Considering the game hasn’t had a repeat World Series champion in two decades, we’ve become accustomed to surprises.
That will be especially true in a season like this, when the Reds, White Sox, Angels and Phillies are optimistic about ending playoff droughts. Those possibilities make this season’s 60-game sprint to the postseason even more interesting.
There are teams out there that probably are better than you think. Here are five of them:
1. Blue Jays
While there are big questions, this team’s ceiling is sky high even in a division that figures to be dominated by the Yankees and Rays. General manager Ross Atkins had a tremendous offseason in building a competitive rotation basically from scratch by trading for Chase Anderson and signing free agents Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark and Shun Yamaguchi. And let’s not forget that hard-throwing prospect Nate Pearson is waiting in the wings.
Depending on what kind of sophomore seasons are produced by the young position players, especially Vladimir Guerrero Jr., this could be a fun baseball summer for the Blue Jays.
The Rangers appear to have the best starting rotation in franchise history, and hats off to president of baseball operations Jon Daniels for the additions of Corey Kluber, Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson to a group that already had Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. If the five of them stay healthy for all 60 games, Texas has a chance to hang with the Astros and A’s in the American League West.
A shortened season is perfect for a team loaded with young arms, because managing the workloads will be simpler. So the Padres can mix and match MacKenzie Gore, Luis Patiño and Adrian Morejon to a group that will welcome former Angels ace Garrett Richards, who is returning from Tommy John surgery. With the addition of Tommy Pham to the middle of the lineup and potentially a full season from Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres could be both entertaining and competitive.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein considered blowing up his roster after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Instead, he hired a new manager (David Ross) and believes a fresh voice could fix what little was wrong with a team that played poorly on the road (33-48) and had a terrible record in one-run games (19-27) in 2019. Otherwise, this is a team without a significant weakness and appears to be plenty good enough to compete for its second World Series title in five years.
So many storylines, so little time, from Jacob deGrom (third straight National League Cy Young Award?) to Pete Alonso (record rookie season encore) to Yoenis Céspedes (healthy?). In the end, the Mets’ hopes probably ride on the ability of Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello to replace Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler. Both have had seasons when they’ve performed like true aces. If they’re at their best in 2020, the Mets will be a big factor in the NL East, which might be baseball’s closest division race.