MLB 2021 Predictions: National League

April is almost here, and when the month begins, so will the MLB season. Just like in my last 7 years writing this blog, I have put together predictions for the season. We only got 60 MLB games last year, but for this year we’ll have a full 162 game season. I just went on my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, the Master Plan, to discuss all 30 teams, with one episode for the AL and one episode for the NL. Monday, I posted the AL podcast alongside my predictions. You can check out the NL podcast here, and I have my full NL predictions below.

NL East

  1. Atlanta Braves (100-62, #2 seed)
  2. New York Mets (91-71, #5 seed)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (89-73)
  4. Washington Nationals (82-80)
  5. Miami Marlins (78-84)

This might be the best division in baseball. The Braves and Mets will be competing for the division title most likely. Atlanta has a great duo of star hitters in first baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. Their rotation is also starting to come together between younger pitchers like Ian Anderson and veterans like Charlie Morton (signed this offseason). The Mets were purchased by Steve Cohen this offseason, and he told Mets fans that the Mets would leave mediocrity behind them and act like the big market team they are. Cohen hired a new GM, and the team made a ton of moves, highlighted by a trade for shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. You also can’t forget that they have Jacob deGrom who’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

That doesn’t mean the other teams won’t be competitive. It will be difficult to secure a playoff spot in the NL, but the rest of these teams will at least fail trying. Philadelphia has their flaws, but between outfielder Bryce Harper, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, and a nice top two starting pitchers in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, they have a lot of talent. This should be a somewhat competitive team, but the bullpen among other minor problems could hold them back, similar to how the Celtics have struggled this season in the NBA. The Nationals experienced a World Series hangover last year, and I think they’ll see some improvement in 2021 even though that will be tough in this division. They brought in first baseman Josh Bell alongside outfielder Juan Soto and an amazing rotation. Washington has as much star power as most teams in baseball, but they lack the depth to make a run in this NL East.

The Marlins were the joke of the division back in 2019, but they saw many young pitchers break out and lead them to a 2020 playoff spot. The outfield has really come along as well with Adam Duvall joining Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson. I think the Marlins have definitely made progress in their rebuild, more so than the Tigers and Orioles who saw surprising starts to the season last year. However, it will be hard for Miami to make the playoffs again now that they are back down to 10 teams (you never know though).

Even though the Mets and Braves are frontrunners, I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of these teams in the playoffs.

NL Central

  1. Cincinnati Reds (88-74, #3 seed)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals (87-75)
  3. Chicago Cubs (80-82)
  4. Milwaukee Brewers (65-97)
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates (53-109)

I doubt more than one team makes the playoffs out of this division. Compared to the depth of the NL East and the star power of the NL West, the NL Central is not in a good spot. I think the Reds and Cardinals will be competing for that spot. The Reds lost starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, but the lineup is still strong and the rotation is still serviceable despite depth problems behind Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo. The Cardinals were already decent last year. Now they brought in star third baseman and MVP candidate Nolan Arenado. That could put them in a position to contend, but I still don’t see them dominating this division.

The Cubs were looking like they were in for a long rebuild after cutting contracts early in the offseason. However, after lots of rumors they decided to hold on to third baseman Kris Bryant and add some rotation depth. If they were trying to rebuild, they halted that effort. If they’re trying to contend, I don’t see them achieving that goal. The Cubs haven’t really chosen what direction to go in, and I expect that they will decide by the time the Trade Deadline rolls around. If not, they’ll be stuck in the middle for now.

The Brewers may have 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich in their lineup, but this rotation is not anywhere close to the other teams in this division. They’ll need to add pitching before they think about contending again.

They’ll still be better than Pittsburgh, a rebuilding team in their own realm. They already traded first baseman Josh Bell and I bet outfielder Gregory Polanco will be gone by midseason. That will leave an inexperienced roster with no sign of improvement anytime soon. They’ll need some prospects to develop before they contend again. That development will start by letting the MLB ready prospects like third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes start.

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (107-55, #1 seed)
  2. San Diego Padres (94-68, #4 seed)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (81-81)
  4. San Francisco Giants (77-85)
  5. Colorado Rockies (65-97)

The Dodgers are another team that will be in their own realm: a realm of dominance. This lineup is highlighted by outfielders Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger but has a lot of talent and depth around those two including Corey Seager and Justin Turner. The lineup isn’t even the best part here. The Dodgers have David Price, Dustin May, and Julio Urias competing for their final two rotation spots! That’s because they have Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler as their top three. No team in baseball has a rotation that can compete with that. The Dodgers are the closest thing I’ve seen in a while to a lock for the best record in baseball. The question is whether the Dodgers will choke in the playoffs like they did in 2017, 2018, and 2019 before winning it all in 2020.

Everyone’s been debating whether the Dodgers or Padres will win this division. I don’t understand how you can have that debate. The Padres are a really good baseball team. In some other divisions they’d come out on top. In this division they seem to be a lock for a Wild Card spot. The Padres rotation went from inconsistent at best to one of the better rotations in baseball. This offseason they brought in Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove to bolster the pitching staff. The lineup was already strong, headlined by third baseman Manny Machado and the young Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop. However, you can’t put them on the same level as the Dodgers.

