I’ve been really struggling on a monthly basis to write these articles. It isn’t because my love of baseball, or sports is gone. It’s simply from waiting with anticipation for an entire month to get a confirmed framework for a season to provide true actionable information to you the reader, and then as the article deadline slowly approaches… once again… nothing. So I bite my lip and carry on into the great speculative arena of a potential MLB season as we are all doing. Ironically, the approach the MLB and the players association are taking to negotiating a 2020 season seems to be the root cause of this push the article, get nothing, write speculative article cycle. The two sides are going to take this negotiation down to the last minute and play deal or no deal. I don’t blame either side. It’s business, from both the owners and players perspectives, and there are A LOT of moving parts here. However, I do believe we are coming down to the wire and the MLB can ill afford to miss the natural bump they would receive in even a partial season in viewership. As this deadline is trickling down it seems that the framework for the season is becoming even more narrow. At this point, we haven’t heard any other speculation since the 3 division 10 team proposal approximately a month ago. In my mind, this must be the working plan for the 2020 MLB season going forward. In analyzing these divisions, considering the addition of the designated hitter for the NL teams I see some clear winners and losers:
Clayton Kershaw – As a whole, the delayed season is certainly a plus to veteran pitchers, guys with large career innings numbers, and who have frequently pitched deep into the postseason year after year. That said, Kershaw picks up an additional bonus. In an abbreviated season it is highly unlikely the Dodgers will be able to pull their IL tricks at any point. People thought the increase from 10 day IL to a 15 day could curb some of it, but the lack of ability for teams to gain standings separation makes it almost impossible for the Dodgers to come up with phantom injuries if there is a 2020 season. The Astros are likely to push them in their own division and the top 2 seeds in a 14-team playoff are going to have a competitive advantage. Kershaw will also lose a few trips to Coors and adds a couple pitcher friendly ballparks to the schedule in the new Texas stadium and Seattle.
Patrick Corbin – Corbin’s left arm is coming off back to back 200 IP seasons and a World Series run that surely is aided by an extended break. Of even greater importance is the fact that this division has several bottom dwellers, a handful of atrocious offenses, and a group of NL teams that will not be gaining a large competitive advantage with the addition of the DH. The Marlins and Pirates might as well just hit their pitchers. I’ve previously noted that I already liked Corbin quite a bit coming into 2020 and had him over consensus in my top 100 starting pitcher rankings released way before we ever heard the name Tony Fauci. That doesn’t stop now and with a compressed schedule and what will be a tight playoff race (no matter how they cut up the automatic qualifiers versus wild card slots) I expect the Nationals to ride their starters instead of turning the ball over to an atrocious bullpen.
Jose Berrios – I saw Berrios as a useful and genuinely underrated fantasy commodity coming into 2020. In my opinion, he will never be a true elite ace because he lacks the swing and miss stuff. However, he had a recipe for an extremely high wins floor and accumulating strikeout totals paired with durability not common in today’s game. Though, his true underlying driver for why he was underrated going into 2020 was that he was going to pitch in the worst offensive division in baseball when excluding his own team. That has changed significantly under the newly proposed divisions. Berrios has lost at least 10 games apiece against the lowly Royals and Tigers and has added what I believe is 5 average to above average offensive teams to his division. Additionally, don’t overlook the fact that Berrios is losing pitching two months of games in the Minneapolis cold. In the past 3 seasons when at home in March through May, Berrios has pitched to a 3.09 ERA and a 9+ K/9.
Alex Wood – Wood is sneaking into the NFBC top 100 overall pitchers over the last few months. This makes him a rostered pitcher in almost every format, but in a compressed season I don’t see much leash for this guy with all of the talent the Dodgers will have waiting to jump at the opportunity. This is certainly dependent on how the roster rules play out in any 2020 season, but as long as the teams are allowed to carry some extra minor leaguers and the service time rules don’t skew in the players favor I don’t expect the Dodgers to hold Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin on a back field throwing simulated games for much of the year. This rule can really be applied in a ton of situations as I cannot imagine many teams will be playing around with talented minor league players without any actual minor league games. Teams are going to be forced to make decisions and make them quick in regards to who they are going to “bring up” to play, specifically with pitchers. There are only so many bullets in most of these players arms and wasting them at a spring training facility in August seems less beneficial than telling them to take a year off. That will all become more clear in the next few weeks… if this gets worked out of course.