Anyone else remember when it seemed like the Marlins’ entire roster got the Big Rona at the beginning of the season? That really threw a wrench in the MLB’s already-way-too-short season, as teams like the Marlins, Orioles, Phillies, Yankees, Mets, and Cardinals had their schedules upended by game cancellations/postponements. It seemed like there was absolutely no shot the MLB season would finish on time. Practically the entire country agreed that leagues without a “bubble” would be doomed.
Yet somehow, here we are on September 21st, the last week of the MLB regular season, with teams jostling for playoff positioning. The Big Rona has taken a backseat to actual on-field performance, which has yielded plenty of surprises (both pleasant and unpleasant) in this weird, short-ass season. I mean, who thought the Marlins would have a better record than the Astros (this makes me so happy, by the way)? What about the defending champ Nationals coming in hot with a 17-28 record? How about the Angels splurging in free agency just to shit the bed for like the 15th year in a row?
As we head down the stretch, I’m here to provide a one-stop-shop for all of your playoff baseball needs. Below are my top 10 contenders to win the 2020 World Series, along with their odds* to win the pennant AND the World Series.. Without further ado, the team that I refuse to place any futures on…
*All lines are courtesy of Caesar's Sportsbook
1. LOS ANGELES DODGERS (38-16, EVEN to win NL pennant, +250 to win World Series)
When I published AFTR PRTY’s MLB Power Rankings back in July, I said, “good luck to every pitcher that has to navigate their way around that lineup.” Probably the smartest thing I’ve ever written, as the Dodgers are averaging 5.63 runs per game (3rd in MLB). New addition Mookie Betts is casually tied for the league lead in homers (15), while the rest of the studs in the lineup (Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, etc.) are doing stud-like things. The pitching staff has been phenomenal. Shit, they’re 38-16 after all.
But man, I just am not 100% sold on this team. I’ll fully admit that it’s probably due to recency bias, but I still have questions about their ability to compete in October. Bringing in Mookie, a guy with championship pedigree, was a great move but I’m not convinced he brings them over the hump. Again, the Dodgers are a certified juggernaut, but I’m not taking their ABSURD odds to win the pennant or the World Series.
2. TAMPA BAY RAYS (35-19, +425 to win AL pennant, +900 to win World Series)
You know, I took a lot of shit for placing the Rays at #3 on my preseason MLB Power Rankings. That prediction was the second smartest thing I’ve ever written, as the Rays have looked rock-solid this season. Every franchise should model themselves after the Rays. They have a great rotation. They have a RIDICULOUS bullpen. They play the field and run the bases well. They have a lineup of guys who are known for getting on base and situational hitting, but all can hit a ball 450 feet and change the game with one swing of the bat.
Come October, my money is on the Rays to make some SERIOUS noise this postseason. Pitching and defense win playoff ballgames. The Rays excel in both areas. You tell me who can match up against Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, and Tyler Glasnow with an impenetrable bullpen? I’ll wait…
3. SAN DIEGO PADRES (34-20, +450 to win NL pennant, +900 to win World Series)
Man, I will never get over just how shitty the MLB is at promoting its players. Fernando Tatis Jr. should be one of the biggest stars in the entire world, yet most people know him as the dude who hit an absolute nuke on a 3-0 count in a blowout. Let’s not forget that he’s tied with Mookie for most homers in the league (15), is a fucking WIZARD in the field, and plays with a combination of style and substance that we just haven’t seen before. He reminds me a lot of Javy Báez, except Nando knows how to avoid swinging at shitty pitches.
The craziest part? I think Tatis’ influence in the clubhouse outweighs his on-field magic. He gives the Padres an attitude, a swagger, a sense that they’re officially in win-now mode. Manny Machado is having an exceptional season. Eric Hosmer decided to not suck balls for once. Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet, and deadline-acquisition Mike Clevinger present a VERY formidable playoff rotation. Can they pose a legit threat to the Dodgers? I think they can (and those lines are juicy😲)!
4. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (34-19, +400 to win AL pennant, +800 to win World Series)
Man, the White Sox are such a fun-ass team. Before the season, I said we’ll have a better idea of their ceiling in 2022. Let’s just say Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, and co. have made that prediction look pretty stupid. Now, their rotation is solid-but-unspectacular aside from ace Lucas Giolito. But this team has a solid bullpen and a SHIT TON of young studs to pair alongside Anderson and José Abreu. I’d say that the overwhelming crowd noise might be too much for them in the playoffs, but uhhhh….
5. OAKLAND ATHLETICS (33-20, +310 to win AL pennant, +750 to win World Series)
Let’s get one thing out of the way: if Matt Chapman and A.J. Puk don’t come down with season-ending injuries, this team is higher on my list. Like the Rays, they have great pitching, play great defense, and grind out at-bats. The scary part is that guys like Marcus Semien, Matt Olson, Mark Canha, and Ramón Laureano haven’t even been great offensively. Losing Chapman and Puk might ruin their chance at a deep playoff run, but if that lineup starts hitting, watch out.
6. ATLANTA BRAVES (31-22, +900 to win NL pennant, +1800 to win World Series
Imagine if the Braves had, like, any healthy starting pitchers? With the way this lineup has been hitting recently, this team would look borderline unstoppable. Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr., Adam Duvall, and co. have been absolutely RAKING, punctuated by a 29-9 (holy shit!!!!!!) win over the Marlins. This team will be a force to be reckoned with if that rotation can stay healthy in the future. For now, I’m out on this team as a legitimate contender. Sorry Braves fans, 36-year-old Cole Hamels ain’t gonna cut it.
7. NEW YORK YANKEES (31-22, +250 to win AL pennant, +500 to win World Series)
Look, I’m a huge Yankee fan, so this ranking could be blind optimism. But think about it – this team has underperformed all season and been ravaged by injuries (again). They got swept by the Orioles. Gerrit Cole has been shaky. The bullpen, usually a powerhouse, has blown some games. This team has glaring holes, make no mistake about it.
But think about it the other way. DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Hicks have all missed time. Torres sucked for pretty much the entire season until last week. With Judge, Stanton, and Urshela ready to return alongside a hot LeMahieu and Torres, this lineup is suddenly scary again. Cole is bound to have some positive regression and Masahiro Tanaka is a big-time playoff performer. They’ve underwhelmed so far, but this is the same team that was a José Altuve stolen sign away from the World Series last season. Count them out at your own risk.
8. MINNESOTA TWINS (33-22, +425 to win AL pennant, +1000 to win World Series)
Don’t get me wrong, I like the Twins and think they have a BOATLOAD of talent. I’m just not sold that they’re designed to make a deep playoff run. Hitting a zillion homers is cool and all, but they’re susceptible to hitting cold streaks (remember when the Yankees swept them last year?). They needed major pitching improvements… and they got Kenta Maeda and 40-year-old Rich Hill. Both improvements, but I wouldn’t say “major.” This is a fun team, but I don’t see them as a legitimate contender. At least Nelson Cruz, also 40, continues to be the absolute man and is leading the MLB with 16 homers.