American League Central: Minnesota Twins
The Twins were already going to be favored in the AL Central, a shortened season fits perfectly for the power heavy Twins. An already powerful offense adding free agent prize Josh Donaldson in the offseason to put him in the middle of the lineup along with the ageless Nelson Cruz. Minnesota’s lineup depth is arguably as good as any team in baseball. Less games means more rest for 2019 breakouts Mitch Garver and Jorge Polanco. Polanco, a 2019 all-star, saw some regression in the second half but in a shortened season his .880 first half OPS last year shows the type of potential he can bring to the table in 2020.
The Twins biggest question leading into the 2020 campaign was going to be their pitching staff behind ace Jose Berrios. They didn’t address it as drastically as the fanbase would like adding Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers being the biggest marquee name. The Twins still have a serviceable rotation backed up by a very solid bullpen. The aforementioned Berrios should excel in a condensed season. His second half numbers seemed to show the wear and tear of a long season.
Minnesota has the bats and the bullpen to be dominant out of the gate. While the White Sox have improved and the Indians still have a great core, Minnesota is built for immediate impact.
American League East: Toronto Blue Jays
Youth and power. The Toronto Blue Jays have a litany of both and that is as dangerous as it can come in a shortened season. A young team getting off to a good start doesn’t always carry the full length of 162 games. With just a sixty game season by the time Toronto realizes that they aren’t supposed to win we could be in the playoffs.
Toronto overhauled their rotation in the offseason adding Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu is the most notable addition from the LA Dodgers immediately jumps to the top of the rotation for Toronto and brings some much needed playoff experience. Top prospects Nate Pearson, Simeon Woods Richardson and Anthony Kay could factor into the season if there is a playoff push down the stretch.
The most exciting part of the Blue Jays will be their exceptional power throughout the lineup. Vlad Guerreo Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio are ready to make an impact right now. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has legit 30 homer power and the rest of the lineup has legit 25-30 homer power. This team can erase a deficit very quickly, all it will take is a good start to make them a problem for the American League.
American League West: Texas Rangers
I loved the Rangers leading into the 2020 season as a dark horse playoff contender. The additions of Corey Kluber and Robinson Chirinos added playoff experience to a talented team that seemed to be missing something. They sured up the rest of their rotation by adding two other veteran starters with high upside in Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson. Texas may arguably have one of the deepest rotations in the American League one through five. Their top three starters Kluber, Lance Lynn and Mike Minor can match up with most rotations. Texas still has some questions in the back end of the pen but Jose Leclerc seemed to settle into the closer role and minor league signee Cody Allen could emerge as a reliable late inning arm down the stretch.
The Rangers have studs on the offensive side of the ball and the delay in the season allowed Willie Calhoun to heal from getting hit in the face by a fastball in spring training. Texas has the offensive firepower to hang with anyone. If they can cut down the strikeouts they can be a serious threat in a shortened season. The Astros are the clear favorite in the NL West but they will not be able to relax as the rebuild in Texas is nearly finished.
National League Central: Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers could not have asked for a better situation heading into 2020. A shorter season seems to work right into the hands of Manager Craig Counsel. Counsel has morphed into the ultimate game manager during his young career. The Brewers rotation is not built to handle big inning seasons so the bullpen would again have had to eat a bulk amount of innings. The shortening of the regular season allows the power arms in the pen to conserve some of their best stuff for the stretch run heading into October.
The Brewers will have a fully healthy Christain Yelich and will have a new cast of power bats lining up behind him. Avisail Garcia should thrive in Miller Park and a second season of super prospect Keston Hiura should make for a lineup that will provide plenty of pop.
Milwaukee would have run into problems with the rotation if they had to go a full 162 but this set up makes them a serious threat to take the NL Central.
National League East: Atlanta Braves
Heading into the 2019 postseason it seemed like the Braves were the clear favorite to match up with the Dodgers in the NLCS. Amazingly neither of those teams were able to overcome their first round opponents but a shortened 2020 season could be just what the club needs to get over the hump of the previous year.
Atlanta lost Josh Donaldson in the offseason but found a more than adequate replacement in Marcel Ozuna. Ozuna’s stint with the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t pan out the way the former all-star had hoped but he moved from a pitcher friendly park to a much more hitter friendly Suntrust Field. Ozuna will also have a full season of Austin Riley at 3rd base. He will be given the reins to handle the hot corner and hopefully find the skills that showed in his first few weeks in the bigs.
The Braves swapped out Dallas Keuchel for Cole Hamels in the rotation. Hamels still has a lot in the tank and should be a huge asset for the Braves behind Mike Soroka and the re-emerging Mike Foltynewicz. Atlanta doesn’t have the same top of the rotation as the Mets or Nationals but both have better bullpens and lineups which should thrive in this situation.
National League West: Arizona Diamondbacks
The NL West is tricky. The obvious favorite and most likely winners will be the LA Dodgers. Nearly every other team in the division could benefit from a shorter season and expanded playoffs. My favorite team for this situation though is the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs made headlines picking up veteran ace Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner is still just 30 years old and brings an imposing figure to the desert. A leader in his many years in San Fran the Diamondbacks sport a still very young core that needed an on field presence like Bumgarner. Behind Bumgarner, talented Robbie Ray will have less pressure to be the ace and allow him to just show off his impressive skill set.
The D-Backs had a few stellar offseason additions in the outfield adding Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun. Arizona’s dynamic of speed and power throughout the lineup will bring fits for opposing pitching staffs. Ketel Marte has more protection in front of him and behind. A ful commitment to Christain Walker at first base and Carson Kelly behind the plate is going to pay dividends offensively.
Arizona’s bullpen is led by Archie Bradley and has plenty of solid arms to hold up over the shortened time frame. Arizona is going to be fun to watch and should see themselves in the thick of the playoff race.