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One player from each AL team that could benefit from MLB's shortened season

One player from each AL team that could benefit from MLB's shortened season

Major League Baseball's decision to implement a 60-game season will come with some interesting obstacles. Players will have very little time to prepare for the end of July start date, and some who use the 162-game marathon to slowly reach their best form could enter an early-season rut and never recover.

However, the shortened season will not be negative to all. Veterans with a lot of wear and tear can avoid another grueling season, while streaky players won't have to see their early success fall off in the second half of the season.

Looking at the American League, here is a player from every squad that could benefit from fewer games.

AL EAST

Baltimore Orioles: John Means

Means, who was an All-Star in 2019, was spectacular in his first 12 starts in the rotation. He had a 2.69 ERA throughout what would essentially be a full season in 2020. However, the lefty then showed signs that he was still adjusting to the full-time starting role, as he featured a 4.69 ERA in the next 12 starts.

While he looks to be part of the future starting pitching plan in Baltimore, adjusting to a 30-start slate can take time. The Orioles aren’t looking to win big in 2020, even if the season gives them a better chance, and so fewer starts will allow Means to still get in work while also keeping his arm ready for future seasons. 

Boston Red Sox - Nathan Eovaldi

Eovaldi was an essential part of the Red Sox World Series run in 2018. He was relied upon heavily both as a starter and out of the bullpen. In 2019, he found himself struggling to stay healthy as he consistently dealt with arm problems.

A shorter season in 2020 could be just what he needs to regain form. Less wear and tear on the arm in what could only be 12 starts during the regular season lessens the risk of him once again heading to the DL and increases the chances of success in the rotation.

New York Yankees - Gary Sanchez

Sanchez is one of the most dangerous bats in the game when he’s on the field and at full health. The problem is he’s struggled to do just that throughout his career. In the last two seasons, he’s only played in 195 games. Additionally, the long seasons behind the plate have also gotten to him, as his hustle and energy have noticeably decreased at times.

With only 60 games in 2020, that all changes. Sanchez has an easier chance of remaining healthy while also having to spend less time catching, which could give him an increase in energy and fresher legs that typically wouldn’t be there as the season winds down. That combination should help the power hitter continue to crush the ball.

Tampa Bay Rays - Bullpen

Despite having the likes of Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow in the rotation, the Rays used their relievers heavily in 2019. It worked, as the bullpen was dominant and made it possible to reach the postseason.

That formula for success probably wasn’t going to disappear in 2020. Now, the extended usage won’t be as grueling. In a season where bullpens could dictate success if starting pitchers struggle to get back into game shape and build stamina, the Rays seem in good hands.

Toronto Blue Jays - Ken Giles

Giles had a solid 2019 with the Blue Jays, finishing with a 1.87 ERA and 23 saves. The only problem was a nagging elbow issue that followed him throughout the season.

The shortened season and late start should both benefit his arm, as he’ll have fewer appearances to make. Heading into the final year of his deal, the ability to still perform at an elite level while not adding mileage or more pain to his throwing arm is the ideal situation for Giles.

RELATED: NL PLAYERS THAT COULD BENEFIT FROM SHORTENED SEASON

AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox - Michael Kopech

It’s not a given that the highly-touted prospect will be a part of the White Sox plans in 2020, but as NBC Sports Chicago’s Vinnie Duber points out, this 60-game scenario could benefit Kopech.

Essentially, Kopech and his electric arm were being watched very cautiously in spring training due to injuries he’s dealt with in the past. With a 162-game season assumed, there was speculation that Kopech would first spend time in the minors before potentially joining the pro club later in the season, as a way to monitor his usage.

But now with a shortened season, Chicago could opt to let him start in the majors and get some work in, whether it be starting or in the bullpen. With fewer innings to get through overall, Kopech could get more action than was expected.

Cleveland Indians - Adam Cimber

Cimber had his name called upon 68 times in 2019, and the first 37 of those appearances went rather well (3.06 ERA). However, the final 31 did not (6.29 ERA).

Part of that struggle could most likely be attributed to fatigue. 2020 realistically only gives Cimber enough time to put together the body of work he had in his first 37 appearances, if that. A sample size of that nature bodes well for him and the Indians. 

Detroit Tigers - Miguel Cabrera

The veteran showed in Spring Training that he still has plenty of pop in his bat, even taking Gerrit Cole deep twice in one game. However, even in the DH role, a 162-game grind isn’t ideal.

With extended rest and a shortened season on the horizon, the right-hander could ride a hot start right into another solid year of production.

Kansas City Royals - Jorge Soler

Soler can swing with the best of them, especially when he gets rolling. That became evident during a 60-game stretch from July 24 to the end of the season when he hit .292 and had 21 home runs, as stated by MLB.com's Jeffrey Flanagan. 

Yes, that was in the middle-end of the season after seeing a lot of pitches throughout the season, but should Soler come anywhere near that during the 2020 season, he’ll have an incredible season.

Minnesota Twins - Rich Hill

Many pitchers will benefit from a shortened season, and Rich Hill is most definitely one of them. Hill entering his age-40 season, meaning his arm has been through quite a lot in 15 years of MLB action.

Additionally, the new Twin is coming off surgery that was expected to delay his debut until June. With baseball not starting until the end of July, he won’t just be ready, but he’ll be well-rested in a season in which fewer innings will be asked of him.

