By: Robert Bishop
Back again, White Sox infielder Yoan Moncada got a late start to his summer camp due to COVID-19, but the 25-year old seems to be ready to start the season in Chicago’s lineup. Moncada is coming off a breakout season in which he hit .315/.367/.548 with 5.7 fWAR. An encore of his breakout 2019 season would cement Moncada as one of the better players in baseball. Any improvement would make him a legitimate MVP candidate.
Masahiro Tanaka will open the season on the 10-day injured list. He recovers from the effects of a concussion suffered when he was hit by a comebacker in early July. The Yankees seem to be easing Tanaka back into things slowly. There is every reason to expect him to join the team’s starting rotation as early as next week. Gerritt Cole is slated to be New York’s Opening Day starter in tomorrow’s highly-anticipated match-up with the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals.
Houston announced intentions to use Ryan Pressly as its closer to open the season, removing Roberto Osuna from the role. Pressly earned a spot on the All-Star team last season thanks to a dominant 2.32 ERA and a dazzling 11.93 K/9 across 55 appearances. At his best, Osuna is equally dominant, but there are reports he’s far removed from being in game-shape. Pressly being able to capably fill-in for Osuna as he works into form is one of the many reasons Houston is a World Series threat this season.
Young left-hander A.J. Puk was expected to play a significant role in Oakland’s push to compete with the Astros in the AL West. Unfortunately, the top prospect is again heading to the sidelines with injury. Puk is dealing with a shoulder injury that will indefinitely delay his first big-league start. Oakland will turn to Daniel Mengden to fill Puk’s spot in the rotation, a massive downgrade. Puk’s ultimate diagnosis will play a large role in Oakland’s chances at returning to the postseason.
Another young, highly-touted prospect appears set for his team’s Opening Day rotation. Mitch Keller of the Pittsburgh Pirates had an awful 48-inning debut in 2019. Still, he remains full of promise with the potential to rack up strikeouts at an elite level. His slider projects to be a true out-pitch. While his win-loss record may not be pretty this season due to the collective struggles of the Pirates, Keller should establish himself as a long-term building block for the franchise in 2020.
Dodgers infielder Gavin Lux was expected to be a part of L.A.’s Opening Day roster. Somewhat surprisingly, the Dodgers optioned Lux on Tuesday afternoon. Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor will share time at second base to open the season, but Lux’s time will soon come. Across Double and Triple-A in 2019, Lux was an absolute force, hitting .347/.421/.607 across 113 games. He’s going to be yet another home-grown superstar for the Dodgers.
In the NBA, Sacramento big man Marvin Bagley has recently been spotted in a walking boot, hinting that whatever ailment he’s dealing with isn’t a short-term concern. The Kings are entering the NBA restart with hopes of making a playoff push, a task that will be more difficult without Bagley in the paint. Bagley was ruled out for the season late Tuesday night, and Sacramento’s plan to fill the void created by his absence remains unclear. What is clear, however, is the Kings will have an even more difficult climb to reach the postseason.
Victor Oladipo previously announced intentions to sit out the restart out of health concerns. However, recent developments have the superstar guard ready to join his teammates when the games commence. The Pacers have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs, provided Oladipo is at full strength and contributing at an All-Star level. Also worth following is the health of Domantas Sabonis, who is sitting out exhibition games thanks to a foot injury. The pair’s status will be paramount to Indiana’s playoff odds.