The MLB season is on pause before it even got started, as it almost the entire sports scene around the globe.
During previous global health crises, sports served as a welcomed distraction where we could forget about some problems for a few hours.
We don’t have that luxury this time around, however, so we need to fill the void somehow.
One of the great ways to distract ourselves from the issues surrounding us at this time is reading. With that in mind, let’s read up on some MLB baseball futures.
While the season could be postponed for longer than initially expected, the season is certainly expected to launch at some point and we still have baseball futures on the board.
Sounds like a recipe for some divisional odds, breakdowns and prediction, beginning here with the American League East in part one of my six-part series.
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
**Breakdowns conducted in order of last season’s final regular season standings
AL East Odds, Breakdowns and Predictions
New York Yankees
- 2019 Record: 103-59
- Playoff Result: Lost ALCS vs. Astros
- AL East Odds: -300
- AL Pennant Odds: +150
- World Series Odds: +400
The longer the postponement of the season lasts, the healthier the Yankees will get as they have already been decimated by injuries to some key players after an injury-plagued 2019 season.
Regardless of how you slice it, right-hander Luis Severino is out for the 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but the delay to start the season helps James Paxton, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez, all of whom have dealt with injuries of late and were questionable for the originally-scheduled Opening Day on March 26th.
Despite all their injuries last season, the Yanks managed to run away with the AL East and were one of just four clubs to crack the 100-win barrier along with the Twins, Astros and Dodgers.
After some quiet years on the free agent market, Hal Steinbrenner opened the vault for new ace Gerrit Cole while an offense that ranked second with 306 home runs a season ago – despite missing Stanton for almost the entire season and Judge for almost half the season – will bring plenty of thump again this time around.
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) December 11, 2019
The moment they signed Cole the Yankees became World Series favorites as they seemingly shored up a rotation that was their greatest weakness a season ago. That said, the Severino injury hurts while the Yankees will have to bank on a healthy return for Paxton and a rebound from 37-year-old J.A. Happ after a tough first full season in the Bronx.
If their bats can get healthy, it’s awfully difficult to see them missing out on their second straight AL East title while stealing Cole from the rival Astros should help when the postseason rolls around.
When this season gets underway, Yankees fans will have plenty to cheer about throughout the summer.
Win AL East, Win AL Pennant, Win World Series
Tampa Bay Rays
- 2019 Record: 96-66
- Playoff Result: Lost ALDS vs. Astros
- AL East Odds: +350
- AL Pennant Odds: +1000
- World Series Odds: +2800
Seemingly the biggest threat to the Yankees in the AL East, the Rays added some offense in the offseason by bringing in Hunter Renfroe, Jose Martinez and Japanese slugger Yoshimoto Tsutsugo, although the Renfroe addition did cost them outfielder Tommy Pham as part of a blockbuster with the Padres.
Nonetheless, it would seem the Rays aimed to improve an offense that ranked 13th with a .321 wOBA last season, but one that also lacked power with a 20th-ranked .178 ISO on the season and 21st-ranked 217 home runs as well. Renfroe and Tsutsugo should help in that department.
Things light mightily familiar on the pitching front as Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow will front the rotation and while there’s battles for other starting jobs, it remains to be seen whether Kevin Cash will opt for the “opener” strategy rather than fill in the back end of his rotation.
While those front three arms look attractive to be sure, the Rays’ bread and butter last season was their league-best bullpen that checked in with a 3.71 ERA and 7.7 WAR and one that also threw an MLB-high 772 innings, of course because of the opener strategy that was used while the rotation battled injuries a season ago.
With an identical 48-33 record both at home and on the road, the Rays were able to win ball games regardless of where they played in 2019, and having one of the league’s best all-round pitching staffs certainly allows for success away from home.
Whether they can climb the mountain that appears to be the New York Yankees remains to be seen, but the Rays should be able to use their dominant pitching staff and improved offense – at least on paper – to a postseason spot again this time around.
2nd Wild Card berth, win Wild Card game, lose ALDS
Boston Red Sox
- 2019 Record: 84-78
- Playoff Result: Did not qualify
- AL East Odds: +900
- AL Pennant Odds: +1600
- World Series Odds: +5000
Like the Yankees, the Red Sox benefit on the health front from a delayed start to the season as ace Chris Sale was shut down with a flexor strain in his left arm during spring training. To have any hope, they’ll need Sale healthy and productive after a down year in which he turned in a 4.40 ERA in 2019.
