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American’s pastime has finally arrived.
It has been two years since we have seen April baseball, and the feeling of Opening Day is hard to put in perspective. The unity that comes with bringing baseball fans all over the country together is something special, and it’s badly-needed to continue to bring our country together.
Now there won’t be tailgating, there won’t be the endless lines to get into the ballpark for batting practice, and there won’t be stadiums that are jam-packed seat-to-seat in 15 different ballparks around the country.
Instead, there’ll be places with 20-30% capacity, socially distanced lines, and card-only transactions at the ever-popular team shops and concession stands.
Who wouldn’t want the typical ballpark fare with the combination of popcorn, hot dogs, and nachos? Throw some jalapenos on there as well.
And of course, who wouldn’t want to splurge their hourly wage on a draft beer sold by a vendor that cashes in big-time on tips?
After all, this is baseball.
It’s that time of year again, which means it’s time to share our projected standings for the 2021 Major League Baseball. The season starts this Thursday, April 1, at 1 p.m. ET. The first contest will be between the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays.
We start a 2-part prediction series with the American League.
American League East
1. New York Yankees (98-64)
The rotation still has some question marks behind Gerrit Cole with the health of Corey Kluber, Luis Severino, and Jameson Tallion in question, but offensively, the Yankees are stacked. DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Luke Voit headline a scary lineup. If they can stay healthy, which is a big question mark, the Yankees will be in prime position to make a push for World Series title No. 28.
2. Toronto Blue Jays (94-68)
This could be the best Blue Jays’ team since when they won the World Series in 1993, and they easily can challenge the Yankees for the AL East crown. The additions of George Springer, Marcus Semien, and Kirby Yates, along with being one of the youngest teams in baseball with Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is exciting. Look out for Toronto in 2021.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (86-76)
The defending American League champions lost quite a bit this past offseason headlined by Blake Snell heading out west to San Diego. Their roster doesn’t exactly stack up with New York’s and Toronto’s, but the Rays are just one of those teams you can not question under general manager Erik Neander. They’ll take a step back, but they’re still very much a threat.
4. Boston Red Sox (80-82)
Alex Cora is back with the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately, his 2018 World Series-winning starting rotation is not. The Sox still have some big boppers in their lineup headlined by Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez, so that’ll win them some games. But the bad news for Boston, is you can’t win with only three starters.
5. Baltimore Orioles (61-101)
The Orioles won’t be as bad as they’ve been over the last couple of years. The problem is, their division is too good to allow them to win more games. On the bright side, O’s fans will get a glimpse of the future for a full season with guys like Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, and Austin Hays. Trey Mancini is back after recovering from colon cancer. So there’s something to look forward to.
American League Central
1. Chicago White Sox (93-69)
The Chicago White Sox are ready to make the jump to their first division title since 2008; the future is now on the south side. They already boast an MVP candidate in Jose Abreu as well as star shortstop Tim Anderson. With the young core that includes Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Nick Madrigal, and Eloy Jimenez – who will miss the first half of the season with an injury – the White Sox are set for the long haul. Not to mention they add Lance Lynn to a talented rotation, and Liam Hendricks to the back end of the bullpen. Manager Tony La Russa comes in too, which is interesting, but no matter who’s managing, this team will win a lot of games.
2. Minnesota Twins (88-74)
This is a relatively weak division, but the second-place team Minnesota Twins are still a threat to make the postseason. That lineup is pretty lethal. Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, and Miguel Sano provide a huge power threat to a team that led the league in home runs last season. The rotation is solid but inconsistent with Kenta Maeda at the top.
3. Cleveland Indians (81-81)
Losing Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets was needed from a financial standpoint, but still a tough pill to swallow. It’s not fair to say the Indians will be bad by any means; they still have Jose Ramirez in the middle of that lineup, and their rotation is arguably still one of the best in the game with Cy Young winner Shane Bieber manning the show.
4. Kansas City Royals (72-90)
The Kansas City Royals will make some big improvements for a ballclub that hasn’t won 60 games since 2017, and hasn’t had a winning record since winning the World Series in 2015. They made some sneaky good offseason acquisitions adding Carlos Santana, Andrew Benintendi, and Mike Minor. But don’t expect Kansas City to be making a playoff push just yet.
5. Detroit Tigers (61-101)
It may be a season to remember in the Motor City, but not in a good way. Considering how weak of a division this may be, the Tigers are going to be really, really bad. They have some veteran help to assist the young guns in Miguel Cabrera, Wilson Ramos, and Jonathan Schoop. But in reality, little can save the Tigers this season.
American League West
1. Houston Astros (91-71)
The last season of the core of the Houston Astros still glued together is here. George Springer is already gone, and Carlos Correa will likely be exiting stage left following the conclusion of this season. So it’s Houston’s last chance at another run for a legitimate World Series title. The group of Correa, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez will propel Houston to a division title, but this isn’t necessarily a great baseball team. They know how to win in October though. That is a scary thought for the rest of the league.
2. Oakland Athletics (87-75)
Much like the Tampa Bay Rays, the Oakland A’s are just a small market team you can never bet against. Losing Marcus Semien to Toronto and Liam Hendricks to the White Sox is tough, but guys like Matt Chapman and Matt Olson can hold down the fort. This team doesn’t have the flashiest of names, but it doesn’t matter when you’re winning.
3. Los Angeles Angels (82-80)
Their roster may look more talented than Oakland’s, and they may have more big names, but you never gamble on the Los Angeles Angels. Despite having the best player in baseball in Mike Trout, it’s going to be another season staying home in October for Joe Maddon’s ballclub. There is some potential, though. Anthony Rendon and Shohei Otani in the middle of that lineup can be electric. Adding Dexter Fowler is a nice touch as well. The Angels actually have some depth in the rotation for once by adding Alex Cobb and Jose Quintana behind Dylan Bundy, but the bullpen is still very much lacking. We’ll see if this is finally the year that the Angels break through.
4. Seattle Mariners (73-89)
It’s been since 2001 that the Seattle Mariners have advanced to the postseason – the longest drought in major professional sports. The problem is they’re in the middle of yet another rebuilding phase. There are some players to get excited about, however. Reigning American League Rookie of the Year, Kyle Lewis, is a stud out in center field for Seattle. The rotation is young, but promising.
5. Texas Rangers (64-98)
It may be a long couple of seasons in Arlington for the Texas Rangers. There’s not many star-studded names to look for, minus Khris Davis, who may give the fans something to cheer for this season. He could contend for the league’s home run title if he were to stay healthy. The Rangers do get to open their sparkling new ballpark up to fans of their own though after hosting the World Series in 2020. A fun-filled night at the adjacent Texas Live is always a nice way to cap off an evening at the ballpark.
AL Playoff Projections
Wild Card Game (One game)
(5) Minnesota Twins vs. (4) Toronto Blue Jays
American League Division Series (Best-of-5)
(4) Toronto Blue Jays vs. (1) New York Yankees
(3) Houston Astros vs. (2) Chicago White Sox
American League Championship Series (Best-of-7)
(3) Houston Astros vs. (1) New York Yankees
American League Champions
(1) New York Yankees