Hey, you. Yes, you. The person reading this right now. I have a secret for you:
The season is starting this week.
I know. I know! The wait between the end of one baseball season and the beginning of the next always feels endless, but wow, has it ever felt that way this year? It is a scary, disorienting, unprecedented time, and every day, it can feel like the ground is constantly shifting underneath us. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and neither have you. Every day is a new struggle.
We can rejoice in the simplicity of a baseball game, a salve, a temporary balm: It does not end our problems, or even distract us from them, but it does bring us something good, something lasting: Something familiar and warm. It allows us to see these incredible players -- each and every one of them with their own fears and risks and personal journeys -- do incredible things during an incredible time. This has been so hard. This is so hard. But this can help. I know it will help me.
So, to celebrate the glorious frivolity, the perpetual wonder, of baseball returning this week, today at the Thirty, we make team-by-team predictions for what is unquestionably going to be a crazy year. Will most of these come true? Will none of them? I do not know, and honestly, even though I will do my best, I do not care. There is baseball this week.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Hyun-Jin Ryu finishes in the top five of Cy Young voting again
He was second in the National League last year while with the Dodgers, and he might have finished first had he not run out of gas late. He won’t have time to run out of gas this year: He might be the platonic ideal of a 60-game starter.
Orioles: They’ll finish with the worst record in baseball … but there will still be some hope
The new Orioles brass hasn’t worried much about the on-field performance of the big club, and all told, that’s not any more of an issue this year than it was last year. But there’s a lot of young talent starting to percolate in the Minors, and we might even get to see some of it this year. Just a little bit longer, O’s fans.
Rays: Nick Anderson will be the best reliever in baseball
That might seem like a bold projection, except he was absolutely one of the best relievers last year and has even more of an opportunity to shine this year. He’s a quietly dominating pitcher, and one suspects you might be seeing him deep into October.
Red Sox: This is the year Jackie Bradley Jr. actually starts hitting
To be fair, I’ve been predicting this for several years now, and he’s already 30. But he was smoking the ball in Spring Training, and he has reportedly done the same at Summer Camp. I’m going to give him one more year to make me look smart.
Yankees: Their top MVP vote-getter will be Giancarlo Stanton
He hasn’t had the best start to his Yankees career, but he’s still Giancarlo freaking Stanton, and he only has 60 games to stay healthy through rather than 162. And we know what happens when Stanton is healthy.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: Francisco Lindor doesn’t go anywhere
In a full season, maybe we spend the whole time talking about Lindor getting traded. But with this sprint, he almost doesn’t have time to, and besides: This Indians team, in a short season, very well could win this thing.
Royals: Mike Matheny will be the right manager for this team -- for now
Matheny wore out his welcome in St. Louis after a while, but this is exactly the job that brings out his strengths (helping players deal with difficult exterior circumstances, making a good first impression) rather than his weaknesses (managing the bullpen, postseason decision-making).
Tigers: Matthew Boyd gets traded at the Deadline
It may be tough to find teams who think they’re out of it after only one month, which could drive up Boyd’s value beyond what it might have been last year, as the Tigers could be one of the only Deadline sellers. As a bonus, Boyd is under club control through 2022, so he would not be a “rental.”
Twins: Josh Donaldson wins the AL MVP
Doesn’t it feel like he is exactly the sort of player who further electrifies this already-electrifying lineup? For what it’s worth, if Donaldson wins a second MVP, we might start putting his career in a little bit more of a rarified air, historically.
White Sox: This is the Eloy Jiménez explosion year
Luis Robert is getting all the hype, but Jiménez remains the hitter with the purest power and overwhelming talent. He was also terrific down the stretch, and he gets to play the Cubs, the team that traded him, in an alarmingly high percentage of his games.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Mike Trout will be the best player in baseball again
But the Angels will miss the playoffs again, so he won’t win the MVP again, and we’ll be back to doing this dance.
Astros: No fans are going to boo this team this year, and no one is going to be involved in a bench-clearing brawl at any point
Wow, would this prediction have ever felt crazy four months ago?
Athletics: The A’s are going to win a playoff series
Bold! But if there ever were a year, it’s this one. Here is your reminder that the A’s have not won a playoff series since 2006. Frank Thomas was on that team.
Mariners: Yusei Kikuchi is the pitcher the Mariners thought they were getting
His first year in MLB did not go well, but this is a better pitcher than he showed last year. And he looks great so far.
Rangers: None of the old pitchers quite hold up
Mike Minor and Lance Lynn both had brilliant 2019 seasons. Expecting that to happen again, let alone Corey Kluber being old Corey Kluber, is probably expecting too much.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: This is the year Braves fans finally fall in love with Ronald Acuña Jr.
You would think this would have already happened, considering he’s Ronald Acuña Jr. But there were many grumblings during the NL Division Series last year. This year, he erases any memories of casual jaunts to first base.
Marlins: The Marlins aren’t finishing last
This team is sneaky competitive, with an improved lineup and a quietly steady rotation. Things are looking up here, and this year could be an abbreviated preview.
Mets: Yoenis Céspedes does something wonderful
After two years away, Céspedes is back and ready to DH for an intriguing Mets team. There may be no more purely pleasurable player in the sport to watch. This year, he reminds us.
Phillies: Joe Girardi settles things down, but it’s not enough
The Phillies are catching a bit of a break with their make-or-break year turning out to be an unusual, potentially forgivable aberration. But this team just still needs more pitching.
Nationals: They’ll raise a World Series banner in 2021
OK, I’m just baiting you on this one. With no fans in the stands to do so this year, expect some sort of ceremony at Nationals Park in 2021, whether they win one this year or not. (Though they won’t.)
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: There just won’t be enough pitching
This is something everyone has said for three years running, and the Brewers keep making the playoffs. But this year: 2020 is the year there won’t be enough pitching.
Cardinals: Dylan Carlson wins the Rookie of the Year Award
He hasn’t won a starting job yet, but the Cardinals are quietly thrilled by him, and it’s just a matter of time until he’s everything they expect him to be.
Cubs: David Ross does just fine, but it turns out the manager wasn’t the problem in the first place
Ross will see eye to eye with the front office more than Joe Maddon did at the end, but there are still a lot of holes on this roster, particularly in the suddenly José Quintana-less rotation.
Pirates: Josh Bell has a monster year, and everyone spends the entire offseason trying to trade for him
If the Pirates are looking to kick off a rebuild, Bell is an ideal centerpiece.
Reds: They’re making the postseason
The Reds went all-in for this season, and they may have come up with the ideal 60-game roster now that the NL has a DH. Lots of homers are going to end up near Kentucky with this lineup.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Starling Marte earns MVP votes
He’s the ideal guy for this lineup, and he might finally become the player the Pirates were waiting for him to be.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw finishes in the top three in Cy Young voting again
He threw 91 pitches in a simulated game the other day, and he’s ready to go. He was a top-five Cy Young vote-getter every year from 2011-17. He returns to the top this year.
Giants: Hunter Pence makes you smile like it’s 2014 again
Admit it: Now that they’re gone, you kind of miss those Giants pseudo-dynasty teams, don’t you?
Padres: Manny Machado has a big year
He was awfully quiet in his first year in San Diego after signing that mega-contract, but this is still a potential top-tier superstar who is just now entering his prime.
Rockies: Nolan Arenado is amazing to watch, and the Rockies go nowhere anyway
This notion may sound vaguely familiar to you.