Updated: Apr 18, 2021
With spring training fully underway, that means the MLB season is on the horizon. With how sports have played out this season, the MLB is no exception to being unpredictable.
There will be things that are expected such as certain teams/players being good or bad. However, along with the expected comes the unexpected. Each year a dark horse team comes out of nowhere and makes a run to the playoffs or a player comes firing on all cylinders.
So in the spirit of the unexpected, here are five hot takes🔥 to bless your eyes. Viewer discretion is advised:
1. The New York Mets will win their division
Let’s start hot, shall we? Since joining the NL East in 1969, the Mets have only won the division six times. Most recently, they won in 2015 when they went on their improbable World Series run. Since then, it’s been a struggle for the not so Amazins. However, things seem to be looking up in Queens.
The Mets made some big splashes this offseason: Steve Cohen became the majority owner of the team, the Mets traded for Superstar Francisco Lindor, and the team made big free agent signings such as James McCann and Carlos Carrasco.
Along with the new faces, the Mets lineup is looking better than it has in recent memory. Each year, Mets fans (like myself) have a delusional hope that this year is going to be the year. Well, this year might actually be the year.
2. The World Series will feature a team from the AL East and the NL East
The World Series is staying on the east coast this year. Both divisions are looking stronger than ever and why not have this year be the year it happens. Whether it’s the old playoff format (which isn’t great) or the new one we saw last year (which is great), the East divisions will dominate.
In the AL, the New York Yankees will continue to do what the Yankees have always done: win. Just as long as everyone is healthy this time around, they’ll be at the top of their division. Yes, Blake Snell and a handful of players left the Tampa Bay Rays for greener pastures. However, that just left room for their younger stars to come to the forefront in hopes of returning to the World Series. Let’s also not forget about the Toronto Blue Jays who made a major splash signing George Springer. Springer, along with some of the best young players in the game, will be in the playoff conversation.
In the NL, you have the Mets who have had one of the more exciting offseasons in recent memory (I gave you their spiel above). The Atlanta Braves had five players in the top 20 in MVP voting, with Freddie Freeman taking home the award. With all those players and more coming back, it shouldn’t come as a surprise they’ll be successful. When it comes to the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals, as long as their players remain healthy and perform at the level that is expected, they should both make the playoffs (if expanded).
With seven different teams to choose from, there’s no wrong answer to go with.
3. A young pair take home the MVP Awards
...And that young pair is Yordan Álvarez in the American League and Ronald Acuña Jr. in the National League. You thought I was going to say Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Juan Soto like everyone else, right? Either way, it's a bold take, but I’m going with the bolder.
In just half a season in 2019, Álvarez batted .313 and mashed 27 home runs on his way to unanimously winning Rookie of the Year. 2020 was supposed to be a similar outcome, but Álvarez sat out at the beginning of the season after testing positive for COVID-19. When he did return in August, Álvarez only lasted two games before undergoing arthroscopic surgery on both knees, shutting down his season.
The Houston Astros are easing Álvarez back into the lineup, but once they let him loose, there won’t be stopping Álvarez. His .655 slugging percentage was the highest in history for a qualified rookie.
An All-Star in 2019, two straight Silver Slugger awards, and Rookie of the Year in 2018, Acuña has taken the league by storm. He made a major jump from year one to year two, leading the National League in plate appearances (715), runs (127), and stolen bases (37) while finishing top five in MVP voting. However, in a 60-game shortened season last year, Acuña wasn’t able to get going and it was more of a down year than anything else, having an increase in strikeout rate.
The good news is Acuña was able to get on base more, percentage-wise. Even in a down year, Acuña was tenth in the league in OBP, ninth in OPS, fifth in runs scored, and ninth in walks. Being surrounded by multiple other MVP candidates will help push Acuña to the next level to becoming an MVP himself.
4. The Los Angeles Angels will win their first playoff series since 2009
Mike Trout, arguably the greatest baseball player of the modern generation, has only seen the playoffs ONCE and the Angels were swept in the ALDS. For the past six years, the Angels haven’t even made the playoffs.
The Angels offense looks to be exciting this year, being led by Trout, Anthony Rendon, and breakout rookie Jared Walsh. The Angels will also be backed by veterans such as Albert Pujols, Justin Upton, and Dexter Fowler.
The Angels also bolstered their pitching staff, adding José Quintana, Alex Cobb, and closer Raisel Iglesias. While also returning starters, the real question is if Shohei Ohtani can return to his rookie year form. If so, the former Rookie of the Year can boast problems for teams not only on the mound, but also at the plate.
What also helps the Angels case is other teams losing star players. The Houston Astros lost George Springer and Michael Brantley while the Oakland Athletics lost Marcus Semien and Liam Hendricks. Of all years, this is starting to look like the perfect year for the Angels.
5. Trevor Bauer flops with the Los Angeles Dodgers
This might be the coldest take on the list, but it’s still pretty bold considering Bauer won the Cy Young Award. But if you take a look at Bauer’s career, it’s not so farfetched.
In a 60-game shortened season, Bauer led the National League in ERA with 1.73 and all the majors with two complete games and shutouts. But that was a shortened season. Before last year, Bauer was only able to get an ERA below three once in his career. His strikeouts have gone up through the years, but so has his WHIP.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Bauer and his online presence and what he’s trying to do to build the game of baseball. But his track record doesn’t help his case. Maybe he’s turning his career around heading into his 30s. However, I’m leaning toward the side of last year being a fluke.