Baseball is Back: Previewing Each Division as Spring Training Starts

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Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers holds up his NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award after the NBA All-Star basketball game Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Huh)

Aaron Notis, Maroon-News Staff

Spring is just around the corner, which means that Major League Baseball (MLB) players are making their way down to Florida and Arizona to prepare for the coming season. Here’s a look at each division as they go into spring training.

AL East

It has been a busy off-season in the American League East. 

The New York Yankees acquired their “white whale,” starting pitcher Gerrit Cole, inking him to a nine-year, 324 million dollar contract. The Yankees walk into spring training with many of their key players, including right fielder Aaron Judge, nursing injuries. The return of players like center fielder Aaron Hicks and third baseman Miguel Andujar, combined with the addition of Cole, will make for an exciting spring training for the Yankees. 

With the resignation of manager Alex Cora in the wake of the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal, the Boston Red Sox have named former bench coach Ron Roenicke to the role of interim manager. 

The Red Sox traded right fielder and 2019 American League MVP outfielder Mookie Betts and pitcher David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox look to fill the loss of their superstar Betts with outfielder Alex Verdugo, a 23-year-old coming off an impressive season with the Dodgers. 

The Toronto Blue Jays will also be a team to watch in spring training as they boast a young, energetic lineup, including shortstop Bo Bichette. The Tampa Bay Rays, having acquired Hunter Renfroe, are putting forth a stronger offensive lineup to support their star pitching staff. 

Lastly, the perennially low-win projected Baltimore Orioles are hoping to transform their bullpen by assigning Hunter Harvey the coveted role of closer. If he can finish games, assuming the Orioles get a late lead, then the team might find more success than pundits have predicted.

AL Central

Following a noteworthy 100-win season in 2019, the Minnesota Twins are hoping their two new acquisitions, pitcher Kenta Maeda and third baseman Josh Donaldson, will lead them to the World Series. Donaldson had a great season with the Atlanta Braves, earning him N.L. Comeback Player of the Year. Expect the Twins to have another strong season atop the A.L. Central. 

The Chicago White Sox had one of the best off-seasons in the league, adding players like pitcher Dallas Keuchel, catcher Yasmani Grandal and first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. The White Sox look to surge to the top of the division and make it into the postseason. 

The Cleveland Indians were not able to improve their outfield to support their star infielders Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. They are counting on their star pitcher, Mike Clevinger, to keep them competitive.                 

Both the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals are counting on their prospects in the minor leagues to help build stronger teams. 

AL West

The Los Angeles Angels are already home to the best player in the MLB, center fielder Mike Trout. They also added Anthony Rendon, a top third basemen and World Series champion, to their roster. With the return of dual-threat pitcher Shohei Ohtani, the Angels look to rise to the top of this division. Both the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros hope to build off their strong 2019 seasons. 

The Athletics must fill their hole at second base with either the newly acquired Tony Kemp or longtime prospects Jorge Mateo and Franklin Barreto. The Astros are recovering from the sign stealing scandal and the forced departure of manager A.J. Hinch, hoping new manager Dusty Baker will help them leave their scandal behind and build on their pennant-winning season. 

The Texas Rangers are building on strong acquisitions, including Cy Young winner Corey Kluber from the Cleveland Indians. 

The Seattle Mariners are trying to rebuild after letting go of veterans like pitcher Felix Hernandez. 

NL East

The World Champion Washington Nationals hope to retain their winning title despite losing star third baseman Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels. Look for the Nationals’ veteran, Ryan Zimmerman, to spend some time at third base. 

The New York Mets and the Nationals are both welcoming new managers. The Mets hired Luis Rojas after agreeing to part ways with former outfielder and potential Hall-of-Famer Carlos Beltran, another victim of the sign stealing scandal in Houston. They are counting on Rojas, who is familiar with the key players in the organization, to usher in a new era of success for the Mets on the shoulders of first baseman Pete Alonso, outfielder Michael Conforto and defending Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom. 

The Philadelphia Phillies hired former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, and, with the addition of former Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious, they look to rise to the top of the NL East. After winning the division last year, the Atlanta Braves, are training for another strong season despite all-star third baseman Josh Donaldson’s move to the Minnesota Twins. They expect their top minor league prospect, Austin Riley, to fill Donaldson’s shoes at the hot corner. 

The Miami Marlins continue to develop talent, having acquired journeyman Jonathan Villar from the Orioles. It might be another near-the-bottom finish for the Marlins at the end of the 2020 campaign, but they are rebuilding over time.

NL Central

The NL Central is all about filling holes in lineups. The St. Louis Cardinals must replace Atlanta-bound Marcell Ozuna in left field. The Chicago Cubs, aspiring to be the top dog in the NL Central, contend with holes in their outfield, leaving them with Kyle Schwarber after losing Nicholas Castellanos to the Cincinnati Reds. 

The Chicago Cubs also welcomed a new manager, David Ross, their 2016 World Series winning catcher.

The Milwaukee Brewers have a lot of new faces in the field, none of whom carry much star potential. Even with star outfielder Christian Yelich, the Brewers are going to have a rough season. 

The Cincinnati Reds are counting on their minor league prospects, including left-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo, to help strengthen their clubhouse. 

NL West

The Los Angeles Dodgers outfield already features Cody Bellinger. Their rotation has Clayton Kershaw and David Price. Now, they also have superstar Mookie Betts in the outfield. If the team works well together, the Dodgers will reign atop the NL West. 

The San Diego Padres are counting on infielders Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, and Fernando Tatis Jr. Top Padres prospect Mackenzie Gore looks to be progressing well, and he will hope to make a major impact with the club. 

The Arizona Diamondbacks are counting on upping their game with the addition of pitcher Madison Bumgarner. The Diamondbacks’ offense was weak last year, but the team is hoping to rework its lineup for the 2020 season. 

As opening day 2020 nears, the MLB is getting ready for a competitive, exciting, scandal-free season.