Photo via YouTube
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 finish our projections with the National League.
National League East
1. Atlanta Braves (94-68)
Everyone is talking about that team in second place, but are people really forgetting just how good the Atlanta Braves are? Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, Marcell Ozuna, and Ozzie Albies manning the middle of that lineup is just scary. Adding Charlie Morton to a rotation that’s already headlined by Mike Soroka was a genius move, and the bullpen is good too. What other reason is there to not pick them to win the National League East?
2. New York Mets (91-71)
Arguably the splashiest offseason by any team in the league, manned by new owner Steve Cohen, has come to a close. The Mets, for the first time since 2016, are really molded to make a playoff run. The rotation is one of the best in the game with guys like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Carlos Carrasco; New York’s lineup is pretty stacked as well. Of course, adding Francisco Lindor is the headliner, but James McCann was a sneaky good move. Top it off with Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil in the middle of the order and it could be a special season if the cookie crumbles right in Queens.
3. Washington Nationals (83-79)
This is another team in the National League East that no one seems to be talking about in the league’s most competitive division. The lineup is solid with Trea Turner and Juan Soto. By adding Kyle Schwarber from the Chicago Cubs and Josh Bell from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Nats could surprise some by making a postseason push. Washington also added Jon Lester to a rotation that boasts Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.
4. Philadelphia Phillies (80-82)
The fans in Philadelphia are getting restless after still having not made the postseason since 2011; the funny thing is that the Phillies have the pieces to be good. They have one of the game’s flashiest players in Bryce Harper. Guys like Andrew McCuthchen, Didi Gregorius, JT Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins round out a solid lineup. They have depth behind Aaron Nola in the rotation, but the bullpen can’t say the same. That’s what will hold the Phillies back in 2021.
5. Miami Marlins (66-96)
The Marlins snapped a 17-year postseason drought last season in the pandemic-shortened campaign, and this is a team many are disrespecting heading into 2021. The problem is, their division is so competitive, it’s hard to imagine Miami jumping ahead of any of these other four teams. The Marlins still have Starling Marte, Corey Dickerson and Brian Anderson at the top of that lineup, but the roster just doesn’t stack up against the rest.
National League Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals (89-73)
It may be the weakest division in baseball, but our projected champion made one of the strongest offseason acquisitions. Nolan Arenado paired with Paul Goldschmit and Paul DeJong in the middle of that lineup is a scary thought, and while the rotation is just simply average, the bullpen can be one of the league’s best. Fireball-throwing Jordan Hicks and Andrew Miller round out a ‘pen that will win a lot of games for St. Louis.
2. Milwaukee Brewers (87-75)
Another team not many are talking about that can make a lot of noise this season plays its home games in Milwaukee. A team with Kolten Wong, Lorenzo Cain, and Christian Yelich going 1-2-3 will always have a chance to put some runs up on the board. While the rotation may be shaky, the back end of the bullpen is set with reigning National League Rookie of the Year, Devin Williams, and one of the best relievers in the game closing it out in Josh Hader.
3. Chicago Cubs (81-81)
It may be the last season for a while to make a playoff push for the north side of Chicago. Losing Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant seems inevitable, and it wouldn’t be a shocker to see catcher Willson Contreras leave at some point as well — whether by trade or as a free agent. Their rotation is fine at the top with Kyle Hendricks and the return of Jake Arrieta, but the bullpen has so many question marks, even with closer Craig Kimbrel. It’ll be an interesting development in Chicago to see how manager David Ross’ Cubs fare.
4. Cincinnati Reds (78-84)
This is actually an interesting team to analyze, because in reality, they’re really good at the top in every category. The problem is, they don’t have much behind it. The lineup has notable names that include Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Castellanos, and Mike Moustakas. The rotation has a nice 1-2 punch with Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. The bullpen adds Sean Doolittle in front of Amir Garrett, so it’s not a bad roster. The problem is what goes with the nucleus. Losing Trevor Bauer was tough, too.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (58-104)
It’s not going to be a pretty year in Pittsburgh. Trading away Josh Bell and Jameson Tallion signifies a major rebuild for the Bucs. It’ll be nice to see how third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes develops, but there won’t be a lot of raising the jolly roger this season.
National League West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)
The rich just keep getting richer. Not only do the Dodgers add reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, but it makes them arguably the best rotation in baseball. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Bauer, David Price, and Julio Urias? Yes, please! Don’t forget about that lineup either with Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, and Max Muncy. It’s going to be another fun season to be a Dodgers’ fan.
2. San Diego Padres (96-66)
It’s unfortunate that the San Diego Padres are in the National League West, because they’re the second best team in baseball; the first just happens to be the Los Angeles Dodgers. The core of Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, and Tommy Pham will be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come. The Padres boast another top-tier rotation in baseball with Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Chris Paddack, Joe Musgrove, and eventually Mike Clevinger. Yep, the Padres are in good shape for years to come.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (76-86)
The quality of teams drops off big-time after the Dodgers and Padres. But the Arizona Diamondbacks will still finish third in the National League West. It’s still a rebuild going on in the desert, but there are some fun players to watch on this team. Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, Nick Ahmed, and Carson Kelly headline a core that could eventually help the Diamondbacks return to the top. Also, who doesn’t love Madison Bumgarner?
4. San Francisco Giants (71-91)
The San Francisco Giants are another team that is set to be an afterthought for another year. This is a far cry from the team that won three World Series in five years from 2010 to 2014. Mike Yastrzemski is a fun player to watch, and the story of Donovan Solano coming out of nowhere is a cool story. It’s still going to be a rough season on the Bay.
5. Colorado Rockies (64-98)
After trading away Nolan Arenado, the Colorado Rockies are embarking on a major rebuild. Fan-favorites Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon are still on the team however, and they’ll provide some fireworks for a club that has little else.
NL Playoff Projections
Wild Card Game (One game)
(5) New York Mets vs. (4) San Diego Padres
National League Division Series (Best-of-5)
(4) San Diego Padres vs. (1) Los Angeles Dodgers
(3) St. Louis Cardinals vs. (2) Atlanta Braves
National League Championship Series (Best-of-7)
(2) Atlanta Braves vs. (1) Los Angeles Dodgers
National League Champions
(1) Los Angeles Dodgers
World Series Champions
(1) Los Angeles Dodgers