As baseball is about to begin, 22 members of the Last Word On Baseball staff picked American League over/under for the coming season. Each writer was asked to pick two team overs and two team unders. With a 60-game schedule, any team that gets off to a bad start could find it hard to get back into the race.
COVID-19 is still a factor. MLB players are getting tested often, and any positive test will result in a quarantine period until that player has two consecutive negative tests. There are a handful of players who have opted to not play this season because of this terrible virus. More players could still follow suit.
As always injuries will play a part in every team’s success. With this season basically being a sprint, every team knows that the usual April slump just can’t happen this season. Expect the players to come out of the chute with a pedal-to-the-metal mentality. This also could cause injuries to players who are so accustomed to easing into the season. The schedule is broken out into 40 division games and 20 regional games against the other league. One other new rule for this season is the implementation of the universal designated hitter. Just announced prior to the first game of the season, MLB has expanded the playoffs. A total of 16 teams will qualify for the playoffs, eight in each league. Just like the universal designated hitter, both rules are for this season only.
Before we get into the team-by-team picks, let’s look at some of the numbers that the LWOB staff’s picks came up with. The Toronto Blue Jays were picked the most times with eight selections. The only team not to get picked was the Miami Marlins. The MLB team with the highest over/under total is the Los Angeles Dodgers, with 37.5, followed by the New York Yankees, with 36.5. Not one staff member picked the over for either team, but that does not mean a different team won’t win more than 37 games.
The lowest over/under total is the Baltimore Orioles with 20.5. Two staff members did pick the Orioles, and we will talk about that later on in this article. The American League East led the way with 18 selections followed by the American League West with 15. Next, we have three divisions tied with 14 selections. Those divisions are the American League Central, National League East, and National League West. The National League Central rounds out the list with 13 selections.
Now it’s time to break down each team’s selections.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles (20.5)
There is not much going on with the Baltimore Orioles. This could very well be a team that just tanks the season. The Orioles won 54 games last season and had a .333 winning percentage. This projects out to 19.5 wins in a 60-game season. With the lowest under on the board, it’s surprising they weren’t picked more than two times. Of course, both picks were under.
James Rowe: The Orioles, well, they’re just an absolutely terrible team, plus they face some strong teams this season.
Manuel De Moya: Orioles had a .333 winning percentage in 2019 and their schedule will be tougher this time around. They will be without their best offensive player, Trey Mancini who is out for the season and are skipping their best pitcher, John Means, for opening day due to arm fatigue.
Boston Red Sox (30.5)
The Boston Red Sox are a team in transition but do have a lot to work with. Mookie Betts was traded to the Dodgers, but the Red Sox do still have a lot of offense. The problem is their pitching staff. As bad as they were last season, they could be even worse in 2020. Last year the Red Sox went 84-78, and it looks like it will be difficult to finish over .500 this season. Five writers selected the Red Sox, and all took the under.
Jared Cantatore: Their pitching was bad last year. It’s even worse this year.
Doug Winkey: I picked the Red Sox as an under because their rotation is going to be significantly worse than it was in 2019. They also lost a huge amount of production from Betts, and the combination of Alex Verdugo/Jeter Downs is not enough to compensate in a shortened season.
Steve Wynocker: Pitching. It’s bad. If Martin Perez is one of your key arms you’re relying on… spells trouble. No buzz about the club at all.
DJ Kleinbard: The Red Sox just don’t have the pitching. The Red Sox have good offense but no pitching so I think they will be under .500 this year.
Mark D’Aquila: A complete lack of pitching is the main reason to take the Boston under. Based on their rotation to start the year, it’s hard to find many pitching matchups that will favor them throughout the season
New York Yankees (36.5)
The New York Yankees are one of the World Series favorites and have a loaded offensive team. Gerrit Cole was signed to anchor a starting rotation that has been the Yankees weak link the last few seasons. The Yankees won 103 games last season, and after falling short in the ALCS, they are on a mission to win it all. But why does one of the World Series favorites only get two selections? The two selections were split between over and under.
Caleb Begley likes the over: I do think Vegas lowballed the Yankees a bit.
Evan Thompson likes the under: They’ve had so many injuries rack up in the past few seasons that I see it happening again. They can’t keep surviving these unscathed forever.
Tampa Bay Rays (33.5)
The Tampa Bay Rays are the most resourceful team in the league. So, a crazy season like this is right in their wheelhouse. The Rays started out hot last year and could have very well won the division if not for injuries to their starting pitching. With a franchise that has problems making money, no other team does more with less than the Rays, as their 96 wins last season show. Only one selection was made on the Rays and it was an over.
