The 2021 MLB season is approaching, and the league looks a bit different than it did last year. There were many major free agent signings and trades that occured over the course of the offseason that are going to shake things up in the MLB in a big way this year. The league is also going back to their 162 game schedule, so we’ll get to see how big the impact of these offseason moves are. Not only that, but we’ll see if any players that were hot in last year’s 60 game season stay hot, and if any players that were cold last year remain cold. There are a lot of points of interest to talk about throughout the MLB, which means that we’re in for what should be a very interesting MLB season.
The Baltimore Orioles have had very minimal success in the MLB for a while now, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change much in 2021. The Orioles are in what’s called “Rebuilding Mode”, meaning they’re in a position in which they’d prefer to acquire young talent that can help them in the future, rather than big-name stars that are going to help them win now. This is a good strategy for teams that have a weak roster, which the Orioles have.
The average age for the nine batters in the Orioles’ projected 2021 lineup is just 27 years old, and only one player in their projected lineup is over the age of 30. Based on their lineup alone it’s apparent that the Orioles are putting a lot of faith in this young core developing into something special. The offense will be led by returning designated hitter Trey Mancini, who’s coming back to the field after winning a battle with cancer. First baseman Ryan Mountcastle and right fielder Anthony Santander will also play a big part in the Orioles’ offense, looking to have some similar success to what they had in the shortened 2020 season.
Similar to their lineup, the Orioles’ pitching rotation is very young, the average age of their projected rotation being just 26 years old. Left-handed starters John Means and Keegan Akin are the most notable pitchers in the rotation, as both are young up-and-comers who have found some success relatively early on in their careers. Although these two are solid players to have in the rotation, they’re not on ace level yet, and the remaining pitchers in the projected are too young and unproven to put too much faith in. To offset the youth in their rotation, the Orioles signed veteran pitchers Felix Hernandez and Matt Harvey to fight for spots in the rotation, though they won’t likely find themselves starting very many games. Their bullpen isn’t the best either, as there is a lot of inconsistency as to what roles the bullpen pitchers played last year, making it uncertain as to how they’ll perform this season.
Although the Orioles are slowly moving along with their rebuild, they’re still far from being finished, and the lack of star power in their roster is an indicator of that. The Orioles are simply going to hope to see their young talent progress in the 2021 season, as it doesn’t seem that winning is the top priority for management right now.
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox were the 2018 World Series winners, and in 2020, they ended the season with just a .400 percent win rate. To put it simply, they’ve lost a lot of the talent that they had that helped them win that 2018 World Series, and they haven’t been able to fill the gaps that were left. Of the 25 players that the Red Sox had on their 2018 World Series roster, only 40% of those players are still on the projected roster for 2021. Of the players that left, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr are the major names that have departed since, who all made up the Red Sox outfield in that World Series win. Since losing these players, they haven’t made many moves to acquire anyone to replace these losses, leaving them with a pretty average roster to work within 2021.
The lineup is looking more competitive than it did last season, as the additions of guys like Hunter Renfroe and Enrique Hernandez to go along with Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez, and Alex Verdugo should make for a better offense. The lineup still isn’t much better than an average lineup, but they’re not doing too bad for themselves considering the major losses that they’ve suffered over the past couple of years. Statistically speaking, the Red Sox’s offense last year was above average, but after losing Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr in the same offseason, it’s hard to tell if their offense is going to be able to remain above average.
The starting five played a big factor in the Red Sox’s struggles last season, as they were the second-worst team in ERA per game, third-worst in team ERA, and worst in WHIP in 2020. They missed top pitchers Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez a lot last season, as they were left with one of the weakest rotations in the MLB without them. Rodriguez will be ready to go at the start of the season, but Sale still won’t be back until about halfway through the season, so it’s uncertain as to how the Red Sox’s rotation will fare without having their best pitcher for the first half of the season. There’s not much to say about the bullpen other than it’s not too great. Closer Matt Barnes and offseason acquisition Adam Ottavino are the main notables in the pen, and they’re definitely not the best top of the bullpen that you’ll find in the league.
The Red Sox, while they made some solid pickups, also had some big losses, so we’ll have to see how they do with a newly constructed team. They’ve got some good bats in the lineup, but they don’t have a lot going for them other than those few good hitters, so a winning season isn’t something to be expected from the Red Sox this season.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have been working with top-tier rosters for the past few years, but they’ve been held back by two major factors that they hope to fix in 2021; injuries and consistent pitching. They have the tools to make a big impact on the league, but they haven’t been able to reach their full potential due to injuries and player inconsistencies. Once again, the Yankees are rolling with a pretty stacked team, but they’re going to have to remain healthy and consistent if they want to be a World Series level team.
Power is the name of the Yankees’ offensive game, as they sport one of the best power-hitting teams in all of baseball. In 2020, they were second in home runs per game and sixth in SLG, clearly showing the power that they possess. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ Lemahieu, and Luke Voit help make up one of the most talented power-hitting teams you’ll see in baseball. The issue with their lineup isn’t a talent issue though, it’s a health issue. All of their top hitters have dealt with injury issues over the past couple of years, ranging from day-to-day injuries to season-ending injuries. No matter how good your lineup may be, if they can’t stay healthy enough to play, you’re not going to perform at the level you potentially could. Unlike most problems that teams deal with, injuries aren’t something that can really be changed. Some players are simply more prone to injuries than others, and there isn’t much that can be done about it. They just have to hope that they don’t have to deal with any injury too major this season, because if they can remain healthy, they’re going to have one of the best lineups in baseball.
Despite past issues of inconsistency from their pitching staff, it seems like they’ve finally got themselves a surefire top arsenal to work with. Gerritt Cole is one of the best pitchers in baseball, new signee Corey Kluber is still a great pitcher despite not quite getting back to his Cy Young Award-winning level of pitching, trade acquisition Jameson Tallion is a very good young arm that has a good lineup to go along with his pitching for the first time in his career, Jordan Montgomery and Deivi Garcia are two solid pitchers to finish to rotation, and Luis Severino is likely to return at some point this season after receiving Tommy John surgery. The bullpen has some great options to go with in relief as well, as Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green, and Darren O’Day help make up one of the best bullpens in baseball.
The Yankees have a promising season ahead of them, assuming things go right for them. If they have to deal with the same problems they’ve been dealing with for the past few seasons, however, we might see another disappointing finish to the Yankees’ 2021 season. They have the talent, but do they have the ability to remain both healthy and consistent throughout the season? We’ll have to wait and see.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays made it to the 2020 World Series, and despite their loss, it put the league on notice. That notice may have been a short one though, as they took some tough losses in the offseason. Two of their top pitchers, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, departed from the team during the Winter, and the Rays didn’t add anyone nearly good enough to replace them. They were in talks with multiple top free agents throughout the entire offseason, but they didn’t manage to land anyone that major. Their lineup remained virtually the same, but being that their pitching rotation is what won them a lot of their games, they’re going to have a hard time having the same success that they had the previous season.
The offense, while not the worst in the league, is definitely not the thing that got them to the World Series. Their lineup combined for a pretty average slash line, and they were seventh in stolen bases per game, but the offense wasn’t anything all too amazing. The main difference in their lineup is that they now have breakout star Randy Arozarena to begin the season, whereas they only just realized the potential he had around playoff time last season. The Rays should be glad that Arozarena broke out the way he did because without him, there’s not much else to take note of with their lineup.
The pitching rotation is what won the Rays games last season, and losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton is going to be detrimental to the pitching staff. Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough are the only two pitchers in the projected starting rotation that were in the Rays’ starting rotation last season, as the other three spots in the starting five are filled by new acquisitions. During the offseason, the Rays signed Chris Archer, Michael Wacha, and Rich Hill, all of which are pretty average pitchers as of right now, While they may not be on the level that Snell and Morton were when they were on the team, Tampa Bay does have a talent for turning average pitchers into aces, so we’ll have to see if those two can reinvent themselves with the Rays. The bullpen was one of the best in the league last year, despite not featuring any all-star level pitchers. They lost Aaron Loup in free agency, but they still have Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, and John Curtiss to rely on.
The Rays are still a solid team despite some big departures, but they’re not the same team they were in the World Series. If they want to reach the level they were at last season, they’re going to need Randy Arozarena to continue to do what he did in the postseason and for the new pitching acquisitions to step up enough to fill the gaps that were left by Snell and Morton. If they can do that, then they could remain as a playoff, but if not, they could miss the playoffs just a season after making it to the World Series.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays currently have one of the best young teams in the MLB, and they’re going to be looking for those young players to make a big impact this season. They learned in the shortened 2020 season that they have young talent that are already ready to play at the major level, using that 60 game season to gauge where they were at as far as their prospects go. They also have a good veteran presence on the team, having a few older but still good players that can help lead the younger players. Although they’re still young, the Blue Jays could have a serious chance of making an impact in the American League.
Their lineup is a good mix of proven veterans that can still have a big impact and young talent that are ready to make their mark early on in their career. Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, and Cavan Biggio make up their young core, while Teoscar Hernandez and offseason additions Marcus Semien and George Springer make up their core of proven stars. As far as offense goes, the Blue Jays do everything right, as they don’t really have anything that weighs them down on the offensive side of the ball. They can hit for power, they can steal bases, and they don’t strike out much. The only things that separate them from top teams is that they aren’t the best in the league in any of these categories, so while they may be solid in all of them, they’re not quite at the next level. However, adding shortstop Marcus Semien and outfielder George Springer is going to be huge for their lineup, and they very well could take that next step this season.
Like their lineup, the Blue Jays’ pitching rotation is a good one, but not at the level of one of the absolute best in the league. Left-handed pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu is at the front of the rotation, followed by solid pitchers in Robbie Ray and Nate Pearson. Although their rotation is good, they need another top guy in the rotation if they want to consider it one of the best in the league. Their bullpen, just like the pitching rotation, is a good bullpen that just isn’t at the top level yet. They made a huge pickup in the form of closing pitcher Kirby Yates to go alongside solid relievers such as Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis. Although Yates was a good addition to the team, he doesn’t push them into the next category of bullpens, but they definitely do have a very solid one to use.
The Blue Jays are a good time, but the question is whether or not they can take the next step in 2021 and become a great team. Their young players are only getting better with time, the stars they already had are still going to be stars, and their new additions are going to make a big impact on day one. They definitely have the ability to be a great team, they simply have to show that they can be the great team they have the potential to be.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox appear to be going all in on a World Series run this year, and they definitely have a chance of doing so. Their young stars are only getting better, they made moves to upgrade their lineup and pitching staff, and they even brought veteran manager Tony La Russa in to manage the team in 2021. The White Sox very clearly are going for the World Series win now, but if they don’t capture it this season, they may miss out on their chance to win it all with their current core.
Their lineup is one of the best lineups in the MLB, being led by 2020 American League MVP Jose Abreu, alongside big bats in the form of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and Eloy Jimenez. In the 2020 season, the White Sox were sixth in runs scored per game at 5.03 and fourth in home runs per game at 1.60, clearly one of the more productive lineups in the league. Their strikeout rates are where they struggle the most offensively, as they averaged 9.52 strikeout per game, one of the worst in the league. However, due to their ability to drive in runs, these high strikeout numbers don’t have too much of a negative impact on the offense, though it will definitely be something they’ll need to work on in 2021.
Their pitching rotation is also one of the best in the league, as the addition of right handed starter Lance Lynn gives them three great pitchers to work with, alongside two other solid young starters to finish out the rotation. Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel both finished in the top ten for Cy Young Award voting, Lance Lynn is fifth in fangraphs WAR over the past two seasons, Michael Kopech is returning to the rotation after missing 2019 with injury and opting out of 2020, and Dylan Cease is looking to bounce back after having a down year in 2020. The White Sox also have a strong bullpen, as they added top tier reliever Liam Hendricks in free agent to an already solid bullpen. Hendricks, who is sitting at a 1.79 ERA through the last two seasons, is one of the best relievers in baseball right now, and if relievers like Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall can stay healthy and solid throughout the season, they’re going to have a nice bullpen to work with.
The White Sox are likely going to end up being one of the best teams in the MLB by the end of the season, but if they don’t win it now, it’s uncertain whether or not they’ll be able to win one with this core group of guys. They’re in win now mode, and they’re going to be doing a lot of winning in 2021, but whether they have the ability to go all the way or not is going to have to be seen.
The Cleveland Indians are not looking as solid as they were prior to the offseason, as the loss of elite shortstop Fransico Lindor is going to be a tough one to bounce back from. Over the past few years, the Indians have suffered greatly from players leaving in free agency, and this may have been the offseason that dropped them out of playoff contention.
Offense is very clearly the Indians’ weak spot, as outside of all star third baseman Jose Ramirez, they don’t have anyone that’s going to be helping them out very much on the offensive side of the ball. They finished fifth to last in the league in runs scored per game, and that was with Lindor in the lineup. Now that Ramirez is the only true great hitter left in the lineup, it’s going to be a struggle for the Indians to put runs on the board. They signed free-agent outfielder Eddie Roasrio, who is a decent pickup, but that signing doesn’t bring them close to even being an average hitting team. Assuming they hit even worse now that Lindor is gone, 2021 is going to be a very rough year for the offense.
The pitching staff is where the Indians are going to win their games. Shane Bieber is coming off of a Cy Young Award-winning season where he finished with a 1.67 ERA, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale are making their way to being good to great pitching options, Triston McKenzie is a good young player that will likely find himself a spot towards the bottom of the rotation, and they have a couple of options to choose from in the fifth spot. The bullpen also has good potential if they can perform to the best of their ability. James Karnichak is a solid closing option, and Nick Wittgren and Emmanuel Clase are decent out of the pen. Due to the lack of offense, the pitching staff is going to have to go all out this season if they want to see the playoffs.
This year is going to be a rocky one for the Indians, even if they do manage to end up in the playoffs. Their offense is going to be a hard one to watch, and there’s going to be a lot of reliance on the pitching staff to try and carry the Indians to some wins in 2021. If they do finish with a spot in the playoffs, it’s going to be as a lower seed, and if they miss playoffs, they’re not bad enough to have a good draft pick in the draft. This season is more than likely not going to be a fun one for the Indians, as they seem to be sitting right in the middle of the pack.
The Detroit Tigers haven’t had a winning season since 2016, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change this season. They’ve averaged a winning percentage of .345 over the past two seasons, opting to commit to a rebuild in order to invest in their future instead of trying to win now. That future is looking bright for the Tigers, and it looks like things are turning around for the team as their prospects make their way to the majors. As far as immediate success, however, it doesn’t look like the Tigers are going to have much of it.
