1 Bold Prediction for Every MLB Team for the 2020 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2020

1 Bold Prediction for Every MLB Team for the 2020 Season

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Who's ready for an MLB season the likes of which we've never seen before?

    There's simply no telling what an abridged 60-game schedule will bring about in a sport that is already extremely unpredictable.

    As such, we've assembled a collection of bold predictions for the 2020 MLB season—one for each team.

    If you're looking for a Mike Trout MVP prediction or a New York Yankees World Series pick, you've come to the wrong place.

    Now let's get weird.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Robbie Ray Wins NL Cy Young

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Robbie Ray has never had trouble missing bats.

    To that point, here's a look at the K/9 leaderboard among qualified MLB starters last season:

    • Gerrit Cole: 13.82
    • Max Scherzer: 12.69
    • Robbie Ray: 12.13
    • Justin Verlander: 12.11
    • Lucas Giolito: 11.62

    The thing keeping him from reaching the rank of the game's elite has been his command, and he walked batters at a 4.3 BB/9 clip en route to a 1.34 WHIP in 2019.

    So why the optimism?

    Lance Brozdowski of Driveline recently noted a mechanical tweak he's made that could lead to improved command, and if it does, he could reach that next level in a contract year.

Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. Has a 20-20 Season

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Last year, Ronald Acuna Jr. made a serious run at the first 40-40 season since Alfonso Soriano in 2006, slugging 41 home runs and leading the NL with 37 steals.

    The 22-year-old went to spring training in February talking about a 50-50 season, and a 20-20 campaign would be the equivalent over an abridged 60-game schedule.

    The young star has shown the ability to go on a tear, including an 11-homer August last year and eight home runs in an eight-game stretch during his rookie season.

    A similar hot streak could put him over the top in the NL MVP race while playing for an Atlanta Braves team that will be vying for its third straight division title.

Baltimore Orioles: Hunter Harvey Finally Delivers on the Hype

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    It's been six years since Hunter Harvey appeared in the Futures Game at age 19 in the midst of a stellar 2014 season in which he posted a 3.18 ERA with 106 strikeouts in 87.2 innings at Single-A.

    That performance vaulted him to No. 68 on the 2015 Baseball America Top 100 prospect list.

    Unfortunately, he missed the entire 2015 season and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery, and he pitched a combined 63.2 innings from 2016 to 2018 while struggling to stay on the field. With that in mind, it's admittedly not a promising sign that he's going to start 2020 on the injured list.

    "It's muscular in the elbow area," manager Brandon Hyde told reporters. "We are not concerned about it at all, it's just a little tight. We are being conservative with him and monitoring him."

    He made his MLB debut last season and posted a 1.42 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 6.1 innings while averaging 97.9 mph with his fastball. If he can avoid further arm issues and pick up where he left off, he could be closing games by season's end, especially if Mychal Givens hits the trade block.

Boston Red Sox: Alex Verdugo Finishes Top 5 in AL in Batting Average

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Alex Verdugo had one of the best hit tools in the minors throughout his time in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, and it was on full display in his first extended MLB action last year.

    He hit .294/.342/.475 with 22 doubles and 12 home runs in 377 plate appearances, and that was enough to make him an attractive centerpiece for Boston in the Mookie Betts blockbuster trade.

    The 24-year-old could see his name penciled in at the top of the Red Sox lineup this year.

    "Down the road, I think he has everything you would need in a leadoff hitter," Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke told reporters. "And when he starts finding his rhythm and his timing, and he gets confident, I think we can put him anywhere. Whether it's leadoff, second. Whether it's fifth, sixth, seventh. Wherever that is, I think offensively he could do a good job."

    He's more than capable of being a perennial .300 hitter, and before AL East pitching has a chance to adjust to him, he could make a run at the AL batting title this year.

Chicago Cubs: Alec Mills Stays in the Rotation All Season

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Left-hander Jose Quintana suffered a cut nerve in his left thumb while washing a wine glass the night before he was scheduled to return to Chicago for spring training 2.0. He's back throwing, but it's still unclear when he'll return to the active roster.

