The MLB is wide open in 2020.
With the MLB season being shorted to 60 games, the playing field has been leveled significantly. If you think that heavy favorites like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are going to waltz to the World Series, think again.
Roughly 60 games into the 2019 season, two of the six teams that sat atop their division failed to make the playoffs. At that time, there were six American League teams within 2.5 games of one another for the second Wild Card Spot and seven teams within five games of the second Wild Card spot in the National League. That doesn’t even include the Washington Nationals, who were 27-33 and six games back in both the NL East and the Wild Card race after 60 games last year.
In other words, a 60-game season figures to be A LOT different from a 162-game season. Teams that could struggle to keep pace for a full season or might be a year or two away from being a serious contender will have a legitimate chance of being in the playoff hunt all season long.
Over 162 games, the cream tends to rise to the top. But the short season could allow an underdog to steal the show, especially these five underdogs that should now be considered dark horse candidates to win the 2020 World Series.
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
Chicago White Sox (+3000)
Under normal circumstances, most would say that the White Sox are at least a year away from being a serious contender. However, Chicago’s roster has more than enough talent to keep pace with the AL Central favorites for 60 games. The young talent on the roster is incredible, especially with Eloy Jiminez, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada enjoying breakout campaigns in 2019. If those three can keep it going, the White Sox will be loaded after adding Edwin Encarnacion and Yasmani Grandal over the winter. Jose Abreu will finally have some help around him while Cuban sensation Luis Robert is the ultimate X-factor.
Pitching-wise, the addition of Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez during the offseason should help solidify Chicago’s rotation. The question is whether the White Sox can get enough out of their younger starters. Lucas Giolito finally started to put it all together last season and could be ready to lead the rotation. If Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez can take similar steps forward in 2020, the White Sox will have a rotation that can go toe-to-toe with any in their division.
Milwaukee Brewers (+5000)
The Brewers are easy to overlook after losing several key players during the offseason. However, they still have Christian Yelich, who took home MVP honors in 2018 and was even better last year. Yelich is good enough to carry the Brewers for two or three weeks. In fact, we’ve seen it before. Unlike a normal season, three weeks is more than a quarter of the season. With a player like Yelich who can elevate the entire team, the Brewers are one of the teams that could benefit the most from a shortened season.
Milwaukee’s other advantage could be their bullpen. Josh Hader is an elite closer while former closer Corey Knebel could give the Brew Crew a dominant one-two punch at the end of games.
Starting pitchers aren’t going to be fully stretched out, at least early in the 60-game schedule, giving an edge to teams with good bullpens. Granted, the Milwaukee rotation doesn’t look all that impressive on paper, the Brewers still have an abundance of options. That means pitchers like Brent Suter, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta who have started in the past could end up pitching out of the bullpen.
The Brewers could potentially see the return of the dominant bullpen that carried them to the NLCS in 2018.
Arizona Diamondbacks (+6600)
Over 162 games, the Diamondbacks are probably strong enough to stay in the playoff race but not good enough to make the postseason. Of course, that changes when there are just 60 games to be played.
With the Diamondbacks signing Madison Bumgarner and choosing not to trade away Robbie Ray, their rotation has a chance to be something special. Youngsters like Alex Young, Luke Weaver, and Zac Gallen flashed serious potential down the stretch last season while Merrill Kelly was a solid mid-rotation starter. Obviously, there’s no guarantee of consistency with young pitchers, but given all of the pitchers the Dodgers have lost since the end of last season, it’s not crazy to think the Diamondbacks could have the best rotation in the NL West.
Meanwhile, the Arizona lineup boasts a fair amount of potential. Ketel Marte was outstanding last season, as was Eduardo Escobar. The Diamondbacks upgraded their outfield over the winter, adding Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun, who should provide a significant upgrade from Adam Jones and Jarrod Dyson.
The key is David Peralta, who battled injuries during a disappointing 2019 campaign. If he can come back healthy and produce the way he has in the past, the Diamondbacks will have a formidable lineup. They’ll never be able to outslug the Dodgers. However, they’ll be good enough to stay close over 60 games and could get enough of a boost from their rotation to challenge Los Angeles.
Toronto Blue Jays (+12500)
No team in baseball has more young and talented position players than the Blue Jays. In reality, Toronto is probably a year or two away from being a real contender for a World Series championship. But the equation changes when the season is just 60 games.
If the trio of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio can start fast and stay hot, the Blue Jays have a real shot this season. As young players, they’d be prone to peaks and valleys over 162 games. However, that might not be the case in a short season, especially with the Blue Jays having a few veterans mixed in that all have something to prove.
Perhaps more importantly, Toronto’s rotation has been reshaped over the winter. The Blue Jays now have a bona fide ace in Hun-Jin Ryu, who was painfully close to winning the National League Cy Young in 2019. The Blue Jays have surrounded him with proven veterans like Chase Anderson, Matt Shoemaker and Tanner Roark. All three are capable of being solid Nos. 2 or 3 starters, which should keep Toronto in most games and give their young hitters a chance to produce.
The Blue Jays are still a long shot, sure, but they will be one of the most fascinating teams to watch in 2020 and have the young talent to make things interesting during a shortened season.
Colorado Rockies (+15000)
Things got ugly in Colorado last season, especially for the team’s pitching staff. However, the Rockies have largely the same rotation they did in 2018 when they won 91 games and beat the Cubs in the Wild Card Game. They just need German Marquez, Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland to regain their form from 2018. Despite dreadful seasons in 2019, particularly for Freeland, that’s not the craziest thing in the world. Pitching at Coors Field is never easy, but each member of Colorado’s rotation is talented enough to bounce-back this year.
On the offensive side, scoring runs is never a problem for the Rockies. Even if their numbers are inflated a little by the thin air, most teams would kill for a trio like Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. If young players like Ryan McMahon, David Dahl, and Sam Hilliard can take a step forward, the Rockies are going to do serious damage with the bats both at home and on the road this season.
In a shortened season, the Rockies slugging their way into a playoff spot becomes a little more realistic than it would be over 162 games. If the pitching staff can contribute just a little, the Rockies have the bats to be a surprise challenger in the NL West.
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