Looking at statistics, the Tigers have been one of the worst offensive teams in the league over the past couple of seasons. Over the past two seasons, the Tigers averaged a .300 OBP, a .692 OPS, a 3.97 BB/K ratio, and 3.95 runs per game, these numbers putting them in position as one of the worst offensive teams in the MLB. This season, the Tigers are going to rely on unproven prospects and older veterans to make up their offense. They have players such as first baseman Miguel Cabrera and catcher Wilson Ramos on the older side of the spectrum that are going to look to prove that they’ve still go it, and players like Victor Reyes and Jeimer Candelario on the young side of the spectrum that are going to look to prove that they’re the real deal. The Tigers also have top prospect Spencer Torkelson that will likely find himself in the MLB at some point in the year, who the Tigers are hoping to build their future around. Although the offense may not be great, it will be interesting to see how these players perform in the position that they’re in.
Much of the Tigers youth is in the pitching staff, many of their top prospects being pitchers. Casey Mize, the Tigers’ second-ranked prospect, will more than likely be the third guy in the Tigers’ rotation, and guys like Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal, who are the Tigers’ third and fifth-ranked prospects respectively, will both likely find themselves in the rotation at some point in the season. These prospects will obviously have to settle into playing at the top level, so they’re likely not going to come out and dominate instantly, but it will be very interesting to see the Tigers’ future stars playing in present times. Another interesting factor is the fact that the Tigers don’t particularly have a set pitching rotation, meaning we’ll likely be seeing a good amount of different arms getting starts for the Tigers this year, fighting for their spot in the rotation. While the pitching staff might not be great now, we’re going to be seeing the future of the Tigers’ organization in front of us, which should be great to see.
The Tigers aren’t going to be a very good team this season, but they’re not too worried about being good now. They’re simply concerned with their prospects continuing to progress and hopefully being able to make an impact this year. If these prospects continue to get better, the Tigers are going to have a very good team in the coming years, but as of now, the Tigers are a team you can expect to see near the bottom of the league.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals were a pretty dominant team from the early to mid-2010s, but by the end of the decade, they were one of the worst teams in the league. They’ve lost a lot of players through the years, not being able to recover much from these losses. The Royals are looking like they can begin to make their way back up the rankings though, but considering they had the fifth-worst record in the American League last season, they should realistically be headed up from here.
The lineup has a good combination of power and speed, but they haven’t been able to convert this skill into the stat sheets. They were below average in AVG, OBP, and SLG last season, not being able to prove that they have the ability to be a solid hitting team. Their lineup on paper is actually a very solid one, with players such as Whit Merrifield, Salvador Perez, Carlos Santana, Jorge Soler, and the recently acquired Andrew Benintendi making up the big part of the lineup. Whether or not they’ll be able to perform the way they could, however, is going to have to be seen. Catcher Salvador Perez has dealt with injuries that have prevented him from playing as much as they’d hope, and outfielder Andrew Benintendi will be looking to return to his 2018 self after an average 2019 and an injury-shortened 2020. The Royals have the ability to put runs on the board, but it’s uncertain if they’re going to be able to do so or not.
The pitching staff is a mix of veteran pitchers with cheap contracts and prospects looking to make an impact at the major league level. Danny Duffy and Mike Minor give a veteran presence in the rotation, while Brad Keller, Brady Singer, and Kris Bubic give the rotation youth. We will also likely see prospects such as Asa Lacey, Daniel Lynch, and Jackson Kowar throughout the season, slowly making their way up to the major leagues. The bullpen isn’t a particularly great one, especially after losing closer Trevor Rosenthal during free agency. Outside of Ian Kennedy, there aren’t very many notable pitchers out of the pen for the Royals, and they’ll likely be filling the bullpen with prospects during the year to get them innings at the major league level.
The Royals aren’t going to be the team they were in their 2015 World Series win, but they’re finally headed back on the right track. They’ll be average at best and one of the worst in the league at the worst, so they’re just going to look for their prospects to develop and for their star players to remain star players, hoping their prospects can turn themselves into certified major league players soon.
The Houston Astros, despite the fact that they made the playoffs, finished 2020 with a losing record, much to the amusement of baseball fans across the world. Despite these struggles, the Astros still do have a good roster, though their days as a superteam are getting further and further away as time goes on. With multiple star players’ contracts coming to an end at the end of the season, it’s possible this could be the Astros’ last season as contenders.
The lineup is still led by the same names it was led by in their controversial 2017 World Series victory, as Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and Jose Altuve remain as their top guys. They lost George Springer to free agency, but they brought back Michael Brantley, keeping their lineup pretty solid. Despite the skill they possess, multiple Astros stars had their struggles last season, and they’re going to be looking to bounce back big time in 2021. Bregman slashed .242/.350/.451, Correa slashed .264/.326/.383, and Altuve slashed .219/.286/.344, these slash lines being some of the worst the three stars have ever produced in a season. The Astros also had young star Yordan Alvarez go down with injury in 2020, leaving him to play only two games last season. It wasn’t all bad though, as veteran Michael Brantley had a pretty good season, but apart from that, they struggled a good amount on offense. One bad season isn’t the end of the world though, and the Astros’ offense are looking to rebound big time in 2021.
The pitching rotation is going to be without veteran ace Justin Verlander for an uncertain amount of time, but even without him at the top of their rotation, the starting five is still a very good one. Zack Greinke is still pitching great in his 17th season in the MLB, Lance McCullers is a solid second pitcher in the rotation, free agent signing Jake Odorizzi helps bolster the rotation, and Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy are two young arms with great potential. The rotation only improves when Verlander returns, but there’s no certain timetable on his return, though he is determined to return this season. The bullpen features top closer in Ryan Pressly and new signee Pedro Baez at the top of it, but no other notables.
The Astros could be in the last year of championship contention with their current core group of guys, meaning they need to go all out this year to try and win it all. Greinke, Correa, and McCullers are all free agents at the end of the season, and if they can’t bring them back, then the Astros are likely going to have to have a bit of a reset in order to get back in championship form. It’s now or never for the Astros, so we’ll have to see how they perform in what could be their last shot at a World Series for some time.
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels have been trying to build a championship-level team for about 10 years now, but in those years, they’ve only ever managed to play in one playoff series. They’re closer now to being a World Series level team than they have been in a while, but they’re still not quite there yet. They have stars throughout the roster, but it’s going to take more than that to call themselves a top team in the MLB.
The first few spots in the Angels’ lineup are taken up by some great players. Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, Anthony Rendon remains as a top-tier third baseman, David Fletcher is coming off of his best season in his short MLB career, Shohei Ohtani is now all in with being a two-way player, and Jose Iglesias slashed .373/.400/.556 through 39 games last season for the Baltimore Orioles. The remainder of the lineup, however, is not so good. Albert Pujols is as bad of a player as he’s ever been in his career, Justin Upton played his two worst seasons of baseball in 2019 and 2020, Dexter Fowler is on the decline as his age continues to rise, and Max Stassi has yet to prove himself as a legitimate starter. While the top half of the order is strong, the bottom half cancels it out, leaving them with an average offense.
