If you enjoyed watching the Nationals, Rays, Cardinals and Twins rebound in 2019, you’re going to love 2020. The Mets, Angels and Phillies may be on the cusp of a turnaround. Others appear to be close.
Ya gotta believe!
Or maybe you don’t. In an era of parity, things change and change quickly. Check the numbers: Five teams -- Twins, Dodgers, Nationals, Rangers and White Sox -- had double-digit improvements this year, and two more -- Mets (+9) and Reds (+8) -- were close.
Those swings are how you get a string of six different World Series winners in six seasons. That’s how eight franchises have been to the World Series in the last five seasons. Only the Dodgers and Astros have been more than once.
In the last five seasons, 22 teams have been to the playoffs at least once. This leads to crazy swings.
The Nationals won the 2019 World Series after missing the playoffs in '18. So if you think your favorite team is close, you could be right.
Here are seven poised for a big leap in 2020:
The Mets have the thing every other team in the National League East is seeking, and that’s a very good, very deep starting rotation. The Mets also have a solid core of young position players, and if general manager Brodie Van Wagenen takes care of center field and adds a bullpen arm or two, his team is capable of building on last season’s 40-21 finish. Edwin Díaz and Jeurys Familia will likely pitch at least a little better than they did in 2019.
The Phillies are determined to finish what they started a year ago, and that means finding upgrades in the rotation and at third base. That’s a big shopping list, but the Phillies showed last season when they signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to turn things around. Cutch will be healthy again in 2020, and Philadelphia is going to be a fun place to watch baseball.
If you’re thinking big, you begin with Gerrit Cole and Zack Wheeler. If the Angels sign both, they’re back in contention. Conventional wisdom has them spending big on one starting pitcher and more modestly on another. With Shohei Ohtani’s return to the mound, that might be enough. Regardless, 2020 is a big opportunity for the Angels.
4. White Sox
There’s plenty of work still to be done, but it’s impossible not to be bullish on the White Sox because of all their young talent. Whether that turnaround happens in 2020 depends on how right-hander Michael Kopech bounces back from Tommy John surgery and how much general manager Rick Hahn is able to do to upgrade the rotation, right field and designated hitter.
The Reds have competitive pitching, so the focus will be on improving an offense that was 25th in runs and 22nd in OPS in 2019. Some of that improvement could come from full seasons of Aristides Aquino and Nick Senzel and a healthy one from Jesse Winker. But general manager Dick Williams has a shopping list that could include everyone from Didi Gregorius to Marcell Ozuna to Mike Moustakas.
General manager AJ Preller has constructed one of the best farm systems in the game, and Padres ownership has shown a willingness to spend money in free agency. There are likely to be upgrades around the diamond, but the real improvement will come from within. There’s enough talent to do that in 2020, especially if Fernando Tatis Jr. can stay healthy for a full season.
The Rangers improved by 11 games and were one of baseball’s surprise teams in 2019 thanks to 200-inning seasons from Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, a breakthrough (and injury-shortened) season from Joey Gallo and a great find in utility man Danny Santana. General manager Jon Daniels will go hard for help at third base (Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson or Mike Moustakas) and in the rotation (Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, etc.). If he’s successful, the Rangers could be competitive in the American League West.