The Biggest Concern for Every MLB Team Thus Far in 2020

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterAugust 19, 2020

The Biggest Concern for Every MLB Team Thus Far in 2020

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    The New York Yankees are still winning, yet also still struggling with injuries.
    The New York Yankees are still winning, yet also still struggling with injuries.Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Because the 2020 Major League Baseball season is only 60 games, teams should be extra worried about whatever problems that have arisen during its first few weeks.

    And rest assured, every team has at least one big one.

    With nearly a month gone by in the regular season, we've gone through and picked out the biggest concern for each team so far. These mostly cover injuries and poor performances, though there are also some big-picture items here and there.

    We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.


    Note: Stats are current through play on Tuesday, August 18.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The Madison Bumgarner/Robbie Ray Conundrum

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    At the outset of 2020, the Arizona Diamondbacks could look forward to having a solid starting rotation led by two accomplished left-handers: Madison Bumgarner and Robbie Ray.

    Yet to this point, those two have made nine total starts and coughed up an 8.92 ERA.

    Even before he went on the injured list with a strained back on August 10, Bumgarner was fighting through a 3.6-mph drop in his average fastball velocity. Though his stuff is in good shape, Ray has been wild (20 walks) and hittable (seven home runs) through his first 22 innings.

    If the Snakes can't get these two guys on track, they're going to have a hard time keeping up in a deep National League West.

Atlanta: Its Rotation Depth Is Kaput

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Speaking of starting pitching troubles, Atlanta might actually envy Arizona right now.

    The Atlanta rotation was solid on paper once upon a time, but it has since been decimated by Felix Hernandez's opt-out, Mike Foltynewicz's and Sean Newcomb's unforgivably bad performances and Mike Soroka's season-ending Achilles injury. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels is having a hard time recovering from triceps tendinitis.

    What's more, the starters Atlanta has used to this point have struggled to eat innings and put up a 5.38 ERA. As such, there's been a lot of slack for the club's relievers to pick up.

    Assuming the idea is still to win a third straight NL East title, Atlanta might have to force the issue with a few deals ahead of the August 31 trade deadline.

Baltimore Orioles: They Only Have Half a Contender

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Several weeks into the season, the Baltimore Orioles have proved one thing: They can hit.

    By OPS+, their offense has been 12 percent better than the league average. It's also produced 5.3 runs per game, which is safely above the league norm of 4.7.

    It's largely because of this effort that the Orioles are pushing for one of the American League East's two playoff spots. Even if they don't nab one of those, they might at least nab one of the AL's two wild-card slots if they can stay on their current track.

    But this is assuming that their pitching staff can keep from getting worse than it already is. And because said staff is a largely anonymous unit with a 4.76 ERA, that's far from a sure thing.

Boston Red Sox: There's No Quick Fix for This

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The Boston Red Sox's 2020 season has been a near-daily nightmare as they've sunk to the bottom of the AL East.

    This is largely the fault of a pitching staff that simply doesn't have enough talent to so much as put up a good fight most days. Altogether, Boston hurlers have a 6.36 ERA.

    Even if they can count on Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) and Eduardo Rodriguez (myocarditis) being healthy this time next year, the immediate future of the Red Sox staff still looks grim. And with Jackie Bradley Jr. and possibly J.D. Martinez departing as free agents this winter, things aren't much rosier on offense.

    So even though the 2020 season isn't even halfway over, the Red Sox should already be considering a multiyear rebuilding phase.

Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant and Javier Baez Must Be Better

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The Chicago Cubs haven't had the easiest time with their bullpen to this point. But with Craig Kimbrel coming off back-to-back scoreless outings, hope for an in-house fix has been kindled.

    If so, they only need to worry about Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.

    To one degree or another, the two of them have been reliable offensive stars in recent seasons. That hasn't been the case in 2020, wherein they're hitting a combined .192/.261/.349 with five home runs. For his part, playing through an injured wrist obviously hasn't helped Bryant.

    Though the Cubs have won 15 of their first 22 games despite Bryant's and Baez's struggles, it should go without saying that the club is bound to run into more trouble if their bats don't heat up.