The pitching rotation has some decent potential, but the inconsistency that they’ve showed over the past few seasons makes it hard to believe that they’ll be able to live up to that potential. Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, and Jose Quintana are all far too inconsistent as pitchers to see them as one of the better rotations in baseball, although they have the potential. Griffin Canning has a high ceiling, but he also has a high risk of injury, so they’re going to have to play it safe with him this season. Then you have Shohei Ohtani, who is the biggest question mark in the Angels’ organization. Ohtani looked great in his 2018 season, but after having to get Tommy John surgery, he wasn’t quite able to return to that form. If Ohtani can be the ace they expected him to be, it’s a huge boost to the rotation, but if he can’t, it’s a huge detriment to the rotation. The bullpen now has a set closer with free-agent signing Raisel Iglesias, as well as solid options backing him up in Mike Mayers and Ty Buttrey, so the bullpen should be looking solid for the 2021 campaign.
The Angels are still not at that World Series level yet, but if all goes well, they could potentially be a playoff team. Knowing how things go for the Angels, however, it’s probably not the safest bet to assume things are going to go the way they anticipate them to go. They’re getting closer and closer to building a World Series caliber team around Mike Trout, but they’re still not there yet.
The Oakland Athletics finished 2020 with the second-best record in the American League, but struggled to get it going in the playoffs. They’re going to look to have the same success they had last season, but this time, they’re aiming to go all the way to the World Series. They took some losses in both the lineup and the pitching staff over the offseason, but they still have a very good team and are making the most out of their limited budget.
Their lineup is structured not to be a great offensive team or a great defensive team, rather to be good on both sides of the ball. Nobody in their lineup is an amazing hitter, but they’re all good and smart hitters that will produce runs as a team. Star shortstop Marcus Semien left the team in free agency, but the A’s managed to replace him with an albeit less impressive player in Elvis Andrus. Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Ramon Laureano, Mark Canha, and Sean Murphy are their top players that’ll give pretty good results both offensively and defensively. Chapman and Olson are likely the best third baseman and first baseman duo in the AL, as they’re both solid hitters and elite defenders. The A’s have a solid lineup throughout, but due to limited star power offensively, they’re going to have to rely on getting runs across the board as a team.
The pitching staff is good as well, as they’re able to get outs despite a lack of star power. Chris Bassitt is a good pitch-to-contact pitcher that can get outs, Sean Manaea is looking to bounce back after a bit of a rough 2020, AJ Puk and Jesus Luzardo are good young arms that have been plagued with injuries, and Mike Fiers is a solid veteran to have finish out the rotation. The bullpen lost arguably one of the best relievers in baseball when Liam Hendriks left in free agency, but they replaced him with another elite reliever with Trevor Rosenthal. Jake Diekman, Lou Trivino, and Adam Kolarek are all good options to go with out of the pen, and JB Wendelken seems to be settling in as a reliever.
The Athletics have a good team assembled, and they’re looking like a dark horse candidate to contend for a World Series. They’re mainly going to have to hope that injuries don’t impact them as much as they have in the past, because if they can avoid any major players going down for significant time, they should definitely be in the conversation as championship contenders. They’re a good all around team, and they should be able to find success with their team focused structure.
The Seattle Mariners continue on with their rebuild, getting closer and closer to finally exiting their rebuild and becoming a legitimate contender. They’re not there yet, but they show plenty of promise, and if these young players that fill out a good portion of their roster can continue to develop in 2021, they could be a team to watch out for in the near future. The Mariners plan on trying to get a playoff spot this season, but that’s not something I would expect from the team this season.
The lineup has plenty of talented guys, but they have their flaws. Kyle Seager brings a veteran presence to a very young team, but with his age comes a deterioration in his playing ability. JP Crawford and Evan White are both great defenders, but they’ve struggled with the bat in their hands up to this point. Mitch Haniger is a good player, but injuries have had a big impact on his playing time the past couple of seasons. Ty France shows promise, but is very inexperienced at the major league level. Kyle Lewis seems like their most complete player in the lineup, but he still has a long way to go. If these players can improve upon their flaws and continue to excel in the area they excel at, it could make for a pretty solid lineup. If not, then they’re likely going to end up looking like the same lineup they had last season, which was a below-average one.
The pitching staff are led by Marco Gonzales and the returning James Paxton, who have both proved to be two pretty good pitchers. The rest of the rotation are made up of unproven pitchers, as Yusei Kikuchi has yet to prove that his success in Japan can translate over to North America, Chris Flexen is returning after playing the 2020 season in the KBO, and Justus Sheffield is likely going to play his first full season on a major league roster. Rafael Montero and Keynan Middleton, two new additions to the Mariners’ roster, are going to lead the bullpen, with Kendall Graveman backing them up as a solid option due to the improvement in his pitching velocity.
The Mariners expect to fight for a playoff spot this season, but looking at the roster, they’re still not quite there. The potential is definitely there, but potential isn’t going to give them immediate success. They’ve been patient thus far in the rebuild, and they’ll need that patience for a bit longer.
The Texas Rangers are one of few teams in the MLB that are in rebuilding mode, as they made the commitment to focus on their future during the 2020 season. They traded away veterans in return for prospects and let other veterans walk in free agency in order to make space for younger players on the major league roster. Expect to see more veterans being traded and a lot of young and unproven prospects getting their shot at the major league level this season.
Everyone in the projected starting lineup, with the exception of Khris Davis, is between the ages of 25-28, making for one of the youngest lineups in the MLB. Joey Gallo is the standout in this lineup, as he’s a prime example of the way baseball is played in modern times; a lot of home runs, and a lot of strikeouts. Isiah Kiner-Falefa is another notable in the lineup, mainly due to his skill in the field, as he’s coming off of a Gold Glove Award-winning season. The remainder of the lineup are mainly young guys that are looking to prove themselves as everyday players while the opportunity is there. Nick Solak and Nate Lowe are both likely going to end up being full-time starters for the team by the time the season is over, and there are a few other guys that have the potential of getting to that point as well.
The starting rotation is led by Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, who, unlike most of their roster, are both 30 or older. While they might be the best pitchers the Rangers currently have, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were both traded at some point during the season in order to truly commit to this rebuild. They already traded 33-year-old Lance Lynn last season, so it’s likely that they also try to move Gibson and Lyles as well. The remainder of the rotation consists of three 26-year-olds, as Dane Dunning, Kyle Cody, and Taylor Hearn complete the starting five. The bullpen is young as well, everyone in the pen being under the age of 30. Jose Leclerc, Jonathan Hernandez, and Demarcus Evans will lead the young pen, the three of them all showing promise as pitchers.
The Rangers are going to be one of the weakest teams in baseball yet again, but now that they’re fully committed to a rebuild, they’re more focused on their young talent developing than getting wins. While they might not be a very good team, they should be an interesting one to watch, as plenty of young guys are going to get an opportunity to perform at the highest level. The Rangers have a pretty bright future, but as of now, they’re not going to find much success.
The Atlanta Braves have been a serious contender to be a championship-winning team over the past couple of years, but they haven’t quite been able to make it to the World Series with their current core. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019, and were eliminated in the third round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020. This year could be different for the Braves though, as their stars are still stars and their younger players are continuing to improve.
