After a very weird 60 game season a year ago, we hope to get back to some normalcy with a 162-game season starting on Thursday. There will still be some remnants from last year that will make this year different. Still not full capacity, pitchers innings may be watched much closer, and COVID testing still a part of the season But as a whole it should look a lot closer to normal. Let’s take a look at each division and win projections from a few different analytical sources and break it down by team.
The Yankees are the consensus pick here. They re-signed DJ LeMahieu, added Jay Bruce to bolster an already dangerous lineup. They added Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber to their rotation and hope to get Luis Severino back from Tommy John. The Blue Jays are the pick to take a big step this year. With Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette another year in and the free agent signing of George Springer. The rotation is a bit of a question mark after Hyun-Jin Ryu at the top. The Tampa Bay Rays always need to be in consideration. The defending AL Champs aren’t getting much love here, mostly due to the loss of Blake Snell, but if Wander Franco comes up to make an impact and Randy Arozorena looks anything like he did last October, you can’t count them out. The Red Sox have what looks like a shaky and injury-prone starting rotation to me and are stuck in this very tough division. I can’t see them getting above 4th in here. The Orioles round out the division around 20 games below the rest. The rotation is awful, but Ryan Mountcastle should be fun to watch on offense.
The Twins and White Sox are the hot picks here. Fangraphs likes the White Sox, but PECOTA likes the Twins and even has the Indians above the White Sox. The White Sox have the better rotation and a lot of young talent, but it’s a question of whether that group of young hitters can put it together. Eloy Jimenez will miss a lot of time (torn pectoral), Luis Robert started hot last year, but got caught chasing a lot later on in the season. Andrew Vaughn is another young hitter expected to DH a lot for the Sox. The other question is how Jose Abreu will be coming off his huge MVP Season in 2020 after a few years where he trended downwards. But the Chicago bullpen is one of the best in the MLB on paper. The Twins add Andrelton Simmons to help defensively and they keep a lot of power in the lineup with Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton. The lineup will take a hit with the loss of Lindor, but Eddie Rosario joins from Minnesota and Amed Rosario looks to be used in more of a utility role after being acquired in the Lindor deal. And they still have the reigning Cy Young winner in Shane Bieber. The Royals are definitely better than the Tigers after adding Carlos Santana, Andrew Benintendi, Michael A. Taylor and Mike Minor. Whit Merrifield is still an elite hitter and Jorge Soler has big power. The Tigers will be rough this year, but they do have a few young pitchers in Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal that should be fun to watch mature.
The Astros are the consensus pick in the AL West. Kyle Tucker had a breakout 2020 and Alex Bregman is a popular pick to have a big 2021. George Springer is gone, Myles Straw will likely fill in at centerfield, but the biggest question is the rotation. Justin Verlander will try to return from Tommy John at some point, but will miss time. After Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr, the rotation is very young: Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier and Brandon Bielak. The Angels can make a push given a healthy Shohei Ohtani. Pitching is always the question with the Angels, but this seems to be one of the better rotations they’ve had in recent years: adding Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb to round it out in the offseason. Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and Dylan Bundy have all shown they belong as long as they stay healthy. Oakland should hang around as they always do in this division. Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks are both gone now, but Matt Olson and Matt Chapman and a solid rotation should keep them in the hunt. The Mariners are young, but Kyle Lewis was the AL Rookie of the Year last year, Ty France will provide some power on offense and Mitch Haniger returns after missing all of 2020. James Paxton returns to the rotation. The Rangers project to be at the bottom, Joey Gallo is really the only offensive threat. Kohei Arihara joins the rotation from Japan and Mike Foltynewicz in free agency, but the bullpen looks very questionable; it could be a long year for the Rangers.
The Mets look like the consensus pick after making a big splash this offseason; adding Francisco Lindor and James McCann. Pete Alonso looks for a bounce back year and Jacob deGrom still leads the rotation. It should be a highly contested division with Atlanta and Washington also making moves as well. The Braves add Charlie Morton to the rotation, but the back end still has some questions. Obviously, they can hit with Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna. Cristian Pache should come up and make an impact this year. The Nationals brought in power with Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber to go alongside Juan Soto. And a rotation with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester won’t be easy to face. The Phillies will be competitive, but there’s just too much in this division. The biggest moves they made were bringing in a few bullpen pieces in Brandon Kintzler and Archie Bradley. Alec Bohm is a young third-baseman who can make a big impact in this lineup. The Marlins are still very young, but we saw the talent they have last season knocking off the Cubs in the playoffs. The bullpen will look completely different from last year and this team may struggle against a stacked division.
The NL Central is definitely down this year, but it should be very competitive. The Brewers, Cardinals and Cubs all look to be in contention. PECOTA loves the Brewers here. They should have the best bullpen with Devin Williams and Josh Hader. Offensively, they’ll get Lorenzo Cain back and should get a lot from Christian Yelich. They add Kolten Wong at second, who should at least give a big boost defensively. It seems like the biggest networks are loving the Cardinals because of the Nolan Arenado acquisition. That’s huge offensively with Arenado and Goldschmidt now in the middle of the order alongside Paul DeJong, but outside of them, the Cardinals will need someone else to step up. Maybe Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill, Tommy Edman or Justin Williams. Pitching-wise, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas and Kwang Hyun Kim will all start the season on the IL. The rotation depth will be tested early on for the Cardinals. The Cubs got a lot of negative feedback on the Yu Darvish trade this offseason, but they still look to be competitive in this division. Zach Davies, Jake Arrieta and Trevor Williams plug into what is possibly the softest tossing rotation in baseball. Joc Pederson fits in well for the loss of Schwarber and Ian Happ comes off his best season. The question in the lineup is whether the struggling core of Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant can comeback off of down season last year and all in contract years. The Reds haven’t added much this offseason and they lost their Cy Young. That’s the reason they look to be cemented in 4th. The Pirates will be at the bottom, but Ke’Bryan Hayes should be really fun to watch. Could be Rookie of the Year.
This is a clear two horse race. The Dodgers are the defending champions and brought in the reigning NL Cy Young Award Winner in Trevor Bauer. Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and Dustin May is going to be tough to beat. Corey Knebel joins the bullpen and Gavin Lux could have a breakout year at the plate. The Padres are the other horse here. Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet is a crazy good rotation (and that’s with Mike Clevinger out all season with Tommy John). Mark Melancon and Keone Kela bolster the bullpen and the lineup is as dangerous as ever with Fernado Tatis Jr and Manny Machado. I’m not sure they’re at the level of the Dodgers yet, but it’s the best team the Padres have had in recent history. The Giants and Diamondbacks are interchangeable in 3rd and 4th. Tommy La Stella joins the Giants and Mike Yastrzemski looks to make another jump this year. Arizona didn’t make many moves, but Ketel Marte has looked like a star over the past two seasons. The rotations could be an issues for both of these teams. The Rockies round out the NL West. After trading away Nolan Arenado, the question is whether or not they’ll keep Trevor Story. CJ Cron joins the lineup and could hit some mammoth bombs at Coors Field. Austin Gomber joins the rotation from that Arenado deal, but there isn’t much of a positive outlook on this season for Colorado.
I’m really excited for this season to get going and to start having real games with a crowd in attendance. The Dodgers look like the best team on paper, but there’s definitely challengers out there. This year should be an exciting one and I can’t wait to get it started.