Braves vs Dodgers; NLCS Preview and Prediction

The matchup of the two best teams in the national league will culminate in an epic showdown in the NLCS.  Both teams have gone undefeated throughout the first two rounds, they both feature great offenses and marquee names.  These teams have a history of winning, but not a recent history of winning the big one.  What will be the difference?  Let’s break it down. 

Can Braves pitching face the challenge?

Atlanta took some blows to their pitching staff throughout the season.  Losing offseason signees Felix Hernandez and Cole Hamels, one to injury and one to Covid worry set the Braves back right away.  The rapid decline of Mike Foltynewicz took another name off the table almost immediately into 2020.  The final straw in the deterioration of the staff was losing ace Mike Soroka to an achilles injury. 

Max Fried stepped up during the regular season. Despite getting knocked around in the NLDS he is still the clear #1 for the Braves.  Fried has limited hard contact all season holding opposing lineups to just a 23% rate.  The Dodgers are not a heavy strikeout team so limiting the contact will be important.  

Rookie Ian Anderson has been overwhelming to start his career.  He has held opposing hitters power in check so far giving up just a .7% homerun rate.  That ranks #1 in the league for any pitcher that has faced at least 156 hitters.  Anderson’s changeup has kept hitters off balance, as long as he continues to hit the strike zone and avoid free passes he matches up well with the Dodgers front line starters.  

The depth of the Braves bullpen has bailed them out from their injuries. Tyler Matzek, Will Smith, Darren O’Day and Mark Melancon all have been great with sub 3.00 ERA’s in at least 18 appearances each.  They have to ride the bullpen arms to overcome their young rotation that will have problems with the Dodgers patience at the plate. 

The Dodgers offense is matchup proof.

Los Angeles has the best offense in the league in every advanced statistic.  They have a wRC+ of 122, along with the Mets as the best in the league.  What makes the Dodgers extremely dangerous is their ability to score without utilizing the homerun.  They showed in the Padres series they have multiple ways of manufacturing runs.  There is not one person on the team that beats you, it could be anyone. 

The Braves feature an extremely young pitching staff that will have to throw strikes. The Braves sit at the bottom five in steals allowed per game.  The Dodgers will have a chance to make things happen when they get on base. 

The Braves are in the bottom five in stolen bases against during the season. The Dodgers have multiple players that can take advantage of the Braves issues with runners on.  Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger are just a few that can swip a bag at any moment.  LA will make it tough for Atlanta as they also feature a low strikeout rate.  The power is real, accompanied by the ability to use their contact ability speed to cause trouble.  

Who will win?

Both teams feature the best offenses in the National League.  The Braves however will feature a rotation that includes Kyle Wright….and nothing else.  The Dodgers feature a perfect matchup with the Braves bats Julio Urias and Dustin May both feature great movement on their pitches that will be a problem for Atlanta bats.  The depth of the Dodgers pitching will ultimately outmatch the Braves.  

Dodgers in 5

Preview and Predictions for AL first round.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays

The Tampa Bay Rays took the #1 seed in the American League by playing every matchup perfectly throughout the season.  Dealing with injuries up and down the lineup and rotation they seemed to find the right mixes to be successful no matter what.  They will face an opponent that knows them very well in the Toronto Blue Jays.  

The Blue Jays have a powerful lineup, seeing a surge from Lourdes Gourriel Jr. over the last month to go along with Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero and Teoscar Hernandez.  Toronto actually has the advantage on the offensive side, averaging 5 runs per game.  The Blue Jays offense will be the lone advantage they have in this series.

Tampa Bay marches out a rotation of Blake Snell in GM1, Tyler Glasnow in GM2 and Charlie Morton in GM3.  Their rotation along with the best bullpen in baseball will be enough to hold down the Toronto offense.  Tampa Bay’s offense plays the matchup game very well and will be too much for the Blue Jays. Toronto’s best chance will be in game two when they have off-season signing Hyun Jin Ryu who brings some experience in a playoff setting, but the Rays have some great right-handed bats that will thrive. Rays are built for this situation. 