Their lineup is one of the best in baseball, combining contact, power, and speed to make for one of the most dangerous lineups in the MLB. First baseman Freddie Freeman is coming off an MVP winning season, outfielder Marcell Ozuna lead the league in home runs and RBIs in the 2020 season, outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr and second baseman Ozzie Albies are two of the best young hitters in the MLB, and the rest of their lineup and bench have good depth. The Braves were also second in AVG, first in OBP, first in SLG, first in OPS, second in runs scored per game, first in total bases per game, and third in home runs per game in 2020. It’s very apparent that the Braves’ lineup is a strong one, and if they can have the same offensive season in a full season, they’re easily going to find themselves in the playoff picture.
The pitching staff last season consisted of Max Fried dominating whoever he pitched against, and the other four pitchers being inconsistent or questionable. Things should be different in 2021 though, as the Braves improved upon their rotation in the offseason. Mike Soroka and Ian Anderson are returning full time after dealing with injuries, and Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly both signed with the team in the offseason. This gives the Braves three very interesting arms to watch at the top of the rotation, and two solid pieces to fill out the other two spots. The bullpen is a solid one, being led by closer Will Smith, followed by Chris Martin and AJ Minter. The pitching staff is what really prevented the Braves from going all the way in 2020, so if the improved staff does what they’re expected to do, it could very well earn them a World Series win.
The Braves are going to be one of the best teams in baseball for years to come, but they also have the ability to win it all right now. The batting order is explosive, the pitching staff is new and improved, and the bullpen is very much so serviceable. They were a great team in 2020, and they’ve only gotten better this season, so they’re going to be a team you can expect to be gunning for the World Series trophy.
The Miami Marlins managed to make their way into the expanded 2020 playoff format, even winning a series while they were there, but it’s uncertain whether or not they’ll be able to follow up with another playoff season in 2021. Now that the MLB is moving back to a full 162 game season and is going back to their original playoff format, it’s going to be a lot harder for the Marlins to find the success that they found last season.
Outside of outfielder Starling Marte, third baseman Brian Anderson, and recently acquired outfielder Adam Duvall, the Marlins’ lineup isn’t a very strong one. Number two ranked prospect Jazz Chisholm will also be someone to look for in the lineup, as the Marlins are going to be hoping that he can turn himself into a legitimate major league player this season. Chisholm won’t likely be the only young player that the Marlins are banking on to have success this season, as they’re going to be mixing plenty of prospects into the lineup throughout the season. If the prospects perform well, then the Marlins have players that can make a positive impact for them this year, and if they don’t perform well, then they’ll simply recall them to the minors and go back to their original starters. It’s a high reward and low-risk plan, which is good for a team like the Marlins, as they’re going to need players to step up if they want to find themselves in playoff talks.
Starting pitching is where the Marlins find most of their success, as they have three very solid young right-handed pitchers in Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Sixto Sanchez. The main concern with the pitching staff for the Marlins is whether or not they can stay consistently good and healthy through a 162 game season. If they can, then the pitching is going to be a big part of whatever success they have in 2021, but if they can’t, then it’s going to be a long season for the Marlins. They’re also going to need their starters to have the ability to go decently long into games, as their bullpen isn’t the strongest. They acquired Dylan Floro from the Dodgers via trade, and Anthony Bass is a decent closing option, but they don’t have many go-to guys after that.
The Marlins having success in 2021 is unlikely, but it was also unlikely that they’d have success last season either, and they ended up being a playoff team. This season, however, is back to the regular MLB format, meaning that the Marlins are going to have to perform better than last season and perform better for a longer period of time. Though the Marlins shocked people last year, it doesn’t seem like that will be the case this time around.
New York Mets
The New York Mets are now fully committed to trying to win a World Series within the next few years, their aggression in the offseason proving that. They added players through free agency and have injured players making their return, meaning they’ll be at full strength at the start of the 2021 season. The Mets being at full strength makes them one of the best teams in the league, so they’re going to be a team to watch in the 2021 season.
The lineup the Mets will be putting out in 2021 is one of the most complete lineups in baseball, not really having a weak spot through nine hitters. Elite shortstop Francisco Lindor will make his debut with the team after being traded to them in the offseason, second baseman Jeff McNeil is going to be back in his natural position at second due to Robinson Cano being suspended for the season, outfielder Dominic Smith is coming off of a hot season, first baseman Pete Alonso and third baseman JD Davis are looking to bounce back after both having down years, catcher James McCann is returning from an injury after signing a new contract with the team, and outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto are both going to be in prominent spots in the lineup. Safe to say, the Mets are rocking a very good lineup, and if they can all stay healthy, they’re going to be dangerous.
The pitching staff is about as strong as the lineup, with the range of starting pitchers being anywhere from solid to best in the league. However, injuries are going to be a big problem for the starting rotation, which could have a negative impact on the Mets’ success. Jacob DeGrom is one of the best pitchers in baseball and Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker are good options lower in the rotation, but Noah Syndergaard is out until at least June with injury and the recently acquired Carlos Carrasco is in jeopardy of missing the start of the season with a potential elbow injury. When healthy, the Mets’ rotation is one of the best in the league, but if they have to deal with injuries all year, it’s going to be tough for it to live up to its full potential. Their bullpen is also great without injuries, as you have pitchers like Edwin Diaz, Trevor May, and Dellin Betances. Arguably their top reliever, Seth Lugo, is going to miss the first portion of the season with an injury, meaning others in the bullpen are going to have to step up while he’s out.
The Mets could very well be a World Series team in 2021. Their main hope should be to limit injuries, and although that’s something that all teams hope for, the Mets seem to have more injuries than your average team. If they remain healthy, they’ll be a top-tier MLB team, but if they’re injury-ridden, they’re not going to be able to be the team that they have the chance to be.
The Philadelphia Phillies are going to be looking to make it back to the playoffs for the first time in ten years, the longest playoff drought in the National League. They re-signed important players and improved in areas that needed much improvement over the offseason, but it is uncertain whether or not these moves will be enough to bring them back to the playoffs this season.
The lineup is pretty solid throughout, with some much-needed pieces returning to the batting order to begin 2021. Catcher JT Realmuto and first baseman Rhys Hoskins are both making their returns to the lineup after sitting out most, if not all of 2020 with injuries. These two added to a lineup that includes an MVP caliber player in Bryce Harper and up-and-coming third baseman Alec Bohm makes for a very good top to middle part of the order. The problem comes with the depth, however, as the supporting cast for these players is not a very good one. Now more than ever are teams focusing on having offensive depth, which the Phillies are lacking in. Their good players are going to be good, but they can’t carry the entire offense, which is going to cause some problems on the offensive side of the ball. This lack of depth could also cause concern for injuries, as their star players are going to have to try and play more due to the lack of depth, which we’ve seen with the Phillies in the past. If their star players are on their game, winning won’t be a huge worry, but if they’re off, there’s not really anyone to pick them up, so there will be a lot of reliance on just a few players to practically be the offense.
The pitching staff is led by one of the best pitchers in the MLB in the form of Aaron Nola, along with Zack Wheeler, who finished 2020 with a 2.92 ERA and 2.9 WAR. Outside of those two, however, the Phillies’ starting rotation is arguably the weakest in their division. Zach Eflin isn’t a bad option for the third spot, but Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez are both relatively unproven, and with the National League East being one of the stronger divisions in the MLB, it’s going to be risky to have two guys that aren’t proven yet to pitch against tough teams such as the ones in their division. The bullpen is the undoubted weak spot in the Phillies organization, as it was arguably one of the worst bullpens we’ve seen in modern times. The average ERA of the pitchers that pitched 10 or more innings out of the pen in 2020 was 4.94, nearly putting them over an ERA of 5. They added Archie Bradley and Brandon Kintzler to the pen, but it’s likely not enough to give them even an average bullpen.
The Phillies have some World Series players on their team, but they don’t have nearly enough depth to put them in the conversation for the playoffs, especially considering the division they play in. If they can make some moves that give the team depth in both the batting order and the pitching staff, then you can start to talk about a potential Phillies playoff run, but until then, they’re going to be too short-handed to make a huge impact in the league this season.
The Washington Nationals won the World Series in 2019, and then proceeded to have a season where their win percentage was under .500 and they were last in the division. It’s common for teams that won the World Series to have some struggles the following season, so I wouldn’t look at 2020 as a true reflection of the Nationals’ ability. Their lineup is a solid one throughout most of it, and their pitching staff is one of the best in baseball, so the talent is there for the Nationals. The issue for them is going to be trying to finish at the top of one of the toughest divisions in baseball, as being a good team in the National League East isn’t going to cut it if they want to reach the playoffs.
Offense isn’t going to be the Nationals’ strong point in 2021, and although it’s not the worst in the league, it’s far from being one of the best. They have baseball phenom Juan Soto entering his age 22 season, where he’s only continuing to improve, one of the fastest players in the MLB with Trae Turner, and newly acquired power hitters with Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber. Soto and Turner are great, and Bell and Schwarber are solid, but the rest of the lineup isn’t really all that, so they’re going to rely mainly on their two stars to produce the offense, with the solid players chipping in when they can. With the lineup not being a very deep one, offense isn’t going to be too easy to come by, and if you don’t score runs, then you don’t win games.
It’s been a good few years since the Nationals haven’t had one of the best pitching staffs in the MLB, and that doesn’t change as we head into the 2021 season. Max Scherzer is continuing to excel despite his age, Stephen Strasburg is returning to the rotation after missing 2020 with injury, and Patrick Corbin are all great options in the first three rotation slots, and Jon Lester and Joe Ross are solid arms as far as the bottom part of the rotation goes. Out of the bullpen, they have a very good closer in the form of Brad Hand, as well as right-handed pitchers Daniel Hudson, Tanner Rainey, and Will Harris backing him up.
The Chicago Cubs are in the toughest spot as an organization that they’ve been in for some time. Outside of their top stars, they don’t have a lot going for them, as they don’t have much depth on their major league roster and they don’t have any prospects that are ready to take the next step and join the MLB roster. The remaining stars that they do have, however, are either exiting their prime, are on the trading block, or are going to be heading into free agency soon, meaning that things could fall apart for the Cubs very quickly. They’re not done for yet, but they’re definitely not on the level that they were a few years ago, and if they can’t pull it together, they’re going to go back to the Cubs of the past, which is the last thing that they want.
The lineup is pretty solid throughout, but even the good parts of the lineup have their flaws to come along with. Kris Bryant is entering his age 29 season and, despite his poor 2020 season, is still one of the better hitters in this lineup, but his name has been flying around in different trade rumors that could very well become reality at some point during the season. Javier Baez and Willson Contreras are other top hitters that are currently in their prime, but they’re both free agents at the end of the season, meaning they’re either going to leave in the offseason or return for a crazy amount of money that will hurt the Cubs financially. Anthony Rizzo is on the decline, and he’s unlikely ever going to return to his former all-star level of play. They’re also still dealing with Jason Heyward’s bad contract that doesn’t expire until 2023, meaning they’re stuck paying his contract for another few years. The Cubs still have good players in their lineup, but they all come with a downside, which is going to be tough for the Cubs to deal with.
The pitching staff took a big hit in the offseason when Yu Darvish was traded to the San Diego Padres for an unimpressive trade package. Their starting rotation is now left with Kyle Hendricks, who is heading into his age 31 season, so it’s uncertain how much longer he’s going to remain solid for. The rest of the starting five is below average, as their second best pitcher is the returning Jake Arrieta, who hasn’t been the same since the last time he played for the Cubs in 2017. The bullpen is one of the weaker bullpens in baseball, with the only notable player being Craig Kimbrel, who hasn’t been able to be the type of player he once was since joining the Cubs in 2018.
The Cubs are pretty close to reaching panic mode right now, and even if all goes well, they’ve still got inevitable problems to deal with. Kris Bryant could be shipped away via trade, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Hendricks aren’t getting any younger, and Javier Baez and Willson Contreras are either going to leave in free agency or are going to take up much of the Cubs’ cap space in the offseason. The Cubs can either choose to try and keep their current core and build around them as quickly as possible, or they can hit the reset button and enter rebuilding mode by letting their top guys leave and focusing on prospects. It’s not an easy decision to make, but it is a decision that must be made, and it’s going to have to be made this season.
The Cincinnati Reds made the playoffs for the first time since 2013 last season, and although they were swept in the first round, they seemed to be headed down the right path. They took a big loss in the offseason, however, as 2020 Cy Young Award winner left the team and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaving people to question whether or not the rotation can remain solid despite the big loss. There are also questions of how good their lineup is going to be, as they have a few players that are on the line between being a good player and being on the decline.
The lineup has a lot of questions that they need to answer in the 2020 season. Is Hall of Fame worthy first baseman Joey Votto finally on the decline? Can Mike Moustakas become the same slugger that he was a few seasons ago? Will Japanese import Shogo Akiyama remain consistent during a full 162 game season? Was the poorly played 2020 season something that Nick Castellanos can bounce back from? Is someone going to be able to step up and play shortstop? A lot of very good questions to ask, but there’s one question that takes all of these questions into account; will the Reds actually be able to answer these questions?
The pitching rotation is where the Reds’ success is going to come from in 2021, despite the loss of Bauer during the winter. Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray are both on the top of their game right now, Tyler Mahle has the potential to take the next step this season, and Michael Lorenzen is a decent guy to have fill out the bottom of the starting five. Their bullpen, while not as good as the starting rotation, is still solid, as they have Amir Garrett and the newly acquired Sean Doolittle to come out of the pen in relief.
The Reds are surrounded by a lot of uncertainty heading into 2021, and if they can find the answers they need to find, they’re going to struggle, despite being in one of the weakest divisions in the league. Even if they can get things figured out, they’re still not as good as the top teams in the division, not likely to be any higher than third seed in the NL Central.
The Milwaukee Brewers were one of only two teams in MLB history to make the playoffs with a losing record last season, and that’s thanks to the expanded playoff format. Had the playoffs been formatted the way they normally are, they would have been far from the postseason. This is mainly due to the struggles from their offense, which was one of the worst in the league last season. Being that they’re in arguably the weakest division in the MLB, however, a rebound from the Brewers is very much so possible, but they’ll need to see nearly everyone in the lineup bounce back from their performance last year.
The offense was the source of the Brewers’ 2020 struggles, as they struggled heavily on the offensive side of the ball. They were fourth last in runs scored per game, second last in strikeouts per game, and fifth last in AVG across the league. Although the lineup as a whole had their struggles, former MVP Christian Yelich is going to be the one that people look at to rebound in 2021, as he is the focal point of the Brewers’ offense. In 2020, Yelich slashed .205/.356/.430, which was a big step down from the .329/.429/.671 slash line he had by the end of 2019. Yelich putting up the numbers he put up just a couple of years ago is essential for them, because if he can’t, then they’re going to be without a true star in the lineup. They acquired two good hitters in second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. through free agency, who are both going to be put in prominent spots in the lineup out the gate. They’ve got good hitters in the lineup, they just have to perform the way that they are expected to perform if they want to have success.
