BY SAMMY JOHNSON
The 2021 baseball season is just around the corner. Here is a preview of what the upcoming season might look like.
American League East Division
1st place: New York Yankees
The Yankees had a good season last year, finishing second in their division and winning one series before losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in the postseason. Some stars on the team include DJ Lemahieu, who led the league’s batting average at .364, Luke Voit, who led the league with 22 Home Runs, and Gerrit Cole, who had seven wins and two losses and an Earned Run Average (ERA) of 2.84. Although the Yankees finished second in the division in 2020, this fan favors them to be first this year because the nucleus of their team is still intact.
2nd place:Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays had a great season in 2020, taking the division title from the powerhouse New York Yankees and then knocking off the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees, and the Houston Astros before finally losing the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 2021 season looks to be good too. However, the Rays, in the offseason, traded top pitcher Blake Snell for four players who will be good... in a few years. However, the players are still developing right now, which means the team will probably decline some.
3rd place: Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays surprised many in 2020, going from very bad to the first round of the playoffs. In addition, not only is their core intact, but their stars, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio, are all young and are developing, which means the Blue Jays should be a powerhouse in seasons to come. But their present looks good, too. They signed top free agent George Springer, which makes them look like they will be good this year.
4th place: Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles, who just two years ago were one of the worst teams in league HISTORY, moved out of last place and into fourth. More improvement is expected this year, too. The team has not lost anyone big to free agency.
Last: Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox won 108 games and the championship in 2018. And then things went downhill faster than a plane that ran out of gas. Just TWO seasons after being one of the best teams in this century, the Red Sox finished dead last in the division. This decline was mostly due to the trade of 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Mookie Betts. The situation doesn’t appear like it will get better in 2021.
American League Central Division
1st place: The White Sox
The White Sox, after a bad season in 2019, had a very active offseason last year, signing, trading for, or extending the contracts of nine players. Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Encarnacion, 2 2020 starters, are both gone, as is 2019 All-Star James McCann, but the first two players had bad seasons, and McCann had been demoted to a backup role in 2019. First baseman Jose Abreu had a Most Valuable Player campaign in ‘20, and the White Sox acquired two excellent pitchers in this year’s offseason. 2021 looks to be a good year for them.
2nd place: Minnesota Twins
The Twins barely came out with a division win in 2020, beating the White Sox and the Cleveland Indians by just one game each. With no strong players leaving the Twins, 2021 looks to be, for them, another good year.
3rd place: Cleveland (soon-to-be-ex) Indians
As you may remember, Cleveland (They were the Indians, but will drop the nickname due to it being considered offensive. They don’t have a new nickname yet.) was the team the Cubs beat in the World Series in 2016. Cleveland is still a good team, but the core of their team is getting older. They made the playoffs in 2020. In 2021, they might.
4th place: Kansas City Royals
The Royals were champions in 2015, but have since declined. In 2020, they were a little more respectable than in seasons past. They are on track for a little more improvement.
Last: Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have been struggling for some time now, but they were in playoff contention heading into September last year. This fan doesn't predict they’ll be in the postseason this year.
American League West
1st place: Oakland Athletics
The A’s won the division over the Houston Astros last year and beat the White Sox in the playoffs. This fan predicts more of the same in 2021.
2nd Place: Los Angeles Angels
The Angels finished fourth in 2018, missing the playoffs by six games. The Angels have the best player in the league, Mike Trout, one of the best players in the league, Anthony Rendon, and solid pitching, so this fan would guess they would move up this year.
3rd place: Houston Astros
The main story for the Astros in 2020 was the reveal of a big cheating scandal that may have pushed them over the top in the 2017 World Series. The team, just one season removed from another World Series appearance, had a disappointing season, finishing with a losing record- but they made the playoffs anyway, and then got red-hot, nearly making the World Series. Since the Astros were only the second team in AL history to ever make the playoffs with a losing record, and since they lost star player George Springer, it seems there’s nowhere to go but down for them. So this fan doesn’t predict the playoffs- but it is sort of hard to base anything off a short season.
4th place: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners had a promising season in 2020, moving from last to third. Since the team is young, and they have had a rather quiet offseason, this fan predicts another fine season.
Last: Texas Rangers
The Rangers are yet another one of those young teams. They have acquired an All Star Player, David Dahl, but they have traded their best pitcher, Lance Lynn. As The Rangers are playing in a good division, this fan predicts a last- place campaign for them.
Check out my preview of the National League in the next Coonley Chronicle.