2020 MLB season preview: Power Rankings and everything you need to know for 60-game sprint

ByESPN.com staff ESPN logo
Thursday, July 23, 2020

The 2020 major league baseball season will be like none that has ever come before it.

MLB's 30 teams will have just 60 games to try to streak into the postseason. Players and coaches will need to focus on the field while maintaining strict health and safety protocols off of it. There will be limited travel, empty grandstands and even, in the case of the Toronto Blue Jays, difficulty finding a place to play.

With all that looming over the sport, it's time to play ball. Here are how the teams, listed in the order of our initial Power Rankings, stack up for the sprint ahead -- from their strengths and weaknesses to their biggest question mark to what sets each apart most.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2019 record:106-56

World Series odds:7-2

Best case: Behind dueling MVP candidates Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers run roughshod over their all-West schedule, winning 44 games and leading the NL in run scoring and run preventing. Meanwhile, Kenley Jansen rediscovers some of his old dominance and everything falls into place for an October run that culminates in L.A.'s first title since 1988 with a sweep of the Yankees in the World Series.-- Bradford Doolittle

Worst case: The Dodgers get unlucky in close games and end up in the NL wild-card game after the Diamondbacks race to 38 wins to win the division. Jansen's decline only seems to accelerate, and L.A. drops the coin-flip game 3-2 when Atlanta's Freddie Freeman hits a two-run homer in the ninth off Jansen.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Will the back of the bullpen come together before the playoffs? The Dodgers should cruise to the NL West title -- as much as you can in 60 games, anyway -- but Dave Roberts would love to know how his eighth and ninth innings shape up before October. Jansen has allowed 22 home runs the past two seasons, and newcomer Blake Treinen was dominant with the A's in 2018 (0.78 ERA) but shaky in 2019 (4.91 ERA). -- David Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Shift against right-handed batters. Left-handed shifts are very nearly the default these days -- the leaguewide rate is up to 42% -- but shifts against right-handers are still rarer, at about 14% leaguewide. The Dodgers shift right-handed batters 42% of the time, and the results supported it: Against right-handed hitters, the Dodgers allowed the league's lowest batting average on grounders and line drives. Their overall defensive efficiency on grounders -- the rate of ground balls they converted into outs -- was the league's best last year. -- Sam Miller

2. New York Yankees

2019 record:103-59

World Series odds:7-2

Best case: The Yankees romp to 45 wins and the AL's top seed, then dispatch the Dodgers in five Fall Classic games to win their first title since 2009. Gerrit Cole wins the AL Cy Young in his first Bronx season to lead a staff of flamethrowers, while a healthy New York lineup powers its way to nearly six runs per game behind a breathtaking trio of peak performances from Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The Yankees are once again injured early and often, and this time, Aaron Boone can't plug the holes fast enough. Cole is just fine, but not great, as the Rays run away with the AL East and the Yankees are left to the mercies of the winner-take-all wild-card game.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Will Judge and Stanton stay healthy? Imagine this lineup if those two are out there every day -- after all, the Yankees still led the league in runs last year even though Judge missed 60 games and Stanton played just 18. They got surprising production last year from guys such asMike Tauchman and Gio Urshela, but the Yankees would prefer those guys to be secondary players, not the meat of the lineup.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Hit the ball hard. This seems obvious about a team with Judge, Stanton andGary Sanchezon the roster, but 2019 was actually the first time in the five-year Statcast era that the Yankees led the league in exit velocity. Their 90.0 mph average marked the first time a team has cracked 90. They were also the first team to average at least 94 mph on fly balls and line drives.-- Miller

3. Tampa Bay Rays

2019 record:96-66

World Series odds:20-1

Best case: The Rays' run-prevention apparatus turns into an impenetrable wall, as Tampa Bay leads the AL in defensive runs saved, rotation ERA and bullpen ERA all at once. With Austin Meadows nudging his way into the MVP conversation, Tampa Bay edges the Yankees in the AL East and Kevin Cash schemes his way through the AL playoff bracket into a World Series showdown with the Dodgers and old friend Andrew Friedman.-- Doolittle

Worst case: An all-or-nothing offense handicaps the Rays' consistency on that side of the ball, while injuries beset the rotation and test Tampa Bay's considerable pitching depth. Even so, the Rays' floor is still around .500, so Tampa Bay manages to hang around the wild-card race to the end and, despite the struggles, everyone points to it as the club you don't want to face in October.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Will Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell be the best starting trio in the majors? Snell won the Cy Young Award in 2018; Morton was third in the voting last year; and Glasnow was absolutely dominant in his 12 starts last year (1.78 ERA). Throw in underrated Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos and a deep bullpen and many think the Rays have the best pitching staff in the majors.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Shut down opponents on no days' rest. The Rays' bullpen was both the best in baseball and the most used in baseball, a neat and difficult trick to pull off. No team's relievers made more appearances on back-to-back days than the Rays' relievers, who threw 125 innings in 143 appearances on no rest. In those innings, they had a 2.59 ERA, the lowest no-rest ERA in baseball, edging the Yankees' 2.70 ERA in far fewer such appearances.-- Miller

