The first week of baseball is just a small taste of the 162-game main course that is an MLB season. But we’re not going to let that stop us from having a little fun in early April as the sport returns to a full schedule after last year’s shortened 60-game campaign.
We asked a group of our MLB experts to put in the effort and after seeing the first few returns make a bold prediction based entirely on what they have seen thus far. They were allowed to choose any theme of their choice on the following conditions: It had to be bold and it had to be something they believed could happen.
From a polarized pitching staff to a couple of teammates who could be fighting for 2021 MVP honors, and even lifting a World Series trophy together in October, this is what they picked.
The New York Mets will end up with the best ERA of a starting rotation in MLB … and the worst ERA in the bullpen
We’ve had only a small taste of what this team has to offer so far due to the suspension of its first games due to Washington’s COVID-19 issues, but it’s clear to me that the combination of Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman goes to lead a generally solid arm corps with quality routine starts, if not totally dominant starts.
It is also equally clear to me that “1 EL, 1 CL” will be the new normal for each and every Mets reliever, except, of course, for Jeurys Familia, who will likely continue his career-long routine of ” hit inside the frame, weak roll resulting in a close force play (but only after video review), walk, punch, walk, line hit hard that 50% of the time finds a glove, 50% of the time tow two “. If you’re still on the roster in June, buy tons of stocks in Tums pills. – AJ Mass
Defending American League champions Tampa Bay Rays are in trouble
Hey, I really support the Rays. I listed them as the most exciting team in baseball in 2019 and they won 96 games and made the playoffs. I said they were going to make it to the World Series in 2020 and they did. So if I say right now that I don’t like the Rays, pay attention.
The big issue here is the rotation behind Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough, and we have yet to see if Glasnow can dominate for a full season. The Rays have Michael Wacha, who hasn’t had a 2 WAR season since 2015. Rich Hill is 41 years old. Chris Archer? Collin McHugh? They are dice rolls.
The Rays were able to rely on their bullpen last season, but that was in a short season with expanded rosters. That will be a tougher strategy in 2021, even more so without Nick Anderson, his best reliever, who will miss at least half the season. The offense, meanwhile, really needs Randy Arozarena to be a big star, and so far he hasn’t looked good. Including spring training, he has 18 strikeouts and two walks. Hate to say it, but it could be the case with a guy who just put together a historic streak last October and establishes himself as a good hitter, but not great. Wander Franco will help when he shows up, but you can’t count on a 20-year-old to run the lineup. – David Schoenfield
The Chicago White Sox will finish undefeated against lefties, but will never win a game started by a right-hander.
Too ambitious? Maybe. But that trend has already taken shape, as going into their first home game on Thursday, the Sox were going 3-0 when a southpaw starts against them and 0-4 with a right on the mound. This comes after a 2020 season in which they were 14-0 against lefties but only 21-25 against rights. This is not random. Aside from Jose Abreu, their right-handed hitters don’t hit right-handers very well, but more importantly, the Sox have a deficiency of dangerous hitters from the left side of the batter’s box.
There are games where they will need a little left-handed power, and they may just not have enough. This does not mean that Adam Eaton, Yasmani Grandal and Yoan Moncada are not good hitters, but they do not bring the power, nor the threat of it, that other left-handed sluggers in the league possess. It’s going to be a problem against rights all year long. – Jesse Rogers
Corbin Burnes to finish in the top three in the LN Cy Young voting
As of this writing, he has only made one outing this year, but it was a dominant outing followed by another in his second outing on Thursday. He throws the hardest cut fastball in the league (96.3 mph), and he threw it 47% of the time in that first outing, and he’s tied for the hardest fastball among starters (behind Jacob deGrom and Shohei Ohtani) at 98.1. In his 14 career MLB starts, his strikeout rate would rank third and his xFIP (a better predictor of ERA than ERA itself; 2.81) would rank fifth in baseball among starters in the 2020 season. , when no pitcher had more than 12 starts. An even bolder prediction would be that three Brewers will get the top five Cy Young votes among their four elite arms: Burns, Brandon Woodruff, Devin Williams and Josh Hader. – Kiley McDaniel
Shohei Ohtani will get at least one vote for MVP
A message to all skeptics: This is happening. Ohtani will not only be a two-way player for the Angels this season; He will hit on the days when he has an opening and will play without restrictions that he does not impose voluntarily. And it will do well. Ohtani has already proven to be an elite hitter. He has the talent to be an elite pitcher, but he also needs to adapt given he racked up just 79 2/3 innings from 2017 to 2020.
As an Angels source recently said, “Judge him in May.” Translation: Ohtani will only get better at this, he will not get worse. By the end of the year, it will have had the kind of impact we haven’t seen since Babe Ruth in 1919, with an added element, given Ohtani’s ability to make a grassroots impact. – Alden González
This will be the Year of Byron Buxton
I hate to curse a guy with my complete inability to connect on hot topics, but here goes: Byron Buxton is going to win the AL MVP award. This is not an overreaction based on his first three home runs. I love where Buxton’s offensive focus is right now. He’s in that magical 27-year-old zone. With a modicum of newfound patience, he could hit 30 home runs. With a healthy first season in his career from start to finish, which is his biggest question mark in this scenario, he will steal 50 bases. In the Twins’ powerful and balanced offense, he will score 110 runs and drive in 100. And his work in center field is historic. This is the year the version of Buxton that we always knew existed is going to emerge. – Bradford Doolittle
Or will it be the Year of Nelson Cruz
Nelson Cruz leads baseball in home runs and OPS, wins the AL Most Valuable Player award and leads the Twins to a World Series championship. With everything. Alignment. Rotation Bullpen. Manager. And the 40-year-old ‘Boomstick’. Does Cruz look old to you? It’s amazing to think about where he was in his career just a decade ago, but now he seems to be at the top of his game, with 40-homer seasons. Now come 50. Home runs. Not age. Not yet. – Eric Karabell
OK, this will be the Year of José Berríos
Berrios to Win AL Cy Young Award, World Series MVP Award Y get the last out of the Fall Classic. Most of the problems with Berríos’ 2020 were related to the dominance of the straight, a pitch to which he added speed despite those problems, and since the exhibition season began, he certainly seems to have corrected them. He’s added more spin and a touch of speed to the pitch, giving him two genuine swing and strikeout pitches, and he’s one of the few that should have an “ace” workload in today’s game. These Twins will go far in the playoffs, thanks in large part to their efforts. – Tristan Cockcroft