So, in what are sure to be guesses that look completely foolish in six months, it’s prediction time!
2021 Standings Prediction
1. Los Angeles Dodgers 2. San Diego Padres 3. San Francisco Giants 4. Arizona Diamondbacks 5. Colorado Rockies
1. St. Louis Cardinals 2. Milwaukee Brewers 3. Chicago Cubs 4. Cincinnati Reds 5. Pittsburgh Pirates
1. Atlanta Braves 2. New York Mets 3. Washington Nationals 4. Philadelphia Phillies 5. Miami Marlins
1. Houston Astros 2. Los Angeles Angels 3. Oakland Athletics 4. Seattle Mariners 5. Texas Rangers
1. Chicago White Sox 2. Minnesota Twins 3. Cleveland Indians 4. Kansas City Royals 5. Detroit Tigers
1. New York Yankees 2. Toronto Blue Jays 3. Tampa Bay Rays 4. Boston Red Sox 5. Baltimore Orioles
NL MVP: Mookie Betts (Dodgers)
NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom (Mets)
NL ROY: Ke’Bryan Hayes (Pirates)
AL MVP: Mike Trout (Angels)
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole (Yankees)
AL ROY: Casey Mize (Tigers)
NL Wild Card Teams: Padres and Mets
NL Pennant Winner: L.A. Dodgers
AL Wild Card Teams: Twins and Blue Jays
AL Pennant Winner: Yankees
World Champion: Dodgers
The Dodgers and Yankees will meet in the World Series for the 12th time overall, and for the first time since 1981. Throughout their storied rivalry, the Yankees have beaten the Dodgers in 8 of 11 contests between 1941 and 1981, with the only Dodger victories coming in 1955 (Brooklyn’s only championship), a Koufaxian sweep in 1963, and a 1981 title led by Fernandomania. This time, exactly 40 years since they last met in October, the Dodgers will prevail again, becoming the first MLB champs to repeat since the Yankees did it from 1998-2000.
There are my fearless predictions. I’ll be sure to check back in with you in October to let you know how wrong I was; but, in the meantime, enjoy the return of baseball!
It’s that time of year again, baseball fans, where we hear those four beautiful words that officially signal the arrival of spring: “Pitchers and catchers report.” Yes, spring training camps in Arizona and Florida are open, and Major League Baseball is set to return for the 2021 season.
Let’s check in on the offseason moves for our local teams, and preview the 2021 season.
The 2020 World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers (did I ever mention they are the World Champions?!) spent much of the offseason quietly celebrating and saying goodbye to several free agents. But just before spring training camp opened, they made a February splash by signing ace Trevor Bauer and bringing back third baseman and clubhouse leader Justin Turner.
All winter long, Turner and the Dodgers were at a stalemate, with Turner reportedly seeking a 4-year deal and the Dodgers not willing to go that long for the 36-year-old. Teams like the Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays were rumored to have shown interest, but Turner finally signed a two-year, $34 million contract to stay in L.A. (with a $16M club option for 2023).
With just days left in the offseason, Turner decided to stay home, where he has steadily played the hot corner and provided a clutch veteran bat since 2014. At a press conference on February 19 Turner shared his relief, saying, “At the end of the day it all worked out like it was supposed to, and I’m back in Dodger blue like I was supposed to be.” He figures to continue to slot into the #3 spot in the lineup and play steady defense.
The lack of clarity on the universal DH throughout MLB was casting doubts on Turner staying with the Dodgers in the National League, but in the end, they decided his veteran leadership was too valuable. His .886 OPS as a Dodger puts him in the franchise’s all-time top 10, next to Hall of Famers like Mike Piazza and Duke Snider. Turner is also a clutch postseason player–he ranks first in Dodgers postseason history in hits (79), home runs (12), runs (40), and RBI (41).
Before bringing back Turner, the Dodgers said goodbye to several key pieces. Most notably, utility man Kiké Hernandez signed with the Red Sox, and outfielder Joc Pederson moved on to Chicago to play for the Cubs. Relievers Pedro Baez (Astros), Alex Wood and Jake McGee (both now on the Giants) also departed.
Speaking of “goodbye,” the Dodgers also mourned the loss of two Hall of Famers — manager Tommy Lasorda and pitcher Don Sutton. The team will wear #2 and #20 patches to honor both legends throughout the 2021 season.
