BASEBALL IS BACK THIS WEEK! We are just two days away from the season beginning with the defending champion Washington Nationals versus the New York Yankees on Thursday at 7 pm ET! It will be quite the matchup with new Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole against Nationals ace Max Scherzer. That will be followed up with the Dodgers against the Giants at 10 pm ET and a full slate of games on Friday. With that in mind, it is time to give you our predictions for the short 60-game season, including award predictions and World Series predictions. Be sure to follow our writers on Twitter and ask them any questions you may have on their predictions. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
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Alex Kielar – Aaron Judge, NYY
The Yankees’ right fielder hasn’t had a fully healthy season since his rookie year of 2017, but that doesn’t make him injury prone. All his injuries have been pretty freak injuries, and in a 60-game short season, he should be able to put up massive numbers. In 2017, when Judge should have won the MVP along with the Rookie of the Year, he hit .344/.450/.718 with 21 homers, 47 RBI, and 54 runs scored in the first 60 games.
John Lepore – Francisco Lindor, CLE
The Cleveland Indians’ shortstop is just 26. He is coming off a season where he started on the IL and still managed to hit 32 HRs, steal 22 bags, and win his second Gold Glove. Lindor finished fifth and sixth in MVP voting in 2017 and 2018 respectively. In a 60-game stretch last season from May 26-August 4, Lindor batted .322 with 13 HRs and 12 SBs. He also chipped in 20 doubles, 45 runs, and 33 RBI along with committing just four errors at short.
Matt Meffe – Eddie Rosario, MIN
For the past three seasons, Rosario has shown tremendous improvement. His power and overall run production make him a prime candidate to reach even bigger heights.
Marcos Mendoza – Nelson Cruz, MIN
Sam Schneider, Euan Leith – Mike Trout, LAA
In the “Best Player in Baseball” discussion, there are two tiers: Mike Trout… and everyone else. He took home this hardware in 2019 for the third time in his career. He has finished second in voting four times. In his worst finish in voting, he was fourth while still leading the league in multiple categories. People seem to be discounting him because a 60-game season can lead to a small sample size and crazy stats from other contenders. But once Trout catches fire, opponents can do little more than hope he cools off. In a season where the Angels hope to find themselves playoff-bound, he will be dialed in. The best player in baseball has the best odds of providing us with one of those absurd stat lines to take home MVP number four.
John Supi – Giancarlo Stanton, NYY
AL Cy Young
Alex, Euan – Gerrit Cole, NYY
Cole came in second to his now-former Astros teammate Justin Verlander for the Cy Young last season. He signed with the Yankees for a 9-year, $324 million deal and immediately becomes their bonafide ace. In a 60-game stretch last year from July 17 – Sept. 24, Cole struck out 133 batters, tied for the most in any 60-game stretch since 2010. Now he is pitching under the brightest lights in all of baseball. He might not take a step forward in pinstripes, but even if he comes within 85-90% of what he did last year, he will have some new personal hardware on his shelf at the end of the year.
John L. – José Berríos, MIN
He is another young guy coming into his prime. Berrios has improved each of the last three seasons and with the Twins signing Josh Donaldson to play third base, their defense will improve. He will have run support and he also has one of the deepest bullpens in the league. Berrios could win 10 games. If he can keep his ERA low and continue improving his control, the sky’s the limit.
Matt, John S. – Lucas Giolito, CHW
Last season, Giolito finally lived up to his hype. Just like his team, I believe he only gets better from here.
Marcos – Mike Clevinger, CLE
Sam – Blake Snell, TB
Elbow surgery in July of last year derailed Snell for most of the season’s remaining games. The reigning 2018 Cy Young winner returned for three regular-season starts in September and he was clearly not back to normal. Now, with the aid of an extended offseason, Snell hopes to regain the form that earned him 21 wins just one year prior. Armed with multiple off-speed pitches that batters flail at, Snell leads the league in strikeouts even while facing multiple powerhouse lineups.
AL Rookie of the Year
Alex – Jesús Luzardo, OAK
Luzardo didn’t make his debut until September last year after a strained left rotator cuff and a few other minor setbacks. He did not disappoint when he made his debut albeit with a small sample size. In six games, he surrendered just five hits while striking out 16 and holding a 1.50 ERA and 0.667 WHIP in 12 innings. In a short season, he should be let loose and not have much of an innings limit, if at all.
