MLB stock watch: Does your team's shot at a World Series improve in 60-game format?

Yahoo Sports Staff
·11 min read

When the Major League Baseball season begins in late July, it will be a season unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. That’s not hyperbole.

It will be 60 games, with regionalized schedules, the DH in both leagues. It will be a sprint to the postseason, not exactly the summer grind that we’re used to. One bad month wouldn’t have sunk a team in 2019 — just ask the World Series champs — but in 2020, it’s almost sure to. A three-month delay also allowed some teams (we’re looking at you, Yankees) to field a more complete roster than a March start would have.

So, if the season can be played, who benefits the most from a MLB’s 60-game slate? Which teams are better suited for these parameters? Which will suffer from it? Our group of pundits categorized all 30 teams to tell you whose stock is up, whose is down and who will be about the same.

Gerrit Cole and the Yankees might have gotten even better with a few months off. (Photo by /Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Gerrit Cole and the Yankees might have gotten even better with a few months off. (Photo by /Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Stock Up

New York Yankees: From an injury standpoint, no team benefited from the layoff more than the Yankees. James Paxton (back surgery) and Aaron Judge (ribs) would not have been available for the first half. Now the Yankees could have both, along with a healthier Giancarlo Stanton, available. Paxton will be nearly six months removed from surgery on opening day, which should put him near full strength. Judge’s recovery has taken longer than expected, but he’s finally making progress. The Yankees will still be without ace Luis Severino, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. But the roster for the co-World Series favorites will be in much better shape overall.

Tampa Bay Rays: Roster depth will be among the biggest factors in this short but fast-paced season. As such, the Rays should be well-positioned to take advantage. Most notably, the Rays have a wealth of pitching depth. The rotation is led by Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow, and we could see two-way star Brendan McKay get more of a chance to shine. The bullpen has several workhorses, including lights out closer Nick Anderson. And the expectation is no one will be limited. Tampa Bay will not be a fun opponent.

Houston Astros: The Astros will still be public enemy No. 1 in baseball this season, but the backlash won't be truly felt until there are fans in the stands. That's one plus. Another is that Justin Verlander will be back after undergoing groin surgery on March 17. To complete the trifecta, the extended break should aid a team that has made deep postseason runs in three straight seasons.

Washington Nationals: No, Anthony Rendon isn’t coming back. Replacing his production will be Washington's greatest challenge. However, the extended break will help a starting rotation that racked up stressful innings down the stretch and into October. Simply stated, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg will be fresh and determined to repeat.

Milwaukee Brewers: The universal DH will be another big factor in 2020, and it will certainly make life easier for Brewers manager Craig Counsell. He now has an everyday spot for Ryan Braun. And it’s also an option on days he wants to limit Christian Yelich’s workload. Remember, the 2018 NL MVP is coming off a fractured kneecap. The extra rest will help him manage 60 games in 66 days.

Chicago White Sox & Cincinnati Reds: Here are two Central division sleepers that may have a clearer path to October thanks to a region-based schedule. They will only play other Central division teams, and aside from the Minnesota Twins there aren’t any clearly better opponents on the schedule. If one or both get off to a fast start, they could be in the driver’s seat in the shortened season.

Los Angeles Angels: Baseball’s best two-way player is back to full strength. Shohei Ohtani is set to rejoin the Angels rotation on opening day. Better yet, he will not have any restrictions. Ohtani will also continue as the Angels designated hitter between starts. While he may be slow to regain his old pitching form, Ohtani’s return is an undeniable boost for the pitching-starved Angels.

Oakland Athletics: In a full 162-game season, the Athletics were going to have to get creative with their young pitchers. That’s no longer the case in a shortened year. Both Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk will be available for the A’s for the entire season, and that should present plenty of reason for worry for A’s opponents. Both players ranked among Baseball Prospectus’ top 20 prospects this winter. The team should also get Frankie Montas — who dealt with a PED suspension — for the full season. One of their biggest questions in a full season is now a major strength.

Chicago Cubs: The lengthy debate over whether Kyle Schwarber needs to be traded is finally over. With the addition of the designated hitter in the NL, Schwarber can focus on mashing home runs every single game. The Cubs no longer have to worry about managing playing time between Albert Almora, Ian Happ and Schwarber. All three can play at the same time, and the Cubs will be better for it.

San Diego Padres: Any concerns about Chris Paddack or MacKenzie Gore having their innings limited are gone. Paddack was handled with kid gloves in 2019 after returning from Tommy John surgery. He may not have thrown 200 innings over a full season, but that’s no longer a concern. Gore will be in the same spot provided the Padres put him on their active roster. A precocious 6-foot-3 lefty, Gore is the No. 5 prospect in baseball. They should use him immediately if they want to win in 2020.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Only the White Sox had a bigger playoff bump, in FanGraphs’ estimation, under the new 60-game format. Yes, the D-backs won’t have Mike Leake after he opted out of the season, but they still have a surprising amount of depth in the rotation and the lineup. Remember, they brought in Madison Bumgarner, Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun. If this is the year Robbie Ray puts it all together, they could challenge the Dodgers.

Kansas City Royals: The rebuilding Royals may not be ready to contend in 2020, but they’ve raised their future stock by simply taking care of their own. When new owner John Sherman agreed to continue paying minor-league players and team employees for the entire season, the Royals quickly became an appealing destination for top prospects who went undrafted. The team’s acts of good faith laid a foundation for better days ahead.