The pitching rotation has a good top two with Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, but they’re pretty thin in the starting five apart from them. Even if Woodruff and Burnes are on top of their game, they’re going to need the remainder of the rotation to step up and give them support. The bullpen, similarly to the rotation, has a very strong top two, as Devin Williams and Josh Hader are two of the best relievers in all of baseball. Besides them, however, they’re pretty weak in the pen, not having really any other solid options to rely on. The Brewers have a few great pitching options throughout their staff, but the supporting cast behind them is not very strong, meaning there is going to be a lot of reliance on their top pitchers to come through when needed.
The Brewers have the potential to make the playoffs in a weak division, but with the playoffs going back to the original format, they’re not going to be able to sneak into the postseason like they did last season. They’re more than likely going to have to win the entire division if they want to secure a playoff spot, which means they’re going to need for their top guys to play like top guys again, because if they play the way they did last season, playoffs aren’t going to be an option for them this time.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are more than likely going to be the worst team in the weakest division in the MLB. In 2020, they finished with a record of 19-41, the worst in the entire MLB. Their roster has only gotten weaker since the end of the season, as they traded away their best pitcher, Jameson Taillon, to the New York Yankees, and one of their best hitters, Josh Bell, to the Washington Nationals. The Pirates are a prime example of a team that are in full rebuild mode, and it’s going to show in their play this season.
The lineup is a similar lineup to their 2020 lineup, which was one of the worst lineups in the league last season. The Pirates were last in the MLB in runs scored per game, fourth to last in AVG, last in OBP, and last in SLG, clearly being one of the worst hitting teams in the league. The only bright spot remaining in the Pirates’ lineup is Ke’Bryan Hayes, who has the potential to be a star. However, considering he’s still developing and there’s not much good surrounding him, he’s not going to be able to do much in terms of helping the teams win games.
The pitching staff is a very average one, as they were middle of the pack in most all pitching stats last season. They have 24-year-old Mitch Keller who shows a lot of potential, but the rest of the pitchers in the rotation are in the average to below-average range. The bullpen doesn’t have much going for it either, as the only pitcher of note in the pen is Richard Rodriguez, though it’s uncertain whether or not he’ll still be on the team by the end of 2021 due to the trade rumors surrounding his name. Chris Stratton would probably be the next guy up in the bullpen, although he’s no more than an average reliever.
The Pirates do not have a lot going for them. They’re going to be one of the worst teams in the league, and most of the prospects they have aren’t quite ready to be in the MLB yet, so they won’t really have anyone of interest to watch out for either. Ke’Bryan Hayes and Mitch Keller are the only two players worth looking out for, as the remainder of the roster is simply not very good.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals are looking like the strongest team in the NL Central, having a good mix of proven stars and young guys that have bright futures ahead of them. The Cardinals made a huge addition to the lineup over the offseason, as they traded for top-tier third baseman Nolan Arenado without having to give up much. Their lineup is pretty well filled out now, they just have to see if their pitching rotation can step up to ensure that they’re the best team in the division.
Everyone in the Cardinals’ lineup brings something of value, and while it’s not your traditional star-studded lineup, it is very fundamental. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado give you power, Tommy Edman and Paul DeJong give you contact, Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill give you speed, Yadier Molina gives you a future Hall of Fame veteran, and Dylan Carlson gives you a promising young player. The defense that these players give you is probably more valuable than anything though, as they’re easily going to be one of the best defensive teams in the league. The current Cardinals starting lineup combined for a total of 41 defensive runs saved last season, and if you put that under the circumstances of a regular season, it brings you to 112, which would be the third most team defensive runs saved of all time. This doesn’t take into account that most all their players are just as good or better than they were last season, meaning they definitely have the potential to statistically be the best defensive teams of all time.
The pitching rotation is an interesting one, as there’s not much that is certain about it. 25-year-old Jack Flaherty is still going to be their ace, but other than that, there are questions to be asked. Is Miles Mikolas still going to be at his best after sitting out 2020 with an injury? Can KK Kim repeat the success that he had in his debut season? Will Adam Wainwright remain serviceable in the later years of his career? Will Carlos Martinez make his way back into the starting five after being limited to the bullpen the past couple of seasons? Which young players are we going to see potentially in a rotation spot throughout the season? The Cardinals are going to have a lot to think about with their starting rotation, and if they can get it right, they’re going to have a pretty solid starting five. Their bullpen is pretty deep, as they have arms like Jordan Hicks, Giovanny Gallegos, Alex Reyes, and Andrew Miller at the top of it, along with young pitchers such as Ryan Helsley, Daniel Ponce de Leon, and Genesis Cabrera filling out the rest of the pen.
The Cardinals may not necessarily look like the most stacked team, but they have a very good group of guys, and they’re going to be a dark horse pick for a potential World Series run this season. It’s mainly going to come down to how good their pitching rotation can be, and if their rotation can be the best rotation it can be, the Cardinals are not going to be a team to sleep on in 2021.
The Arizona Diamondbacks did not have a very good 2020, despite not being a bad team. Virtually everyone in their offense had struggles, and they had to deal with injuries in the pitching staff. They’re going to be hoping for the team as a whole to bounce back, and if they do manage to rebound from 2020, they could be a solid team.
They have a bit of everything throughout the lineup, getting a good mix of contact, power, and speed up and down the batting order. Outfielder Ketel Marte gives you good versatility, outfielder David Peralta has a very good ability to get on base, first baseman Christian Walker and outfielder Kole Calhoun both give you solid power, and then you have some utility type guys to fill out the rest of the order. While it may not be the best lineup out there, it is serviceable enough to help their pitching rotation out.
The pitching rotation is where many of the questions lie for the D-Backs. Last season, the Diamondbacks’ ace Madison Bumgarner took a very big step back, which had a pretty negative impact on the team’s success in 2020. If Bumgarner can return to original form, the Diamondbacks are going to be out of a legitimate top pitcher. The rest of the rotation is solid, consisting of a solid guy like Zac Gallen and a young arm with Luke Weaver. This rotation is an average one, and that’s with Bumgarner on top of his game, so if he continues to regress, it’s going to be a tough year for the rotation. The bullpen really doesn’t have much to offer either, with free agency signing Joakim Soria being the only notable arm out of the pen.
The Diamondbacks are going to have an interesting year regardless of what happens, but whether or not it’s a good interesting or bad interesting is up in the air. If the lineup can rebound from a poorly played 2020 season and Bumgarner can turn himself back into the player he once was, they’ll have a pretty solid 2021. If the lineup continues to have struggles and Bumgarner keeps regressing, they’re going to be in for a very long season. Last season was a step in the wrong direction for the Diamondbacks, and we’ll have to see if they keep heading down that path or if they get back on track with a winning season.
The Colorado Rockies are projected to be the worst team in the MLB in 2021 by PECOTA, projecting them to finish with a record of 60-102 by the end of the season. 2020 was already not a good season for the Rockies, but things only got worse for them over the offseason. Unless practically every player on the roster performs better than expected, they’re not going to have a very good season.
