Despite a surging global pandemic and a ton of uncertainty regarding an MLB season in 2020, Wednesday served as a more familiar occasion as we get ready for the start of Spring Training 2.0 — MLB.com’s first set of 2020 power rankings were released (well the site’s first since before the season was suspended back in March).
Check out this top-15, which by the way features four of the NL East’s five teams — the most of any division in MLB:
2020 Power Rankings (via MLB.com)
- LA Dodgers
- NY Yankees
- NY Mets
That’s right… the Bravos head into the 2020 season a top-five team in the majors, a deserving spot considering it’s a team with two-straight division titles and a young core that’s perhaps unmatched by any other club. As if there was any doubt at this point, the Braves are slap dab in the middle of what should be a long-lasting run of contention. And with an unorthodox season thrown in the mix this year… anything can happen.
However, MLB.com’s list this week didn’t serve solely as an illustration of the Braves’ potential this season. There’s another takeaway from these rankings, and it has to do with roughly 33% of the Braves’ 2020 schedule.
This season all MLB teams will play 20 of its 60 regular season games versus divisional opponents in opposing leagues, meaning the NL East will face off with the AL East, the NL West with the AL West… and so on. For the Braves, and each of the other four NL East clubs, that means a four-game series versus the NY Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles.
There’s a case that could be made that perhaps the AL East isn’t what it used to be, though I believe that narrative has been created simply because the Red Sox have taken a bit of a hit recently (and Boston’s still expected to compete for a Wild Card). In reality, the AL East is a lot like the NL East, in that the division really only has one for-sure tanker (Orioles). Sure, the Blue Jays are most likely still a year away from contention, but they were featured at the top of ESPN’s Surprise Contenders piece on Thursday (written by Craig Edwards)… if that means anything. And I don’t know about you, but the duo of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. / Bo Bichette could very well end up as the Braves’ version of Ronald Acuna / Ozzie Albies (obviously in an entirely different way). The Rays look like a winner this year as well, and I don’t have to tell you how loaded the NY Yankees are right now, considering they signed Gerrit Cole and are welcoming a few big bats like Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks.
Regardless, since the Braves rose from the depths of its rebuild, beginning with the 2018 season, they haven’t fared too well versus the AL East overall, winning just 11 of its 24 matchups, though still managing a +5 run-differential:
Braves vs. AL East (2018-19)
(RS / RA)
- Blue Jays: 3-1 (23 / 12)
- Orioles: 1-2 (19 / 20)
- Red Sox: 1-5 (26 / 37)
- NY Yankees: 1-2 (12 / 17)
- Rays: 3-1 (20 / 15)
- Blue Jays: 2-2 (26 / 20)
- 11-13 (126 / 121)
Past results obviously don’t carry much weight, given that players have come and gone over the last two seasons, but hopefully the Braves make the most of its 20 interleague games in 2020. Unlike in previous seasons, how the Braves manage its interleague slate this year could very well determine its fate once the season’s over.
Check back soon, as in the coming weeks we’ll go further in-depth and preview the AL East.