Earlier today I made 10 bold predictions for the Rays 2020 season. Those predictions included the Rays winning both the AL East and the World Series.
Here’s how I reached that prediction:
American League East
Blue Jays 30-30
Red Sox 28-32
The Yankees are a very good team and it’s going to come down to the end where they will likely only be separated by a game or two. Getting off to a hot start could be the difference.
The Blue Jays and Red Sox are very similar but also completely different. They both have weak pitching staffs, but will rely on a powerful offense. The Blue Jays have the young second generation stars while the Red Sox will rely on middle-aged, for baseball, veterans. I like the Blue Jays pitching slightly more with the offseason addition of Hyun Jin Ryu and will likely call up flame throwing prospect Nate Pearson within a couple weeks.
The Orioles are the worst team in baseball. They have one of the hardest schedules in the game by virtue of not getting to play themselves. 21 wins might seem optimistic and it does feel like it is, but would a 105 loss season. They might not reach this modest win total without their three best players in 2020 in John Means, Troy Mancini, and Jonathan Villar.
American League Central
White Sox 30-30
The American League Central doesn’t have any of the elite teams as both the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins have questions, but will have inflated win totals thanks to the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers.
I give the Indians a slight edge because of their star power on offense with Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana, but it’s really because of their pitching staff led by Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber.
The Twins will hit homers, and they might be able to pitch enough to win the division, but it should be a close race down the stretch.
The White Sox made splashes this winter adding Dallas Keuchel and Yasmani Grandal. They have some exciting young offensive players, but I don’t think they are quite there when it comes to taking down the Twins or Indians, but they will be better than last year.
The Royals and Tigers aren’t good. This is being kind. Both teams lack pitching, but have some interesting offensive players. I’ll take the team led by Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler, and Aldaberto Mondesi in a head to head matchup.
American League West
This was the toughest division to call for me at the top. The Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros are very strong teams.
The talk around the Astros is about the cheating scandal, but the offense should still be good with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Yordan Alvarez. The questions come on the pitching side. They have a lot of intriguing arms, but the loss of Gerrit Cole is huge. They do get Lance McCullers Jr. back, but outside of Justin Verlander and Zach Greinke there are a lot of question marks.
The Athletics are built much like the Rays. Much shouldn’t be all that surprising as they are small market spenders and are built through trades. They don’t have quite as much depth or the pitching of the Rays, but they do have Matt Chapman and Matt Olson holding down the corners defensively. They have enough young pitching that could step forward and place them as one of the best teams in the league by the end of the season.
The Los Angeles Angels have the cheat code that is Mike Trout. They haven’t been able to surround him with enough talent even though you can’t fault them for lack of trying to spend to help. They brought in Anthony Rendon, but the rotation and pitching staff in general is still questionable at best. Shohei Ohtani returns to the mound, so they are still going to be one of the most exciting teams to watch even if that doesn’t lead to more wins.
The Rangers are very interesting. Last year they had Mike Minor and Lance Lynn post very strong seasons. They added former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, but they are going to need all three to be close to their best to make up for an offense that will likely come up short.
The Mariners are the worst team in the division by a fair amount. It wouldn’t really surprise me if they won closer to 20 than 25 games. It feels like they are going to give some younger guys every opportunity for playing time this year, so at least it feels like they are moving in the right direction even if it means more losses in the short term.
National League East
This might be most competitive division top to bottom. Alright I get it the Miami Marlins aren’t quite there yet, but I think they are closer than most realize. There is no elite team in this division but there are a lot of 2nd tier clubs.
Any order of the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies wouldn’t really surprise me as I have them separated by only three games.
The Braves are the new kids on the block led by exciting youngsters Ronaldo Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies along with the best first baseman in the league Freddie Freeman. They have young inexperienced pitching which can be a blessing and a curse.
The Nationals are built on the strength of their top three starters: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. Juan Soto could be ready to win a MVP in the next few years. They have a very interesting mix of veterans and youngsters that will look to repeat as World Series Champions.
The New York Mets have already had some health concerns that knock them down this list for me. The latest being a calf tear by Marcus Stroman. Along with Tommy John surgery for Noah Syndergaard it’s hard to see if they have enough depth to withstand this to have a real shot at competing for the division title.
The Phillies have a little bit of everything. They have some pitching with Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler at the top of the rotation. They have Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto on offense. They seem like a perfectly middle of the road team overall.
The Marlins aren’t quite ready to compete for a division title. They are an organization that has two World Series trophies yet hasn’t won the division and that won’t change this year. They have taken a step forward from the low point of trading an All-Star caliber outfield in one offseason of Christan Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, and Marcel Ozuna. Who knows if they’ll make it out the other side with a middling team or a very good one, but it’s nearing the end of their incubation period.
