We've made it to an Opening Day of a normal, 162-game season, with normal scheduling formations, fans in the stands, a majority of players immunized in some form, and Buster Posey back. Life is good again.
It's very exciting to see every roster revitalized, re-tooled, and re-upped [howdy, Lindor!], and it makes the 2021 season look very exciting just from the standpoint of 'things are about to begin again'. I don't know who's gonna be holding the trophy in October, but I'm just ready to kick back and let the season wash over me.
I haven't done this in a while, but I am gonna try to keep the method of monthly recaps and predictions going on the blog, so..
Five Predictions for the 2021 Season:
- The sleeper team of the year will be the Kansas City Royals. There are teams that have failed recently that are destined for great things this year, like the Angels and Brewers, but I'm talking a team that nobody is predicting will make a splash this year. The Royals were the top team in the grapefruit league, have built a sturdy roster while no one was looking [even with Nicky Lopez covering for Adalberto Mondesi for a bit], have power and agility, and have some great arms in Brady Singer, Brad Keller and Kris Bubic. They might surprise a lot of people this year.
- The biggest disappointment of the year will be the New York Mets. Sorry, Frankie, but the Mets look too big to succeed. They bulked up their roster to its bursting point this offseason, have so many players fighting for relevance, and are in danger of diluting their homegrown core. Their big heroes, like Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith, have never synchronized on a big season simultaneously, and while deGrom and Conforto could still rule, the Braves may be way too much for them to stave off.
- The player that no one is talking about right now that everyone will be talking about in November will be Corbin Burnes. This man is the new Corey Kluber, and he has gone from a shaky call-up to a lights-out fireballer in the last two seasons. 2021 might be Burnes' Cy Young year in Milwaukee, and people are gonna be dumbfounded that they didn't predict it.
- Jonathan India, of the Cincinnati Reds, will be Rookie of the Year. Everything I have seen thus far, from his accelerated gameplay in Spring Training, to his promotion to the bigs right off the bat, to Mike Moustakas moving to make room for him, is telling me that he's ready, and he's gonna do huge things. I got that vibe about Tatis when he came up out of camp, and I'm getting it again.
- This season will come down to a Dodgers-White Sox World Series, which, fun fact, is a World Series matchup I predicted 10 years ago to no avail. The Dodgers have more than enough to get back to the World Series, and will even slap the Padres around some more to get there. The White Sox will be a great team for the regular season, and will catch fire in September and no one will be able to stop them, even [sigh] my beloved Yankees. Then, in the WS, the Dodgers will repeat in 6 games.
- The Tampa Bay Rays are gonna disappoint people. It's gonna be April 30th and they're gonna be in fourth place, and the fans are gonna be screaming 'WHAT HAPPENED?'. Well, they were a good team that made next to no offseason moves and are now outgunned by at least two, maybe three, of their AL East competitors. I think they'll improve slightly as the year improves, but baseball fans who think they'll repeat are gonna get a huge reality check right off the bat.
- First place Astros, because that's what tends to happen around here. This definitely will not last, and look for the A's and Angels to chase them over the course of the season.
- Fernando Tatis is gonna claim the MVP talks almost immediately by getting off to the best start of his career and jumping out to a home run lead early.
- The chorus of people calling for Joe Girardi's firing will begin partway through the month and get louder as the Phillies continue to lose.
- Five crucial Yankees will be injured, and this will not affect their still-great place in the standings.