Pick: Rays in 2

Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees

The Yankees narrowly avoided a matchup with their “daddys” in 2020 the Tampa Bay Rays.  Instead they get the Cleveland Indians and potential MVP and guaranteed Cy Young winner Shane Bieber in game one.  Bieber versus Cole in game one will be a classic matchup of two bulldog pitchers that will go deep in the game and the first one to miss a spot is going to likely give up the game. The big problem for the Indians is that their lineup doesn’t feature nearly the amount of hitters that can provide the big pop when needed. 

Cleveland’s pitching will give them a chance but their team batting average of .228 and a major lack of power ranking 27th in the league in team ISO.  Jose Ramirez has carried the offense of late but he will need help against the powerful Yankee bats.  New York is healthy again and has the horses in the bullpen to clean up any trouble the starters run into.  Indians don’t have enough to pull this one out. 

Pick: Yankees in 3

Minnesota Twins vs. Houston Astros

The Twins have not won a playoff game in a very long time, losing 16 straight playoff games dating back to 2004.  This series should give the Twins their first game win and series win.  The Astros have dealt with a loss of injuries in 2020, yet somehow found themselves in the playoff due the new expansion. Houston has been offensively challenged at times in 2020.  Recently seeing a resurgence of power with George Springer and Alex Bregman.  Still the Astros have a team ISO ranking 18th in the league and team batting average of .240 ranking 20th in the league.  

Minnesota has the advantage with their rotation for the first two games going with Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios in the first two games.  At this point the Astros have only announced Zack Greinke as their game one starter with the other TBD.  Minnesota loves right handed pitching, as a team they are #1 in the league in overall home run percentage versus righties.  That is a big factor in the Minnesota offense as they are a team that thrives on scoring runs due to the long ball.  

The Astros haven’t announced who will start game 2 or game 3 yet, my money would go on Framber Valdez to offset Minnesota’s dominant numbers against right handed pitching. The Twins have more depth in the bullpen, rotation and lineup.  They have to get over the mental hump of consistent playoff losses.  They have the talent and should make quick work of the injury riddled Houston Astros. 

Pick: Twins in 2

Oakland Athletics vs Chicago White Sox

I’ve reviewed the Oakland Athletics numbers over and over again and still can’t figure out how the Athletics score runs.  Horrible seasons from Matt Olson, Khris Davis, Marcus Semien and Ramon Laureano, coupled with losing Matt Chapman for the season has left the lineup underwhelming. The pitching staff has stepped up to mask the offensive problems.  The Athletics bullpen has been impressive, leading to the Athletics having a record of 27-0 when leading after the 7th inning.  Liam Hendricks, Yusmeiro Petit, and Jake Diekmann have been lights out for the Athletics all season.  

The Athletics are going to go with Sean Manaea in game one despite the immaculate White Sox record against left-handed pitching. Breakout starter Chris Bassit will likely pitch game 2. Oakland is going to have to get a lead early and that will be tough against the White Sox top two starters Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. 

The White Sox offense is better in nearly every single position bat for bat and if they are able to grab a lead I can’t see the Athletics offense being able to come back.   Chicago has found a niche in the back end with Alex Colome being set up by Matt Foster, Aaron Bummer and their new weapon rookie Garrett Crochet.  The White Sox have more talent and better pitching.  The Athletics have the experience.  The talent will win out in a short series.  

Who steps up for Mikolas?

The return of Carlos Martinez to the rotation should have been a celebration in the city featuring the best fans in baseball.  The eccentric “Tsunami” bringing his big personality and elite level stuff back into the rotation should have been a huge step in the right direction for a Cardinals rotation that is widely known for their depth. It did not go as planned, Martinez getting smacked around for six runs over two innings. The Cardinals will need better outings from their former ace and closer going forward with the news of the injury to Miles Mikolas, sidelining him for the remainder of 2020.  Martinez isn’t the only one that is going to have to step up for the Cardinals; there are multiple players that are going to need to take the next step fast.  

Austin Gomber 

Gomber played the role of long reliever and janitor, cleaning up the mess that Martinez made on the mound at Target Field.  Gomber pitched 1.2 innings striking out one and holding down the powerful Twins lineup long enough to attempt a comeback.  

Gomber’s immediate role looks like he will be in the mop up role for all starters that struggle out of the gate.  Rather than utilize him as a primarily left handed stopper he will be looked upon to eat up an average of two innings per appearance. He has two plus pitches he can utilize out of the pen, making him perfect for the current landscape of the MLB.   

