MLB 2021 Predictions: American 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. You can check out the AL podcast here, and I have my full AL predictions below.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees (96-66, #2 seed)
  2. Toronto Blue Jays (89-73, #5 seed)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays (84-78)
  4. Boston Red Sox (80-82)
  5. Baltimore Orioles (58-104)

I think the Yankees are in a good position to win this division. They lost some of the pitching depth they had last year, but this lineup is still on another level compared to the other teams in the AL East. Even with some injuries last year, the Yankees were able to dominate the AL East, and I expect the same this year. The question is whether they have the pitching staff to go all the way.

This should be a competitive division behind the Yankees. The Blue Jays, Rays, and Red Sox should all finish somewhat close in the standings. The Jays are really starting to come together. The young talent in the lineup is improving and they’ll be supplemented by new outfielder George Springer and new middle infielder Marcus Semien. Their rotation is also really starting to look sharp.

Tampa was the AL pennant winner last year, but this was a team that was highlighted by its dominant rotation and the Rays lost two of their top three starting pitchers. As a small market team, they tend to subtract in the offseason as opposed to adding. As they lose a key element of their 2020 team, they will see a significant World Series hangover.

The Red Sox should get Chris Sale back towards the end of the year, and when they do they could force the Rays into 4th place. After bringing back Alex Cora and making some underrated signings, I see the Sox finishing around .500 like they did back in 2019. However, this team is hard to read. They have a low floor (they could be a repeat of last year), and a high ceiling (they could potentially contend for a Wild Card). The signings by GM Chaim Bloom have included multiple utility players. Bloom, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus, explained some of his reasoning behind this in a Q&A at a UPenn event on Wednesday. He stated that in the past, utility players were often limited to utility role because they weren’t good enough to play a position every day. However, in modern baseball, there are utility players who can play every day at a variety of positions, like Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez who he signed. These players likely flew under the radar due to the fact that they’re utility guys.

I can’t really see the Orioles competing with these teams. The Orioles have improved since 2019, but their early 2020 success was a bit of a fluke. I think the young talent is starting to come along but it won’t be enough to make a noticeable difference just yet.

AL Central

  1. Chicago White Sox (101-61, #1 seed)
  2. Minnesota Twins (90-72, #4 seed)
  3. Kansas City Royals (77-85)
  4. Cleveland Indians (75-87)
  5. Detroit Tigers (66-96)

The White Sox are really starting to come together. They have a good ace in Lucas Giolito. The lineup is looking great between young talent like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Nick Madigral and more experienced players like Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal. I think they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run this year. I have them ahead of the Twins, who choked in the playoffs last year. Minnesota has a strong rotation headlined by Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and Randy Dobnak, but their lack of elite lineup talent compared to other top teams is going to hold them back from more than a Wild Card. The Twins should be able secure 2nd place though, as the rest of this division is unlikely to compete.

The Royals have added talent, including starting pitcher Mike Minor, and they have a decent core led by Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield. However, I don’t think they have quite enough firepower to contend. I think they will get third place over the Indians, who dealt away Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor in an effort to lower payroll. Star hitter and third baseman Jose Ramirez is still in Cleveland, but the Indians don’t have any other big name hitters. They also lack rotation depth behind defending Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. Aside from Bieber and Ramirez, the Indians lack star power. The Tigers got off to a strong start last year thanks to the emergence of outfielder JaCoby Jones. They should perform better than they did in 2019, but I still don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to playoff contention in a 162 game season.

AL West

  1. Los Angeles Angels (87-75, #3 seed)
  2. Houston Astros (84-78)
  3. Oakland Athletics (76-86)
  4. Texas Rangers (65-97)
  5. Seattle Mariners (63-99)

This division is not nearly as strong as it was last year. The Angels always tend to disappoint with a lack of success surrounding star outfielder Mike Trout, but I think they’ll be able to win this weakened division. That doesn’t necessarily imply playoff success. The Angels did add some pitching help and that should put them in position to win the AL West but taking down the Yankees or White Sox will be a difficult feat. The Astros should come close as well, even though they lost outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick. This lineup’s success between 2017 and 2019 was likely boosted by sign stealing, and the depth of the rotation is slowly dwindling, so I have the Angels edging out Houston here, but it will be close.

The A’s will probably have the biggest drop off in the division. They have a very talented young rotation, but without shortstop Marcus Semien and designated hitter Khris Davis, this lineup is lacking standout hitters. Corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are improving at the plate, but that’s not enough lineup talent for a playoff team. I have them falling to third place, but finishing ahead of the Rangers and Mariners.

The Rangers failed to contend last year with an awkward mix of young talent and older players, so they’ve torn it down and prepared for a rebuild headed into this season. Joey Gallo is still here but I don’t expect him to stay for long. Seattle has some young talent that is starting to develop and could have a very strong outfield soon once Kyle Lewis and top prospect Jarred Kelenic fully develop alongside Mitch Haniger. Even with the outfield and the rotation improving, this isn’t the year for Seattle to contend.