Behind those two teams, this division isn’t anything spectacular. The Diamondbacks might be the definition of average. They don’t have many standout players, but they have a serviceable lineup and a serviceable rotation. This is a high floor, low ceiling team. They will most likely be close to, if not exactly .500. They should beat up on the Giants and Rockies but cannot come anywhere close to competing with the Dodgers and Padres.

The Giants have improved between developing young talent and bringing in a couple of veterans. This isn’t their year though. Maybe next year they’ll see more improvement and cook up some even year magic. The Rockies have actually regressed since last year. They dealt away Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder Charlie Blackmon could be gone soon too. The core of the lineup is beginning to disband and though the rotation saw some success last year, it’s nothing spectacular.


That’s all for my MLB predictions this year. Stay tuned for more baseball coverage soon, including my MLB playoff bracket which I’ll be posting at some point on Twitter.

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders and Trade Ideas

Welcome to Part 3 of my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent outfielders, including Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, and A.J. Pollock, as well as some trade ideas.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Below is my tentative schedule for my 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of November 26 or December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of December 3 or 10: Baseball Bits #11: Big Free Agent Contracts

Note: These predictions were made before Seattle’s trades on December 3 and Pedro Alvarez’s deal on December 5.

OF

Top Tier

The Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers and Nationals have been as Harper’s top suitors.  But if you saw MLB.com’s free agent matrix for Harper, you’d see that the Indians have money to spend and desperately need an outfielder.  Harper would be a good investment for them.  Brantley, the former Cleveland Indian, will head to Houston to provide an upgrade over the combo of Derek Fisher, Tony Kemp, Marwin Gonzalez, and co.

Jerry Dipoto is not rebuilding in the same way Miami did.  They will still sign cheaper free agents, and outfield is a major need.  Look for them to add one or two.  Adam Jones is a good fit, and Hunter Pence will also give Seattle a boost, as he has not fully declined yet in his upper 30’s.  The A’s don’t have much money to spend, but if they’re looking to contend, Andrew McCutchen would be a worthwhile investment who fits well in Oakland.  If the Cubs miss out on Harper, A.J. Pollock could be a good fit.  Albert Almora Jr. is not a viable CF option in my book, and they could use some outfield insurance even with Ben Zobrist helping out there.  Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward have not met expectations either.

Secondary Options

If the Rays want to make a playoff push, they have to be aggressive this off-season.  Markakis is an affordable, but elite outfield upgrade option for the Rays.  After getting rid of C.J. Cron, they will need to add another bat to the lineup.  Meanwhile, Jon Jay could be a good fit in St. Louis.  He can share time with the young Harrison Bader in center.

The Rockies are unlikely to bring back both Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez.  The rise of Ryan McMahon may push Ian Desmond into the Rockies outfield.  They will re-sign Parra for OF insurance though.  CarGo could fit as a platoon outfielder in Atlanta.  I could see a pretty even time share in the Braves outfield if they add CarGo.  If the Phillies miss out on Harper, they will also still need an outfielder.  Carlos Gomez would be a good fit.  If Rhys Hoskins still gets time in the outfield, they will not want to commit to a top line outfielder like Harper.

Granderson could be afforded by a smaller market team with a need for an outfielder.  Look for the O’s to add him on a one-year deal while Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins develop.

DH

Cruz will return to Seattle, who could still use 1B/DH help.  The Tigers could use another bat to replace Victor Martinez, and preferably another veteran to anchor the rebuild.  Gattis is a perfect fit.  The Royals are also in the market for another bat, and Matt Joyce is an affordable option.  I have Holliday returning to the Yankees on a 1-year deal to provide insurance for the outfield.  Alvarez will head to Minnesota to help out Tyler Austin at first base/DH.

Trade Ideas

Cleveland Indians trade SP Trevor Bauer to the Houston Astros in exchange for RP Brad Peacock, OF Kyle Tucker, C prospect Garrett Stubbs

Everyone says that Corey Kluber is going to be traded.  But I think trading SP Trevor Bauer is a safer option.  In return, they get Brad Peacock, who could be utilized as a starter or a reliever as well as some outfield insurance in Kyle Tucker.  C prospect Garrett Stubbs will provide depth at catcher after the Yan Gomes trade.

Los Angeles Dodgers trade SP Rich Hill to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for RP Corey Knebel

The Dodgers have been in the market for top-line starters including Kluber, but I find this fact ridiculous.  They have an abundance of starters!  Clayton Kershaw is still here, Walker Buehler is a star on the rise, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill are solid mid-tier starters who are returning, and that leaves Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling competing for the #5 spot.  After bringing Ryu back, they have the flexibility to trade one of their starters, as I see Wood as a completely capable starter, and Stripling and Maeda should get the chance for a rotation spot.

Hill is a good trade nugget, and the Brewers could use some better pitching, so they’d be willing to give up one of their many late-inning relievers for Hill.  Knebel will help set up for Kenley Jansen alongside Tony Cingrani and provide depth in a weaker bullpen.

Toronto Blue Jays trade C Luke Maile to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for LHP prospect Lewis Thorpe, RHP prospect Jhoan Duran

This is a smaller trade, but worth it for both sides.  Jays C Danny Jansen is MLB ready and can split time with C Russell Martin.  That puts C Luke Maile in an awkward position.  If they trade him to Minnesota, who needs a backup catcher, they could get some valuable pitching prospects to boost a weak rotation down the road.

That’s all for my MLB free agency predictions.  But my Baseball Bits on overly expensive free agents is up next.  Stay tuned.