    That injury has opened the door for Alec Mills to break camp with a spot in the starting rotation.

    The 28-year-old pitched well in limited action with the MLB club last year, posting a 2.75 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with 42 strikeouts in 36 innings spanning four starts and five relief appearances.

    With club control through 2025, he has a chance to be a long-term piece of the pitching staff if he proves to be a late-blooming contributor.

    Look for him to make the most of this early-season opportunity and force his way into the rotation for the duration of the campaign.

Chicago White Sox: Dylan Cease Emerges as the No. 2 Starter

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Dylan Cease scuffled to a 5.79 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 14 starts as a rookie last season, but he's capable of taking a significant step forward in 2020.

    If you'll recall, Lucas Giolito similarly struggled in his first full season on the Chicago White Sox roster in 2018 before emerging as the ace of the staff during a breakout 2019 season.

    Cease, 24, went 12-2 with a 2.40 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 160 strikeouts in 124 innings during his last full season in the minors, so he has a similar top-prospect pedigree and front-line starter upside.

    The biggest question mark for the White Sox as they push back toward contention is the starting rotation. If Cease can emerge as a reliable option behind Giolito and newcomer Dallas Keuchel, they could be ready to make some serious noise.

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto Wins NL Comeback Player of the Year

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Joey Votto is just two years removed from a runner-up finish in NL MVP voting in 2017 and he was a 4.0-WAR player in 2018.

    However, the 2019 season was his worst full season in the majors.

    The 36-year-old hit .261/.357/.411 for a 98 OPS+, which represented the first sub-100 OPS+ of his 13-year MLB career. He had 15 home runs and 47 RBI in 608 plate appearances en route to a 1.9-WAR season.

    Is there anything left in the tank?

    After enduring six straight losing seasons, the Cincinnati Reds look poised to contend once again, and that might be all it takes to jump-start Votto while he chases a ring in the late stages of his career.

    It's unlikely he returns to MVP form, but a return to relevance for a contending team might get him NL Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Cleveland Indians: Mike Clevinger Wins AL Cy Young

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    Associated Press

    Mike Clevinger was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball last season.

    However, his performance was somewhat lost in the shuffle since he didn't pitch enough innings to show up on qualified leaderboards, making just 21 starts after battling back and ankle injuries early in the year.

    Among AL pitchers with at least 120 innings, he ranked third in ERA (2.71), sixth in WHIP (1.06), fourth in strikeouts-per-nine-innings (12.1), and 10th in WAR (4.1).

    The 29-year-old underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee in February and he was initially expected to miss time, so the delayed start to the season worked in his favor.

    Shane Bieber may have been the breakout star of 2019, but it was Clevinger who was the best pitcher on the Cleveland staff and one of the best in all of baseball when he was healthy.

    He's never received a Cy Young vote, but that could change in 2020.

Colorado Rockies: Nolan Arenado Is Traded, Trevor Story Is Extended

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    Nolan Arenado will have the opportunity to opt out of the final five years and $164 million of his contract with the Colorado Rockies following the 2021 season.

    Unsettled at seeing his name pop up in trade rumors a year after he signed a long-term deal and unhappy with a front office that spent the offseason sitting on its hands, Arenado was not shy in voicing his displeasure during the offseason.

    Despite the uncertainty of the market, his unrest makes an opt-out decision much more likely than it might have been at this time a year ago. If the front office does think things are heading in that direction, it really has no choice but to try to flip him.

    Looking at the bigger picture, if the Rockies can find the right return package of MLB-ready pitching to justify moving Arenado, they could then redirect those funds toward an extension for shortstop Trevor Story.

    The 27-year-old will be a free agent after the 2021 season, and after racking up 11.7 WAR the past two years while making a pair of All-Star appearances and winning a pair of Silver Slugger Awards, he has emerged as a superstar in his own right.

