2020 MLB American League Preview

2020 MLB American League Preview

By Brett Wiseman

As mentioned in my last article, everything is different in the MLB. Throw away your original predictions and take a look at what I believe will be a interesting season in the American League. 

AL East

1. New York Yankees

Projected Record: 48-12

Projected Lineup:

  1. DJ LeMahieu-2B
  2. Aaron Judge-RF
  3. Gleyber Torres-SS
  4. Giancarlo Stanton-DH
  5. Aaron Hicks-LF
  6. Gary Sanchez-C
  7. Luke Voit-1B
  8. Brett Gardner-CF
  9. Gio Urshela-3B

Projected rotation: 

  1. Gerrit Cole
  2. James Paxton
  3. Michael King
  4. J.A. Happ
  5. Jordan Montgomery

Aside from the Dodgers, the best team in baseball 1A is the New York Yankees. There is no debate on that one either. And no team in the bigs benefited more from the pandemic pause than the Bronx Bombers. When MLB hit the pause button on March 12, the Yanks biggest stars were dealing with nagging injuries. Stanton, Judge, Sanchez and Torres, as well as closer Aroldis Chapman, were either going to miss what would have been Opening Day or be on the shelf until late April/early May. Now the Yankees are healthy, rested, and ready and raring to avenge last season’s ALCS defeat to baseball’s greatest villains. I won’t say who, but they play in Texas. A full season of Giancarlo Stanton, who only played 19 games last season, emerging young superstar sluggers Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit, a lineup that can murder you 1 through 9, and the addition of perennial Cy Young candidate Gerrit Cole to an already stellar pitching rotation? Good luck stopping the boys in Pinstripes. Or, as they should be called, Murderer’s Row 2. 

2. Tampa Bay Rays

Projected Record: 37-23

Projected Lineup: 

  1. Ji-Man Choi-1B
  2. Yandi Diaz-3B
  3. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo-DH
  4. Hunter Renfroe-LF
  5. Brandon Lowe-2B
  6. Willy Adames-SS
  7. Kevin Kiermaier-CF
  8. Manuel Margot-RF
  9. Mike Zunino-C

Projected Rotation: 

  1. Blake Snell
  2. Charlie Morton
  3. Tyler Glasnow
  4. Ryan Yarbrough
  5. Trevor Richards

Tampa Bay surprised a ton of people last season, and expect the shortened campaign to be an added boost for them. Led by ace Blake Snell, who took the pitching world by storm last season, and a low payroll, high productivity lineup with power hitters Ji-Man Choi, Yandi Diaz, Hunter Renfroe and the addition of Japanese superstar Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, plus one of baseball’s nastiest bullpens, the Rays will be hard to stop. They’ll enter October as a wild card, but they will wreak havoc. 

3. Toronto Blue Jays

Projected Record: 33-27

Projected Lineup:

  1. Bo Bichette-SS
  2. Cavan Biggio-2B
  3. Lourdes Gurriel Jr-RF
  4. Vladimir Gurerro Jr-DH
  5. Travis Shaw-3B
  6. Randal Grichuik-CF
  7. Rowdy Tellez-1B
  8. Teoscar Hernandez-LF
  9. Danny Janses-C

Projected Rotation:

  1. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  2. Matt Shoemaker
  3. Tanner Roark
  4. Trent Thornton
  5. Ryan Borucki

The young and hungry Toronto Blue Jays do not have a home ballpark at the moment, after the Canadian government denied the team’s request to play their home games in Toronto amid the nation’s coronavirus border restrictions. While they scramble for a 30-game temporary home, that isn’t going to hinder a much improved ball club from making some noise, wherever they play. Bringing in former Dodger Hyun-Jin Ryu to ace what has historically been a subpar pitching staff at best is a huge boost. Add that to a young, power heavy, run producing lineup featuring young emerging superstars like Vlad Gurerro Jr, Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio, all three the sons of former MLB all stars. Returning Randal Grichuik and the addition of former Astro Lourdes Gurriel Jr make this lineup even more scary. They’ll be in the fight for the AL’s second wild card for sure. 