The lengthy lefty brings a better pace to the game rather than Daniel Ponce de Leon.  He can come in and immediately throw strikes which has been an issue in the past for Ponce de Leon. 

Ryan Helsley

At one time he was considered a potential starter, coming into the season he was considered a possible closer.  Now he will be put into a premier setup role. Helsley will be looked at to pitch multiple innings in order to get to closer, Kwang Hyun Kim.  

If Kim is forced into the rotation Helsley is ready to slip straight into the closer role.  His ability to get out batters from both sides of the plate make him an instant successor based on the needs of the organization.  Helsley has the ability and poise to take the spot and run with it.  

Kodi Whitley

Whitley unexpectedly excelled in 2019 at both double-A and triple-A.  Whitley has the ability to miss bats averaging 10K/9 through both levels.  With Ryan Helsely and Giovanny Gallegos being forced into more multi-inning roles throughout the shortened season more opportunity could come Whitely’s way down the stretch in big moments.  

Whitley was utilized in relief against the Twins middle of the order that featured Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz.  Whitley showed his mid-90s fastball and an exceptional change up that was able to keep the powerful bats off balance.  The Cardinals will be giving the 25-year old hurler a chance to become a more important factor earlier than planned but he has the stuff to be great.

The Cardinals bullpen has been stellar to start the season.  They have cleaned up the messes made by Carlos Martinez and Dakota Hudson.  In the format they will have to continue to be leaned on throughout the season.  Hudson and Martinez will improve but it will take more than a single person to overcome the loss of an innings eater like Mikolas.  The organization will need to continue to trust their young arms and they will be rewarded. 

Now if the offense could just get going….

The future of the Frontier League – An interview with Manager Phil Warren.


The Frontier League was forced to suspend the 2020 season on June 24th.  The longest running independent baseball league in the United States was looking at a banner year.  The recent expansion with the Can-Am League in the offseason was not only going to add five new teams to the league but was also going to expand the league into another country.  The expansion was going to lead to a new level of exposure for the league that is known more as a midwestern league.  The Gateway Grizzlies were going to celebrate their 20th season as a part of the Frontier League.  Their manager Phil Warren was going to enter his 14th season with the organization.  He was excited to get a chance to see arguably the most talented collection of coaches and players come together during the tenure of the season.  He won’t get that chance.  I got a chance to talk with him about that and what he thinks about the future of baseball. 

With the addition of an unlikely ally the upcoming season was going to have a new look and a new voice helping to guide the Grizzlies. Cross town rivals the River City Rascals closed operations after winning the Frontier League Championship in 2019.  Long time Rascal’s skipper Steve Brook signed on to work alongside Warren bringing along a load of talent from the championship squad. 

“We anticipated several “hard” releases that would have to be made before opening day, which means we had done a great job this off-season.” -Grizzlies Manager, Phil Warren

Warren will be looking at the first season since he was in 8th grade that baseball wasn’t his main priority.  While he is excited for the chance to fish as much as he would like and go on vacation with his family the question of “what if” is going to be on his mind and the minds of the fanbase.  

“We now have turned our attention to building on the assembled 2020 roster to ensure that 2021 has the same outlook.  The work never stops if you want to ensure a successful future.” 

While the coaching staff will work to replenish the roster, there will be plenty of options available in the open market.  With professional teams continuing to cut costs at different minor league levels the access of talent will be available.  Warren spoke about the continued issues between Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association.

“In terms of the future between the players and the owners, this isn’t anything new. Money will always be the driving force.  I think we are simply getting a taste of what’s to come by 2022,  they are able to hide the real issues under the smoke screen of COVID-19.  Ultimately the fans are the ones that will suffer.”

Unlike the MLB season the Frontier League season was not able to make the finances work heading into 2020.  The loss of nearly three months of income along with the limitations of event hosting forced the hand of the ownership groups across the league. Most teams have found ways to supplement their facilities with high school, littel league and other events that can bring in some income but the loss of the season could lead to a lot of different issues down the line for every organization. 

The Frontier League will plan to be back in 2021. The question will be what players and staff will return for most of these organizations.  With a large portion of the staff being forced to be furloughed alot of these talented employees and players could find themselves working in either a different organization or changing their careers completely.  The future is uncertain for the entire league but the Gateway Grizzlies and Phil Warren still see a future in the smallest town in the United States with a professional baseball team in Sauget, Illinois. 

