2020 MLB predictions: Picks to win American League
Unlike in our 2020 National League predictions, the American League is full of powerhouses at the top, but it seems much less wide open than the National League. Let’s still see if we can find some value picking the American League winner with our 2020 MLB predictions.
New York Yankees (+160)
2019 record: 103-59
2019 finish: Lost ALCS to HOU in 6 games
Would the New York Yankees have won the American League pennant if it wasn’t for the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal? It’s a question that will linger for a while but entering 2020, the Yankees, on paper, look like the best team in baseball.
The Yankees already had a starting rotation full of upside with Luis Severino, James Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka, and they’ve now added the top starting pitcher on the market in Gerrit Cole.
Cole finished second in the AL Cy Young voting a year ago with the Astros, so the Yankees not only add an elite pitcher but take away one of the Astros’ best players.
That is why the Yankees rightfully are the favorite to take the American League. While normally we look for more favorable odds when making our 2020 MLB predictions, the Yankees seem so much better than anyone else and are worthy of our consideration, even at +160 to win the American League.
Speaking of Paxton, the veteran lefty will be out 3-4 months following back surgery, but the Yankees likely just need him healthy for October.
New York Yankees predictions: Consider
Houston Astros (+300)
2019 record: 107-55
2019 finish: Lost World Series to WSH in 7 games
Where to start with the Houston Astros? The positive is Houston has won the American League pennant twice in the last three years. They have won over 100 games in each of those seasons.
The negatives are we’re not entirely sure how much of their production was based on cheating. The sign-stealing scandal has rocked the baseball world this winter and it’s unclear how the Astros will respond.
The Astros will be booed heavily on the road all season long. They will be pestered by the media about cheating all season long. How much of a toll will that take on this group? And as we said before, the Astros lost Gerrit Cole in free agency and didn’t replace him externally.
The Astros are likely hoping 26-year-old Lance McCullers Jr. can help fill some of the innings they are losing with Cole, but McCullers Jr. hasn’t pitched since 2018 and he has never pitched more than 128.1 innings in a season. It would be reasonable to think he’s on an innings limit this season.
Staff aces Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke both had excellent 2019 seasons, but both are 36 years old. How long can they remain elite starters? If the answer is not long, the Astros are in trouble.
Despite all their problems, this still on paper looks to be the best team in the American League West. Jose Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman, along with the rest of this Astros lineup are still excellent. While they could take a step back after getting caught cheating, I still expect All-Star caliber seasons from this group.
This is certainly a riskier pick for our 2020 MLB predictions than the Yankees, but still worth keeping an eye on.
Houston Astros predictions: Consider
2019 record: 101-61
2019 finish: Lost ALDS to NYY in 3 games
The Minnesota Twins had a breakout season where they had a 23-win improvement and won the American League Central. The Twins set the all-time record for most home runs in a season by a team with 307 long balls.
With that said, the season ended in familiar fashion with a brutal sweep by the Yankees in the playoffs.
Including the MLB postseason, the Twins have lost 103 of 140 total games against the Yankees. In that span, Minnesota has lost all six-postseason series they have played against New York (2-16 in those games).
The Twins are likely going to have to get through the Yankees to win the American League and it’s been almost 20 years of failure, so I don’t see this dramatically changing.
Minnesota Twins predictions: Pass
Tampa Bay Rays (+1100)
2019 record: 96-66
2019 finish: Lost ALDS to HOU in 5 games
The Tampa Bay Rays pushed the Astros to the brink a season ago, getting to a deciding Game 5 in the ALDS. Seeing Gerrit Cole twice was just too much for the pesky Rays, who won both of his starts and had an 0.57 ERA in the series.
The Rays will have to contend with Cole now more than ever with him joining the rival Yankees.
Manager Kevin Cash has an equally impressive staff as the Yankees with Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow. The Rays also develop pitchers better than anyone, so don’t be surprised if they stumble onto another impressive arm to add to that list.
Former 2017 top-five MLB draft pick, two-way player Brendan McCay, is going to tone down his hitting to focus primarily on being a pitcher this season. The lefty seems much more advanced at the moment as a pitcher than as a hitter, so perhaps this can give his pitching a boost, focusing on it full-time.
The question is going to be offensively, how much are the Rays going to hit?
The Rays got breakout years out of third baseman Yandy Diaz and second baseman Brandon Lowe but both missed a lot of time with injuries.
Tampa also acquired Jose Martinez from the St. Louis Cardinals and Hunter Renfroe from the Padres to boost the offense. The Rays always seem to get more out of the sum of their parts, and they enter the season with more talent than the team that won 96 games a season ago.