The lineup has been left with one proven star after elite third baseman Nolan Arenado was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for close to nothing. Star shortstop Trevor Story is the last man standing in the Rockies lineup, the only legitimate star player on the team. Charlie Blackmon is a reliable piece in the order, but his age is starting to get up, so it’s uncertain if he’ll remain the same caliber player that he has been before. The rest of the lineup consists of young, unproven players that are looking to have an impact while the team lacks true starters. This season will be good for young players like Brendan Rodgers, Ryan McMahon, and Raimel Tapia to get an opportunity at the major level, but the lack of experience is going to show in the lineup this season.
The pitching rotation is also the stronger point in the Rockies organization, but it’s still not as good as it could be. German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, and Antonio Senzatela are all solid pitchers, but the last two spots in the rotation are questionable. Jon Gray is coming off of a bad season, where he sported an ERA of 6.69 through eight games pitched. The fifth spot is projected to be Austin Gomber, who they acquired in the Arenado trade. He’s a solid pitcher, but is unproven as a starting pitcher, as most of his work has come out of the pen. The bullpen is one of the weakest in the MLB, and they don’t have a go-to guy to come in to relieve. Their bullpen is projected to finish with a 1.6 combined WAR by the end of the 2021 season, one of the worst in the league.
The Rockies should realistically try to begin the rebuilding process, but it doesn’t seem like they really want to head down that path. They are allowing young players to get their innings in, but they need more commitment to it than that. Trevor Story is as valuable now as he’ll likely ever be, and if they truly want to commit to a rebuild, they’ll need to trade him for some top level prospects. If they don’t commit to the rebuild, expect them to not only be one of the worst teams this season, but one of the worst teams for several seasons following this one.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the defending World Series Champions, and it looks like they’re on track to potentially repeat. They’ve managed to make the roster even stronger than it was last season, and considering they were able to win it all last year, they’re in a great position to make it back to the World Series once again.
The lineup has everything that a baseball team needs to have great success. They have contact, power, speed, depth, and good defense, making them a great team all around. They have a handful of stars throughout the lineup, and anyone that isn’t a star is either still a good player or a young player with the potential to be good. Stars like Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger are all MVP level players, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, and Will Smith are all very good players, and AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor are both good players. They also have younger guys like Gavin Lux and Matt Beaty off the bench to fill in when needed. To put it simply, the offense is stacked, and it’d be hard to argue against them having the best lineup in baseball.
The pitching rotation also has an argument for being the best in the league, the starters ranging anywhere from Cy Young caliber to very good. Walker Buehler is headed into his age 26 season where he’s only going to get better, Clayton Kershaw is coming off of a stellar performance in the World Series, new signee Trevor Bauer was the National League Cy Young winner last season, and David Price and Julio Urias are going to be the strongest four and five pitchers in baseball. The bullpen is good as well, with guys like Kenley Jansen, Corey Knebel, and Brusdar Graterol being good options to enter games in relief.
The Dodgers are going to be one of, if not the best team in baseball this season. Their lineup and pitching staff are both loaded, and considering they’ve made improvements since winning the World Series in 2020, it’d be hard to see the Dodgers not contending for a World Series for the second year in a row.
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres are going to be one of the most fun teams to watch in 2020, as their roster is full of both skill and energy that attracts a younger baseball audience. Last season, they made it to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, and this season, they’re looking to win the first World Series in franchise history, and they have a good chance of doing just that.
The Padres are rolling with seemingly the same lineup that they had last season, a lineup that led them to being third in SLG, fourth in runs scored per game, and fifth in home runs per game in the 2020 season. The only difference now is that they’ve added infielder Ha-Seong Kim, who slashed .306/.397/.523 in the 2020 Korean Baseball Organization season, to their bench. If you have a player that good coming off of your bench, you’re doing something right, and by looking at the Padres’ lineup, it is even more apparent that they’ve got something good going for them. The lineup revolves around shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr and third baseman Manny Machado, who combined for a slash line of .290/.368/.576 in 2020. They also have Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Jake Cronenworth, and Trent Grishman scattered throughout the lineup, who all had an OPS+ of 122 or higher. Austin Nola and Tommy Pham should also be back full time this year, which only makes the offense better. Needless to say, the Padres’ lineup is talented all the way through, which is going to make for one of the best offenses in the league.
The pitching staff has a case for the best in the MLB, as their rotation is good 1-5, and the bullpen is full of solid options. Over the offseason, the Padres traded for Blake Snell, who won the Cy Young Award in 2018, and Yu Darvish, who was the National League Cy Young Award runner-up in 2020, without giving up any major pieces. Adding Snell and Darvish to a rotation that already has Dinelson Lamet, who was fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting, and two solid 4-5 guys in Chris Paddack and Joe Musgrove, easily gives them one of the best rotations in the league. Not to mention that top prospect McKenzie Gore could very well make his way onto the MLB roster this season, and he has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in the league someday. The bullpen also consists of the closing duo of Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan, as well as the new additions of Keone Kela and Mark Melancon. In terms of both the starting rotation and the bullpen, the Padres have a lot of good things going for them in the pitching department.
The Padres had a lot of success in the 2020 season, and considering they’ve only gotten better since then, they’re looking like they have a very good chance of winning the World Series in 2021. They brought back everyone that needed back, as well as made some good additions to the bench and huge additions to the pitching staff. If they can play as good as they’re expected to, the Padres are going to have a very fun time in 2021.
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are known as one of the best teams from the 2010s, but in the 2020s, they’re starting off pretty weak. They’ve got good players throughout the roster, but none of which are legitimate stars, as they’re either unproven or past their prime. The Giants barely missed the expanded playoffs in 2020, but with their division only getting better and them not making many improvements, it’s going to be hard for them to get that close to the playoffs again this season.
The lineup is led by the underrated trio of Mike Yastrzemski, Brandon Belt, and Donovan Solano. While these guys may not be stars, they’re good players to have in your lineup, and they’re a big part of the success that the Giants had in 2020. The rest of their projected lineup are veteran players, everyone with the exception of outfielder Mauricio Dubon being 30 years old or older. This lineup worked surprisingly well for them in 2020, being good enough to be seventh in the league in runs scored per game last season. However, putting them under the circumstances of a full season is likely going to cause a different result, especially due to the amount of older players they have in their lineup, who aren’t going to be seen as durable as they were in the past.
The pitching staff doesn’t have too much going for it at the moment, although they do have guys that have the potential to either bounce back or breakout this season. Kevin Gausman had a solid 2020 and is going to look to carry that into 2021, Anthony DeSclafani is looking to have a bounceback in his new home of San Francisco, and Logan Webb and Tyler Beede are both younger pitchers that show some promise. The bullpen is relatively weak, with closer Tyler Rogers and Matt Wisler really being the only notable pitchers in the pen.
The Giants are going to find too much success in 2021, but it could be the last season where they truly struggle for some time. They have a lot of major contracts expiring at the end of this season, which will free up money that they can do whatever they want with, meaning they could be in the market to pick up some good free agents during the offseason. As of the 2021 season, however, the Giants are going to be one of the weaker teams in the league.
With the MLB coming off of a shortened season, it’s going to be interesting to see how players and teams adjust to returning to the regular 162 game season. Teams and players that were hot last season are going to be looking to stay hot this season, and teams and players that struggled last season are going to try to rebound. Everyone has something to prove in 2021, and it’s going to be exciting how the 2021 MLB season plays out.