April 1st and the start of the 2021 MLB regular season is fast approaching. And with Spring Training getting underway, teams are beginning to make preparations for what is a hopefully a full 162-game season. The Dodgers remain firm favourites for the World Series, but they will face tough competition from a host of teams, including NL West rivals, the San Diego Padres.
But to win a World Series, you need to get the hard work done in the regular season first. And that means topping your division or grabbing one of the Wild Card spots. Below we aim to project the winner of each division in MLB for 2021. Preseason predictions can often seem foolish in hindsight, but we don’t think these will be far off the mark come October 3rd:
Winner – New York Yankees
Yes, we aren’t starting with a bold prediction, but it’s hard to look beyond the Yankees as AL East champions. The Bronx Bombers probably have the strongest roster in the American League and are clear favourites for the AL Pennant with 888 sport betting odds. The Yankees’ main concern is the road record, which, at 11-18, was quite poor last season (only the Astros did worse on the road among teams who made the 2020 postseason). But reverting back to a 162-game season should probably suit the Yankees. The Rays and the Blue Jays are the most likely competition, but it would be a surprise if either pip the Yankees. Rays fans, in particular, might seem a bit miffed with that assertion after making the World Series in 2020, but Blake Snell and Charlie Morton look like big losses.
Winner – Minnesota Twins
The AL Central might be the tightest race in baseball, with two top teams loaded with talent – the Twins and White Sox. The latter is preferred by most pundits and bookmakers, but we think the Twins have slightly better depth and retain much of the roster that topped the AL Central in 2020 and 2019. The Indians have some hope of playing spoiler, as pitching is still strong despite losing Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. The Tigers will have to wait a season or two until their strong farm system gives new manager, A.J Hinch, something to work with. The Royals, while busy in the offseason, look like longshots to get a winning record.
Winner – Houston Astros
Vying with the AL Central as the toughest to call, and many will project the A’s to win the AL West. Again, there isn’t much to separate Oakland and Houston, but there are some reasons to go for the latter. The team is better than the 29-31 record posted in the regular season, and, like the Yankees, the Astros will likely benefit from a full 162-game season. The A’s had a lot of upheaval in the offseason, whereas Houston retains much of the roster that came within one game of the World Series. Justin Verlander will be a big loss, however. The Angels have added some veteran pitching, and will welcome back Shohei Ohtani from injury issues. Don’t be surprised to see them in contention.
Winner – New York Mets
The Mets and the Yankees met six times in the 2020 season, with the pair splitting the Subway Series 3-3. But due to the fact that both teams now look like potential champions, we might see that rivalry heat up further when the teams meet for Interleague games, particularly if they act as a prelude to a World Series match-up. Leaving that digression aside, it’s the Mets versus the Braves for NL East supremacy. We have gone for New York over Atlanta, but you can appreciate why some pundits would back the Braves. The Nationals and Phillies have an outside chance of a Wild Card spot, but there is little hope for the Marlins.
Winner – St Louis Cardinals
The worst division in baseball? That’s perhaps a little unfair as the NL Central has four very solid teams, alongside the dreadful Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s just that we don’t see any team capable of winning the World Series or NLCS coming from the NL Central. Of that solid quartet, we like the Cardinals who showed a lot of resilience in making the postseason in 2020. The Brewers, Cubs and Reds will all believe that topping the division is possible, and it wouldn’t be a surprise. As for the Pirates, avoiding having the worst record in baseball for two successive seasons would be a success.
Winner – LA Dodgers
The division with two of the best teams in baseball, the Dodgers and the Padres. The Dodgers will aim for a fourth World Series appearance in five years and be the first team to retain since Joe Torre’s Yankees in 2000. The pressure is on the Padres to make a real go of it in 2021, and you wouldn’t bet against them running the Dodgers close. But in the words of Franchise Sports writer, Sam Cox, “adding Bauer to this (the Dodgers) roster is bordering on unfair”. That says it all. Barring catastrophe, the Dodgers win the NL West, and the Pennant.