1 Hot-Take Prediction for Every MLB Team Once the 2020 Season Begins
Major League Baseball is taking an extended break due to the coronavirus pandemic, but takes about Major League Baseball must go on.
Assuming the 2020 season eventually gets played, we have one of the hot variety for every team. These cover such things as breakouts, breakdowns and trades regarding individual players. And while much will depend on the size and shape of the season, we also ventured to predict broader fates for a few teams.
What are these takes based on? A careful reading of the tea leaves in some cases. In others, just good, old-fashioned hunches. Either way, this is the best we can do for now.
We'll go division by division, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays Will Break Out
The Baltimore Orioles won't be good this season, but they might at least squeeze some stars out of their growing supply of young talent.
Our eyes are on 24-year-old center fielder Austin Hays. Though injuries in 2018 and 2019 wrecked his once sky-high prospect stock, he teased what he might be when he broke through with a .947 OPS (complete with solid peripherals) and nifty defense for the O's last September.
Boston Red Sox: They'll Trade J.D. Martinez
If the Red Sox indeed remain stuck behind the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, they'll presumably look to cut their losses at the trade deadline. That could mean dealing veteran slugger J.D. Martinez while he still has value worthy of the $43.1 million he's owed through 2021.
New York Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton Will Bounce Back
The Yankees, meanwhile, absolutely figure to benefit from the delay as there's now more time for sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and ace James Paxton to heal from their respective injuries.
Out of the three, Stanton has the most to prove after playing in only 18 games last year. Health permitting, he should be up to it. He would just need to get back to crushing the ball like only he and a small handful of others can.
Tampa Bay Rays: Tyler Glasnow Will Win the AL Cy Young Award
Justin Verlander for the third time? Nah. Gerrit Cole for what should arguably be a second time? Nope. Rather, we're thinking Tyler Glasnow will win his first Cy Young Award in 2020.
This, also, is a "health permitting" situation in light of how Glasnow made just 12 starts in 2019. When he did pitch, however, his overpowering fastball-curveball combination made him the most dominant starter in baseball. He merely needs to keep that up.
Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Will Go .300/.400/.500
This time last year, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was widely seen as the Next Big Thing for the Toronto Blue Jays. He didn't live up to it as he posted a modest .772 OPS as a rookie.
Yet Guerrero is worth having faith in for 2020. He's still only 21, and his .331/.414/.531 career line in the minors isn't old news just yet. With good health and the right mindset, he can be a .300/.400/.500 hitter in the majors, too.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: Luis Robert Will Flop
Robert just might not be a star right away. Given that he struck out five times more often than he walked at Triple-A last year, he clearly hasn't mastered plate discipline. That's asking for trouble at a time when pitchers excel at expanding the strike zone.
Cleveland Indians: Francisco Lindor Won't Be Traded
Unless Francisco Lindor and the Cleveland Indians reach a heretofore elusive agreement on an extension, the superstar shortstop will likely be traded before he reaches free agency after 2021.
But said trade might not happen in 2020. After all, the delay should allow aces Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco to recover from injuries in time for Opening Day. That would be a boon for Cleveland's contention chances, which would necessitate holding on to Lindor.
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera Will Bounce Back
In lieu of a playoff spot, the Detroit Tigers can only hope that 2020 brings them pleasant surprises. Miguel Cabrera reverting to his vintage form would qualify.
Despite Cabrera's dwindling effectiveness in recent years, that could actually happen. The two-time MVP showed up to camp healthy and in good shape, and it showed as he went 10-for-29 with three home runs (including two off Cole) in Grapefruit League action.
Kansas City Royals: Bubba Starling Will Break Out
If it feels like it was a lifetime ago when the Kansas City Royals took Bubba Starling with the No. 5 pick in the draft, well, that was all the way back in 2011.
Starling did make it to the majors last year, however, and he was most recently seen posting a 1.208 OPS with three homers in spring training. The Royals were liking what they were seeing, so we'll go out on a limb and predict that the 27-year-old's big break is nigh.
Minnesota Twins: They’ll Lead MLB in Home Runs Again
Yet the Twins might still lead MLB in home runs. The Yankees will challenge them if Judge and Stanton stay healthy. But even knowing that, we dare not sell short a lineup built around Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Mitch Garver and Eddie Rosario.