    If Arenado opts in, it's unlikely they'll be able to afford Story, and with a wealth of corner infield talent in the minors, an argument can be made that Story is the more important player to keep around.

Detroit Tigers: Joe Jimenez Brings Back a Top-Tier Prospect

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Starter Matthew Boyd will continue to be the most talked-about trade chip on the Detroit Tigers, but that doesn't mean he's the only player contenders will be eyeing.

    The team listened to offers for closer Joe Jimenez at the trade deadline last year, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, and he'll be an attractive option once again for teams looking to bolster their relief corps.

    Pitching primarily in a setup role the past two seasons, Jimenez has a 4.34 ERA and 11.8 K/9 with 12 saves and 38 holds in 134 appearances.

    Armed with a fastball that averaged 95.5 mph and a wipeout slider, he has closer stuff, and his remaining team control through the 2023 season makes him an extremely valuable trade chip.

    For a team looking to upgrade its bullpen for the stretch run and beyond, he might be worth a top-tier prospect, and the rebuilding Tigers would jump at the chance to bolster their rebuild.

Houston Astros: Josh James Has a Breakout Season

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Josh James struck out 100 batters in 61.1 innings last season.

    That 14.7 K/9 rate was the fifth-highest single season total in MLB history by a rookie pitcher who threw more than 50 innings.

    Now the hard-throwing right-hander is set to move into the rotation, filling the No. 4 starter slot behind Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. on a Houston Astros staff that is trying to replace Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley.

    While he spent the bulk of last season pitching in relief, James was developed as a starter, and in his last full season in the minors he racked up an absurd 171 strikeouts in 114.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

    If his secondary stuff rounds into form behind a fastball that averaged 97.4 mph last year, he has a chance to be a breakout star.

Kansas City Royals: Brady Singer Emerges as the Staff Ace

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    In one of the more surprising Opening Day roster decisions of the year, 2018 first-round pick Brady Singer will start the season in the big leagues.

    With Brad Keller sidelined because of COVID-19 and Danny Duffy pitching to a middling 97 ERA+ the past two seasons, Singer might already be the best pitcher on the Kansas City Royals staff.

    The 23-year-old went 12-5 with a 2.85 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 138 strikeouts in 148.1 innings in his pro debut last year, closing out the season at Double-A.

    He checked in at No. 91 on Bleacher Report's Top 100 prospect list for the 2020 season, and he will make his MLB debut Saturday.

    Don't be surprised if he pitches his way into becoming the Opening Day starter in 2021.

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani Leads the Team in WAR

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Mike Trout has led the Los Angeles Angels in WAR seven times in the last eight years, with the lone exception being the 2017 season when shortstop Andrelton Simmons edged him out by a slim margin.

    In other words, picking anyone else to lead the team in that category is bold.

    After ongoing uncertainty over whether he would play this year, Trout announced Wednesday he will be take part the 2020 season.

    However, he still plans to leave the team for the birth of his first child, who is due Aug. 3, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. There's no telling when he'll leave or when he'll return given the quarantining that will need to take place.

    That opens the door for someone else to lead the club in WAR. Newcomer Anthony Rendon might be the obvious pick on the heels of a 6.4-WAR campaign, but we'll go with a healthy Shohei Ohtani.

    The two-way star will be back on the mound this year, pitching once per week, while continuing to DH between starts. He was worth 2.7 WAR as a hitter and 1.3 WAR as a pitcher in 2018 when he won AL Rookie of the Year honors.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Julio Urias Finishes Top 10 in NL Cy Young Voting

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    With Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill departing in free agency and Kenta Maeda traded to the Minnesota Twins, a path has finally been cleared for Julio Urias to become a full-time member of the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation.

    The 23-year-old served as a swingman last season, posting a 2.49 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 85 strikeouts in 79.2 innings while making eight starts and 29 relief appearances.

    He made 10 appearances during the final month of the season and posted a 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 13.5 K/9 while holding opposing hitters to a .186 batting average.