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Who should replace Markakis in Atlanta?

The Braves have been hit pretty hard by COVID-19.  First it was offseason addition Felix Hernandez opting out and now veteran outfielder Nick Markakis has decided to do the same.  Atlanta plans to not only contend in the NL East but they actually see themselves as real candidates to win the NL pennant.  They have to find a replacement for Markakis.  The in-house options are solid but who should be the man to take over right field?

Austin Riley-

Riley’s power is legit.  He is going to have to find consistency on the major league level.  Bursting onto the scene in 2019, it looked like the Braves had a future star at 3rd base or outfielder ready to take over for the departing Josh Donaldson. Opposing pitchers were having a problem leaving the ball over the middle of the plate to the power hitting prospect.  

Eventually Riley ran into some trouble as pitchers began to figure him out.  During his last 123 plate appearances of the season the slash line is not positive, .150/.202/.293. Riley became susceptible to the slider which forced him to try and change his swing to adjust.  His hand trigger became slower which is allowing pitchers to take advantage with high hard fastballs.  

Austin Riley is still young and his problems can be fixed.  If Riley is able to adjust he can fit in nicely in right field and Johan Camargo can take over full time at the hot corner. 

Ender Inciarte-

Inciarte’s injuries saw him lose his spot in the starting lineup. Even before the injuries the writing was on the wall for Ender losing his job.  The 2017 All-Star saw a decline in his OBP in 2018, falling to just .325. 

Ender will have his chance to reclaim his spot in the starting lineup due to his defense. He is a 3-time gold glove award winner will bring his glove but the offense has to show in the lead up to the season.  If Inciarte is able to reclaim his form from 2017 he will be a great place holder for some developing stars that will come on this list.  

Adam Duvall-

Maybe the most established major league player on this list is Adam Duvall.  The long time Red has had spurts of brilliance in 2016 and 2017, hitting 30+ homers over those two seasons.  The power Duvall brings comes at a cost as his career OBP is a pedestrian .292.  In 41 games last year he showed the Braves what he can bring to the table slugging .567.  

The Braves are a team built around a core of power bats already, Duvall seems to fit better in the power off the bench role.  While he could win the job, it may be hard to keep the job. 

Cristian Pache- 

The top outfield prospect in Atlanta will most likely have a legit shot at making the opening day roster.  A potential five tool prospect was a late bloomer in terms of power but saw his slugging percentage rise to .462 in 2019 reaching as high as triple-A.  

Pache looks the part standing at 6’2” and runs like a gazelle.  He has not developed into a legit base stealer but his first to third speed is exceptional.  His speed transitioned well into the defensive.  Pache has center field skills that will work in the right.  With Pache and Ronald Acuna a gap shot in right center field may disappear.  The Braves would be gambling on exposing Pache before necessary but he should have an impact on this season before it’s over.  

Drew Waters-

Waters had a great 2019 season.  Jumping up to compete with Cristian Pache as the #1 outfield prospect in the Braves system, Waters turned some heads last season.  The Georgia native led all Braves minor leaguers in hits, doubles and triples.  If Waters can find a way to cut down the strikeouts, his hard contact rate is hard to ignore.

Waters had a solid .360 OBP split between triple-A and double-A.  He could be a future top of the lineup standout for the Braves but he will have to show an ability to knock down the strikeouts leading up to the first games or he will be relegated to a bench role or not making the team at all. 

Who should it be?

Atlanta will allow everyone to have a chance to win the position. In my opinion if Cristian Pache shows an ability to hit he should be the man to be given the chance.  Adam Duvall’s skills seem perfect for the power bat off the bench and Ender Inciarte has had problems staying healthy.  

While I like Pache, it will most likely be Inciarte getting the first chance.

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90’s MLB All-Stars that had terrible seasons.

Being an all-star is a great honor that not many players get a chance to do.  It seems like in the 90’s your resume did not have to be as solid to make the squad.   I wanted to highlight players that were able to make the team but their actual seasons were subpar to say the least. 

