MLB Award, 2020 Playoff Predictions for Shortened 60-Game Season

Blake SchusterAnalyst IJune 24, 2020

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 06: Tim Anderson #7 of the Chicago White Sox hits a two run home run in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 06, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Major League Baseball is set for one of its most unpredictable seasons ever.  

Following months of failed negotiations between owners and players, Commissioner Rob Manfred has imposed a 60-game schedule set to begin on either July 23 or July 24. Teams will play 10 games against each of their divisional opponents with another four games apiece versus their interleague geographic rivals: the American League East vs. the National League East, etc. 

The league says that "the health and safety of players and employees will remain MLB's foremost priorities" over the coming weeks and months as the coronavirus pandemic remains a threat across the country.

While it's tough to imagine what the next week will look like, let alone the end of the season, Bleacher Report is giving it a shot. 

Here's a look at which teams will come out on top after a sprint of a season rather than the usual marathon.

       

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American League Division Champions

East: New York Yankees

Central: Chicago White Sox

West: Los Angeles Angels 

No matter the length of the season, it's incredibly difficult to pick against the club that boasts Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres, to say nothing of offseason acquisition Gerrit Cole joining a starting rotation that's already among the best in baseball.

While the Houston Astros may have the best roster on paper in the AL West, it's hard to see them ending up on top after an offseason of controversy over sign-stealing and with a number of players more motivated than ever to beat them.

One of those teams is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who Houston beat in the 2017 World Series during the height of the scandal. The Astros will see L.A. four times this year, and each game should have playoff-like intensity.

That will open the door for the other team in Los Angeles, the Angels, to grab the division title. With Anthony Rendon joining Mike Trout and a healthy Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles will find its way back to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Meanwhile in Chicago, a young White Sox team is primed for a breakout in a division that's as up for grabs as any in baseball. With Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Jose Abreu providing power at the plate, there'll be more than enough run support to go around this season.  

National League Division Champions

East: Philadelphia Phillies

Central: Cincinnati Reds 

West: Los Angeles Dodgers 

This is where it'll help to remember just how strange this season will be.

The Reds aren't the best team in the division over a 162-game stretch. But in a ballpark notorious for pop flies turning into home runs, Cincinnati has enough power in its lineup to push it to a division title.

It may seem like ages ago, but this is the same team that signed big bats Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos over the offseason and has plenty of incumbent talent in Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, Derek Dietrich, Nick Senzel and Aristides Aquino, each of whom is capable of rattling off a home run at any moment. 

For the Phillies, this has all the makings of the season Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins establish themselves as the premier core in the NL East for years to come. With a rotation featuring Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia looks like it has the most balanced roster in the division. Get ready for this team to take over.

The Dodgers have won the NL West for seven straight years, and the addition of Mookie Betts means No. 8 shouldn't be a problem. The only other team to finish above .500 in the division last year, the Arizona Diamondbacks, ended the campaign 21 games back of Los Angeles. There might not be a safer pick out there. 

      

League Champions

American League: New York Yankees

National League: Los Angeles Dodgers 

Of course this would be the year Major League Baseball gets the dream World Series of Dodgers vs. Yankees. 

Fans have watched the sport eat itself at the bargaining table throughout the summer, so it only makes sense that the owners' dreams will come true as two of baseball's marquee clubs give the league exactly what it wants. 

It also helps that the Dodgers and Yankees have arguably the best rosters in the game. Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw won't have to worry about any arm fatigue come October, and the Yankees will get to counter with Cole, who's had plenty of time to recover after throwing 249 total innings last year.

Start digesting it now, baseball fans. The most abnormal season in recent memory will produce the most obvious of outcomes. 

     

World Series Champions

Los Angeles Dodgers

There will be no asterisks in baseball this year. All teams are dealing with the same starting points and constraints. That said, the talk of how "legitimate" the World Series champions are in 2020 would only be enhanced by the Dodgers—the team that could've won so many times over the last seven years—finally breaking through. 

To justify their quest for the title, the Dodgers have assembled a behemoth of a roster, which will feature a designated hitter in the regular season for the first time.

Gavin Lux, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts could form their own All-Star team. Instead, they'll become a World Series-winning squad. 

Most Valuable Player

American League: Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox

National League: Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers 

Last season's American League batting champion will up his game again to become its best all-around player. Tim Anderson slashed .335/.357/.508 with 18 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 2019. He should be able to provide even more eye-popping numbers in the shortened season. 

In his first 20 games last year, Anderson batted .383/.405/.580. Errors have remained the biggest sticking point for the emerging star, but if he can prove he's cleaned up his defense, there's little stopping him from dominating over 60 games. 

Yelich, on the other hand, has already proved he has every tool necessary, having won NL MVP in 2018. Betts and Bellinger, his two biggest rivals here, are likely to take votes away from each other, clearing the lane for Yelich to pick up his second MVP before turning 30. 

Don't be surprised if the Milwaukee Brewers star makes another run for the Triple Crown after falling just short in 2018. Fresh off signing a nine-year, $215 million deal, Yelich can go ahead and prove once again why he's worth the money. 

Cy Young

American League: Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

National League: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets 

The best arms in baseball reside in New York City. 

One year after falling 12 points shy of defeating Astros teammate Justin Verlander for the award, Cole will break through in 2020 with the Yankees. He finished last season with a 2.50 ERA, 0.895 WHIP and 326 strikeouts. He'll also get matchups against a Red Sox team in a tailspin, a Baltimore Orioles team that hasn't won more than 45 percent of its games since 2016 and—thanks to interleague play—a Miami Marlins team that hasn't fared much better than that. 

Cole will never have an easier route to winning the Cy Young. 

Over in the National League, Jacob deGrom is set to capture his third straight Cy Young, and with all the extra time to rest up, why wouldn't he? The game's most dominant pitcher will retain his title, though just how many wins the Mets will finish with in the process is the true unknown. 

With Noah Syndergaard out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, deGrom will be needed more than ever if the Mets are to keep pace in the division. There's no reason to believe he can't carry the rotation again. 

Rookie of the Year

American League: Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox

National League: MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres

Luis Robert likely should've joined the White Sox last season after consistently mashing against minor league pitchers.

After signing a six-year, $50 million contract this offseason, there's no question he'll be in the Opening Day lineup. The 22-year-old Cuban outfielder is one of the purest power hitters in the league—a fact opposing pitchers will learn all too well.

Gore stands as the next wave of the Padres' rebirth. The top pitcher in MLB.com's prospect rankings has spent three years working through the minors, and his fastball-curveball combination will have batters falling out of their stances. 

Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Soroka finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to the Mets' Pete Alonso last year. This season, there will be little standing in the way of a pitcher coming away with the award.

Manager of the Year

American League: Dusty Baker, Houston Astros

National League: David Bell, Cincinnati Reds

The Astros have a stellar roster and some tough times ahead thanks to the sign-stealing scandal. Baker was certainly the right pick to take over as manager after AJ Hinch was fired for his role in the scandal. He is considered among the best and most calming minds in the game, and if anyone can keep the club together, it's him. 

For that reason, if the Astros make the playoffs, it'll be hard to see it as anything but a major success for Baker.

If the Reds follow through and make a run to the playoffs, voters will have to give it up to Bell for taking a team that finished below .500 last year and turning it into a contender, albeit under odd circumstances. 

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