Cody Bellinger will have more protection in the Dodgers' already-potent lineup. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

The Major League Baseball Players Association announced Tuesday that players are expected to report for training by July 1 in preparation for a 60-game regular season that is scheduled to begin in late July and conclude Sept. 27. As usual, the playoffs would feature five teams — three division winners plus two wild-card teams — from each league.

To limit health risks and minimize travel, teams will remain in their regions, only playing against members of their division and the opposite league’s corresponding division (East vs. East, Central vs. Central, West vs. West). Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division foes for a total of 40 games. The remaining 20 games will be played against the corresponding division in the other league.

Two of the biggest beneficiaries of the unbalanced schedule are the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. Both were expected to contend for the World Series title in 2020, and now they each face a relatively easy slate. Predicted records were derived using the average of projection systems from Baseball Prospectus, Davenport, FiveThirtyEight and FanGraphs for a 162-game season.

The addition of outfielder Mookie Betts gives the Dodgers one of baseball’s most formidable lineups. The 2018 American League MVP and three-time Silver Slugger joins reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger to give Los Angeles a rarely seen one-two punch.

Betts batted .295 with 29 home runs last year, creating runs at a rate that was 35 percent higher than the league average after taking into account league and park effects (135 wRC+). Bellinger hit .305 with 47 home runs, creating runs at a rate that was 62 percent higher than average (162 wRC+). Add in Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Max Muncy and Gavin Lux, and you have what should be the best-hitting team of 2020.

Ace Clayton Kershaw might not instill fear as he used to, but the 32-year-old future Hall of Famer struck out 26.8 percent of the batters he faced in 2019 and still has a dominant curveball. Last season, opponents managed just a .177 bating average against his breaking ball with 47 strikeouts in 113 at-bats ending on the pitch.

Of the Dodgers’ nine 2020 opponents, five are expected to finish below .500 — three from the NL West (the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants) and two from the AL West (the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners). The Dodgers were projected to win 100 of 162 games (a .617 winning percentage); that will now tick up to an average of 38 wins in 60 games (.633). They also have a 34 percent chance of reaching or exceeding the 40-win plateau, marking them as World Series contenders.

NL West Projected wins Projected losses Win NL West Make playoffs Win World Series
Los Angeles Dodgers 38 22 58 percent 97 percent 10 percent
San Diego Padres 30 30 20 percent 31 percent 3 percent
Arizona Diamondbacks 29 31 13 percent 21 percent 2 percent
Colorado Rockies 28 32 9 percent 15 percent 1 percent
San Francisco Giants 24 36 <1 percent <1 percent <1 percent

The Yankees signed Gerrit Cole in the offseason, giving them the ace they have been looking for. Cole, expected to be the most valuable pitcher in baseball per FanGraphs’ calculation of wins above replacement, was the runner-up in AL Cy Young voting last year after going 20-5 with a league-leading 2.50 ERA. He also struck out 326 batters in 212⅓ innings, giving him the highest strikeout rate (40 percent) in baseball history. The 29-year-old joins James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery to give the Bronx Bombers one of the best rotations in baseball.

Two key members of the Yankees’ lineup, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, also got extra time to get healthy and should be ready for the revised Opening Day. Those two are expected to help New York lead the majors in home runs.

The Yankees were projected to win 96 of 162 games (a .593 winning percentage) based on the consensus of the four projection systems, giving them a cushion as large as seven games over the Tampa Bay Rays, their closest division rival. The unbalanced schedule now has them facing solely the AL East and NL East, and they are projected to finish 36-24 (.600). Expect the Yankees to win the AL East and be the front-runner for the AL pennant.

AL East Projected wins Projected losses Win AL East Make playoffs Win World Series
New York Yankees 36 24 44 percent 84 percent 9 percent
Tampa Bay Rays 33 27 30 percent 53 percent 6 percent
Boston Red Sox 31 29 22 percent 36 percent 4 percent
Toronto Blue Jays 28 32 4 percent 9 percent <1 percent
Baltimore Orioles 21 39 <1 percent <1 percent <1 percent

In the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins get a big boost. They were expected to win 91 games during a full regular season and are now estimated to win 35 against the easiest schedule of 2020, boosting their playoff chances from 58 to 69 percent. But what makes the Twins a more compelling pick is their division. Only two other AL Central teams, the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, are expected to be playoff contenders. The division’s other teams, the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers, are in transition and will be lucky to finish over .500.

AL Central Projected wins Projected losses Win division Make playoffs Win World Series
Minnesota Twins 35 25 43 percent 69 percent 7 percent
Cleveland Indians 33 27 34 percent 52 percent 6 percent
Chicago White Sox 31 29 23 percent 30 percent 3 percent
Kansas City Royals 25 35 <1 percent <1 percent <1 percent
Detroit Tigers 25 35 <1 percent <1 percent <1 percent

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