4. Houston Astros

2019 record:107-55

World Series odds:11-1

Best case: Houston's hitters halt the haters, as MVP Alex Bregman fuels MLB's best offense and Yordan Alvarez cracks 25 home runs. The Astros roll to 44 wins and carry that through October, beating the Dodgers in a World Series no one wants them to win.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The 2017 holdovers -- Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correaet al -- struggle en masse as Houston's offense slumps to a middle-of-the-pack performance at the same time a thin starting rotation is exposed. Houston falls to .500 and is lapped by Oakland in the AL West race.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: You don't replace Gerrit Cole, but do the Astros have to? Zack Greinke is here for a full season; Lance McCullers Jr. is back from Tommy John surgery; Jose Urquidy looked impressive as a rookie; hard-throwing Josh James could start; and prospect Forrest Whitley hopes to bounce back. In other words: With Justin Verlander as the No. 1, this could still be a top rotation.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Dozens of things, including making the most contact of any offense and allowing the least contact of any pitching staff. Here's another one that might be harder to repeat: The Astros last year had the league's highest on-base percentage with no outs. That's big because a runner who reaches with no outs is much likelier to score than one who reaches with one or two outs. Because of that, Nate Silver once called these "hidden-clutch" situations. With outs on the board last year, Astros hitters were about 7% better than league average at getting on base. In the hidden clutch, they were 15% better than the league.-- Miller

5. Minnesota Twins

2019 record:101-61

World Series odds:14-1

Best case: The Twins leverage baseball's easiest schedule into 46 wins as the pitching staff nearly keeps pace with Minnesota's slugging, MLB-best offense that features Miguel Sano establishing himself as a dangerous complement to Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson in the middle of the order. Thanks to the AL's top seed and an LDS upset of the Yankees by Oakland, the Twins elude their New York demons and face the Dodgers in the World Series.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The rotation never quite comes together and the Twins' homer-dependent offense is undermined by a less lively ball as Minnesota is surpassed by Chicago and Cleveland in the division and is left scrambling for a wild-card spot.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Is the rotation good enough to win a championship? The powerful lineup might be even better with Donaldson and a full season from Luis Arraez (.334 as a rookie), but the offense needs help from a rotation that was on fumes by the playoffs. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi return, with newcomers Homer Bailey, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill providing veteran depth.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Pull the ball in the air. In this juiced ball era, this is the gold standard for an at-bat, but it's a challenge: When hitters pull the ball, they tend to put it on the ground, and when they put it in the air, they tend to go to the opposite field, where they have less power. The league as a whole slugged 1.310 when pulling fly balls, line drives or popups last year, and the Twins -- slugging 1.385 -- were in line with that. But they pulled almost 100 more balls in the air than any other team, and 222 more than the median club. (Hence breaking the all-time home run record.)-- Miller

6. Atlanta Braves

2019 record:97-65

World Series odds:15-1

Best case: An elite offense is bolstered by the maturation of Dansby Swanson and Austin Rileyas the void opened up by Josh Donaldson's departure is filled. Meanwhile, a deep veteran bullpen shortens games for a solid starting staff and the Braves hit the postseason as the NL's top seed.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The Donaldson-less offense suffers a power outage when Ronald Acuna slumps and the rest of the Braves' young hitters plateau in their development, as Atlanta slips below .500 and has to scratch for a playoff spot.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Can they replace Donaldson's production? The Braves have to replace Donaldson (.379 OBP, 37 home runs) and Nick Markakis (.356 OBP), two of the keys in the lineup that ranked third in the NL in runs. Marcell Ozuna hasn't been much more than a league-average hitter the past two seasons, and Johan Camargo and/or Riley will have to step up at third base.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Hit against good teams. Against losing teams, they hit .250/.334/.442 -- just eighth best in the league -- and scored 5.2 runs per game. Against winning teams, which should be harder to hit, the Braves last year hit a league-best .263/.338/.459 and scored 5.3 runs per game.-- Miller

7. Oakland Athletics

2019 record:97-65

World Series odds:18-1

Best case: Oakland slams an AL-high homer total, flashes baseball's best defense and supports a good rotation with a gaggle of relievers with sub-2.00 ERAs. The A's leapfrog the Astros in the division, then ride their bullpen to a 1974 and 1988 rematch with the Dodgers in the World Series.-- Doolittle

Worst case: Strikeouts run riot for the offense; the defensive prowess doesn't manifest over the short season; and a disappointing rotation is undermined by a Sean Manaea decline and A.J. Puk's injury. The run-prevention disappointment locks a sub-.500 Oakland crew out of the playoff party.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Do they have the rotation to overtake the Astros? The A's won 97 games last year but will get an injection of promising young arms with rookies Puk and Jesus Luzardo, plus a healthy Manaea (who made just five starts last year). Throw in Frankie Montas (2.63 ERA in 16 starts with a PED suspension) and that's four potential top-of-the-rotation talents.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Throw good pitches down the middle. No team threw a higher percentage of pitches in what Statcast labels the heart of the zone -- 26.4%. On the surface, that sounds like a lot of mistakes, and no doubt plenty of those pitches were. But the A's allowed the least production on those pitches. Top prospects Luzardo (30%) and Puk (33%) had the highest "heart" rates on the staff last year, and both will likely play more prominent roles this year.-- Miller