1990- Ozzie Guillen, SS, Chicago White Sox

Ozzie Guillen won the gold glove in 1990.  His defense was great but how does a player with a  -18 value offensively (Fangraphs) make an all-star team.  The numbers don’t lie.  Ozzie Guillen was horrible with the bat during the season.  Guillen featured a .312 OBP, .062 ISO and a 78 WRC+.  These numbers fit more for a late inning defensive replacement rather than an all-star.  

Clearly this was a defensive selection during a time where the shortstop pool was not overly talented.  Imagine seeing a player with an OPS under .700 making an all-star team in today’s game.  Would never happen.  

1991- Juan Samuel, Utility, Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Samuel had a long career in the majors.  He had a lot of solid seasons that lead to a total of three all star game appearances.  Samuel was a strikeout machine throughout his career and 1991 was no outlier.  Samuel struck out 133 times while providing little power, finishing with 12 homers and an OBP of just .328. Samuel was a good utility player in his career but to be an all-star is well…ugh.

1992- Roberto Kelly, OF, New York Yankees

Roberto Kelly played for eight different teams during his 14 years in major league baseball.  His best two seasons were 1990 and 1993, sandwiched in between was 1992 when he made his first all star game.  Kelly had a decent season but finished with just a 1.4 WAR and an OPS of .706.   Kelly didn’t bring much to the table on the defensive end either as he finished with a -10 defensive runs saved. 

1993- Scott Copper, 1B/3B,  Boston Red Sox

Scott Cooper had a short career in the MLB career. He was able to make it to two all-star games in his career and neither of which resulted in a stellar season.  Cooper had the task of taking over for future hall of famer Wade Boggs.  He had a solid season in 1993 with an OBP of .355.  He however didn’t do much else well.  Hitting nine homers and slugging just .397.  His OPS of .752 is solid but is very average for a corner infielder on an all-star team.  Cooper was good but he was not an all-star. 

1994- Scott Cooper, 1B,  Boston Red Sox

His 1993 season is basically the same. 

1995- Steve Ontiveros, P, Oakland Athletics

Steve Ontiveros was coming off of a career season in 1994.  He led the league in WHIP and ERA, pitching in 27 games, starting 13.  In 1995 Ontiveros was going to be a cornerstone of the Athletics pitching staff.  It didn’t really work out that way.  Becoming a full time starter Ontiveros pitched in 22 games giving up a WHIP of 1.4 and an ERA of nearly 4.50.  This was the time where most teams had to have a representative, but the A’s had Mark McGwire representing them.  Ontiveros actually got to pitch in the game and took the loss…Duh.

1996- Roger Pavlik, P, Texas Rangers

Wins can be overrated, according to Brian Kenny they shouldn’t even count.  In the case of Roger Pavlik he ended the 1996 season with 16 wins. That sounds great but every other stat was pretty embarrassing.  Pavlik had a 5.16 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP and FIP of 5.00.  Pavlik was an innings eater with 7 complete games but when he was bad, he was very bad.  Pavlik’s ability to eat innings was the lone positive of a season that should have been forgotten.  He will always have that all-star game in the record books but it is hard to believe. 

1997- Royce Clayton, SS, St. Louis Cardinals

Royce Clayton had the task of replacing hall of famer Ozzie Smith.  Clayton had his positives, he was a solid defensive player that was able to steal 30 bases in back to back seasons.  The problem was Clayton really didn’t get on base enough to utilize his speed.  In 1997 Clayton featured an on-base percentage of just .306. Clayton didn’t walk much and he only hit .206.  This was right before the boom of talented shortstops took over the league.  Clayton may not even start in today’s game.  It’s laughable to think he would be an all-star.

1998- Edgar Renteria, SS, Florida Marlins

Having a historical moment can make your career.  In 1997 Edgar Renteria was a part of one of the greatest moments in baseball history, getting the game winning hit in game seven.  His historic moment seemed to grab him some legitimacy heading into the 1998 season.  Renteria stole 41 bases which was the lone highlight of his statistical season.  Edgar’s season finished with a .9 WAR and a WRC+ of 90.  His loan highlighted statistics, stolen bases, had an asterisk next to eat as he was actually caught stealing a staggering 22 times. 

Edgar Renteria had a few very good seasons but being an all-star in 1998 seems like a big reach.  

