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Predicting each team’s best player for 2020

@williamfleitch
December 2, 2019

Who’s your team’s best player? It’s a tougher question to tackle than you might think: Bryce Harper, for example, has only been his team’s best player once in the past five years, according to Baseball Reference’s version of WAR. If it’s tough to figure out who your best player just

Who’s your team’s best player? It’s a tougher question to tackle than you might think: Bryce Harper, for example, has only been his team’s best player once in the past five years, according to Baseball Reference’s version of WAR. If it’s tough to figure out who your best player just was, imagine how hard it is to guess who it will be next year?

Today we try to take that leap: It’s our predictions on who the best player, by WAR, will be on each team in 2020. We’re gonna make it even harder on ourselves, too: Free agents count. Gerrit Cole will probably the best player on some team next year. But which one? Let’s venture into the future.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B: The 20-year-old didn’t explode on the scene the way many thought he would in his rookie year, but then again, Mike Trout didn’t either.

Orioles -- Trey Mancini, OF: He was actually third on the Orioles in WAR this year -- behind John Means and Jonathan Villar -- if you can believe that. But the Orioles’ rebuilding process won’t bring in anyone who stands in his way.

Rays -- Willy Adames, SS: He was second in 2019 … and he is just getting started.

Red Sox -- Mookie Betts, RF And our first big offseason prediction: Betts stays put.

Yankees -- Gerrit Cole, RHP: And here’s our second one. If the Yankees want him -- and they certainly need him -- they can get him.

AL CENTRAL

Indians -- José Ramírez, 3B: The possibility that they might trade Francisco Lindor, combined with Ramírez back as his old self all year, makes him the choice.

Royals -- Jorge Soler, DH: Soler has to have just hit the quietest 48 homers in recent memory.

Tigers -- Daniel Norris, LHP: OK, here’s our first “out of the box” pick, but he was much better than that 3-13 record made it look, and he actually had a lower ERA (4.49) than Matthew Boyd (4.56), who is also in a lot of trade rumors.

Twins -- Jorge Polanco, SS: One of the best players in baseball in 2019, and a primary reason the Twins did what they did. And yet Byron Buxton will still pass him if he’s healthy all year.

White Sox -- Yoán Moncada, 3B: Good thing the White Sox waited out the earlier struggles: He’s looking like a perennial All-Star now.

AL WEST

Angels -- Mike Trout, CF: It honestly doesn’t matter even if they sign ALL the free agents.

Astros -- Alex Bregman, 3B: He almost beat out Trout for AL MVP this year, so don’t be surprised if he actually pulls it off next year.

Athletics -- Matt Chapman, 3B: The real question: Are the A’s going to lock him up long term?

Mariners -- Evan White, 1B: His new contract means the top Mariners prospect might end up the Opening Day starter at first, and he’ll have a full season to justify the Mariners’ clear belief in him.

Rangers -- Joey Gallo, OF: If he can stay healthy, he can win the MVP. (Even if the Rangers sign Anthony Rendon.)

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves -- Ronald Acuña Jr., OF: You kind of get the feeling that he’s just going to keep getting better.

Marlins -- Brian Anderson, 3B: You’ll know the Marlins are starting to take bigger steps forward when someone passes Anderson.

Mets -- Jacob deGrom, RHP: With a terrific season, he’ll pass Darryl Strawberry and Jerry Koosman and move into fourth on the all-time Mets WAR list, behind Tom Seaver, David Wright and Dwight Gooden.

Nationals -- Juan Soto, LF: Even if the Nats re-sign Stephen Strasburg and Rendon, he’s the man here, now and moving forward.

Phillies -- Bryce Harper, RF: Between you, us and the wall … Bryce is our dark horse MVP pick for 2020.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers -- Christian Yelich, OF: The Brewers have three more years with him at the center of their lineup, giving them an immediate advantage over every team in the NL.

Cardinals -- Jack Flaherty, RHP: If Flaherty can be the 2019 second-half pitcher all year in '20, he’ll win the Cardinals’ first Cy Young Award since Chris Carpenter in '05.

Cubs -- Kris Bryant, 3B: Bryant has been better than anyone has appreciated the last two seasons, and if he can stay healthy, he can remind everyone just how great he is.

Pirates -- Bryan Reynolds, OF: The rookie was their best player in 2019, and Starling Marte seems a likely trade candidate.

Reds -- Joey Votto, 1B: We may regret this pick. But for all the trendiness of the Reds as a potential NL Central sleeper, their best route back to contention is Votto being Votto again.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs -- Ketel Marte, 2B/CF: If Marte is this moving forward, Arizona has an MVP candidate for the next half decade.

Dodgers -- Cody Bellinger, OF: Though we wouldn’t put it past Clayton Kershaw to have a vintage year in 2020 either.

Giants -- Mike Yastrzemski, OF: Why not another run up the flagpole for one of the best stories in baseball in 2019? The Giants look like the rebuilding process is just beginning.

Padres -- Fernando Tatis Jr., SS: Every time we watch Tatis play, all we can think is, “Man, we wish he played on our team.”

Rockies -- Nolan Arenado, 3B: The question is: Will anyone else on the roster be close? Arenado would like to know that himself, actually.