Happy baseball season, everyone. As spring training winds down, we get to look forward to grown men hitting leather balls with wooden sticks starting April1st and no, it’s not a joke. I have teamed up with fellow writer, Justin DiSanto, to break down our outlook for the 2021 baseball season. Justin will be covering the NL (so make sure to check it out) while I’m tackling the AL. Strap in and grab a snack because this is going to be a little long winded.
The O’s are yet another rebuilding year and the chances of them making the playoff in 2021 are slim to none. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the team is going to be boring. Former top prospect, Ryan Mountcastle, enters his sophomore season after batting .333 with 5 bombs in 35 games in 2020. Veteran pitcher Matt Harvey has joined the squad looking to revamp his career. The biggest story out of O’s camp this spring is the return of Trey Mancini. In the spring of 2020, Mancini was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer and had surgery to get the tumor removed. The surgery was successful but Mancini decided it was best to opt out of the 2020 season. Thankfully, it’s a new year and Mancini is back in camp and has an .817 OPS with 2 homeruns this spring so it’s good to know that he can still hit!
I expect the O’s to finish last in the AL East this year but I can also see them giving teams that think they are push-overs a hard time.
Boston Red Sox
When I think about the 2018 Red Sox versus the 2021 Red Sox, they aren’t that much different. Sure, they don’t Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mitch Moreland, David Price, or Craig Kimbrel but they still have a lot of talent, especially on the offensive side. Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez make up the heart of the lineup with Hunter Renfroe, Bobby Dalbec, Michael Chavis, Jonathan Arauz set to fill in the gaps.
Chris Sale is expected to miss a majority of the season as he tries to bounce back from Tommy John surgery, however, the Red Sox were able to pick up some arms to eat innings. Garrett Richards and Nick Pivetta join Nate Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez in Boston’s rotation to make it at least serviceable from an overall perspective. I expect the Red Sox to be competitive at the very least but have a tough time getting anything going.
New York Yankees
For the the 5th season in a row, the Yankees fully expect to win a championship in 2021. The GM, Brian Cashman, apparently got addicted to gambling during quarantine and signed two high risk/high reward starting pitchers to ease the burden off of Gerrit Cole. Corey Kluber is one of them and he hasn’t participated in a full season since 2018 because he’s suffered a string of freak injuries and then tore a muscle in his throwing shoulder in his first start in 2020. Jameson Taillon is the other one and he’s coming off of his second Tommy John surgery. Kluber and Taillon are both really good pitchers when healthy, but this plan can get really bad, really fast.
There is one key to the Yankees success in 2021 and that is health. For the past 2-3 seasons, the Yankees have broke records for the amount of IL stints but continue to not only win games but be projected to be the best team in baseball every year. I believe the result of 2021 will be the beginning of the future for the organization and many players’ tenure hangs in the balance.
Tampa Bay Rays
The reigning AL East champs made some questionable decisions during the offseason. For a team that made it to the World Series last year, you would think that they would add some much needed pieces to put them over the top and try again. However, if you’ve ever kept tabs on how the Rays operate, you knew that that wasn’t going to happen. More notably, they decided to trade away Blake Snell, Jose Alvarado, and Nate Lowe. They also let Hunter Renfroe and Aaron Loup walk in free agency.
They did fill in those roster spots though by acquiring Luis Patino and Francisco Mejia in the Snell trade and signing free agents Collin McHugh, Rich Hill, Hunter Strickland, Chris Archer, and Michael Wacha. The biggest addition to watch for some time this season is the anticipated debut of MLB’s top prospect, Wander Franco. He is not on the Opening Day roster but he could very well be a mid-season call-up depending on where the Rays are in the division. I find it hard to believe that they will repeat the same level of success as they did in the 2020 60-game sprint but the Rays have surprised me many times before.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays continued their climb in the power rankings by signing George Springer, Marcus Semien, and Kirby Yates this offseason. Unfortunately, Springer has suffered an oblique strain so he is not going to be ready for opening day and Yates had to get Tommy John surgery so he’s out for the year and then some. Regardless, Toronto’s lineup is a good one headlined with Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Marcus Semien, Cavan Biggio, and Randal Grichuk.
