To say the 2020 Major League Baseball season will be unlike any campaign before is an enormous understatement.
Universal designated hitter, expanded roster pools, an Aug. 31 trade deadline and 60 games. Things are going to feel weird. Oh, and extra innings in the regular season will begin with runners on second base.
While the reality is everyone in baseball took a loss over the last few months, some teams actually might benefit from the revised, 60-game format. Consequently, we could be in for the most interesting and unpredictable MLB season of all time.
With that said, here are three winners and three losers of the 2020 format:
Tampa Bay Rays
Every game this season will carry the importance of a playoff game, meaning strong bullpen performance will be of the utmost importance. That bodes well for the Rays, who once again figure to have a deep, high-quality bullpen that will match up well with any lineup. Tampa Bay was a great team last season, and we expect big things from them in this abbreviated campaign.
Boston Red Sox
There’s no way around it: The Red Sox are a flawed team. There are legitimate questions across the pitching staff, and you only get worse when you subtract Mookie Betts from the equation. However, Boston remains one of the most talented teams in baseball, and likely will have a chip on its shoulder this season. The shorter season means more fringe teams will be in the hunt — the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies, just to name a few — meaning the Red Sox are fully capable of making a run. If they get strong seasons from Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and the back end of the bullpen, look out.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Every National League team benefits from the universal designated hitter, but the Dodgers in particular are poised to take advantage of the new rule. Los Angeles still will have trouble finding at-bats for all of its quality hitters, but the DH undoubtedly will make its incredible lineup even more potent. And then there’s Betts, who has the ability to carry a team for an entire season, let alone an abbreviated one.
Honorable mentions: Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves
New York Yankees
If they’re healthy, the Yankees will have the best overall roster in baseball. They are absolutely loaded. However, there are many variables on this team, ones that typically get ironed out over the course of a long season. Will New York rebound if it gets off to a slow start? Moreover, each team will play 40 of its 60 regular-season games against divisional opponents, and the Yankees have to deal with arguably the most competitive division in the game.
Historically slow starters, the Nationals can’t afford a sluggish start to this campaign. Plus, with Anthony Rendon now with the Los Angeles Angels, much of the offensive burden will fall on the shoulders of Juan Soto, who is an incredible talent but nevertheless is just 21 years old. There also are many questions on the pitching staff, particularly in the bullpen.
We actually considered putting the Astros in the “winners” category. Had the season started on time and with fans in the stands, Houston would’ve been subjected to immense ridicule and scorn from opposing fans for its infamous sign-stealing scandal. Now the Astros mostly get to avoid that distraction until next season. Still, this is a team that likely needs a full season to figure out its issues. Gerrit Cole is on the Yankees, and Justin Verlander only recently began throwing off the mound. Who will carry the load in the starting rotation?
Honorable mentions: Oakland Athletics, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals