Ryan L. Fox
After a long offseason of waiting and wondering, baseball fans can rejoice as the MLB 2021 Season is just around the corner. Even though it’s Spring Training, the fact of the matter is that baseball is back baby!
Now it’s been an interesting offseason since the World Series with a lot of teams making moves and trying to load up for the upcoming season. But out of the 30 MLB teams, here are a few that you definitely should be paying attention to in the MLB 2021 Season.
Honorable Mention: St. Louis Cardinals
Although the Chicago Cubs have been dominating the NL Central for the past few seasons, the Cardinals made a big splash when they traded for 8x Gold Glove and 5x All-Star 3B Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies. Outside of 2020, Arenado has hit 35+ HRs and 110+ RBIs in 5 consecutive seasons (2015-19). His bat will give a lineup that includes 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 2B Tommy Edman, and SS Pal DeJong an even bigger boost than before.
5. Chicago White Sox
This is one team in the American League people are paying close attention to. Last year, they lead the American League in SLG (.453) and HRs (96) and were 2nd in batting average (.261), OPS (.779), and RBIs (94). They boast a young core with potential star power in the likes of 3B Yoan Moncada (.225, 6 HR & 24 RBIs), SS Tim Anderson (.322, 10 HR & 21 RBI), LF Elroy Jimenez (.296, 14 HR & 41 RBIs), and CF Luis Roberts (.233, 11 HR & 31 RBIs). Plus they were able to add veteran SP Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32) via trade as well as sign RHP Liam Hendricks (3-1, 1.78) to join a rotation with already proven pitchers Dallas Kuechel and Lucas Giolito.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
After being the butt end of jokes for falling short during the past 5 postseasons, the Dodgers were able to break through in 2020 to win the World Series championship that had been eluding them. Now they look to defend their title and show that 2020 wasn’t a fluke. They have a stacked starting rotation with mixed with dominate veterans like Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.16), Walker Buehler (1-0, 3.44), and David Price with young talents like Julio Urias (3-0, 3.27) and Dustin May (3-1, 2.57) and adding the likes of Trevor Bauer (5-4, 1.73) via free agency makes it an even more stack rotation.
Although they lost OF Joc Pederson to free agency, they still kept their core players of RF Mookie Betts, CF Cody Bellinger, 1B Max Muncy, and SS Corey Seager. Not to mention that they still have young stars in C Will Smith and 2B Gavin Lux that still have room to grow.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
While everybody in the American League East was snoozing or punting away the 2021 season away (looking at you Boston Red Sox), the Blue Jays were ramping up. They already have arguably one of the best homegrown talent lineups in the division (and in perhaps all of MLB if you ask some people). If you could put stock in players, then the value of 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.262, 9 HR & 33 RBI) would make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. Best part…he’s not the only one like that on the team. You also have 3B Cavan Biggio (.250, 8 HR & 28 RBIs), SS Bo Bichette (.301, 5 HR & 23 RBI), LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.308, 11 HR & 33 RBI), and DH Rowdy Tellez (.283, 8 HR & 23 RBI) with each of them being potential.
Then the piece de resistance comes in the form of free agents CF George Springer (.265, 14 HR & 32 RBI) and 2B Marcus Siemen (.223, 7 HR & 23 RBI), which makes the Blue Jays lineup arguably the best lineup in the AL East. Not to mention that they were able to acquire LHP Steve Matz in a trade with the New York Mets, providing another reliable solid southpaw in the backend of their rotation.
2. New York Mets
If you want to talk about buzz and expectations, the Mets have become the talk of the town in New York City (suck it Yankees). With new owner Steve Cohen opening up the wallet that was sealed up tight by the Wilpons (the Mets’ previous owners), the team has been involved in a flurry of offseason moves. The Mets first came to terms with RHP Marcus Stroman on an $18.9 million qualifying offer to help provide a solid starter in their rotation behind ace SP Jacob deGrom. Then they were able to snag the 2nd best catcher (only behind J.T. Realmuto) in free agency in James McCann (.289, 7 HR and 15 RBI) to fill what seemed like a never-ending void left by Mike Piazza. The Mets also signed a couple of solid bullpen arms in Trevor May (1-0, 3.86) and Aaron Loup (3-2, 2.52) to bolster and solidify a bullpen that was shaky at best in 2020.
Then they made huge splashes in the trade markets. They were able to add RHP Sean Reid-Foley and RHP Jordan Yamamoto from the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins, respectively, to shore up the back-end rotation and bullpen. They also were able to get Joey Lucchesi from the San Diego Padres in a 3-team deal between the Mets, Padres and Pittsburgh and was part of another a 3-team deal between them, the Boston Red Sox, and Kansas City Royals that netted them OF Khalil Lee, the No. 8 overall prospect in the Royals farm system. But the biggest trade the Mets did was when they were able to acquire RHP Carlos Carrasco and SS Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for prospects and young players, thus bolstering both their rotation and lineup in one fell swoop.
With all these new additions to the squad, you can bet that the Mets will challenge the Atlanta Braves for the NL East division in 2021 and for years to come after.
1. San Diego Padres
After years of being the basement dwellers of the National League West, the San Diego Padres came out roaring in 2020. They were able to go 37-23 during the shortened MLB season, which was the 3rd best record only behind the Tampa Bay Rays (40-30) and divisional rival Los Angeles Dodgers (43-17), and were able to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. It was all offense that lead the way for the Padres in 2020 as they were top 5 in almost every hitting category (7th in OBP with .333 and hits with 506).
They were tied for 4th in batting average with the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies (.257), 4th in OPS (.798), 3rd in SLG (.466), runs scored (325), in extra base-hits (210), in HRs (95) and RBIs, and 1st in stolen bases (55). Heck, 7 batters out of their everyday starting lineup for that season had a batting average of .250 or better. This power lineup included the likes of 1B Eric Hosmer (.287, 9 HR & 36 RBI), 3B Manny Machado (.304, 16 HR & 47 RBI), RF Wil Myers (.288, 15 HR & 40 RBI), and arguably one of the more exciting players in MLB right now in SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (.304, 17 HR & 45 RBI).
If you thought the Mets had a busy offseason in trades, then the Padres were working overtime. First, they sent prospects over to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for SP Yu Darvish (8-3, 2.01) and C Victor Caratini (.241, 1 HR & 16 RBI). Then almost on the following day, they were able to acquire SP Blake Snell (4-2, 3.24) from the Tampa Bay Rays, giving them the workhorse ace that they needed to be able to compete against the Dodgers. Then they followed that up with a 3-team trade between them, the Mets, and Pirates that landed SP Josh Musgrove (1-5, 3.86) with the Padres. Combined with already established starters in Dinelson Lamet (3-1, 2.09) and Chris Paddack (4-5, 4.73), this new Padres rotation is already being touted as one of the deepest in all of baseball, making the Padres arguably one of the most complete teams in all of baseball going into 2021.
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