The Dongers Club - 2020 MLB Predictions
Now just 48 hours away from the first game of the season between the Yankees and the defending Champion Washington Nationals from Washington, D.C. as finally -- yes, finally we are going to have Major League Baseball here in America in 2020.
There were a many who back in March and into April and May pounded that there wouldn't be Baseball this year. It would be too much to go away from the families or too many people would die or **gasp** oh my gosh what happens if someone gets sick? What. If. What. If.
Here's a few what if's for you.
- What if Giancarlo Stanton gets hurt and Franmil Reyes hits more home runs than him?
- What if Mike Trout goes 0-4
- What if someone who predicted Jose Martinez would win the NL MVP is now trying to say they're giving advanced analytics for their picks this year?
- What if ...
You get the idea folks. Who cares what all the naysayers were saying back then. It's time to move on past all the politics and the rights and many wrongs over games on the schedule of MLB/MLBPA negotations and just remember that Rob Manfred is the absolute nut worst. However....
This is going to be a unique season, blah blah, you've no doubt heard that everywhere by now and it's obviously very true. There's so much which we will never know about this season because of the limited number of games played in it. If someone comes out and hits 25 homers over the 60 games would they have hit 60 on the season? IF a team wins 45 games would they have won 110 for the full season? So much what we see in the small window of games isn't something that can be translated over 162, because if for no other reason the schedule is very unbalanced. No travel across country, no long flights after a 10 game road trip, no rain delays in the middle of June in some city where the food has been god awful all week.... But this doesn't mean we can't make some assumptions on this season and ride them to our advantage for bets, seasonal and DFS.
So here are the three Dongers Club key thoughts on this upcoming season
- Hitting will win everything
- Bullpens will be random and all the DFS rage by mid August
- Social Distance yourself from the Injured
Hitting will win everything
When I say Hitting will win everything I mean not only in MLB, but especially in seasonal and DFS purposes. The hitters are going to be ahead of the pitchers and it seems I am in the minority on this one a little bit. Normally in April we see pitchers come out and do well in lower scoring games as the bulk of hitters do not have all of their timing down and are bouncing around from cold parks trying to get into a nice routine. We obviously don't have the cold weather games to start the season but there's a little obvious scheduling change which should benefit the Hitters more than Pitchers.
Normally the Pitchers are in camp long before hitters and begin their routine to build up to the regular-season start date. As Opening Day draws closer and closer the starters get more work and the relievers get less work which leads us to a ton of blown saves early in the season because relievers simply aren't working as routinely. We also have a TON of off days normally in April. This year only the Nationals and Yankees are off the day after Opening Day -- were as in many seasons teams will play at most 5 games in their first 7 days and they'll have lots of days off in April. Throw in the bad weather and some PPD spots and you can see where it's a real mess for hitters to get a consistent routine while also being behind starters.
Fast forward to now. Teams will be playing almost every day right out of the gate -- including the Atlanta Braves who will start off with 20 something straight days without a day off to start the season. The Pitchers have also not had a jump start on getting back into camp against the Hitters and if anyone was taking it easy during the break it's the pitchers. Will there be exceptions to this? Absolutely and I think we're seeing a few veterans already in the Summer Camp's who look like they've stayed sharp. But for the most part, it's the hitters who are going to be much more consistent and ready out of the gate. In the short sprint, they're the ones you should expect the most value from.
Bullpens will be random and all the DFS rage by mid-August
This directly correlates with the theory above and with many starters going less and relievers needing work to stay fresh I expect we'll see many starts where SP will go 5 innings and turn it over to three arms to get them to the 9th inning with hopefully a lead. Pitchers are going to have to face 3 batters minimum now unless they are finishing out an inning, so we'll see more pitchers get pulled in that 6th inning losing the quality start opportunity when the manager sees an opportunity to use one of his specialists.
What I suspect we see happen is a lot of "data" and "analysis" on who the likely arms out of the bullpen are on a given date. To start the year the Dodgers are expecting to go with Duke May after Walker Buehler until Walker is up to his peak pitch volume. In reality, that's probably mid-September because if May can give them 2+ innings every start for Walker why not just roll with that dominant combination to get you to the 8th inning or later? It's a lot like we saw the Rays go with a Stanek-Yarbrough type combination among many others last year. Oakland is ahead of the game on this as well and there's a few other teams (Atlanta) who I think should really look into it.
