Pessimism and Optimism for 2020 Season Transpiring
The MLB season has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. There's also been pessimistic reports from various media outlets which predict a cancellation of the 2020 season. Nevertheless, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred remains optimistic about a season occurring even if it means playing until Christmas. Manfred also made mention of possibly holding games at either neutral warm weather sites or domed stadiums to avoid inclement weather if necessary. With that in mind, I've been doing a series of betting futures on each MLB division.
2020 NL West Division Futures
Courtesy of Bovada, below are odds for each NL West team's chance of winning the division.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (-900)
2. Arizona Diamondbacks (+800)
3. San Diego Padres (+1100)
4. Colorado Rockies (+2800)
5. San Francisco Giants (+5000)
Uncontested Pennant Race in 2019
The Los Angeles Dodgers are reigning National League West Division champions after going an outstanding 106-56 (.654) a season ago. The Dodgers were never seriously tested as evidenced by their finish, 21.0 games ahead of second place Arizona (85-77). The other three NL West Division teams won 77 games or fewer. There are significant question marks heading into this season which are applicable to the NL West. Will the division be more competitive than it was a year ago? Can any team challenge the Dodgers for NL West supremacy? I'll be responding to those uncertainties throughout the course of this article.
Los Angeles Dodgers (-900)
Speaking of the Dodgers, saying they're a prohibitive favorite to win another division title is an understatement. As a matter of fact, out of all six MLB division futures, the Dodgers odds are shortest by far, and next in line is the New York Yankees at -300 (AL East). Furthermore, the Dodgers have been NL West Division crown holders for seven consecutive seasons. The last team other than Los Angeles to finish on top came way back in 2012 when San Francisco did so.
For lack of a better phrase, the Dodgers are once again loaded for bear. The best of that bunch is 24-year-old Cody Bellinger, who is coming off a monster season which saw him crack 47 homers and drive in 115 runs while hitting .305. Additionally, first basemen Max Muncy is coming off a career best season in which he had 35 home runs and 98 runs batted in. It also must be noted, former Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts came over in an offseason trade. During his last four seasons with Boston, Betts averaged 29 homers and drove in 94 runs per season.
Projected 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers Batting Order
1) Mookie Betts, RF
2) Max Muncy, 1B
3) Justin Turner, 3B
4) Cody Bellinger, CF
5) A.J. Pollock, LF
6) Corey Seager, SS
7) Will Smith, C
8) Gavin Lux, 2B
On paper, the Dodgers top three starters in their rotation are a pretty impressive trio, with two of those being past CY Young Award winners. Their newly adopted ace of the staff will be 25-year-old Walker Buehler. The right-handed hurler was 14-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 30 starts last season. He also made 2 starts during the NLDS versus eventual World Series winner Washington and recorded a microscopic 0.71 ERA over 12 2/3 innings pitched.
Future MLB Hall of Fame inductee Clayton Kershaw returns for his 13th MLB season which have all come as a member of the Dodgers. Kershaw was 16-5 last year in 28 starts while posting a 3.03 ERA. The 32- year-old southpaw has a 169-74 career record in 344 starts while compiling an excellent 2.44 ERA. Kershaw is a 3-time recipient of the National League Cy Young Award.
David Price was also acquired in the previously mentioned trade with Boston, which included acquiring Betts. Price is an outstanding 150-80 with a shiny 3.31 ERA in 311 career starts. The 34-year-old lefty was the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner while pitching for Tampa Bay.
For an eighth straight season, Kenley Jansen will be the Dodgers closer. He's been an integral part of their 7-year stranglehold on being the division's top team. Jansen has converted on 301 of his 339 save opportunities in his career while registering a sparkling 2.35 ERA. Nonetheless, the powerful 32-year-old right-hander had arguably his least effective season 2019 which is evidenced by career worsts of 8 blown saves and a 3.71 ERA.
Projected 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers Starting Pitching Rotation
1) Walker Buehler
2) Clayton Kershaw
3) David Price
4) Julio Urías
5) Alex Wood
Closer: Kenley Jansen
Arizona Diamondbacks (+800)
I really like the makeup of Arizona's roster and, at the very worst, see them vying for a National League wildcard berth. Barring injuries, the Diamondbacks will possess power throughout the first eight spots in their batting order.
Arizona has a star in the making with second basemen Ketel Marte. The 26-year-old switch hitting leadoff man is coming off a breakout 2019 season which saw him hit .329 with 32 homers and 92 runs batted in.
Pertaining to career years, third basemen Eduardo Escobar had precisely that last season. The 31-year-old Escobar accounted for 35 homers and drove in 118 runs in his first full season with Arizona.
Projected 2020 Arizona Diamondbacks Batting Order
1) Ketel Marte, 2B
2) Starling Marte, CF
3) Eduardo Escobar, 3B
4) David Peralta, LF
5) Christian Walker, 1B
6) Kole Calhoun, RF
7) Nick Ahmed, SS
8) Carson Kelly, C
Starting Pitchers and Closer
Arizona has two very good lefties at the top of their starting rotation. Madison Bumgarner was signed this past offseason after spending his entire 11-year MLB career with San Francisco. Bumgarner has earned the reputation of being a clutch performer while posting an 8-3 record, 2.11 ERA, and 0.90 WHIP during 14 postseason starts.
Robbie Ray has spent the entirety of his six year career pitching for Arizona. During the past three seasons, Ray has gone 33-15 during 85 starts and struck out 618 batters in 460.0 innings of work. That equates to 12.1 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched which is a more than respectable ratio.
Keep a keen eye on 24-year-old right-hander Zac Gallen, who came from Miami at last year's trade deadline. Gallen is just 3-6 in 15 MLB career starts, but his 2.81 ERA suggests he's pitched much better than his win/loss record indicates.
I'm not crazy about Archie Bradley being Arizona's probable closer. Especially considering he's converted on only 22 of his 39 save opportunities in his career. On a positive note, Bradley was 18-21 last season on his chances to earn a save. The Diamondbacks are hoping Bradley returns to his 2017 form which was his first as an MLB reliever when had a superb 1.73 ERA in 63 relief appearances.
Projected 2020 Arizona Diamondbacks Starting Pitching Rotation
1) Madison Bumgarner
2) Robbie Ray
3) Luke Weaver
4) Mike Leake
5) Zac Gallen
Closer: Archie Bradley
San Diego Padres (+1100)
There are some MLB betting prognosticators that I have a great deal of respect for who are forecasting the Padres to be one of baseball's surprise teams in 2020. I don't share their opinions. Nonetheless, I do think they'll be an improved team compared to the one we saw a season ago that went 70-92 and finished last in the NL West. Then again . . . that's not saying much.
The Padres paid a fortune last offseason for Manny Machado and he produced offensive numbers that didn't align to his salary. Machado hit 32 homers, drove in 85 runs, and collected a .279 batting average. The Padres front office is hoping for something similar or better than Machado's 2018 campaign in which he batted .297, hit 37 homers, and amassed 107 runs batted in. Furthermore, Machado had an outstanding .905 slugging percentage in 2018 compared to last year's pedestrian .796.
A player to really keep on eye on this season is 21-year-old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. After being called up from AA Amarillo last season, Tatis appeared in 84 games for San Diego, hit a robust .317, swiped 16 bases, banged out 22 homers, and had 53 runs batted in. The youngster is a native of San Pedro De Macoris, Dominican Republic which is widely known as a Major League Baseball breeding ground.
Projected 2020 San Diego Padres Batting Order
1) Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
2) Tommy Pham, LF
3) Eric Hosmer, 1B
4) Manny Machado, 3B
5) Wil Myers, RF
6) Trent Grisham, CF
7) Jurickson Profar, 2B
8) Francisco Mejía, C
Starting Pitchers and Closer
I'm not impressed whatsoever with the Padres starting pitching staff. Chris Paddack is slated to be their ace. Granted the 24-year-old right-hander has plenty of upside based on his 9-7 record with a 3.33 ERA as a rookie in 2019. I just don't think he's ready to be cast into such an important role this early in his development process.
Veteran right-hander Garret Richards is capable of winning 15 games if healthy. That's a huge if, considering Richards has made just a grand total 37 starts during the previous 4 seasons.
Zach Davies was a nice offseason pickup after spending his first five MLB seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. Davies has a career record of 43-32 in 111 starts while posting a solid 3.93 ERA.
The Padres can feel very comfortable and confident with 33-year-old veteran Kirby Yates as their closer. Yates was 41-44 (93.2%) on save opportunities last season while compiling an excellent 1.19 ERA and striking out 101 in 60 2/3 innings pitched. Putting his 2019 save total into perspective, Yates had a hand in closing out 41 of the 70 (58.6%) San Diego wins, which is an extremely high ratio by MLB standards.
Projected 2020 San Diego Padres Starting Pitching Rotation
1) Chris Paddack
2) Dinelson Lamet
3) Garrett Richards
4) Zach Davies
5) Joey Lucchesi
Closer: Kirby Yates
Colorado Rockies (+2800)
Colorado was 71-91 in 2019 and finished a mere one game ahead of last place San Diego. The Rockies will once again not have a problem scoring runs and especially so at the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field in Denver. The issue as I see is going to be their shaky pitching staff.
Colorado 3rd basemen Nolan Arenado is a bona fide superstar that doesn't get nearly the recognition he truly deserves. During the last five years Arenado has averaged 39.8 homers and 124.2 runs batted in per season. He's also collected a batting average of .294 or better in each of the last four seasons.
Charlie Blackmon has been a stabilizing factor out of the leadoff spot for Colorado in recent years. Blackmon has averaged 31.8 homers and 85.5 runs batted while hitting .315 over the previous four seasons.
Shortstop Trevor Story has been a top offensive producer for Colorado since being called up in 2016. Throughout that 4-year stretch, Story has averaged 30.8 homers and 86.8 RBIs per season despite appearing in only 97 games during the 2016 calendar year.
Projected 2020 Colorado Rockies Batting Order
1) Charlie Blackmon, CF
2) Trevor Story, SS
3) David Dahl, RF
4) Nolan Arenado, 3B
5) Daniel Murphy, 1B
6) Ryan McMahon, 2B
7) Ian Desmond, LF
8) Tony Wolters, C
Starting Pitchers and Closer
There are all familiar names to Rockies fans that are expected to be in the 2020 starting rotation. Right-hander Jon Gray appears to be the ace and he's recorded a record of 43-31 in 105 starts during the past four seasons.
Through that identical time frame, 25-year-old German Marquez is 37-23 in 90 starts. If I were to bank on one of Colorado's starting pitchers having a career best year, Marquez would be my clear choice.
Colorado is hoping southpaw Kyle Freeland is two years removed from going 17-7 with a brilliant 2.85 ERA. Last year was another story for Freeland which saw him go a dismal 3-1 with an atrocious 6.73 ERA in 22 starts.
I have very little to no faith in Antonio Senzatella, Jeff Hoffman, or even Chi Chi Gonzalez who are the prime candidates to secure the other two starting pitcher spots.
Wade Davis returns for his third season as the Rockies closer. Davis is coming off a 2019 season in which he converted on 15 of 18 chances to earn a save. Nevertheless, he also registered an alarmingly high 8.65 ERA in 50 relief appearance and was 1-6 while doing so. Prior to arriving in Colorado two years ago, Davis went four consecutive seasons of having an ERA of 2.30 or better. If Colorado has any glimmer of hope for a successful 2020 season, they’ll need Davis to be at his best.
Projected 2020 Colorado Rockies Starting Pitching Rotation
1) Jon Gray
2) German Márquez
3) Kyle Freeland
4) Antonio Senzatela
5) Jeff Hoffman/Chi Chi González
Closer: Wade Davis
San Francisco Giants (+5000)
The Giants went on a roller coaster ride last season. They had a terrible start, turned things around to put themselves in the wildcard hunt and then faded badly down the final stretch. San Francisco finished 77-85 and finished third in the NL West standings.
I firmly believe it's going to be a long season for the San Francisco Giants. Veterans such as Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria all seem to be on a steady decline based on their statistics in recent seasons. Mike Yastremski is coming off a decent 2019 as a 28-year-old rookie. There's not much if anything that excites me when assessing this roster.
Projected 2020 San Francisco Giants Batting Order
1) Mike Yastrzemski, RF
2) Brandon Belt, 1B
3) Evan Longoria, 3B
4) Alex Dickerson, LF
5) Buster Posey, C
6) Brandon Crawford, SS
7) Mauricio Dubón, 2B
8) Steven Duggar, CF
Starting Pitchers and Closer
Johnny Cueto returns after two injury riddled seasons which saw him make just a combined 13 starts. San Francisco hopes Cueto has a season similar to his first with the organization in 2016 when the now 34-year-old righthander went 18-5 with an outstanding 2.79 ERA. I see that as wishful thinking at best based on his recent history of not being able to remain healthy.
Since coming to San Francisco in 2016, Jeff Samardzija has gone an uninspiring 33-43 in 106 starts. The 35-year-old will be entering his 13th MLB season and has a poor career record of 80-104.
The other three starters slated to be in the starting rotation have gone a combined 87-108 in 284 starts during their MLB careers.
Southpaw Tony Watson looks as if he'll take over the Giants closer role. Watson has a terrific 2.81 ERA in 606 relief appearance which covers 9 MLB seasons. However, he’s an abysmal 30-64 (46.9%) on his career save opportunities.
Projected 2020 San Francisco Giants Starting Pitching Rotation
1) Johnny Cueto
2) Jeff Samardzija
3) Kevin Gausman
4) Drew Smyly
5) Tyler Beede
Closer: Tony Watson
Final Thoughts and Pick
Now that you've read the entirety of this article up to this point, it should be quite apparent that I'm not picking San Francisco, Colorado, or San Diego. Furthermore, It will be a cold day in hell before I make a future bet or any wager for that matter on a team that's at odds of -900. It's totally insane for me or anybody else to even think of doing so. But then again you never know, since the sports betting world has its fair share of square bettors. I really like the NL West futures betting value that Arizona possesses, and my prediction coincides with that statement.
Pick: Arizona Diamondbacks (+800)