John L. – Jake Fraley, SEA
While Jarred Kelenic and Kyle Lewis get the attention among Seattle Mariners outfielders, Fraley is not chopped liver. While his cup of coffee didn’t go so well last year, the talent is there. In 99 games in the minors last season, Fraley had 19 HRs and 22 SBs along with 80 RBI. If he gets the playing time, Fraley will show off his power/speed combo.
Matt, Marcos, Sam, Euan, John S. – Luis Robert, CHW
It might only be a 60-game season, but it will serve as the one where Robert officially announces his arrival to the major leagues. After a 30/30 season over three levels of the minors in 2019, his stock was at an all-time high as the next big five-tool player. This award will ultimately come down to whether or not Robert will have a starting role this year. If he does (which he should), he’ll be very exciting to watch, as he fits perfectly into this new-look White Sox lineup. He has the hype, the pedigree, and the marketability. If he can get the White Sox back in playoff contention he will become the knight in shining armor for the South Side.
AL Comeback Player of the Year
Alex, John L., Marcos, Euan – Giancarlo Stanton, NYY
Big G only played in 18 games in 2019 with numerous injuries, seeing just 72 plate appearances. He wouldn’t have been ready to go if the season had started on time, but he is now ready to go for the new Opening Day on Thursday when the Yankees take on Max Scherzer and the defending World Series champion Nationals. He is only three years removed from his MVP season where he walloped 59 bombs and is primed for a huge season. It seems more likely that he stays healthy in a 60-game season than a 162-game one at this point. If that happens, the slugger will walk away with this award.
Matt – Lance McCullers Jr., HOU
While he’s not Gerrit Cole, McCullers has something to prove. If he can come close to what he was in 2018, he’ll be a prime CPOTY candidate.
Sam – Salvador Perez, KC
The Royals’ backstop had continued to show marked improvement in most offensive categories during his career (a career-low .235 batting average in 2018 being one of the only outliers) but then suffered an elbow injury before the 2019 season. Tommy John surgery ended that campaign, but he is healthy and has logged several starts behind the plate this spring. At his full potential, Perez can be one of the dominant catchers in the AL and might just sneak in some gaudy numbers including defensively, as players are likely to test his arm early.
John S. – Khris Davis, OAK
Alex, John S. – Ronald Acuña Jr., ATL
Had Yasiel Puig not tested positive for COVID-19 and the Braves were able to go through with signing him, I think this would be even more likely. The Braves’ lineup is pretty stacked as it is and gives protection to the MVP-favorite in Acuña. After winning the Rookie of the Year in 2018 and coming three stolen bases away from a 40-40 season last year, I believe he will take another step forward this year to bring home some more hardware. A 20-20 season isn’t out of the question in 60 games.
John L. – Bryce Harper, PHI
After getting the big contract and moving to a new team, Harper is now settled in. He is still only 27 years old and won the MVP just five years ago. When he is locked in there aren’t many players better at the plate.
Matt – Eugenio Suarez, CIN
In five seasons in Cincinnati, Suarez went from just another hitter to one of the NL’s more feared hitters. While he obviously won’t reach 49 home runs this year, he’s improved every single year he’s been in the majors, and I believe that continues this year.
Marcos – Ketel Marte, ARI
Sam, Euan – Christian Yelich, MIL
Two things are working in Yelich’s favor. First, he has the capability to go on the league’s hottest streak at any time; do that a few times in a 60-game season and you can run away with it. Second, Yelich is a notoriously fast starter. If he puts everyone on blast out of the gate, he is unlikely to look over his shoulder as he barrels towards a potential Triple Crown season. If he didn’t get hurt last season, I think we are talking about him going for a third-straight MVP award.
NL Cy Young
Alex, Sam –Walker Buehler, LAD
At age 24, Buehler had 16 quality starts out of 20 while striking out nearly 11 batters per game en route to a 14-win season. He has electric stuff including a fastball that routinely registered over 95 mph well into the late innings. Tack on one of baseball’s best lineups and some juicy games against the NL and AL West divisions, and watch Buehler lower his ERA again and lead the NL in wins.