Evan Thompson: The Rays made solid off-season moves that put them in a great position to win the division if the Yankees continue to have guys getting hurt.
Toronto Blue Jays (27.5)
There is no more exciting team that the Toronto Blue Jays. With three starting players who are the sons of former players, two of which are in the Hall of Fame, the Blue Jays are definitely on the rise. The Blue Jays went out and brought in solid pitchers to go with their young and explosive lineup. Out of eight selections, seven were over.
Doug Winkey: The Jays have one of the best young and developing cores that can support a rebuilt pitching staff.
Robert Morrison: The Blue Jays young core is going to give them a boost in the short season. If they can find some pitching, they could challenge for a wild card spot.
Matt Mackin: I think the Blue Jays will surprise a lot of people with their bats and the signing of Ryu will only help.
Mark D’Aquila: Their rotation received major upgrades to pair with their young and coming hitters. Beating up on the Orioles and Marlins and taking advantage of Boston’s terrible pitching will bode well for them.
Manuel De Moya: The Blue Jays rotation has more upside than given credit for with recent additions of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chase Anderson, and Matt Shoemaker, plus a full season of top prospect Nate Pearson. I’m expecting Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guererro Jr. to build from their rookie campaigns and have big sophomore years.
DJ Kleinbard is more skeptical: I may be buying into the hype with the Blue Jays, but they have exciting, young talent and brought in good, not great arms for rotation stability. They aren’t at the level of the Yankees or Rays, but I think they will be better than the Red Sox and Orioles and be over the 27.5-win mark.
Andrew Brown: I think the Blue Jays will be under 27.5 games because I feel like they are unbalanced and don’t offer as strong of a pitching staff compared to their offense. It’s more of a feeling but I feel like they regress this year.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox (31.5)
There was not a more active team this past offseason than the Chicago White Sox. With promising minor league stars ready to make the jump to the majors, the White Sox brought in some good veteran players and shored up their starting rotation. Six writers selected the White Sox, and all six were over.
Jared Cantatore: I like their mix of veterans and young players. This is definitely a team on the rise.
Mark D’Aquila: They are young and talented in every dimension of the game. They have a stronger betting value than Minnesota or Cleveland has, and I believe all will compete for the division in a tight three-horse race.
Jeromey Hodsdon: I like the White Sox because of all the young explosive talent and power.
Scott Shaffer: The White Sox added a lot of talent this off-season, and I expect them to contend for the division title.
Cleveland Indians (33.5)
The Cleveland Indians are one of those teams that are on the bubble. They traded away their ace pitcher, Corey Kluber, in the offseason and were also discussing moving Francisco Lindor. But the Indians have very good young pitching led by Shane Bieber. Terry Francona is one of the best old school managers in the league and he knows how to get the most out of his players. Only one writer selected the Indians and the pick was over.
Akshaj Gaur: With a starting rotation anchored by Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger, and a star shortstop in Lindor, the Indians strong pitching should bode well in a shortened season.
Detroit Tigers (22.5)
The cavalry is on the way for the Detroit Tigers. The farm system is filled with top pitching prospects and this year’s number one draft pick, Spencer Torkelson. This season will be about trying to develop their young talent if the Tigers decide to give them major league playing time. While Torkelson could see playing time this year the Tigers top pitching prospects in Casey Mize and Matt Manning may not. Only one writer selected the Tigers and that pick was over.
Michael Gray: I am expecting good years out of Michael Fulmer, C.J. Cron, and Spencer Turnbull. Cron and Fulmer both want to prove that they aren’t flukes, and I think they will do it and win over 22.5 games
Kansas City Royals (25.5)
The Kansas City Royals always seem like they are rebuilding. But-to their- credit when the team is good, they go all in to win as they did in 2015. But now with three top 100 prospects and three picks in the top 50 of this year’s draft perhaps the Royals will start another upswing in a few years. One writer selected the Royals and the pick was under.
Jeromey Hodsdon: The Royals are already a lackluster team and their pitching talent is not very good. They also have some pitchers who have COVID-19.
Minnesota Twins (34.5)
The Minnesota Twins set a major league record for home runs hit by a team in 2019. But they still were swept in the ALDS. Pitching is always an issue for the Twins, and they have added a couple of quality arms and one big offensive player to the mix. On paper, the Twins starting rotation appears to be quality. However, the Twins do have the prospects to go out and trade for a top starting pitcher that could put them over the top. Five writers selected the Twins with two over picks and three under picks.
