Normalcy, more or less, has returned to baseball for the MLB season in 2021. There are still pandemic-related hurdles for the sport to navigate, but at least teams are scheduled to play 162 games and fans have returned to the stadiums. The usual pace of the sport will take hold very soon and, as in any new season, questions abound.
Which star player will put his annoyance of a shortened 2020 year in his rearview mirror with a return to his former elite status? Will the new monitoring of tampered baseballs make a difference on the field? Who will be the must-see players to watch this season? And what big names could be traded on the deadline?
We asked a team of 28 executives, players and scouts for answers to these and other pressing questions before the start of the new season. The caveats were that they could not vote for their own team or players, all voters were promised anonymity so they could vote freely, and not all participants answered all questions.
This is what those around the game predict will happen in baseball this season.
Which team will be the biggest surprise, good or bad, in the league this year?
Survey says: Good Royals 7, Indians 3, Red Sox 3, Phillies 3, Giants 3, Diamondbacks 1, Detroit 1, Cubs 1
Malo – Reds 5, Astros 4, Phillies 2, Cubs 2, White Sox 2, Angels 2, Mets 1
Unsurprisingly, this question garnered a variety of responses with two featured teams. People in the game are impressed with what the Royals did last winter and are not impressed by the Reds’ lack of movement.
Not surprisingly, the NL East Division was represented on both lists, as the predictions for that division differ wildly among experts. The Cubs also showed up at every venue because they are talented, but they could be great salespeople in July.
“The Red Sox will compete for the AL wild card behind another great year for Eduardo Rodríguez, the return to form for JD Martínez and wide receiver Christian Vázquez establishing themselves as one of the top five receivers in the game,” said one executive. .
“Kansas City,” said another. “They had a great offseason and they think they have a chance to be a really strong team.”
“The Astros started their downward trend last year,” said a scout. “The division is not stacked, so they may stay in the race, but they are not as deep as before.”
“The Cubs just have too much at stake,” said another scout. “A new team of starting pitchers combined with a large number of players in his final year of contract will make it a difficult season to navigate.”
Another scout had the exact opposite view of the Cubs: “Some clubs think they will falter with their rotation of soft-pitching starters, when in fact the slower pace will confuse the rosters, that group is so different from the rest of the league. “.
“I’m sure the fans will be surprised, but the Mets won’t be very good,” said one player. “Lindor cannot teach them how to win on their own.”
Which star player who struggled in 2020 is most likely to get back in shape?
The survey says: Christian Yelich 12, JD Martínez 5, Anthony Rizzo 3, Carlos Correa 3, Javier Báez 1, Justin Upton 1
It’s no surprise that several of these players have expressed their excitement about the return to video use in MLB games in 2021. Martinez and Rizzo are close to the top of that list. Interestingly, Yelich is not one of those guys who trusts him. Admittedly, last season just wasn’t good.
“Christian Yelich,” said one executive. “Because his 100-point decrease in the batting average of the balls in play will be reversed,”
“Yelich can’t be worse, so I’ll go with him,” interjected a player.
“JD Martinez for the ability to get back into a routine through the use of videos,” said another executive.
“Carlos Correa … I think he has something to prove before entering free agency,” said a third voter.
“Anthony Rizzo has always proven to be reliable. I’m going with him,” said another player.
Who will win the National League and National League MVP?
The survey says: THE — Mike Trout 11, Aaron Judge 6, Alex Bregman 2, DJ LeMahieu 1, Gleyber Torres 2, Luis Robert 1, Anthony Rendon 1, Tim Anderson 1, George Springer 1, Shohei Ohtani 1
LN — Juan Soto 7, Ronald Acuña Jr. 5, Mookie Betts 3, Bryce Harper 2, Cody Bellinger 2, Fernando Tatis Jr. 2, Corey Seager 2
It seems some voters were trying to find someone other than Trout in the American League, but only Aaron Judge came close. Considering that the Angels outfielder has finished in the top five in nine straight years, can you blame someone who picked Trout?
The National League certainly gave room for more debate, although voters clearly think this is Juan Soto’s year. Three different Dodgers received multiple votes, another testament to just how talented LA really is.
“Corey Seager,” said a scout. “He is going to have an exceptional year and he has all the weapons around him to add up the numbers.
“Mike Trout,” said the same scout. “It’s a slightly better lineup, but it doesn’t even need protection because it’s so good.”
Who is a gamer that makes you sit in front of the TV to watch him play right now?
The survey says: Soto 10, Jacob deGrom 3, Tatis 3, Kyle Hendricks 2, Stephen Strasburg 1, Clayton Kershaw 1, Shane Bieber 1, Anderson 1, Ohtani 1
“Juan Soto is hitting,” said a scout. “No one’s going to be like Barry Bonds, but Soto’s combination of discipline and power at the plate is fun to watch.”
