Spring training has sprung and players have reported to camps across Arizona and Florida. Cactus League and Grapefruit League play began last weekend and Opening Day is only three weeks away. I can't wait. Hopefully the pandemic cooperates. Fingers crossed, everyone.
Throughout spring training my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes and I will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we looked at young starts who could soon sign long-term contract extensions. This week we're going to debate 2020 division winners.
Which 2020 division winner is most likely to miss 2021 playoffs?
R.J. Anderson: I think I have to go with the Rays. The Yankees appear to be the favorites in the division on paper; the Blue Jays are much improved from last season; and some projection systems even think the Red Sox are comparable. At minimum, the Rays are going to have to scratch and claw their way past all but one of the Blue Jays, the American League Central runners-up, and either the Athletics, Angels, or the Astros. It's doable, but it has the makings of being a step-back year.
Matt Snyder: Working backward, the Dodgers aren't going to miss the playoffs. No way in the world. The Braves might lose out on the division (though they'll be my prediction to win it), but even if that happens they'll very likely take a wild card. Ditto for the Twins; if they lose to the White Sox, they'll still grab a wild card, in all likelihood. That leaves the Rays, A's and Cubs. I think all three miss the playoffs. If I'm forced into taking one as a most-likely candidate, I'll go with the Rays. I think they are better than the Cubs, but the NL Central is terrible and someone could sneak into a division title with 85 wins. I trust the A's to remain competitive even in the face of losing Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks. Again, though, I'm picking all three to miss the playoffs.
Katherine Acquavella: I'll say the Rays as well. They have an uphill battle to make it back to the postseason. let alone to defend their division crown. I find the Rays having a tough time notching wins against the Blue Jays and Yankees this season, especially now that we're back to the full 162-game season. It's tough to doubt their ingenuity when it comes to pitching, but the fact that they didn't make a single impactful addition to their offense this winter makes me think that they'll miss the playoffs altogether.
Mike Axisa: Going with the Cubs, followed closely by the Rays and Athletics. The NL Central is the most wide-open division in the game, so Chicago will have plenty of competition for the division crown, and I don't think they could count on a wild card spot as a fallback plan either. One or two injuries could take a team right out of the NL Central race this year. It's all but guaranteed one wild card will come from the NL West, and I'd bet the farm on an NL East team securing the other. If the season started today, I'm pretty sure I'd pick the Cubs to win the NL Central, but their grip on the division is tenuous at best.