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Predicting final division standings, playoff teams for MLB’s 60-game 2020 season

All 30 MLB teams scheduled to begin season over next two nights

Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run against the Washington Nationals during the second inning at Nationals Park on July 18, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run against the Washington Nationals during the second inning at Nationals Park on July 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. (2020 Getty Images)

DETROIT – It’s July 23, and Opening Day is finally here!

After spring training was shut down by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and months of bickering between the players and owners pushed the weird-yet-awesome “summer camp,” into July, baseball is finally set to begin.

This promises to be one of the strangest and most unpredictable seasons in MLB history, so what better time is there to try to predict how every team will finish? It’s a 60-game sprint and almost anything could happen.

Here’s a look at ClickOnDetroit’s preseason predictions for the 2020 MLB season.

AL East Division

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Tampa Bay Rays
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles

As good as the Rays were last season, the Yankees overcame a ridiculous number of key injuries to win the AL East by seven games. Then, they went out and added perhaps the best starting pitcher in baseball.

The Yankees have Gerrit Cole, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka at the top of a solid starting rotation, but the real story is their offense. With Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge apparently healthy (for now), this lineup is a nightmare one through nine for starting pitchers.

Tampa Bay will put up a fight, though. In a season when roster depth could prove to be as important as ever, the Rays have legitimate backup plans at every position. They also have three aces in Charlie Morton, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow to go along with a strong bullpen.

The Red Sox not only lost their best player in Mookie Betts, they also traded away David Price in the deal and saw Chris Sale opt for Tommy John surgery.

While a lineup anchored by J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts is nothing to scoff at, I went with the Blue Jays at No. 3 because Boston’s starting rotation could be one of the worst in the entire league.

Toronto added Hyun-Jin Ryu to the top of its rotation and should have star prospect Nate Pearson behind him before long. Don’t forget about perhaps the most exciting young infield in baseball: Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

The Orioles, well, they might end up with the No. 1 overall pick next summer.

AL Central Division

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Detroit Tigers
  5. Kansas City Royals

It’s tempting to go with the Indians or White Sox atop the Central, but the Twins won 101 games last season and made two key additions to their starting rotation in Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill.

Eight of Minnesota’s nine everyday players could hit double-digit home runs this season, with the exception of Luis Arraez, who makes enough contact to compete for a batting title.

Cleveland has the best rotation in the division by far, headlined by new co-aces Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger. If Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco can stay healthy, the Indians will remind people that they were actually pretty good last season, winning 93 games.

Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana is no easy trio to pitch to.

The White Sox certainly underwent the most dramatic makeover, adding Dallas Keuchel to the rotation and both Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnacion to the lineup.

If Eloy Jimenez takes a step forward, Luis Robert blossoms into a star and Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease show the potential that made them elite pitching prospects, Chicago could make a run at a wildcard spot.

Detroit and Kansas City are probably better than Baltimore, but the only competition here will be for fourth place.

AL West Division

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Oakland Athletics
  3. Los Angeles Angels
  4. Texas Rangers
  5. Seattle Mariners

Despite the loss of Cole, Houston still has Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke on the mound and one of the two best lineups in baseball (along with the Yankees).

Playing without fans could actually help the Astros, who were sure to be berated mercilessly for the cheating scandal uncovered by MLB during the offseason. Either way, a team with George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and a handful of other stud hitters will probably be just fine.

Oakland will probably finish closer to the top of the division than third place, even though the Angels made high-profile signings during the winter.

The A’s have a powerful lineup with Matt Olsen, Matt Chapman and Khris Davis, along with 2019 MVP candidate Marcus Semien. Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea still have to prove they can carry the pitching staff, but they’re not lacking for talent.

Anthony Rendon and Mike Trout are a scary duo, but the Angels don’t have a lot of support around them. Justin Upton, Tommy La Stella and Andrelton Simmons are good players, but there are holes up and down this lineup. Don’t even get me started with the pitching staff.

Texas could have a strong starting rotation if Corey Kluber bounces back and Lance Lynn and Mike Minor build off of last year.

Seattle is in the Baltimore, Detroit and Kansas City class.

NL East Division

  1. Atlanta Braves
  2. Washington Nationals
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. New York Mets
  5. Miami Marlins

This is a tough division to pick at the top because there are four good teams, and two of them could be elite.

Washington is the defending World Series champion and has Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin at the top of its rotation. The lineup looks a little barren without Rendon, though. Beyond Juan Soto and Trea Turner, there’s little more than question marks.

As long as Mike Soroka and Max Fried can continue to pitch like top-of-the-rotation arms, Atlanta can ride a lineup that features superstar Ronald Acuna and stud hitters Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna to another division title.