We are likely to see see the death of the SP going 6 for the majority of teams and instead turning into rotations where the starter gives the team 3, maybe 4 innings followed by the three 'Next' guys on that day who are all expected to give the team 2 innings or 6-7 batters each. I have built some stuff to start to monitor this as best possible but knowing who those bullpen arms are will be very hard to predict in many spots.
SOCIAL DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM THE INJURED
In seasonal fantasy it is going to be very hard for you to listen to what I am about to tell you.
Move on from Anthony Rendon.
He is among the elite hitters in the game and he gets to bat behind Mike Trout and lord he faces the Mariners twice this year. Move on. The guy has an oblique injury right now and those are never good in a full 162 game season, so what the hell should we expect in a 60 game season? Maybe one hot stretch? Maybe he is 80% of his normal production? The upside isn't there and this is the case for all the players who are or will get injured this season. A pitcher who has a shoulder, arm or ankle injury is done in my mind. If he hits the DL in season then that's probably 25% of the season he misses, so at most he'll get 45 games if everything clears well? Plus possibly a rehab start for the worse spots? Teams won't have patience for that and they're likely to take a middle of the road starter and move him to the bullpen to work him back in. They're worthless. Hitters who lose their timing and sit out for a couple of weeks will eventually get that back, but a wrist or oblique injury and you are looking at a complete loss of power from that hitter for a good portion of the season. Let's assume bad injuries are 4-6 week ones (not the real death trap injuries that are 60 day or longer). Again, that is pretty much the entire season, so we need to completely become un-attached from these players when they get hurt.
As for the ones who are STARTING on the IL due to COVID, I am not as worried about them as they are merely just delayed. But there is a slight concern, and this includes someone like Franmil Reyes who I am still extremely high on but the time to get into a groove and ensure that consistent playing time is going to be more of a challenge for him and especially the pitchers who are starting on the IL due to COVID. But COVID isn't a physical injury (yes, I know, you get sick but Freddie Freeman looks damn fine right now), and so it shouldn't have lasting impact on 95% of those who had it and are just delayed to start the year.
But an injury during the season? Peace out.
As always I am giving you an OVER and an UNDER bet for each division.
This is obviously the Yankees and Rays division to battle things out and there's nothing to get cute on who finishes 1-2. Yes, I love the Blue Jays young and talented lineup for years to come which is led by Bo Bichette, Vlad Jr, Lourdes Gurriel and Cavan Biggio -- but they don't have the bullpen and they don't have the lineup depth to truly make waves just yet. Their starting staff is decent enough to chew up innings, but their ace is still a kid and won't make an impact until 2021. The real juice in this division is at the bottom where I have Boston finishing dead last behind Baltimore. Compare their pitching staffs and you'll have to come to the same conclusion that they are equal at best. Now compare the lineups and tell me how much more confident you are in Boston, having lost Mookie, Sale, Price and possibly E-Rod and them being anywhere near focused this season? I think Xander has hit his peak of what he is as a hitter, Devers is the elite bat and Benintendi is quickly proving he isn't the batter everyone thought he would be. Mark that down because if Benintendi does take the next step forward then I'll have to eat crow on that one big time. JD is a beast and should continue to provide great power but this is a lineup in DFS that is always overpriced and has a bottom half that kills them too often. Gimme the Birds to upset Boston out of the gate and to sneak ahead of the BoSox in the final standings. As for 1st/2nd ... until I see Gerritt Cole regress to his Pittsburgh ways, his team gets the nod.
- NY Yankees
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Toronto Blue Jays ... Over
- Baltimore Orioles
- Boston Red Sox ... Under
Bullish Players: Bo Bichette, Austin Hays, Gary Sanchez
Bearish Players: Andrew Benintendi
Let me address the basement in this division first. Detroit added some veterans to their lineup this year with Cron and Schoop which back in March was interesting. Ask yourself now how much you have heard about them in the Summer Camp? Exactly. They also decided to push Casey Mize back into 2021 by not having him make the roster to start the year. So cross them off entirely as any stupid sleeper team. Next up is Kansas City and I love the moves they are making (sans the Manager) and think they have a great young pitching staff which will be on our radar in 2023. Last I checked it's still f'n 2020 -- so cross them off because they don't have the pitching and they need a more consistent bat in the lineup.