Michael Gray: I picked the Twins over because I think that they put together a talented team last season and improved it further in the off-season.
Manuel De Moya: They have the easiest schedule in the American League and added Josh Donaldson and Kenta Maeda to a team that had a .632 winning percentage last season. I could easily see the Twins finishing with the best record in the American League.
Mark D’Aquila: I picked under. Here is a list of the teams with win totals over 34…Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, Twins…the Twins are a good team, but they don’t belong in this class. Both Central divisions are going to be very competitive this year with few non-competitors to take advantage of.
James Rowe: I just don’t see Minnesota’s pitching being able to match up well with anyone else. Plus, they have to face better teams this season
American League West
Houston Astros (34.5)
I could recap the Houston Astros offseason issues, but we should all be tired of it by now. Despite their issues, this is still a very talented team even though they lost Gerrit Cole. The Astros will benefit greatly by not having to face the fans this season and should be on a mission to prove just how good they are. The Astros are still considered one of the World Series favorites but will their off-the-field issues spill into this shortened season? Three writers selected the Astros, and all are under picks.
Robert Morrison: The Astros lost arguably the best pitcher in the American League. Also, all of the off-season distractions will come up again once the season restarts.
Chris Larson: Houston is going to have a lot of pressure on them post-cheating scandal even if there aren’t fans in the stands. Add that to a team that lost some impact especially with the subtraction of Gerrit Cole and that could spell disappointment for the Astros in 2020.
Scott Shaffer: I picked the Astros for the under because I think they are in an underrated division. The AL West both have a lot of talent. Though, the Astros will win their division.
Los Angeles Angels (31.5)
The Los Angeles Angels signed the biggest offensive free agent of the offseason in Anthony Rendon. However, they failed in their attempt to sign Gerrit Cole or any of the other top pitchers. By pairing Rendon with Mike Trout, the Angels could have the best one-two punch in the whole league. The Angels starting rotation is solid and their bats will have to carry this team. The staff selected the Angels five times with four over picks.
Akshaj Gaur: Despite question marks in the rotation, the Angels offense, headlined by Trout and Rendon should be able to carry the team with solid pitching by Ohtani and Canning.
Noah Barnhart: A shortened season may keep Ohtani healthy. Joe Maddon has plenty of weapons to fill up his lineup.
Scott Shaffer: They have a lot of offense and their pitching changes this offseason could surprise folks. They have an underrated bullpen too.
Manuel De Moya: I picked under because they finished last season 18 games under .500 and fourth in their division. They have a tough schedule, with 43% of their games against the Astros, A’s, and Dodgers and they’ll begin the season without their big free agent acquisition, Anthony Rendon.
Oakland Athletics (33.5)
The Oakland Athletics always seem to find a way to win games but have not figured out how to win postseason games. The A’s are coming off two straight 97-win wild card seasons but did not advance to the ALDS. However, the A’s have a hard time paying their top players, so they are always looking for those diamonds in the rough. Three writers selected the A’s, and all are under picks.
DJ Kleinbard: Despite winning 97 games and making the postseason in consecutive seasons, the A’s have started slowly both years. They had 31 and 30 wins in their first 60 after these slow starts, so I’m taking them under 33.5 wins in 2020.
Noah Barnhart: The A’s are playing in a tough division and will struggle in those division games.
Liam Hopkins: The A’s are a good team with a good core but have shaky secondary players.
Seattle Mariners (24.5)
The future is certainly bright for the Seattle Mariners. With five top-100 prospects- including two in the top 20- and three draft picks ranked in the top 100 the Mariners are stocking up their farm system. This will most likely be another bad season where the Mariners get another top draft pick. The writers selected the Mariners once and it was an under pick.
Braden Herb: I picked the under because the Mariners have to face a competitive AL and NL West at a time when their squad is not strong in any aspect.
Texas Rangers (29.5)
The Texas Rangers struck out on all of their big free-agent targets but did add Corey Kluber via a trade. The Rangers do have five quality starting pitchers and a very solid lineup that should score runs. Just four seasons ago the Rangers won 95 games. It was in the last year of a seven-year stretch with five playoff appearances including back to back World Series losses. Three writers selected the Rangers with two picking the over.
Jared Cantatore: I know their division is tough, but they can hit and their pitching could be sneaky good.
Chris Larson: Last year, both Lance Lynn and Mike Minor were in the conversation for the AL Cy Young Award. If Corey Kluber is himself and stays healthy, that starting rotation is one of the best in the American League, if not in baseball.
Michael Gray: I am picking the under because the Rangers have a tough schedule.
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