With the regular season set to kickoff on April 1, teams around the league are preparing for Opening Day, and fans are filled with excitement for the prospects of their team’s potential success in 2021.
As we wet our appetites for baseball with spring training games, let’s take a look at five bold predictions for each division. To start, here are five bold predictions for the American League West.
Angels Waste Another Year Of Trout’s Prime
Once again, despite having the best player on the planet, the Los Angeles Angels will not make the postseason. While two teams will make the playoffs out of the West, the Angels won’t be one of them.
Here is how the American League West will shake out:
While the Angels will be an improved ball club, they will once again be looking up to the Astros and Athletics.
Last season, at 26-34, the Los Angeles Angels finished fourth in the West. While they made some additions this season, none of them really moved the needle.
The Angels’ starting rotation was horrid last season and absolutely had to be addressed this offseason. Rather than ponying up for a true ace like Trevor Bauer, the Angels instead chose a couple reclamation projects.
Jose Quintana has been a nice pitcher in his career, but it has been a long time since he has been considered an ace. Last year, he went 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 4 games.
They also added Alex Cobb, but he is coming off a similarly disappointing 2020 after going 2-5 with a 4.30 ERA for the Orioles.
Offensively, their only real upgrade was veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler. Last season, he hit just .233/.317/.389 in 90 at bats and shouldn’t be counted on to add a significant impact to the offense.
While PECOTA projects them to finish second in the division, I am much less bullish, and I anticipate another disappointing season for the Angels and Mike Trout.
Trevor Rosenthal Leads The Division In Saves
When the Chicago White Sox signed closer Liam Hendricks, the Oakland Athletics lost the biggest piece to a dominant bullpen from a year ago. While they hated to see Hendricks go, they may have gotten an adequate replacement.
The A’s signed Trevor Rosenthal to a one-year deal, and it might just be one of the most underrated signings of the offseason. Last year, with the Royals and Padres, Rosenthal went 1-0 with 11 saves, a 1.90 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and had 38 strikeouts in 23 games pitched.
With the Astros’ closer position unsettled and the other three teams a far bet from racking wins up, I expect that Rosenthal will lead the division in saves this year by a healthy margin. Not only do I see him leading the division in saves, but I like him to finish in the top three in saves in the American League.
Yordan Alvarez Leads The American League In Home Runs
There is no denying that last year was an incredibly bad year for the Houston Astros organization. Between the sign stealing scandal and injuries, the 2020 Astros struggled throughout and finished the regular season with a record under .500. Still, making the playoffs and finishing just one win away from the World Series, they showed that they can still be a World Series contender.
One of the biggest absences from last year was slugging phenom Yordan Alvarez. Hampered by knee issues, Alvarez was limited to just eight at bats last season. In the offseason, he had surgeries on both knees but is expected to be good to go this season.
Manager Dusty Baker has already said that he may be relegated to just designated hitter duties in order to preserve him throughout the season.
It was just two years ago, as a 22-year-old rookie, that Alvarez hit .313/.412/.655 with 27 home runs and 78 runs batted in just 313 at bats. If he can stay healthy throughout the season, he could easily be the biggest power hitter in the American League.
It will not shock me to see him eclipse the 50-home run mark if he stays healthy all season.
Kelenic Wins A.L. Rookie Of The Year
It has been a rough couple weeks for the Seattle Mariners organization after CEO Kevin Mather made a series of concerning remarks ranging from insulting some international players due to their need for an interpreter to the outright manipulation of service time for some of their young stars.
That is where top prospect Jarred Kelenic comes in. His name was brought up as a player who would likely be kept in the minors initially, especially after he refused a long-term contract from the club.
Kelenic, ranked fourth overall in MLB’s Top 100 Prospects list, is a 21-year-old who is knocking on the door of stardom. In 2019, between three levels of minor league ball, he hit .291/.364/.540 with 23 home runs, 68 runs batted in, 80 runs scored and 20 stolen bases in 443 at bats.
With the Mariners in desperate need of some goodwill, it would not be shocking to see Kelenic get the call sooner than later. With Mather’s statements, the Mariners would have a tough time defending themselves against a grievance, and Kelenic could bring some excitement to the Seattle organization that is expected to finish fourth in the division.
Currently, Kyle Lewis is the starting center fielder and, if healthy, Mitch Haniger will be in right. In left, Kelenic is already probably the best option.
Technically, Jake Fraley and Jose Marmolejos can hold the position down, but it is just a matter of time before Kelenic fully entrenches himself in that spot for years to come.
If he can do it sooner than later, he should not only have a nice season, but he will win the A.L. Rookie of the Year award.
Texas Rangers Finish With Worst Record In Baseball
There just isn’t a whole lot to like about this lineup. Yes, they have a couple players that can mash the ball in Joey Gallo and Khris Davis, but the strikeouts will come at just a dizzying pace as the home runs.
This seems like a team in the midst of a rebuild and many of the veterans will likely be moved by the deadline if they show any semblance of being useful. I would especially look for the Rangers to try to move David Dahl, Khris Davis, Ronald Guzman and possibly Gallo.
The rotation is equally as brutal. Kyle Gibson is their ace despite going just 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA last season.
The most exciting thing for Rangers’ fans will be a potential youth movement. Nick Solak will likely start at second, Sam Huff got his first taste at catcher last season and Josh Jung should make his way to Arlington to replace Roughned Odor at third by the end of the season.
All-in-all, this team is not going to be good and will likely challenge the likes of the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers for worst in the American League, if not all of MLB.