MLB Baseball is Back! A team by team rundown of the 2021 season – National League

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Aerial view of the Dodger Stadium in Elysian Park.

American League Preview: MLB Baseball is Back! A team by team rundown of the 2021 season – American League

NL EAST 

1) Atlanta Braves 

Depending on who you speak to, Atlanta is considered the 3rd or 4th best team in the major leagues.  They are packed with power in their lineup, and power on the mound.  Resigning free-agent Marcell Ozuna was a huge move that keeps this team solid as a rock.  They are hopeful to have Mike Soroka back from an Achilles injury by early-May, and Touki Touissant has a shoulder problem that will keep him out until early-June. Despite those setbacks, the Atlanta Braves should have no trouble capturing the NL East division this season. 

2) New York Mets 

The Mets have new ownership and are making strides to improve the club.  They brought in SS Francisco Lindor and RHP Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland. New York also picked up free-agent catcher James McCann. The Mets dreams of a steady pitching rotation will need to get past some injuries, however. Carrasco has a hamstring problem and will be out until mid-May. Noah Syndergaard is still recovering from Tommy 

John surgery and is not expected to be back before June.  That leaves Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and David Peterson to lead the way to begin the year.  New York will not need to pay Robinson Cano a dime, he has been suspended for the entire season.

3) Washington Nationals 

This off-season, Washington was busy in the free-agent market to fill needs.  The Nationals acquired free-agent LHP Jon Lester to round out a rotation which features Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin.  However, what the 37-year-old Lester has left in the tank remains to be seen. Also, Washington got left-handed reliever Brad Hand, who has 74 saves in the last three seasons. Their new leftfielder will be Kyle Schwarber, who batted only .188 last year. They traded for 1B Josh Bell, who they hope will return to his long-ball power this year. Washington must keep both Scherzer and Strasburg off the injury list, if they are to have a chance in this very competitive division. 

4) Philadelphia Phillies 

The Phillies have a powerful line up with batters like Hoskins, Harper, Realmuto and Alec Bohm in the middle of it, so run scoring will not be much of a worry with this team.  Pitching remains the key.  The starters and relievers have to be more consistent. Free agent reliever, Archie Bradley, has been brought in to be the closer, despite having just 28 career saves. 

5) Miami Marlins 

In last year’s shortened season, the Marlins finished with a winning record of 31-29.  It’s the starting pitching that makes them tougher to beat.  Names like Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez, and Sixto Sanchez aren’t household names…yet.  Miami’s offense struggles at times, but this is far from the worst team around. 

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NL CENTRAL 

1) Milwaukee Brewers 

The Brewers can be expected to be a different team with Lorenzo Cain back in the lineup.  Cain opted-out during the pandemic, and Milwaukee couldn’t seem to find their groove, ending up with a 29-31 record.  Brewers’ fans should be seeing Christian Yelich returning back to form, after a disappointing 2020 season.  Milwaukee signed free-agent Jackie Bradley, Jr., who will play in right field, and Kolten Wong to play  2nd base. The starting rotation can be considered troublesome in spots, but the Brewers bullpen is strong.  Closer Josh Hader is one of the best, and you can expect Milwaukee to be near the top of the division throughout the year. 

2) St. Louis Cardinals 

The blockbuster acquisition of Nolan Arenado promises to give the Cardinals an offensive upgrade; but to start the year, many pitching questions remain.  Dakota Hudson is lost for the season to Tommy John surgery, and starters Miles Mikolas and Kwang Hyun-Kim will both miss most or all of April.  OF Harrison Bader will also miss most of April, so St. Louis might get off to a slow start. Starters Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright will have to carry the load until the others return. The Cardinals have one of the best defensive infields in the league.  By themselves, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt together could propel the Cardinals to the top of the NL Central. 

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3) Cincinnati Reds 

Fans have been waiting for this strong lineup to breakout and challenge for the top spot in the division.  The Reds have at least five hitters that can hit for power. Suarez, Castellanos, Winker, Votto, and Moustakas combined for 60 home runs in last year’s shortened season. Starters Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo regularly provide quality starts.  Cincinnati has to find a new closer after trading away Raisel Iglesias to the Angels.  It looks like Amir Garrett will be his replacement. The Reds need solid outings from their 3-4-5 starters if they’re going to make a play for first place in this division. 

4) Chicago Cubs 

The Cubs brought in free-agent Joc Pederson to play left field.  Pederson will benefit by playing every day, he did not hit well last year in a substitute role. The Cubs hit terribly last season and some of their stars should be motivated to improve this year. Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo will all be eligible for free agency at the end of the season.  

5) Pittsburgh Pirates 

The Pirates finished with the worst record of last year’s shortened season at: 19-41. Outside of Ke’Bryan Hayes, Brian Reynolds, Gregory Polanco, and Mitch Keller, there’s not too much to get excited about here. LHP Steven Brault will be out until June. They might get 67 wins this year. 

NL WEST 

1) Los Angeles Dodgers 

Every time the Dodgers take the field, they post an all-star lineup. LA went 43-17 last season, with: Betts, Pollock, Seager, Bellinger and Muncy combining for 71 home runs in a 60-game season.  Kershaw, Bauer, and Buehler start the rotation.  The only thing that could possibly slow them down are injuries. The few headaches they might face this year, may come from San Diego and San Francisco, who always play them tough. Kenley Jansen returning to form as a premier closer, could be the only question mark. Dustin May had been chosen as the 5th starter, with David Price starting out of the bullpen. Pitchers Caleb Ferguson and Tommy Kahnle are the only long-term injury problems. 

2) San Diego Padres 

When was the last time we saw a small-market team go all out to acquire the league’s top talent?  The Padres now have a premier pitching rotation with Snell, Darvish, Lamet, Paddack, and Musgrove as the starting five.  That doesn’t even include Mike Clevinger, who is out for the year after Tommy John surgery.  Tatis Jr., Machado, Myers, Grisham, and Hosmer all give this lineup home run power.  Emilio Pagan will be the closer.  Victor Caratini, who came over from the Cubs in the Yu Darvish trade, will be the starting catcher. The question remains: Is this all of this enough power to catch the Dodgers?

3) Arizona Diamondbacks 

Arizona had a dismal 9-21 record on the road last season. RF Kole Calhoun was the only one last season who reached double figures in homeruns with 16.  Madison Bumgarner is a question mark, as to how much he has left as a starter.  Merrill Kelly, Zac Gallen, and Caleb Smith give the starting rotation some spark, but it’s difficult for this weak offense to compete against the tough opposing pitchers they have to face on a daily basis in this division. 

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4) San Francisco Giants 

San Francisco are not that bad at the plate; they do have some hitting.  Mike Yastrzemski and Brandon Belt can cause damage with the bats. It’s really the starting and relief pitching that will have trouble getting them through the season. They have no Bonafide closer.  It looks like a 73-win season for San Francisco. 

5) Colorado Rockies 

Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon comprise Colorado’s biggest offensive punches.  Pitchers German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela are the bright spots in the starting rotation.  It’s so difficult for anyone to compete in this division, let alone a team this thin on major talent. 

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