Chicago White Sox: They Can't Afford Any More Pitching Injuries

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Chicago White Sox have been simply fine so far, but they have reasons to believe they can be better.

    To be more specific, their offense can and should do better than the disappearing/reappearing act that it's put on to this point. Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion, in particular, almost certainly have more left in the tank than their combined .675 OPS suggests.

    And yet, any offensive improvement that does happen won't mean much if the pitching isn't there to back it up.

    To that end, the White Sox can ill afford any more pitchers joining Reynaldo Lopez (shoulder) and Carlos Rodon (shoulder) on the IL. That's especially true of Dallas Keuchel, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease, who are the club's only reliable starters.

Cincinnati Reds: Eugenio Suarez's Power Is Missing

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Reds haven't really come together yet, in part because they have a handful of individual parts that haven't lived up to expectations.

    Of the bunch, arguably the most alarming slow start belongs to Eugenio Suarez.

    After posting a .930 OPS and blasting 49 home runs in 2019, he has just a .525 OPS and two homers through 19 games this year. Notably, his average exit velocity is down nearly two mph.

    The Reds must hope that Suarez is merely shaking off some rust left over from baseball's long layoff. Because if he's not, it's possible that his early slump is due to lingering effects from the shoulder surgery that he underwent in January.

Cleveland: Where's the Offense?

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    As it was for much of 2019, Cleveland is in second place in the AL Central and within range of the Minnesota Twins for the top spot in the division.

    But unless the club can get more offense, its current position is very much in peril.

    It really is that bad, as Cleveland hitters have produced a well-below-average 75 OPS+ and only 3.9 runs per game. Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana haven't been their usual selves, while the outfield has been inept with a .494 OPS.

    Barring a reunion with old friend Yasiel Puig, it may take a trade or two to solve Cleveland's offensive woes.

Colorado Rockies: What Happened to Jon Gray?

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    After losing 91 games in 2019, the Colorado Rockies have planted themselves in second place in the NL West. They merely need to hang on to make the postseason.

    This will depend largely on a group of starting pitchers whose 3.25 ERA is admirable yet perhaps too good to be true. There's bound to be some negative regression, in which case the Rockies will need positive regression from Jon Gray.

    Despite some injuries and ups and downs, he generally pitched well with a 114 ERA+ between 2017 and 2019. So far in 2020, the 5.74 that he has through five starts equates to a 92 ERA+.

    If Gray is going to fix himself, he should start with an average fastball that's suddenly 2.1 mph slower than it was in 2019.

Detroit Tigers: Matthew Boyd Is Still Struggling

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Detroit Tigers have been more competitive than expected, but their fortunes are gradually being undone by a starting rotation that has by far the lowest WAR in the league.

    The surprising part is how much this has to do with Matthew Boyd.

    He was a borderline All-Star in 2019, and he eventually finished the year with a 106 ERA+ and a rate of 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Coming into 2020, he was a cross between the Tigers' ace and their most attractive piece of trade bait.

    Well, now he bears a 9.64 ERA through his first five starts if 2020, and a 6.35 ERA in 25 starts dating back to June 2, 2019. Until further notice, he's neither an ace nor trade bait.

Houston Astros: Jose Altuve Can't Buy a Hit

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    The Houston Astros rotation doesn't look so great on paper without Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, yet it's stable enough to be carrying a 3.40 ERA.

    The Astros should thus be focused on their underperforming offense, and specifically on Jose Altuve.

    Between 2014 and 2019, the diminutive second baseman was a .327/.380/.497 hitter who also gradually evolved into a 30-homer slugger. But through 22 games in 2020, he's hitting just .168 with five extra-base hits.

    The Astros have already dropped Altuve in their batting order. With that done, all they can really do now is cross their fingers and hope he still has some thunder left in his bat.

Kansas City Royals: Adalberto Mondesi Is Having a Hard Time

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The current version of the Kansas City Royals isn't all bad, but it's definitely going to be a few years before the organization finishes its rebuild and returns to contention.

