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1 ST prediction for each club. Some are BOLD

February 15, 2020

Spring Training is underway, which means the regular season is just around the corner. With camps ramping up in Arizona and Florida, each MLB.com beat writer offers a bold prediction as to what we could see before Opening Day.

Spring Training is underway, which means the regular season is just around the corner. With camps ramping up in Arizona and Florida, each MLB.com beat writer offers a bold prediction as to what we could see before Opening Day.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

BLUE JAYS: Nate Pearson emerges as Toronto’s Spring Training star

Pearson gives the organization the hope of a homegrown ace, and that should be on full display this spring. Spring Training can be hard enough on hitters as they get back up to speed against live pitching, but when you factor in Pearson’s triple-digit heat -- which has touched 104 mph -- and impressive secondary pitches, it’s a recipe for the 23-year-old to announce himself to the rest of the league ahead of his debut sometime in 2020. More >

ORIOLES: Hunter Harvey becomes the closer

This may not happen soon, or at all. But Harvey has a chance to transform the Orioles bullpen in 2020, potentially enabling manager Brandon Hyde to assign concrete roles in ways he couldn’t last summer. It won’t take much for Baltimore’s ‘pen to be better. But Harvey’s power arsenal is perfectly suited for the ninth. That would free up Mychal Givens for high-leverage situations regardless of inning, and let Hyde flex his strategic muscles in tight games. More >

RAYS: Willy Adames will compete for an AL Gold Glove Award

As a prospect, Willy Adames’ hitting was what scouts praised most. But he has significantly improved his defense at shortstop, becoming one of the best at the position in 2019. Adames finished with 4 Statcast Outs Above Average, ranking 14th in the Majors among qualified shortstops and sixth in the AL. Adames also ranked sixth among Major League shortstops with 13 Defensive Runs Saved. With continued improvement, the 24-year-old could work his way into Gold Glove Award chatter. More >

RED SOX: The fifth starter will be ... an opener

The Red Sox have a hole in the rotation following the trade of David Price to the Dodgers, with no obvious candidate to fill the void. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was one of the masterminds of “the opener” with the Rays. Look for righty Ryan Weber to be an important part of the plan if that’s what the Sox go with. Lefty Josh Taylor, who has a power arm, should also factor in. More >

YANKEES: Giancarlo Stanton will have a monster spring

Manager Aaron Boone said he anticipates Stanton will be completely healthy when position players report. Stanton led the Yankees with 38 homers and 100 RBIs in 2018, coming off an MVP season in which he led the Majors with 59 homers and 132 RBIs. Based upon his Instagram workout videos (was he really bench-pressing supermodel Adriana Lima?), Stanton will be adding a few new dents to the Steinbrenner Field scoreboard this spring. More >

AL CENTRAL

INDIANS: Say goodbye to the José Ramírez slump

Ramírez hit .218 in the second half of the ’18 season and then got off to a rough start in ’19, hitting .198 with a .586 OPS through June 12. But from there, he hit .314 with a 1.031 OPS in his last 63 games despite having hamate bone surgery in August. That should help put his slump in the rearview mirror. Steamer Projections per FanGraphs predict a bounce-back season, with Ramírez posting an .885 OPS and 125 wRC+. More >

ROYALS: Adalberto Mondesi has his breakout year

Mondesi will be healthy and show his entire skill set. Last year, he tied for the Major League lead in triples (10) and stole a team-high 43 bases despite playing in only 102 games because of shoulder injuries. Mondesi will lead the league in triples with 16 and stolen bases with 62. He’ll hit 22 homers with an OPS over .870. He will also be a Gold Glove Award candidate, as his Outs Above Average will rate among the top shortstops. More >

TIGERS: Bryan Garcia cracks the Opening Day bullpen

On a team with an established relief corps, Garcia would probably return to Triple-A Toledo for more seasoning before coming up during the season. But aside from closer Joe Jiménez and setup man Buck Farmer, Detroit’s bullpen picture is wide open. Add in the expected uptick in stuff in the second season back from Tommy John, and there’s reason to keep an eye on Garcia. Don’t be surprised if the Tigers take a long look at him and begin the Jiménez-type progression up the ladder. More >

TWINS: Jhoan Duran will throw 100 mph

The 22-year-old right-hander should clock in at No. 5 on the 2020 version of the Twins’ Top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, and he’s been known to sit in the mid- to high-90s out of his big, 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame. Expect him to pop off a few triple-digit screamers -- and also watch out for the unique sinker/splitter hybrid that has stymied Minor League hitters throughout Duran’s career. More>