8. Washington Nationals

2019 record:93-69

World Series odds:22-1

Best case: Repeat. Veteran starters Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez ramp up to seven-inning outings quickly and together win three-quarters of their decisions. The offense is dynamic behind NL MVP Juan Soto's 1.142 OPS and a Rookie of the Year showing by 3B Carter Kieboom. It's enough to get the Nationals an NL-best 41 wins and a much-needed home-field edge for the NLCS matchup with the Dodgers.-- Doolittle

Worst case: Washington's title-hangover season takes the form of a .500 campaign. The starters don't go deep in the early stages of the season, and hopes for an improved bullpen are dashed. Soto is still an MVP candidate, but Kieboom isn't ready and Washington finds itself playing Asdrubal Cabrera every day at the hot corner. The Nats still hang in there, and everyone keeps anticipating a 2019-esque hot streak that ultimately never comes.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Will the bullpen be any better? Yes, losing Anthony Rendon is a major setback, but the Nationals somehow won 93 games and the World Series despite a bullpen that was second to last in the majors in ERA (5.68) and last in win probability added (minus-8.49 wins). They signed Will Harris and will have Daniel Hudson for the entire season. A better bullpen will help make up for the loss of Rendon.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Hit high velocity and power pitchers. The Nationals had the best contact rate in baseball on pitches over 95 mph last year, and against Baseball Reference's category of "power pitchers" they were the NL's most productive offense. There are a lot of reasons they survived the playoffs and won the World Series last year, but this is part of it: The percentage of pitchers over 95 mph doubles in the postseason.-- Miller

9. Cleveland Indians

2019 record:93-69

World Series odds:22-1

Best case: The once and future Spiders break baseball's longest title drought, as Cleveland rides a Cy Young season from Mike Clevinger to a regular-season mark that just edges the Yankees and Astros as the AL's best and translates that to a homer-rich October run for the magical last edition of the Indians.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The early-2019 troubles for Jose Ramirez return, only this time he doesn't have time to recover from them, as Cleveland's rotation is nondominant and the Indians hover around the middle of the pack on both sides of the ball and never quite climb into the AL's relatively shallow pool of postseason contenders.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Will the outfield produce enough offense? Indians outfielders hit .253/.318/.417 -- worse than every playoff team, which is why the Indians didn't make the playoffs. In the outfield, they will mix and match again with the likes of Oscar Mercado, Jordan Luplow, Delino DeShields Jr., Franmil Reyes and Domingo Santana, with Reyes or Santana the DH.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Keep runners from moving up. Thanks in large part to catcher Roberto Perez -- who didn't have a single passed ball all year -- the Cleveland catchers saved about 10 runs compared with an average team with their blocking skills alone, about double the next-best team in the American League. Cleveland's opponents took only 95 "extra bases" against them last year, a Baseball-Reference category that comprises wild pitches, passed balls and a few other types of runner advancement. That's fewer than half as many as the worst teams allowed, and only 60% as many as the league average.-- Miller

10. New York Mets

2019 record:86-76

World Series odds:22-1

Best case: Pete Alonso closely approximates his rookie season, Jeff McNeil wins the batting title and Robinson Cano summons a throwback season as the Mets ride an NL-best on-base percentage and a Jacob deGrom-dominated pitching staff to 33 wins and an NL wild-card slot.-- Doolittle

Worst case: Cano is toast, Alonso is a fluke and deGrom just doesn't have enough help as the Mets finish a distant fourth in the NL East and the animus from the New York fan base starts to become toxic at a time when the Yankees end their title drought.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Did they effectively replace Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard in the rotation? Wheeler signed with the Phillies, and Syndergaard is out with Tommy John surgery. Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha were signed as free agents. Those two combined for a 5.20 ERA in 2019, more than a run higher than Wheeler and Syndergaard.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Throw fastballs hard. The Mets' average fastball -- not counting cutters -- was 94.7 mph last year, a full half mile per hour faster than the No. 2 White Sox. League average was 93.0 mph, which the Mets topped with 80% of their fastballs. If they stay at the top of the board this year, they'll do so without rehabbing Syndergaard, who was the hardest-throwing starter in the league last year. But they'll also do it without departed Jason Vargas, who was the club's slowest thrower last year before he was traded.-- Miller

11. Cincinnati Reds

2019 record:75-87

World Series odds:20-1

Best case: The Reds cruise to an NL Central title behind one of baseball's top pitching staffs, as the recent heavies in the division falter and Cincinnati takes advantage of a soft schedule, with an MVP-level season from Eugenio Suarez grabbing the headlines.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The Reds drop below .500 and out of the NL wild-card race late as the team defense undermines a good pitching staff and closer Raisel Iglesias' season devolves into a dumpster fire.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Did they add enough offense? The Reds should have a very good rotation, but they finished just 12th in the NL in runs despite their homer-friendly ballpark. Enter Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos, who have power but aren't high on-base guys, plus Shogo Akiyama, an on-base machine in Japan. Better seasons from Joey Votto and second-year center fielder Nick Senzel might be necessary as well.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Strand runners at third. Only 45% of runners who reached third base with fewer than two outs against the Reds scored, tied (with Tampa Bay) for the lowest rate in baseball. The Reds had a strikeout staff, striking out 11% more batters than the average team overall, but in those situations when a fly ball could have scored a runner, they struck out a whopping 34% more batters than the average team.-- Miller

