MLB has a plan to resume the 2020 season. The Cactus League will be composed of three divisions, with teams chosen by geography. Who gains and who loses?
MLB appears to be moving forward with its plan to bring baseball back for fans as soon as the “all clear” signal is given by the Center For Disease Control (CDC) and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association (MLBPA).
Under the plan, there will be two leagues. One will be based in Florida and called the Grapefruit League. The other will play in Arizona and named the Cactus League.
Each league is composed of fifteen teams separated into three divisions based on where their Spring Training facility is located in each state. With geography in play, teams are finding themselves in exciting and odd pairings for inter-divisional play.
The idea is sound and is aimed at a team’s need to travel as little as possible. In theory, players can go to games using personal or rented vehicles, possibly provided by their team.
Yesterday, we broke down the three divisions in the Grapefruit League, sizing up the favorites for regular season play. Today, we’ll do the same for teams in the Cactus League.
First, here’s a look at the teams within each of the three divisions.
As we saw in the Grapefruit League, MLB, by accident, is offering fans and players an intriguing and novel combination of teams in each division. Let’s see how they look close-up.
Northeast Division: By luck of the geography draw perhaps, this division is the most “normal” of the three divisions, with only the Oakland A’s joining four National League teams.
Typically, by reputation, you’d look at the Cubs to win the division. But that’s the problem with the Cubbies – it’s all smoke and mirrors.
The names are impressive, like Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, José Quintana, who are all listed as starters. Ditto Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber. But they all fall under the what have you done for me lately category.
Somehow, Billy Beane always seems to make lemonade from lemons by putting together a competitive team.
Always underrated, young, and fun, the Oakland A’s will be a compelling team to watch, especially in a division of under-performing National League teams.
Predictions In Order Of Finish: A’s, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Giants
West Division This division is chock full of good teams. The trouble, though, is the Dodgers are not just good, they are exceptional. Denied three times a World Series title, plus the addition of Mookie Betts, dive for cover. Revenge is sweet.
The Indians get an A for effort from their fans and MLB, but they are not able to live down the fact they are a small-market team in a city with severe economic issues. Plus, they’re getting old, and Cory Kluber is gone.
The White Sox and Reds are two up and coming teams. Each year, the team they put on the field is better than last year’s entry.
But often, progress is slow in MLB, and both are in over their heads in this newly formed division. Still, if all the stars align…
The Angels are finally a relevant team again. Just by bringing in Joe Maddon, the franchise scaled new heights. Then, they topped that by signing Anthony Rendon, last year’s All-Star everything, to (finally) complement a tired of losing Mike Trout.
The Angels suffer from the bane of most MLB teams – starting pitching. But they brought in two reliable innings eaters in Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran. After toiling fruitlessly in the Orioles organization, Bundy especially is motivated and capable of surprising.
Prediction In Order Of Finish: Dodgers, Angels, White Sox, Reds, Indians
Northwest Division The Brewers win – let’s all go home.
The fantastic thing with this division is that once MLB comes up with a postseason format that almost certainly will include a wild card from each division – one of the other teams will qualify!
After the Brewers, the Padres are probably the best of the rest. But that depends on Eric Hosmer reproducing his years with the Royals and Manny Machado putting up Machado numbers. Because after that, there not much left.
Still, when put against two of MLB’s most flagrant tanking teams – the Royals and Mariners – the Padres and Rangers look like the Yankees.
Predictions In Order Of Finish: Brewers, Rangers, Padres, Royals, Mariners
Cactus League Recap
Except for the Dodgers, A’s, and Brewers – the Cactus League is inferior to the powerhouse teams in Florida.
But as they say, that’s why they play the games.
MLB has, in this writer’s opinion, the elements of a baseball season like no other in place. A tweak here, a tweak there, and fans will be treated to a season filled with intrigue and novelty.
All we need, of course, is for Mother Nature to (please) ring the bell to say, Play Ball!