2020 MLB Power Rankings: Awards and Postseason Predictions

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

Brendan Murphy

Today is the day! The COVID-19 shortened 2020 Major League Baseball season finally begins tonight. With my MLB power rankings series wrapping up today, it’s time to officially conclude the series with my postseason and awards predictions. With the news of an expanded postseason format breaking just minutes ago, I have updated my postseason predictions to include 16 teams, which is the agreed upon amount of teams. There is a rumor that the top teams will be able to choose their opponent but with no solid reports to back it up, I’m going to assume it will be played like the NBA and NHL, top seed plays the eight seed, two seed plays seven, and so on. Let’s kick it off with some awards predictions.

Manager of the Year:

National League: David Bell – Cincinnati Reds

In the National League, my pick for manager of the year is second year Reds skipper, David Bell. Bell’s Reds had a solid 2019 and seem poised to compete in 2020. While I do have them falling short of the playoffs, I still believe Bell will push his guys to a successful 2020 and will earn himself the honor of being the NL Manager of the Year.

American League: Joe Maddon – Los Angeles Angels

In the American League, I’m going with Angels manager, Joe Maddon. Maddon is entering his first season with the Halos and has found success everywhere he has gone. In Tampa, he led the team to a World Series appearance in 2008 along with winning two manager of the year awards. When he moved to Chicago, Maddon helped break the 108 year World Series drought when the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. With the Angels, I can see Maddon doing much of the same. He has a talented team, including the best player on the planet, Mike Trout, and a prized free agent acquisition in 2019 World Series hero Anthony Rendon. Shohei Ohtani is back to anchor the rotation and the rest of the core group is solid. They are my pick to win the AL West and Maddon will be rewarded with his fourth manager of the year award.

Rookie of the Year:

National League: Gavin Lux – Los Angeles Dodgers

My pick for National League Rookie of the Year is Dodgers top prospect Gavin Lux. Lux is another in a line of exciting young players to rise through the Dodgers farm system. He’s an incredibly smart player who has excelled at every level, hitting .347 with 26 home runs in the minor leagues last season. He struggled a bit in the majors last season but it seemed in part because he wasn’t playing everyday, and that is often the case when a top prospect gets called up and doesn’t get regular at bats. Lux has elite bat to ball skills and that should translate well with regular reps at the big league level. Lux is a relatively easy pick for NL Rookie of the Year.

American League: Luis Robert – Chicago White Sox

In the American League, my pick is White Sox top prospect Luis Robert. Robert has yet to take the field at the big league level but he already inked a six-year $50 million contract, showing how high the South Siders are on the 22 year old. Robert is a true five tool player flashing plus power and speed to go along with a very good hit tool as well as good defensive numbers. The White Sox are hoping Robert can be the centerpiece to a contender in the years to come and I believe he gets started well by taking home the American League Rookie of the Year.

Cy Young Award:

National League: Jack Flaherty – St. Louis Cardinals

It pains me to deny Jacob deGrom his third straight Cy Young award but only three pitchers in history have ever accomplished the feat. That being said, my pick is Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty. Flaherty has an outstanding second half last season. In 15 starts after the All-Star break, Flaherty pitched to an incredible 0.91 ERA while striking out 124 batters in 99.1 innings. If Flaherty can come anywhere close to that this season, I can easily see him beating out deGrom and Max Scherzer.

American League: Mike Clevinger – Cleveland Indians

I have Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger winning the American League Cy Young Award. Injuries limited Clevinger to just 21 starts in 2019 but when he pitched, he was nasty. Clevinger dominated the competition, striking out 169 batters in just 126 innings while pitching to a 2.71 ERA. Clevinger is one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball when he is on, and so long as he is healthy, I expect him to shove this year. Opponents hit just .209 against him and had an outstanding 4.57 strikeout to walk ratio. His command is exceptional and his stuff is flat out dominant. Clevinger should be able to beat out last year’s runner-up Gerrit Cole, who many experts believe will win the award.

MVP:

National League: Ronald Acuna Jr. – Atlanta Braves

I can’t say enough how high I am on Ronald Acuna Jr, so much so that I made him my pick for National League MVP. Acuna is simply on another level, he has elite bat to ball skills with great power to all fields, he’s a plus runner, and he’s a very good defender. Had Acuna not injured his groin in the final week of the season, he may have become just the fifth player in MLB history to record 40 homers and 40 steals, as he finished the season just one stolen base short of the mark. At just 22 years old, I expect Acuna to only get better as he matures. This year will be a major step forward and he should run away with the NL MVP, beating out the last two winners Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich.

American League: Shohei Ohtani – Los Angeles Angels

It’s an Angel, just not Mike Trout, and I’ll explain first why it isn’t going to be Trout. Trout’s wife Jessica is expecting their first child in August, which means that Trout will head home for the birth of his first child, which will likely make him miss at least three or four days, and when he returns, he will likely have to quarantine for about two weeks. That means Trout would miss about three weeks of an already shortened season. Trout has also expressed his discomfort for playing under these circumstances, although yesterday he announced his intention to play. I truly believed that Trout will ultimately decide not to play this season. Just listening to him talk about it, it’s just a feeling I have in my gut. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about his teammate Shohei Ohtani, who is my pick to capture the AL MVP. Ohtani will make his much anticipated return to the mound now that he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. If 2018 was any sneak preview, we are in for a real treat watching Ohtani pitch. He is absolutely disgusting on the mound sporting a fastball often clocked at over 100 MPH and a nasty splitter that drops off the table and is flat out unhittable. Oh, and did I mention that he also hits bombs? Ohtani is a middle of the order bat who provides protection for Trout and the newly acquired Anthony Rendon. Taking all of this into account, I predict that Ohtani will narrowly beat out the competition for AL MVP.