So the big debate is Twins (the lineup is insane, the bullpen is legit), the White Sox (they are everyones darling team) and the Indians (oh hey, they're still good). It's the Indians for me. The team I was SELLING HARD last season and accurately had the Twins winning the division over them is the one I am going right back to this season. Carrasco being healthy is HUGE for this rotation which still has Bieber (the new Kluber) and Clevinger (a Cy Young candidate) at the front of the rotation with viable backend options as well. Tito Francona is one of the best managers in the game and managed to right their bullpen last season which looks to be good enough again this year and then their lineup might be the most underrated one in all of Baseball. They hit vs LH and RH pitching with all the switch hitting power, they have an MVP candidate winner in Francisco Lindor who is in a contract season at the top of the order and then they have the always reliable Carlos Santana, Jose Ramirez and Cesar Hernandez as switch hitters too who won't strike out a ton and have plenty of power as well. Speaking of power, I didn't even touch on the legend that is Franmil Reyes, the young Oscar Mercado and a decent catcher in Roberto Perez. They might not quite pop like the Twins and they might not have the young upside of the White Sox -- but they are a better Baseball Team. Buy the Tribe.
- Cleveland Indians ... Over
- Minnesota Twins
- Chicago White Sox ... Under
- Kansas City Royals
- Detroit Tigers
Bullish Players: Francisco Lindor, Luis Arraez
Bearish Players: Lucas Giolito
This is the hardest division in the American League to project for me and it's mostly 2 through 4 that I think is going to be an extremely tight race to project. Houston is clear number one and the team that benefited the most in this division from the pandemic situation because they got Justin Verlander time to rest up and they obviously distanced from the whole sign stealing thing a little bit. The batting order is still elite and even with Yordan Alvarez being AWOL at the start of the season they're still a tough out and Verlander-Greinke-McCullers doesn't suck. Yeah, Greinke. They have him. The guy has been social distancing since he was born, so expect lots of 6 inning no-hitters from him this season.
I love Houston to win the division but not as much as I love Texas to be the sleeper team in the American League. The Rangers have quietly turned into a pitcher resurrection spot taking in guys like Mike Minor and Lance Lynn and pairing them up with the great Jeff Mathis who lowers everyone's ERA. Now they get Corey Kluber who has had time to rebuild himself and should benefit greatly getting into a division that hasn't seen him too much over the past few seasons. If their lineup can stay somewhat consistent then look out for the Rangers. The Angels lack the pitching and Rendon is someone I think is done for the short season + Trout will miss time due to the birth of his first child. Oakland is what they are, but they always start slow and finish strong and I expect that to be the same this year and to be a problem.
Seattle blows. Holy hell they're bad.
- Houston Astros
- Texas Rangers ... OVER
- Oakland Athletics
- LA Angels
- Seattle Mariners ... UNDER
Bullish Players: Corey Kluber, Zack Greinke, Todd Frazier, Matt Olson
Bearish Players: Anthony Rendon, Yusei Kikuchi
It's the Phillies and then everybody else. Love the Didi Gregorius acquisition. Love JT Realmuto settling into this ballpark even more and likely signing a long term extension. Like the Zach Wheeler signing and I am cautiously optimistic about the bullpen holding up. Oh, they actually have a real manager now too. Lock them in.
As for everyone else? My lord. Can you trust the Mets without Thor? Does it matter in a short season? Probably not. Mets have the best bullpen here on paper, but they are the Mets and I'm sorry but their lineup even with Cespedes at DH is still not getting me excited. The Braves pitching is horrific but as much as I wanted to say they finish last, I just can't put an Acuna-Albies-Freeman lineup in dead last behind the Marlins and Nationals. Washington is going to feel the effects of losing both Harper and Rendon and the question is how much magic can they muster up in the short season. I think it's very little and don't know how well of a year Soto has when nobody in the world is going to want to pitch to him. Miami is your sneaky team in this division. They have a decent set of young arms coming back and a batting lineup which when on the road can flash a little sneaky pop -- but they're still too thin in a good division to compete. Maybe in 5 years we will have a Tigers-Marlins World Series, but not now.
