MLB 2020 player projections: Each team’s most interesting forecast heading into the new season

Player: Madison Bumgarner, SP SportsLine projection for 2020: 170 IP, 3.80 ERA, 165 SO, 48 BB MadBum’s first season in the desert on a five-year, $85 million deal is expected to go reasonably well. Age 30 and heavily used early in his career, Bumgarner is projected to make 30 starts but average less than six innings per. The 3.80 ERA, although it would be the second-highest figure of his career, would be an improvement over last year’s 3.90. Those 165 strikeouts would be the lowest full-season total of his career. Given the mileage on Bumgarner and the velocity loss, this isn’t a bad projection for 2020. It does, however, raise some concerns about how the back end of this deal will go for the D-Backs. Player: Ronald Acuna Jr., OF SportsLine projection for 2020: 591 AB, .276/.353/.491, 32 HR, 25 2B, 63 BB, 38 SB Acuna’s expected to lose a little off the top of his 2019 campaign, in which he fifth in the NL MVP balloting. He’s once again tabbed to have a 30-30 season, and that’s a darn fine slash line considering the value he adds in the field and on the bases. Some might expect a steady upward trajectory for Acuna, but that’s not always how it goes for great young players. In any context, what you see above is an excellent season for a 22-year-old. Player: Trey Mancini, OF SportsLine projection for 2020: 592 AB, .301/.371/.542, 33 HR, 40 2B, 61 BB The Orioles aren’t trying to field a competitive team, so there’s not much to choose from when it comes to noteworthy projections. So we’ll go with Mancini. He took the next step in 2019, and he’s expected to be even better in 2020. The O’s may look to trade Mancini at some point during his age-28 campaign, and if he puts up these kinds of numbers then they should be able to find a taker before the July 31 trade deadline. Player: Chris Sale, SP SportsLine projection for 2020: 147 IP, 3.55 ERA, 188 SO, 39 BB Shoulder and elbow problems have prevented Sale from logging a qualifying number of innings in each of the last two seasons. That explains the rather modest 147 innings for which he’s forecast this season. On the upside, Sale in his age-31 season is expected to shave almost a full run off his 2019 ERA. On a rate basis, he’ll be quite a useful starting pitcher for Boston if he hits these numbers. Health, though, is the unknown. Player: Kris Bryant, 3B/OF SportsLine projection for 2020: 580 AB, .288/.374/.522, 31 HR, 39 2B, 69 BB Bryant has been the subject of persistent trade rumors this offseason. For now, he’s still a Cub, and not surprisingly he profiles once again as a highly productive hitter going into his age-28 season. Those 39 doubles would be a career-high, and this level of playing time scales to about 150 games or so. In other words, no matter who employs Bryant for 2020, they’ll be pleased with his outputs. Player: Luis Robert, CF SportsLine projection for 2020: 130 G, .279/.344/.498, 23 HR, 26 2B, 41 BB, 7 SB The White Sox inked Robert to a six-year contract extension before he’d even played his first major league game. Such confidence is justified, as Robert is indeed one of the very best prospects in all of baseball. Seen above is a darn fine rookie effort projected for the 22-year-old center fielder. The Sox are hoping to contend in 2020, and getting that kind of production from Robert would greatly aid the cause. As well, it would put Robert on track for future stardom. Player: Nick Castellanos, OF SportsLine projection for 2020: 146 G, .305/.362/.562, 30 HR, 47 2B, 46 BB The Reds’ marquee addition of the winter has long been a consistent producer, and he reached new heights across a 51-game stint with the Cubs. Part of that surge may be a consequence of getting out of Comerica Park, which to some extent worked against Castellanos. That should carry over into his new digs in Cincy. The Reds, of course, would be pleased to get those kinds of numbers from Nicky Two Bags this season. Player: Jose Ramirez, 3B SportsLine projection for 2020: 152 G, .277/.367/.545, 32 HR, 37 2B, 75 BB Ramirez endured a fairly