Once upon a time in the year 2019, I wrote a baseball overview blog on my predictions of how the divisions in each league would shake out. That brings us to the year of 2021. It will be more of the same except this time I will have some help from a good friend of mine, Marcus Anderson. You might have read some of his blogs before but if you haven’t, go check em out. Anyways, I will be covering the National League divisions while Marcus will be covering the American League. Let’s check it out.
There really is only one better team in the National League than the Braves and that team won the World Series last year. After a very successful but condensed 2020 season, the Braves did what they needed to do this off-season – and that was bring back Marcell Ozuna to keep intact a league leading offense in OPS. The Braves offense seems to be a well oiled machine with Ronald Acuna establishing himself, and rightfully so, into one of baseball’s best players. That’s not even mentioning my boy Freddie Freeman who finally got the recognition he deserved with taking home the 2020 NL MVP. The question remains if Dansby Swanson can repeat what he did last season and stay consistent throughout a whole 162 game season. It’s evident Swanson has the tools to be an impact player day in and day out, it’s just the one aspect of a player that separates the good from the great; consistency. The offense will not be a problem going into the 2021 season, it’s the pitching that will need to step up to keep the Braves relevant through the long haul.
It’s going to have to be the bullpen that will help separate the Braves from the rest of the pack. As a Braves fan, I want to see lefty Will Smith run away with the closers role. Smith had an abnormally high ERA during the condensed season due to his letting up an ungodly seven home runs against only 16 innings pitched. However, I expect Smith to have a nice bounce back season (fingers crossed). Just like almost every bullpen in baseball now, there are some electric arms up and down the bench and hopefully the roles of guys like Luke Jackson, Jacob Webb, Chris Martin, and Tyler Matzek will become established early. The Braves rotation is one of the best in the league especially the big three that contains Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, and Max Fried. If they throw to their potential, National League, watch out.
New York Mets
Here we go. There really hasn’t been this much buzz about a Mets team since the Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, David Wright and Carlos Delgado days, in my opinion. The Mets did exactly the opposite of what most people expected last season and were hanging out in the cellar with the Washington Nationals. The one thing the Mets did well last year was hit. The Mets led all of baseball in batting average and were third in OPS. With the emergence of Dom Smith, who reminds me a lot of James Loney, has great gap to gap power with doubles that turn into homeruns. Jeff McNeil is another great all around hitter who you can put anywhere in the lineup and will succeed. If Pete Alonso can regain his form he had his rookie year, and with the addition of Francisco Lindor, the Mets once again will be a threat to any pitcher who faces them.
After Stroman opted out of the 2020 season, the Mets needed someone to step up and that someone was rookie, David Peterson. He’s a great pitcher who might develop into an ace, but will can easily be inserted into the 2-3 slot. When Noah Syndergaard comes back into the mix around mid summer, the Mets rotation will look a lot nicer with Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker who were both added this off-season. The bullpen has the weapons. Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Trevor May, Dellin Betances, and Miguel Castro are some names that come to mind. You would think with guys like that, the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning would be shut down but Betances had the worst year of his career, by far. If Edwin Diaz can continue his dominance after a strange 2019 season, I hate to say it, but the Mets finally have a solid all-around team to make a post-season push.
All Phillies fans should have been counting their blessings with the resigning of catcher J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto impacts the game everyday in more ways than one and should help propel this Phillies team to where they expect to be. With the emergence of Alec Bohm, the Phillies no longer will need a third baseman for the near future. It will be interesting to see how Bohm does this year after a whole off-season of scouting. With Andrew McCutchen healthy, Didi Gregorius signed, and Jean Segura with a new offensive approach, the Phillies could cause some damage. Oh yeah, they also have some guy Bryce Harper.
The real story for this upcoming season regarding the Phillies will be their bullpen. The starting rotation is solid with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin. If Spencer Howard can live up to his expectation of their top pitching prospect, the Phillies rotation will be dangerous. The one problem? Their bullpen. Poor Brandon Workman. The man gets brought over to help the Phillies closer situation and unfortunately made things worse than they already were. He ended his Phillies tenure with a 6.92 ERA, 2.462 WHIP, as well as a .377 batting average against. The Phillies did add some depth this off-season with Archie Bradley and lefty Jose Alvarado with Bradley most likely starting the season out at closer. If the bullpen can hold it down, the Phillies could be in the hunt for the NL Wild Card.
