By Noah Stern
After COVID-19 shortened the 2020 season, which saw the Los Angeles Dodgers win their first World Series since 1988, spring training for the 2021 season is already upon us. Last year saw teams like the San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins make the playoffs for the first time in a while and marked improvements for many squads around the league who are looking to continue into the 2021 season.
Here are some predictions for the 2021 MLB season:
NL East Winner: Atlanta Braves
The Braves were a win away from knocking the heavily favored Dodgers out of the playoffs last season and making the World Series. Unfortunately, they choked hard and were eventually knocked out. However, they’ve improved this offseason. The additions of Charlie Morton and Jake Lamb add much-needed depth to their roster and getting Mike Soroka back from injury is a game changer.
The New York Mets made the biggest splash of the offseason by acquiring Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, along with Trevor May and James McCann. The Washington Nationals also improved this offseason with the additions of Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell and Brad Hand. The Philadelphia Phillies needed to do one thing this offseason: sure up the bullpen.
The addition of Archie Bradley will help, but it probably won’t be enough to push them into serious contention. The Miami Marlins made the playoffs last year with the expanded playoff format, and adding Adam Duvall will improve them, but it won’t be nearly enough. The Braves are the cream of the crop in the toughest division in baseball, but any of these teams can surprise us and win the division.
NL Central Winner: Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers simply need offense. Christian Yelich is poised to have a bounce back season, while adding Kolten Wong and Jackie Bradley Jr. will sure up that atrocious defense they sported last season. The pitching staff is deep with top end starters Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser and Corbin Burnes, with Josh Hader and Devin Williams in the back end of the bullpen. Many people will predict the St. Louis Cardinals to win the division after making a huge splash by acquiring Nolan Arenado this offseason.
However, their pitching staff has too many question marks going into the season. The Chicago Cubs still have their 2016 World Series core together, but there just isn’t much to be excited about other than those guys on the roster. The Cincinnati Reds have all the talent in the world but seem to always be inconsistent. The Pittsburgh Pirates will be fighting for the worst record in the MLB this season. This division is extremely hard to predict, but the Brewers have done enough this offseason to make it back into the postseason.
NL West Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
There isn’t much to say here. The Dodgers might have had the best constructed roster in MLB history last season. Then, they added Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer. No contest. The San Diego Padres had the best offseason of any team in the MLB. Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Mark Melancon and Ha-Seong Kim were all added to the roster.
With Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. leading the lineup, this might be the best roster the Padres have ever had. They might have a chance to surprise the Dodgers and win the division, but they are still pretty young. The rest of the division is straightforward. The San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies all look very underwhelming heading into the season and shouldn’t come close to winning this division.
AL East Winner: New York Yankees
The Yankees made some sneaky good moves this offseason. Signing two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber has the potential to be the steal of the offseason if he can return to his old form. Trading for Jameson Taillon and signing Darren O’Day, Justin Wilson and (re-signing) DJ LeMahieu will help solidify the depth of this always-competitive Yankees roster. The Toronto Blue Jays also had an incredible offseason.
They were able to sign Steven Matz, Kirby Yates, Marcus Semien and George Springer, adding an experienced group of veterans to an extremely young and upcoming roster. The Tampa Bay Rays made the World Series last season, but they also made some questionable moves this offseason. They traded former Blake Snell and didn’t re-sign Charlie Morton, replacing them with Rich Hill, Michael Wacha and former Ray Chris Archer. The team seems to be going backwards after coming two wins away from a championship.
The Boston Red Sox still have a loaded lineup with Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and JD Martinez, but their pitching is still extremely weak. Chris Sale is a big question mark after having Tommy John surgery, and the rest of the starting rotation and bullpen has been inconsistent over the past few years. The Baltimore Orioles are young, but they aren’t quite ready to compete yet. This is the Yankees division to lose.
AL Central Winner: Chicago White Sox
The White Sox made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 last year, and they only got better. They added the best closer in the MLB in Liam Hendriks to solidify their bullpen and traded for Cy Young candidate Lancy Lynn. They also brought back Adam Eaton to sure up their outfield. Right behind them is the Minnesota Twins. The Twins added Andrelton Simmons, Alex Colome and Hansel Robles and re-signed Nelson Cruz.
They have the opportunity to win this division, but they will need to get much more consistency out of their starting pitching behind Kenta Maeda. The Cleveland Indians still have an amazing rotation, but they lost Francisco Lindor, and that’s all you really need to know about their offseason. The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals both made improvements this offseason, but it won’t be enough to be competitive yet.
AL West Winner: Los Angeles Angels
This is the hardest division to predict because there isn’t a clear-cut top team. The Angels are led by the best player in the MLB in Mike Trout and top third baseman Anthony Rendon. Their pitching has been their downfall for so many years, and they only added a few middle of the rotation players to try and fix it. The Houston Astros are who many people picked to win this division.
The addition of Jake Oddorizzi helps after losing Framber Valdez for the season, but the pitching staff is also just not good enough. The lineup still has its core led by Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, but there is just a feeling around the Astros that their championship window has closed. The Seattle Mariners will be much more competitive this season after adding James Paxton and allowing their young guys to keep improving.
The Oakland Athletics don’t have a ton of talent on their roster, but they always seem to find a way to stay competitive and make the playoffs. The Texas Rangers are the clear bottom feeders of this division and should have no business being close to the top. This division is up in the air, and any one of these teams has a chance to win it. The Angels have the best offense, which separates them in these predictions.