4. Boston Red Sox

Projected Record: 31-29

Projected Lineup: 

  1. Andrew Benintendi-RF
  2. JD Martinez-DH
  3. Rafael Devers-3B
  4. Xander Bogarts-SS
  5. Mitch Moreland-1B
  6. Christian Vazquez-C
  7. Alex Verdugo-Lf
  8. Jackie Bradley-CF
  9. Jose Peraza

Projected Rotation: 

  1. Nathan Eovaldi
  2. Martin Perez
  3. Ryan Weber
  4. Brian Johnson
  5. Matt Hall

This may surprise some, but when Boston traded away their ace pitcher and superstar outfielder to the Dodgers in February, they pretty much sold their souls to nothing more than mediocrity for 2020. Despite an offense that still has some really good pop with Andrew Benintendi, JD Martinez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogarts, questions abound regarding the performance of the defense. Aside from that, Nathan Eovaldi leads a pitching staff chock full of no names and unproven young arms. Uncertainty abounds with the Red Sox, especially in a sprint season.

5. Baltimore Orioles

Projected Record: 12-48

Projected Lineup

  1. Austin Hays-CF
  2. Jose Iglesias-SS
  3. Anthony Santander-LF
  4. Renato Nunez-DH
  5. Chris Davis-1B
  6. Hanser Alberto-2B
  7. Rio Ruiz-3B
  8. Pedro Severino-C
  9. DJ Stewart-RF

Projected Rotation: 

  1. Tommy Milone
  2. Alex Cobb
  3. Wade LeBlanc
  4. Asher Wojciechowski
  5. John Means 

There wasn’t a lot to look forward to for the O’s in March, and there isn’t any more now. A team mired in a rebuild with young talent, but young talent that still needs 2-3 years of big league experience to even be close to competitive. The only bright spot in Baltimore is the veteran top 3 on the pitching staff. Crafty vets Tommy Milone, Alex Cobb should be a fun change of pace from the flamethrowers we see league wide nowadays and should be a lot of fun to watch. 

AL Central

1. Chicago White Sox

Projected record: 36-24

Projected lineup:

  1. Tim Anderson-SS
  2. Yoan Moncada-3B
  3. Jose Abreu-1B
  4. Yasmani Grandal-C
  5. Edwin Encarnacion-DH
  6. Eloy Jimenez-RF
  7. Luis Robert-LF
  8. Leury Garcia-2B
  9. Adam Engel-CF

Projected rotation: 

  1. Lucas Giolito
  2. Dallas Kuechel
  3. Reynaldo Lopez 
  4. Dylan Cease
  5. Gio Gonzalez 

This pick is going to raise a TON of eyebrows, but no team benefits more from this shortened campaign than the much improved South Siders. Led by the offensive exploits of bonafide superstar shortstop Tim Anderson and young sultan sluggers Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu, the White Sox already had some serious pop. Add to that mix explosive rookie outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert and veteran free agent additions Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnacion, and you’ve got a recipe for run scoring galore. Ace Lucas Giolito looks to build off a breakout 2019 with help from a new addition behind him in the rotation, 2017 AL Cy Young award winner Dallas Kuechel. Young team with power, defense, and pitching galore? That’s a division title waiting to happen. 

