By Mathias Altman-Kurosaki
With teams reporting to spring training and the Houston Astros cheating scandal behind the league, it is finally baseball season. There have been many moves during the off-season that have caused teams across the league to look quite different. With that in mind, here is how each division looks heading into the 2020 regular season.
In the National League East, it’s plausible that the New York Mets will win the division, the Washington Nationals will miss the playoffs and the Philadelphia Phillies will come in fourth place again.
Despite the Mets’ historically bad luck, they have a very talented roster that would have been in the playoffs in 2019 if their bullpen hadn’t been a complete disaster, posting a 4.95 Earned Run Average (ERA). That number was the sixth worst in the Majors. With a new manager, Luis Rojas, the Mets look poised to make it back to the postseason.
As for the defending World Champion Washington Nationals, they lost their best hitter, Anthony Rendon, which significantly weakens their lineup. They still have a strong pitching staff, but in a highly competitive division, the Nationals find themselves behind the Mets and the Atlanta Braves.
In the National League Central, it’s expected that the Cincinnati Reds will run the division. The St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs have had very quiet off-seasons after being the top three teams in the division last year.
Meanwhile, the Reds have had a huge off-season, adding the likes of sluggers Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos. The Reds have a team that can capitalize on playing in a relatively weak division. They may have been a losing team for the past five seasons, but this is their chance to make it back to the playoffs.
As for the National League West, it looks like it will be all about the Los Angeles Dodgers, but members of the League aren’t sleeping on the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While the Dodgers are probably favorites to win the World Series, the Diamondbacks also look poised to have an impact on the division this year.
In the American League East, the New York Yankees are looking great, and so are the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Yankees won 103 games last year and then picked up the highly sought-after Gerrit Cole in free agency, giving him a nine-year contract worth $324-million. Despite recent injuries to Luis Severino, James Paxton and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees will be very hard to stop this year.
If there is going to be a team that could stop the Yankees, it would be the Rays. They are coming off a 97-win campaign where they almost took down the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series. With largely the same roster as last year, the Rays will once again be a force to be reckoned with this year.
As for the American League Central, it’s expected that the Minnesota Twins will defend the division crown. The Twins shocked the league last year by winning 101 games and smacking a record-setting 307 home runs. The Twins could not only win the division, but they also look like they have a shot at the World Series.
Lastly, in the American League West, despite all of the controversy, the Houston Astros will be just fine.
The Astros have had a drama-filled off-season to say the least, with a cheating scandal behind them. But despite all of the drama, the Astros still have a star-studded infield led by Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. Their pitching rotation is led by reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, who seems to be getting better with age. While there may be some distractions right now, it’s hard to envision any team stopping the Astros in the west.
Spring training is already underway and Major League Baseball’s opening day is on Thursday, March 26. The games will begin at 1:05 p.m.