Tonight the 2020 Major League Baseball seasons kicks off. It is sure to be different than any other season we’ve ever seen.
These are my predictions with a sprinkle of 2020 chaos thrown into the mix.
1. Brandon Lowe leads the team with 13 home runs.
The Tampa Bay Rays have many players capable of hitting 30 plus homers in a normalized 162 game season. Austin Meadows led the team last year with 33. If he was starting the season available I think he would be the obvious choice, but since he could miss any amount of time that makes me chose from the next tier that includes Lowe, Yoshi Tsutsugo, and Hunter Renfroe.
I went with Lowe because he showed an elite ability to get the ball in the air at the right launch angle. Due to his size he doesn’t have the raw power of a guy like Joey Gallo, but when it comes to getting balls airborne in the zone that does a lot of damage he’s among his peers. Even with his lack of size he showed 80 percentile exit velocities numbers on balls in the air, so there’s more than enough power to get his fair share.
2. Kevin Kiermaier leads the team with 10 stolen bases.
This Rays squad doesn’t have the speed that the Rays showed when they had Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, and Desmond Jennings roaming the outfield, so this one is more by default.
The only player that could really compete with Kiermaier is Manuel Margot in terms of a full season’s worth of playing time, but the advantage goes to Kiermaier for starts and overall PA.
3. Austin Meadows leads the team with a .288 batting average.
In order to qualify for the batting title you need to get 186 plate appearances in this 60 game season. Meadows will have to stay healthy once he’s back, but he will be one of the few players that plays everyday so he should be able to get there.
This would be a small step back from his .291 batting average in 2019.
4. The Rays don’t have anybody rank in the top 3 of Rookie of the Year voting.
The Rays have a young team and the best farm system in baseball, but with Brandon McKay looking like his season will be delayed (he hasn’t been in camp and was assigned to the minors this morning) there isn’t really a player on the Opening Day roster with rookie eligibility with a real shot at the award.
American League: Luis Robert, White Sox
This is the consensus pick and after signing a contract extension this winter he was going to be on the short list by being allowed to pick up enough playing time. My dark horse candidate is Kansas City’s Brady Singer who they recently announced would make their starting rotation.
National League; Carter Kieboom, Nationals
Carter Kieboom has big shoes to fill with the departure of Anthony Rendon at third base. Former Ray Asdrubal Cabrera will provide a safety net for the Nationals, but he will be given a shot to get as much playing time as he could get.
Gavin Lux would have been my choice, but he was optioned by the Dodgers yesterday. Combined with the Dodger’s second base/shortstop depth it is hard to see how he earns enough playing time to be a real threat for the award.
5. Kevin Cash wins Manager of the Year.
American League: Kevin Cash, Rays
After leading the Rays to back-to-back 90 win seasons Cash finally wins the award after the Rays lead the American League in wins as one of the favorites.
National League: Craig Counsell, Brewers
In a division with all the teams having clear flaws the Brewers win the division behind creative use of a pitching staff and the National League Most Valuable Player, Christian Yelich.
6. Nick Anderson wins the Cy Young Award.
American League: Nick Anderson, Rays
The last reliever to win a Cy Young Award was Eric Gagne in 2003 for the Padres, and the last time it happened in the American League was Dennis Eckersley for the Athletics in 1992.
The Rays have three reasonable starting pitching candidates in Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton, but I went off the board.
Why not a reliever in 2020? Starters could be more limited than usual to start the season, and they only likely will receive 12 starts. 74.1 innings would be a 200 inning pace over a full 162, but we’re likely to see healthy relievers push 35-40 innings this seasons, so why not give it to a reliever. Nick Anderson will have to put up a season that compares to 2012 Fernando Rodney’s season with the Rays, but why not a reliever?
National League: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
Stephen Strasburg isn’t the favorite on his staff, but he’s still on the short list of favorites heading into the season. A sprint seems favorable for Strasburg and I expect him to be one of the most dominant pitchers this season.
7. Willy Adames comes in the top 5 of MVP voting, but ultimately falls short.
Willy Adames takes a step forward with the bat and continues to build on his very good second half in 2019. Adames hits double digit homers and puts up a 125 wRC+ on the best team in the American League by record, but comes in fifth in MVP voting.
American League: Matt Chapman, Athletics
The easy way out is to name Mike Trout the Most Valuable Player for the foreseeable future, but what fun would picking Trout be?
The choice came down to Matt Chapman and Matt Olson of the Athletics for me. Potential problem of splitting the votes could create an opportunity for a dark horse to win the award.
National League: Christian Yelich, Brewers
Christian Yelich has been an offensive force ever since he left the Marlins and I don’t expect that to stop. After the disappointment of breaking his knee cap last September he takes out his revenge on baseballs this summer to win the award for the second time in his career.
8. The Tampa Bay Rays win the American League East.
It’s generally accepted that the Rays are one of the best teams in baseball, but the general consensus is they are a step behind the New York Yankees. I think the two teams are far closer than they look on paper. The Rays are a team nobody wants to face with everything on the line and their willingness to play every game like it’s a must win for two months.
The Rays were built for this season. Really they were built for any season, but this is a season that could give the Rays flexibility and willingness to adapt to the situation a unique advantage.
9. The Tampa Bay Rays win the World Series!
Obviously I’m a Rays fan so there is some biased in my story telling here. It’s incredibly difficult to predict the playoffs as teams just aren’t that big of a favorite over another MLB team much less a good one.
This could be wrong as soon as this afternoon if MLB and the MLBPA reach an agreement to expand the playoffs from 10 to 16 teams.
10. The 2020 season gets played and doesn’t deserve an asterisk.
Now this one is more centered around hope and players showing that they have been able to limit exposure over the last three weeks. It will be difficult to hold on for another three months including the playoffs, but I think there is more optimistic now than there was a month ago that this could actually happen. At least from myself.
The regular season will be different, and outside of somebody hitting .400 there really shouldn’t be any real difference in how it’s remember. If anything people will remember this season as special because it happened at all and not that it was some bastardized version of a Major League Baseball season. It isn’t a 162 game season, but it’s still a season. There will be more variance, but there’s still more than we care to admit in 162 games.
Once we get to the playoffs everything will be like normal. The structure of MLB playoffs isn’t designed to find out who the best team is. It’s about who gets hot at the right time and can be healthiest at that time.
Even if the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox win the World Series it won’t mean any less to me and I’ll be the first ones to congratulating them on the victory while cursing them under my breath.
The Rays are a very good baseball team and they are built to deal with anything thrown at them even if that’s a 2020 baseball season that consists of 60 games.