The 2020 MLB season is now less than a week away. The Washington Nationals take on the New York Yankees on July 23rd at 7 PM, followed by the San Francisco Giants facing the Los Angeles Dodgers at 10 PM. The 2020 season will be one to remember due to the shortened schedule and the lack of fans in the stands. In what could be a season full of surprises, 16 Last Word on Baseball writers predicted the playoffs and awards for the upcoming season. Here are the 2020 Last Word on Baseball playoff predictions.
2020 Playoff Predictions
American League East Champion: New York Yankees (13)
Others Receiving Votes: Tampa Bay Rays (3)
The overwhelming majority of voters picked the Yankees to win their second straight AL East title, followed by the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees signed Gerrit Cole in the offseason to tack onto a 103 win team and have Giancarlo Stanton coming back to provide protection for star outfielder Aaron Judge. The Yankees have one of the deepest lineups in the league with DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and the return of Miguel Andujar, who should be their designated hitter. With the addition of Cole, the Yankees should have an excellent rotation as well, despite missing star Luis Severino for the season. However, don’t count the Rays out, especially in a season where bullpens will prove to be of utmost importance as the Rays’ bullpen will provide nightmares for any offense that sees it.
American League Central Champion: Minnesota Twins (9)
Others Receiving Votes: Chicago White Sox (5), Cleveland Indians (2)
The writers went with another lethal lineup that should be right near the top of the league along with the Yankees. Last season, the Minnesota Twins had the second-best offense in baseball and they added former MVP, Josh Donaldson, in the offseason. To add on to the back end of the rotation, the Twins signed veterans Rich Hill and Homer Bailey to one-year deals. Coming off of a 101 win season, the Twins are the heavy favorite to win the AL Central given their lineup and additional pitching depth.
After the Twins, there was a bit of a surprise in second place as the up and coming Chicago White Sox received five votes. The White Sox added to an excellent young core, with two big free agent signings, Dallas Keuchel and Yasmani Grandal. Especially with the shortened season, many writers feel that this young core will play winning baseball sooner than many had imagined.
American League West Champion: Houston Astros (12)
Others Receiving Votes: Oakland Athletics (2), Los Angeles Angels (2)
Despite the overwhelming and eventful offseason for the Houston Astros, they are still the overwhelming favorite to win their fourth straight AL West crown. Even though star pitcher Gerrit Cole signed with the Yankees, the Astros still have an excellent top three with Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and Lance McCullers. They still sport an excellent lineup with many all-stars such as Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman. It will be interesting to see how the Astros come off losing manager AJ Hinch, as they picked up veteran skipper Dusty Baker.
The Los Angeles Angels may be one of the most exciting teams in baseball as they signed star third basemen Anthony Rendon, and with Shohei Ohtani coming off of Tommy John surgery, However, there are still many questions regarding the starting pitching, despite the trade for Dylan Bundy and the signing of Julio Teheran. The Oakland Athletics are another exciting team as they have a very solid lineup with MVP candidate, Marcus Semien, and Matt Chapman. They also feature excellent young arms such as Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk.
American League Wild Cards: Tampa Bay Rays (8), Oakland Athletics/Los Angeles Angels (4)
Others Receiving Votes: Astros (4), Twins (3), White Sox (3), Yankees (2), Indians (2), Blue Jays (1), Rangers (1)
The first wild card spot is taken by the Tampa Bay Rays, who are coming off of a 96 win season. There may not be another team in baseball with the type of pitching that the Rays have. In the starting rotation, the Rays have former Cy Young winner Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton Then, they also have one of the, if not the best, bullpens in baseball with Chaz Roe, Colin Poche, and Oliver Drake. The lineup features quality hitting top to bottom with many platoon players who have great hitting skills, such as Hunter Renfroe and Jose Martinez.
The second wild card spot is a tie between two AL West teams in the Angels, and the Athletics. The decisive factor for this spot will most likely come down to pitching. There are not many questions with the Angels lineup and stardom, with Mike Trout and Rendon, but the back end of the rotation must hold up if they want to make the playoffs. The Athletics also have a couple of questions as Luzardo and Puk have excellent stuff, but are inexperienced. Sean Manaea is also coming off of an injury.
National League East Champion: Atlanta Braves (10)
Others Receiving Votes: Washington Nationals (4), Philadelphia Phillies (2)
The writers went with the Atlanta Braves to win, in what will be a very competitive NL East. The Braves still have a strong lineup with Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, and Ozzie Albies, even though they lost Josh Donaldson in free agency. They also have pieces who have showed loads of potential in Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson. The starting rotation is headlined with a strong top two in Mike Soroka and Max Fried, followed by Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb. The Washington Nationals will be a very interesting team in 2020. They still have one of the best rotations in baseball and a much-improved bullpen, but there are questions about the lineup after losing Anthony Rendon. Finally, the Philadelphia Phillies received two votes, due to their star-studded middle of the order and ace, Aaron Nola.