American League West
Houston Astros: They'll Be MLB's Best Offensive Team
It may feel like ancient history by now, but it wasn't that long ago many were chalking the Houston Astros' success between 2017 and 2019 up to their hitters knowing what was coming.
Yet there isn't actually any convincing evidence that the Astros were still cheating last year as they led the majors in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Because they still have basically the same offense in place, don't be surprised when they do it again.
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout Won't Win the AL MVP
At this point, picking Mike Trout to win the AL MVP is like picking the house to win a round of blackjack. Since 2012, he's won it three times and been the runner-up four times.
But we're not about to hand Trout a fourth MVP just yet. He's had some injury trouble the last couple of seasons, after all, and he'll face strong competition from guys like Judge, Lindor, Alex Bregman and Matt Chapman.
Oakland Athletics: Jesus Luzardo Will Win the AL Rookie of the Year
One can look at the Oakland Athletics' roster and take issue with how their starting rotation lacks a tried-and-true ace. But don't worry. Jesus Luzardo is on it.
The 22-year-old southpaw hasn't always been healthy, but he's done nothing but dominate when he has pitched. His stuff sizzles, and he spots it better than the average pitching prospect. These talents should point his way to the AL Rookie of the Year award.
Seattle Mariners: Evan White Will Hit .300 and Win a Gold Glove
The Seattle Mariners have more exciting prospects than Evan White. But as his $24 million contract indicates, they clearly believe he's ready for The Show.
Though White doesn't yet have the power to be a star first baseman, it's good enough for now that he's a .296 career hitter in the minors who also gets rave reviews for his defense. He can put these talents to work by hitting .300 and winning a Gold Glove as a rookie.
Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo Will Lead MLB in Home Runs
Joey Gallo reached the 40-homer plateau in 2017 and 2018, and he would have done so again in 2019 if injuries hadn't limited him to 70 games.
Health permitting, his home run ceiling for 2020 is as high or higher as anyone else's. If he maintains last year's plate discipline improvement and continues to utterly smoke the ball, he can win the first home run title of his career.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. Will Win the NL MVP
Whenever the season opens, Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich and Mookie Betts will be the de facto favorites for the NL MVP award. But we advise everyone not to sleep on Ronald Acuna Jr.
After just missing a 40-40 season in 2019, the Atlanta Braves star had been aiming for baseball's first 50-50 campaign in 2020. That obviously won't be happening now, but this could nonetheless be the year he fully unlocks his truly enormous offensive potential.
Miami Marlins: Lewis Brinson Will Break Out
Brinson is still only 25, however, and there's never been much question that the tools for stardom are all there. Because strikeouts have thus far been his biggest hurdle, it was an encouraging sight to see him whiff only three times in 29 at-bats during spring training.
New York Mets: Jacob deGrom Won't Win the NL Cy Young Award
Jacob deGrom has won back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards on the strength of a 2.05 overall ERA. Clearly, he'll be favored for the award again when 2020 opens.
Yet our bet is on the field. History is working against deGrom as only Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson have ever won three straight Cy Youngs. Plus, guys like Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jack Flaherty and Walker Buehler should give him a good challenge.
Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper Will Have His Best Season Since 2015
Bryce Harper wasn't bad in 2019, which of course was the first season of his $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. But in posting an .882 OPS with 35 homers, he wasn't great, either.
Harper at least finished the year on fire with a .970 OPS and 17 homers in the season's final two months. If he can carry that over to 2020, it could prove to be his best campaign (at least on a rate basis) since he unanimously won the NL MVP in 2015.
Washington Nationals: They'll Miss the Playoffs
Though the Washington Nationals were in good health at last check, the delayed start to 2020 could potentially save them from a dreaded World Series hangover.
But even if it does, the defending champs will face a difficult path back to the playoffs. How they'll fill Anthony Rendon's shoes is still unclear, and the Braves, Mets and Phillies are all at least as strong as they were in 2019. Such things could leave the Nats out of October altogether.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: Craig Kimbrel Will Bounce Back
The only way the Chicago Cubs' bullpen is going to work this year is if Craig Kimbrel is, well, Craig Kimbrel. He's been decidedly not Craig Kimbrel ever since the 2018 All-Star break.
