So you’ve decided to read one of my guides again. This is now the fourth pre-season guide I’ve written over the last couple of months as I’ve already covered NASCAR, the NBA and the NHL. It’s time to prepare for what is, arguably, the league I’m most passionate about — Major League Baseball. This league, thanks to metal commissioner Rob Manfred, somehow found a way for both to adapt to the present in terms of marketing and player stardom, but also, killing the game itself by changing rules that do absolutely nothing to move the needle except shatter it.
Now that you know I have a love-hate relationship with MLB, it’s time to preview the year ahead.
After the 60-game season that was way too short for anyone’s liking, MLB returns to a 162-game schedule as it should be.
There are twists to the seasons as MLB continues their dive into the nuclear waste bin of experimentation. From the COVID-19 season, MLB retains the dumb and very stupid extra-innings rule where a runner will start on second base. To add on, there will be 7-inning doubleheaders for games that are postponed due to weather or COVID protocol — again, another dumb idea due to the lack of attention spans the world population has succumbed to. Why MLB is satisfying the age of TikTok and not the ride-or-dies is above my paygrade.
Most of the other rules remain the same. Although, don’t rule out MLB ridding of the defensive shift to create artificial offense or the dreaded pitch clock that could be implemented at any time.
Without further ado, let’s finally talk about the divisions and how I see this season playing out for all 30 teams.
The Tampa Bay Rays were champions of the American League and because “Moneyball” is a thing, the Rays chose, again, to not pay anyone and they are without their ace in Blake Snell, who was traded to the San Diego Padres. To replace Snell, the Rays signed….Chris..Archer. Now, they still have a decent bullpen, but will their hitting catch fire at the right time? Will Randy Arozarena continue being a star or will he taper off in his second year with TB? There’s a lot of questions to be answered in the new city of champions.
It’s the New York Yankees’ time, correct? The Bronx Bombers, who spend hundreds of millions every offseason still haven’t found the recipe for getting back to the greatness they achieved in what seems like an eternity now. The Yankees kept DJ LeMahieu and he should be in a healthy competition with Gleyber Torres for AL MVP. The biggest question comes in the form of the health of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. If they play over 140 games, New York may finally get over the hump and win the pennant for the first time since 2009. To add on, the Yankees added Jameson Taillon and two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. There are no more excuses for the Yankees. The time is now.
The Toronto Blue Jays are a trendy pick to win the AL East and make a deep run in the postseason. They have solid pitching prowess with two former LA Dodgers in Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ross Stripling. They also made offensive splashes with the signings of Marcus Semien and George Springer. Let’s not forget they have lightning in their young trio of Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Gurrero Jr. Put all this together and you have a potentially potent franchise who may run their way to an AL pennant.
Then, we have the battle for the last with the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Boston still has no pitching and Baltimore continues to rebuild. At least the Orioles have a distinct direction for the future. The Red Sox are stuck and this could be the case for the next few years.
- Toronto Blue Jays
- New York Yankees (WC)
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Boston Red Sox
- Baltimore Orioles
I’ve said it 1,000 times. I absolutely hate this division. It lacks the oomph required for it to standout. The only team to make an impression recently was the Cleveland [redacted] and the Minnesota Tins. Yes, tins, because they can’t win a playoff game even if they were going up against a Class-A ball club.
At least, there are the Chicago White Sox. Chicago is a legit threat, but were a little too raw for October ball last year as they came up short against the Oakland Athletics. Southside’s 1-5 could be an absolute Murderer’s Row with Tim Anderson, Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert. It’s a damn shame we won’t get to see Eloy Jimenez. Regardless, the White Sox run deep and they shored up their pitching with great acquisitions in starter Lance Lynn and closer Liam Hendriks. They should run away with the division.
Minnesota can still hit, I guess. The loss of Eddie Rosario to Cleveland will be big, but the Tins should still be able to hit a bomb or two in almost every game, but again, this franchise lacks the excitement. Their pitching is just fine, but it won’t be anything to contend with Chicago.
Miguel Cabrera is still a damn Detroit Tiger..That’s all you need to know about the Tigers. You can watch Shane Bieber go to work for [redacted] just as long as he isn’t scheduled to face the Yankees. The offense of the Kansas City Royals will be entertaining, but they have absolutely no pitching to even consider them being a close-to .500 team.
- Chicago White Sox
- Minnesota Twins
- Cleveland Indians
- Kansas City Royals
- Detroit Tigers
Now here’s a division that could be open to a handful of teams. No, not you Texas Rangers. You suck. Let’s just get them out of the way. The Rangers have the worst active roster in baseball entering the season. I know my baseball, but couldn’t tell you more than five guys on the team. Will Texas get to 50 wins? I don’t know.