2. Minnesota Twins

Projected record: 33-27

Projected lineup: 

  1. Max Kepler-LF
  2. Jorge Polanco-SS
  3. Nelson Cruz-DH
  4. Josh Donaldson-3B
  5. Eddie Rosario-RF
  6. Mitch Garver-C
  7. Luis Arraez-2B
  8. Miguel Sano-1B
  9. Byron Buxton-CF

Projected rotation: 

  1. Jose Berrios
  2. Rich Hill
  3. Kenta Maeda
  4. Jake Odorizzi
  5. Homer Bailey 

The Twins have been rising steadily the past few seasons, and finally got past the wild card round only to be swept by the Yankees in the ALDS. With a lineup that finished second in all of baseball in home runs last year, and now adds the Bringer of Rain, 3B Josh Donaldson, to the mix. And backed by an already stellar pitching staff paced by breakout ace Jose Berrios that added savvy Japanese righty Kenta Maeda and sinkerballer Homer Bailey, the Twins are certain to compete in 2020. Expect them to host the AL wild card game. 

3. Cleveland Indians

Projected record: 31-29

Projected lineup: 

  1. Cesar Hernandez-2B
  2. Jose Ramirez-3B
  3. Francisco Lindor-SS
  4. Carlos Santana-1B
  5. Franmil Reyes-DH
  6. Tyler Naquin-CF
  7. Oscar Mercado-RF
  8. Roberto Perez-C
  9. Bradley Zimmer-LF

Projected rotation:

  1. Shane Bieber
  2. Mike Clevinger
  3. Carlos Carrasco
  4. Aaron Civale
  5. Zach Plesac

Terry Francona’s squad is on a slow decent toward mediocrity. Despite having one of the best shortstops in the game and a stellar pitching staff spearheaded by flamethrowers Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger, the rest of the offense hasn’t been able to pick up the slack. Couple that with a team that was top 5 in the AL in errors a season ago and a bullpen that’s shaky at best, the decent will reach mediocrity, or possibly below it, in 2020.

4. Detroit Tigers

Projected Record: 14-46

Projected Lineup: 

  1. Niko Goodrum-SS
  2. Jonathan Schoop-2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera-DH
  4. CJ Cron-1B
  5. Jeimer Candelario-3B
  6. Christin Stewart-LF
  7. Cameron Maybin-CF
  8. Austin Romine-C
  9. Jacoby Jones-RF

Projected Rotation: 

  1. Matt Boyd
  2. Ivan Nova
  3. Spencer Turnbull
  4. Michael Fullmer
  5. Daniel Norris 

The Tigers have a nice crop of young talent, headlined by the versatile Niko Goodrum, and pop from bets Miguel Cabrera, Johnathan Schoop, CJ Cron and Cameron Maybin. Aside from that, unproven pitching and lackluster defense will once again doom Detroit.

5. Kansas City Royals

Projected Record: 13-47

Projected lineup: 

  1. Whit Merrifield-LF
  2. Aldaberto Mondesi-SS
  3. Jorge Soler-DH
  4. Alex Gordon-RF
  5. Salvador Perez-C
  6. Maikel Franco-3B
  7. Franchy Cordero-CF
  8. Ryan McBroom-1B
  9. Nickey Lopez-2B

Projected rotation: 

  1. Danny Duffy
  2. Brady Singer
  3. Mike Montgomery 
  4. Jorge Lopez
  5. Glenn Sparkman

While KC certainly has a good crop of talent, spearheaded by Whit Merrifield, big bopper Jorge Soler, and the return of star backstop Salvador Perez, it won’t nearly be enough thanks to a defense and pitching staff that have ranked in the bottom 5 in the AL in all major categories the past three seasons.

AL West

1. Houston Astros

Projected record: 48-12

Projected lineup: 

  1. George Springer-LF
  2. Jose Altuve-2B
  3. Alex Bregman-3B
  4. Michael Brantley-RF
  5. Yuli Gurriel-1B
  6. Josh Reddick-CF
  7. Carlos Correa-SS
  8. Kyle Tucker-DH
  9. Martin Maldonado-C

Projected rotation: 

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. Lance McCullers
  3. Zack Greinke
  4. Joshua James
  5. Austin Pruitt

As much as everyone but their fans want to see them fail, baseball’s biggest villains are simply too talented. Big names with big bats and big arms like Springer, Altuve, Bregman, Correa, Brantley, Reddick, Verlander, McCullers, and Greinkie. Regardless of the sign stealing scandal, it’s impossible to deny this is one of the most talented teams in baseball. 

