Sports

2021 MLB Preview

By John McCarthy

Volume 1 Issue 6

March 18, 2021

2021 MLB Preview

Image provided by MLB

Spring training for major league clubs ends in a little over a week. Opening Day is April 1, when the games start to count. Many teams have made substantial roster moves that bring excitement to their teams. Opening Day is a day for high hopes and celebrating that baseball is back! So, how did teams shake up their rosters and what can we expect this year? Let's look through each team and how they stack up this year along with my predictions for the 2021 regular season.


AL EAST

Baltimore Orioles: Last Year (25 - 35) , This Year Predicted (59 - 103)

The Orioles find themselves in a massive rebuild, where they built a strong core of young talent, but will not succeed at the major league level for a couple of years. Adley Rutschman is the Orioles’ next top prospect they hope to develop into their franchise catcher. Their last catcher prospect, Chance Sisco, has not worked out yet, having been at the MLB level for 4 years and had little production during that time. Hopefully for the Orioles, Rutschman has a better fate. If the talent wasn’t bad already, their starting third baseman Renato Nunez signed with the Tigers. This leaves Trey Mancini as their best hitter with depth level players at all other positions. It is fair to say that the pitching on this team is sub-par...very sub-par. John Means was the bright spot for the pitching staff posting below-average numbers.


Boston Red Sox: Last Year (24 - 36) , This Year Predicted (75 - 87)

Last year was a change of pace for the Red Sox. A very successful team in the 2010s found themselves in last place in their division. However, in the shortened season injuries plagued the Sox with pitchers Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez both losing major playing time. The Red Sox also traded away their star player Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. Otherwise, the healthy Red Sox remain a solid team if J.D. Martinez can bounce back from his bad 2020 and Chris Sale can return to the dominant pitcher he was back in 2018.  In a tough division, I find them falling to fourth place in the AL East as an average MLB team.


New York Yankees: Last Year (33 - 27) , This Year Predicted (97 - 65)

The Yankees seem to have a great team every year but haven't won a World Series since 2009.  Sluggers Aaron Judge’s and Giancarlo Stanton’s big issue is staying healthy. The Yankees lost pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton, but then gained Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. The Yankees bullpen remains dominant with anchor Aroldis Chapman, and their lineup can be scary. The Yankees re-signed superstar hitter D.J. LeMahieu, sporting the highest batting average in 2020, for 6 years. They win the AL East this year because they have an above average well-rounded squad.


Tampa Bay Rays: Last Year (40 - 20) , This Year Predicted (94 - 68)

Last year the Rays made the World Series led by breakout players Brandon Lowe and Randy Arozarena, and veteran pitching by Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. This year Morton and Snell are gone, a big blow to the Rays’ pitching staff. Arozarena had one of the best postseasons last October, but can he sustain his success, only a second year player? The Rays also have a great bullpen with stars Nick Anderson and Diego Castillo. Ji-Man Choi, one of the most flexible 1st baseman returns with a much bigger role with the Rays needing more offense to combat the loss of two star pitchers. The Rays will overcome their losses through great management and remain a great team, finishing a close second to the Yankees.


Toronto Blue Jays: Last Year (32 - 28) , This Year Predicted (89 - 73)

The Blue Jays have added so much talent in the offseason. They added CF George Springer, SS turned 2B Marcus Semien, CP Kirby Yates, and SP Steven Matz. All these players are valuable additions, especially Springer. The Blue Jays also had a solid core of young MLB talent of their own like Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The Blue Jays were a mediocre team the past few years, but the new additions bring attention north of the border. With all the talent the Blue Jays acquired, they need all their players to come together and perform at a high level. They improve, but not enough to make the playoffs.


AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox: Last Year (35 - 25) , This Year Predicted (92 - 70)

The White Sox have an overall great roster. They have a great starting pitching trio with Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, and Dallas Keuchel. The dominant pitching continues in the bullpen with Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, and newly acquired Liam Hendricks. Hendricks is considered by many to be the best closer in the MLB and adds to an already stellar bullpen. That’s just the pitching side of things. The White Sox have the reigning AL MVP, Jose Abreu, the top AL catcher, Yasmani Grandal, and star young outfielder Eloy Jimenez. SS Tim Anderson has a big personality, but he can back it up with great contact hitting, winning the batting title in 2019. With growing talent, they bud into AL Central winners in 2021.


