“Play Ball–Baseball is Back”
The 2021 season is about to begin…a look at the Divisional Races.
DODGERS…Until you beat them they are the team to beat and nobody has knocked them off the top spot in eight years in the divisional race. Trevor Bauer and David Price join a very deep 7-man pitching rotation. Can Kenley Jansen hold up for an entire season, or do they have enough depth to survive there? Justin Turner returned in tremendous shape. Corey Seager is in a contract year. There is Mookie Betts and the hope Cody Bellinger can bounce back from shoulder surgery. Their only loss was home run hitting-strikeout artist Joc Pederson. Number one in payroll too at 254M on opening day. Might be a 100-win year.
PADRES..Yu Darvish-Blake Snell-Joe Musgrove put them in the conversation for first place, but now there are issues with Chris Paddack-Dinelson Lamet. It means Adrian Morejon and Ryan Weathers will have to step into the rotation. The bullpen is deep but overuse of Drew Pomeranz will be a concern as closer. Fernando Tatis-Manny Machado-Wil Myers-Eric Hosmer provide a superb middle of the order. Staying healthy and lack of proven everyday depth might be an issue. An all time team high 160M payroll. A strong 90-win season.
ARIZONA…They have a healthy Madison Bumgarner, but do they have enough pitching after that? Losing bright young starter Zac Gallen hurts, and the bullpen seems shaky after off season losses and injuries. Do they have enough bats to support David Peralta?
GIANTS…A real hodge-podge roster. Buster Posey comes off an injury season and Mike Yastrzemski became a star last year. This rent-an-arm pitching staff with names like Glausman-Wood-DeSclafani-Sanchez-Wisler-does not bode well for the season.
ROCKIES…Management has dumped or ran off so many veterans, there is no hope for Bud Black. Goodbye Nelson Aronado after dispatching DJ LeMahieu-Troy Tulowitzki has ruined a good franchise. Who’s left-Charley Blackmon and Trevor Story? Very young pitching and some injuries to Kyle Freeland-John Gray make the job even harder for Black. This could be a 100-loss summer.
CARDINALS..The best of a weak division. Injuries have threatened the pitching staff. but what they don’t have on the mound they do have in the lineup. That is Nolan Arenado joining Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina. Keeping Carlos Martinez-Adam Wainwright healthy in the rotation will be critical. A group of live arms round out the rotation.
BREWERS…Slugger Christian Yelich is back, Lorenzo Cain is healthy, Ryan Braun is likely retired but starting pitching beyond Brandon Woodruff is suspect. Josh Hader, the relief ace, might still be trade bait.
CUBS…Might this be the final go round for Anthony Rizzo-Kris Bryant-Javy Baez, all on the final year of contracts, with a team now trimming its budget. Yu Darvish-Jon Lester departed, so it will be up to Kyle Hendricks-Zach Davies to carry this pitching staff. Storm clouds on the horizon-bad management decisions at Wrigley Field on the budget and the roster.
REDS…They can hit but can they pitch? They have completely gutted the pitching staff, leaving Luis Castillo by himself till Sonny Gray gets back healthy. There is Joey Votto-Eugenio Suarez and Nick Castellanos in the lineup. A long summer coming.
PIRATES..Might be as bad a team as there is in baseball, and its ex-Red Sox exec Ben Cherrington’s turn to fix the Buccos. Very young pitching staff. Power hitters who have battled injuries. Beautiful stadium but bad franchise. 110-losses very possible. Doesn’t the fan in Pittsburgh deserve better?
METS..New owner, Steve Cohen, new leader, Sandy Alderson, and alot of new pieces on the roster. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndegaard, Marcus Stroman and Joey Luchessi anchor a good rotation. SS-Francisco Lindor joins Robbie Cano-Mike Conforto and Peter Alonso in a strong batting order. This could be a pretty good turnaround season.
WASHINGTON…It all rides on the health of Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer on the mound, and they are no longer this side of 30-years of age. Interesting array of news names, Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell and Brad Hand arrive. Of course Juan Soto and Trea Turner are anchors. Seem to have a black hole at 3rd base.
BRAVES…Some season a year ago with Freddie Freeman cementing his star status to go with the young bucks like Ron Acuna and the veteran Marcel Ozuna. Getting Mike Soroka back totally healthy makes this a good pitching staff with Max Fried and the rearrival of Charley Morton.
PHILLIES…David Dombrowski arrives as President, and I guarantee you he will fix the pitching staff, having added 5-arms in the offseason. Bryce Harper had a bounce back season and JT Realmuto stayed for big money. If they get pitching, to help Aaron Nola and Zach Elfin, they make big noise.
MIAMI…Year three of Derek Jeter’s ownership group as they continue to bring up young players to support Starlin Marte and a very young pitching staff. Just too many young prospects in the everday lineup and it won’t be a 60-game schedule this year.