    In theory, 25-year-old shortstop Adalberto Mondesi is young, talented and controllable enough to be a key part of said rebuild. But in actuality, he looks completely lost right now.

    Offensively, Raul's son is hitting just .217 with 27 strikeouts and two walks through 22 games. He's also slumping on defense, where he has minus-three defensive runs saved.

    When taken in tandem with his difficult 2019 campaign, the start that Mondesi has gotten out to this season is certainly that much more concerning.

Los Angeles Angels: Jo Adell Looks Overmatched

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    Ray Carlin/Associated Press

    With Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani already in place, the Los Angeles Angels appeared to set their offense for overdrive when they promoted top prospect Jo Adell on August 3.

    But after 10 games, the Adell experiment isn't going well at all.

    The 21-year-old has come to the plate 37 times and yielded only six singles with 17 strikeouts. His only real highlight to this point came on defense, and it suffices to say he wasn't exactly the star of said highlight.

    If Adell continues to struggle, the Angels won't have much choice but to send him back down to their alternate training site and hope for better results in 2021.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Cody Bellinger Just Can't Get Locked In

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Dodgers have two MVPs in their everyday lineup, and one of them (hint: rhymes with "Bookie Metts") is having a very, very good season.

    Cody Bellinger, on the other hand...not so much.

    The 25-year-old has had his share of good individual games, including a two-homer outburst against the Angels on Friday. But after winning the NL MVP in 2019 on the strength of a 1.035 OPS and 47 home runs, he has a .565 OPS and four long balls.

    Though he's still doing plenty of things right, it should alarm the Dodgers that Bellinger's exit velocity (91.1 to 88.4 mph) and hard-hit rate (45.6 to 31.7 percent) are way down from 2019.

Miami Marlins: Jonathan Villar Isn't Making Their Lineup Go

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Setting aside their coronavirus outbreak, things have gone surprisingly well for the Miami Marlins in 2020. They have a real shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

    They'll have an even better shot if Jonathan Villar starts earning his keep as their regular leadoff man.

    The 29-year-old definitely has the power, speed and hitting acumen for the job. But he's had trouble kicking these things into gear so far in 2020, as he's hitting just .239/.304/.366 through 17 games.

    While not the reason, this is certainly a reason that the Marlins are scoring a below-average 4.5 runs per game.

Milwaukee Brewers: Their Offense Has Real Problems

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Milwaukee Brewers' Christian Yelich nightmare didn't last long. After going 1-for-27 in July, he's gotten hot in August and is now up to a .778 OPS and five home runs for the season.

    Now, if the Brewers could just get the rest of their offense on track.

    Milwaukee hitters own a 79 OPS+ and post four runs per game. Especially since Lorenzo Cain opted out, the Brew Crew needs more from Ryan Braun, Justin Smoak, Omar Narvaez and Avisail Garcia.

    The bright side for Milwaukee in the meantime is that it's in the NL Central's second playoff spot even despite its offensive misadventures. Even still, more runs wouldn't hurt.

Minnesota Twins: Their Offense Is Somehow Nothing Special

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Elsewhere on the topic of iffy lineups, the Minnesota Twins offense isn't coming close to matching last year's performance.

    Granted, they weren't going to hit 307 home runs again. It's nonetheless alarming that their OPS+ is down from 118 to 102. More specifically, their slugging percentage is a shockingly mediocre .408.

    Losing newcomer slugger Josh Donaldson to a calf injury obviously hasn't helped. Otherwise, Minnesota is simply not getting enough out of incumbents Miguel Sano, Mitch Garver and Luis Arraez.

    Of course, the Twins are in first place anyway. But even if they capture a second straight division title, a deep playoff run will likely be out of the question if their offense doesn't get going first.

New York Mets: Their Starting Rotation Is a Mess

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    In the opening days of the 2020 season, the New York Mets bullpen was their biggest problem. That's no longer the case, as it now has a 3.19 ERA in August.

    If only their rotation was also coming together with time.

