2020 MLB Preseason Power Rankings, Part 5: 10-6
- Washington Nationals
The reigning World Series champions barely sneak into the top 10 of my power rankings. The Nationals have an interesting roster and I still think they have a very strong team despite the loss of their top hitter, Anthony Rendon, who signed with the Angels in free agency this off-season. The lineup is not as strong as it was, but there are still some big bats in the middle of the lineup including up and coming superstar Juan Soto, speedy shortstop Trey Turner, and skilled outfielder Adam Eaton. The rest of the lineup will mostly consist of solidified veterans including infielders Howie Kendrick, Eric Thames, and Starlin Castro, along with catchers Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes.
However, the pitching is really going to be where the Nationals excel this year. The team carries in one of the best top three options in a rotation out of any team in the league, with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin being the main workhorses. Anibal Sanchez will assume the 4th spot in the rotation and he’s a very trustworthy veteran who the team can count on. The 5th spot is still up for grabs but it looks as if Austin Voth will grab it, who’s a solid option. The bullpen is above average and will look for Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson, and Will Harris to eat the majority of the innings late in the game. The Nationals got off to a very tough start at the beginning of the season and rebounded nicely to finish the season with a wild card and eventual championship crown, but they’re going to need to get off to a hot start this year if they want to make the playoffs. I think they have a good shot at giving a Braves a run for their money, but a wild card is the most likely placement for this team.
(Picture Credit: NBC News)
- Chicago Cubs
The Cubs missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2014, so they’ll be looking for redemption this year in the N.L Central. The team has a really good lineup, but the pitching is where the questions about their roster come into play. On paper it looks better than it is, but a lot of the Cubs pitchers are getting up there in age and have been declining the past few years. The group is headlined by the 33 year old Japan native, Yu Darvish who turned in a decent season this past year, but always seems to struggle to stay healthy. Then there’s the 36 year old veteran Jon Lester who’s struggled mightily two of the past three years and is heading into the last year of his contract. The remainder of the rotation is rounded out by Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood, who are all decent pitchers, but are nothing phenomenal. The bullpen is a little below average, and are really going to look for a bounce back year from former All Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
As I said before, the lineup is phenomenal and is headlined by sluggers Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber, among others. The team also added veteran infielder Jason Kipnis who will be a very nice support player toward the bottom of the lineup. The Cubs are still a solid team and will definitely be competing for the N.L Central with the Cardinals and Reds, but I believe they’re at worst a second wild card team.
(Picture Credit: Razorgator)
- St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis is another organization that has a great roster on paper, but can sometimes be a little shaky on the field. The team won the N.L Central this past season and also reached the NLCS, but that was only with 91 wins. The rotation is going to be a strong point of emphasis for this roster as they have some great arms in the group such as Jake Flaherty, who finished 4th in Cy Young voting this past year, longtime veteran Adam Wainwright, up and coming ace Dakota Hudson, and 2018 All Star Miles Mikolas. The 5th spot of the rotation is currently up for grabs and will most likely be filled by hybrid starter/reliever Carlos Martinez.
The bullpen on the other hand is not as strong as the rotation, and they’ll be noticeably weaker this year without flamethrower Jordan Hicks, who has opted out of this season due to health concerns. The team does have Andrew Miller, but he’s not the same pitcher that he used to be. Beyond Miller, the team will look for solid production from Giovanny Gallegos, Jon Grant, and Ryan Helsley.
The lineup has some really talented players, but many of them struggled in 2019 and will look for bounce back years in 2020. Some of these players include infielder Matt Carpenter, slugger Paul Goldschmidt, and shortstop Paul DeJong. They also have some solid veterans such as Yadier Molina, Dexter Fowler, and Kolten Wong, all of whom are dependable players.
The Cardinals are either really going to be very good and win the N.L Central, or miss the playoffs and I don’t think there’s much in between. I think this group will pull through and win the N.L Central, but anything is up for grabs in this shortened season.
(Picture Credit: Belleville News)
- Minnesota Twins
Did I put the Twins at #7 which seems to be a very fair spot? Yes. But what do I honestly think about this team? I think they’re overrated and a fluky 2019 season. The team impressively set the all time single season record for home runs by a team with 307 last season but they still don’t have me convinced. I can’t deny that the roster is strong but I still have my doubts. The lineup is cemented by veteran slugger Nelson Cruz, outfielders Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario, and they now have one of the best third basemen in the league, with Josh Donaldson who signed with the team in free agency.
The pitching rotation is another unit of the team that doesn’t have any bad players, but there’s no stud ace on the staff. The 5 men tasked with the starters job are Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, and Homer Bailey. I believe that Berrios and Odorizzi can really shoulder the workload for this unit and the rest of the guys are kind of question marks. The bullpen however is really good with guys like Taylor Rodgers, Trevor May, and Tyler Clippard being the main horses in the backend of the pitching staff. I want Minnesota to prove me wrong because I think there’s a lot of potential once again with this team but their lack of postseason results don’t help their case. I believe they’ll battle with the White Sox for the A.L Central title, and I can definitely still see them winning it, but I think they could be one team to regress this year.
(Picture Credit: KSTP TV)
- Oakland Athletics
The Athletics are always able to put a good product on the field despite their low budget, and despite their lack of postseason they’re usually one of the best teams in the American League. The top of the lineup is stacked with some great hitters such as Marcus Semien, Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and Khris Davis. The outfield is also really strong with some above average players such as Ramon Laureano, Stephen Piscotty, and Mark Canha.
The pitching rotation is what’s either going to make or break the A’s this year, as they have three starters who made less than 10 appearances this past year. Sean Manaea is one of those three guys and he’ll be welcomed back with open arms after he missed most of the past season due to Tommy John surgery. Beyond Manaea the team will rely heavily on Frankie Montas and Mike Fiers to round out the top 3 of the rotation and are hopeful that 2019 top 50 prospects Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk can round out the rotation. The bullpen is really good, and is definitely one of the best units in the league. The top arms in the backend consist of Liam Hendricks, Yusmeiro Petit, Jake Diekman, and Joakim Soria, all of whom are lockdown options.
Manager Bob Melvin is certainly set with a very nice roster this year and the A’s are going to be a powerhouse in the American League once again. It’s going to be a battle between them and the Astros for the A.L West title, but at the very least they’re a very competitive wild card team.
(Picture Credit: The Mercury News)
- Andrew Gardner, UNH '23