Who will be the star of MLB's 2020 season? Predictions for MVP, the home run title and more

MLB’s 2020 season, shortened to 60 games in a 66-day sprint due to the coronavirus pandemic, starts Thursday night. And there are even more questions than usual. We gathered our staff to predict the storylines swirling around the batter’s box in 2020.

[Still time to join or create a fantasy baseball league for the short season]

Who leads the majors in home runs?

The five favorites to win the home run title this year, per BetMGM odds, are:

Pete Alonso, New York Mets (4 votes)

Pete Alonso will hit 22 home runs and look like a polar bear every time. - Hannah Keyser

One hitter always seems to set a record-setting pace. Last season it was Pete Alonso. This season, it will again be Pete Alonso. - Mark Townsend

Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (2 votes)

Always bet on the Rockie. - Tim Brown

Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

New team, new contract perhaps being signed. It’s Mookie’s time to shine. - Nick Ostiller

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers

Do I need a reason? He was unstoppable last year. - Chris Cwik

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

He’s got to lead MLB in homers at some point, right? - Jack Baer

Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies

Maybe 60 games is the right amount of time for Bryce to go off. - Liz Roscher

[More MLB 2020 predictions: Cy Youngs | World Series]

Which NL team will get the best hitting performance from their DH spot?

Cincinnati Reds. With enviable outfield depth, they are well-built to enjoy the benefits of the universal DH - no more logjam for the likes of Nick Senzel, Shogo Akiyama, and Jesse Winker (or Aristedes Aquino, if he gets another call-up this season). - Mo Castillo

Chicago Cubs. Whether it’s Kyle Schwarber or a resting regular like Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras or Kris Bryant, the Cubs will always have a dangerous hitter at DH. - Mark Townsend

New York Mets. Close call between the Yoenis Céspedes-led Mets, given Céspedes has trouble staying on the field, and the cast-of-thousands Dodgers, who can run out matchup headaches (Matt Beaty, Gavin Lux, Joc Pederson, Kiké Hernández, A.J. Pollock, Chris Taylor) every day. Pick is Céspedes (and company) in a walk year. - Tim Brown

Los Angeles Dodgers. The team loves to use platoons and has great offensive depth. They’ll Frankenstein’s monster their way to tremendous production. - Chris Cwik

Atlanta Braves. Marcell Ozuna will have plenty of protection in Atlanta’s lineup while playing on a 1-year deal. Let’s not forget that Adam Duvall and Austin Riley can also mash. - Nick Ostiller

St. Louis Cardinals. I’ll buy a Matt Carpenter bounce-back season (plus some Paul Goldschmidt thrown in). - Jack Baer

Milwaukee Brewers. They had a built-in everyday DH ready to go in Ryan Braun. - Mike Oz

Who will put up the most outlandish full-season stat?

Jeff McNeil will bat .400. The multi-positional Mets star sports a .321 career average in the majors thus far. - Hannah Keyser

FILE - In this Monday, July 6, 2020, file photo, Milwaukee Brewers' Christian Yelich waits to hit during baseball practice at Miller Park in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

Christian Yelich hits .415. Yelich tends toward even bigger second halves. The whole season is a second half. - Tim Brown

Ronald Acuña Jr. goes 20-20 in 2020. After finishing three steals shy of 40-40 last season, Acuña will get halfway there in 60 games this season. - Mark Townsend

Madison Bumgarner will hit at least 1 home run despite the universal DH. - Nick Ostiller

Vlad Guerrero Jr., 21, is the only player who hits his age in homers - Mike Oz

Mike Trout flirts with a .500 on-base percentage. The last qualified hitter to go over the mark was Barry Bonds. - Chris Cwik

Joey Votto has a renaissance season and will either hit .400 or have the league’s highest OBP. - Liz Roscher

Who will win the AL and NL MVP awards?

American League

The top AL MVP favorites, per BetMGM odds:

  • Mike Trout, +200

  • Aaron Judge, +850

  • Francisco Lindor, +1100

  • Anthony Rendon, +1400

  • Gleyber Torres, +1500

Our picks:

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (4 votes)

Even in 60 games, it’s hard to envision Trout not being the best player.

FanGraphs built a handy tool for separating out 60-game spans in any past season, and the leaderboards will attest to his dominance even in a smaller stretch. In the eight seasons since Trout’s career began in earnest in 2012, he has produced the best 60-game stretch (by WAR) in five of them. The lowest his best 60-game span has ranked is third. He’s great all the time, in a way no other current player has shown they can match. What can you do? - Zach Crizer

Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians (3 votes)

Three times in the MVP top 10, feels like his turn. - Tim Brown

Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees (2 votes)

Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics (1 vote)

Atlanta Braves center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) reacts after popping out to second baseman Ozzie Albies during a practice baseball game, Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
After nearly posting a 40/40 season in 2019, is it Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr.'s time to ascend to an NL MVP award? (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

National League

And the NL MVP favorites, per BetMGM odds:

  • Mookie Betts, +500

  • Ronald Acuña Jr., +600

  • Christian Yelich, +700

  • Cody Bellinger, +800

  • Juan Soto, +1100

Our picks:

Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves (3 votes)

Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers (3 votes)

Betts is the favorite for a reason. He might have a new contract in the works, and removed from the AL competition with Trout, he definitely has the league’s best recent track record of MVP-caliber performance. Acuña has the trajectory. A superstar prospect who made it clear, almost immediately, that the hype was for good reason, the Braves’ centerpiece is still on the way up. His first full season included 41 homers and 37 stolen bases. If his next trick is leveraging his power to boost a good but not great on-base percentage into elite territory, an MVP trophy would probably be the payoff. - Zach Crizer

Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers (2 votes)

He’s gonna hit .415, for heaven’s sake. - Tim Brown

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers (1 vote)

Juan Soto, Washington Nationals (1 vote)

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