12. St. Louis Cardinals

2019 record:91-71

World Series odds:25-1

Best case: Led by a Cy Young season from Jack Flaherty and a late-season push from rookie Dylan Carlson that gets everyone in the Gateway City excited, the Cardinals win 35 games and again land themselves a first-round bye. This time, St. Louis' offense shows up in the LCS and the Cardinals find themselves playing the Yankees in the World Series.-- Doolittle

Worst case: Paul Goldschmidt's decline accelerates;Paul DeJong hits .171; and Flaherty proves to be not quite ready to assume his place as the neo-Bob Gibson. St. Louis stumbles out of the gate with unproductive veterans sticking too long in the lineup and spends the rest of the season scratching to get back to .500.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: How much production will they get from the outfield? The Cardinals were 23rd in the majors in wOBA from their outfielders and lost Marcell Ozuna in free agency. Rookies Lane Thomas and Carlson could play a big role here, along with veteran Dexter Fowler, who rebounded from an abysmal 2018 to an average 2019 (98 OPS+). Harrison Bader is a defensive whiz who struggled at the plate in 2019 (.205 average, .680 OPS).-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Stop bunts (and play overall excellent infield defense). The Cardinals' third basemen played the shallowest position in the game, which helped the team allow the fewest bunt hits in baseball last year. But beyond that, the Cardinals allowed the fewest infield hits overall, and they allowed the second-fewest batters to reach on errors.-- Miller

13. Chicago Cubs

2019 record:84-78

World Series odds:20-1

Best case: The Cubs take advantage of an NL field in which no clear postseason favorite emerges over 60 games to grab a first-round bye, thanks to typical seasons for Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez, along with a return to form for once-again dominant closerCraig Kimbrel.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The Cubs' thin rotation can't cover for the cratering of Jon Lester and Jose Quintana, and a one-dimensional offense doesn't get enough friendly breezes at Wrigley Field as one of the Cubs' golden eras concludes with a battle for last place with the Pirates.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Will David Ross make a difference as the new manager? It was hardly Joe Maddon's fault, but the Cubs clearly underperformed their talent in winning 84 games in 2019, and a new skipper with a fresh mindset could help. Ross will have to figure out the bullpen and how the outfield lines up if Kyle Schwarber is the DH. That means getting some numbers from Steven Souza Jr. and Ian Happ.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Throw fastballs. The Cubs threw fastballs (including cutters) 67% of the time last year, the highest rate in baseball and 20 percentage points higher than the Angels, the team at the bottom. The Cubs' fastballs were not only frequent but anomalous: They were the league's second slowest, second lowest and least likely to be in the strike zone -- as well as the second most likely to induce a ground ball.-- Miller

14. Milwaukee Brewers

2019 record:89-73

World Series odds:30-1

Best case: Craig Counsell's place as baseball's Kasparov is cemented, as Milwaukee piecemeals its way to a narrow win in the NL Central behind a Christian Yelich triple crown and a season from super-reliever Josh Hader that inspires constant tales about 1981 Rollie Fingers from Bob Uecker. The Brewers carry that success all the way to an NL pennant.-- Doolittle

Worst case: Yelich finds himself as Gulliver amid a team of Lilliputians, as Hader has his first down season and Counsell can't coax enough quality innings from his starting staff. The Brewers sink to 37 losses and tangle with Pittsburgh for last place in the division.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: How effectively did they replace Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal and Eric Thames? Those three combined for 88 home runs in 2019. Omar Narvaez can hit, but he isn't a good pitch framer like Grandal; Justin Smoak and Ryan Braun factor in at first base, where Braun's defense is an issue; and third base looks like a platoon with Eric Sogard and Jedd Gyorko. The offense was only middle of the pack last year and doesn't project to be better.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Avoid using their starting pitchers to go a third time through the order. The Brewers had 51 starts last year that lasted exactly 18, 19 or 20 batters -- starters who (usually by design) were pulled just as the heart of the opposing order was going to see them a third time. Those 51 starts were almost double the second-highest team in the NL, and they were the most such starts by any team in history.-- Miller

15. Los Angeles Angels

2019 record:72-90

World Series odds:22-1

Best case: Joe Maddon successfully juggles the pitching staff while Anthony Rendon overcomes early injury concerns, Mike Trout has another ho-hum MVP season and Shohei Ohtani's two-way prowess becomes the biggest story in baseball. The Angels force their way into a three-way battle in the strong AL West, then edge the Astros and A's for the top spot.-- Doolittle

Worst case: Trout and Rendon struggle with injuries; Ohtani's hitting suffers from his return to the mound; and Maddon can't find a way to coax quality innings from a poor rotation. The Angels drop below Texas in the division.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Will the rotation stay healthy? No Angels starter made even 20 starts last season. They had one 30-game starter in 2018 and one in 2017. They added Julio Teheran, a late arrival to summer camp after testing positive for COVID-19, and Dylan Bundy -- hardly aces -- but the Angels will benefit if those two just take their regular turns along with Ohtani and Griffin Canning.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Get into hitter's counts. Last year, the Angels saw the most 2-0 counts in baseball and the second-most 3-1 counts. About 23.5% of the pitches they saw came in hitter's counts, the most in baseball. The addition of Rendon will only help: Last year, Rendon had the 11th-most plate appearances end in a hitter's count.-- Miller

16. Arizona Diamondbacks

2019 record:85-77

World Series odds:45-1

Best case: A rotation big four of Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Zac Gallen and Luke Weaver emerges to shorten the bridge to resurgent closer Archie Bradley, and the Snakes ride their deep, balanced offense to an NL West crown when the Dodgers fall prey to the small-sample predator.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The rotation succumbs to longball-itis and an offense that is overly reliant on home runs can't keep up, as Ketel Marte becomes a one-man show and Arizona falls behind San Diego and Colorado in the NL West pecking order.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Is the rotation good enough to make them a surprise contender? It certainly has sleeper potential with Bumgarner, former All-Star Ray and Gallen coming off an impressive rookie season (2.81 ERA in 15 starts), plus Weaver and Merrill Kelly. Those first three also have something to prove: Bumgarner's road splits have been bad the past two years; Ray hasn't been able to match his 2017 numbers; and the Marlins were willing to trade Gallen for prospect Jazz Chisholm.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Steal bases without getting caught. Arizona's success rate on stolen bases was, at 86%, the best in the majors, and nearly caught the record 88% set by the 2007 Phillies. But it's not just that they rarely got caught -- the Dodgers, at 85% success, were nearly as foolproof -- but also that they weren't just playing things cautiously. The Diamondbacks stole more bases than 20 other teams, and stole 31 more bases than the Dodgers. They stole thrice as many bases as the Twins, while getting caught fewer times.-- Miller

17. Chicago White Sox

2019 record:72-89

World Series odds:20-1

Best case: The White Sox explode with baseball's best offense, as Rookie of the Year Luis Robert leads a nine-deep regular lineup that paces MLB in homers and propels Chicago to an AL Central title.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The White Sox make progress, challenging for .500, but are unable to crack the top-heavy AL playoff field as the bullpen fails to coalesce and closer Alex Colome implodes.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Are rookie center fielder Robert and rookie second baseman Nick Madrigal ready to make an impact? With the additions of Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnacion to the young core of Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez, the Sox will have a fun lineup -- and maybe a very good one if the rookies prove ready. Robert hit .328 with 32 home runs in the minors last year but didn't walk much (28 in 551 PAs). Madrigal is an extreme contact hitter without power but could be a solid on-base guy.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Frame pitches -- at least, that's the plan. Last year, the White Sox were the second-worst team when it came to catcher framing, ahead of only the Orioles. But they signed Grandal, who was the starting catcher for the Brewers, the league's best framing team last year. Nearly 50 runs separated the catchers for the White Sox and Brewers, and nearly 30 separated Grandal and the starter he supplants, James McCann. McCann will still be the backup, but he'll supplant last year's backup, Welington Castillo, the league's second-worst individual framer, according to Baseball Prospectus.-- Miller

18. Philadelphia Phillies

2019 record:81-81

World Series odds:33-1

Best case: The Phillies nab a wild-card berth as Andrew McCutchen picks up where he left off before he was hurt in 2019, Bryce Harper produces an All-Star-level season and Alec Bohm bashes his way into the starting lineup. Behind a strong rotation bolstered by the emergence of rookie Spencer Howard, the Phillies are a tough out in the postseason and manage to force their way into an LCS showdown with the Dodgers.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The Phillies can't produce a single league-average starting pitcher beyond Aaron Nola, as Zack Wheeler disappoints, and on offense Harper slogs through another so-so season. Philadelphia never challenges for a playoff slot, and the long-term project of this version of the Phillies is cast into serious doubt.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: How good is the bullpen? The Phillies ranked 23rd in the majors in bullpen ERA and 15th in bullpen win probability added in 2019. Injuries were a factor, but the pen is still a concern. The team will once again count on Hector Neris, and if rookie Howard joins the rotation, one of the starters can move here as well.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Avoid outs on the basepaths. The Phillies were picked off only twice all year -- no other team was picked off fewer than five times, and only one team this century was picked off less often. They had the third-fewest batters caught stealing, and they made the fewest outs on the bases of other sorts -- runners caught trying to advance.-- Miller