National League Central Champion: Cincinnati Reds (6)
Others Receiving Votes: Milwaukee Brewers (4), St. Louis Cardinals (4), Chicago Cubs (2)
The NL Central is the most open division in baseball. The writers went with the Cincinnati Reds taking the crown. Starting with the pitching, the Reds have a top-five rotation in baseball led by Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo. The back end of the relief corps is also strong for the Reds with Raisel Iglesias, and Amir Garrett and they hope that Pedro Strop returns to his 2018 form. The Reds also have a much-improved lineup with the additions of Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas to a lineup that was led by Eugenio Suarez.
There is a tie for second place between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. The Brewers fell to the Nationals in the Wild Card game last season, after they lost Christian Yelich to injury. They are led by a lineup that should be even better with the DH as Ryan Braun can slide into the DH since they signed Avisail Garcia to play right field. If the Brewers can continue to get consistency in the starting rotation, they can easily find themselves as NL Central Champions. The Cardinals also lost to the Nationals last season as they were swept in the NLCS. The strength of the Cardinals lies in their pitching headlined with Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson. However, with the loss of Marcell Ozuna, the Cardinals need a bounceback season from Matt Carpenter to shore up the offense.
National League West Champion: Los Angeles Dodgers (15)
Others Receiving Votes: Arizona Diamondbacks (1)
In an almost unanimous decision, the Los Angeles Dodgers were picked to win their eighth straight NL West title. Coming off of a 106 win season, the Dodgers traded for star right fielder Mookie Betts to add to a high-powered lineup. Top-prospect Gavin Lux is also expected to start at second base in 2020. Although they lost Hyun-Jin Ryu in free agency and David Price elected to opt-out of the 2020 season but the Dodgers hope that Julio Urias and Alex Wood can pick up the slack with Ross Stripling returning to his all-star form as starting pitcher.
National League Wild Cards: Arizona Diamondbacks (10), Washington Nationals (5)
Others Receiving Votes: Mets (3), Phillies (2), Reds (2), Cubs (2), Brewers (3), Braves (2), Cardinals (2), Rockies (1)
The Arizona Diamondbacks are predicted to take the first wild card spot, as they received ten votes. Despite trading Zack Greinke at the trade deadline, the Diamondbacks finished the season with 85 wins. They added Madison Bumgarner and Kole Calhoun in free agency, along with acquiring Starling Marte via trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Diamondbacks need Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar to build off of their stellar 2019 seasons and have an above-average lineup that can complement their starting pitching. Following Bumgarner, the starting pitching should be very good for the Diamondbacks as Zac Gallen is coming off an excellent rookie year where posted a 2.81 ERA.
The Nationals still have one of the best rotations in baseball, and a lineup that has its share of star players. The top four of Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, and Sanchez should keep them competitive throughout the season. Also, the addition of Will Harris should lead to an improved bullpen that was the worst in the NL last season. Although they lost Rendon, the lineup should remain solid as they have Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and Adam Eaton. The Nationals hope that top prospect Carter Kieboom can shake off a rough 2019 and emerge as the starting third basemen.
ALCS: New York Yankees (9) vs. Houston Astros (8)
Others Receiving Votes: Rays (5), White Sox (3), Twins (3), Indians (3), Angels (1)
The 2020 ALCS is predicted to be a rematch of the thrilling 2019 ALCS. Last season, the Astros defeated the Yankees in six games. However, this time around, the Yankees will be the ones that will have Gerrit Cole on the mound. This matchup will feature two of the most potent offenses in all of baseball as the Yankees are led by Aaron Judge, and Gleybar Torres, while the Astros have a star-studded infield. Both teams have comparable starting pitching, as Cole, Paxton, and Tanaka match-up well with Verlander, Greinke, and McCullers, but the Yankees may have a slight edge with Gerrit Cole.
NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers (14) vs. Atlanta Braves (7)
Others Receiving Votes: Nationals (3), Phillies (2), Reds (2), Mets (1), Brewers (1), Phillies (1), Diamondbacks (1)
Unlike the 2019 rematch in the ALCS, the predicted NLCS features two teams who were eliminated in the 2019 NLDS. The Dodgers were picked by 14 out of the 16 writers. This is mostly because of a lineup that is full of stars and starting pitching that should be carried by Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. The Braves have a fairly top-heavy lineup, but if Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, and Ender Inciarte show their true potential, they could potentially challenge the Dodgers. There could be concerns about both bullpens as the Braves have Mark Melancon and Shane Greene, followed with a question mark in Luke Jackson after Will Smith tested positive for the coronavirus. The Dodgers need Kenley Jansen to bounce back from a rough 2019 campaign.
World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the New York Yankees
This would be a dream for the MLB as two of the largest markets face-off in the World Series. After the heartbreak of 2017, the Dodgers finally win the elusive championship, in what could be the last run with this core group of players. Both lineups offer stardom throughout and excellent starting pitching. This could lead to not only an incredibly entertaining World Series but one that would place the sport in the national spotlight.
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