1999- Ron Coomer, INF, Minnesota Twins

Ron Coomer was a bright spot in a pretty bad stretch for the Minnesota Twins.  Coomer was a middle of the order bat that brought more of a look of a power hitter than a real threat.  Coomer hit a career high 16 homers in 1999 but that really was the highlight of his season.  His .306 OBP along with an OPS+ of just 86.  Not much of an impact for a guy that was supposed to be able to help carry the order. Coomer making the all-star game was clearly just a guy that was put in there because every team needed to have a representative.

Five Underrated Sports Moments

1) Joe Carter’s game winner 1993 World Series.

Five time All-Star Joe Carter had a near Hall of Fame career.  While his numbers don’t transition well to the analytics world that we know today, he still made an impact with his power and speed through his career. Carter spent a long time in the league making his impact most notably in the 1993 World Series where he not only sent home the Philadelphia Phillies but also gave Toronto their second straight World Series title. Carter’s homer literally won the World Series for the Blue Jays yet it seems to be ignored in history. The fact that this home run was in Toronto also makes it one of the craziest atmospheres in baseball.

2) Lance Berkman’s game tying single, game six 2011 World Series.

David Freese’s game winner will live on in baseball history.  We all tend to forget that it was actually Lance Berkman that saved the series for the Cardinals in game six. The Cardinals were down to their final out and final strike when Berkman shot a single up the middle that kept the game going for the Redbirds.  While Freese’s homer is obviously the moment that should be played over and over again, it was Berkman that made everything possible. Lance had a great career but this moment was by far the biggest of his career. 

https://www.mlb.com/video/berkman-s-game-tying-single-c19955467

3) Derek Fisher’s game winner with .4 seconds left 2004 Western Conference Semifinal.

The Lakers had plenty of guys that took the spotlight in 2004.  Shaq and Kobe were in their prime and dominating the league. Big shot Robert Horry was the guy known for hitting the game winners, hence the nickname.  However it was a shot in the 2004 Western Conference semi-final that stuck out to me. The Spurs and Lakers were battling for dominance in the Western Conference and this game was the swing that led to the win for Los Angeles.  The Lakers seemed done after the Spurs took the lead on a shot from Tim Duncan. This game was over and then out of nowhere the role player Derek Fisher launched a shot with .4 seconds on the clock and sent the fans home, giving the Lakers a 3-2 advantage in the series.  If this shot doesn’t happen we likely see the Spurs versus the Pistons in that year’s NBA Finals. 

4) DeWayne Wise saved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. 

I watched this game live on WGN when I was in high school.  Soft tossing Mark Buehrle had a very underrated career that had a few highlight moments and one was on July 23rd 2009.  Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. That perfect game was nearly taken away by Gabe Kapler leading off the ninth driving a ball deep to center field.  Little known DeWayne Wise was playing shallow in center and immediately broke into a full sprint back to the wall jumping up off the wall knocking the ball back into play, juggling it before hauling it in. Wise never did anything else in his career that was noteworthy but this catch was awesome and will stay in my memory forever. 

5) Hatteberg’s walk-off for 20 straight. 

We all know the story of Moneyball.  The real world story of Scott Hatteberg is still hard to believe. The former Red Sox catcher seemed like his career was over after suffering an arm injury that forced him out of the position he had played his whole career.  Hatteberg only hit 106 homers in his entire 14-year career. By far his most memorable homer was on Sept 4th 2002 when he took the first pitcher from Royals pitcher Jason Grimsley over the right field wall and gave the A’s their (at the time) record 20th straight win.  While the story was made more famous by Hollywood years later, the actual game was as dramatic as it comes. Oakland had blown a massive lead and needed the former catcher to just get on base but he swung his way into history. If you haven’t seen Chris Pratt’s portrayal of the homer you have to watch Moneyball, he absolutely crushes the performance.

AL East Preview and Prediction

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees found themselves back on top in 2019.  Holding off the Tampa Bay Rays and winning the American League East for the first time since 2012.  I was shocked when I saw that up until last season the Yankees had gone six seasons without taking the division crown. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays had won the division more recently than New York.  