19. San Diego Padres

2019 record:70-92

World Series odds:30-1

Best case: It all comes together for the San Diego pitching staff, as Chris Paddack dominates and is joined by Joey Lucchesi, Zach Davies and Dinelson Lamet in a consistent rotation that fronts a dynamic, Kirby Yates-led bullpen. Meanwhile, Fernando Tatis puts up MVP numbers as part of a dynamic one-two punch with Manny Machado. The Friars battle the Dodgers for the NL West crown to the end, with the NL's top wild-card slot the consolation prize for the loser.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The rotation after Paddack is a mess; Yates is merely good; and the offense beyond Tatis and Machado lacks long-ball threats. With their bullpen edge diminished, the Padres flop to 37 losses and try to hold off the Giants for last in the West.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Will they score enough runs? The bullpen looks like one of the best in the business, and the young rotation, led by Paddack, could be good, especially if rookies MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino are ready to contribute. But the offense? Just 13th in the NL in runs and 10th in home runs. Outfielders Tommy Pham and Trent Grisham were acquired via trade to provide some OBP help after the Padres posted a .308 mark.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Play deep. If we look at just road positioning -- because home ballparks disproportionately influence where outfielders set up -- Padres outfielders played the deepest left field, the deepest center field and the deepest right field in baseball. On average, each outfielder was about 8 feet deeper than the league's typical positioning, more than double the difference of the next-deepest club.-- Miller

20. Boston Red Sox

2019 record:84-78

World Series odds:38-1

Best case: The Yankees and Rays run away from the Red Sox in the AL East, but MVP-level seasons from J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers are supported by strong collective work from the Boston bullpen as the BoSox hover a few games over .500 and challenge for a playoff slot.-- Doolittle

Worst case: An MLB-worst pitching staff can't put up quality innings, as the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays run away from Boston in the AL East and Red Sox fans are forced to look over their shoulders at the closely trailing Orioles during the longest two-month season in BoSox history.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Is their rotation good enough to compete? The Red Sox have lost Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello from last year's rotation -- that's nearly half their starts, not that the trio was all that great (a combined 27-28). Eduardo Rodriguez missed the start of summer camp with the coronavirus and might not be ready for the start of the season. Collin McHugh has opted out of the season with elbow issues. That leaves the Red Sox counting on the likes of Martin Perez and Ryan Weber.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Work up in the strike zone. The average Red Sox fastball is the highest in baseball, slightly higher than those of the Dodgers and Rays. High fastballs have become a popular tactic for countering hitters' uppercut swings in the launch angle era, and 2019 was the fourth year in a row the Red Sox threw the league's highest fastballs. Reliever Matt Barnes' fastball was second highest among all pitchers in baseball.-- Miller

21. Toronto Blue Jays

2019 record:67-95

World Series odds:75-1

Best case:The Blue Jays find a home. Any home, at this point. Then they ride a sophomore leap from batting champion Vladimir Guerrero (who hit .405 at Buffalo in 2018), along with similar second-year gains from Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette. Helping is a highly competent rotation led by Hyun-Jin Ryu and rookie sensation Nate Pearson, as the Blue Jays land an AL wild-card slot. If they pull that off, they will have earned it.-- Doolittle

Worst case:The Blue Jays become baseball's version of a washed-up hair-metal band, spending a summer playing before empty houses in a city for a couple of nights, then moving on to do the same thing in another city, over and over. It's a bad spot for the Jays, it's a bad spot for baseball and it's a bad spot for anyone trying to figure out park effects on their numbers. Beyond homelessness, a worst-case Jays scenario probably involves stalled development from their young hitters and a spate of one-run losses fueled by a down season from closer Ken Giles.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Can they hit? And by that, I mean reverting to an old-school evaluation of hitting: batting average. The Blue Jays hit just .236 as a team, worst in the AL. So even though they were fifth in the league in home runs, they were just 12th in runs scored. The only new hitter they brought in is Travis Shaw ... who hit .157 for the Brewers last year.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Shift their outfielders around. Under first-year manager Charlie Montoyo, the Blue Jays played the outfield in a "standard" defense on 78% of pitches last year, lowest in the league (excepting the Rockies, whose giant ballpark messes up the definitions of standard a bit). That was a big change from 2018, when, under manager John Gibbons, they played a standard alignment on 97% of pitches. Nonstandard alignments occasionally mean a fourth outfielder -- which the Blue Jays used a few times last year -- but more often mean an outfielder shading heavily in one direction.-- Miller

22. Texas Rangers

2019 record:78-84

World Series odds:75-1

Best case: Texas' rotation becomes a strength thanks to repeat performances from Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, along with a return to form for newcomer Corey Kluber. The offense homers its way to five runs per game, and Texas' surprising 33-win season is enough to just edge a crowded field for a postseason slot in the AL.-- Doolittle

Worst case: Oops. Minor and Lynn regress and Kluber is done-zo. And that homer-happy offense is not well suited for Texas' new ballpark, which proves to be a pitcher's paradise. The Rangers slump to 24 wins and never really mount a serious challenge for a playoff spot in the tough AL West.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: What if they have to useonly five starters? Minor and Lynn were great last year, but the rest of the rotation was a disaster -- the Rangers ran through 17 other starters. Enter Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Steal home. Rougned Odor picked up a straight steal of home in June, and Elvis Andrus took home three times on double steals, making him the only player in baseball to swipe home more than once last year. Andrus now has seven steals of home in his career, the second most by any player since 1975.-- Miller

23. Colorado Rockies

2019 record:71-91

World Series odds:100-1

Best case: Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon put up big percentages even for them, as the Rox's league-average starters do just enough to get the offense's early leads to a resurgent bullpen, and Colorado wins 33 games to grab an NL wild-card slot.-- Doolittle

