dodgers is playing for a wild card spot. Can the D-backs take advantage of such a high percentage of games against the Padres, Giants and Rockies?
16. Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout has been to the playoffs a grand total of one time, and while the Angels went all out to get Joe Maddon as the new manager and Anthony Rendon, the best free-agent hitter out there, the same question remains: Where is the pitching?
17. St. Louis Cardinals
The Redbirds were a playoff team in 2019, but their offseason activity amounted to … losing Marcell Ozuna? They still have a fine squad, and the much ballyhooed Cardinal Way always seems to bail them out in some fashion, but in baseball’s arms race, they did little to inspire they’ve bulked up. Their rotation, however, really turned it on down the stretch last season, with a 2.88 ERA in August and September, led by Jack Flaherty's 0.77 ERA. A repeat performance in 2020 would make the Cards dangerous.
18. Boston Red Sox
Though the pitching staff falling apart and Mookie Betts wearing Dodger blue does an awful lot to dispel this notion, I still think the BoSox have enough to compete on some level. With the Yankees? No. For the second AL wild card? Maybe. That roster still boasts much of the same group of hitters who slugged their way to a World Series win just two years ago. Pitching is indeed a problem, especially after Chris Sale had Tommy John surgery, but a team that has Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez shouldn’t be resigning itself to the bottom of the AL East.
19. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brew Crew keeps rolling the dice that it won’t need any pitching to reach the postseason, and Lucky 7 keeps showing up. But one of these days, a cobbled-together rotation is going to sink these guys, even if they just locked up one of the best players on the planet for the foreseeable future. With Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas gone, Christian Yelich might need to carry an even heavier load.
20. San Diego Padres
Why am I so bullish on the White Sox's ascension from the best farm system in baseball to contenders, but not so much with the Padres? We certainly can't write Manny Machado off as some sort of uber free-agent bust just because of one down year. Fernando Tatis Jr. is a star in the making (sorry, White Sox fans). And there seems to be no end to the stream of talked-about prospects reaching San Diego. But of the Padres' 60 games, a whole bunch will come against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Astros, A's and Angels. It's a tough road.
21. Toronto Blue Jays
Hyun-Jin Ryu was a fine signing, even if fans of other clubs exhaled to not have to worry about his troublesome health history. But in the AL East? How is a move like that supposed to vault the Jays into contention? Good thing they have the Sons of Guys You Watched Growing Up All Stars: Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. Now those are some names that could get you into contention mode. Just probably not this year. The Jays, too, could end up playing their home games away from home, with speculation there could be some troubles with their international location.
22. Colorado Rockies
Nolan Arenado was not pleased with the Rockies this spring, nor should he have been, as that team seems to have ratcheted up to contender status only to fall back to Earth faster than anyone could have imagined. They still have a collection of good hitters and some promising prospects on the way. But the same thing that’s always plagued the Rox is doing so again: pitching a mile above sea level. Already the Rockies are experiencing the effects of COVID-19, with All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon among three players to test positive Tuesday.
23. Texas Rangers
The Rangers had big plans this winter to go get Anthony Rendon and ended up with … Todd Frazier. Nothing against New Jersey’s favorite son. The Rangers have a new stadium and very little chance of hosting any postseason games there this fall unless there's some sort of neutral-site World Series or something.
24. Seattle Mariners
Boy, the Mariners sure are a team, aren’t they? They have Dan Vogelbach. And even in the middle of a pandemic, they'll still have to haul themselves across the country, playing a total of 10 of their 60 games in Texas and visiting three NL West cities.
25. Kansas City Royals
The Royals shouldn’t be lumped into the same category as their fellow AL Central cellar-dwellers from Detroit, because they have a couple of legitimate All Stars in Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler. But the best solution to their pitching problems is walking across the Kauffman Stadium/Arrowhead Stadium parking lot to see if Patrick Mahomes is doing anything before the NFL season starts up again. The good news? They can't lose 100 games again!
26. San Francisco Giants
The Giants seem to be doing an all right job on the rebuilding front, especially when you remember they do tend to spend when they’re able to win. Unfortunately, that time is not now, so try to enjoy the first Bumgarner-less season by the Bay in a decade, Giants fans.
27. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Bucs are rebuilding. You might not see too many raisings of the Jolly Roger over the next couple months, as they could be the NL Central's punching bag and now the AL Central's, too. As many as seven teams vying for a playoff spot could take advantage of games against the Pirates. But remember that after 60 games last season, these Pirates were just two games under .500. They ended up losing 93 games.
28. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers actually made some offseason moves, grabbing a few free agents from their division rivals, including former Twins infielders Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron, as well as former White Sox pitcher Ivan Nova. Will it help them win any games? Who knows. But they do have some really good pitching prospects on the way, so there’s that.
29. Baltimore Orioles
The Birds’ best player is the guy they took in the draft last summer. They’re in the “get a bunch of guys from high draft picks” phase of their rebuild. They also have perhaps the hardest schedule in baseball, with 10 games apiece against the Yankees and Rays, six games against the reigning-champion Nationals and Interleague series against the Braves, Mets and Phillies. The O's are not necessarily equipped to handle that gauntlet.
30. Miami Marlins
Derek Jeter’s Fish are flopping around in South Florida. They are still, technically, a Major League Baseball team. They were probably really hoping for a neutral-site World Series so someone could play in that stadium in October. The Marlins certainly won’t be needing it. Quick, name some Marlins. No, Edgar Renteria and Josh Beckett do not count.