WHITE SOX: Core extensions will be explored

Extending some of their top young players has almost become a Spring Training tradition for the White Sox. Chris Sale, José Quintana, Adam Eaton, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jiménez are just a few who have been locked down contractually during this time. Third baseman Yoán Moncada, right-handed pitchers Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease and even left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer and/or second baseman Nick Madrigal would be extension candidates in the upcoming weeks. More >

AL WEST

ANGELS: They'll open the season with a four-man rotation

The Angels will take advantage of early-season off-days with a rotation of Andrew Heaney, Julio Teheran, Dylan Bundy and Griffin Canning. They’ll need a spot starter on April 4 but it could come from Matt Andriese or Félix Peña out of the bullpen. Another spot start would be needed April 20 or April 21. By then, the club could turn to Andriese or Peña, or call up a Triple-A starter such as Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Jaime Barria or Dillon Peters. More >

ASTROS: Lance McCullers Jr. will have a breakout season

McCullers is healthy following Tommy John surgery, and champing at the bit to help fill the void left by the loss of Gerrit Cole. Because of injuries, he’s yet to start more than 22 games in a season, though, and he may be on an innings limit this year. McCullers, 26, went 10-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 25 games (22 starts) in ’18, injuring his elbow in August and pitching through a torn UCL in the playoffs. More >

ATHLETICS: Franklin Barreto will seize the second base job

With second base now vacant after Jurickson Profar was traded to the Padres, the time for Barreto is now. The 23-year-old enters this Spring Training out of Minor League options. He’ll have competition in Jorge Mateo, who is also out of options, but Barreto has a tendency to go off in Spring Training like he did last year, when he slashed .351/.429/.541. Barreto should finally get his chance to prove himself at the big league level. More >

MARINERS: A teenager will garner much of the attention

Nineteen-year-old Julio Rodriguez will be the star of Mariners’ camp. He won’t make the Opening Day roster no matter how well he plays this spring, as the Mariners aren’t going to rush the youngster from Class A Modesto straight to the Majors. But the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Rodriguez will capture everyone’s attention with his youthful exuberance and obvious physical talent. He’ll draw comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr. with his joy for the game and his combination of power, size and speed. More >

RANGERS: Some young pitchers will create excitement

The Rangers’ rotation is set, but young starters will create serious buzz. Some names are obvious -- Joe Paterson, Kolby Allard, Brock Burke, Taylor Hearn and Jonathan Hernandez. But there are more. Kyle Cody, the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2017, is healthy after Tommy John surgery. Jason Bahr had a 3.23 ERA at Double-A Frisco last season. Tyler Phillips was Texas’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2018. Then there are hard-throwing relievers Demarcus Evans and Joe Barlow. More >

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

BRAVES: Five is not a crowd

There will once again be room for Adam Duvall to join an outfield mix that features Ender Inciarte, Ronald Acuña Jr., Marcell Ozuna and Nick Markakis. Duvall will be a weapon against left-handers off the bench and he could be a good middle-of-the-lineup option when Acuña shifts to center on days when Inciarte sits against a lefty. Changes can be made when Cristian Pache or Drew Waters are ready. But barring injury, neither of these highly-touted prospects will likely make an early-season rise. More >

MARLINS: Brian Anderson could approach 30 homers

There are reasons to believe Anderson is on the cusp of a power surge. He’s now entering his third full big league season, and there is a better lineup around him. Also, Marlins Park has moved in the fences in center and right-center, which should spike at least some of his numbers. According to Statcast, Anderson’s hard-hit rate from a year ago was 45.7 percent, which placed him in the 86th percentile in MLB. More >

METS: Edwin Díaz wins back the closer's job

In Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson, the Mets have four other relievers in camp with closing experience; it’s entirely possible all five of those pitchers save games at various points this season. But the Mets made Díaz the centerpiece of a seven-player trade with the Mariners two winters ago because they expected him to close, not set up. Coming into camp, he appears motivated enough to make sure that happens. More >

NATIONALS: Trea Turner will stand out

We all remember what Turner's right index finger looked like after the World Series, right? He broke it in early April, returned six weeks later and grinded through the end of October before undergoing surgery in mid-November. Despite the injury, he still slashed .298/.353/.497 with 19 home runs and a team-high 35 stolen bases. A Turner with 10 healthy fingers could do even more damage. More >

PHILLIES: J.T. Realmuto will sign a contract extension before Opening Day

This needs to get done, doesn’t it? The Phillies traded Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro and Will Stewart to the Marlins for Realmuto because they believe he can be part of their core for years to come. At the very least, it needs to happen before the end of the season, but it would be better for everybody if it happens before Opening Day. Expect the two sides to settle his 2020 salary in arbitration before working on an extension. More >