I absolutely love the Oakland Athletics. They may not have the greatest track record in the postseason, but man, they just keep digging and find ways to even compete in October. Matt Chapman returns from injury and could be in MVP form. The loss of Hendriks is huge, but Oakland added Trevor Rosenthal and Adam Kolarek, which will be beneficial. The A’s are still dangerous and will be a west frontrunner once again.
It was beautiful watching Jose Altuve be awful for the Houston Astros. However, the cheaters only missed the World Series by a single game and with a division that lacks quality pitching aside from Oakland, who can really compete with the Astros? Houston’s Achilles’ Heel will be their pitching and I believe the loss of Springer will hurt them more than many think. This could be a down year.
We know what the Los Angeles Angels are. They can hit with the best of them, but will go to their ace…*checks notes*…Dylan Bundy! Yeah, Anaheim will need to make a move at the trade deadline if they are within striking distance of a playoff spot and I think they can land that second wild card spot with the right move.
The Seattle Mariners have the building blocks of starting something special, but how will they squander it for a 17th time? I think Kyle Lewis will be a superstar and Taylor Trammell was an absolute steal from the San Diego Padres. Keep up the work in the farm system.
- Oakland Athletics
- Los Angeles Angels (WC)
- Houston Astros
- Seattle Mariners
- Texas Rangers
Barring injuries or just crazy underperformances, the NL East should be won by the Atlanta Braves again. They return their entire roster from last year and add Charlie Morton to the fold, who comes from Tampa Bay. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t get back to the top.
The 2019 world champs in the Washington Nationals were pretty bad in last year’s shortened season. With a return to almost normalcy, Washington should see their production levels get back to old. They added even more big bats to join with Juan Soto by adding Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber. Victor Robles will also continue his ascent in 2021. Washington has a scary 1-2-3 in their rotation with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. On top of that, they brought in Jon Lester for a quality No. 4. Brad Hand joins the team as the closer and gives them a top guy who can close out games night in and night out.
The New York Mets went heavy on the Christmas shopping during the winter and yesterday, inked franchise player Francisco Lindor to a 10-year, $341M extension. Once healthy, Carlos Carrasco joins a crazy-good rotation that will include flamethrowers in Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
What can Bryce Harper do for the Philadelphia Phillies? The “face of the MLB” hasn’t contributed much to Philadelphia doing anything. Sure, they’ve dealt with injuries and an absolutely garbage bullpen last year, but it’s time for this club to step up. Can new acquisitions in Brandon Kintzler, Jose Alvarado and Archie Bradley fix their late-game struggles or are they doomed for the same fate?
The Miami Marlins have a good ace in Sandy Alcantara and went HEAVY on the bullpen after nabbing Dylan Floro and John Curtiss just to name a few. I believe the 60-game season to reach the wild card was fluky, but don’t be shocked if Miami is a .500 team this year.
- Atlanta Braves
- Washington Nationals (WC)
- New York Mets
- Miami Marlins
- Philadelphia Phillies
In a division of futility, there has to be someone that walks out of here as a playoff team, right? It won’t be the Pittsburgh Pirates. We know that for sure.
Instead, the division will be a battle of contrasts with the stellar pitching of the Milwaukee Brewers going up against what should be one of the more productive offenses in the St. Louis Cardinals. This two-team race will be a battle of duos as the bullpen of Devin Williams and Josh Hader look to fend off newly-acquired Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt. The Brewers added some two-way necessities in Kolten Wong and Jackie Bradley Jr in hopes that they can fill the voids the Brewers’ offense created last season, especially with the struggles of Christian Yelich. If Yelich returns to form, this could be an even scarier Milwaukee team than the one that reached the NLCS in 2018.
The Chicago Cubs are stuck hanging on to the core that won it all in 2016 and the Cincinnati Reds chose to toss all their momentum from 2020 in the bin after they couldn’t bring back Trevor Bauer. Don’t expect these teams to make noise this year.
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Cincinnati Reds
- Chicago Cubs
- Pittsburgh Pirates
Finally, the two-team race everyone is waiting for this year as the Dodgers and Padres go toe-to-toe with superstars on top of superstars. Let’s be honest, we only need to focus on these teams because it’s them on one side of the Grand Canyon with the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks on the other.
With the loss of Mike Clevinger for 2021, the Padres went big on pitching and landed Snell and Yu Darvish in winter trades. Both players have connections with the Dodgers. How did Andrew Friedman counter San Diego? Oh, he only landed the 2020 Cy Young winner in Trevor Bauer. Yes, Bauer joins one of the scariest rotations in recent baseball history that will include Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price and Dustin May. It’s crazy how good the Dodgers are this year and there is no excuse for them to not be a dynasty. They have what it takes. There are no holes, not even in the bullpen where they added Corey Knebel and Tommy Kahnle will join the team in 2022.
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Diego Padres (WC)
- San Francisco Giants
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Colorado Rockies
Baseball is back, folks. Enjoy!