Cleveland Indians: Last Year (35 - 25) , This Year Predicted (78 - 84)

The Indians were an above-average team last year making the expanded playoffs. However, this year they lose 1B Carlos Santana and SS Francisco Lindor. They did gain promising rookie SS Andres Gimenez in the Lindor trade with the Mets. Shane Bieber comes back as one of the best pitchers in baseball, winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2020. The Indians also have one of the best third basemen from last year, Jose Ramirez, runner up in MVP voting. Other than Ramirez, their lineup is lackluster this year and their bullpen is less than desirable. Past Bieber the Indians’ starters are decent with Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac rounding out their top three. The Indians are not the powerhouse they were in 2016, but they can still hold their own in the AL Central with a record slightly below .500.


Detroit Tigers: Last Year (23 - 35) , This Year Predicted (60 - 102)

The Tigers are a very young team with some great prospects for the future. However, they have few players that can produce at a high enough level in the majors. An interesting rookie to watch is Casey Mize, who is the Tigers’ top pitching prospect. The Tigers got a decent 3B in Renato Nunez through free agency. The Tigers bullpen does not have anyone that is reliable against any lineup. 1B Miguel Cabrera will enter the Hall of Fame one day, but when will he retire? He still bats for a high average, but doesn’t produce as much as he did when he won back-to-back MVPs in 2012 and 2013. The Tigers are in a massive rebuild and will most likely be at the bottom of their division.


Kansas City Royals: Last Year (26 - 34) , This Year Predicted (73 - 89)

The Royals are a typical below average team. There are exciting players, worth the price of admission, but giant holes in their lineup and rotation that leave the team performing average. The Royals acquired LF Andrew Benintendi from the Red Sox in an attempt to bolster their lineup. Their main pieces are contact hitter Whit Merrifield, speedster Adalberto Mondesi, and power hitter Jorge Soler. Their real need is pitching. They don’t have a quality starting pitcher or a deep bullpen that can be relied on day in and day out. Baseball still relies on quality pitching to win games and I don’t see the Royals with adequate pitching. The Royals find themselves in 4th place in 2021.


Minnesota Twins: Last Year (36 - 24) , This Year Predicted (91 - 71)

The Minnesota Twins hit a record number of home runs in 2019, and the core of their team remains the same. The only major lineup change for the Twins is losing OF Eddie Rosario and gaining SS Andrelton Simmons. This is an upgrade at the shortstop position and an interesting chance for Alex Kiriloff in Left Field. He is a young prospect finally getting an everyday role to show what he can do. The already strong bullpen receives another successful arm in Alex Colome. Jorge Polanco, the Twins former SS moves to 2B, while Luis Arraez consequently takes on the utility player role, moving around defensively to give management an easier time with giving rest days. The Twins are still a solid team, but in 2021 the White Sox have a slight edge over the Twins this year.


AL WEST

Los Angeles Angels: Last Year (26 - 34) , This Year Predicted (81 - 81)

The Angels have the best player in baseball, Mike Trout. That is a fact. Other interesting players include top third baseman Anthony Rendon and 2-way player Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani is special in that he can pitch and hit at an MLB level. If he can return to the mound, the Angels get a well needed starting pitcher option. Dylan Bundy’s success has a huge impact on the success of the Angels’ pitching success. The lineup for the Angels is very top-heavy with a couple of great hitters then replacement level players rounding out the lineup. The bullpen has no players that are amazing, but should hold up against average lineups. Can the Angels finally bring Mike Trout back to the playoffs? Unfortunately, the Angels need one more decent player for their lineup and pitching staff for me to put them through to the playoffs.


