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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

MLB teams that could surprise in 2019

Jacob deGrom

It’s pretty clear which teams can expect to be near the top of the standings in Major League Baseball and which can expect to be near the bottom. That leaves a mess of teams in the middle that may or may not be good enough to contend, but at least a few will be similar to last year’s Oakland Athletics and pleasantly surprise.

Here are seven teams that could unexpectedly make some noise in MLB this season.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates quietly won 82 games a year ago, and they may be poised to do even more this season. The key will be finding out where the offense comes from; the likes of Starling Marte will have to have solid seasons for the Pirates to improve. They were helped significantly last season with the emergence of Trevor Williams as a solid starting pitcher. The addition of Chris Archer should really start to bear fruit this year, potentially leading to some improvement from the club.

6. Cincinnati Reds

The Reds were very aggressive in trying to add new talent during the offseason, and it could certainly pay off for them. The addition of Yasiel Puig will likely prove the big headline, and moving to a very friendly hitter’s park in Cincinnati should help him. The Reds had a decent lineup in place already, but the real coup could be acquiring Sonny Gray from the Yankees. Gray was once one of the game’s brightest young pitchers, and a change of scenery and departure from New York could be just what he needs to get his career back on track.

5. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox failed to land Manny Machado, but they’re in line for some natural improvement anyway. Part of this is down to the progression of their prospects, including Yoan Moncada, and the arrival of the likes of Eloy Jimenez. Carlos Rodon is healthy, and adding Ivan Nova to the rotation can only help. If their young players progress and start to move closer to fulfilling their potential, it’s entirely plausible that the White Sox are a lot better in 2019.

4. Minnesota Twins

The 2018 season was a big disappointment for the Twins, who had visions of pushing the Cleveland Indians for a division title. The post-Joe Mauer era brings in three new lineup regulars, most prominently Nelson Cruz, who should provide the Twins with a much-needed shot of power. Improvement from the rotation is imperative, and they have a good foundation in Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, and Jake Odorizzi. Keep an eye on Michael Pineda, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 and a knee operation last year. He could be a big help as they shore up their pitching staff, as long as he’s healthy.

3. San Diego Padres

The addition of Manny Machado should really accelerate the Padres’ timeline, and they’ll be a big dark horse pick to do something good this year. They should be. Machado will slot in nicely to the top of the lineup with Ian Kinsler, Eric Hosmer, and Wil Myers in support, all of who can be key contributors to a pretty good team. Pitching is a question mark; while the back of the bullpen is good, the rotation is filled with unknowns. If the Padres get some pitching, they could give some teams real trouble.

2. New York Mets

Don’t sleep on the Mets. The addition of Robinson Cano gives the team a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat to go with the rapidly improving Michael Conforto, and a rotation that includes Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler can’t be ignored. The key for the Mets is health. If they avoid major injuries and their players play up to their capability, they could see some significant improvement this season. One player worth watching? Yoenis Cespedes, whose status for 2019 is uncertain. He could be a big late-season addition if things break right.

1. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays won 90 games last season. Perhaps the surprise is that they could certainly do it again. The addition of Charlie Morton to the rotation is an excellent one, and he could prove a very good investment in 2019. So, too, are trades for Mike Zunino and Avisail Garcia, and a full season of Tommy Pham should be beneficial to them as well. Don’t forget that they boast the reigning AL Cy Young winner in Blake Snell. There may be some discontent in the ranks, but the Rays have built themselves a nice little team that could prove quite dangerous.



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