Today is the day, folks.
Baseball is back.
The 2020 MLB season kicks off its shortened season Thursday evening when the New York Yankees head to Nationals Park to take on the Washington Nationals at 7:08 p.m. EST. The San Francisco Giants then face the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium at 10:08 p.m. EST.
The return of baseball means one thing: power rankings are back as well. Without beating around the outfield brush any longer, here is the first installment of the 2020 Rich 10 MLB rankings.
1. New York Yankees (2019 record: 103-59)
Despite injuries to Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Luis Severino and James Paxton, among others, the Yankees still won 103 games. Enough said. While Severino will sit out of the 2020 season due to undergoing Tommy John Surgery, New York supplemented their rotation with someone by the name of Gerrit Cole. The lineup, rotation and bullpen have the upside and depth to weather injuries again in a shortened season. However, if Aaron Boone’s team remains healthy, the sky is the absolute limit.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (2019 record: 106-56)
One month ago, the narrative surrounding Los Angeles was whether they would be able to see their star trade acquisition in Mookie Betts play a game in Dodger blue. That narrative, however, no longer bears any fruit, as the Dodgers signed the 27-year-old outfielder to a $365 million contract extension over the next 12 seasons after the 2020 season concludes. Even when excluding Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Max Muncy and company, Los Angeles will have two elite outfielders in Betts and Cody Bellinger coming up to the plate every game, and to think – I have not even mentioned their pitching. The Dodgers bring depth to all areas of the roster and will make an easy case for the National League pennant once more.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (2019 record: 96-66)
While the Yankees are the cream of the crop when it comes to offense, the Rays might be the gold standard when it comes to pitching. Although Blake Snell only pitched to a 4.29 ERA in 107.2 innings last season, Charlie Morton and Kevin Cash’s “opener” strategy netted the Rays the fourth-best starter ERA last season (3.64). Tampa Bay’s bullpen, meanwhile, possessed the best ERA in the majors last season (3.71). Should Snell and 26-year-old Tyler Glasnow pitch effectively, the rotation could make its case as the best unit in the American League.
4. Houston Astros (2019 record: 107-55)
Even while a sign-stealing and trash can-banging scandal is permanently etched into Houston’s history, the Astros still bring a deep roster to the table. Despite Cole departing for New York, the Astros supplement a rotation with the return of Lance McCullers Jr., who struck out close to 10 batters per nine innings in 2018 (9.96). The injection of youth in the rotation will create better balance, as both Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are 37 and 36, respectively. The main storyline of Houston’s season, however, will come from how the offense produces post-scandal and how Astros’ manager Dusty Baker deals with the endless hit by pitches the offense is bound to receive.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (2019 record: 91-71)
While their hitting was weaker than teams higher and lower than them in this ranking, the Cardinals bring excellent pitching to the mound, as their collective pitching ERA of 3.82 ranked fifth in the majors last season.
Jack Flaherty, who pitched to a career-high 2.75 ERA in 196.1 innings, looks to build off the season and put himself firmly in the National League Cy Young conversation. While the NL Central will bring as much parity as any other division, St. Louis’ overall roster balance puts them first among all of those teams at the start of the season.
6. Minnesota Twins (2019 record: 101-61)
If there is an offensive juggernaut that can potentially surpass New York, it is Minnesota. After all, they struck out less than New York (20.9% to 23.0%) and possessed a better OPS (.832 to .829). The offense (on paper at least) got even better in the offseason, as Minnesota brought in Josh Donaldson on a four-year contract north of $90 million.
While Jose Berrios will anchor the top of the rotation, how Minnesota rounds out the latte portions of its rotation will be the x-factor to the team taking the next step in their Commissioner’s Trophy hunt.
7. Atlanta Braves (2019 record: 97-65)
Atlanta brings as much upside as any team on the list, as their youth and prospect capital is still high enough to contribute toward the major league roster or toward a potential trade to supplement said roster. Mike Soroka, quietly, is another up-and-coming ace that could vault Atlanta to the next level.
Then, of course, you have the offense, which consists of Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, among others. The raw potential of the team is too much to put them lower. Even still, the team must overtake the gauntlet that is the National League East before they can be considered for a higher spot in this ranking.
8. Washington Nationals: (2019 record: 93-69)
How did the reigning World Series Champions find their way so far down this list?
While they did lose Anthony Rendon in the offseason, they still have enough pieces on offense to produce. Their starting pitching led by Max Scherzer will still be a force. Their bullpen will be solid enough to supplement the rotation and offense.
While they did win the World Series last year, they started off the season extremely slow. Through their first 60 games in 2019, Washington went 27-33. While 2020 is a new season, another slow start in a stronger NL East will quickly see Washington fade from 2020 playoff relevancy. For Washington to shoot up the list, they must start the season in a much swifter manner.
9. Oakland Athletics (2019 record: 97-65)
If you just read the Washington part of the ranking, you will see a similar theme for this section regarding Oakland. While they find a gritty way to win on the pitching side and do bring nice pieces on offense (including that of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman), they are a slow starter as well. Through 60 games last season, the Athletics were 30-30. While they possess talent to compete for playoff spot, another slow start in a stronger AL West will only spell disaster for Oakland.
10. Cincinnati Reds (2019 record: 75-87)
All teams ahead of the Reds in this ranking made the playoffs in 2019. What puts Cincinnati so high up the list?
While the Cardinals bring overall roster balance, the Reds bring a significant roster strength that could close the gap and potentially overtake St. Louis: their starting rotation.
The “Big Three” of Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer might not only be the best trio in the NL Central, but among the best in all of baseball. When combined with the offseason acquisitions in Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama, Cincinnati brings a lethal rotation and a revamped offense that should be much improved from 2019.
St. Louis has the track record and experience to keep them ahead of the Cincinnati storm for now. However, if Cincinnati performs as effectively as their transformed roster looks like it can, this will be the lowest ranking for them.