Despite those notable losses, the Dodgers are still one of the best teams in baseball and didn’t need to re-tool the roster too much. While the San Diego Padres vastly improved by adding starting pitching galore (trading for two aces in Yu Darvish and Blake Snell), the Dodgers locked up reigning Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer to a unique short-term deal that makes him the highest paid player in baseball. Despite several often-controversial tweets and social media blunders, the polarizing Bauer remained the top pitcher on the market. The Dodgers came out ahead, beating out the New York Mets at the last minute by giving the L.A. native a deal for three years and $102 million, which includes opt-outs after each of the first two seasons.
By adding Bauer, along with the return of veteran David Price (acquired in last year’s trade with Boston that brought in Mookie Betts), the Dodgers have a rotation that is at least seven-deep in quality arms, probably lining up in this way in 2021:
Julio Urias/Dustin May/Tony Gonsolin
Because of their depth, at least two of Urias, May, and Gonsolin will move to the bullpen, which allowed the Dodgers to trade two veteran relievers in Adam Kolarek and Dylan Floro for minor league depth on February 12.
In addition to the excess starters, the bullpen should line up with mostly familiar faces:
Scott Alexander (LHP)
Victor Gonzalez (LHP)
*Acquired via trade from MIL on 12/2/20
On the position player side, the Dodgers return a strong core led by Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger (who is coming off winter shoulder surgery). While their depth took a hit by losing Pederson and Hernandez, the starting lineup remains about the same as their Championship team from 2020:
Mookie Betts – RF
Corey Seager – SS
Justin Turner – 3B
Max Muncy – 1B
Cody Bellinger – CF
Will Smith – C
AJ Pollock – LF
Gavin Lux – 2B
Bench pieces and platoon players include Edwin Rios, Chris Taylor, Austin Barnes, Matt Beaty, and Zach McKinstry (who hopes to take the role as the new super-utility player following the departure of Hernandez).
The future looks bright for the Dodgers, too, as top prospects like Keibert Ruiz (C), Josiah Gray (RHP), and Mitch White (RHP), join DJ Peters (OF), and the recently acquired Sheldon Neuse (IF) waiting in the wings.
It’s a two-team race in the division as the Giants and Diamondbacks are still rebuilding and the Rockies are basically tanking after trading star 3B Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals. Despite a strong offseason from the Padres, manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers should find themselves winning the NL West for the 9th consecutive season in 2021 and competing for back-to-back championships.
After another disappointing season, the Angels had an opportunity to take advantage of a weakened AL West, where the trashcan-banging Houston Astros are lessened by the departures of George Springer and Josh Reddick, as well as several key bullpen arms. Furthermore, ace Justin Verlander will be out the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. The Oakland A’s lost both Marcus Semien and former Angel Tommy LaStella to free agency, as well as star closer Liam Hendricks. The Rangers and Mariners did not make any notable moves to improve and will likely struggle to be .500 ball clubs.
They never appeared to really be in the Trevor Bauer sweepstakes, and they also do not have the prospect depth to make a trade for the starting pitching they still desperately need (if you’ve heard this before, it’s because this has been the problem for the Angels for several years, now).
The Angels added veteran starters Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb to join Andrew Heaney and last year’s standout Dylan Bundy. Still, the Angels lack a front-line starter, and they may have to constantly try and out-slug their opponents in order to help the pitching staff. Angels starting pitchers combined to post the second-worst ERA in the Majors in 2020.
The 2021 rotation will likely line up this way:
Ohtani, the sensational two-way player from Japan, may be limited on the mound, again, as injuries caused him to throw just 1.2 innings in 2020. The Angels may not be expecting much from Ohtani, but they could go to a 6-man rotation if he is healthy.
They are hoping that these key additions will help stabilize a bullpen that blew an MLB-worst 14 saves in the shortened 2020 season.
The 2021 Angels bullpen looks to feature:
Alex Claudio (LHP)
On the other side, the Angels return a very powerful lineup, led by two of the top players in baseball: Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon.
Albert Pujols will likely play the final season of his Hall-of-Fame career, and the last season of his massive 10-year/$240 million deal with the Angels. However, they have lost Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Minnesota Twins in free agency and their depth and farm system remains thin.
Replacing Simmons is veteran SS Jose Iglesias, acquired in a trade with Baltimore in December. The 31-year-old hit an eye-popping .373/.400/.556 in 2020, albeit in limited action at just 39 games. The Angels also added to their bench with veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielders John Jay and Juan Legares, while trading for Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler. The 2021 lineup is expected to look like this from manager Joe Maddon:
David Fletcher – 2B
Jared Walsh – 1B
Mike Trout – CF
Anthony Rendon – 3B
Justin Upton – LF
Shohei Ohtani – DH
Dexter Fowler – RF
Jose Iglesias – SS
Max Stassi – C
Bench players and depth pieces include Jo Adell, Taylor Ward, Franklin Barreto, & Luis Rengifo, along with Pujols, Suzuki, Legares, and Jay.