The Yankees have a great lineup.  The potential injuries of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are not going to be a problem with the delayed start to the season.  Resigning Brett Gardner will cover the injury of Aaron Hicks. New York has a loaded lineup. The move of Gleyber Torres should hurt defensively but the power that Torres brings should overshadow most defensive liabilities.  The Yankees will get the return of Miguel Andujar provides a problem that most teams would love to have. Last year’s emergence of Gio Urshela gives the Yankees two serious offensive threats at one position. Andujar has been working to potentially play multiple positions to allow another big bat into the lineup.  The Yankees have tons of talent in the lineup and should be ready to jump out as an offensive force.

The Yankees rotation took a big blow before the season started.  Injuries to James Paxton, Luis Severino and Domingo German have left the Yankees in a tough position.  Behind ace Gerrit Cole is Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ Jordan Montgomery and….. New York’s pickup of Cole will hide some of the injuries for a small time.  If Paxton is not able to recover New York will have to find some proven rotation arms to back up their freshly signed stud.  

The Yankees bullpen is loaded.  Chapman, Britton, Ottavino, Green and Kahnle are just some of the names that make up this ridiculous;y talented pen.  They have it all.

Verdict:

This is the Yankees division to win.  Their rotation scares me enough to see the possibility of Tampa making a run but the Yankees were able to figure things out last season when they didn’t have Gerrit Cole.  It will be tough to bet against them.

Boston Red Sox

Mookie Betts- traded.  Chris Sale- Tommy John Surgery.  This has not been a great start to the 2020 season for the Boston Red Sox. 

The offense is still very solid even without Betts. Boston was able to add Alex Verdugo, a long time prospect that will be given the chance to show whether or not he can live up to the hype.  Verdugo is going to join an offense that still has some serious talent. JD Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi will make up the core of the lineup that still make them a serious threat to the division.  The addition of Kevin Pillar will add a little more pop to the lineup coming off of a 21 homer season. Boston will need a repeat in production from infielder Michael Chavis who will get opportunities at both second base and first base.  The depth of the lineup continues with the addition of veteran Johnathon Lucroy to go along with Christian Vazquez who had a terrific 2019 season. The Red Sox may have lost their best player but this is still a lineup that has serious talent.  Martinez, Bogaerts and Devers are still All-Star level talent that can lead this team. 

The biggest issue for Boston will be the starting staff.  With Chris Sale missing the entire 2020 season an already weak rotation will have to hope veterans Martin Perez and Colin McHugh can step up and show the potential they both had many years ago.  Eduardo Rodriguez will have to step into the role of #1 starter coming off of a career season. Rodriguez’s 19 wins and 3.7 WAR headlined a huge 2019 season for the 27 year old. The Red Sox will have to value their veterans as there is no clear relief coming from the minor league system. The Red Sox top rated prospects are mainly positional players.  The highest rated pitcher in the system is Bryan Mata who had pitched in the future’s game in 2018. Mata is still just in Double-A and will not likely make the strides to get to the majors in 2020.  

The bullpen dug themselves out of a hole in the second half of 2019.  Brandon Workman worked his way into the closer role and will enter the season in that role.  Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez have all progressed into a strong set up man crew but they will need more arms to step up to make it through the whole season.  

Verdict:

Boston’s pitching is going to be a problem.  Losing Chris Sale and trading away David Price has put them in a tough situation.  They are in the process of rebuilding what was once a vaunted farm system. They have a strong lineup that doesn’t have a lot of depth but the starters are as good as any in the division. If Boston can get any sort of support from the rotation they have enough offense to be a threat in the division.  This is going to be a rebuild but the talent is still very young and should be competitive.  

Tampa Bay Rays

It is impossible to question the moves made by the Tampa Bay Rays. They have proven that they are ahead of the curve analytically.  The Rays were active in the offseason adding Jose Martinez, Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to an already deep roster.  To try and have an idea of what the lineup is going to be is a waste of time. The Rays are built better than ever to utilize the platoon lineups.  Their mix of power, speed and on-base ability throughout the roster makes them unique and adaptable to any game. The Rays have the advantage of not leaning on a core of players so no injury should really determine the season.  If Austin Meadows, Joey Wendle, Brandon Lowe and Yandy Diaz can take the next step in their development this team is going to be tough to handle. The eventual call up of Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan will make another impact in the lineup if they need a jolt at any point.