Worst case: Arenado and Story are just OK, as Blackmon starts to show some age for an offense that puts up Citi Field numbers at Coors Field, and a 5.80 team ERA lands the Rockies in the NL West cellar.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Can the rotation bounce back? The Rockies had solid rotations in 2017 (12th in WAR) and 2018 (ninth in WAR) when they made the playoffs, but fell to 25th in 2019. Kyle Freeland is the big key after finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting in 2018 and falling to 3-11, 6.73 in 2019.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Crush pitchers the third time through the order. Overall, the league hit about 12% better the third time through the order last year; the Rockies hit 54% better. It was batting practice: They hit .343/.381/.623, nearly 100 points of OPS higher than any other team. In fact, it was the highest OPS any team this century has put up in that split.-- Miller

24. Pittsburgh Pirates

2019 record:69-93

World Series odds:250-1

Best case: The new wave of best practices introduced by GM Ben Cherington and manager Derek Shelton pays off exponentially as the Pirates get a league-average performance from their pitching staff, Bryan Reynolds wins a batting title for the offense, and Ke'Bryan Hayes becomes a Rookie of the Year candidate. The Pirates eke out some one-run wins and find themselves in the hunt with a bunch of other .500ish teams for an NL wild-card slot.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The shorthanded rotation implodes at the same time that Pittsburgh's bullpen craters. A below-average offense can't pick up the slack, and the last-place Pirates challenge for baseball's lousiest record. Worst of all, key youngsters Mitch Keller, Hayes and Cole Tucker all struggle and Pittsburgh can't find a taker for slumping Josh Bell on the trade market.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Are they bad enough to get the No. 1 pick in 2020? It's definitely possible. Starters Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer are out for the season; they traded Starling Marte; closer Keone Kela hasn't been in camp for undisclosed reasons; and outfielder Gregory Polanco and top prospect Hayes are out for the start of the season after testing positive for COVID-19.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team: Slug in the pinch. Pirates pinch hitters batted .320/.396/.543 in 282 plate appearances, a combination of frequency and production that has been matched by only one team in history -- the 2016 Cardinals. Ten Pirates pinch hit at least 10 times, and they collectively slugged .603.-- Miller

25. Kansas City Royals

2019 record:59-103

World Series odds:100-1

Best case: Jorge Soler leads the AL in homers and RBIs; Adalberto Mondesi establishes himself as baseball's most exciting player; and Brady Singer leads a young wave of Royals hurlers. Kansas City climbs a couple of games over .500 and challenges for an AL playoff slot into the season's final week.-- Doolittle

Worst case: With Greg Holland and Trevor Rosenthal posting double-digit ERAs, the bullpen once again can't hold the few leads it gets, as Soler's 2019 breakout takes on the pallor of a career season and Mondesi's free-swinging ways threaten to torpedo his immense promise. Kansas City plummets to an MLB-worst 45 losses.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Will the infield be anything close to major league caliber? The one sure thing is shortstop Mondesi, but he still has a lot to prove with the bat after posting a .291 OBP last year. Third baseman Maikel Franco was cast off by the Phillies. First base might be a platoon of the Ryans -- McBroom, a 28-year-old rookie, and O'Hearn, who hit .195 last year. Second baseman Nicky Lopez hit .240/.276/.325 as a rookie.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Steal third. The Royals stole second a lot, too, but while they were tied for sixth at that base, they were way in front of anybody else stealing third, claiming the bag 32 times while getting caught only five. (It was the second year in a row they led the league, the second year in a row they stole third base 32 times and the second year in a row they were caught five times.) Mondesi was 12-for-13, while no other runner in baseball stole third more than seven times.-- Miller

26. San Francisco Giants

2019 record:77-85

World Series odds:175-1

Best case: Everything goes right, but the Giants still fall just shy of .500 and tumble out of the wild-card chase late in the season. The surprising campaign is propelled by the stable starting pitching of veterans Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Kevin Gausman and a mix-and-match offense that compensates for the absence of Buster Posey.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The Giants hit bottom, as the veterans on the roster run out of steam en masse in advance of what San Francisco hopes will eventually be an influx of in-house talent. Mike Yastrzemski proves to be a flash in the pan, and the hopes that Mauricio Dubon can lock down second base fade with a lackluster season from him at the plate and, especially, in the field.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Wait, no Madison Bumgarner and no Posey? It's going to look weird in San Francisco without the Giants' longtime stars, but that doesn't mean there's a youth movement going on here just yet. Cueto is the Opening Day starter, and the lineup will still include 30-somethings Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria and Hunter Pence.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Use pinch hitters. The Giants used 362 pinch hitters last year -- including five pinch hitters who were hit for before they could bat -- tying the record. The Giants pinch hit 43 more times than any other team last year, and did pretty well at it, with the fifth-best slash line in baseball and the second-best in the National League. The star of the bunch -- Pablo Sandoval, who hit .375/.400/.667 in 50 pinch-hitting plate appearances -- is back, although the manager who called on him so often last year has retired and been replaced.-- Miller

27. Miami Marlins

2019 record:57-105

World Series odds:200-1

Best case: The Marlins are outscored by only 50 runs and hover around .500 on one-run performance behind a strong back of the bullpen led by Brandon Kintzler and Yimi Garcia. The Jonathan Villar-led lineup overachieves just enough to prevent a deadline sell-off and keep 29-31 Miami in the wild-card conversation deep into September.-- Doolittle

