Mookie Betts

Outfielder Mookie Betts joins the Los Angeles Dodgers after departing from the Boston Red Sox. 

Well, we’re finally here. After months of back and forth of financial disputes between the MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association — which threatened to disastrously cancel the season — there will be a 60-game season — the shortest season in MLB history.

With such a short season, many teams are in contention for the playoffs. A hot stretch at any point may throw a team into the thick of the postseason race, while a cold streak can seriously put a damper on playoff aspirations. 

Additionally, MLB has allowed players to opt out of the season because of concerns over the coronavirus. Notable players who have opted out include Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price, outfielder Nick Markakis of the Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond. Key players deciding not to participate may limit a team’s performance and impact its playoff chances.

Despite the odd scenarios that are in play, there are still a handful of teams that have a higher chance of making the playoffs and the World Series than the rest of the league.

In the American League, the New York Yankees made a huge jump forward when they signed starting pitcher Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million contract last December, getting the ace pitcher that they didn’t have last season. The Yankees also have one of the most elite bullpens in baseball, featuring Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton. Finally, the Yankees potentially have one of the most potent offenses in the league, with infielders Gleyber Torres and D.J. LeMahieu and outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. The Yankees are primed to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009.

The Houston Astros have represented the AL in two of the last three World Series, and they could be on track to make it there again. Despite losing Cole to the Yankees, their starting rotation still has two future Hall of Famers in Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. And despite no longer having trash cans to their advantage, the Astros’ offense is one of the best in the league, with infielders Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman and outfielders George Springer and Michael Brantley. The Astros could be the first team to reach three World Series in four seasons since the Yankees of the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

The Minnesota Twins could also be the team coming out of the American League in the World Series. The Twins — who led MLB in home runs last season — have one of the most powerful lineups in baseball, featuring designated hitter Nelson Cruz, infielders Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sano and outfielder Max Kepler. They also have one of the most underrated starting pitching rotations in baseball, with the young and talented José Berríos and veterans Jake Odorizzi and Kenta Maeda. The Twins could make it to the World Series for the first time since 1991.

In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers seem like the team to beat. Their already potent lineup — which features infielders Max Muncy and Justin Turner and 2019 National League MVP outfielder Cody Bellinger — was made even better when they acquired outfielder Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox. Los Angeles also has a starting rotation helmed by aces Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. This combination could push the Dodgers over the hump to the World Series title that they’ve fallen short of for much of the last decade. 

Despite losing infielder Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels, the Washington Nationals still have an elite core. Outfielder Juan Soto is an MVP candidate, and starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg should contend for the Cy Young award. The Nationals were able to boost their bullpen in the offseason — which was their only weak spot last year — by adding relief pitcher Will Harris. Washington has a shot at being the first team to win back-to-back World Series titles since the New York Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000.

The New York Mets could also be one of the best teams in the league, but they have plenty of “ifs.” If relief pitchers Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances or Edwin Diaz have a bounce-back season, the Mets might go from having one of the worst bullpens in 2019 to one of the best. If infielder Pete Alonso doesn’t have a cliché sophomore slump, he should anchor a potentially all-star lineup. One of the few constants the Mets can rely on is two-time reigning Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom. If all this clicks into place, the Mets have a chance at going far into the playoffs and winning their first World Series since 1986. 

Contact Joshua Gingrich at gingrihj@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.