brutal first three months of the 2019 season before finding his customary level in the second half. SportsLine sees a major rebound in 2020, although not quite to his MVP-caliber levels of 2017 and 2018. Given Ramirez’s surge after the break, that makes a lot of sense. Player: Nolan Arenado, 3B SportsLine projection for 2020: 157 G, .302/.364/.560, 40 HR, 31 2B, 58 BB Arenado trade rumors and his fraying relationship with the Rockies’ front office have been steady subplots this winter. Meantime, Arenado is expected to go on being Arenado in 2020. That means his market should mostly hold course should team and player decide it’s time for a trade at any point in 2020. Player: Matthew Boyd, SP SportsLine projection for 2020: 174 2/3 IP, 4.69 ERA, 192 SO, 51 BB Will the Tigers finally trade Boyd? At the break last season, he boasted a 3.87 ERA and a sparkling K/BB ratio of 7.10. In the second half, those numbers declined to 5.51 and 3.20, respectively. For 2020, SportsLine expects Boyd, now 29, to perform basically in line with career norms. That means the Tigers have probably missed their opening to get maximum value in return for Boyd. Player: Zack Greinke, SP SportsLine projection for 2020: 192 IP, 3.18 ERA, 215 SO, 44 BB With Gerrit Cole in the Bronx (see below!), there’s a lot of pressure on the veteran Greinke to give Houston quality innings behind Justin Verlander. Greinke has a long history of doing just that, but he’s now 36 and barely cracks 90 with his fastball. No worries, say the SportsLine numbers above. That’s not Peak Cole dominance, but it doesn’t constitute much of a drop-off. As it turns out, Verlander is projected for an ERA of 3.26 in 2020. Player: Jorge Soler, DH SportsLine projection for 2020: 531 AB, .271/.355/.614, 50 HR, 30 2B, 63 BB The Royals will be bad this season, but to hear SportsLine tell is they’ll also have MLB’s only 50-homer guy in 2020. Soler led the AL with 48 last season, so this isn’t exactly a reach. Will the Royals trade him about late July? They tend not to do such things under GM Dayton Moore, but plenty of contenders would love to have Soler’s thump in the lineup. Player: Anthony Rendon, 3B SportsLine projection for 2020: 546 AB, .311/.391/.581, 33 HR, 42 2B, 70 BB Needless to say, this is a promising forecast for Rendon in the first year of a seven-year, $245 million pact with the Halos. While superficially it’s a bit shy of the numbers he put up in his final season with the Nationals, it’s actually very similar production once you consider that Angel Stadium is a much more pitcher-friendly environment than Nationals Park is. (Yep, SportsLine takes into account home ballparks in its player projections.) This is exactly the kind of production the Angels are hoping for at the front end of Rendon’s contract, and it’s in keeping with his recent history. Player: Mookie Betts, OF SportsLine projection for 2020: 566 AB, .293/.399/.558, 34 HR, 36 2B, 95 BB, 20 SB Shocking choice, no? The Dodgers moved boldly to improve an already powerhouse roster by trading for the best player in baseball not named Mike Trout. As he always does, Betts will provide power and patience at the plate in tandem with elite defense and baserunning. If he finds his way to those numbers above, then his 2020 season at the plate will be second only to his MVP campaign of 2018. Player: Jorge Alfaro, C SportsLine projection for 2020: 393 AB, .265/.320/.463, 20 HR, 14 2B, 26 BB So Alfaro could be set to take the next step in his power development. This would be a career high in home runs for the 27-year-old backstop and an increase in slugging percentage relative to his 2019 season and career levels. Future All-Star reserve? It’s possible. Player: Keston Hiura, 2B SportsLine projection for 2020: 151 G, .289/.342/.505, 27 HR, 35 2B, 38 BB, 13 SB Hiura is a ninth overall pick who was the Brewers’ top prospect before cracking the majors last season. In 84 games with Milwaukee, he put up big numbers: .303/.368/.570 with 19 home runs and nine stolen bases. Understandably, SportsLine expects Hiura to come down a bit from those heights while still being a frontline