One of baseball’s better stories last season, the Marlins showed baseball that anything can happen if you just show up to the ball park. The Marlins traded for Starling Marte last season at the deadline and will continue to function as their starting Center fielder. Third baseman, Brian Anderson, has also emerged as one of baseball’s better contact and consistent hitters. Hopefully Anderson will be inserted into the lineup at a higher spot other than 6, to which he hit out of a ton, to produce the results he deserves. This is a young Marlins team that also has some veterans in the mix. They could, once again, shock a lot of people.
Pitching is also a surprisingly solid spot for this Marlins team. Their top three starters, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Elieser Hernandez have proven to be very solid starters that will give you 6 very good innings, and possibly more, when they’re on. The Marlins also had a pretty solid bullpen with closer, Brandon Kintzler, leading the way with 12 saves and and ERA of 2.22. Kintzler has moved on to greener pastures and it seems like newly signed Anthony Bass will likely take over as closer. Yimi Garcia, who had a microscopic .60 ERA last season, will most likely either start the season as the set-up man or with a nice spring, could always take over the closers role. It is going to be very interesting to see how this Marlins team comes out of the gate with the success they endured during the 2020 season.
The Nationals definitely fell short of expectations last season after winning the World Series in 2019. However, time does not stop for anyone and the Nationals still have their big three healthy and ready to contribute. It really showed how much Stephen Strasburg means to that rotation/team when he went down with an injury early in 2020. If the Nationals bullpen can keep them in the game when their starters come out, the Nationals will hopefully, once again, become a force to be reckoned with.
Juan Soto. His play does enough speaking for itself. He’s the man. Plain and simple. He did get some help this off-season with former Pirates All-Star, Josh Bell, coming over from the Pirates via trade this off-season and hopefully will provide Soto with some support. The addition of Kyle Schwarber will also provide some stabilization from the left side and will definitely help in the power department. Trea Turner will still continue to be one of baseball’s most exciting players and will be a joy to watch. The Nationals are this years big question mark franchise. It will be exciting to see how the NL East pans out this season. Shout out Dave Martinez by the way.
2021 National League East Projections
- Atlanta Braves- 92-70
- New York Mets- 88-74
- Philadelphia Phillies- 80-82
- Washington Nationals- 76-86
- Miami Marlins- 71-91
After a pretty solid 2019, the Diamondbacks took a step back after the 2020 condensed season. Ketel Marte has made himself into a legit five tool player while being able to play more than 2 positions. A guy to look out for this year, even with a down year in 2020, is Dalton Varsho. If Varsho can put everything together, he is an underrated asset to help this ball club out.
The Madison Bumgarner signing sure didn’t go as planned. If Bumgarner can recapture some of his 2018 magic, the Diamondbacks have a solid 1-2-3 with him, Zac Gallen, who is legit, and Merrill Kelly. The bullpen is a bit of a mystery at the moment. Stefan Crichton did an unbelievably great job being called on to close some games out as well as being inserted into tough spots later in the game. The addition of Joakim Soria, former Astro Chris Devenski, and Tyler Clippard will hopefully help the Diamondbacks in games as the year wears on. Taylor Clark has also shown he can be as flexible as they need him to be starting games as well as pitching in long relief.
Los Angeles Dodgers
They’re a pretty good team. Winning the 2020 World Series solidified all the people saying “money doesn’t win championships” when, unfortunately, sometimes it helps. The Dodgers are a powerhouse and it doesn’t matter which way to dissect it. They don’t really need too much or a write up here. The Dodgers added Trevor Bauer and resigned Justin Turner. They seem to be a safe bet for another trip to a World Series.
