One month ago, the 2020 MLB season taking place was looking grim. However, that is in the past now as Opening Day goes down Thursday evening as the New York Yankees and the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals kick off the shortened year.
In terms of the race to the postseason, the National League East division will be the tightest race as the Atlanta Braves and Nationals have the playoff experience, the Philadelphia Phillies look to recover from an injury-tainted 2019, and the New York Mets bring in a revamped squad.
Oh, and the Miami Marlins have a new color scheme.
1. Atlanta Braves (2019 record: 97-65)
The Braves were arguably the biggest disappointment in last year’s postseason as they were trounced at home in game five of their NLDS series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
We know Atlanta has all the offensive firepower in the world with young stars in Ozzie Albies and MVP candidate Ronald Acuna Jr. On top of those two, they have a steady veteran in future Hall of Famer Freddie Freeman, and in the offseason, they acquired two-time All-Star Marcell Ozuna.
The biggest question for Atlanta will be the consistency of their starting rotation. What cannot go overlooked is the addition of Cole Hamels. The 36-year-old may not be the shut down guy he once was when he won a World Series with the Phillies, but his experience and mentorship will pay dividends for a rotation that lacks experience. If Max Fried, Mike Soroka, and Mike Foltynewicz can all feed off of Hamels, then the Braves could have something special this season.
2. Washington Nationals (2019 record: 93-69, defending World Series champions)
After pulling off the unthinkable and winning last year’s World Series, the Nationals will look to defend the crown.
However, they will start their campaign without young star Juan Soto as he tested positive for COVID-19 hours before their season opener against the Yankees. The team will already begin the year behind the 8-ball without him.
Offensively, the Nationals lost NL MVP runner-up Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels. Rookie Carter Kieboom will have the chance to prove himself as Rendon’s successor.
There will be no time for the Nationals to start off slow like they did in 2019 (27-33 record through 60 games last season) with the shortened season. It will be a tough test for this team, but with one of the better starting rotations in baseball with Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg, Washington should be a safe bet to reach the postseason.
3. Philadelphia Phillies (2019 record: 81-81)
Injuries plagued the Phillies last season as All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen went out with a season-ending injury just 59 games into 2019.
The good news for Philadelphia is that they were the division leaders last year, and they added to their offensive firepower with the signing of Didi Gregorius.
If the offense can stay healthy and Bryce Harper finds consistency again, Philadelphia will possess one of the more dangerous lineups in baseball.
The Phillies have the potential to win pitching duels with the likes of Atlanta and Washington as they have an ace in Aaron Nola and they signed a steady right-hander in Zack Wheeler. However, it is going to be up to former World Series Champion Jake Arrieta to return to his Chicago Cubs-form if the Phillies are going to compete for a division title.
4. New York Mets (2019 record: 86-76)
Here is a ball club that could shock the world during an unknown time. The Mets have balanced talent both offensively and defensively.
Utility Jeff McNeil, outfielder J.D. Davis and catcher Wilson Ramos all had stellar years at the plate batting over .280. Amed Rosario is a rising shortstop talent, and, of course, we cannot forget about Pete Alonso who hit 53 home runs in his rookie campaign last year. Offense will not be an issue for the Mets during the 60-game season.
What could be an issue is the health of their starting rotation. Jacob deGrom needs more help due to the loss of Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John Surgery. Steven Matz will need to fill the void well as the No. 2 starter. With Marcus Stroman out for the early portion of the season, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha will need to find their peak performance from years past to be able to help the Mets keep the pressure off the bats.
5. Miami Marlins (2019 record: 57-105)
Let’s be honest here, there is little expectation out of the Miami Marlins camp. They have a nice color scheme now, but that is really all I can say about this franchise until someone wants to put care into this franchise.
With playing two of the best divisions in baseball in the NL East and AL East it will he hard to say if Miami could even pull 10 wins out of this season.