Worst case: Every veteran stabilizer brought in to raise the floor of the offense belly flops on that floor as Miami averages three runs per game and loses an MLB-high 47 games. Twitter jokes about Miami's empty park during this fanless season quickly grow tiresome.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Will the young players in the lineup learn any plate discipline? The Marlins have some stopgap veterans on board, like Villar, Jesus Aguilar and Matt Joyce, but they need the young players who are part of the future to improve. Jorge Alfaro (154 SO, 22 BB), Isan Diaz (59 SO, 19 BB) and Lewis Brinson (74 SO, 13 BB) have to improve their approach at the plate.-- Schoenfield

What they do better than any other team (except the Dodgers): Score runners from third with fewer than two outs. The Marlins scored 57% of the runners they put on third with fewer than two outs. They were actually near the bottom of the league in sacrifice flies, but hit .376 in those situations.-- Miller

28. Seattle Mariners

2019 record:68-94

World Series odds:250-1

Best case: Seattle makes a surprising push for .500 that ultimately falls short but brightens the near-term outlook for the rebuilding M's. Rookie 1B Evan White looks like a keeper and fellow former first-rounder Kyle Lewis establishes himself in the outfield as Seattle fans eagerly await the arrival of prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez. Meanwhile, the rotation surprises behind the veteran stability of Marco Gonzales, Taijuan Walker and Yusei Kikuchiand the emergence of youngsters Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The youngsters flop, catcher Tom Murphy regresses and Shed Long can't seize the second-base job. Meanwhile, the rotation can't produce enough strikeouts and Seattle's 21-win season has its fans grumbling that this rebuild is not progressing quickly enough.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Are the kids any good? The lineup will feature first baseman White, second baseman Long, shortstop J.P. Crawford and outfielder Lewis. Maybe top prospect Kelenic will come up as well. Sheffield and Dunn will get the chance to start. Is this a foundation to build around?-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Work counts. The Mariners' hitters saw 4.11 pitches per plate appearance, a major league record. They chase less than most teams; they foul pitches off more than most teams; and they swing and miss a lot -- all things that lead to long plate appearances, even if on the surface the Mariners don't jump out as an extreme pitch-taking club.-- Miller

29. Detroit Tigers

2019 record:47-114

World Series odds:250-1

Best case: Casey Mize emerges as a Rookie of the Year candidate and the Tigers get into a ton of extra-inning games, most of which they win because Ron Gardenhire proves to be the master of starting-with-a-runner-on-second strategies. Alas, the Tigers still lose 34 games.-- Doolittle

Worst case: Miguel Cabrera slugs .333; Mize shows little evidence that he's going to become a near-term sensation; and, after an MLB-worst 43 losses, the Detroit rebuild offers little tangible evidence that brighter days lie ahead.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: When will we see Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal? We won't see them --three of the top pitching prospects in baseball -- in the opening rotation, but given that all three pitched in Double-A last year, we should see them at some point. With Jordan Zimmermann on the 45-day injured list and Daniel Norris missing summer camp with a positive COVID-19 test, we might see Mize, the No. 1 pick in 2018, sooner rather than later.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: There is ... not much to offer here besides "lose." The Tigers were the worst offense and the worst defense in baseball last year, and unlike the similarly deficient Orioles, they weren't even using their losing season to experiment in interesting ways. That leaves us with: triples. The Tigers' 41 triples led the majors, thanks more to their spacious outfield (29 came at home) than any standout tripler (no Tiger had more than five) or team speed. The Tigers also hit a lot of doubles -- fifth in the AL -- so, although they were last in their league in homers, don't let it be said there isn't some power in those bats.-- Miller

30. Baltimore Orioles

2019 record:54-108

World Series odds:500-1

Best case: A couple of breakout performances from players such asAnthony Santander and Austin Hays boost a roster that gets a number of league-average performances, as the Orioles get lucky in one-run games behind a career season from closer Mychal Givens and find themselves in a wild-card race crowded with teams hovering around the .500 mark.-- Doolittle

Worst case: The strikeouts pile up for an offense with no consistent middle-of-the-order threat, and a homer-happy pitching staff is battered by Baltimore's tough slate of opponents as the O's post baseball's worst record.-- Doolittle

Big 60-game question: Are there at least some young players to get excited about? Umm ... well, not really. Hays will get the opportunity in center field, and he did play well in a 21-game stint last year (.309/.373/.574). They might as well give Ryan Mountcastle some at-bats, although his best position is probably DH. Don't look for Adley Rutschman, last year's No. 1 pick, in 2020.-- Schoenfield

What they do more than any other team: Use relievers for multiple innings. The Orioles didn't do much right last year, and the fact that they called on relievers to go more than one inning a league-high 192 times is part of the same story: When starters got knocked out early, relievers had to carry heavier loads. But in fairness, those multi-inning relievers actually did pretty well. Those 192 outings produced a 4.44 ERA in 393 innings. In the Orioles' other 1,050 innings, their pitchers had a 6.02 ERA.-- Miller

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