See our National League preview here: MLB Baseball is Back! A team by team rundown of the 2021 season – National League
1) New York Yankees
Injuries are the only thing that threatens to hold this team back. In recent seasons, the Yankees have managed to succeed despite injuries, and the first hurdle to clear is the knee injury to 1B Luke Voit, who is not expected to see action until mid-May. The rotation adds Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, which will strengthen the rotation during the regular season. Clint Frazier will see everyday action in left field, as Brett Gardner will start on the bench. Middle relief takes a hit as Zach Britton has elbow problems, but Aroldis Chapman remains a solid closer, and the Yankees are still strong in all departments.
2) Toronto Blue Jays
Depending on pandemic concerns, the Blue Jays are hopeful to return home to Toronto at some point this season. They’ll play at least their first two homestands at their spring training park in Dunedin, FL. Toronto adds George Springer and Marcus Semien to an already strong offensive lineup, so scoring runs should not be a concern. The starting rotation remains a key question, as Hyun-jin Ryu is the only reliable performer. Closer Kirby Yates is out for the season with an elbow injury, so Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis are expected to compete for the role.
3) Tampa Bay Rays
The pitching rotation takes a hit after losing Blake Snell (to Padres), and Charlie Morton (to Braves), and they have been replaced with Rich Hill, Chris Archer, and Michael Wacha. Closer Nick Anderson is out with an elbow injury and is not expected to see action until at least mid-July. The offense stays intact from last season’s World Series run, however 1B Ji-Man Choi has a knee injury and isn’t due back until mid-May. The Rays have always relied on pitching to stay near the top of the standings, and now it’s up to Tyler Glasnow to carry a heavy load this season with a weaker rotation.
4) Boston Red Sox
Boston is hopeful that their pitching rotation get back to normal, with Eduardo Rodriguez returning to the hill this year, and Chris Sale returning sometime around mid-June from elbow surgery. But for the moment, Nathan Eovaldi is the only other reliable starter. Kike Hernandez comes over from the Dodgers to play 2nd base, and Marwin Gonzalez (Twins) will see action in left field. Boston simply does not have the pitching or hitting to compete season-long in this division.
5) Baltimore Orioles
Trey Mancini returns to the lineup after a battle with cancer. Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle are other bright spots, but the bullpen serves up too many runs for this team to move up in the standings.
1) Chicago White Sox
OF Eloy Jimenez will be out until at least August with an injury, but overall things are looking up for the White Sox. Chicago led the American League in homeruns last year with 96, and with Jimenez out, that number figures to drop a bit. 2B Nick Madrigal, SS Tim Anderson, and 1B Jose Abreu all hit over .300 last season. The starting rotation includes Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance Lynn, providing the consistent pitching Chicago needs to compete for the top spot in the division. Chicago acquired free-agent closer Liam Hendricks to solidify the bullpen.
2) Minnesota Twins
Powered by Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sano the Twins are sure to score their share of runs this season. A solid starting rotation of Berrios, Maeda, Pineda, and Happ will keep opponents at arm’s length in most games. Minnesota also added closer Alex Colome, and SS Andrelton Simmons during the off-season; to improve their chances of winning the division.
3) Cleveland Indians
Hopes are not as high in Cleveland as they said goodbye to Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor, both of whom went to the NY Mets. However, the Indians still have solid starting pitching will keep them competitive this season. Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale are reliable starters who can give Cleveland winning chances in most games. The Indians’ biggest concern are the two teams at the top of this division, both of whom are likely going to edge the Indians out of the wild-card spot in the end.
4) Kansas City Royals
For extra help, Kansas City added Andrew Benintendi from the Red Sox, but they’ll need strong seasons from players like Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield, and Hunter Dozier, if they are going to make a splash in the AL Central this year. The starting rotation seems way too average for them to have much of an impact, though.
5) Detroit Tigers
The Tigers simply don’t have the starting pitching to compete on a regular basis. There’s not much difference here than there has been in the last 4-5 years. They haven’t won more than 64 games since 2016.
1) Houston Astros
It will be interesting to see how the Astros react after losing George Springer to free agency (Blue Jays), and to the loss this year of Justin Verlander to an elbow injury. Also of interest, will be to see if Jose Altuve can bounce back strong after a very disappointing 2020 showing. The Astros added Jake Odorizzi as a free-agent, and he’ll be sorely needed as the Houston starters are not nearly as strong as they have been in recent years. Houston will rely on the bats of: Bregman, Gurriel and Kyle Tucker for extra power throughout the year.
2) Oakland Athletics
In the off-season Oakland lost plenty of players to free agency: SS Marcus Semien (Toronto), 2B Tommy LaStella (Giants), LF Robbie Grossman (Tigers), and closer Liam Hendricks (White Sox). The A’s now have Trevor Rosenthal in the closer role, and he has not saved many games since 2017. The hitting lineup has some punch with 1B Matt Olson, and 3B Matt Chapman, but they’re surrounded by mostly low-average hitters. As always, Oakland’s pitching is promising, but can that it be enough to get them to the top of the division?
3) Los Angeles Angels
With names like Trout and Rendon in the lineup, there’s no doubt that the Angels can put runs on the board. But will their middle relief pitching give up just as many? They traded for Cincinnati closer Raisel Iglesias in the hopes he will shut things down. The Angels will give Shohei Ohtani another chance on the mound, as he tries to bounce back to full strength after his Tommy John surgery.
4) Seattle Mariners
With young emerging stars like Kyle Lewis, and Evan White, there’s hope for the future. The Mariners brought back James Paxton for added help to a rotation that can cause problems for many opponents. However, there’s too much talent on the other clubs in this division for Seattle to make any headway this year.
5) Texas Rangers
Perhaps, the only bright spot here is Joey Gallo. The starting pitching rotation could qualify as the weakest in the big leagues. Texas could easily lose 100 games this year.