The Mets are a popular NL sleeper pick, but without Noah Syndergaard, the rotation only goes two deep. Is everyone forgetting how bad Rick Porcello, Steven Matz and Michael Wacha have been?

So the Phillies get the nod at No. 3 here, not only because Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Didi Gregorius should form one of the most powerful foursomes in the game, but also because Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and (eventually) Spencer Howard should be a pretty solid top three starters.

Miami has an interesting pitching staff, but very little in the way of offense. This team is probably better than the four AL bottom feeders, though.

NL Central Division

  1. Cincinnati Reds
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates

The top four teams in this division could realistically be separated by just a couple of games, especially in a 66-day sprint.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see anyone but the Pirates win the NL Central. I’m imagining the Reds winning around 34 games while the Cubs finish around .500.

Cincinnati isn’t just a, “Wow, they had a fun offseason!” pick. The Reds definitely have the best roster in the division.

Nobody else in the Central can trot out a trio of starters like Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer. Wade Miley and Anthony DeSclafani are solid starters, too, by this division’s standards.

By adding Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos to a lineup that already had 49-homer third baseman Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel, the Reds are really, really good.

St. Louis is the defending division champ, but behind Jack Flaherty, the rotation is alarming. Carlos Martinez is looking to get back to his old form, but Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson don’t miss bats enough during an era in which contact equals home runs.

The Brewers could have a sneaky good pitching staff with Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser and Corbin Burnes. Keston Hiura is looking to be the Robin to Christian Yelich’s Batman.

A fourth-place finish would feel like a huge disappointment for the Cubs, but would it be a surprise for a team opening the season with Tyler Chatwood as the No. 3 starter? Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras are awesome, and Kyle Schwarber might be the single greatest beneficiary of the league-wide designated hitter. But will that be enough to overcome the pitching woes beyond Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks?

Like Miami, Pittsburgh is probably better than the rebuilding AL teams. Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman should set the table for Josh Bell on offense, and Joe Musgrove, Mitch Keller and Trevor Williams have high upside.

NL West Division

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Diego Padres
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Francisco Giants

The Dodgers won this division by 21 games last season and then went out and acquired Betts. That’s right: Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger are on the same team. Not fair.

Los Angeles also has so many plus bats that No. 2 MLB prospect Gavin Lux was shipped to the alternate training site. The lineup features Max Muncy, Corey Seager, A.J. Pollock, Justin Turner, Will Smith and Joc Pederson, too.

Walker Buehler looks like MLB’s next elite pitcher, and he’s starting alongside Clayton Kershaw, Ross Stripling and exciting youngster Julio Urias.

Of all the divisions, this one will be the biggest blowout as the Dodgers head back to the postseason.

Second place will be a battle, but I went with the Padres in a close finish. Fernando Tatis Jr. is a future star and joins a lineup already stocked with Manny Machado, Will Myers, Eric Hosmer and newcomer Tommy Pham.

Francisco Mejia is a wildcard after a hot finish in 2019, and Hosmer said he wants to lift the ball more this year. That could mean big things for the Padres offense.

Chris Paddack is the only known commodity in the rotation, and even he’s only done it for a year. He should be joined by No. 1 pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore at some point, thought, and Dinelson Lamet has great strikeout potential.

Madison Bumgarner doesn’t have a great track record outside of Oracle Park, but he’s expected to lead a rotation that has plenty of upside with Robbie Ray, Zac Gallen and Luke Weaver, who have all been above-average pitchers at points in their young careers. Gallen, in particular, seems primed for a breakout.

The Rockies have a trio of pitchers who could have quietly good seasons in Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Jon Gray, but the real draw is the top of the order, which features David Dahl, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado.

Sam Hilliard, Garrett Hampson and Brendan Rodgers could also provide a spark.

The Giants don’t even have Buster Posey this season, and the pitching staff -- led by Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto and Kevin Gausman -- sounds like it would have been a really good one five years ago.

Playoff predictions

Obviously, the Yankees, Twins, Astros, Braves, Reds and Dodgers are my six division winners.

They’ll be joined by the Indians and Rays in the AL and the Cardinals and Nationals in the NL to form the 10-team postseason.

Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Washington can all ride their pitching staffs to wildcard slots, while St. Louis gets to play a much easier schedule than the teams in the NL East and NL West.

It’s worth noting the MLB is still in talks to possibly expand the playoffs to 16 teams -- eight from each league -- for this season. If that happens, here’s how I predict the postseason seedings to play out:

American League:

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Houston Astros
  3. Minnesota Twins
  4. Cleveland Indians
  5. Tampa Bay Rays
  6. Oakland Athletics
  7. Chicago White Sox
  8. Los Angeles Angels

National League:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. St. Louis Cardinals
  5. Washington Nationals
  6. Milwaukee Brewers
  7. San Diego Padres
  8. Philadelphia Phillies

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