6. Chicago White Sox
The Sox were busy over the offseason, among other things adding two beloved Brewers contributors from the 2019 season in Grandal and Gonzalez. Grandal and Encarnacion in particular will look to improve a Chicago offense that finished 24th in OPS and runs scored and 25th in homers in 2019.
The White Sox have a great mix of top free agent signings to go with former top prospects like Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, and Eloy Jimenez who may be ready to take another big step forward. Add them to talented mainstays such as Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson and the Southsiders could break out in a big way in 2020. I’ll need to see it first to believe it, though.
5. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds made a bunch of moves last year in an attempt to put themselves in better position to contend in the NL Central, but all it got them was a sub-.500 record and a fourth-place finish in the division. So of course, they doubled down and went with the same strategy for 2020.
While their pitching greatly improved from 2018 to 2019 (24th in MLB to 8th), offense was the issue as they scored were just 25th in the majors in runs scored last year. Moustakas and Castellanos should help in that sense. But last year’s moves didn’t vault them into contention right away like may expected, so like the White Sox, I’ll need to see results before I see them in the upper tier of teams in the division.
4. Cleveland Indians
The Indians were in the fight for the final Wild Card spot until the final week of the season in 2019 and will be expected to fight with the Twins for the AL Central crown once again this year. Stud pitchers Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger return to lead a pitching staff that finished 4th in ERA in the majors last year. Thus, unsurprisingly, the major additions were on offense to try and help sluggers Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor keep pace with the potent Twins attack.
An interesting story line to watch will be what happens with oft-mentioned trade target Lindor. This year’s trade deadline is on August 31st, meaning teams will have to determine early whether they still have a shot at the 2020 playoffs. If Cleveland somehow stumbles out of the gate, unlikely but possible, they could cut bait with Lindor and write off 2020 altogether.