On the plus side, the veteran closer arrived in camp in good health after altering his training regiment to account for recent injuries. Though he got hit around a bit anyway, it was also an encouraging sign that he struck out six of the 15 batters he faced in spring training.
Cincinnati Reds: Trevor Bauer Won't Bounce Back
We're mostly trying to be positive here, so we'd love to suggest that Trevor Bauer will revert to the All-Star and Cy Young-caliber form he maintained throughout 2018.
Yet that performance is an obvious outlier among his eight seasons. He also flopped upon joining the Cincinnati Reds last July, posting a 6.39 ERA in 10 starts. He should be better in 2020, but maybe only to the extent that he's his typical slightly above-average self.
Milwaukee Brewers: They'll Finish Closer to Last Place Than to First
Kudos to the Milwaukee Brewers for using some of their recently cleared payroll space to extend Yelich, the 2018 NL MVP, for the foreseeable future.
It's otherwise hard to get on board with how they went about their business over the winter as they lost more talent than they gained. Between that and the increased level of competition within the NL Central, there's a good chance they'll crash hard in 2020.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Mitch Keller Will Break Out
The Pittsburgh Pirates will probably end up in the NL Central's cellar again, but they can at least hope for some silver linings along the way.
Mitch Keller breaking out would do the trick, and it's more likely than you might think. Though he flopped with a 7.13 ERA in 2019, he flashed nasty stuff and generally suffered from bad luck. In light of these things, he's due for some success in 2020.
St. Louis Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt Will Bounce Back
There were a bunch of reasons why the St. Louis Cardinals struggled offensively in 2019, but perhaps the biggest was that they got less than expected out of Paul Goldschmidt.
In his defense, some of that was due to bad luck. He also might have needed time to get comfortable in his new surroundings as he found his footing in the second half with an .886 OPS and 18 homers. Either way, he should be in for a better season.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: Zac Gallen Will Be Their Best Pitcher
With all respect to the Arizona Diamondbacks' strong and well-balanced lineup, they'll go as far as their rotation can take them this year.
Madison Bumgarner is the big name on that front, but Zac Gallen is the rising star of the bunch. He more or less came out of nowhere to post a 2.81 ERA in 15 starts in the majors last year, and he has the four-pitch mix (including a devastating changeup) to go even further.
Colorado Rockies: They Won't Trade Nolan Arenado
The hottest possible take on the Colorado Rockies is that they'll actually be good in 2020, but we won't go that far. However, they could be good enough to justify keeping Nolan Arenado.
This is assuming that their budding system for conquering their hitting woes away from Coors Field works. It's also assuming Kyle Freeland bounces back to help carry their pitching staff. If these things happen, tensions between Arenado and the Rockies could be eased after all.
Los Angeles Dodgers: They Won't Have Any Major Award Winners
The Los Angeles Dodgers will almost certainly win the NL West. They have a ton of depth, not to mention a handful of favorites for major awards.
Instead, we'll guess that Gavin Lux won't win the NL Rookie of the Year. Nor will the NL Cy Young Award go to Buehler, Clayton Kershaw or David Price, nor the NL MVP to Bellinger or Betts. Call it a hunch, albeit one that's partially driven by a lack of ideas for hotter takes on the Dodgers.
San Diego Padres: A Sophomore Slump for Fernando Tatis Jr.
At least the San Diego Padres have Fernando Tatis Jr. He was a revelation in 2019, posting a .969 OPS, 22 homers and 4.1 rWAR in only 84 games.
But after a year like that, might down be the only way to go? It's possible in Tatis' case. He was one of the luckiest hitters in baseball last year, and his defensive metrics didn't live up to his penchant for making highlights. These issues may bubble to the surface in 2020.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey Will Bounce Back
The San Francisco Giants are rebuilding, and Buster Posey's stardom has quickly evaporated in recent years. These things should pave Joey Bart's way to take his place behind the dish.
But maybe not so fast? Posey was able to have a normal offseason—one with no injury rehab to work through—for the first time in years, and it showed as he went 10-for-22 with four extra-base hits in Cactus League action. He may yet have another vintage season left in him.