By Cole Paveglio
For a time it looked like the nation’s pastime, which has withstood wars, recessions, and much more, might not happen. A year like no other will indeed have an MLB season like no other.
A season consisting of 66 games compared to the normal 162 in which normally would last 7 to 8 months will now be played in just over two. Players who were waiting for their chance to show off their skills may just be getting their wish.
Let’s break down what you need to know in the American League ahead of the very unique 2020 MLB season.
Texas Rangers, 2019 Record: 78-84 (3rd in AL West)
The Rangers look to build on their third-place finish in the AL West last year. Texas added new faces such as the two time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber and Todd Frazier in taking the formidable task to replace Ranger great Adrian Beltre.
Along with new faces the Rangers have a brand new field in Arlington to play the 2020 season in.
Joey Gallo returns for the 2020 season to play more than half of the games in the shortened season.
The Rangers hope to make their return to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
Player to Watch: Corey Kluber
Prospect to Watch: Nick Solak
Key Addition: Corey Kluber
Key Subtraction: Hunter Pence
Los Angeles Angels, 2019 Record: 72-90 (4th in AL West)
With a shortened season and considered the best player in MLB in Mike Trout the Angels have a viable chance of making it into the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Prospects Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh may begin to patrol the outfield alongside Mike Trout. The Angels also recently signed Anthony Rendon and a new manager who is familiar with Anaheim: Joe Maddon.
Maddon led the 2016 Cubs to their first World Series win in 108 years. Maddon formerly managed the Angels back in 1996 and 1999 back when the team was the California Angels and the Anaheim Angels. The Angels added Anthony Rendon to help bolster the Angels lineup who was on the World Series-winning Nationals team in 2019.
The Angels will be looking to make a push for a playoff berth.
Player to Watch: Mike Trout
Prospect to Watch: Jo Adell/Brandon Marsh
Key Addition: Joe Maddon/Anthony Rendon
Key Subtraction: Kole Calhoun
Houston Astros, 2019 Record: 107-55 (1st in AL West)
The Astros search for another World Series title after punching their ticket to the World Series twice in the past five years.
The Astros had a quiet off-season concerning roster moves. The Astros added veteran catcher Martin Maldonado and added several bullpen arms which will be vital in the short-season. Houston is led by familiar faces such as Jose Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman to help bring another title to Houston.
The Astros have a close eye on prospects such as Forrest Whitley who will be making his big league debut.
Whitley and the other pitchers will have to step up if they plan on bringing another title to Houston with their former ace Gerrit Cole signing a deal that sent him to New York.
Player to Watch: Jose Altuve
Prospect to Watch: Forrest Whitley
Key Addition: Martin Maldonado
Key Subtraction: Gerrit Cole
Seattle Mariners, 2019 Record: 68-94 (5th in AL West)
The Mariner’s future is nearly here as they have two bright prospects which may get their first taste of the bigs this year.
Evan White as well as Jarred Kelenic who is already making waves in the Mariners summer camp have both shown their talent to bat at the Major League level. There is no way but up for the Mariners as they have not seen the postseason since 2001.
Seattle will be looking to finish over .500 for the first time since 2016 where they placed second in the AL West. The Mariners face their first season since 2006 without their ace Felix Hernandez who was the staple of the Mariners rotation since his second year in the league.
The new face of the Mariners rotation is Taijuan Walker who will be on the mound for the first time in two years.
Player to Watch: Mitch Haniger
Prospect to Watch: Jarred Kelenic/Evan White
Key Addition: Taijuan Walker
Key Subtraction: Felix Hernandez
Oakland Athletics, 2019 Record: 97-65 (2nd in AL West)
The Athletics will be looking towards making it past the Wild Card game as they have been eliminated in the past two seasons.
The A’s have multiple young starters in A.J. Puk and Jesus Lozardo who will be looking to make their mark on the MLB. Along with these young starters, they have Kris Davis who in the span of 2016-2018 led the Majors in home runs.
Oakland’s young catcher Sean Murphy is a player the A’s hope can be the centerpiece of the organization for the years ahead.
The biggest step in making a deep playoff run in 2020 is divisional rival Houston Astros after beating the A’s in the division the past two years.
Player to Watch: Jesus Lozardo
Prospect to Watch: Sean Murphy
Key Addition: Tony Kemp
Key Subtraction: Blake Treinen
Minnesota Twins, 2019 Record: 101-61 (1st in AL Central)
World Series or bust for the Twins as they have a chance at claiming their second division crown in as many years.
The Twins led the league with 307 home runs last year and they added even more power by signing Josh Donaldson. Prospect Alex Kiriloff will likely get a chance to shine either at first base or in the outfield on days where the daily wear of baseball hits some of the starters hard.
Jose Berrios has the opportunity to lead the Twins to another playoff after bolstering their pitching staff with additions of Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Homer Bailey.
Player to Watch: Jose Berrios
Prospect to Watch: Alex Kiriloff
Key Addition: Josh Donaldson
Key Subtraction: Brusdar Graterol
Kansas City Royals, 2019 Record: 59-103 (4th in AL Central)
Rebuilding may not be the Royal’s idea this year as every team has the possibility of making it to the playoffs in a shortened season.
The Royals are a team that will not lose easily with a power-speed combo team with speedsters such as Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi atop the order, followed by Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier who drive in plenty of runs.
Kansas City’s pitching staff is the weakest point of the team having no true ace but does have a pitching prospect in Brady Singer who may be the focal point of the Royals in the coming years.