2. Oakland Athletics

Projected record: 35-25

Projected lineup: 

  1. Marcus Semien-SS
  2. Ramon Laureano-CF
  3. Matt Chapman-3B
  4. Matt Olsen-1B
  5. Khris Davis-DH
  6. Mark Canha-LF
  7. Stephen Piscotty-RF
  8. Sean Murphy-C
  9. Tony Kemp-2B

Projected rotation: 

  1. Frankie Montas 
  2. Sean Manaea
  3. Mike Fiers
  4. Chris Bassett
  5. Daniel Mengden

The A’s have a history of making small investments pay off huge dividends. Last year was no different, and this year won’t be either. With the Matt & Matt Corner Infield show with Chapman at 3rd and Olsen at 1st, both of whom are some of the best at their respective positions in the field and some of the most productive hitters in the bigs. Big Bopping DH Khris Davis adds to the pop of this lineup, with Ramon Laureano and Stephen Piscotty providing consistent hitting and spectacular outfield defense. Throw a rotation with depth and longevity and a bullpen that’s lights out, the A’s would win the west if it weren’t for the Astros.

3. Los Angeles Angels

Projected record: 33-27

Projected lineup: 

  1. Tommy La Stella-2B
  2. Mike Trout-CF
  3. Anthony Rendon-3B
  4. Shohei Ohtani-DH
  5. Albert Pujols-1B
  6. Justin Upton-RF
  7. Brian Goodwin-LF
  8. Andrelton Simmons-SS
  9. Jason Castro-C

Projected rotation: 

  1. Andrew Heaney
  2. Dylan Bundt
  3. Shohei Ohtani
  4. Griffin Canning
  5. Matt Andriese 

A normal campaign would give the much improved Halos a much better shot, but not this year. Despite having the undisputed best player in baseball in Mike Trout, one of the greatest players ever in veteran 1B Albert Pujols,  and making the huge splash by signing Anthony Rendon to play third, the Angels are simply in too tough a division and a stacked AL to make a run.

4. Texas Rangers

Projected Record: 30-30

Projected lineup: 

  1. Shin-Shoo Choo-CF
  2. Willie Calhoun-DH
  3. Danny Santana-LF
  4. Joey Gallo-RF
  5. Roughed Odor-2B
  6. Todd Fraizer-1B
  7. Elvis Andrus-SS
  8. Robinson Chirinos-C
  9. Isaiah Kiner-Falefa-3B

Projected rotation

  1. Lance Lynn
  2. Mike Minor
  3. Corey Kluber
  4. Kyle Gibson
  5. Jordan Lyles

Another much improved team that likely would’ve had a better shot, the Rangers are loaded with offense and greatly bolstered their pitching staff. Despite that, a lackluster bullpen and inconsistent defense that both of which there will not be time to fix, will doom Texas.

5. Seattle Mariners

Projected record: 20-40

Projected lineup:

  1. Shed Long-2B
  2. JP Crawford-SS
  3. Kyle Seager-3B
  4. Tom Murphy-C
  5. Daniel Vogelbach-DH
  6. Kyle Lewis-LF
  7. Jake Fraley-CF
  8. Evan White-1B
  9. Mallex Smith-RF

Projected rotation:

  1. Marco Gonzales
  2. Taijuan Walker
  3. Yusei Kikuchi
  4. Justus Sheffield 
  5. Justin Dunn

While the M’s are vastly improved and have a good crop of both young and veteran talent, the shortened campaign does not give them enough time to fix a bullpen that is in disarray or find footing defensively. Offense shouldn’t be a problem, however, as Seattle led the majors in homers the first month of last season. That'll be the only aspect of this club that gets off to a fast start.