In a year where all sports had to take a giant pause, Major League Baseball eventually came back with a shortened 60-game season and was the first league to carry out a season, not in a bubble. Baseball fans can now look forward to the return of 162 games this upcoming season.
Heading into Opening Day today, it will be interesting to see how players react to going back to a full slate of games after playing a little over a third of that last year. COVID-19 has reared its head into the NBA with plenty of games being postponed, one can only imagine what it could do with MLB’s 162 games.
Now let’s get into the season preview and predictions:
AL East: New York Yankees
The analytical Tampa Bay Rays trumped the Yankees last season and the pinstripes were unable to claim the division. Not to say the Rays had a 60-game season in their favor, but now baseball is back to the norm and the Yankees aren’t going to let that happen two years in a row.
The biggest thing for the Yankees is to stay healthy. Giancarlo Stanton played a combined 41 games over the last two seasons, and Aaron Judge isn’t much better. The team is strong at every position and they have the depth just in case injuries do inevitably happen. New York bolstered their one weakness (pitching) by adding James Taillon and Corey Kluber to go along with hopefully getting Luis Severino back midseason.
The Yankees have the potential to be the best team in baseball and there’s no debating it. The Yankees just need to stay healthy and the pitching behind Gerrit Cole needs to be on their A-game.
AL Central: Chicago White Sox
Losing Eloy Jiménez to a torn pectoral definitely doesn’t help the White Sox case, but they’re still a strong team. The team endured a rebuild for 11 years before finally making the extended playoffs last year. They have a mix of seasoned vets and rising young stars, led by reigning AL MVP José Abreu and reigning AL ROY Luis Robert. They added Lance Lynn to the rotation and replaced Alex Colome with upgraded closer Liam Hendriks.
The division is tough with reigning division champs Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians breathing down Chicago’s neck. It’s definitely going to be a photo finish come October, but the White Sox are a more complete team. Look for the White Sox to win the division for the first time since 2008.
AL West: Los Angeles Angels
This might be cap, but hear me out. The Angels are doing everything they can to get Mike Trout back to the playoffs for the second time in his career. They added Raisel Iglesias, José Iglesias, José Quintana, and Alex Cobb to the roster. Dylan Bundy isn’t the best ace in baseball, but him and the rest of the pitching are solid - so long as they stay healthy.
If Shohei Ohtani is healthy and lives up to his true potential on both sides, the Angels have a dangerous trio in Trout, Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon. Similar to the White Sox, they have a lot of competition to deal with such as the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros who are just as qualified to win the division. The Angels need a lot of right things to happen this year and I believe those right things will happen.
AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays & Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, the AL East will send three teams to the playoffs, but how could they not? Even with losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton from the rotation, the Rays are still a strong team with deep depth. They also get a full season of Randy Arozarena, who had an incredible October and was an integral part of their run to the World Series.
The Blue Jays made a big splash signing George Springer this offseason, while also making mini splashes adding Marcus Semien and Steven Matz. They have a strong young trio in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette who are ready to be a dominant force in Toronto. If Toronto’s starting rotation pans out to their potential, this team can really do some damage.
NL East: New York Mets
I’m all in on the Mets and not just because I’m a Mets fan. To go along with the best pitcher in baseball in Jacob deGrom, New York re-signed Marcus Stroman and signed Carlos Carrasco (who seems to be ahead of schedule on his rehab). After struggling in 2019, Edwin Díaz had a season the Mets expected him to have last season, sporting his lowest ERA of his career. Oh, and they should get Noah Syndergaard back in June.
To the field, landing Francisco Lindor had all of New York feeling electric. The team is strong at every position, with a depth of utility players behind the starters. Is this the Mets team that can make it back to the World Series? This could be the team that takes down the Los Angeles Dodgers. Don’t let the Mets get hot.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals made the biggest splash of the offseason trading for All-Star Nolan Arenado. Adding him to an already playoff worthy roster just bolsters the Cards chances of getting back to the World Series after making four in a 10-year span from 2004-2013. What also helps the Cardinals case is the rest of the division got worse.
This team is veteran heavy, but young players such as Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman have the Cardinals future looking bright. The pitching is solid and deep, led by Jack Flaherty who is two years removed from being in the top five of Cy Young voting. As long as the Cardinals don’t become their own worst enemy, this division is theirs for the taking.
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Already a studded roster, the Dodgers went out and signed reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer similar to Thanos collecting the Infinity Stones. David Price and Tony Gonsolin would be starting in most rotations, but are relegated to the bullpen due to the rotation being that good already.
Batting wise, this team sports an absolutely stellar roster: Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, and Will Smith. For the most part, the Dodgers kept their championship team intact along with adding more pieces to it. They’re pound-for-pound the best team in baseball.
NL Wild Card: San Diego Padres & Atlanta Braves
If they weren’t in the NL West, the Padres would be division champs. But sadly, they have the Dodgers to compete with. The team has the most electric player in baseball in Fernando Tatis Jr., who can very well win MVP this year. The Padres mean business, too, with the signings of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove to bolster their rotation. This is a team that can very well give the Dodgers a run for their money.
Having won the NL East each of the last three seasons, the Braves sit in a tough division now that the streak will be broken. They can still do some major damage, however, as they bolster a powerful offense led by reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman and favorite to win the award Ronald Acuña Jr. This team is going to be good for a long time with the fresh faces of Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka, Ozzie Albies, Christian Pache, and Acuña Jr.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, LAA
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, NYY
AL ROY: Randy Arozarena, TB
NL MVP: Fernando Tatis Jr., SD
NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom, NYM
NL ROY: Dylan Carlson, STL
AL Pennant: New York Yankees over Chicago White Sox (4-2)
The White Sox are a very good team, but the Yankees are just too dominant. New York’s hitters are going to mash once October rolls around.
NL Pennant: Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Mets (4-3)
I want to say the Mets win this so bad, but the Dodgers are clearly the best team in baseball. This will be an exciting series, but the Dodgers just overpower the Mets.
World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Yankees (4-3)
The best two teams are going to go head-to-head, but ultimately the Dodgers will prevail. It’ll come down to pitching, where the Dodgers are much stronger than the Yankees.