John L. – Luis Castillo, CIN
Castillo, like Berrios, is coming into his own. He cut down significantly on his HRs allowed and is also allowing fewer baserunners. That is a great combination especially playing his home games in a hitter’s park. Castillo has dominant stuff and the Reds offense should give him plenty of support.
Matt, Marcos, Euan – Jack Flaherty, STL
Flaherty, despite the long pause, has a ton of momentum on his side after his dominant second half last year. He is not going to come anywhere close to that second half last year where he pitched to a 7-2 record with a 0.91 ERA, but he deserves more love for the Cy Young. DeGrom and Scherzer face the AL East, while Buehler and Kershaw have to face some dangerous lineups in the AL West. That may be relying too heavily on division aspects, but voters love counting stats. Flaherty is a stud and could lead the league in wins.
John S. – Kirby Yates
NL Rookie of the Year
Alex – Carter Kieboom, WSH
Now that Anthony Rendon has moved on to Los Angeles, Kieboom will have a spot at third base. I believe he will make the transition with ease and gain the full-time job there. He should see himself in the middle of a lineup with Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and Victor Robles, who I see a big breakout from. In 109 games in Triple-A last year, he hit .303 with 16 HR and 79 RBI.
John L., Sam, John S. – Gavin Lux, LAD
Lux got a taste of the majors last year playing in just 23 games and will clock in at second base as a daily starter in Los Angeles. The adage “It takes a village…” is especially pertinent here. In an extremely potent lineup that has the perfect balance of veteran leadership and easygoing young talent, the kid who had a 50-game on-base streak in the minors in 2019 needs to do little more than relax at the plate and the stats will come.
Matt, Marcos – Dustin May, LAD
The Dodgers infield seems a bit crowded, so Gavin Lux may have a tough time getting proper at-bats. The Dodgers have a rotation hole, and May could easily and effectively fill that hole.
Euan – Dylan Carlson, STL
This is a straight-up contrarian pick. I admit it. Carlson doesn’t crack the top-10 without the universal DH, but it’s a weird time in baseball. If the Cardinals play him enough, I like his chances to snatch this award from Dustin May and Gavin Lux. They may cancel each other out and they also have their own playing time questions. If Carlson comes flying out of the gates and shows us the skills he flashed in the minors last year, he has an outside chance at the Rookie of the Year crown.
NL Comeback Player of the Year
Alex, Euan – Manny Machado, SDP
There’s evidence to show that all players struggle when they switch leagues in their first season. Machado obviously isn’t the same player as when he played at Camden Yards, but he isn’t nearly as bad as year number one showed in San Diego. With a full year to adjust, his natural talent will shine through and he will recapture most of his Orioles form and climb back up the star ladder in MLB.
John L., John S. – Andrew McCutchen, PIT
Cutch played in 59 games last season before tearing his ACL. He is a fan favorite and someone we all can root for to make it back from injury. He will be a key this year if the Phillies hope to play in October. McCutchen still has some pop, has a great eye, and can play a solid left field. No doubt Cutch will bounce back this season.
Matt, Marcos – Yoenis Cespedes, NYM
Let’s be honest: if Cespedes plays even half of this shortened season after everything that’s happened to him, that should be good enough for consideration.
Sam – Joey Votto, CIN
In 2019 the Cincinnati Reds offense was a disaster, and none felt the pressure more than Votto, who set career-lows in nearly every single offensive category. I suspect that this was due in large part to pressing at the plate and trying to create a spark for his teammates. With a trio of proven hitters added during free agency, Votto gets back to the basics that have made him one of the greatest hitters of his generation.
Biggest Overall Breakout
Alex – Victor Robles, WSH
The once most-hyped-up Nationals prospect has now almost been forgotten about after Juan Soto pretty much stole all the spotlight. People will remember him this year, but he will probably never catch up to Soto. If he can make harder contact and be more selective with pitches, he could break out in a big way. His defense has always been great and he is very fast, shown in his 17 stolen bases over the final three months last season.
John L. – Amed Rosario, NYM
The New York Mets’ shortstop had a solid season last year and he started to drive the ball more. He improved his OPS 79 points from 2018-2019. With nearly 1,500 plate appearances now at the major league level, Rosario is primed to breakout.