San Diego Padres
This Padres team will definitely give the Dodgers a run for their money this year. After falling a tad bit short last season, the Padres are telling themselves it will not happen again. The Padres went out and added Blake Snell and Cy Young runner up, Yu Darvish, this off-season in an attempt to cement themselves a better chance to hang around in the post-season. The bullpen has Emilio Pagan and Drew Pomeranz as possibly sharing the closers role and I’m sure will be based upon matchups towards the later innings. Adding Mark Melancon to the bullpen mix also does not hurt.
The offense is no slouch either. The left side of the infield is arguably the best in baseball with Fernando Tatis and Manny Machado holding it down. The man that does not need to be overlooked is Jake Cronenworth. It’s easy to forget about him in a loaded lineup but he’s someone that will figure it out very quickly at the big league level and be a big contributor. The Padres should give the Dodgers some great competition this season as they will meet many times throughout the season.
Hate to say this, but I would hate to be a Colorado Rockies fan. After signing their cornerstone franchise player of the future, Nolan Arenado, to an eight-year $260 million contract, the Rockies turned around and practically gave him away to the Cardinals. Their next best player, Trevor Story, has already been rumored as not being a candidate for a potential extension. That leaves some good young players and a franchise with no direction of what they’re trying to do. Brenden Rodgers, Garrett Hampson, Ryan McMahon, and Sam Hilliard are the hopes in that the offense stays inept during the season.
Pitching has never been the Rockies strong suit and that trend will most likely continue for years to come. The Wade Davis signing backfired as did the Jake McGee and the Bryan Shaw signing during the 2018 off-season. All three of those guys are no longer with the team three years later. There are some solid options still in the bullpen which include Daniel Bard, Mychal Given, and Scott Oberg. Hopefully they can figure it out and get this bullpen back on the rails.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants to me are a strange team. They have some very intriguing hitters who I think are legit threats in Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson. Donovan Solano showed he should not be taken lightly and can also play a couple positions. They have a nice balance of righties and lefties off the bench to help in situational hitting as well. And of course, they have the Big Panda back. Enough said.
The Giants have been a little light on the pitching ever since the days of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner dominated for a few years. Johnny Cueto seems healthy this year as does Kevin Gausman. In recent reports, straight from the horses mouth in Gabe Kapler, Aaron Sanchez and Logan Webb also seem to have spots down. Both have the stuff to stifle hitters when they’re on but the main concern is the bullpen. The Giants also added lefties Alex Wood and Jake McGee who both have a great track at some points in their career. There is a chance McGee could claim the closers role and run away with it and I’m sure there are some Giants fans out there that want that. The Giants seem to be trying build a winning team on a low budget and could ruin some teams playoff hopes in 2021.
2021 National League West Projections
- Los Angeles Dodgers- 96-66
- San Diego Padres- 92-70
- San Francisco Giants- 78-84
- Arizona Diamondbacks- 75-87
- Colorado Rockies- 70-92
2020 was both good and bad to the Cubs. As they did win the Division, they were quickly eliminated by the Miami Marlins in a two game sweep. A bounce back year is inevitable for Javy Baez as he had his worst season of his career by far. Kris Bryant wasn’t healthy all season and also ran into some trouble as he to registered his worst season of his career. They do have Nico Hoerner who is going help at three infield positions whenever needed and also has some potential with the bat. If their offense is firing on all cylinders, they could once again claim the NL Central if their pitching cooperates.
Yu (you) may not care, but the Cubs are going to miss him. Luckily for the Cubs, they have Kyle Hendricks who is as consistent and solid as it gets and will likely hold down the ace spot in the rotation for the boys. After a three year hiatus, Jake Arrieta is back in Chicago and will stabilize the rotation that also includes Alec “no hitter” Mills (everyone calls him that), Zach Davies and possibly rookie Adbert Alzolay. The bullpen has some intriguing pieces but if Kimbrel starts the year as the closer, he should have a short leash just incase the same shit happens that did last year. This will be an interesting team to watch.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals had a very successful off-season. Yadier Molina is coming back for at least one more season and most importantly, a guy named Nolan Arenado is manning the hot corner for the foreseeable future. With Arenado and Goldschmidt in the middle of the lineup, there should be a lot of runs being scored with that lineup. With Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman both getting starting jobs this year, the Cardinals could do some damage offensively.