    Early in the year, he proved he could be dominant in a starting role, allowing just one hit while striking out nine over six scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers.

    The front-line potential has always been there, and he has the opportunity to shine.

Miami Marlins: Isan Diaz Has a Breakout Season

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Isan Diaz hit a paltry .173/.259/.307 for a 51 OPS+ in 201 plate appearances as a rookie last season, striking out at a 29.4 percent clip.

    Then again, plenty of players have struggled in their first taste of MLB action before emerging as impact performers.

    Before struggling in the majors, Diaz hit .305/.395/.578 with 21 doubles, 26 home runs and 70 RBI in 102 games at Triple-A, and he showed good power and a solid overall offensive game throughout his time in the minors.

    The 24-year-old has a chance to be a significant part of the rebuilding process, and he'll be given every chance to succeed.

    A .224 BABIP is a good indication that he suffered from some bad luck last season while settling into life in the big leagues. With more consistent hard contact and a few more favorable bounces, he could take a significant step forward in 2020.

Milwaukee Brewers: Adrian Houser Emerges as the Co-Ace of the Staff

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    I've been writing about Adrian Houser since February when I included him on a list of 10 potential breakout candidates:

    "While he regularly appeared on organizational prospect lists, he was never viewed as a future impact player, and entering last season, he had pitched just 15.2 MLB innings.

    A strong start to the season at Triple-A—where he posted a 1.27 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 21.1 innings over four starts—earned him a call-up to the MLB bullpen at the end of April, and he was an effective relief option throughout May and June.

    He moved into the rotation full-time at the end of July.

    By season's end, he was one of the team's most reliable starters, posting a 3.02 ERA and 1.03 WHIP while holding opponents to a .201 average and compiling 52 strikeouts in 47.2 innings over his final 10 starts."

    The Brewers now have an abundance of starting pitching after a busy offseason, and once Brett Anderson and Eric Lauer return from the injured list, there's going to be a roster crunch. If Houser shows signs early on of picking up where he left off, he has nothing to worry about.

    The 27-year-old will make his first start on Monday, and he could join 2019 All-Star Brandon Woodruff as the co-ace of the staff before the season is over.

Minnesota Twins: Luis Arraez Wins the AL Batting Title

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Luis Arraez was not even a top-10 prospect in the Minnesota Twins farm system when the 2019 season began, according to Baseball America.

    The 23-year-old carved out a super-utility role and went on to hit .334 with a .399 on-base percentage in 366 plate appearances to finish sixth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

    Is he for real?

    While his exit velocity (14th percentile) and hard-hit rate (4th percentile) numbers are ugly, he has elite contact skills. He struck out just 29 times last year for a 7.9 percent strikeout rate, the lowest among all hitters with at least 250 plate appearances.

    His .355 BABIP also doesn't scream significant regression to come, despite his lack of hard contact, giving him a real chance to build off last year's success and make a run at the AL batting title.

New York Mets: Seth Lugo Returns to the Starting Rotation

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The New York Mets are without Noah Syndergaard for the entire 2020 season following Tommy John surgery. They will also be without Marcus Stroman for an extended period while he nurses a torn calf muscle.

    Veterans Rick Porcello (174.1 IP, 5.52 ERA, 87 ERA+) and Michael Wacha (126.2 IP, 4.76 ERA, 90 ERA+) were added during the offseason to bolster the team's starting pitching depth, but there's a reason they were available on one-year deals.

    Unfortunately, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz probably can't just split up the 60 starts.

    Could that mean Seth Lugo eventually moves back into the rotation?

    The 30-year-old has already made it clear he prefers to start, and if the late-inning trio of Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances and Edwin Diaz can pitch up to its potential, he'll be less vital to the bullpen's success.

    He had a 2.70 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 104 strikeouts in 80 over 61 relief appearances last season, but he has 31 career starts under his belt as well.