Oakland Athletics: Last Year (36 - 24) , This Year Predicted (95 - 67)

The Athletics seem to have an average team on paper and find a way to perform really well in the regular season. Although they lost Marcus Semien to the Blue Jays, they replaced him with veteran Elvis Andrus, who may not perform as much on the field but being a leader for almost 20 years can provide a locker room presence for the club. The A’s have a two-time Platinum Glove winner in Matt Chapman at one corner infield position and Gold Glover Matt Olson at the other. The Athletics have a great defense that is also backed up by a good offense. Outfielders Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano are underrated and provide good value with the bat. While starting pitching is a struggle for the A’s their bullpen has also diminished. However, their pitching should hold up pretty well against their division, so I have them atop the AL West.


Seattle Mariners: Last Year (27 - 33) , This Year Predicted (67 - 95)

The Seattle Mariners are another team with some young talent, but many of whom are not ready to produce to lift this team to the playoffs. We saw CF Kyle Lewis breakout last year and show he can produce at the big league level. The Mariners also have pitching promise with lefties Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn spending some time in the majors. The Mariners are hoping this year they can break out and post low ERAs to give an average Mariners’ lineup a chance to win some games. The Mariners’ young talent looks solid for the future, but this year might be another segment in their rebuild.


Texas Rangers: Last Year (22 - 38) , This Year Predicted (72 -90)

The Rangers were not good last year placing last in the division and their roster has made minimal improvements. They do add outfielders David Dahl and Khris Davis, but they lose SS Elvis Andrus and pitchers Corey Kluber and Lance Lynn. Dahl and Davis add valuable contact and power respectively, but nothing electric to turn the Rangers lineup into a dangerous one. One dangerous hitter is Joey Gallo who can always provide some power, but had a disappointing 2020. Gallo should bounce back, but his team is not ready to compete at a high level this year.


Houston Astros: Last Year (29 - 31) , This Year Predicted (90 - 72)

The Astros have been star-studded the past fews and last year they seemed to regress after a scandal came out regarding their 2017 World Series victory. The Astros still have a good roster, even though they lost CF George Springer. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, and Carlos Correa remain star hitters and Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke return as top pitchers in the MLB. Their bullpen was above average, but since they didn’t re-sign Roberto Osuna their bullpen lost a step. Astros should remain a top team in 2021, but might lose close games allowing the Athletics to take the top spot in the AL West.


NL EAST

Atlanta Braves: Last Year (35 - 25) , This Year Predicted (95 - 67)

The Braves have solid players at each position, a complete team that will compete this year. Freddie Freeman, reigning NL MVP, is always great at first base providing for the Braves offense. On the other side of the ball, Braves get Mike Soroka back from injury and add veteran Charlie Morton from free agency. Max Fried comes off his best year and slots in as the Braves’ ace. Their back side of the rotation is not atrocious either; they have a deep pitching staff. This includes the bullpen with Will Smith, Luke Jackson, and Chris Martin. The re-signing of Marcell Ozuna keeps the Atlanta offense potent. Ronald Acuna Jr. remains the best outfielder on the team, but can he make a push to become the best in the NL, like many believe he can be? The Braves are a solid team and may win 1st place in this division, but how will they fare in the postseason?


Miami Marlins: Last Year (31 - 29) , This Year Predicted (70 - 92)

The Marlins lost a playoff series for the first time last year, but it was a surprise they got in the playoffs anyway. They have a young, but inexperienced pitching staff led by Sandy Alcantara, and their bullpen does not have any notable relievers. Their lineup can have some success at times with Corey Dickerson, Brian Anderson, and Starling Marte. These players have unique skills that can show up when the time is right, but how often and how major can they contribute to wins? The Marlins are relying on another lucky season if they want to make the playoffs, especially since this season is over twice as long. The Marlins can only go so far with what they have and remain in the bottom third in the MLB in 2021.


New York Mets: Last Year (26 - 34) , This Year Predicted (88 - 74)

The Mets have a great team on paper this year, but can they finally put it together? They acquired SS Francisco Lindor, C James McCann,  SP Carlos Carrasco who will play significant roles in the majors. The Mets have also had the best pitcher in baseball Jacob DeGrom play at his best the past few seasons. The question with their pitching staff is can Noah Syndergaard stay healthy and return to his All-Star form? Pete Alonso needs to bounce back from a poor 2020 and return to smashing home runs like he did in 2019. McNeil will get on base at a high level and score runs, but players in the middle of the lineup need to drive him and others in sufficiently. Unfortunately, the Mets have always seemed to get their fair share of injuries and bad management; hopefully this year will break that trend and the Mets have a good, winning record.


