Major League Baseball begins its 2021 season on time this year, and will attempt to play as close to 162 as they possibly can. A full season, or something close to it, will be welcome with the impending labor doom on the horizon. Half of the Majors are intent to do as little as possible in fielding a team this year, about one third are legitimately going for it, and the others are stuck in the malaise of a CBA that is clearly outdated and is in desperate need of an overhaul. What does that mean for the season to come? It feels fairly easy to predict, even though we know that doesn't mean the eventual outcomes will be predictable.
2. NY Mets
The NL East is the only division where all five teams are conceivably going for it, or at least attempting to. Any of these teams could win the division or win a Wild Card spot, though some are more likely than others. The Braves have annual playoff heartbreak, but that means they get there, and they should have enough to win the division this year. The Mets are now spending like a New York team, but they still have the traditional Mets front office dysfunction and bullpen woes which will likely keep them from winning the pennant, but the playoffs are more than possible. Washington is not the team that won the 2019 World Series, but with the high end talent in Soto/Scherzer et al, they will be competitive all year. Philly's bullpen last year was so bad that it legitimately cost them a playoff spot, and while it'll be better this year, will it be good enough to not cost them a chance? It was fun to watch the Marlins take advantage of the shortened season last year, but that seems like a fluke of the pandemic more than anything else.
1. NY Yankees
3. Tampa Bay
Last year's shortened season cost the Yankees a chance at the division because their recent injury woes never relented. This year's team is deeper, and therefore should outlast the somewhat lesser opposition behind them to win the AL East again. It's nice to see the Blue Jays, who still can't play in Canada, spending on players like George Springer as they build back up to contending status again after their relatively surprising playoff appearance last year. They're young and fun and growing all the time. Tampa once again traded away its best player for prospects as only they can do after throwing away a World Series that was very winnable, but they have their system and process down to a tee. It will keep them competitive. The Red Sox are at the very least not tearing everything down to the studs anymore, and the O's... well that 0% playoff prediction on Fangraphs doesn't lie.
1. St. Louis
3. Chicago Cubs
Nolan Arenado is now a Cardinal because his old team is cheap and doesn't know how to rebuild (or build) properly. His presence buoys an already solid team to the top of a division in transition. Milwaukee struggled in the shortened season, but if Christian Yelich finds his 2018 form again, the Brewers should challenge for this division. The Cubs are also in the process of going cheaper now minus Yu Darvish among other 2016 heroes, and so their 2020 short season division win feels relatively hollow. The Reds no longer have their former ace Trevor Bauer, and a team that tried to go for it doesn't feel like it wants to do that anymore, as there's a drive into deep left field from Castellanos. As for the Pirates... PNC Park is nice!
1. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City
Hiring Tony La Russa in 2021 baseball was and still is extremely weird. He doesn't mesh well with a young and fun group of players like the sadly injured Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson among others. But there is a school of thought that suggests talent can overcome coaching deficiencies in some circumstances, and in spite of the Jimenez injury, it seems like the White Sox should have enough to win this division. The Twins will continue to bash home runs for fun and try to outslug everyone else to make the postseason, which if they get there, will crash down to earth as it always does for the Twins in the postseason. It's a shame the Indians had to trade Francisco Lindor because it's impossible to spend money in baseball now, but they still have the pitching to stay competitive. That World Series winning Royals team is firmly a distant memory now, but Whit Merrifield is fun and could be a major piece at the trade deadline. The Tigers rebuild is ongoing, and some of those players will play for AJ Hinch this year, but that's about all there is in Detroit.
1. LA Dodgers
2. San Diego
3. San Francisco
There's a real chance the Dodgers just steamroll everyone this year after finally winning the World Series. They're even deeper than they were with Trevor Bauer, and have multiple legit starters coming out of the bullpen. But this year, unlike recent years, will have actual competition in the division in the form of the amazingly fun and amazingly going for it San Diego Padres. There will be a real and fascinating rivalry between these two teams this season. Adding Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to a group with Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and a number of exciting prospects is legitimately rare in today's baseball, and it's so much fun to see. The Giants rebuild is humming along smoothly, and while they won't be competitive this year, there's a chance they flex their muscle soon with prospects maturing and money to spend. Arizona's attempt to go for it last year with Madison Bumgarner failed spectacularly, and so they're now stuck in neutral, and the Rockies can't even put on a proper fire sale.
Somehow, the Astros after their cheating scandals and poor form from stars made it to Game 7 of the ALCS after being down 3-0 in that series. Most of that group returns, sans George Springer, and it feels like this may be a last chance for this group to push at the top of the American League. At some point, will the A's run out of the magic they always have as they compete at a decently high level while spending little to no money on players? Don't count them out. Until the Angels prove they can be what they should be with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon, most should be inclined to not buy it from them. Outside of Jarred Kelenic, the most entertaining 2021 Seattle Mariners thing is this extended look at their history courtesy of Secret Base, and it's amazing. As for the Rangers, even though the pandemic is still ongoing, their new ballpark will be allowed to open at full capacity to watch a team tearing it down to the studs.
NL Playoff Teams:
1. LA Dodgers
3. St. Louis
4. San Diego
5. NY Mets
AL Playoff Teams:
1. NY Yankees
3. Chicago White Sox
NL Wild Card: Padres over Mets
NLDS: Dodgers over Padres in 5 & Braves over Cardinals in 4
NLCS: Dodgers over Braves in 6
AL Wild Card: Blue Jays over Twins
ALDS: Yankees over Blue Jays in 4 & Astros over White Sox in 5
ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 5
2021 World Series:
Dodgers over Yankees in 7 (it's boring but it seems most likely).
NL MVP: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD)
AL MVP: Mike Trout (ANA)
NL Cy Young: Jacob DeGrom (NYM)
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole (NYY)
NL ROY: Ke'Bryan Hayes (PIT)
AL ROY: Randy Arozarena (TB)
NL Manager: Jayce Tingeler (SD)
AL Manager: Charlie Montoyo (TOR)
Apologies to everyone in advance for the jinxes they have all received.
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