Postseason Predictions:

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the format will consist of 16 teams with the top two from each division making the playoffs and the other two teams being wild cards. There hasn’t been word about how seeding will work so for now, I’m simply going to base the matchups in a similar way to the NHL, seed the division winners and second place teams, and then add the two wild card teams at the end.

First Round (Best of 3):

National League 1: Dodgers beat the Nationals in two games

In a rematch of the NLDS from last season, a much weaker Nationals team will likely struggle against an overpowering Dodgers team. I expect a two game sweep, man it feels weird to write two game sweep rather than three.

National League 2: Braves beat the Phillies in two games

This one shouldn’t need much of an explanation. The Braves are simply the better team. I can’t see Nola or Wheeler matching up well with Soroka or Folty, so I expect another sweep.

National League 3: Cardinals beat the Diamondbacks in three

Madison Bumgarner will make his much anticipated return to the postseason and he will throw a gem to propel the Cardinals to victory in one of the games, but the D-Backs will fall in the other two games to the Cardinals. Cards in three.

National League 4: Mets beat the Reds in three games

This series would probably be the best of the bunch in the National League. Two up and coming teams that people expect can make a deep postseason run if everything goes right. As much as I’d like to take the Reds here since I’m so high on them, I can’t my hometown team in this one. Mets in three.

American League 1: Yankees beat the Indians in two games.

The Indians will keep the games close but I expect the Yankees lineup to be all over Clevinger and Bieber in this short series. I expect a Yankees sweep.

American League 2: Twins beat the Astros in three games

There won’t be any trash can banging or buzzers to help the Astros out this year, since with no fans in the stands, everyone will hear it. I think this series will go three games and be very competitive but I’ll take the Twins power over the Astros third starter, since Verlander and Greinke will split games one and two. Twins in three.

American League 3: White Sox over Angels in three games

Originally, I had the White Sox losing to the Rays in a Wild Card Game, but now they get a more favorable matchup with the Halos. I think Ohtani and the Angels will take game one, but I think the Southsiders will come back and win two in a row to save their season.

American League 4: Rays beat the A’s in two

I really wanted to pick the A’s here, I really did, but the Rays are just too good. In a matchup of two teams who are the definition of Moneyball teams, I think the Rays pitching will outplay the A’s in a sweep. Rays in two.

Division Series:

National League 1 – Dodgers beat the Mets in five games

Ok, now we’re back to normal, sort of. I am trying my best to be unbiased here and as good as I think the Mets are this season and as well as I think they match up with the Dodgers in a short series, I believe the Dodgers depth will carry them to a game five triumph as they will move on the the NLCS.

National League 2 – Braves beat the Cardinals in four games

This will be a really good series, but I like the Braves to get some revenge and beat the Cardinals in four games to move on to face the Dodgers in the NLCS.

American League 1 – Yankees beat the Rays in four games

The Rays are a really good team and I really think they will be good for a long time, but this Yankees team is just that good, and I expect the Bombers to take care of business in four games and will move on to the ALCS for the third time in four years.

American League 2 – Twins beat the White Sox in four games

I’m high on the White Sox, I am, but the Twins are just the better team in my opinion. I like the Southsiders’ pitching staff a lot but they will be put to the test against one of the most prolific power hitting teams in MLB history. I think they will be overmatched and the Twins will move on to face the Yankees in the ALCS in four games.

Championship Series:

National League – Dodgers beat the Braves in six games

This has to be one of the most intriguing matchups in recent memory. Both of these teams are outstanding and I truly believe that either of these teams could come out on top, but I think the Dodgers pitching will carry them back to the World Series for the third time in four years. Though I wouldn’t be surprised to see this series go the distance, I’ll take the Dodgers in six.

American League – Yankees beat the Twins in seven games

This one will be the definition of a slugfest. It’s just a matter of who will come out on top, and to me, the Yankees are the more complete team. By this point in the season, I expect that the Yankees will have brought up a pitcher or two that will make an impact. For that reason, as much as it pains me to see it, I’m taking the Yankees in seven games to outlast the Twins.

World Series: Dodgers over Yankees in five games

Folks, this one will be a classic. Short season, full season, simulated season, expanded playoffs, this is the match up that most people are predicting and I couldn’t agree more. These are far and away the two best teams in baseball and they will face off in the World Series for a record 12th time. The Yankees have won eight of the eleven World Series matchups dating all the way back to 1941. To me, the Dodgers are so far ahead of everyone else in baseball that it is one of the easiest World Series picks I’ve had in years. I’ve got the Dodgers winning the World Series in 5 games.

The 2020 season will truly be an extraordinary Major League Baseball season. A normal baseball season is a marathon and most of the time, the best teams make the playoffs. On the other hand in a 60 game sprint, anything can happen, and with 16 teams now making the playoffs, we could see sub .500 teams getting in, something that seemed impossible just hours ago. But ultimately, I believe the Dodgers are far and away the best team in baseball, and will be the last team standing in October.

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