National League Central
The National League Central is very jumbled together much like the National League East, but it’s one with lesser talent overall. Their win totals are inflated a bit by getting to face the American League Central.
I think any of the top three teams would’ve been reasonable selections to win the division. I’ll go with the single best player, Christian Yelich, and an organization willing to experiment and adjust to the situation. That is the Milwaukee Brewers.
The St. Louis Cardinals are solid everywhere. They seem very much like the Rays offensively, but without the starting rotation and especially the bullpen of the Rays.
The Chicago Cubs are solid, but this is looking like the last ride for a team that was labeled a potential dynasty a few years ago. It’s very hard to keep very good teams together as they move through arbitration and into free agency even with a large payroll. They are going to have to make some difficult choices moving forward and don’t have the prospects to really push what they have remaining over the line especially on the pitching side.
The Cincinnati Reds were the talk of the winter signing Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos. They are two good players, but I think they need more to push them over the line. They aren’t bad and could be a surprise team, but think they fall to fourth in this race.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are the worst team in the division. It’s probably closer than most people think as I don’t think they are in the tier of San Francisco Giants or Baltimore Orioles, but they are probably in that next group of four or five teams firmly in the ten worst teams in baseball.
National League West
Once again the Los Angeles Dodgers are the class of the National League. They have separated themselves from the pack of very good teams to stand alone as the best team in baseball. They should run away with this divisions even if several things go very wrong.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, and Colorado Rockies are all pretty mediocre. They are somewhere around average teams to just below, but get to beat up on the San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners.
I’ll go with the Diamondbacks for second in the division. I don’t have a great feeling for how this plays out, but the addition of Madison Bumgarner and Sterling Marte should help a team that was solid in 2019.
The Padres have a farm system that likely isn’t quite ready to help push the major league club towards the Dodgers but it could easily put them in a distant second. The starting pitching seems a little light and they might call on MacKenzie Gore to help out. Fernando Tatis Jr. is exciting so Padres fans should have something to cheer for.
The Rockies are just a little short everywhere. They tried to spend a lot of money on a bullpen a few winters ago, but just released Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw leaving only Wade Davis from that spending spree. Offensively they are led by Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. They have some interesting pitching led by German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, and Jon Gray.
The Giants weren’t going to be good, but after Buster Posey opted out and Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt were announced to be starting the regular season on the injured list things got more grim. They are going to compete with the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in baseball.
American League Playoffs
Wild Card: New York Yankees vs Houston Astros
This is an exciting winner take all matchup. In the matchup of Gerrit Cole versus his former team the Astros get the best of him behind a dominant start by Justin Verlander.
Division Series: Houston Astros vs Tampa Bay Rays
In a rematch of last year’s ALDS the Rays get the advantage of not being forced to play the Wild Card game and burn their best starter. The Rays win the series 3-1 behind a dominant performance by Tyler Glasnow to lock things down.
Division Series: Cleveland Indians vs Oakland Athletics
The Athletics take down the Indians behind timely hitting by Matt Olson to win the series 3-2.
Championship Series: Oakland Athletics vs Tampa Bay Rays
This matchup is all about teams that are very similar. The Rays take the series 4-2 behind pitching that is a step ahead of Oakland.
National League Playoffs
Nation League East Tiebreaker: Atlanta Braves vs Washington Nationals
The Nationals advance behind a dominant outing by Max Scherzer and Juan Soto delivers in the clutch.
Wild Card: Atlanta Braves vs St. Louis Cardinals
Ronald Acuna Jr. announced his presence known on a national stage with three homers leading the Braves to a comfortable victory.
Division Series: Atlanta Braves vs Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers advance 3-1 behind their new outfield of Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts going off.
Division Series: Washington Nationals vs Milwaukee Brewers
Having to burn Scherzer does the Nationals in as he only throws once in the series and the Brewers take the series 3-2.
Championship Series: Milwaukee Brewers vs Los Angeles Dodgers
The Brewers just can’t overcome the massive talent difference. They counter Yelich with Bellinger and Betts while having a more dynamic and experienced starting rotation. The Dodgers cruise to a 4-1 series victory.
World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers vs Tampa Bay Rays
The headlines surround Andrew Friedman taking on his former team. It’s a real David vs Goliath when it comes to financial ability.
The skill on the field is much closer most realize. The Dodgers are the favorites on paper, but the Rays hit just enough as they win the series 4-3.
Blake Snell delivers a performance reminiscent of Madison Bumgarner’s playoff heroics as he comes in and picks up the 5 inning save after winning two games on his way to being named World Seriees MVP.