The Twins were looking to get value out of Hill by signing the veteran, and the shortened season may make that decision all the more plausible.

AL WEST

Houston Astros - Justin Verlander

Since joining Houston in 2017, Verlander has been an absolute workhorse and innings-eater. Not only that, but he’s been dominant throughout. In 2019, he led all of baseball in innings pitched, and that didn’t include his postseason work. 

There’s no reason to expect a steep drop-off in 2020, but a 60-game season may make it even easier for him to continue his reign as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Houston will not only expect him to go deep in games in the regular season but to do the same if they make the playoffs. Last season, Verlander shows signs of being human and dealing with fatigue in the World Series, where he had a 5.73 ERA in two games. 

Limiting his starts through 60 games should keep the arm fresh and the velocity sharp for as long as he is needed, limiting the chances of any decline when the games mean the most.

Los Angeles Angels - Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani can throw a top-end fastball and hit balls 400 feet. However, injuries have prevented him from doing both at the same time consistently in the major leagues. New manager Joe Maddon wants to see it be done, and there may be no better time to try it out then during a short season. 

If 162 games were to be played, it may be a lot to ask Ohtani to start a game and then hit the four others. It still may be a lot, but it’s much more realistic for him to contribute on the mound and at the plate in 2020.

Oakland Athletics - Sean Manaea

Manaea has been a talented starter for the Athletics over the past few years when he’s on the field. A no-hitter in 2018 showed just how dominant he could be. However, he has dealt with arm problems in the past and is coming off a season where he didn’t take the field until September.

Though he performed well upon his return (4-0, 1.21 ERA), a 60-game season will make it easier for him to remain healthy and effective.

Texas Rangers - Corey Kluber

A familiar face in a new place you may have forgotten about, Kluber was acquired by Texas in hopes that he will be its ace for the next few seasons. His past body of work shows he’s up for the challenge, but 2019 was a year filled with injuries.

Now, the 2017 Cy Young winner is back to full health, but after appearing in just seven games last year, there could have been some concerns about how his arm would fare over 162 games. That’s no longer a concern, and the Rangers should be able to rely on Kluber in a year where every team has a better chance at the postseason.

Seattle Mariners - Daniel Vogelbach

Vogelbach was an All-Star in 2019, and that was largely due to his performance in the first half of the season. During his first 70 games, Vogelbach hit an average .249 but had 20 homer runs and 48 RBI. Following that, he batted just .162 in the second half and the power numbers decreased as well (nine home runs).

For a player with a ton of power who has the ability to get off to a hot start before pitchers tend to figure him out, a 60-game season is a dream come true. Though he may never hit for an insane average (he did hit .310 through the first month of 2019), he has the ability to produce runs at a fast rate in a short timeframe.

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Orioles' Kevin Gausman finds his groove against Texas Rangers

Orioles' Kevin Gausman finds his groove against Texas Rangers

All of a sudden, the Baltimore Orioles' starting rotation is pitching magnificently.

The question is: Has this struggling staff finally found its groove, or is it because the opposition is the Texas Rangers?

MORE ORIOLES: ZACH BRITTON RETURNS TO O'S

Kevin Gausman pitched six innings of four-hit ball, Adam Jones homered and scored three runs and Baltimore beat the faltering Rangers 10-2 on Wednesday night.

Gausman (6-7) gave up one run, struck out eight and walked two. The right-hander came in with a 6.39 ERA and had yielded a total of 14 runs in his last two starts.

Though the Orioles' faulty rotation is one big reason why the team is four games under .500, the starters in this series have combined to allow three runs over 18 innings.

"It's a roll we'd like to get on," manager Buck Showalter said. "Start kind of passing the baton to the next guy."

Having thus far outscored Texas 25-4 in the series, the Orioles will attempt to complete a four-game sweep on Thursday.

"I think we all know that we need to pitch better and, you know, we're trying to do that," Gausman said. "Obviously the offense is what's kind of given us a bigger margin for error."

Trey Mancini contributed two hits in a seven-run seventh inning, including a bases-loaded triple, and Jonathan Schoop finished with three hits and three RBIs.

Joey Gallo hit his 22nd home run for the Rangers, who have dropped four straight and scored only eight runs in their last five games.

"We have to continue to believe in our offense. That's a challenge for us right now," manager Jeff Banister said. "It's been a bit of a stretch where one run has been the case for us and it's coming off solo shots."

Adrian Beltre hit a fourth-inning double to move within 17 hits of 3,000 for his career. It was his 602nd double, breaking a tie with Barry Bonds for 16th place on the all-time list.

But there were few other highlights for the Rangers, now 2-4 on a 10-game trip out of the All-Star break.

"It just seems tough to score right now," said Elvis Andrus, who went 0 for 4.

Texas had eight hits -- only two for extra bases.

"We can score runs. We need to get back to that and show our identity again," Gallo said. "I don't think anyone in this clubhouse is worried or panicking."

Jones got Baltimore started with a leadoff homer off Martin Perez (5-7), and Schoop made it 3-0 with a two-run double in the third.

Gallo connected in the fifth, but the Orioles pulled away in the seventh. Baltimore got six hits and took advantage of an error by catcher Robinson Chirinos to score four unearned runs.