New York Yankees: Mike Ford Finishes Top 5 on the Team in HR and RBI

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    In a season when the New York Yankees were forced to overcome an onslaught of injuries, guys like Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin were lauded for their unexpected contributions to a contending team.

    One player who quietly made an impact without much fanfare was first baseman Mike Ford.

    The 28-year-old posted a 137 OPS+ with 12 home runs and 25 RBI in 163 plate appearances, including an .868 OPS with eight home runs and 13 RBI in August.

    If Luke Voit gets off to a slow startwhich is not out of the question after he hit .228 with a 32.3 percent strikeout rate after the All-Star break last yearFord could quickly stake claim to the bulk of the playing time at first base.

    "I mean he's a really good hitter and I think he's a really good, middle-of-the-order major league hitter. That's how I view him," manager Aaron Boone told reporters. "I think he's that good offensively and for us, it's a left-handed look obviously, which we're a little bit right-handed heavy."

    He might not supplant Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres as one of the most feared sluggers in the lineup, but look for Ford to exceed expectations and be a key contributor in 2020.

Oakland Athletics: Matt Chapman Wins AL MVP

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    How good is Matt Chapman?

    Here's a list of the 10 best players in baseball over the past two seasons, based on cumulative WAR:

    • Mike Trout: 18.4
    • Mookie Betts: 17.6
    • Jacob deGrom: 17.4
    • Matt Chapman: 16.6
    • Alex Bregman: 16.4
    • Christian Yelich: 14.3
    • Justin Verlander: 14.2
    • Max Scherzer: 14.1
    • Aaron Nola: 14.0
    • Marcus Semien: 13.5

    With consecutive 8.3-WAR seasons, he's already a bona fide superstar in terms of on-field value, but he does not yet receive the attention he deserves on a national level.

    I'm picking the Oakland Athletics to win the AL West, and if Chapman can build off a 36-homer season at the plate while playing his usual stellar defense, he'll put himself squarely in the AL MVP conversation after finishing sixth in the voting a year ago.

Philadelphia Phillies: Alec Bohm Hits 10 Home Runs

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Alec Bohm saw the writing on the wall long before he was optioned to the minors and assigned to the Philadelphia Phillies' alternate workout site.

    "There's no hard feelings about it. It is what it is," Bohm told reporters. "That's a thing they can do. That's a smart business move. I'm not going to hold any grudge over it or raise a stink about it. It's part of the game. Everybody's gone through it."

    It won't be long before he's part of the MLB roster.

    The No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft hit .305/.378/.518 with 30 doubles, 21 home runs and 80 RBI while reaching Double-A in his first full professional season last year.

    The club's decision to non-tender third baseman Maikel Franco was no doubt tied to their belief that Bohm would be ready to take over at the hot corner at some point in 2020.

    With plus power and an advanced approach, he could make a run at NL Rookie of the Year honors if he gets the call early enough. At the very least, a 10-homer debut in a shortened season would be a promising start to his career.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Mitch Keller Wins NL Rookie of the Year

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Mitch Keller did not exactly turn heads in his MLB debut last season.

    The 24-year-old struggled to a 7.13 ERA in 11 starts, finishing the season with 48 innings pitched to leave him just shy of the 50-inning cutoff to maintain rookie eligibility.

    While the surface-level stats were ugly, there's a lot of reason for optimism when looking at his peripheral numbers.

    His bloated ERA was accompanied by a stellar 3.19 FIP, and he logged a 65-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In other words, he was the victim of some bad-batted ball luck over a small sample size, and he showed the swing-and-miss stuff needed to get MLB hitters out.

    With Jameson Taillon (Tommy John surgery) and Chris Archer (shoulder) both on the shelf, he could emerge as the ace of the staff in Pittsburgh by default. He'll have a long leash as the Pirates rebuild, and the NL Rookie of the Year field is even more wide open after Gavin Lux was unexpectedly optioned by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

San Diego Padres: Dinelson Lamet Leads the NL in Strikeouts

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Don't sleep on Dinelson Lamet.