Overall, the Angels may not have made any big splashes over the winter, but in a weakened AL West and a top tandem of Trout and Rendon, who knows? They could stay in contention and become a fringe playoff team, hoping to play meaningful October games for the first time since 2014.
That wraps up our local MLB offseason review, as we look forward to a full 162-game season in 2021. With spring training opening and allowing a limited number of fans in Arizona’s Cactus League stadiums during exhibition season, here’s hoping baseball fans can also sit in Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium for regular season games very soon.
After losing the World Series in both 2017 and 2018, the Los Angeles Dodgers finally won the World Series, 4 games to 2 over the Tampa Bay Rays, bringing the championship back to Los Angeles for the first time since 1988.
The Dodgers ended the 32-year drought by winning the deciding Game 6 by a score of 3-1, with runs from Austin Barnes and Mookie Betts as well as a solo home run from Betts in the 8th inning. The winning pitcher was Victor Gonzalez for the Dodgers, and Julio Urias secured the save by retiring the final seven batters in a row.
Corey Seager was named the World Series MVP after batting .400/.556/.700 with 2 HR and 5 RBI, scoring 7 runs. Seager also won the NLCS MVP, becoming just the 8th player ever to win both LCS and World Series MVP awards in the same season, and the 2nd Dodgers player after Orel Hershiser did the same thing in 1988.
Many criticized Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash when he took starting pitcher Blake Snell out of the game. Snell was dominating the Dodgers offense, striking out nine batters in four innings and allowing only 2 hits. Soon after Blake Snell was pulled out of the game, the Dodgers immediately came out on top, Betts eventually scoring the go-ahead run to win the game.
•Justin Turner Positive for Covid-19
In one of those “Only in 2020” moments, Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was pulled out of the game after the seventh inning. Many fans feared that he had an injury and were worried. Turner had actually tested positive for Covid-19 during the game. That’s not what really sparked controversy though–everyone was worried as he was seen celebrating with the team after testing positive, and even appearing in the team photo to the left of the trophy. Shortly after the game, Turner wrote the following on Twitter:
On Friday, November 6, Major League Baseball announced that Turner would not receive any punishment or discipline for breaking Covid-19 protocol. Turner also issued an apology and explanation for coming onto the field for team photographs, explaining that Dodger employees told him it was okay to go back onto the field.
•The NLCS Comeback
Before they won the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers had to do something they had never done before: After being down 3-1 in the NLCS, they forced a Game 7 and defeated the Atlanta Braves by a score of 4-3.
The Braves never lost the lead until Cody Bellinger hit a solo home run to allow the Dodgers to take the 4-3 lead for the first time in the 7th inning. The winning pitcher of the game was Julio Urias who came in during the 7th inning and then pitched three perfect innings, becoming the Mexican pitcher with the most career wins in the postseason.
The game was very intense as the Dodgers relied on their bullpen almost all game. Good defensive plays–like Justin Turner’s double play, and Mookie Betts’ robbery of a home run (below)–helped the Dodgers come out on top of the Braves. Kiké Hernandez also became the first batter to tie a Game 7 as a pinch-hitter with a big home run in the 6th inning.
The Dodgers had many important hits like Will Smith’s 2-run double; and both Bellinger’s and Kiké’s homers were done on the eighth pitch of the at-bat. Corey Seager won series MVP despite going 0-5 in Game 7. He was important to the Dodgers in the series, as he had 5 home runs and 11 RBIs.
A lesson that should be learned is that it is not over ‘til it’s over, and the Braves fans found that out the hard way.
•An historic 11 runs in the first inning of the NLCS Game 3
The Dodgers not only had to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the pennant; they also faced a 2-0 deficit when game 3 of the NLCS began. But the Dodgers lineup was hot in the first inning of Game 3 when they scored 11 runs in the first inning–a major league record for any one postseason inning. The Dodgers got home runs by Edwin Rios, Joc Pederson, and Max Muncy added a grand slam in the historic inning, putting the game away early.
Mexican pitcher Julio Urias went 5 strong innings, and along with the Dodgers offense, they managed to win Game 3 easily by a score of 15-3, which kept their hopes of winning the pennant alive. The Dodgers eventually became the first National League team to come back and win a series after being down 2-0 since the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals.