While there was plenty of doubt over the course of the spring, there will, indeed, be a Major League Baseball season in 2020.
The upcoming campaign will be unlike any other in baseball history, however. All 30 clubs will play 60 regular-season games, over 100 less than your typical big-league season. The unconventional campaign could prove to be either beneficial or a major hindrance to a number of players who enter 2020 with something to prove, including these eight.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Bauer, who’s gaining more notoriety for his social media presence these days, disappointed after being acquired by the Reds at the trade deadline last season. The right-hander went 2-5 with a 6.39 ERA and 1.349 WHIP over 10 starts with Cincinnati. Should Bauer return to his All-Star form from 2018, the Reds could be a sneaky World Series contender. The 29-year-old also has a personal interest to shine in 2020, as it marks the final year of his contract.
Justin Turner, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Turner, who’s hit .290 or better in each of the last three seasons, could be in line for one final lucrative contract before it’s time to call it quits. The veteran third baseman turns 36 in late November, and while the market for a seasoned infielder might not be robust come winter, Turner very well could benefit if MLB chooses to permanently implement the universal designated hitter in the next collective bargaining agreement.
Jon Lester, SP, Chicago Cubs
The veteran southpaw was mediocre at best last season, posting a 13-10 record with a 4.46 ERA over 31 starts in his fifth year with the Cubs. Considering he’ll turn 37 in January, it’s tough to imagine Chicago picking up his $25 million option for the 2021 season. But a stellar campaign from Lester potentially could change the franchise’s mind, or at least better set him up for the open market.
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
This might come off as a head-scratcher considering Springer was named an All-Star in each of the last three seasons and is coming off a campaign in which he slugged a career-high 39 home runs. But in wake of Houston’s cheating scandal, all eyes will be on the club’s stars as they try to prove their recent successes weren’t largely aided by sign-stealing. Perhaps no Astro will be under more pressure to perform than Springer, who arguably will be the most coveted player in free agency this winter outside of Mookie Betts.
Rick Porcello, SP, New York Mets
Porcello’s 2016 American League Cy Young campaign is starting to feel like an eternity ago. The right-hander has logged an ERA of 4.28 or worse in each of the past few seasons, which resulted in settling for a one-year deal with the Mets back in December. Only 31 years old, Porcello conceivably has plenty left in the tank, but he’ll surely be looking to prove he’s more than an innings eater in 2020.
Marcell Ozuna, OF, Atlanta Braves
Ozuna relatively has maintained his pop over the past few seasons, but his average has steadily declined. The two-time All-Star batted a career-worst .241 in his second and final season with the Cardinals. Ozuna opted for a one-year deal this offseason with the Atlanta Braves, who enter 2020 as a legitimate World Series contender. The 29-year-old could set himself up nicely for free agency this winter by being a key contributor for a team that makes a deep playoff run.
Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees
After a very solid 2018 season (12-6, 3.75 ERA over 27 starts), Tanaka regressed in 2019 to the tune of an 11-9 record with a 4.45 ERA. With Luis Severino out for the season following Tommy John surgery, there’s added pressure on Tanaka to perform at a high level in 2020. He’s also entering the final year of his deal in the Bronx, and could enter free agency as one of the most coveted starting pitching options should he bounce back from last season.
Didi Gregorius, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Gregorius didn’t return to the Yankees’ lineup until June last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was fairly uninspiring in his 82 games played in 2019, posting a .238 batting average and .718 OPS. The Phillies added Gregorius on a one-year deal in December, and should he excel in a competitive National League East, he could be in store for a lucrative multi-year contract later this winter.