The Rays rotation is highlighted by the top three.  Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow can match up with any team’s top three. If Snell and Glasnow can stay healthy in 2020 a team that is so well known for utilizing their bullpen may have one of the strongest rotations in all of baseball. Yonny Chirinos took steps in the right direction last season finding mixed success in the bullpen and the rotation. Tampa Bay has a few interesting prospects that could find their way into the rotation.  Two-way player Brendan McKay and prospect Brent Honeywell could both find themselves in the majors this season.  

The bullpen is similar to the rotation.  Nick Anderson stands out is the potential closer but there are multiple arms that are ready in any situation.  Jose Alavardo, Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Colin Poche and Chaz Roe all have nasty stuff. This team is unpredictable and that makes them tough to handle.

Verdict:

My head says this is the Yankees division.  New York is more fragile than Tampa Bay. The Rays could easily win this division if the starting pitching stays healthy.

Baltimore Orioles

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s just a really long tunnel. The Orioles were able to rebuild what was a horrific farm system. They are currently ranked 13th overall by MLB.com heading into the season.  This ranking includes four players in the top 100 overall, headlined by the #4 overall prospect Adley Rutschmann. The future looks bright for the Orioles but the 2020 season will not be the first year of the turnaround.

Baltimore’s offense doesn’t have a particular player to build their lineup around. Veteran Trey Mancini is the closest thing to a star player with a 135 OPS+, but he may be trade bait for a contender as the year goes on. Anthony Santander was a nice surprise in 2019 blasting 20 homers in limited at bats.  He will be looked upon to garner more playing time in 2020. Another surprise was the play of Hanser Alberto. Alberto led the Orioles in BA (.305), adding some pop with 13 home runs. OF Austin Hays found his way to the majors last season and will be looked upon as the first hope of what’s to come. 

John Means came out of nowhere in 2020 making it to the All-Star game. Means will be looked upon to carry the load for a rotation full of journeyman veterans.  Tommy Milone, Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc are going to be holdovers as the organization waits for their young starters to take the next step. Grayson Rodriguez and DJ Hall headline the upcoming starters that will soon be mainstays in the rotation.  Both starters are still considered at least one year away from being ready for the majors.

The Orioles bullpen has rising star Hunter Harvey to go along with Mychal Givens, their most proven arm in the back end.  The pen will feature a litany of other young arms trying to establish themselves in the majors. 

Verdict:

The Baltimore Orioles are at least a few years away from any sort of contention but the work they have done on their farm system has been impressive.  Moving on from Trey Mancini and Mychal Givens in order to continue to bolster their farm system is the best choice for the organization. The problem Baltimore has is they are going to be very low balled by any team interested in Givens and Mancini. Another tough year is ahead for the Orioles and their fans. 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays believe in their young talent.  The second generation stars Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vlad Guerrero Jr make up a young core that will be the backbone of the organization.  These young stars are flanked by the power of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Rowdy Tellez and Teoscar Hernandez. The Blue Jays have built a lineup that will be nightmares for opposing pitchers for years to come. 

The Blue Jays needed the arms to compete with the elite in the American League and they worked hard to find those arms in the offseason adding Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark, Shun Yamaguchi and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Toronto added some veteran arms to give them stability as they await the incoming talent Nate Pearson and Anthony Kay.  Pearson ranks 7th overall prospect in all of baseball while Kay is 67th. They will soon be joined in the top 100 by another drafted arm Alek Monoah the former #11 overall pick is an imposing 6’6” 260lbs and he brings serious strikeout stuff. In his first 17 innings in low-A he Monoah struck out 27 hitters and dominated. He is still far from MLB ready but when he is it will be impactful. 

The Blue Jays have a very formidable closer in Ken Giles.  He propelled them to a mid-level ranked bullpen. He will be backed up in 2020 by AJ Cole, WIlmer Font and potentially Shun Yamaguchi if he doesn’t end up in the rotation.  If Toronto is able to get the innings they expect from their new veteran rotation the back end of the pen should be able to solidify victories.  

Verdict:

Toronto is still a few years away from being serious competitors but they have a lineup with very real potential for explosion.  If the rotation is able to provide them with any sort of support this team has the real ability to compete for third place in the division.  The playoffs are unlikely but watch out for Toronto they are making waves. 

     2020 Season Standings 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles