Major League Baseball dropped a bomb this week, introducing a new playoff structure that invites 16 of the 30 franchises to participate in 2020.
Gone is the one-game, wild-card playoff.
In its place is a best-out-of-three, on-the-road showcase for middle-tier teams.
The higher seed will host the three-game, first-round series. Home field advantage will be nice–always good to have the last at bat–but without fans in the stands, top seeds are newly vulnerable in 2020.
Over the past decade or so, baseball has shaped itself around demands of the previous post-season: superteams jockeying for wins at the top because winning the division meant avoiding the do-or-die wild card playoff–perhaps the most exciting wrinkle baseball has introduced in my lifetime.
If an organization’s front office didn’t see its club as division-winning material, it frequently decided to lose as much as possible, altering the free agent market and prospect timeline universe in ways people are still grappling with.
That’s all different now.
MacKenzie Gore is coming up soon, is what I’m saying. A.J. Preller doesn’t have much incentive to worry about seven years from now if he can push for a playoff berth by trading Zach Davies for perhaps the game’s top pitching prospect.
Other teams whose prospects might get a boost from the new rule?
Soto’s rona test and Strasburg’s nerve hands might put Washington in short-term jeopardy, which would be long term jeopardy a week ago in the 60-game season, but now they they don’t have to be great in the regular season to unleash their pitching in the playoffs. The rest of the NL East is seething with topside, but Miami has potential upgrades in the player pool at just about every roster spot. I had been thinking we wouldn’t see any of these guys because their chances of winning the division seemed dim, but now they just have to finish better than half the teams in the National League, and I think they’ve got the talent to challenge that.
Prospects working for Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore are still in service time purgatory.
Kansas City is crazy enough to promote some prospects if they can win a little early.
Boston might call on Jeter Downs if the planets align. Course they’re getting run by Baltimore as I type this.
Everyone else should be in play. It feels incredibly weird to play a season then let more than half the teams into the postseason, but it would fix some of the ills ailing the game right now, so I don’t see any harm in trying it for 2020.
It’s been a big weekend.
Here’s what else I’ve been seeing in the prospect world.
OF Kyle Lewis is the best player in baseball, destined to get one walk and hit one home run in every game he ever plays.
RHP Tyler Zuber debuted for the Royals with two scoreless innings. He’s a legitimate back-end talent who could captain this bullpen as early as 2021.
RHP Brady Singer looked really good allowing five baserunners in five innings against Cleveland. Seven strikeouts. Might be the team’s best starter already.
OF Seth Brown hasn’t played yet for Oakland, and I am sad. Still think he’s their best non-Ramon outfielder.
LHP Alex Vesia gave up two runs in his first major league innings. Not ideal, but
RHP Nate Pearson makes his debut this week. Double check all your redraft waiver wires today just for good measure.
LHP MacKenzie Gore benefits from expanded playoffs as explained in the intro. Stash him if you got him. Check the wire if you don’t.
RHP Dustin May didn’t have the cleanest line and might be a WHIP problem in the short term, but he looks like a 95th percentile stuff guy. Big league hitters will not enjoy facing him. Streamer at worst on a win-heavy Dodgers club.
RHP Jonathan Hernandez secured a hold in the opener, entering a 1-0 game in the 8th and striking out two batters. Seems like the primary set-up man for a closer with a history of control troubles. Giggidy.
OF Jaylin Davis started against a righty in Ross Stripling in game two, blasting an opposite field shot for the Giants’ only run. Looks like an everyday player already. Or leastwise much more than a short-side platoon guy.
OF Edward Olivares started game two in right field. Probably more short-side platoon than everyday role for now, but the opportunity is there for more.
3B Carter Kieboom filled the DH role in game two. It’s probably a good sign for his playing time, but it struck me as odd to think that Davey Martinez might prefer Assdribble and Starlin Castro at third and second, defensively.
RF Daniel Johnson made his debut in game two due to Tyler Naquin having a hairline fracture in his big toe, which seems bad. Double arrows up for OF Bradley Zimmer, who has totally remade his swing since we last saw him, and for Johnson, who brings plus athleticism. With Zimmer in left, Mercado in center and Johnson in right, Cleveland has a case for best outfield range in baseball.
RHP Cristian Javier looked smooth as expected in his scoreless inning against Seattle. Houston’s minor league pitching depth is staggering, and we’re about to see a perfect storm sized wave.
RHP Enoli Paredes hasn’t debuted yet, but he, Javier and Abreu are going to give teams fits this year and should be solid/safe ratio guys for our game. They’re perfect for this 60-game burst as pieces who could open for Josh James or Austin Pruitt or pick up a couple innings if things go awry early. Yusmeiro Petit is gaining steam as a guy who’ll get a lot of decisions working middle innings this year, and the same could be said for these three unless Abreu finds himself closer to the back end.
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