That’s all for these American League predictions. I’ll have my NL predictions out in the next couple days. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Mediocre

Welcome to Day 3 of my preseason power rankings.  Yesterday, we had a look at more bad teams.  However, these teams had strong points that lifted them higher in my rankings.  Well, today we made it to the middle of the pack.  Each of these teams have some pros and some cons.  We’ll take a look at that.  Let’s start off with #18.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

 

18. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals

Off-season Review

Image result for jason hammel welcome to royals

The Royals were somewhat active this off-season.  The core of their lineup is still made up of the same six guys.  But they added Brandon Moss, Jorge Soler and some prospects to it.  In the process of a rebuild, younger players on this team will have a bigger impact.  Their rotation has been given a boost.  Despite the death of Yordano Ventura, and the loss of Edinson Volquez, they got Nathan Karns, Jason Hammel, and Travis Wood.  However, between trades and free agency, they lost Wade Davis, Kendrys Morales, and Jarrod Dyson.

The Case for the Royals

The Royals do have a strong core in the lineup, and the rotation is okay, but the bullpen is falling apart, and depth is a major problem.  The veterans added to the bullpen aren’t enough for the depth they need.  The younger players are being forced into holes, and some of them are not quite ready.  If it weren’t for the hole at second, Whit Merrifield would be in the minors.  Before this off-season, the Royals also had a hole in the outfield, and they still have some depth problems there although their starting positions are filled.  I just can’t see the Royals doing much better than this with all these holes and problems, and I can’t see them beating the Indians in the division.

The Pros and Cons

Like I said, the Royals’ strengths are the core of the lineup, which consists of six long-time Royals teammates, and the rebuilt rotation.  However, depth is a major problem, and the Royals have holes in several places.  Second base is a big problem.  The bullpen is a pretty big problem, too.  The Royals haven’t found a legitimate designated hitter since Kendrys Morales left either, which they would have if they had enough good hitters to fill out the lineup.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup is killer again, the rotation gets better, and the Royals win the AL Central.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is a bust, depth problems really bite back hard, and the Royals get knocked out of the postseason race.

Projected Finish: 81-81, 3rd in AL Central

 

17. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates

Off-season Review

The Pirates were very quiet this off-season, probably too quiet. They only signed one major free agent, and it was resigning Ivan Nova.  The Pirates are pretty situated where they are.  They have a good lineup and a decent bullpen.  The rotation is a bit of a problem, but they’re trying to resolve that.  However, in the position they’re in, they’re not going to win the Wolrd Series.  Is it time to rebuild?  Could it be time for a blockbuster trade?  After being very active in the trade market in the 2015-16 off-season, they haven’t done much about that this off-season.

The Case For Pirates

If you’re looking for the most mediocre team in the league, it’s the Pirates right now.  They are stuck in the middle.  What exactly does that mean?  Like I said, they are not in World Series contender mode.  But they’re not exactly rebuilding either.  Maybe rebuilding is the answer.  I wouldn’t make that decision right now, but don’t be surprised if Andrew McCutchen is traded away, or the Pirates sell somebody else.  There is no team that is as stuck in this endless loophole as the Pirates are.

The Pros and Cons

The Pirates may have one of the best lineups in the league, but face it, the rotation is not living up to the expectations, not for the Pirates or for a contender.  Until the rotation improves, the lineup will not lead this team to another postseason run.  The question remains: is it time to rebuild or try and go for it?  Is the rotation going to be as easy a fix as it seems?

Best Case Scenario: The rotation gets better, allowing a powerful lineup to lead Pittsburgh back to the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation completely flops and the Pirates are forced to sell and rebuild, in hopes of winning in the future.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 3rd in NL Central

 

16. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

Off-season Review

Related image

The Rockies had big plans this off-season.  Signing utility player Ian Desmond was a smart move, as he can fill the hole at first base.  The Rockies also signed Alexi Amarista for depth and signed Mike Dunn and Greg Holland to fill the spot that Boone Logan left.  The rotation is also looking better and younger after some changes this off-season.  Could the Rockies finally be a contender?

The Case for the Rockies

The Rockies are back in business.  Their lineup is looking better than ever in a hitter friendly ballpark, and although the rotation has not been the focus, this young rotation at least looks good enough to contend.  The bullpen is also loaded in case the rotation doesn’t do its job.  Adam Ottavino and Greg Holland should compete for an important closer job.  The Rockies are starting to look a lot better, and I think they finally have a chance.

The Pros and Cons

The lineup and the bullpen are both overpowered and are really lifting up this team.  Although the rotation is holding this team back a little bit, they are at least good enough that the Rockies won’t completely suck.  There’s not much holding this team back.  They just have a tough environment to compete in.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation improves, and the loaded lineup leads the Rockies through the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation flops and the Rockies fail to do well in the NL West.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 3rd in NL West

 

15. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

Off-season Review

Image result for jean segura welcome to mariners

As always, Jerry Dipoto was active in the trade market.  So active that he traded for and traded away Mallex Smith within 77 minutes.  They traded for three pitchers, Drew Smyly, Yovani Gallardo and Chris Heston.  They also traded Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker for Jean Segura and acquired Jarrod Dyson.  That’s just the beginning!  The Mariners were active as always, but will these moves pay off, or not?

