The off-season was crazy. The regular season should be even more insane.
The Padres and Dodgers engaged in a literal arms race by adding high-profile aces, setting up what should be one of the most exciting division battles in baseball history. But will either one of them even win the National League pennant?
There is plenty of depth in the NL, especially with the resurgent Mets ready to make a run at the Braves in the East and the always dangerous Cardinals trading for arguably the best defensive 3rd baseman of all time.
Oh, and the Yankees reloaded simply by staying healthy (for now). With all that being said, let’s take a look at how the 2021 season should shake out. I’m taking a shot at predicting the full division standings, winners of each playoff round, and a few of the major post-season award winners. Let’s start with the division everyone around the world is going to be watching:
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
- Dodgers 103-59
- Padres 101-61 (Wild Card)
- Giants 80-82
- Diamondbacks 79-83
- Rockies 60-102
I want so SO badly to put the Padres at one here and would not be in any way surprised if they end the Dodgers 8-year division reign of terror but I look at it like this: you don’t beat the heavyweight champ in a split decision, you have to knock out the heavyweight champ.
I’m not going to make my money predicting the fall of the Dodgers so until I see the Dodgers anywhere other than the top of the standings at the end of the season they’re the pick to win the West. The Padres will, of course, be a constant thorn in their side and win 100 games for the first time in franchise history (which, as we’ll get to in a bit, will not be a good thing for L.A. in October).
The Giants and Diamondbacks are, for me, basically a wash. They’re going to be hanging around the .500 mark for pretty much the whole season and not factors in the division. The Rockies, especially after they trade Trevor Story at the deadline, are going to be worse-than-expansion-team atrocious.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
- Cardinals 90-72
- Brewers 88-74
- Cubs 79-83
- Reds 77-85
- Pirates 69-93
St. Louis is primed for another post-season run. They added Nolan Arenado and, perhaps even more importantly, brought back Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright to a team that nearly upset the Padres in the Wild Card round. Look for the Cardinals to get even better at the trade deadline, too. The Brewers have a good ballclub, which is why I never understood the “trade Christian Yelich” hubbub that was probably just some Twitter nonsense.
The Cubs are at a crossroads. If they don’t get a bounceback season from Javier Baez and more depth in the starting rotation we could be looking at a mid-season fire sale on the North Side of Chicago with Javy, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and a whole lot more available on the trade market. I think that’s going to happen, dropping Chicago back into rebuilding mode.
The Reds lost their best pitcher and will probably trade a couple more while Pittsburgh is young and has some talent (much of it from San Diego) but isn’t close to being good.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
- Braves 95-67
- Mets 94-68 (Wild Card)
- Nationals 90-72
- Phillies 83-79
- Marlins 72-90
Atlanta brought back Marcell Ozuna to keep one of baseball’s most potent lineups basically intact. Sure, he’ll have to play the field this year, but his bat is worth it. The Mets who added a truckload of talent headlined by Francisco Lindor. Plus, they get Noah Syndergaard back some time mid-season. I still think the Braves are the class of the division but the margin is razor-thin.
The Nationals should be in the hunt for a while but I don’t see enough on the roster for them to run with the top two teams here. The Phillies simply don’t have enough pitching to compete and I know Miami won a playoff series last year. I still have no idea how. That screams to me it’s a complete mirage in a wacky season and they’ll fall back to earth with a resounding thud.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
- Astros 88-74
- A’s 86-76
- Angels 85-75
- Mariners 70-92
- Rangers 68-94
Houston lost George Springer and it would be a miracle if Justin Verlander is able to find the mound this season. But, if any skipper can overcome chaos in the regular season, it’s Dusty Baker. Plus Carlos Correa is in a walk year so he should be a monster.
Oakland lost a lot and did a decent job trying to put fingers in the dam but I think this is the year it catches up to them. As much as I want to see Mike Trout finally have a prolonged playoff run and as deep as the Angels lineup is, I just don’t see them having enough pitching to stick around for a whole season, even if Shohei Ohtani can make 25 starts.
The Mariners have seemingly been in rebuild mode for the last two decades. The Rangers are entering theirs.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
- White Sox 93-69
- Twins 90-72 (Wild Card)
- Indians 81-81
- Royals 79-83
- Tigers 68-94
Chicago, much like San Diego, is arriving. The difference is the Sox don’t have a monster like the Dodgers to contend with. Losing Eloy Jimenez for several months is a huge blow but there’s still enough talent here to win the Central. It’ll be interesting to see how new manager Tony LaRussa handles a very young roster.
The Twins will, once again, be very good in the regular season and it will, once again, mean nothing in the post-season. Cleveland seems to be treading water while the Royals will be better than people think and the Tigers are in a rebuild but should show signs of a bright future with Casey Mize (War Eagle) showing the stuff that made him the #1 overall pick a couple of years ago.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
- Yankees 100-62
- Blue Jays 92-70 (Wild Card)
- Rays 88-74
- Red Sox 78-84
- Orioles 63-99
The Yankees are stacked. They are, at least on paper, the best team in the American League. Their issue will be staying healthy. Last year Giancarlo Stanton was not a factor and reigning HR champ Luke Voit is going to miss a month with a partially torn meniscus. But, they still have plenty of pitching and it looks like Stanton and Aaron Judge are healthy again. This is their division to lose.
If they lose it to anyone it’ll be the Blue Jays. Toronto is coming on fast with a bumper crop of prospects arriving at once and the additions of Springer, Marcus Semien and closer Kirby Yates. I think the Rays broke down a little too much to return to the top of this division while the Red Sox are, like Cleveland, in a holding pattern. Baltimore is another rebuilding franchise.
NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Wild Card : Padres beat Mets
NLDS : Padres Beat Dodgers
NLDS : Braves Beat Cardinals
NLCS : Padres Beat Braves
The Padres win more than 100 games and what’s their reward? Jacob deGrom and the Mets in a winner-take-all Wild Card game. But, that game is at Petco Park, which will be filled to capacity and electric when San Diego wins 4-1 behind Blake Snell.
In the Division Series the Padres get their shot at redemption and finally take down the Dodgers by torching Trevor Bauer in Games 1 and 5. The Braves also go 5 games but outlast the Cardinals to set up a 1998 NLCS rematch.
The result is the same. With Mike Clevinger miraculously back from Tommy John surgery and getting the win in game 6 the Padres are back in the World Series.
AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Wild Card : Blue Jays Beat Twins
ALDS : Yankees Beat Blue Jays
ALDS : White Sox Beat Astros
ALCS : Yankees Beat White Sox
If it’s the playoffs and the Twins (and not 1987 or 1991) Minnesota is losing. Toronto gets some much-needed playoff experience but can’t hang with New York in a 4-game series. Chicago steamrolls though a 3-game sweep of Houston and is brimming with confidence but isn’t quite ready for the Bronx Bombers, who win in 6 games to set up another 1998 rematch in the World Series.
Yankees Beat Padres
This time the Friars will win a couple of games but they’re still a year away from taking the cake. New York gets world championship number 28.
National League MVP : Fernando Tatis Jr., SD
National League Cy Young : Blake Snell, SD
National League Rookie of the Year : Dylan Carlson, STL
National League Manager of the Year : Jayce Tingler, SD
American League MVP : Mike Trout, LAA
American League Cy Young : Gerrit Cole, NYY
American League Rookie of the Year : Luis Patino, TB
American League Manager of the Year : Charlie Montoyo, TOR
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