Philadelphia Phillies: Last Year (28 - 32) , This Year Predicted (74 - 88)

The Phillies have gone on a free agency spending spree the last few years, many players not working out the way the team wanted. The Phillies have a decent lineup headed by RF Bryce Harper, SS Didi Gregorius, and 1B Rhys Hoskins. Young 3B Alec Bohm hopes to make an impact in 2021 after making a small one in 2020. Their pitching staff has a top heavy rotation with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. The last three starters have been atrocious in the majors. The Phillies bullpen just got better acquiring star reliever Jose Alvarado on top of having a decent bullpen prior to this move. Although the Phillies have a good roster, they always have trouble turning their talent into wins, and I see them as a fourth place team.


Washington Nationals: Last Year (26 - 34) , This Year Predicted (76 - 86)

The Nationals have a few stars that really impact the success of the team. Trea Turner is a five tool player at shortstop and Juan Soto is already dominating opposing pitching at 22 years old. Soto’s patience early in his career sets him apart from past players. Also, the Nats acquired 1B Josh Bell and LF Kyle Schwarber to bolster the offense. The Nationals also have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Jon Lester all in their rotation. Plus, Brad Hand is the Nationals’ new closer in a bullpen that might finally have a structure this year. However, in a tough division they will have trouble linking wins together.


NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs: Last Year (34 - 26) , This Year Predicted (83 - 79)

The Cubs aren’t as strong as they were in 2016 when they won the World Series. Their pitching staff isn’t as potent now as it was back then. The Cubs will rely on Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies to give the team quality starts, and they need them to do so because their bullpen is not stellar. Their lineup has pieces to provide sufficient offense for some games. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez can build an exciting offense if they have a good season. None of them are coming off a fantastic season, but the Cubs need them for their offense. The Cubs’ average pitching and average hitting this year has them finish in the middle of the league.


Cincinnati Reds: Last Year (31 - 29) , This Year Predicted (78 - 84)

The Reds made upgrades for their 2020 roster which made them an average team finishing just above .500. Coming into 2020 however, they lost their star pitcher Trevor Bauer who won the NL Cy Young Award last year. They still have a solid 1-2 punch in their starting rotation with Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. Their bullpen lost a top arm in Raisel Iglesias, so they regress in that department. Their lineup always produces decently. Eugenio Suarez, Nicholas Castellanos, and Mike Moustakas will most likely lead the scoring. Joey Votto is regressing with age, but still provides at a sufficient level. The Reds need everything to come together to have a chance at the playoffs and I don’t see that happening.


Milwaukee Brewers: Last Year (29 -31) , This Year Predicted (90 - 72)

The Brewers have solid players all around that can perform well enough to propel this team to the postseason. Although Christian Yelich had an awful season in 2020, he should bounce back with a good 2021 and revert to his elite level of play. He is the lifeblood of this offense; without him there is no Brewers offense. The pitching staff is what is going to decide their success. Brandon Woodruff has proved he is a top starter in the league, a valuable asset to the Brewers. The bullpen is above average with two of the top relievers in the MLB, Devin Williams and Josh Hader. If their pitching can hold their end of the bargain, the Brewers can sneak their way in to the postseason.


Pittsburgh Pirates: Last Year (19 - 41) , This Year Predicted (68 - 94)

Unfortunately, the Pirates might be the worst franchise in recent history. Losing games, trades, and players, the Pirates are in a rebuild that seems to never end. They lost Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon, and Chris Archer to free agency this year. Their pitching at all levels has no one of note and rival the Orioles and Rockies ]for the worst pitching staff. On the offensive side Ke’Bryan Hayes is one prospect that could help the Pirates in the future. Right now he should provide an alright amount for the Pirates. Bryan Reynolds has shown he can get on base at a high level and is the Pirates’ best hitter at the moment. These stars alone are nowhere near what the Pirates need to succeed in the MLB. They find themselves in 5th place in the NL Central.