    The 28-year-old showed some intriguing upside as a rookie in 2017 before missing the entire 2018 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

    He returned to action last July and quietly racked up 105 strikeouts in 73 innings while posting a 4.07 ERA and 3.91 FIP, making him a popular breakout candidate once again.

    He averaged 96.0 mph with his fastball last season and backed it with one of the most effective sliders in baseball. That breaking pitch accounted for 77 of his strikeouts and limited opponents to a .116 batting average and a .078 ISO, according to Brooks Baseball.

    In his brief career, he's struck out 30.6 percent of the batters he's faced.

    That mark was exceeded by just seven qualified starters last season, putting him squarely in the top tier of strikeout pitchers if he can stay healthy and maintain that pace.

San Francisco Giants: Jaylin Davis Has a Breakout Season

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The San Francisco Giants roster is begging for someone to step forward and separate himself from a pack of veteran place holders.

    Mike Yastrzemski did it last season. Jaylin Davis has the potential to do it this season.

    The 26-year-old hit .306/.397/.590 with 35 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last year, and the Giants acquired him in a midseason trade that sent reliever Sam Dyson to the Minnesota Twins.

    He went just 7-for-42 with 11 strikeouts as a September call-up, but he showed a flare for the dramatics. His first MLB home run came Sept. 25, and it was a walk-off winner in a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

    The aforementioned Yastrzemski is the only player locked into an everyday spot in the San Francisco outfield, so the opportunity is there if Davis can show something early on when given the opportunity.

Seattle Mariners: Jarred Kelenic Signs an Extension

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    Darryl Webb/Associated Press

    The Seattle Mariners joined a growing trend of teams offering up long-term extensions to players before they make their MLB debut when they signed first baseman Evan White to a six-year, $24 million deal in November.

    As the rebuild continues, they could explore similar deals with some of their other top-tier prospect talent.

    Outfielder Jarred Kelenic looks like the best candidate for a long-term pact after hitting .291/.364/.540 with 31 doubles, 23 home runs and 20 steals while reaching Double-A before his 20th birthday.

    With his mix of power, speed and defense in center field, all signs point to a future star, and locking him up now would be a wise move by a team focused on the future.

    Fellow outfielder Julio Rodriguez and right-hander Logan Gilbert are also candidates for an early extension, though it's worth noting that no pitchers have been signed to pre-debut extensions to this point.

St. Louis Cardinals: Ryan Helsley Leads the Team in Saves

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    With Jordan Hicks opting out of the 2020 season and Carlos Martinez set to start the year in the rotation, the closer's role is up in the air in St. Louis.

    Giovanny Gallegos looks like an obvious candidate on paper after posting a 2.31 ERA with 19 holds and a pristine 93-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 74 innings last season. But he's arguably more valuable in a setup role after he recorded more than three outs in 25 of his 66 appearances in 2019. He's also starting the season on the injured list after arriving to camp late.

    For now, it sounds like veteran KBO standout Kwang Hyun Kim will start the season in the closer's role, but he might also be the next man up if the team needs another starter.

    Among all of those moving parts, don't be surprised if Ryan Helsley winds up settling into the ninth-inning gig.

    The 26-year-old has high-octane stuff, with a fastball that averaged 98.0 mph last season, and he pitched to a terrific 2.95 ERA in 24 appearances as a rookie, albeit largely in low-leverage situations and with a middling 7.9 K/9 strikeout rate.

    If he starts missing more bats and shows he can handle the pressure of high-leverage outings, he fits the closer mold.

Tampa Bay Rays: Win the World Series

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    Tyler Glasnow
    Tyler GlasnowMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Rays are legitimate World Series contenders.

    The team's biggest strength last season was a pitching staff that ranked first in the AL and second in the majors with a 3.65 ERA.

    That group returns largely intact, with a healthy Tyler Glasnow giving the rotation a further boost and a full season of Nick Anderson, who struck out an absurd 41 of the 78 batters he faced out of the bullpen after coming over in a deadline trade.