The Case for the Mariners

Okay, I understand that last section is very overwhelming.  But to sum it all up, the rotation now has a lot of depth and will be very good.  The rotation is top notch, with a powerful ace, and a lot of options after that.  The lineup is good but has some holes.  The Mariners don’t have many options in the outfield, and they’re left with a gaping hole at first base.  Hopefully, new utility Danny Valencia can fill one of those spots.  That brings us to our next section.

The Pros and Cons

First things first, I want to make it clear that this rotation is spotless.  So spotless that the bullpen depth problems won’t be a major factor.  The Mariners do have a strong core of the lineup but have some problems at the bottom of the lineup.  Those problems also show up in the field.  You can’t take give a team with two legitimate outfielders and a gaping hole at first base and put them in your playoff predictions.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates and the lineup holes don’t affect the Mariners, as Seattle grabs a wild card.

Worst Case Scenario: The holes and depth problems cause the Mariners to finish 4th in the AL West.

Projected Finish: 86-76, 3rd in AL West

 

14. miami-marlins Miami Marlins

Off-season Review

Image result for edinson volquez welcome to marlins

The Marlins have a pretty situated lineup but really bolstered their pitching this off-season.  They signed Brad Ziegler among others to upgrade the bullpen, and Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke along with Kyle Lobstein to upgrade the rotation.  This should really pay off, but did they pick the right guys to fill out the rotation?  Without Jose Fernandez, it’s pretty hard to fill the rotation right, and pretty hard to find a new ace.

The Case for the Marlins

Image result for justin bour and adeiny hechavarria

 

The Marlins already had a pretty good, young lineup.  The holes they had in the infield in previous years are now filled by young guns like Justin Bour and Adeiny Hechavarria.  Led by Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton, this lineup will be able to kick butt.  The rotation is also looking better for 2017 but doesn’t match up to rotations around the league.  They don’t have an ace anymore, and that will hurt.  The bullpen is better but they don’t have the depth they need to back up the rotation. Rest in peace Jose Fernandez, you’ll really be missed in 2017.

The Pros and Cons

There’s good news and bad news for the Marlins.  The good news is, the lineup is all set, and the pitching looks a whole lot better after this off-season’s acquisitions and moves.  The bad news is, the rotation may not be good enough, especially without a clear cut ace.   They don’t have many pitchers that will be good enough to pitch more than 6 or 7 innings on average.  The bullpen is looking better but doesn’t have the depth that they need be able to backup tired starters without getting tired after multiple days straight of relief innings themselves.  They have a lot of options in the bullpen, but besides a few good late inning guys, there aren’t many strong relievers, which they need when they are missing top of the rotation guys.

Best Case Scenario: The off-season rotation boosters pay off, the lineup does better than ever, and the Marlins make the playoffs easily.

Worst Case Scenario: The absence of Jose Fernandez truly hurts, the lineup doesn’t do much better than in previous years, and the Marlins finish below .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 3rd in NL East

 

13. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

Off-season Review

Image result for matt holliday yankees

The Yankees had a pretty quiet off-season.  However, they did boost a young rotation by signing Jon Niese, and they got star closer Aroldis Chapman back.  The Yankees were also able to snag Matt Holliday on a one-year deal.  After many of their older guys retired or looked for careers elsewhere, the Yankees really began to season some of their younger players.  Now, those players are good enough that it’s worth signing power hitters to help contend.  Holliday will help out in the outfield and play DH.

The Case for the Yankees

The Yankees are seasoning their deep farm system in the majors, and the prospects are good enough to help the veterans on the team contend.  There aren’t many small market teams who can do that, and the Yankees have the biggest market in the league.  Could that have something to do with why the Yankees never have a terrible season?  Those damn Yankees are always in the picture, you can never count them out.  This season, they must hope that their young rotation succeeds, and the strong bullpen can back them up.  They also must hope that their young guns have the same kind of success at the plate.

The Pros and Cons

The Yankees are another one of those good news/bad news teams.  Well, the good news is, the lineup succeeded without A-Rod and Teixeira last season, and the bullpen is powerful enough to provide good relief for young starters.  The bad news is, you can’t always trust young guns to help you contend, especially consistently.  That’s why these young teams are so unpredictable.  Inexperienced players can be very inconsistent.

Best Case Scenario: All the prospects live up to their expectations, and they lead the Yankees to their first playoff berth in 5 years.

Worst Case Scenario: The young talent is inconsistent and the Yankees completely flop, finishing below .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 3rd in AL East

 

That’s all for Day 3 of my preseason ranks.  Part 4 will look at teams 12-7 and is coming between today and tomorrow.