Pitching, on the other hand, is questionable at best. The rotation is going to consist of Hyun Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, Steven Matz, Nate Pearson, and Tanner Roark. Not the worst rotation in the league but there’s not a whole lot of upside either. The bullpen is no better especially since Kirby Yates will not be there to close out the 9th.
2021 American League East Prediction
- New York Yankees: 100-62
- Tampa Bay Rays: 91-71
- Toronto Blue Jays: 88-74
- Boston Red Sox: 82-80
- Baltimore Orioles: 75-87
Chicago White Sox
I firmly believe that this is the year the White Sox break through and win the AL Central. Although they lost Nomar Mazara, James McCann, and Alex Colome to free agency, they were still able to add to their team overall. Chicago signed Liam Hendricks, Adam Eaton, Jonathan Lucroy, and Jake Lamb. They also acquired Lance Lynn via trade to join Giolito, Kopech, and Keuchel to form and very respectful rotation.
As I’m writing this, the White Sox have suffered a big blow and Eloy Jimenez is going to be missing a considerable amount of time with a torn pectoral muscle. While that loss is significant, White Sox fans still have to be excited that Luis Robert is going to get his first full season under his belt and show off what he’s capable of.
Cleveland Baseball Team
I wrote an article about this organization relatively recently and the basic gist of it is that they suck and they care more about saving money than putting a quality product on the field. They traded away Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco while also declining the club options of Carlos Santana and Brad Hand. The only notable additions to the club are Amed Rosario and Eddie Rosario. I would also look for more trades at the deadline to offload even more money *cough* Jose Ramirez *cough* Not a good look for the front office whose payroll sits in dead last at just under $40mil.
That number is pathetic and the Dolan family should feel pathetic. They are one of the richest groups to own a team and they spend the least. They don’t deserve fans. Period.
The Tigers are far from looking competitive right now but I have to respect the way they’ve handled this offseason. They’ve managed to scoop up a bunch of vets in attempts to at least bring people to the ballpark. They’ve added Wily Peralta, Julio Teheran, Nomar Mazara, Renato Nunez, Wilson Ramos, Derek Holland, Erasmo Ramirez, Robbie Grossman, and Jose Urena while only losing Austin Romine, Ivan Nova, and Jordan Zimmerman to free agency.
They have a long way to go but with Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal making the team this year and Spencer Torkelson arriving sometime in 2022, the future looks bright. Although, they will still have to pay Miguel Cabrera a ridiculous amount of money for the next three seasons.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals might be better than you think they are. With Greg Holland reviving his career in 2020 and the additions of Jarrod Dyson, Brad Bach, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana, Carlos Santana, Michael A. Taylor, Mike Minor, and Andrew Benintendi, they may be able to make a push for a Wild Card Spot.
At the very least, the Royals have 3 prospects in the Top 30 including Bobby Witt Jr. He is currently on track to make his debut sometime in 2022 or 2023 but I would not be surprised if he forces the front office’s hand to bring him up this season IF the Royals can make it to the playoff. Witt is a stud and I believe he will be the future face of the Royals.
The Twins have been able to stay competitive for the last few years to the surprise of many. However, they’ve struggled to make it past the first round of the playoffs. This year, the Twins have shaken things up in hopes that it will refresh the team and get them over the hump. Notable departures are Eddie Rosario, Alex Avila, Marwin Gonzalez, Trevor May, Rich Hill, Homer Bailey, and Jake Odorizzi. The Twins have added Matt Shoemaker, Alex Colome, Andrelton Simmons, J.A. Happ, Hansel Robles.
Now that the AL Central has some real competition, I suspect the Twins’ window is closing much faster than some realize. With Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson, another year older and the pitching staff continuing to be a weak point past Jose Berrios, this team just isn’t built for huge success.