    The biggest weakness was an offense that tied for 15th in the majors with 769 runs scored and finished 21st in the league with 217 home runs. That was addressed with the offseason additions of Hunter Renfroe (33 HR in 2019), Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (255 career home runs in Japan) and Jose Martinez (career 119 OPS+).

    Looking at the net gains, Renfroe is a bigger power threat and a better defensive outfielder than Tommy Pham, while Tsutsugo is more than capable of replacing Avisail Garcia's production at a fraction of the price.

    Add in Manny Margot, who is one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, and it's not out of line to say the offense and defense are both improved, while the pitching staff should again be among the best in baseball.

    This team won 96 games last season and will give the New York Yankees a serious run for their money in the AL East.

    Even if they sneak into the playoffs again as a wild card, a rotation of Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, Glasnow and the underrated Ryan Yarbrough will be extremely tough, especially backed by a staple of electric arms in the bullpen.

    Bold pick? Sure. Realistic pick? Absolutely.

Texas Rangers: Corey Kluber Wins AL Comeback Player of the Year

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Few players have more to prove in 2020 than Corey Kluber.

    The two-time Cy Young winner struggled to a 5.80 ERA over his first seven starts last season before a line drive back up the middle resulted in a season-ending fractured right elbow.

    The Cleveland Indians exercised his $17.5 million player option at the start of the offseason and then flipped him to the Texas Rangers in a sell-low move for Delino DeShields and Emmanuel Clase.

    To his credit, he seems to have the right mindset going into 2020.

    "I don't look at it as comparing where I'm at to previous years or last year," Kluber told reporters. "I'm in a good spot with everything that I'm doing. I feel good both physically and mentally. I think that's what's going to allow me to go out there and have success."

    Before struggling last year, Kluber had a 2.85 ERA and 1.02 WHIP while averaging 246 strikeouts and 218 innings over the previous five seasons. He was unequivocally one of the best pitchers in baseball.

    The Rangers simply need him to be a serviceable No. 3 starter behind Lance Lynn and Mike Minor, and a return to even 80 percent of his previous form could make them legitimate wild-card contenders.

Toronto Blue Jays: Nate Pearson Wins AL Rookie of the Year

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    Associated Press

    Nate Pearson will not start the 2020 season on the Toronto Blue Jays active roster, but he'll be added to the mix in short order.

    According to Jamie Campbell of Sportsnet, the hard-throwing right-hander will be activated on July 29, surpassing the date the team will gain an extra year of control.

    There is little question Pearson is MLB-ready after he steamrolled minor league hitters last year with a 2.30 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 101.2 innings over three levels.

    The 23-year-old has a legitimate 80-grade fastball that has touched 104 mph and a lethal wipeout slider, to go along with a plus changeup and a decent curveball. That all comes from an imposing 6'6", 250-pound frame, checking all the boxes for him to be a front-line starter for years to come.

    The Blue Jays are a dark horse to make a wild-card push this season, and if Pearson can make an immediate impact alongside new ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, it would certainly help their chances.

Washington Nationals: Austin Voth Has a Breakout Season

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    After Joe Ross opted out of the 2020 season, it quickly became a two-man race for the No. 5 spot in the Washington Nationals rotation between Austin Voth and Erick Fedde.

    Based on 2019 production alone, the choice seems rather obvious:

    • Voth: 43.2 IP, 3.30 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 1.05 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 9.1 K/9
    • Fedde: 78.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 5.34 FIP, 1.46 WHIP, 3.8 BB/9, 4.7 K/9

    The Nationals already have arguably the best starting rotation in baseball, regardless of who rounds out the group, with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez penciled into the first four spots.

    Voth, 28, showed flashes throughout his time in the minors, and if he can turn in middle-of-the-rotation production the Nationals will be a juggernaut on the pitching side.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, while pitching data comes via Brooks Baseball.