performer. Those are strong numbers for a 23-year-old middle infielder. Player: Josh Donaldson, 3B SportsLine projection for 2020: 541 AB, .270/.372/.549, 38 HR, 37 2B, 82 BB Get happy about this one, Twins fans. Donaldson is coming off a strong 2019 rebound with the Braves, but going into his age-34 season decline is a distinct possibility. SportsLine, though, expects nothing of the sort. Donaldson is again expected to be durable and productive, and those 38 forecasted homers would be his highest tally since his MVP season of 2015. What you see above is close to an ideal scenario for Donaldson and Minnesota. Player: Pete Alonso, 1B SportsLine projection for 2020: 550 AB, .266/.353/.560, 43 HR, 29 2B, 62 BB A sophomore slump for Petaters? Not really. The home run total drops by 10, and he loses a bit of OPS. Overall, though, that’s elite level production and just what they need from their best hitter in 2020. Given the power heights that Alonso reached in his rookie season of 2019, a step back was always likely. SportsLine, though, thinks that step back will be a very small one. Player: Gerrit Cole, SP SportsLine projection for 2020: 201 IP, 3.39 ERA, 243 SO, 71 BB Will the Yankees be disappointed if this is Cole’s debut season in pinstripes? Not particularly. Fans might expect more from their $324 million man, but that’s a strong season in context. Overall, though, this is a fairly bearish projection given Cole’s dominance over the last two seasons. He’s expected to top 200 innings for the fifth time in the last six seasons, but he’s also expected to post his highest ERA and lowest strikeout total since 2017. Given that Cole made huge strides after increasing his spin rate on Houston’s watch and given that he should be able to take those gains with him to the Bronx, this scribe will take the over on those numbers. Player: Khris Davis, DH SportsLine projection for 2020: 558 AB, .235/.303/.459, 35 HR, 18 2B, 50 BB In 2019, Davis had a shot to bat .247 for a fifth straight season. He was rude enough not to do that, and he also missed time with hip and oblique injuries that may have sapped his production. SportsLine anticipates a power renaissance, while still being short of his 2017-18 peak (particularly in terms of OBP). The A’s will take it, if not altogether happily. Player: Bryce Harper, OF SportsLine projection for 2020: 524 AB, .254/.373/.508, 33 HR, 32 2B, 97 BB While Harper’s first season in Philly was hardly a disappointment, they’d love to see him get closer to his MVP ceiling. SportsLine doesn’t see that happening in 2020, as the rate-based outputs you see above are almost identical to what he authored in 2019. That in tandem with his improved defensive performance makes Harper a very productive player but not an MVP. Player: Gregory Polanco, OF SportsLine projection for 2020: 545 AB, .240/.318/.466, 27 HR, 32 2B, 61 BB, 12 SB Is this the least interesting team in baseball right now? The question can plausibly be asked even if you answer no. So for lack of anything else to talk about let’s talk about Polanco. In 2019, shoulder problems took away about 75 percent of Polanco’s season, and he wasn’t productive when healthy. Still, he’s on the right side of age 30, and he’s not far removed from a strong 2018 (128 OPS+ in 130 games). Our system anticipates better health and a bounce-back at the plate. Maybe if some of that production is front-loaded, then GM Ben Cherington can flip him at the deadline. Get excited, burghers of Pitts! Player: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS SportsLine projection for 2020: 569 AB, .300/.356/.539, 28 HR, 26 2B, 13 3B, 45 BB, 24 SB Tatis as a 20-year-old last season established himself as one of the most electric players in the game, and when healthy he was one of the MLB’s best. The catch, though, is that hamstring and lower back problems limited him to just 84 games and 334 at-bats. The good news here is that SportsLine sees Tatis as a durable presence in 2020. He needs to prove capable of just that, since lower back problems in a player so young raise major concerns. If he’s healthy and produces in line