NL CENTRAL

BREWERS: Corbin Burnes is the pick to click

Last year was an unmitigated disaster for the right-hander, who posted an 8.82 ERA and surrendered 17 home runs in 49 big league innings. Burnes never stopped working, unless you count the 10 days off in early October. He lives year-round in Phoenix and worked out at the Brewers’ complex. He also saw a sports psychologist. Whether he starts the season in the rotation, the bullpen or in Triple-A remains to be seen. More >

CARDINALS: Carlos Martínez earns a rotation spot

Despite emerging as the Cardinals’ closer when Jordan Hicks had Tommy John surgery last year, Martínez has repeatedly said he feels more comfortable as a starter. Martínez worked this offseason to strengthen his shoulder and showed up to camp healthy, putting him on a starter’s schedule as he builds up his workload to handle more innings. If Martínez shows he can stay healthy and be effective, it’s likely we’ll see him in the dugout for Opening Day and not the bullpen. More >

CUBS: The stars stay put

So far, the core group -- led by Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber -- remains intact. The list of realistic suitors or impact additions has dwindled following a hectic winter. A major trade could also create a hole that the Cubs have trouble filling in an effort to contend in 2020. The more prudent path might be evaluating the roster over the first four months and making adjustments (for the present and future) at the Trade Deadline. More >

PIRATES: Mitch Keller shows his potential

It’s easy to see a scenario where Keller, Pittsburgh’s top prospect, quickly earns one of two open rotation spots this spring. The right-hander is undoubtedly motivated by the shaky surface-level stats he put together in his Major League debut last season, and he still has potentially top-of-the-rotation stuff and command. He’s also going to work with a forward-thinking pitching coach, Oscar Marin, who is focused on getting Pittsburgh’s pitchers to do the things they do best more often. More >

REDS: Joey Votto will be ready to turn things around

Votto is coming off back-to-back down seasons at the plate, including a 2019 where he had an unprecedented sub.-800 OPS for a full season. He was an early arrival to camp and this season, he won’t have to be a centerpiece to carry the lineup after the club added free agents Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama. Along with Eugenio Suárez, when he’s ready, Votto should be re-invigorated by the fresh arrivals and a legitimate shot at the postseason. More >

NL WEST

D-BACKS: Zac Gallen will be in the Opening Day rotation

The D-backs have more starting pitchers than rotation spots. General manager Mike Hazen said some pitchers are written into the rotation in pen and some in pencil. Who is in pen, or even how many, he wouldn’t say. Whether he’s in ink or pencil now, the prediction is Gallen will be in the Opening Day rotation. Acquired at last year’s Trade Deadline, the right-hander posted a 2.89 ERA in eight starts and at times was dominant. More >

DODGERS: David Price will be healthy

While Mookie Betts has taken the spotlight in this week’s blockbuster trade, Price looms as at least as important to the Dodgers’ success with the departures of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill. He’s told the Dodgers he’s healthy after last year’s surgery to remove a cyst from his left wrist. The Dodgers wouldn’t mind if he wins his second Comeback Player of the Year Award in a three-year span. More >

GIANTS: Johnny Cueto will be the Opening Day starter

Cueto reported to camp feeling strong after enjoying a normal offseason in his native Dominican Republic. Limited to rehabbing his elbow after Tommy John surgery last spring, Cueto is looking forward to fewer restrictions as he aims to return to All-Star-caliber form. Now that Madison Bumgarner is a D-back, the Giants will lean heavily on Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to lead a young pitching staff. If healthy, Cueto would be the logical choice to start at Dodger Stadium on March 26. More >

PADRES: MacKenzie Gore gives San Diego something to think about

On paper, the Padres’ rotation seems mostly settled. But general manager A.J. Preller has never been shy about promoting elite prospects quickly, and Gore is arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball. A year ago, Chris Paddack was given the same opportunity and seized it. There are fewer places available this spring, but Gore is still expected to make an impact sooner rather than later. At the very least, he would push his timeline forward with an impressive spring showing. More >

ROCKIES: There is too much buzz for the Rockies not to trade Arenado

Generally all the big moves are done by now, but this is an unusual spring. With two star third basemen on the trading block -- the Cubs' Kris Bryant and the Rockies' Nolan Arenado -- here's predicting a chair-shuffling at the hot corner before the season begins. Moves involving such players during Spring Training are not normal, but the Rockies and the Cubs would do well to not carry all that uncertainty into the regular season. More >