2021 American League Central Prediction:
- Chicago White Sox: 91-71
- Minnesota Twins: 86-76
- Kansas City Royals: 81-81
- Cleveland Baseball Team: 76-86
- Detroit Tigers: 65-97
This may be the first time in 4 years that the Astros are vulnerable and don’t have a guaranteed trip to the postseason. With George Springer gone and Justin Verlander missing a majority of the season, the Astros have glaring holes on their roster. Greinke and McCullers will have to lead the rotation, Altuve is looking to bounce back from a trash 2020, Correa is on his walk year, and Alvarez hasn’t played consistently since 2019. The Astros did add Jake Odorizzi, Pedro Baez, and Ryne Stanek to help bolster the pitching staff but will it be enough? Probably.
Hopefully, fans of rival teams did not forget about the 2017 sign-stealing scandal and let the Astros hear about it. The players involved (who are complicit at the very least) have practically received zero punishment so far due to MLB’s useless commissioner and the lack of fans in 2020. So, I am hoping that the only thing we hear about the Astros this season is the VIP treatment they receive when on the road.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Mike Trout is looking to put the team on his back once again to hopefully get the Angels into the playoffs. The one and only thing that Mike Trout can’t do, however, is pitch. Angels fans have been waiting for the organization to do something, anything, with the pitching staff to make it at least serviceable. Currently, the highest paid pitcher on the team is Raisel Iglesias making only $9mil while the front office spends over $118mil on 4 position players. Instead of spending a bunch on Gerritt Cole or Trevor Bauer, they decided to jump in the bargain bin and scoop up Jose Quitana and Alex Cobb.
The biggest difference maker for the 2021 Angels is Shohei Ohtani. The 2018 RoY award winner (robbed from Miguel Andujar) has not been able to stay on the field. He needed Tommy John surgery and wasn’t able to pitch all of 2019. In 2020, he suffered a forearm strain and pitched a total of 1.2 innings over 2 starts. He’s back on the mound and hitting triple digits again, but will he be able to stay there and above all else, pitch good.
The A’s are pretty on par with how they usually operate. Sure, they’ll be decent and threaten to take the AL West title again, but will they? They dropped Jake Lamb, Tommy La Stella, Robbie Grossman, Joakim Soria, Liam Hendricks, Mike Minor, Marcus Semien, and Khris Davis just to pick up Mitch Moreland, Trevor Rosenthal, Sergio Romo, Elvis Andrus, and Jed Lowrie. Doesn’t exactly scream “World Series, here we come!”
Overall, it’s still a solid team with Matt Chapman and Matt Olson at the corners and Sean Manea, Chris Bassitt, Yusmeiro Petit in the rotation. But then again, it’s the A’s and they aren’t really expected to do much with Billy Beane calling the shots.
The Mariners were a hot topic this offseason in the wrong way. Their GM at the time was caught spilling industry secrets that hinted at service time manipulation and other various unfair treatment of players. I was quickly relieved of his duties, however, it did spark the fans to expect movement on a couple of young studs, Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez. Ranked 4th and 5th, respectively, neither of them have played above AA but they are already seen as better alternatives to what the Mariners currently have on their roster, which is sad to look at.
It will most likely be another last place finish for Seattle but at least they get to cheer for James Paxton again. Other than that, it’s same old same old with Kyle Seager Yusei Kikuchi, Marco Gonzalez, and Mitch Haniger being the main attractions besides 2020 RoY, Kyle Lewis.
The Rangers suck. Sorry to any fans reading this but I’m just being honest. How long until they trade away Joey Gallo? You know it’s coming. Anyways, the Rangers parted ways with Shin-Soo Choo, Corey Kluber, Elvis Andrus, and Lance Lynn. They then proceeded to look for players behind the dumpster out back and found Ian Kennedy, Brock Holt, David Dahl, Mike Foltynewicz, and Delino DeShields playing wall ball with a rolled up carton of cigarettes. The Mariner’s sprayed them down with a hose and told them to get their asses in the clubhouse before the vultures get them but just don’t talk to anybody. That’s how I think it went down and there’s no proof that says otherwise so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
2021 American League West Prediction:
- Houston Astros: 88-74
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 82-80
- Oakland Athletics: 81-81
- Seattle Mariners: 73-89
- Texas Rangers: 60-102