Matt – Bo Bichette, TOR
Bichette’s power-speed-contact combination is very intriguing, and definitely something to be excited about. He fits perfectly in the Blue Jays’ young lineup, and could definitely be the one to break out.
Marcos – Zac Gallen, ARI
Sam – Teoscar Hernandez, TOR
The Blue Jays have three players that could earn this honor. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had a fairly good 2019, but not by his standards. Bo Bichette is a sexy pick to crash the party, too. Give me Hernandez, who now has two full seasons under his belt and benefits by the attention being paid to his teammates. First on the agenda will be getting his average up (just .230 in 2019), but the rest of the potential is there. He gets the ball into the air almost exclusively and when he squares up, it jumps off his bat. The home runs will come, and although 60 games would be a small sample size, he stands to prove to everyone that he is taking the next step.
Euan – Kyle Tucker, HOU
Is anyone else getting worried that Yordan Alvarez may have put up the best 100-game sample size in baseball history and we will never hear from him again? No? Just me. Cool. Cool, cool, cool, cool. I don’t know where that guy is, but Kyle Tucker is about to take hold of that DH spot and not let it go. Plus, if Alvarez returns (please get healthy Yordan), Tucker can slot into right field and let Josh Reddick take some days off. It feels like the baseball world has been waiting for the Kyle Tucker breakout since 2018, and I believe this is the year it finally happens.
John S. – Luis Robert, CHW
World Series Matchup
Alex – Minnesota Twins vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
My gut (and my heart – go Yankees) wants me to go with the very popular Yankees-Dodgers pick. That has been a favorite World Series prediction for the last three years including this year, but anything can happen in a shortened 60-game season, so that’s why I wanted to be different. The Twins would either have to defeat the aforementioned Yankees for the first time in what seems like forever or watch them fall in the first round to a team like the Rays, in order to get here. I will go with the latter, and the Twins will have just enough pitching to get by the Rays in the Championship Series.
On the other side, the Diamondbacks have what it takes to ride into their first World Series since 2001 with great pitching and hitting that I see breaking out farther. They were a surprise team last year in almost sneaking into the playoffs (four games out of the second Wild Card), and this year I think they will take the next step and go from the Wild Card game to the World Series.
John L. – Minnesota Twins vs. Philadephia Phillies
The Twins won 100 games last season and got better signing Kenta Maeda and Donaldson. Behind Berrios and Maeda, the Twins have Jake Odorizzi in a contract year along with Rich Hill and Michael Pineda coming back in September. The only question for the Twins is can they get past the Yankees? For the Phillies, Harper will be a beast, Hoskins will bounce back as well as McCutchen. With Nola and Wheeler at the top of the rotation, I think it will be enough to get them to the playoffs. Once there, they have guys who can get extremely hot and take them to the championship.
Matt – Tampa Bay Rays vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Rays are very unconventional, which makes them very unpredictable, and that makes them a threat for the AL pennant. The Cardinals are always a wild card and are due for a World Series appearance, not to mention they’re still loaded with talent.
Sam, Marcos – Tampa Bay Rays vs. Cincinnati Reds
Pitching is going to win this abbreviated season. Tampa has three starters with Cy Young potential and the Reds can nearly claim the same. Both teams have capable bullpens which also feature pitchers that could step into a starting role due to injury at any given time. While the Rays have plenty of power, a busy roster and the possibility of multiple platoons may lead them to rely more on their starting pitching; luckily, it will be up to the task. For the Reds, the name of the game is quality starts between dominant outings and looking to a stacked lineup to put runs across the plate.
Euan – Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The 60-game season is going to give us some weird and wacky standings by the end of the year, but I think the cream will still rise to the top. The Dodgers seem like the perennial favorite in the National League, and adding Mookie Betts only makes that lineup more of a lock for the postseason. The Astros lost Gerrit Cole, but I think the lack of opposing fans is really going to help this team move past the trash can saga and let the talent shine. They are public enemy number one, but they have a deep lineup and that pitching staff is still a top-10 rotation. A repeat of the 2017 World Series would make for some great drama.
John S. – New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
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