“Clayton Kershaw,” offered one executive. “I still like to see their exits.”
“How can you not love watching Hendricks handcuff batters at 88 mph?” said a fellow pitcher.
Which pitcher has the grossest repertoire in baseball right now?
The survey says: deGrom 6, Gerrit Cole 6, Yu Darvish 5, Devin Williams 5, Bieber 3, Strasburg 1,
“DeGrom’s repertoire in 2020: four-seam fastball at 99 mph, slider at 93, switch to 92,” said one scout. “But an honorable mention to Corbin Burnes, whose effects on five different pitches are ranked in the top eight in MLB out of 209 qualified pitchers: second on a four-seam fastball; second on sinker; seventh on cut straight; third on slider; eighth in curve “.
“Gerrit Cole,” said one executive. “He seems to have a repertoire to hit a no-hitter every night.”
“Devin Williams has a change like a breaking pitch for lefties,” said another executive. “
“When he’s healthy, Strasburg has too many guns,” said one player.
Who is the player most likely to be traded before the deadline?
The survey says: Kris Bryant 9, Trevor Story 8, Zack Greinke 4, Carlos Correa 3, Starlin Castro 1, Kevin Gausman 1, Brock Holt 1, Chris Sale 1, Any of the Cubs
Several participants admitted that they voted for Bryant in previous polls, but that this will be the year considering he is a free agent in November. As for Story, some simply believe that he will be moved as part of the rebuilding process that the Rockies began at the time they traded Nolan Arenado.
Top relievers become highly sought after around the deadline, but no voter was able to focus on one. The first half will dictate the appearance of those names.
And, yes, one voter chose the entire Cubs team as Chicago has no fewer than 13 players beginning its final years of contract. “It’s now or never for Bryant,” said a scout. “The Cubs have to take what they can.”
“Don’t discount Greinke,” said another scout.
“The teams like that experience. But he has to show that he still has the necessary things for a pennant.”
“Texas will not be competitive, and his defensive versatility and attitude will always be valuable to a competing club,” said one voter who chose Brock Holt.
Will improved monitoring of tampered baseballs have a small or large impact on the game in ’21?
The survey says: Small 21, Large 4
Most in the game cannot imagine how this policy will play out to make a big impact. Many hope that the threat of punishment and greater supervision will reduce the use of illegal substances, but most are not clear about the process, so their alternative was to vote for “small.” Two voters called it an “eye wash.”
“Small because I think the emphasis on him will slowly fade over the summer and he won’t be a problem in the postseason,” said one scout.
“Small,” said one executive. “Unless someone breaks the gentlemen’s agreement not to ask the umpires to check, because that could lead to a battle against everyone.”
“If they really monitor, it will be a huge impact,” said one player. “Some guys have no idea what to do without it.”
“Great,” said a scout. “Hitters will be at their all-time high.
What will be the biggest adjustment going from last year’s short season to a full 162-game season?
There was no specific answer to this question, but the majority revolved around pitching.
Jumping from 60 games to 162 will be interesting, but some relievers, in particular, say they are fresher than ever. The openers will be monitored more closely.
“Pitching injuries for sure, but also how quickly teams adjust to a guy who was great in 2020 but struggling in 2021,” said one executive. “How much space will the teams give to the 2020 season?”
“If a team is forced to deal with a COVID outbreak, the scheduling problems could be massive and will create a lot of problems,” said another executive.
“There will be a ton of total pitchers used this year,” said one voter. “A lot of four-inning starts, games with six or seven relievers and roster changes.
“We will have more days off,” said one player simply.
Who will be the winner of the World Series – if not the Dodgers?
The survey says: Yankees 12, Braves 5, Padres 4, White Sox 3, Mets 3, Blue Jays 1,
Since the LA Dodgers are an overwhelming choice to win this year’s World Series, we request an option other than the Dodgers here. There was a good variety of responses, although the Yankees are clearly the favorites if not the Dodgers this season.
Las Vegas agrees with our voters, as all of the teams mentioned, except the Blue Jays, are among the next behind Los Angeles in odds of winning the World Series
“I just like the Yankees as long as they’re healthy,” said a scout. “They have a ton of talent. He just has to be on the field.”
“The Braves are as dangerous as ever,” said another scout. “If the Dodgers open the door a little bit, I say the Braves can kick it.”
“Mets,” said one voter. “Choice out of the ordinary, but this new owner, with money is not a problem, and there will be a lot of money problems with people ditching wages, when you can buy men and spend money and not have to deliver prospects, that will be Huge. I think the Mets are capable of that. “