- Philadelphia Phillies ... OVER
- New York Mets
- Washington Nationals
- Atlanta Braves ... UNDER
- Miami Marlins
Bullish Players: Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Yoenis Cespedes
Bearish Players: Juan Soto, Braves Pitchers
Welcome to the hardest division in Baseball to predict because it doesn't have a dominant team. In fact, I could argue that most other divisions have multiple teams who could make it to the World Series where as this division has a big fat ZERO.
The Cincinnati Reds are a trendy darling team. Everyone loves Castellanos getting to hit in Cincinnati (but look, he's already hurt), and Eugenio Suarez also benefited from the delayed start as he should be fully healthy to start the season. Their staff is where they cannot be overlooked. Castillo, Gray, Bauer get all the attention however Garrett-Lorenzen-Iglesias is a filthy bullpen and if Tyler Mahle really is converted into a bullpen arm you'll see him pitch those 5-7 inning spots and really propel this team to winning a bunch of games. I'm not as optimistic about their hitting as everyone else, but they're the #1 team in this division.
A big reason why they are #1? There's nobody else. The Cubs are probably under the radar of a lot of us because Contreras/Schwarber can rotate at DH or if someone is banged up they can have them get AB there as well. The pitching staff is about to die from COVID due to living in a nursing home though so if they finish above .500 it's a miracle. Milwaukee? Who the heck in their lineup scares you after Yelich and Hiura? Remember, hitting wins this year. Ditto the Cardinals.
I wouldn't bet anyone on the OVER in this division.
- Cincinnati Reds
- Chicago Cubs
- Milwaukee Brewers
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Pittsburgh Pirates ... UNDER
Bullish Players: Wilson Contreras, Gregory Polanco (oh look, he got COVID),
Bearish Players: Paul Goldschmidt
It's the Dodgers year. It pains me to say it, but it's their year. They've played as much Baseball as anyone else over the last four seasons and the infusion of Mookie Betts into an already good lineup should be exactly what they need to just storm through the league this year. I'm not overhyping Mookie but it's him going into this exact lineup which just feels like the perfect 60 game season fit. All they gotta do is get the staff guys who are looking behind right now (Buehler & Jansen specifically) up to speed by the playoffs and they should be in a great spot to finally get that WS title.
This division is extremely boring outside of them. Arizona is a GOOD team and exactly the type who can get hot and make the playoffs but only as a wild card. Their pitching is sneaky good, their lineup is decent and I would take them over the Reds in a playoff series any day of the week -- unfortunately, they will have to get in via a wild card and then it's facing the Dodgers. San Diego will get there, but not yet and the Rockies/Giants are two of the worst teams in Baseball.
- LA Dodgers
- Arizona Diamondbacks ... OVER
- San Diego Padres
- Colorado Rockies
- San Francisco Giants ... UNDER
Bullish Players: Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Manny Machado
Bearish Players: The entire Rockies lineup
AL MVP: Francisco Lindor (Indians)
AL CY YOUNG: Zack Greinke (Astros)
AL PLAYOFFS: Yankees (Div), Indians (Div), Astros (Div), Rangers (WC), Twins (WC)
AL CHAMPION: Indians
AL HOME RUN CHAMPION: Franmil Reyes (Indians)
AL BATTING CHAMP: Luis Arraez (Twins) ... he will hit over .400
NL MVP: Bryce Harper (Phillies)
NL CY YOUNG: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
NL PLAYOFFS: Dodgers (Div), Phillies (Div), Reds (Div), Diamondbacks (WC), Padres (WC)
NL CHAMPION: Dodgers
NL HOME RUN CHAMPION: Bryce Harper
NL BATTING CHAMP: Ronald Acuna Jr.
Team everyone thinks will make the playoffs that wont ...
Tampa Bay - this is where strength of schedule comes into play. The Indians/Twins/White Sox all get not just the Royals/Tigers but the NL Central which is a weaker division than the NL East who the Rays have to go through and in the smaller season that matters a great deal. Tampa is good, but they are the last team out in the American League.
Team everyone thinks will be bad that will sneak into the playoffs ...
Texas - It's not so much that folks think they are bad, but they are my sleeper team that has good betting value this year.
Dodgers over Indians in 5