with the above projection, then Tatis will pick up some down-ballot NL MVP support. Player: Buster Posey, C SportsLine projection for 2020: 553 AB, .249/.313/.372, 13 HR, 29 2B, 47 BB Posey soon turns 33, and while that’s not especially old he’s a catcher with more than 8,000 defensive innings on his odometer. At the plate, he’s been a state of decline since the end of the 2017 season, and he reached new depths last year. SportsLine, in related matters, isn’t optimistic about a rebound. At the OPS level, this is almost exactly what he did in 2019, so at least there’s a plateau. Posey’s days as a deserving All-Star, however, may be over. Player: Kyle Lewis, OF SportsLine projection for 2020: 488 AB, .266/.330/.510, 28 HR, 29 2B, 45 BB Lewis is a former 11th overall pick who’s going into his age-24 season. He didn’t show a great deal of pop coming up through the system, but last season in Seattle he had 11 extra-base hits in 18 games. The sample size was tiny, but he graded out quite well in batted-ball metrics. Those can be telling even across a small sample. SportsLine is buying in, and that would be great news for the Mariners, who already have high-ceiling outfield prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez on the way. Player: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B SportsLine projection for 2020: 594 AB, .261/.334/.468, 31 HR, 28 2B, 64 BB Well, this isn’t particularly encouraging for Goldbird and the Cardinals. St. Louis traded for Goldschmidt and then inked him to a nine-figure extension before he’d even played a game that counted for them. Then he went out and had the worst full season of his career. Because he’s Paul Goldschmidt, he was still good, but he was well short of what the Cardinals thought they were getting. The bad news for all vested interests is that SportsLine sees continued decline for Goldschmidt in his age-32 season. Player: Austin Meadows, OF SportsLine projection for 2020: 553 AB, .284/.356/.544, 32 HR, 32 2B, 57 BB If the Rays are going to return to the postseason in 2020, then they’ll probably need Meadows, who turns 25 in May, to approximate his 2019 breakout. If he achieves those above numbers, then he’ll come fairly close to doing just that. Meadows’ quality-of-contact indicators suggest he deserved his high level of production last season, and SportsLine projects him accordingly. That’s good news for Tampa Bay. Player: Corey Kluber, SP SportsLine projection for 2020: 169 IP, 4.67 ERA, 173 SO, 59 BB Thanks to a fractured forearm, Kluber was limited to just seven starts (five of them bad) in 2019. Even so, the Rangers took a chance and traded for the right-hander who was one of the best pitchers in baseball from 2014-18. As you can see, SportsLine is pretty bearish on Kluber’s chances in 2020. He turns 34 not long after Opening Day, and that’s probably why he’s being dinged. While the Rangers didn’t give up much to get him, they’re no doubt hoping he gets back to his pre-2019 form. Player: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B SportsLine projection for 2020: 564 AB, .280/.347/.463, 21 HR, 34 2B, 54 BB Vladito! He authored a solid rookie season in 2019, but it becomes even more impressive when you consider he was just 20 years of age. For Guerrero, 2020 isn’t looking like a true breakout, but he’s still projected to make solid gains at the slash line level. Consider this to be a next step toward eventual stardom. Player: Stephen Strasburg, SP SportsLine projection for 2020: 189 IP, 3.04 ERA, 217 SO, 51 BB Strasburg is, as you know, back with the champion Nats on a seven-year, $245 million contract, and they’ll no doubt be pleased if he hits these numbers. He’s expected to come down a bit from his NL-leading 209 innings a season ago, but that’s a thoroughly reasonable expectation given his past health and durability issues. That 3.04 ERA would be the third-best qualifying mark of his career and a bit better than his current career mark of 3.17. In other words, SportsLine expects something close to peak Strasburg in his age-30 campaign.

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