2020 MLB Season: Cactus League vs. Grapefruit League World Series

2020 MLB Season
TAMPA, FL - MARCH 13: A general view of Steinbrenner Field on March 13, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Major League Baseball is suspending Spring Training and delaying the start of the regular season by at least two weeks due to the ongoing threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

With so much uncertainty facing the upcoming 2020 MLB season, one of several proposals is keeping teams at their spring training facilities. If this should come to pass, the season would be played with teams not being allowed to travel outside of the states of Arizona and Florida, respectively.

The Spring Training Leagues would then become the official leagues for the entire season. For the 2020 MLB season, the American and National Leagues would be put to the side for the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. The result would be a Cactus League vs. Grapefruit League World Series.

Rule Changes

Despite MLB originally not planning to expand its playoffs until 2022, one can assume that a shortened season would encourage changes this year. Seven teams from each league will make the playoffs: three division winners and four wild cards. The six first-round matchups would be best-of-three series with the number one seeds getting a bye. With this in mind, one can play a game and anticipate what would happen should this particular scenario play out. The Spring Training Leagues are as follows:

Cactus League

Grapefruit League

∗ Denotes 2019 Division Winner

Denotes 2019 Wild Card Team

Cactus League Playoff Teams

Of the fifteen Cactus League teams, only three made the playoffs in 2019 and only one of those was a division winner. By taking the records from 2019 and expanding the playoffs, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians would both have gotten in as wild cards. Based simply on offseason transactions and added WAR, lets also add in the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels. So, the seven playoff teams will be:

  • Chicago White Sox
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Oakland Athletics

Grapefruit League Playoff Teams

In the Grapefruit League, seven of the fifteen teams made the playoffs in 2019. The difficulty here is who is the last team in? With all of the offseason moves the Phillies have made including the managerial position, it’s difficult to keep them out. But, with the moves that other teams in the Grapefruit league have made, the Phillies will be on the outside looking in after losing a simulated one game playoff to the Minnesota Twins. So, the seven playoff teams here will be:

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Houston Astros
  • Minnesota Twins
  • New York Yankees
  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Washington Nationals

Simulations

Simulating games using MLB The Show 20, the seedings for the Cactus League Playoff would be as follows (brackets can be seen in full by clicking on them and scrolling):

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Oakland Athletics
  6. Los Angeles Angels
  7. Cincinnati Reds

After simulating with current lineups and not adding any players through trades or new injuries, the Dodgers bested the Indians four games to one in the LCS.

The seedings for the Grapefruit League Playoffs would be as follows:

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Washington Nationals
  4. St. Louis Cardinals
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Tampa Bay Rays
  7. Minnesota Twins

Again, simulating with current lineups and not adding any players through trades or new injuries, the Yankees defeated the Braves four games to two in the GLCS to set up a World Series matchup between the Dodgers and Yankees. Interestingly, both of the sixth-seeded teams, the Angels and Rays, defeated the three seeds in each league.

World Series

Game 1

Gerrit Cole vs. Walker Buehler

Yankees – 5  Dodgers – 4

Highlights

Opening at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa Bay, Gleyber Torres goes three for four with two home runs and three RBI. Cole pitches a gem going seven strong innings and giving up only one earned run and three hits. Despite two home runs from Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers can’t overcome being down 5-0 in the sixth and drop game one of the series.

Game 2

Masahiro Tanaka vs. Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers – 4  Yankees – 3

Highlights

Both Tanaka and Kershaw give up runs in the first. The game remains tied 3-3 until the top of the eighth when Joc Pederson hits a solo shot off of Zack Britton to give the Dodgers the lead and the eventual win. The series is now tied 1-1 heading back to Phoenix, Arizona, and Camelback Ranch.

Game 3

David Price vs. J.A. Happ

Yankees – 5  Dodgers – 4

Highlights

An extra-inning barnburner with the Dodgers tying the score 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth with Mookie Betts hitting a base clearing three-run double off of Aroldis Chapman. But, a two-run double by Giancarlo Stanton in the top of the eleventh, his fifth hit of the night, off of Kenley Jansen gives the Yankees a 2-1 series lead.

Game 4

Julio Urias vs. Gerrit Cole

Dodgers – 5  Yankees – 4

Highlights

Despite the Yankees taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the first and a 4-0 lead in the top of the fifth, the Dodgers storm back to score five unanswered in the seventh inning to even the series a two apiece.  Cody Bellinger leads the way with two hits including a double and a two-run homer. Betts and Corey Seager add three hits each as they torch the Yankee bullpen. The series is now tied again at 2-2.

Game 5

Walker Buehler vs. Masahiro Tanaka

Yankees – 6  Dodgers – 2

Highlights

The Yankees jump on Buehler early and score five runs in four innings. Gleyber Torres hits his fourth home run of the series as Tanaka pitches into the ninth inning giving up only five hits and striking out seven. The Yankees head back to Tampa needing only one more win to clinch the series.

Game 6

J.A. Happ vs. Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers – 12  Yankees – 2

Highlights

The Dodgers rout the Yankees to send the series to a decisive seventh game. Happ gives up six runs in 3.2 innings and Mookie Betts paces the Dodgers going 3 for 3 with three home runs and 5 RBI. Seager, A.J. Pollock, and Bellinger also contribute with a home run each. Kershaw goes eight solid innings allowing only seven hits. The series is now tied 3-3.

Game 7

Gerrit Cole vs. David Price

Yankees – 7  Dodgers – 2

Highlights

Payback for the Yankees as it’s their turn to knock out the starting pitcher early. Price can only manage two-thirds of an inning as he allows four hits and five earned runs. Stanton continues his hot series with a two-run double in the first. The Yankees bat around in the first and they never looked back. Gerrit Cole was paid the largest sum ever for a free agent pitcher and he shows the Yankees why he was worth every penny. Cole goes 8 and two-thirds innings allowing only eight hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. For the series, Cole is 2-0 and allowed only four earned runs. Giancarlo Stanton takes home World Series MVP honors as he totals eleven hits, nine RBI and five XBH including two home runs. The New York Yankees win a classic series 4-3.

 

Conclusion

An interesting end to a strange 2020 MLB season. Arguably the two best teams in MLB beat the sims and net each other in the World Series. In the only way it could possibly end, the Yankees and Dodgers battled each other for seven games as both teams superstars performed up to their standards.

Hopefully soon, we’ll be discussing actual baseball and have the thrill of a real playoff series. Regardless of what happens and when and where the 2020 MLB season will begin and end, it will be one not easily forgotten for those who experienced it.

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