Opening Day is finally here, and that can only mean two things. First, baseball is back. Second, it’s time to make a slew of predictions that will likely end up looking quite ridiculous come November.
But, oh well. Without further ado, let’s dive into the top awards and outcomes to follow this season.
American League Rookie of the Year
The 2020 postseason hero will build on his success and have a solid 2021 campaign. He owns a .286/.384/.607 slash line over 42 games and remains eligible for the Rookie of the Year award. All eyes will be on the 26-year-old this season, so if he can sustain a solid batting line and be the core of Tampa Bay’s offense, he’ll be the easy award favorite.
National League Rookie of the Year
Carlson was my pick for this award last year, too. However, thanks to some crafty service-time gymnastics, he remains eligible as a rookie. The outfielder struggled over 35 games last year, posting a .200/.252/.364 line with just three home runs. However, with a more normal season on the way and the addition of Nolan Arenado to the squad, the Cardinals’ offense should be more lively, leading to success for Carlson.
American League Cy Young
This man right here is the most underrated pitcher in all of baseball. He has a stunning 2.30 ERA over the past three seasons (56 starts) combined and could finally gain the national recognition he deserves if the Blue Jays are a contending team this year. Keep an eye on Ryu because he shows no signs of slowing down.
National League Cy Young
Some may call this an easy pick, but he’s the obvious candidate. The three-time All-Star owns a career 2.10 ERA over the past three seasons. Now, he’s trending towards his third career Cy Young award and sixth career nomination. Playing on a surging Mets team in a major market like New York will only help his case.
American League Most Valuable Player
The Angels have yet to find their footing, but Mike Trout continues to dominate. The best player in baseball is a true problem both at the plate in the field. He truly is baseball’s most valuable player, there’s no reason to think that he won’t prove it once again this year. Health and the status of the Angels will be the biggest obstacles between Trout and his fourth MVP honors.
National League Most Valuable Player
The stars are aligning for Tatis to win his first of many MVP awards. He came on strong in 2020, plus the Padres are very good and attracting plenty of attention. The flashy infielder has a .301/.374/.582 slash line with 39 home runs through 143 games. He was also rewarded for his prowess with a huge contract this offseason that should pay off for San Diego. There are several MVP candidates in the National League, but Tatis is the guy to side with this year.
American League Manager of the Year
This year’s race for Manager of the Year has plenty of intrigue with at least half a dozen candidates all vying for the honor. However, the Yankees will have an incredible year, showing how fun and beneficial it is to play on a squad led by Boone.
National League Manager of the Year
Just like the American League, the National League’s race is hard to predict. Jayce Tingler is probably the top candidate, but his failure to back up Fernando Tatis Jr. during the bat-flip fiasco serves as a glaring obstacle. Snitker, on the other hand, leads a fun club that players want to play for. If the Braves win their division and advance past the first round of the postseason, Snitker should win this award.
American League Playoff Picture
1. New York Yankees
2. Houston Astros
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Toronto Blue Jays
No. 1 brings no surprise. Houston at No. 2 is higher than some may expect, but they’ll go all-in this year considering it could be Carlos Correa‘s last year with the team. Chicago winning their division could be tough with Eloy Jimenez missing several months, but they have a solid offense and very strong pitching staff to compensate for the youngster’s absence.
Tampa Bay and Toronto sneaking into Wild Card spots. The Blue Jays should have a very solid year after adding Marcus Semien and George Springer. The Rays made the World Series last year and should make another push this year.
The most glaring storyline is the absence of the Minnesota Twins. They made the postseason with a strong squad last year but have shown signs of shakiness, such as their early exit from October baseball once again. Only five teams can make the playoffs, so finishing sixth won’t cut it.
Potential fringe teams that could make a run include the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics.
National League Playoff Picture
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Atlanta Braves
4. San Diego Padres
5. New York Mets
There’s no surprise in the top spot as the Dodgers are ready to defend their title. At No. 2, the Cardinals are looking like a scary team after adding Nolan Arenado. Their aggressiveness to acquire Arenado coupled with his cheap cost could lead to St. Louis being busy and ready to spend at the trade deadline. Atlanta rounds out the list of division winners as they should secure the top spot over New York.
The Padres are the first Wild Card team. They had an exciting 2020 and made more moves this offseason to position themselves nicely for a big year. They might not edge out the Dodgers in a 162-game stretch, but they are certainly capable of doing so in the postseason. The final spot goes to the Mets, who have bolstered their rotation enough to secure a position.
The Miami Marlins would be the next team off. They made the postseason last year and have continued to shore up their squad in hopes of sneaking in again this year. If the New York pitching staff either struggles or battles too many injuries, Miami will be ready to steal their spot.
Potential fringe teams that didn’t make this list include the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Milwaukee Brewers.
American League Champion
Toronto Blue Jays
Despite being the fifth-seeded team, Toronto has the assets to make the postseason. Springer and Semien were incredible offensive investments to complement the young core of Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The Kirby Yates injury is frustrating, but the Jays have plenty of pitching—including predicted Cy Young award winner Hyun-Jin Ryu—to provide stable work from the mound.
Prediction: Blue Jays win series over White Sox, 4-2
National League Champion
San Diego Padres
Do you want to see Tatis in the World Series? Ask and you shall receive. The Padres are building themselves to compete right alongside the Dodgers and should give them a run for their money. While Los Angeles is a more stable, balanced team, San Diego has the potential to ride a hot streak right into the NLCS. From there, they will meet (and knock off) the Cardinals, forcing a thrilling World Series clash between two Wild Card teams.
Prediction: Padres win series over Cardinals, 4-1
World Series Champion
Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays have what it takes. They have the offense, and it’s fair to say they are pretty solid at pitching, too. If Nate Pearson can reach his top prospect expectations, the Blue Jays will prove that they can be the strongest and best team in baseball. It’ll take a lot to knock off the Padres, and this series should last all seven games. But in the end, the Jays pack a mean punch and have a beautiful balance of experience, youth, and flair. We’re in for a treat come October.
Prediction: Blue Jays win series over Padres, 4-3
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