YANKEES..Lots of bats, lots of question marks on the pitching staff. What a lineup-Giancarlo Stanton-Aaron Judge-DJ LeMahieu-Gary Sanchez-Luke Voit and more. Gerrit Cole headlines what could be a really good staff, but there is no Masahiro Tanaka-JA Happ-James Paxton. Domingo German comes off the suspension, and the health of Corey Kluber-Jameson Taillon will be the difference between 100-wins or being a shade above .500.
TAMPA BAY…The names keep changing yearly for this small market gem of a franchise, but they keep winning with a low payroll and a prosperous farm system. Dealing off Blake Snell and Charley Morton takes away aces on the mound but Ryan Yarbrough was spectacular. The kids Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena will be the next in the assembly line of young talent in the lineup. Importing veteran pitchers like Mike Wacha-Chris Archer will be the difference maker.
BLUE JAYS…What a collection of young talent they have stockpiled, and now you add George Springer-Marcus Semien to the lineup that includes Guerrero-Bichette-Biggio. Hyun Jin-Ryu headlines the pitching staff but some kid arms have to get healthy if this is to be a good season, that starts in Dunedin, could move to Buffalo, before getting to play in Toronto.
RED SOX..What the hell is wrong in Boston? That’s what the headlines used to read back in the day. Will likely again this year with the slashing of the Sox payroll. Banking your season on the return-to-health of Chris Sale-Eduardo Rodriguez-Alex Verdugo is a huge gamble, as is importing all these aging free agents. Fenway Park will not be a happy place this year.
ORIOLES…Rebuilding is painful, especially in this division so Baltimore’s slow fix, will take another long hot summer. Maybe the youngest pitching staff in baseball, too many kids in the lineup, another 100 loss season likely. This could be two years away till the draft picks get good.
TWINS…Their division to lose, and they won’t. Josh Donaldson-Andrellton Simmons add more power to the Nelson Cruz-Byron Buxton-Eddie Rosario lineup. Kenta Maeda is the lead arm on the staff and more arms are coming.
INDIANS..They’ve traded away so many arms, and yet Shane Bieber heads up a still strong pitching staff. They’ve added young talent in deals, Andres Giminez and Ahmed Rosario, but how do you face your fans when you have let go the likes of Trevor Bauer-Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber and dealt away Francisco Lindor? Cleveland fans deserve better, in what could be a great regional franchise rather than a small market team.
WHITE SOX…They’ve been building and now Tony LaRussa has been chosen to lead them over the top of the hill. Lance Lynn joins Dallas Keuchel and Liam Hendricks anchors the bullpen. Old war horse Jose Abreu is back with young star Tim Anderson and a group of young bats growing together. An interesting summer ahead.
TIGERS…AJ Hinch takes over the dugout and he inherits the ageless Miguel Cabrera and a host of farm system products led by pitcher Casey Mize, Spencer Turnbull, and minor league hotshot Spencer Torkelson. The health of Mike Fulmer on the mound could be a key. Four last place finishes might be about to end.
ROYALS…Sal Perez is back and is joined by a host of proven players like Andrew Benitendi, Carlos Santana and Mike Taylor-all seeking bounce back seasons. Brad Keller needs a breakout season on the mound. Will be competitive, just not sure they have enough.
ASTROS…The times are changing in Houston where the team is loved despite being hated around baseball for the sign stealing scandals. Free agency took George Springer, age and injury have bothered Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. Justin Verlander is out till late season with surgery. Zack Grienke and Lance McCullers will have to stay healthy on the mound. This could the summer they topple.
ANGELS..They have the bats, with superstar Mike Trout flanked by Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, Anthony Rendon, Dexter Fowler and the re-emergence of DH-Shohei Ohtani. An off season of trying to find the right starters to put into the rotation has brought them Dylan Bundy-Alex Cobb-Jose Quintana, relievers Alex Claudio-Raul Iglesias. Getting Ohtani back is like adding 2-All Stars, a big time hitter and a once a week starter. This could be-should be the surprise team in baseball.
A’s…..Constant change on the roster is their Moneyball formula, but Matt Chapman-Matt Olson are anchors in the batting order. Elvis Andrus comes from Texas to glue the infield together but they lost a number of veteran relievers. Do they have enough starting pitching and can Trevor Rosenthal be the closer he used to be in St Louis?
SEATTLE..GM-Jerry DiPoto keeps wheeling and dealing, bringing back pitcher James Paxton, adding closer Ken Giles, and trying to find the right mix in the order to surround slugger Kyle Seager. Keeping kids like Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic and the arrival of prospect Julio Rodriguez from getting overwhelmed will be important.
TEXAS..Five veterans are gone, including Lance Lynn-Corey Kluber-Elvis Andrus-Rougned Odor. It’s just not the same franchise anymore. The pitching staff is young. The lineup needs alot of help for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Khris Davis. Looks like a 90-loss season for sure.