Atlanta Braves: The defending NL East champs are banking on free-agent veterans Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez helping their rotation. Limiting these battle-tested former aces to 60 games helps. Plus being able to have Nick Markakis or Marcell Ozuna as a DH is definitely better than any of their pitchers hitting.

Stock Down

New York Mets: The Mets’ bad luck with injuries continues in 2020. New York will play the entire season without star pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who underwent Tommy John surgery in late March. The 27-year-old right-hander struggled by his standards last season, posting a 4.28 ERA. But the team was counting on a bounce-back. Now they’ll hope for a successful return in 2021.

Boston Red Sox: The Mets weren't the only team to lose a pitcher during the shutdown. Red Sox ace Chris Sale was also lost for the season when he elected to undergo Tommy John surgery. The 31-year-old left-hander had been in and out of Boston's rotation last season as he dealt with injuries, so there was already concern about his status coming into 2020. Now Red Sox fans will have to adjust to life without Sale and Mookie Betts, who was traded to the Dodgers over the winter.

Mookie Betts and the Dodgers are still the favorites in the NL, but did the delay hurt their chances? (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Mookie Betts and the Dodgers are still the favorites in the NL, but did the delay hurt their chances? (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Dodgers: Look, the Dodgers remain prohibitive NL favorites, but their stock is down simply because “prohibitive favorite” means less in a relatively chaotic 60-game season. By ZiPS projections at FanGraphs, the Dodgers were near-locks for the postseason in a 162-game season, but only have a 73 percent likelihood of making it now. With Mookie Betts in tow they have an incredible roster, and it is a win to even get to see it on the field, but they don’t need to ask around about the dangers of a short sample distorting a team’s talent level. The 2018 Dodgers, who eventually played in the World Series, stood at 30-30 after 60 games.

Baltimore Orioles: On one hand, it’s a guarantee the Orioles won’t lose 100 games for a third straight season. On the other hand, it’s possible they won’t win 15 games playing exclusively against the loaded AL and NL East. The schedule will not be kind to the birds, but at least it will be over quickly.

Philadelphia Phillies: On the surface, the Phillies will be immediately helped by the DH (so will everybody else), but their pitching depth will be stretched, because Zack Wheeler isn’t enough to help all that ailed them last year. Having to play more AL East teams will only multiply those problems.

Cleveland Indians: The new schedule will be pitting the Indians against NL Central teams instead of the Giants, Rockies and D-backs. The same NL Central that’s one of the toughest divisions in the league.

Pittsburgh Pirates & Detroit Tigers: It’s a sprint to the postseason, which means teams have to approach every game with more urgency. That’s bad news for rebuilding teams like the Pirates and Tigers, who will be outmanned in nearly every scenario except when they play each other. We might just call them to Central division punching bags.

Toronto Blue Jays: They weren’t going to contend this year, but they’re loaded with interesting young talent. The Blue Jays will be losing development time for Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, plus it looks like they’ll be doing a stadium shuffle if they can’t play in Toronto. Not the ideal scenario.

Colorado Rockies: You know the story with the Rockies by now. Pitching, pitching, pitching. Will they have enough of it to compete? In this particular format, the Rockies will be strapped to keep up with the Dodgers while also having to deal with the upstart Padres, as well as the Astros and A’s. These cards don’t seem to be dealt in their favor.

About the Same

Minnesota Twins - The Twins played some dominant baseball in 2019, but the team had one major flaw. Minnesota didn’t fare well against opponents over .500, going 32-37 last season. They should be in for more of the same in 2020. The Twins not only get to beat up on the Royals and Tigers, but the team will also see the Pirates this season. If the White Sox don’t emerge as contenders and the Brewers and Cardinals take a step back, the Twins could once again coast to an AL Central win.

Josh Donaldson and the Twins still factor heavily into the AL playoff picture. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Josh Donaldson and the Twins still factor heavily into the AL playoff picture. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

St. Louis Cardinals: As a team prone to Cardinals Devil Magic, you might believe the mystical likelihood of the Cardinals being able to pull a 2011 out of their cap in a 60-game season. Fact is, the Cardinals were going to be contenders before. They’ll be contenders now. Playing well in their division was going to be important. It still is.

Seattle Mariners and Miami Marlins: These teams were always going to struggle in 2020. The Mariners are facing a deep rebuild. It wouldn’t have mattered if the team was put in the worst division in baseball. They are still a long way from contending. The Marlins at least have some promising pieces, but the team is still a year or two away. A shortened season could give prospects on both teams a low-pressure chance to experience the majors, but that’s exactly what the team would have done in a full season anyway.

San Francisco Giants: The Giants aren’t too different from the Mariners and Marlins. They do have some high-upside veterans that could help their fortunes a bit (remember Johnny Cueto, what if he’s still good?), but odds are they’re also going to be a punching bag — they’ll be punched more by the Astros than they previously would have been.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers rank among the teams will the highest playoff bump in the 60-game format, according to FanGraphs, but they were already a team that needed something special to contend for a wild-card spot. Schedule shifts aren’t enough to radically change their fortunes.

Yahoo Sports’ Chris Cwik, Mark Townsend, Mike Oz and Zach Crizer continued to this post.

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