After months of pessimism, Major League Baseball is moving forward with a 2020 season. The negotiations between the league and players union are finally over, as commissioner Rob Manfred mandated a 60-game campaign. Considering the small portion of games this year, anything is really possible, but we expect the usual powerhouses with fresh rosters to do the most damage.
With that in mind, here are the top 10 teams heading into the start of the regular season on July 23.
10. Philadelphia Phillies
In 2019, many experts crowned the Philadelphia Phillies as the NL East favorites after they added Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto. Yet, they finished 81-81 and fired manager Gabe Kapler. This past winter, the Phillies hired a new skipper in Joe Girardi, and added high-profile free agents in pitcher Zack Wheeler and shortstop Didi Gregorius. Philadelphia's roster has plenty of promise, and they can reach their full potential now that they have a manager who knows what it takes to reach the World Series.
9. St. Louis Cardinals
The NL Central is going to be tough to determine a true winner. The Chicago Cubs did next to nothing to improve their roster, the Cincinnati Reds look good on paper, and the Milwaukee Brewers lost a plethora of talent via free agency. But when you look at the St. Louis Cardinals, we'd place our money on them. They have a strong rotation featuring Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright, and KBO veteran Kwang Hyun Kim, and offensive talent led by Paul Goldschmidt. The Cards are the safest pick to make the playoffs out of the central division.
8. Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics have made the postseason in the past two years, but this time they will enter the season with a powerful pitching rotation consisting of young studs Jesus Luzardo and AJ Puk. Not to mention, they have a potent batting order that includes Matt Olson, Marcus Semien, and Matt Chapman. The Athletics are always consistently good and should have similar impact in 2020.
7. Washington Nationals
The Nationals shocked the world last year by winning the World Series after starting the season with a 19-32 record. Entering 2020, the Nationals lost Anthony Rendon via free agency. Even so, Washington still carries an insane three-headed monster on the mound consisting of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, and they have an elite player in the making in Juan Soto. Could they snag the NL East title?
6. Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins literally powered their way to an AL Central title last season by hitting an MLB record 307 homers through 162 regular season games. This past winter, the Twins signed Josh Donaldson to add even more power to that group. Additionally, they added Kenta Maeda to their starting rotation that includes Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios. A playoff berth is a certainty for Minnesota and they look capable to put up a better fight in the playoffs than they did last year against the New York Yankees in the ALDS.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays were one win away from upsetting the Houston Astros in the ALDS and have once again a bright outlook heading into the 2020 season. Tampa has a spectacular rotation of Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow and addressed its power woes this offseason by acquiring Hunter Renfroe from the San Diego Padres and signing Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutugo. The Rays notoriously get hot at the start of the season, so it's easy to see them clinch a spot in the postseason in 60 games.
4. Houston Astros
The Astros have had an offseason they would like to forget, highlighted by the loss of Gerrit Cole via free agency and their sign-stealing scandal. Luckily for Houston, fans likely won't be allowed to attend games this year, so the team won't have to hear endless boos and heckling on the road. Even with the scandal, the Astros are still the team to beat in the AL West. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and Michael Brantley highlight their stout batting lineup. Lance McCullers Jr. will retirn from injury to take Cole's spot in the rotation alongside Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. Houston may be the most hated team in the league, but you can't deny that they're a talented squad.
3. Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves were expected to make a deep run in the 2019 postseason, but were embarrassed by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Sensing that their championship window is still open, general manager Alex Anthopoulos signed Marcell Ozuna to replace Josh Donaldson's power and added former Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Cole Hamels. Atlanta has built a reliable bullpen (Shane Greene, Mark Melancon, Will Smith) and possess a great lineup, highlighted by Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and NL MVP-favorite Ronald Acuña Jr. Think this team won't cruise through 60 games?
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have won the NL West for seven consecutive seasons, and it looks like they'll clinch No. 8 with relative ease. Why's that? The team added former AL MVP Mookie Betts and AL Cy Young winner David Price in a trade with the Boston Red Sox! Betts will join reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger and AJ Pollock in the outfield, while Price will be slapped in the middle of Los Angeles rotation with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, and Alex Wood. The Dodgers are World Series favorites for a reason. They're packed to the gills with elite talent!
1. New York Yankees
While the Dodgers had a great offseason, it doesn't match what the New York Yankees did. They addressed the huge void in their rotation by opening up their checkbook and throwing $324 million at AL Cy Young runner-up Gerrit Cole. Now, the certified ace will be paired alongside Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton at the top of the rotation. Furthermore, the Yankees have ridiculous talent in the batter's box. Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and more have the potential to hit the ball out of the park. Add that to arguably the league's best bullpen, and the Yankees are the favorites to represent the AL in this year's World Series. You can bank on that.