Welcome one and all to theBRKDWN’s predictions as we head into the 2020 MLB season. This week is the AL East and I share my thoughts on each team’s outlook as well as their postseason chances. Stick with us throughout Spring Training for the latest around the league!
**All win totals in this series are from Circa Sports on February 7th. As always, remember to shop for the best prices possible if you are looking to wager on or against a particular team**
- Red Sox
- Blue Jays
New York Yankees
2019 Record: 103 – 59 (1st)
BaseRuns Wins/Losses 2019: 94 – 68
2020 Win Total: 102
2020 Playoffs? Yes
The Yankees are favored to win the division by 12 games this year after Cashman threw caution to the wind and channeled his inner Steinbrenner. More than $300M later, Gerrit Cole, and largely the same lineup returning – albeit healthy – the Bronx Bombers are poised to return to the postseason in 2020.
I would exercise caution, however, that the Yanks eclipse their record of last year. The Rays have proven to be a very good ball club in Tampa, and while the Sox should theoretically regress after trading their best player there’s still the Blue Jays who have improved their club as well. The Yankees overachieved last year – at least according to the 2019 BaseRuns model. New York caught lightning in a bottle with players like Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman, Mike Ford and others. It’s easy to play devil’s advocate and point out that New York won over 100 games without the likes of Miguel Andujar, Giancarlo Stanton, and Luis Severino, but with most of the team healthy coming back, the pressure is on to be as good, if not better than last year.
Gerrit Cole will serve as the ace for the next decade and without James Paxton for the first 3-4 months, Cole will have a lot of time to show why he deserved a Brinks truck of cash. If this team can stay moderately healthy – the key word being moderately – then the Yanks should be in a position to reign supreme again in 2020. If you follow the evil empire, pray the new training staff made Gary Sanchez a platinum member at Sweetgreen and Giancarlo Stanton takes a break from bench pressing super models to focus on his swing.
Tampa Bay Rays
2019 Record: 96 – 66 (2nd)
BaseRuns Wins/Losses 2019: 98 – 64
2020 Win Total: 90
2020 Playoffs? Yes
The Rays are always a tricky team to try and figure out. On one hand, they’re easy to root for as the scrappy underdog with no quit. On the other hand, they will almost never have the same roster year in and year out. This off-season has been no different. Tampa Bay has once again gotten trigger happy in the trade market. Erik Neander is every nerd’s wet dream. Neander and co. continue to fly under the radar for their success while operating under a depression-era payroll and involving themselves in more transactions than Charles Barkley at the race track.
Again, the Rays have proven more times than not that they have the leadership and the grit to duke it out with the best of the best, so I feel confident in crowning them a playoff position. It’s the moves they make that seem to confuse me. The Rays outfield is more crowded than a Tampa Bay civic center on bingo night and in the process of acquiring so many outfielders, the Rays have dealt top prospects and key contributors in the process. I’d be misguided to not assume the Rays are in play for another big trade, and because of the shadow operations in the front office I will not count them out.
The good news is that the Rays’ biggest strength is still in their pitching – openers and everything in between. I like the Rays to compete for the AL East all season and potentially take the next step towards division champs.
Boston Red Sox
2019 Record: 84 – 78
BaseRuns Wins/Losses 2019: 89 – 73
2020 Win Total: 84
2020 Playoffs? No
To say the Red Sox underachieved in 2019 would be an understatement. BaseRuns projected them at 89 wins, and while missing the mark by five is not cataclysmic, it is a bit of a surprise that the team won the World Series just two years ago. I’m not getting into the whole #SignGate shit here because it’s been said ad nauseam. What I will say is this – the Sox are a mess and while I don’t want to pile on, it’s hard not to point out how shitty this situation looks from the outside. Knocking on the door of the new season without a manager, trading their best player – twice, and almost zero notable additions to the team this off-season creates a recipe for a disaster.
Betts leaving for LA has been treated like a Kennedy’s death in New England. Speaking of Kennedy’s by the way, Sam Kennedy might as well manage the team in 2020 at the rate the Sox are going about hiring Cora’s replacement. It’s either that or let Pedroia manage on his bum knee to give the Sox a Flint Tropics feel, ala Jackie Moon. Boston will be mediocre at best (or worst if you’re embracing a rebuild) and Henry and co. will have a tough time selling tickets this season. Might as well get a live bear for Werner to wrestle at the 7th inning stretch to get asses in the seats.
The lineup will be decent, but the pitching is still an area of concern. Sale will need to shake the injury bug and the bullpen will need to get outs. In the end, this team is still good for 80 plus wins, but don’t expect a Cinderella season.
Toronto Blue Jays
2019 Record: 67 – 95
BaseRuns Wins/Losses 2019: 70 – 92
2020 Win Total: 76.5
2020 Playoffs? No
The Blue Jays have quietly had a solid off-season and should easily improve upon their 2019 record. The team is littered with the seeds of former pros and while the young core this team is building around has promise, it’s still too early for them in my opinion. Disregarding what I just said though, it’s easy to love a team with so much upside. The Jays are on the right track to be the hottest thing in Toronto since Degrassi: The Next Generation.
The biggest need is still the rotation, but any time a team can add a Cy Young finalist on the cheap, it’s a good place to start. Ryu will slot in nicely as the defacto ace for this upstart team, but the rotation rounds out poorly. Sowry, Jays fans, but you’re still aboot a year or two away from the playoffs (sowry, Aubrey Graham).
I like this team right around 76-80 wins, but avoid placing a bet on a team with so many unknowns. Still, for those in the white north, get excited about the young team you have, eh?
2019 Record: 54 – 108
BaseRun Wins/Losses 2019: 59 – 103
2020 Win Total: 57
2020 Playoffs? Hell no
Charm city is without a charming roster. Baltimore is a bad team. There is no sugarcoating this. They underperformed according to BaseRuns by five wins and still ended under 60. The team is in a full rebuild and without any notable additions, should be right around the same range of 50-60 wins in 2020.
There isn’t much to be excited about with the O’s. They have a couple intriguing building blocks starting with John Means, Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle and Adley Rutschman. Means will once again lead the rotation, but by no means is he a traditional ace. The real treasure here is with Mountcastle and Rutschman, but they likely won’t be ready to contribute until 2021. The offense this year will consist of Trey Mancini. Chris Davis will have another chance to show why he’s not worth his contract, and Jose Iglesias will have the Spring to audition for 29 other teams.
Baltimore is playing the long game with this rebuild but the silver lining is the commitment from the front office to see it through. There are low expectations this year and most likely the next year as well. The Orioles have some pitching prospects in the wings, but it’s wise to build the roster up a bit before exposing their young arms. I like the O’s to finish in last once again.