After a shortened 2020 season, Major League Baseball is back in full force with a 162 game season scheduled to take place through October. Which teams have the best shot to take home a World Series title?
After a shortened 2020 season that featured a mere 48 game schedule along with a postseason with six more teams than usual, the 2021 season will appear to be much more normal. This year, baseball fans will be happy to hear we are now able to return to a full 162 game season. To add to the excitement, all 30 MLB teams are allowing some sort of limited capacity to their games and are welcoming fans back for the first time since 2019, all of which has the makings to be a special year.
Battle in the NL West
If there was an award to be won in the offseason, it would have been awarded to the San Diego Padres. The Padres finished with a record of 37-23 in 2020 but were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. However, the success they were able to have was not expected to be this great. Now heading into 2021, the Padres are looking to become a World Series contender.
The resurgence of the Padres begins with shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. In 2020, Tatis hit with an average of .277 to go along with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs, putting himself in the MVP conversation the entire season. Tatis will also be entering his youthful age 22 season and has already signed a 14-year $340 million contract with the Padres, keeping him in San Diego for the foreseeable future.
To build around Tatis and the rest of the Padres offensive attack, the team also added two star starting pitchers to their rotation — Yu Darvish and Blake Snell — via trade. Darvish has been an all-around solid starting pitcher since coming into the league in 2016 including posting a 2.01 ERA with the Cubs last season. Snell is a former Cy Young award winner in the middle of his prime at only 28 years old.
But even with the moves the Padres made, they still have a significant hurdle to get over if they want a World Series championship. That hurdle is defending champs and division rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are coming back fully loaded with almost the exact same team as last season with the addition of one of, if not the best, pitchers in baseball and 2020 NL Cy Young award winner Trevor Bauer.
This has the makings to be one of the most exciting division races we have seen in recent years and if I had to predict, the winner between the two will represent the National League in the World Series.
Francisco Lindor makes the move to New York
The New York Mets also made a big splash this offseason by acquiring shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians. Lindor was a four time all-star with the Indians and is easily one of the biggest stars in baseball who will instantly make the Mets a contender for a World Series.
The Mets have been known as an underperforming team over the last few seasons as they always seem to make one or two big moves that they believe will take them over the top but have always come up short. It doesn’t help that they are in the NL East, which is one of the most talented divisions in baseball.
The two teams that will do their best to try to keep Lindor and the Mets at ease in the division will be the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves were one game away from winning the NL pennant and had a 3-1 series lead over the Dodgers before falling apart and eventually being eliminated by the future champs. However, they will return most of their 2020 squad including young star Ronald Acuna who is a popular MVP pick.
The Phillies made the big free agent signing splash in 2019 by acquiring Bryce Harper, but they have yet to see it pay off on the field. Despite having the talent to make the postseason since acquiring Harper, they still haven’t been able to quite reach it. The bullpen was a big issue for the Phillies in 2020 but was addressed heading into 2021 with the signings of Jose Alvarado, Archie Bradley and Brandon Kintzler. They should not be thrown to the side when discussing legitimate contenders in the NL.
Will the Yankees finally break through in the AL?
Moving over to the American League, the Yankees are yet again coined the favorite to win the pennant and make their way to the World Series. They have been a popular pick to win it all over the past few years but have always come up short in the playoffs. They are the popular pick once again, but will this finally be the year they break through?
Last season, the Yankees were hit hard with injuries which resulted in losing two of their stars, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, for the majority of the season. Both are back fully healthy to lead a Yankees lineup that has the potential to be one of the strongest in the league once again. In the offseason, they were able to re-sign MVP contender DJ LeMahieu to a long term contract as well as sign veteran power hitter Jay Bruce to a one year deal. The pitching rotation is led by former Cy Young award winner Gerrit Cole with veterans Corey Kluber and Jameson Tallion being signed to help bolster the pitching staff.
The Yankees have all the right pieces to make a run at a title once again, but another team that I am very excited about, and one that should be watched in the AL, is the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox are in a very similar position as the Padres were last season, so I also expect a similar breakout in Chicago as well.
They have a young and powerful lineup that is led by AL batting champ Tim Anderson, rookie of the year runner up Luis Robert, and 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu. The team may be one or two pitching arms away from making a deep run in the postseason.
American League Playoff Picks
Wild Card: Blue Jays over Twins
ALDS: Yankees over Blue Jays
ALDS: White Sox over Astros
ALCS: White Sox over Yankees
National League Playoff Picks
Wild Card: Padres over Mets
NLDS: Padres over Dodgers
NLDS: Braves over Cardinals
NLCS: Padres over Braves
World Series Pick
Padres over White Sox