    The Mets lost Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John surgery in March, and Marcus Stroman decided to err on the side of caution by opting out last week. Meanwhile, Michael Wacha (shoulder) and David Peterson (shoulder) are on the IL, and Rick Porcello and Steven Matz have a combined 7.31 ERA.

    Even back-to-back Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom has been showing his mortality, as he's been bothered by minor back and neck issues since MLB resumed operations in July.

New York Yankees: The Injury Bug Is Still Chomping Away

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    For both good and ill, 2020 is looking a lot like 2019 for the New York Yankees.

    The good has to do with how they once again sit comfortably atop the AL East. They've mainly hit their way to that position with a 129 OPS+ that easily ranks as the best in baseball.

    The ill, however, has to do with yet another rash of injuries. It's not quite 2019—when the Yankees accumulated by far more IL days than any other team—all over again, but it's certainly frustrating that Aaron Judge (calf), Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring) and DJ LeMahieu (thumb) are all on the IL.

    The Yankees must hope to be at full strength come October, lest their World Series drought extend to 11 years.

Oakland Athletics: Khris Davis Still Isn't Hitting

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Oakland Athletics have settled into more or less the same groove they were in for the last two seasons, in which they use this, that and the other thing to keep winning ballgames.

    As in 2019, all they're missing is Khris Davis' vintage power supply.

    His 133 home runs were the most in baseball from 2016 to 2018. But as he played through nagging injuries, he slipped to only 23 homers in 2019. So far this year, he's sent just one over the fence and slugged only .229 through 15 games.

    This is no fluke, as Davis' average exit velocity is down from 92.5 mph in 2018 to just 85.6 mph this year. Unless that changes, the A's should keep spreading their designated hitter starts around.

Philadelphia Phillies: Their Bullpen Needs a Lot of Fixing

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Phillies have two key hallmarks of a contender.

    For one, their offense has mashed to the tune of a 118 OPS+ and 5.8 runs per game. For two, starters Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin have an aggregate 3.20 ERA.

    But then there's the Phillies bullpen. It not only has an MLB-worst 8.32 ERA but also an MLB-low five shutdowns. The latter, for the record, tracks how good a bullpen is at getting outs in the face of especially high leverage.

    Needless to say, this problem could derail the Phillies' playoff hopes if they don't fix it.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Josh Bell and Bryan Reynolds Have Lost It

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Just like in 2019, the Pittsburgh Pirates aren't very good in 2020.

    But at least last year they had Josh Bell and Bryan Reynolds going for them.

    Bell, 28, broke out as an All-Star, while Reynolds, 25, mounted an under-the-radar run at the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Altogether, they finished with a .909 OPS and 53 home runs.

    So far this year, their aggregate OPS is down to .584 and they've hit only three home runs. That's surely hindering Pittsburgh's ability to be competitive, much less whatever trade value the pair might have had on the summer market.

San Diego Padres: Their Supposedly Mighty Bullpen Is Actually Bad

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Led by NL MVP front-runner Fernando Tatis Jr., the San Diego Padres have emerged as a fun to watch team that also has a chance of making the postseason for the first time in 14 years.

    There's just one problem: Their bullpen isn't what it was supposed to be.

    With Kirby Yates, Emilio Pagan and Drew Pomeranz at the back end, the pen looked like one of baseball's best coming into 2020. Fast-forward to now, and Yates has an injured elbow and Pagan has a 7.20 ERA. Unsurprisingly, Padres relievers have a 6.08 ERA.

    If San Diego can't fix this, its playoff drought may yet continue.

San Francisco Giants: Mauricio Dubon Has Fallen by the Wayside

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The San Francisco Giants started 5-4. But now that they're 4-12 in their last 16 games, their attention should have shifted to the future.

    This should involve putting a spotlight on 26-year-old middle infielder-center fielder Mauricio Dubon, but that's not so simple right now.

    After a promising cup of coffee with the Giants at the end of 2019, Dubon was slated to be their regular second baseman. But his own struggles (i.e., a .619 OPS) and the rise of journeyman Donovan Solano (who's hitting .392) have complicated things.

    Dubon might not get another shot until Solano cools down or finds himself elsewhere via a trade. In the meantime, Dubon's development is basically on hold.

