Finally, there is reason for optimism for baseball fans, with a 60-game MLB season on the horizon, barring any new setbacks. The shortened schedule likely impacts a number of the preseason conclusions drawn back in February, but there is still a steady flow of storylines to get excited about as we head into another attempt at Spring Training.
Over the coming weeks, we will walk through some of the biggest subplots for the 2020 season, along with previews for each division.
Can anyone stand in the way of a Los Angeles Dodgers-New York Yankees World Series matchup?
On paper, these two teams appear on a collision course to battle it out for the World Series crown. The Dodgers continue to push more and more chips into the middle of the table, while the Yankees, even with all their injury worries, have an explosive batting line-up and newly-signed ace Gerrit Cole. The Houston Astros will still fancy their chances of representing the American League on baseball’s biggest stage, but they may not have the pitching to back up their hitters.
Beyond that, the shortened season certainly opens the door to some surprises. The Atlanta Braves are a team on the rise that could light it up for a few months, while the defending champion Washington Nationals can still lean on top class pitching and 21-year-old phenom Juan Soto.
Speaking of the Astros, how will their tumultuous start to 2020 and the unusual circumstances of this campaign affect their postseason hopes?
The disrupted season has brought some respite for Houston after the intense spotlight from the sign-stealing saga. While there is a school of thought that the adversity might have propelled the Astros to new heights, the new reality of empty stadiums and a shortened schedule unquestionably eases the pressure on Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and company. The sign-stealing subplot is going to follow Houston around this year regardless but, with less fatigue from dealing with the media and opposing fans, look for the Astros to put together a solid campaign and claim the AL West crown once again.
How will the Boston Red Sox bounce back after trading away Mookie Betts?
The Betts trade is destined to be a talking point all year, with the 27-year-old set to shine for the Dodgers. The Red Sox could still snatch a wildcard spot given the talent in their clubhouse, but dealing away a perennial MVP candidate does not help their cause. If Boston make a slow start in a competitive AL East, this story is going to get louder and louder. It would help to cut the noise if outfielder Alex Verdugo, one of the assets acquired by the Red Sox in the Betts deal, can contribute immediately.
Which other offseason moves could swing the playoff race?
The Chicago White Sox are a sneaky pick to win the AL Central after bolstering their options during the offseason. In come Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion and Nomar Mazara – three powerful bats – as well as Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez to shore up the pitching. It is about time the White Sox climbed back into the playoff hunt.
The other obvious choice for a 2020 uptick is the Los Angeles Angels, who added Anthony Rendon’s red-hot bat, upgraded the catching position with the Jason Castro pick-up and get Shohei Ohtani back from injury. Despite Mike Trout’s wizardry, the Angels have been also-rans too often in recent years. There can be no excuses in 2020.
Keep an eye on the Arizona Diamondbacks too, after adding veteran ace Madison Bumgarner and outfielder Starling Marte this offseason.