Player to Watch: Jorge Soler
Prospect to Watch: Brady Singer
Key Addition: Maikel Franco
Key Subtraction: Tim Hill
Chicago White Sox, 2019 Record: 72-89 (3rd in AL Central)
The rebuild may be over for the White Sox may be over.
Chicago’s top prospects have made headways to show off their abilities and could help bring a revamped White Sox team to the playoff and bring a championship back to the south side.
Tim Anderson will be looking to have another strong year after leading the league in batting average last season. The White Sox’ have a team built on young and old players which may just be the key to them winning.
Chicago added veterans such as Dallas Keuchel and Yasmani Grandal. The window of the White Sox’s return to the forefront is now.
Player to Watch: Tim Anderson
Prospect to Watch: Luis Robert
Key Addition: Yasmani Grandal
Key Subtraction: Michael Kopech
Cleveland Indians, 2019 Record: 93-69 (2nd in AL Central)
No easy task for the Indians in making it back to the playoffs this season.
Last year ended a run of making it to the division series or better for three years straight. The Indians face a tough task as they face the first season without Corey Kluber.
Franciso Lindor will likely be trying to have a career season as he is in the final year of his contract. The Indians signed Cesar Hernandez who will be looking to help Lindor in the middle of the infield.
Nolan Jones may get his first chance to sign in the 2020 season. Jones will likely be getting playing time at third and the corner outfield positions.
Player to Watch: Francisco Lindor
Prospect to Watch: Nolan Jones
Key Addition: Cesar Hernandez
Key Subtraction: Corey Kluber
Detroit Tigers, 2019 Record: 47-114 (5th in AL Central)
The future looks bright but this is the present for the Tigers.
Prospect Casey Mize gets a chance to show his pitching skills this year sooner than later due to a below-average pitching staff in Detroit. Even though Miguel Cabrera may not be the athlete he once was, the Tiger’s veteran brings a presence to every at-bat that few can.
Cabrera will likely have a role in assisting Detroit, Spencer Torkelson to become the face of the franchise in the coming years.
Player to Watch: Miguel Cabrera
Prospect to Watch: Casey Mize
Key Addition: Ivan Nova
Key Subtraction: Blaine Hardy
New York Yankees, 2019 Record: 103-59 (1st in AL East)
Return to Yankee greatness is the goal for 2020.
The Yankees added ace Gerrit Cole for a record deal of $324 million. Cole will be looking to lead a hopeful healthy Yankee lineup back to the World Series which they have not won since 2009.
New York struggled with injuries last year sidelining key pieces for a combined 407 games in 2019.
If Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge can stay healthy along with the pitching staff then the Yankees have a likely chance to make a deep playoff run.
Player to Watch: Giancarlo Stanton
Prospect to Watch: Clarke Schmidt
Key Addition: Gerrit Cole
Key Subtraction: Edwin Encarnacion
Boston Red Sox, 2019 Record: 84-78 (3rd in AL East)
An offseason where the Red Sox were unable to sign star outfielder Mookie Betts to a contract to keep him in Boston.
The first season without Betts will be a hard one as Boston is also without pitching ace Chris Sale. The Red Sox rotation is a sore spot as they do not have a pitcher without a projected era below four in the rotation.
This transition year consists of prospects such as Bobby Dalbec and Jeter Downs looking to earn playing time at either second base or third.
Rafael Devers and Xander Bogartes will both be looking to have another strong season to help smooth the transition from a World Series contender to a possible wild card team.
Player to Watch: Rafael Devers
Prospect to Watch: Bobby Dalbec/Jeter Downs
Key Addition: Alex Verdugo
Key Subtraction: Mookie Betts
Tampa Bay Rays, 2019 Record: 96-66 (2nd in AL East)
Postseason push for the present and the future.
Tampa’s window of bringing in a championship is open for years to come with a playoff contention team and one of the strongest farm systems in the league. Tyler Glasnow will be looking to have a strong season as a possible Cy Young candidate in 2020.
A team without a true superstar in the batting lineup will be a problem in an otherwise strong team that is looking to get past the divisional series for the first time since 2008.
Player to Watch: Tyler Glasnow
Prospect to Watch: Vidal Brujan
Key Addition: Hunter Renfroe
Key Subtraction: Tommy Pham
Baltimore Orioles, 2019 Record: 54-108 (5th in AL East)
Rebuild is still what the baseball season is looking like in Baltimore.
With a shortened season the Orioles look towards their young farm system and will likely get some time in the majors to help the Orioles see what the future holds for them.
Chris Davis will be looking to break out a slump which he has been in since the 2016 season. Davis has gone from a potential all-star candidate to a player which is seen as the worst contract in baseball right now.
Player to Watch: Chris Davis
Prospect to Watch: Adley Rutschman
Key Addition: Jose Iglesias
Key Subtraction: Jonathan Villar
Toronto Blue Jays, 2019 Record: 67-95 (4th in AL East)
The future of Toronto is nearly here with young players such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette.
The Blue Jays will be looking to make a deep playoff push for the first time since 2016. Toronto has even more young prospects in the system such as Nate Pearson, a known fastballer in the Jays farm system waiting for his big break.
The Jays have a formidable rotation that will help the Jays play for playoff contention.
Player to Watch: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Prospect to Watch: Nate Pearson
Key Addition: Hyun-Jin Ryu
Key Subtraction: Justin Smoak
Featured image by Cole Paveglio.