Are the Red Sox really out of it before it begins? Many are already writing their obituary after the Mookie Betts trade, but there’s avenues to seeing this team remain competitive, but they’ll need career-years from some players.
Namely, Eduardo Rodriguez will be leaned upon heavily to step up and become the team’s second-best starter while outfielder Andrew Benintendi needs to take a step forward after turning in a league-average 100 wRC+ in 2019 with just 13 home runs and 10 steals in 138 games.
The Red Sox will also need their bullpen to bounce back from their 17th-ranked 4.40 ERA from a season ago.
If Benintendi can break out and the Mitch Moreland/Michael Chavis platoon at first can be productive, the Red Sox are going to sport a very potent offense in 2019.
The pitching aspect of things looks much more grim, and if the bullpen can’t improve it’s going to be tough to hang in among a much-improved junior circuit.
It’s going to be a battle, and while I don’t have them in the playoffs, it’s not difficult to envision a scenario where Boston surprises their way into the dance in 2020 while their +5000 World Series odds have some value in my opinion.
Toronto Blue Jays
- 2019 Record: 67-95
- Playoff Result: Did not qualify
- AL East Odds: +3300
- AL Pennant Odds: +5000
- World Series Odds: +25000
The Blue Jays entered a modest rebuild over the last couple of years and managed just 67 wins in a season while giving their top prospects their first taste of big league action, and the future indeed looks bright.
While Vladimir Guerrero Jr. didn’t live up to the hype in 2019, the guy is still just 21 years of age and a cornerstone of the franchise. Bo Bichette looked every bit like a star in the making down the stretch while Cavan Biggio, yet another son of a former big league player, posted a healthy 114 wRC+ at the plate while playing all over the field on defense.
While the 2019 Blue Jays’ offense wasn’t great while producing a 23rd-ranked .310 wOBA, the true area of need was on the mound while the young bats continue to develop.
The Jays pitching staff as a whole ranked 21st with a 4.79 ERA and their rotation struggled to the tune of a 22nd-ranked 5.25 ERA, but they addressed that area in the offseason.
They made some noise by signing new ace Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year deal coming off a Cy Young-caliber season with the Dodgers while signing Tanner Roark and trading for Chase Anderson. Add in a healthy Matt Shoemaker – who missed almost the entire season with a torn ACL – and Japanese righty Shun Yamaguchi and the Jays appear to have solidified their rotation moving forward.
It’s the not the best group in the bigs, but it’s an improved one and one that could surprise some clubs in the AL.
The addition of Travis Shaw could be a big boost to the offense if he can put a disastrous 2019 season behind him while the remainder of the offense looks largely identical to the group that finished the 2019 season.
They’ll be in tough against some improved clubs around the AL and within the AL East itself, but don’t sleep on the Jays as a sleeper Wild Card pick and it’s not difficult to see some value in those monstrous +25000 World Series odds.
- 2019 Record: 54-108
- Playoff Result: Did not qualify
- AL East Odds: +8000
- AL Pennant Odds: +12500
- World Series Odds: +100000
While you can at least make a case for the other four AL East clubs notching a postseason berth in 2020, that is not the case with the Orioles in what is sure to be another lost season in Maryland.
The Orioles ranked near the bottom of just about every major category in baseball last season, but what was particularly alarming was the rate at which they surrendered the long ball.
While the juiced ball saw home run numbers skyrocket across the league, the 2019 Orioles’ pitching staff allowed a 1.90 HR/9 clip, good for the worst mark in the history of baseball. Not cool.
Their bullpen was the worst in the game with a 5.79 ERA while their offense checked in with a .308 wOBA, good for 25th league wide.
There doesn’t appear to be much help on the way with low-key additions such as Jose Iglesias, Wade Leblanc and Hector Velazquez to patchwork some holes on the roster while they traded a big offensive piece in Jonathan Villar to the Marlins this winter.
Another 100-loss season is certainly in the cards here while the Orioles will at least add another high draft selection to the system next June.