After a delay of 119 days, baseball’s Opening Day is finally here. Here at OG, we have a quickie preview of the upcoming season with deep thoughts on all 15 teams in the National League. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the consensus favorites to win the NL Pennant and the 2020 World Series. But can anyone trip them up like the Washington Nationals did last October? Can the Atlanta Braves fly under the radar again this season and pick off the Dodgers in the postseason?
This season, the 60-game schedule is regionally based to minimize travel. Teams will play within their division, and will only play non-divisional games against teams in their corresponding division in the opposite league. For example, the AL East will face the NL East for non-divisional games, while the AL West will play the NL West, and the AL Central squares off against the NL Central.
The toughest division in baseball in 2019, the NL Central, looks like it will be the toughest division in baseball again in 2020. You have four teams who will do nothing but beat up on each other once again this year.
Coming into the start of the season, the LA Dodgers are 7/2 favorites to win the 2020 World Series, according to an update from the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. The closest NL teams on the World Series futures board are two squads from the AL East – the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves – at 16/1 odds each.
Washington Nationals: Can the defending champs fade the dreaded World Series hangover? Can they become the sixth team since the 1960s to win back-to-back titles? The Nats still have one of the best 1-2-3 pitching combos in baseball with Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.32 ERA, 1.038 WHIP), Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92 ERA, 1.027 WHIP), and Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.25 ERA).
Atlanta Braves: The Braves flew under the radar last season and won the NL East. They lost Josh Donaldson and his 37 home runs to the Bomba Squad. The Braves almost lost Freddie Freeman to COVID-19. Freeman is one of the many MLB players to contract coronavirus, but he was one of the few players that got extremely sick. He’s since recovered, but will he be back to his old self (.295, 38 HR, 121 RBI)?
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies have a new head coach with Joe Girardi. He won titles as a player and skipper with the New York Yankees. The Phillies are banking that Girardi can instill a winning culture and convince All-Star Bryce Harper to act a little less like an asshole.
New York Mets: Oh, those wacky Mets. Will the hedge fund guru who inspired Bobby Axlerod on “Billions” buy the team? Or will J-Lo and A-Rod find enough extra spare change in their thousand couches to buy the team? The Mets have one of the best pitchers in baseball with NL Cy Young favorite Jacob de Grom and they have one of the best young power hitters with Pete Alonso. But will their efforts be futile in Queens this season?
Miami Marlins: The Marlins already have a difficult road ahead of them as the doormat of the NL East. But during the pandemic-shortened season, they’ll have to face several tough AL East teams like the New York Yankees. No one went to Marlins’ games anyway, so the lack of fans will not affect the team one bit.
Chicago Cubs: The Cubbies hired ex-catcher David Ross to manage the team as it enters the 2020s. Ross won a World Series ring with the Cubs a few seasons ago, so Theo Epstein hopes some of Ross’ magic will rub off on his “Moneyball” squad.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals went deep into the playoffs last year after a grueling fight to win the NL Central. Jack Flaherty, the Cards’ ace, went 11-8 with a 2.75 ERA and a WHIP under 1.0 in 2019. He’ll anchor the pitching staff. Paul Goldschmidt had an off year adjusting to his new team and hit 32 points below his career average, but he still smacked 34 home runs.
Milwaukee Brewers: If Christian Yelich stays healthy (back, kneecap), then he’ll have a legit shot at a Triple Crown (.329, 44 HR, 100 RBI). The Brewers were a streaky team last season, but you can never count out the Brew Crew.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds are the niche pick this season in the NL. They have a strong rotation with Trevor Bauer pitching a full season, plus Sonny Gray (11-8, 2.87 ERA) and Luis Castillo (15-8, 3.40 ERA)
Pittsburgh Pirates: Oddsmakers think the Pirates will struggle to win 24 games this season. The Pirates are also listed among the long shots to win the World Series. None of the experts are giving them a chance for a good reason. Expect another long summer of discontent in Pittsburgh.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers went to the World Series twice in the last three seasons. They believe they were shortchanged and lost to cheating teams in the AL twice (vs. Astros in 2017, vs. Red Sox in 2018). Cody Bellinger and company are wicked pissed. They added All-Star Mookie Betts (and signed him to a lucrative extension), but will be without David Price (opted out).
Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks are the second-best team in the NL West behind the LA Dodgers. Switch-hitting Eduardo Escobar had a break-out season in 2019. He joined the likes of Ripper Collins, Mickey Mantle, and Jimmy Rollins as one of the four MLB switch hitters who smacked 30-plus home runs, 20-plus doubles, and 10-plus triples in a single season.
Colorado Rockies: The Rockies have become a farm team for the New York Yankees in the last few seasons. Just two seasons ago, the Rockies were a sleeper pick to win the NL West. They still retain 3B Nolan Arenano who crushed 40-plus dingers in three out of the last five seasons.
San Diego Padres: Manny Machado got paid big bucks to play for the Padres. Can he inspire a young squad to make a run in the shortened season? Last season, Kirby Yates emerged as one of the best closers in the game with 41 saves. They also have young flamethrower Chris Paddack on the mound looking to build upon a strong rookie season last year.
San Francisco Giants: The Giants finally removed on-field bullpens at Oracle Park. They also supposedly moved in the fences a bit to make the stadium along the San Francisco Bay a little more hitter-friendly. Skipper Bruce Bochy retired at the end of last season. The Giants hired Gabe Kapler after the Phillies fired him.