Seattle Mariners: Evan White Hasn't Looked Ready

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Meanwhile in Seattle, the Mariners are pursuing a youth movement of their own. And it's mostly going well, particularly where highlight-machine center fielder Kyle Lewis is concerned.

    Given the circumstances, the Mariners can only hope Evan White also gets on Lewis' level.

    Though the 24-year-old has played a good first base, it's come at the expense of the club's offensive output. Even with three homers in his last four games, White has come to the plate 91 times and produced only 11 hits with 39 strikeouts.

    The Mariners could bench or demote White. But after they signed him to a six-year contract in November, the organization doesn't have much choice but to keep playing him for now.

St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Carpenter Still Isn't Hitting

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Though the St. Louis Cardinals have played fairly well since returning from a coronavirus-caused break, they should be worried that their offense has actually gotten worse than it was in 2019.

    More specifically, they should be concerned about Matt Carpenter's role in that.

    The 34-year-old was one of the National League's top hitters as recently as 2018, when he went off for an .897 OPS and 36 home runs. But he didn't keep it up in 2019, slipping to a .726 OPS and only 15 long balls.

    This year has brought more of the same, as Carpenter is just 8-for-35 with one extra-base hit through 11 games. The writing on the wall says it's time to limit him to spot starts and pinch-hitting duty.

Tampa Bay Rays: Tyler Glasnow Has Regressed

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Rays were scuffling for a bit, but a recent hot streak has pushed them into a race with the Yankees for the AL East lead.

    Whether they can win it might come down to Tyler Glasnow.

    The 6'8" right-hander was a revelation early last season, using a deadly fastball-curveball combination to rack up a 1.47 ERA and 46 whiffs through his first seven starts. But then came a forearm injury that shut him down for most of the remainder of the year.

    Glasnow is healthy now, yet it shows neither in his 7.04 ERA nor in the 10 walks and three homers he's served up in only 15.1 innings. For Tampa Bay, the scary part is that this is vaguely what he looked like before it got him from Pittsburgh.

Texas Rangers: Their Offense Is Struggling to Launch

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Setting aside the disputed protocols for when and when not to swing on 3-0 pitches, the Texas Rangers' biggest worry at the moment is the state of their offense.

    It didn't look good on paper coming into the season, so it's not the biggest surprise that it's flopped with an 80 OPS+ and 3.9 runs per game.

    The Rangers can thank their lucky stars they're getting a rock-solid .871 OPS out of Joey Gallo and Todd Frazier, plus a .296 average out of rookie Nick Solak. Otherwise, their offense features few bright spots.

    Unless it can cultivate some from within or find some from without, Texas is going to have trouble keeping up with Oakland and Houston in the AL West.

Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Has a Clear Flaw

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    The Toronto Blue Jays were hoping to make a move in the AL East this year, but it's not the end of the world that they're, well, not.

    This team is built for the long haul, specifically with regard to the oh-so-tantalizing offensive trio of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

    But while there's little doubt about Guerrero's enormous potential, he owns a good-not-great .759 OPS through 141 major league games. This is despite how both his strikeout rate (16.5 percent after 17.7 percent in 2019) and exit velocity (90.8 mph, 89.6 mph) are trending up this year.

    The problem is that Guerrero also holds a career ground-ball rate of 51.3 percent. Especially given his body type, he needs to hit more fly balls.

Washington Nationals: They Can Only Be so Good Without Stephen Strasburg

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Once they lost Anthony Rendon to free agency, it was clear the Washington Nationals would need all hands on deck to repeat as World Series champions in 2020.

    To this end, they must be thrilled with how quickly Juan Soto has reestablished himself as a rising superstar after returning from a coronavirus-related absence. However, they haven't been so lucky with the reigning World Series MVP.

    After dominating all through 2019, Stephen Strasburg has made only two starts this year because of a bothersome nerve in his right hand. He's on the IL now, and there's no timetable for his return.

    With Strasburg, the Nats have a chance of hanging in an NL East race that's even more wide-open than was expected. But without him, maybe not.


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.