Predicting a normal baseball season is difficult enough, but predicting a 60-game season? That’s the definition of an inexact science.
Still, a panel of more than 50 MLB.com experts took on the task and submitted their predictions on which teams will top the season-end standings, and who will hoist thePredicting a normal baseball season is difficult enough, but predicting a 60-game season? That’s the definition of an inexact science.
Still, a panel of more than 50 MLB.com experts took on the task and submitted their predictions on which teams will top the season-end standings, and who will hoist the World Series trophy. Obviously there could be plenty that changes between now and when the postseason begins, but these are picks on what the experts see in the current landscape.
Here are the results: MLB.com’s predicted winners for each division and Wild Card berth, the two league pennants and the 2020 World Series.
American League East: Yankees
Maybe the Bronx Bombers enviable depth wont come in quite as handy as it would over a 162-game marathon, but the Yankees are still MLB.coms clear choice to take home a second straight AL East division crown. New York and Tampa Bay accounted for all the votes, and while the Rays and their incredible pitching depth are seen as credible threats, the Yankees (who, as you recall, added a certain capital-A ace in Gerrit Cole) still cleared them by 15 votes.
AL Central: Twins
Minnesota had to fend off a late-summer charge by Cleveland to win its first division crown in nearly a decade last year, but that didnt sway MLB.coms prognosticators from easily picking them to repeat. The Twins racked up all but 15 votes for AL Central title honors, and, in a nod to a busy offseason on the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox tied for second place with the Indians with seven votes. The Twins Bomba Squad set a single-season record by bashing 307 homers in 2019, and the rotation is seemingly stronger with the additions of former Dodgers Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda.
AL West: Astros
No one experienced as turbulent an offseason as the Astros, but the defending league champions are still the choice to claim this division for a fourth straight year. The Houston franchise had captured six division titles over its first 55 combined seasons before breaking out in 2017. The AL West has been a two-horse race in each of the last two seasons, and MLB.com sees it breaking that way again; the Astros and As split 48 of the 55 votes, with Houston gaining the edge, 28-20.
AL Wild Cards: Rays, Athletics
Our panel of voters predicts déjà vu in both leagues Wild Card races from 2019, but this year it believes the ALs winner-take-all opener will be staged at Tropicana Field. The Rays went on the road and belted four home runs to back the superb pitching of Charlie Morton in last years AL Wild Card Game, and one figures they would be well positioned to claim another winner-take-all with the way manager Kevin Cash can mix-and-match with his bullpen.
Meanwhile, the As still boast one of the Major Leagues best infields with stars Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Marcus Semien, and designated hitter Khris Davis is looking to bounce back from an uncharacteristic 2019 campaign. A pitching staff that surprised some people last year could be even stronger now, especially with potential ace Frankie Montas back from a suspension and youngsters Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk (if he is able to recover from a shoulder strain) showing plenty of promise in camp.
AL Champion: Yankees
The Yankees, as you may recall, failed to log a single World Series appearance in the 2010s — the first time the pinstripes didnt win a single pennant within a decade in a long time — so, yeah, this would be more than welcomed in the Bronx. Of course, most Yankees fans are accustomed to winning more than just pennants. The Rays were once again the runner-up choice, a full 20 votes behind the Yankees. When one looks at New Yorks staunch rotation (James Paxton would be the No. 1 starter for a lot of clubs), loaded lineup (Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have been launching rockets in exhibition play) and ridiculously deep bullpen, its not hard to see why the Yanks are the consensus Junior Circuit pick.
National League East: Braves
The Braves havent won three straight NL East crowns since they rattled off a record 14 straight division titles in the 1990s and early 2000s, but they cleared the competition somewhat comfortably in MLB.coms survey. The defending World Series champion Nationals were runners-up, 11 votes back of Atlanta, as the only other NL East club to receive a double-digit vote total. Ronald Acuña Jr. has another year under his belt and is MLB.coms top pick for the NL MVP Award, so the Braves hopes certainly start with him. But Atlantas already potent lineup now also features Marcell Ozuna to bat alongside Acuña, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman, and the rotation has a pair of potential aces in Mike Soroka and Max Fried.
NL Central: Reds
Cincinnati is a sleeper no more. After perhaps the most productive offseason of any club (at least, on paper) in which they added sluggers Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas, signed another on-base threat in Shogo Akiyama and perhaps bolstered the back of their rotation by signing Wade Miley, the Reds appear to be deep in all phases of the game. This, as you might expect, was the closest of any division; only seven votes separated the Reds, Brewers, Cardinals and Cubs, and Cincinnati cleared runner-up Milwaukee by only two votes. That mirrors the intrigue on FanGraphs projected standings that predict a tie at the top and four of the five NL Central clubs separated by just one game.
NL West: DodgersThe mighty Dodgers were heavy favorites before the coronavirus pandemic put baseball on hiatus, and they still carry that designation entering the new 60-game format. Los Angeles came just one vote away from sweeping the NL West vote, with one brave MLB.com voter picking the upstart Padres to pull off a major upset. If our voters are right, this would mark an eighth consecutive division title for the Dodgers, which would put them on the doorstep of the Yankees turn-of-the-millennium dynasty (nine straight AL East crowns from 1998-2006) and at least within shouting distance of the Braves record 14 straight NL East championships.
NL Wild Cards: Nationals, Brewers/Cardinals (tie)
The probability of minor chaos goes up in a compact season like this one, and so a tie for the final NL postseason spot between the rival Brewers and Cardinals — which would necessitate a tiebreaker game — feels about right. Combining the votes for the two NL Wild Card spots, the two teams finished with the same vote total (12) — followed closely, it should be noted, by the Phillies (10), Cubs (9), Mets (7), Padres (6) and D-Backs (5). It would not be any sort of surprise if the NL Wild Card races came down to the final day — or indeed an extra day — in the actual season.
If the Brewers do prevail, sign us up for a repeat of last years NL Wild Card Game thriller that saw the eventual World Series champion Nationals stage a dramatic eighth-inning rally against Brewers relief ace Josh Hader to move on. Meanwhile, the Cardinals would be looking for revenge after the Nats swept them decisively in last years NLCS.
NL Champion: Dodgers
A rotation headlined by Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. A rich-get-richer lineup that added Mookie Betts to a fearsome row that already featured the likes of Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Max Muncy and reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger. And a talented bullpen that could get various upgrades along the way from extra arms like Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin or Josiah Gray. This Dodgers roster is seemingly built for any situation, and MLB.com sees it as the decisive favorite in the Senior Circuit. Nearly three times as many voters picked the Dodgers compared to the Braves — the next-closest club that was the only other squad that netted a double-digit total.
World Series champion: Dodgers
No team has captured three league pennants in a span of four years since that late-1990s Yankees dynasty, and so that kind of consistency would be its own accomplishment for Los Angeles. But of course, Dodgers fans wont be satisfied with merely another pennant. MLB.com believes this is the year this supremely talented club finally gets over the hump and wins it all for the first time since 1988, and while the celebration might look markedly different from previous years, that wont make the title any less sweet for L.A. fans. Plus, if a World Series victory does indeed come against the Yankees, that’s even sweeter.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.