Predicting the Shortened 2020 MLB Season: AL and NL East

We are a little over a week away from the start of the MLB season, which will make baseball the first of America’s 4 major sports leagues to return after pausing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the first of a three episode 2020 MLB prediction podcast series with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky, was released as a part of his podcast, the Master Plan. This episode covered the AL and NL East, as teams will only be playing divisional match-ups and match-ups against teams in the corresponding NL division.

You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify using the links below:

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/mlb-al-nl-east-predictions-for-60-game-mlb-season-andrew/id1495662343?i=1000485080123

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/2uxmuwVDzNCjPbhgq6I10H

In addition, I have added both of our standings predictions below alongside my brief breakdown of each of these 10 squads. Keep reading to check that out.

AL East

Andrew’s PredictionsMichael’s Predictions
1. New York Yankees1. New York Yankees
2. Tampa Bay Rays2. Tampa Bay Rays
3. Toronto Blue Jays3. Boston Red Sox
4. Boston Red Sox4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Baltimore Orioles5. Baltimore Orioles

Yankees: Injuries and the lack of a true ace have prevented them from going all the way over the last couple of years. But this year, they signed Gerrit Cole, and the shortened season could allow the team to stay healthy and make a big run. As much as I hate to say this, I think they’ll definitely be World Series contenders.

Rays: Many people think the Rays are a top 5-10 team in baseball and a surefire wild card team. They may have a very strong rotation. But they didn’t add much this off-season, and their lineup lacks firepower aside from young OF Austin Meadows. I think they can compete for a playoff spot, but it’s not a sure thing.

Red Sox: The Red Sox have one of the best lineups in the league between SS Xander Bogaerts, 3B Rafael Devers, and OF/DH J.D. Martinez. But their lack of a strong rotation will hold them back significantly. With Chris Sale out for the year and David Price gone, the Sox will turn to Eduardo Rodriguez to lead the rotation, and the depth behind E-Rod is shallow. I don’t see them beating out the Yankees or Rays, and the improving Blue Jays may even finish ahead of them.

Blue Jays: The Jays probably won’t contend this year, but they should look better as their young core improves. SS Bo Bichette got off to a hot start last year, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is one of the most hyped up young players in baseball. They also added several pitchers, including a new ace in Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Orioles: The Red Sox and Blue Jays aren’t very likely to contend, but the Orioles are part of a tier of 6-8 teams that are significantly behind the rest of the league. These teams are in the midst of long rebuilds and their young players haven’t shown much promise yet. It’s essentially a throw-away year for teams like Baltimore, though it will give them an opportunity to see what their young talent is capable of.

NL East

Andrew’s PredictionsMichael’s Predictions
1. Atlanta Braves1. Washington Nationals
2. Washington Nationals2. Atlanta Braves
3. New York Mets3. New York Mets
4. Philadelphia Phillies4. Philadelphia Phillies
5. Miami Marlins5. Miami Marlins

Nationals: The defending World Series champs were led by a star-studded rotation that includes Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. The strong pitching should absolutely allow them to contend in 2020. But this is a very tough division, and the Nats may struggle at the plate without 1B Ryan Zimmerman (opting out) and 3B Anthony Rendon (joining the Angels). They do still have one of the league’s best young outfielders in Juan Soto, and they should be very competitive. But it won’t be easy in the NL East.

Braves: The Braves still have a very strong core between OF Ronald Acuna Jr., 2B Ozzie Albies, 1B Freddie Freeman, and SP Mike Soroka. They may have lost 3B Josh Donaldson and SP Julio Teheran, but they made up for it by adding OFs Marcell Ozuna and Yasiel Puig (wasn’t signed until after the podcast was recorded), as well as SP Cole Hamels. Even in this tough division, I think the Braves might just have what it takes to contend for a title. Their roster is extremely balanced and deep in addition to including star power.

Mets: After some interesting moves by new GM Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets showed some promise down the stretch last year. They’ll be without SP Noah Syndergaard, but the rotation is still very strong with Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman here. In addition, the lineup is looking better and better. A nice young core centered around slugging 1B Pete Alonso is forming, and the team has some veteran mentors in Robinson Cano and Yoenis Cespedes, who are both healthy headed into the season. Unfortunately, it could be difficult for this team to make the playoffs in such a tough division, but I expect an above average year from them.

Phillies: The Phillies have plenty of star power between OF Bryce Harper and 1B Rhys Hoskins. But execution has been a problem over the last couple of years, and the lack of rotation depth has held them back. I can’t see them doing any better this year in a division with three potential playoff contending teams. They should be able to get some wins over weaker teams like the Marlins and Orioles though.

Marlins: Ever since Derek Jeter purchased the team and they traded away Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, the Marlins have been bottom feeders in the NL East. I expect more of the same this year as the rest of this division has far more talent. In a typical season, they might be able to improve with OF Corey Dickerson on board and some of their young talent on the rise. But in this competitive division, I don’t see it happening. I still consider them part of that same tier of teams I had said that the Orioles were in.

Essentially, there’s a few distinct tiers of teams in the league this year. The Yankees, Braves, and Nationals could all be legitimate World Series contenders. The Rays and Mets might have a chance to sneak into the playoffs as well. The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Phillies are part of the next tier down. While they’re unlikely to contend, they could surprise us this year. The bottom tier includes teams like the Orioles and Marlins that are far behind the rest of the league.

I’ll have similar posts out before the season begins regarding the AL/NL Central and the AL/NL West alongside the corresponding podcasts, so stay tuned.

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