There aren’t many starters better than John Flaherty in the league. With Flaherty as theace of the staff, they really need solid contributions from Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright. Alex Reyes and Carlos Martinez are both huge question marks due to injuries in seasons past and do not look like the promising pitchers they once were. Even if both pitchers cannot handle a starting workload, they could still be an intriguing bullpen piece in the later innings given their command is still there. With lefties Andrew Miller and Genesis Cabrera, they have a very nice balance of both righties and lefties. I envision the Cardinals overtaking the division from the Cubs this year with Nolan Arenado making a huge difference in the middle of the lineup.
One word: Christian Yelich. When your best hitter, and one of baseball’s best, does not hit well, your whole team suffers. It wasn’t just Yelich that struggled mightily, but the whole team underperformed with Orlando Arcia being the only hitter with a .260 average or above– and he finished with exactly a .260 average. After being DFA’d from the Seattle Mariners, Daniel Vogelbach was picked up by the Brewers and ended up hitting very well over 19 games. However, with the universal DH not being part of baseball’s 2021 plans, he is forced into a backup role with Keston Hiura getting the starting nod to hold it down at first. The Brewers did go out and grab former Cardinal, Kolton Wong, which is why Hiura got bumped to first base, to man second base for the time being. If Lorenzo Cain can stay healthy and they can find playing time between all four outfielders, there could be some noise made in 2021 for this Brewers club after a disappointing 2020.
It was only a matter of time for Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff to both become great consistent starters. Burnes has one of the nastiest two-seamers in baseball and has the stuff to become an ace hopefully sooner rather than later. With 2020 Rookie of the Year winner, Devin Williams, showing he is already one of baseball’s better relievers, the Brewers have two top tier options for the 8th and 9th innings with Josh Hader being the other. If the Brewers can just get the the 8th inning with the lead, there will be some problems for opposing teams.
The Reds seemed like they wanted to make a legit post-season push last season with signing Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama. Unfortunately, both hitters had a hard time last season and could never gain enough traction to get going. Joey Votto admitted to changing his approach to gain a little more power in his game. Eugenio Suarez had a rough season after an unbelievable 2019 and Nick Senzel is still finding it hard to stay healthy. Maybe this Reds team needs a full season to really strut it’s stuff.
Losing Trevor Bauer in any rotation will hurt. Luckily, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo are still holding it down. Tyler Mahle is a solid option but given they make the post-season, the Reds might want to think about trading for a more consistent option. Rasiel Inglesias was also traded to the Angels this off-season in a move that was unexpected and seems now the cloers role will be shared between Amir Garrett and Sean Doolittle. It will be an interesting year for the Reds. If they can hit, they have a chance.
Poor Pirates. They have now watched Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, Jamison Tallion and Josh Bell all walk. It might seem bad with a 19-41 finish last season and that’s because it is. Not all is terrible as their as some promising players on offense for the Pirates. Ke’bryan Hayes has a chance to become an All-Star and has some very nice tools. Kevin Newman can flat out hit. One of my buddies, a former New York Met and Cape Cod League alumnist, played again Kevin Newman in the minors and in the Cape. He says Kevin Newman is one of the best pure hitters he has ever seen. This is coming from a man that started his Minor League career with Michael Conforto. I like to compare Kevin Newman to former Texas Ranger, Michael Young.
The starting rotation isn’t terrible. They have guys that can compete like Mitch Keller, Chad Kuhl, and Steven Brault. They do not really possess a true number one, but these guys can have themselves a day every now and then. Closer, Richard Rodriguez, had a productive season last season and seems to be first in line for any opportunities the Pirates give him. Unfortunately, the Pirates are going to be in an uphill battle for quite some time.
2021 National League Central Standings
- St. Louis Cardinals- 85-77
- Chicago Cubs- 84-78
- Milwaukee Brewers- 76-86
- Cincinnati Reds- 75-87
- Pittsburgh Pirates- 60-102