St. Louis Cardinals: Last Year (30 - 28) , This Year Predicted (99 - 63)

The Cardinals added one of the game’s best superstars Nolan Arenado over the offseason. For how good he is, he still has to prove he can sustain his performance outside of Coors Field, an extremely hitter friendly ballpark. On the opposite side of the infield, you find Paul Goldschmidt, an all around talented first baseman whose strengths are patience, power, and fielding. The Cardinals pitching staff is led by Jack Flaherty, a young pitcher budding into a superstar role. The bullpen has reliable options like Giovanny Gallegos and Andrew Miller to sustain a lead late in a game. Rookie Dylan Carlson is predicted to star in right field for the Cardinals and fans will watch him to see how he will grow as a major league player. The Cardinals are a solid team and they win the central in 2021.


NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks: Last Year (25 - 35) , This Year Predicted (77 - 85)

The D’Backs have an average roster in a good division. Their pitching consists of rising star Zac Gallen and veteran Madison Bumgarner for the rotation. Their bullpen does not have any reliable options other than newcomer Joakim Soria who is a decent relief pitcher. Their pitching needs to have a great 2021 to support their offense. The lineup has a few good hitters in superstar Ketel Marte, LF David Peralta, and 3B Eduardo Escobar. SS Nick Ahmed has been getting more recognition for his defense adding to his value to the club. The D’Backs do not have a good team if the players live up to their potential, but with the powerful teams in this division they don’t stand a chance.


Colorado Rockies: Last Year (26 - 34) , This Year Predicted (73 - 91)

The Colorado Rockies probably have the worst pitching staff in baseball. Besides German Marquez, a good #1 starter, every other pitcher has had a substandard career in the MLB. Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland, and Antonio Senzatela are not reliable for quality starts on a regular basis. For how bad their rotation is, their bullpen did receive upgrades with Robert Stephenson and Mychal Givens. The bullpen is still average at best. The big story with the Rockies is trading away 3B Nolan Arenado who has been their franchise star for six years. This hands the reins over to Trevor Story, a young well-rounded and powerful shortstop. A below average team losing their star player only makes the Rockies worse in 2021.


Los Angeles Dodgers: Last Year (43 - 17) , This Year Predicted (103 - 59)

The defending champions still remain the best team in baseball going into 2021. Not only do they return their squad from the World Series victory they add Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer. Their pitching was already dominant without him, how good can they be with him? The performance of the rotation will also be a fun competition to watch amongst the Dodgers’ big three, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Bauer. The other side of the ball is just as good. They return Justin Turner reaching a two-year deal. Mookie Betts signed a huge extension to stay with the Dodgers for 12 years, a player Los Angeles would be glad to have for the rest of his career. Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Max Muncy are also stars in the middle of the Dodgers’ order. The Dodgers win the division and will be the only team to reach 100 wins.


San Diego Padres: Last Year (37 - 23) , This Year Predicted (95 - 67)

The Padres might be the most exciting team coming into 2021. After making significant improvements for 2020, this offseason they outdid themselves. The Padres signed pitchers Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, to make their rotation deadly when paired with Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack. In addition to having a top starting pitching staff, their bullpen has solid options such as Emilio Pagan, Mark Melancon, and Drew Pomeranz. The talk of 2020 baseball was the excellence of Padres SS Fernando Tatis Jr.. 2B Jake Cronenworth also had a breakout season, providing offense for the Padres. This team’s pitching staff will be fun to watch, and the great hitting potential of this team is scary. However, they don't overcome the Dodgers for the top spot in the West.


San Francisco Giants: Last Year (29 - 31) , This Year Predicted (80 - 82)

The Giants have fallen back in the rankings after their three World Series titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. The new star for the Giants is RF Mike Yastrzemski. Sporting a .966 OPS in a short 2020 shows his immense production for this team. 2B Donovan Solano also had a breakout season with a high batting average. The pitching is average with Johnny Cueto and Kevin Gausman heading the rotation. The bullpen has added a reliable option, Taylor Rogers to shut down opponents. The Giants are an average team in a division that is tough and they slot in 3rd.