Photo Credit: Klemens Kopfle via Unsplash
Last week I previewed the American League ahead of the 2021 MLB season and it felt very… straightforward. The National League on the other hand, feels much more unpredictable and exciting. So I’m going to do the same thing as last week, only this time going through the NL divisions and making my playoff predictions as I go.
This year, for the first time in a long time, the AL East will not be the best division in baseball. The NL East will be a Hunger Games/Red Wedding-esque bloodbath. All five teams in this division are good. Even the Marlins, who will finish in last place, would probably end up in third in the NL Central.
The Braves have held the divisional crown for the last three years and were one win away from making the World Series last year. The first half of their order is silly — Acuña, Albies, Freeman, Ozuna, d’Arnaud — while their rotation, led by Max Fried and new addition Charlie Morton, should get a huge boost at some point when Mike Soroka returns from his torn Achilles (assuming he gets back to his pre-injury self).
The Mets certainly had the splashiest offseason, thanks to their blockbuster trade with Cleveland where they acquired Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco (though Carrasco just tore his hamstring and will be out for a few months). They also have the best pitcher in the world in Jacob deGrom, who came into Spring Training already throwing a cool 99 mph. I think he hit 102 a few days back. Look at this inning he threw last year. Best pitcher in the world. I do think the Mets are a bit deeper than the Braves, but either way both teams should make the postseason barring any injuries or, in the Mets case, any active curses.
The Nationals definitely need a big bat in their lineup, but man do I love their rotation. Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin and Lester. It’s certainly an older rotation, but I’m definitely going to put down some money on the Nats winning the division. They’re currently +650 to win, I mean, that’s insane value.
The Phillies re-signed JT Realmuto and made some additions to shore up what was the worst bullpen in baseball last season. Philly’s lineup is stacked, but their pitching is a little concerning. Kind of like the reverse Nationals in a way. I still like Washington more, though, I think there are more holes in Philly’s rotation and bullpen than in the Nats lineup.
Standing Prediction: (1) Mets; (2) Braves; (3) Nationals; (4) Phillies; (5) Marlins
This won’t take too long; this is easily the worst division in baseball with a clear favourite. St. Louis took advantage of the always incompetent Rockies and acquired Nolan Arenado, which, in the NL Central, is all they really needed to pull away from the “competition”. Jack Flaherty is the real deal, Adam Wainwright will still be twirling curveballs at age 39 and Yadier Molina will still be embarrassing baserunners all season long. I love Yadi.
The Pirates will easily be the worst team in baseball this year and finish in dead last, while the Brewers, Cubs and Reds will be jostling in the middle. Of those three, I think I like the Brewers the most? The Cubs lineup is still stacked, but they traded Yu Darvish for ten cents on the dollar and it seems likely that they could have a firesale come July. Whatever happens, those three teams are the pinnacle of mediocrity, though Milwaukee has been the most active of the three when it comes to, you know, trying to win baseball games. I like the Jackie Bradley Jr. signing for them, plus they have two studs in the backend of their bullpen in Josh Hader and Devin Williams.
Standing Prediction: (1) Cardinals; (2) Brewers; (3) Cubs; (4) Reds; (5) Pirates
After winning the 2020 World Series, the Dodgers got markedly better in the offseason. They added a pair of Cy Young winners to their rotation — signing Trevor Bauer and getting back David Price after he opted out of the 2020 season. Throw in Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buelher and Julio Urías and you’ve got yourselves the best rotation in baseball by a longshot. Then their lineup looks like this: Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Will Smith, Max Muncy, AJ Pollock, Chris Taylor. This might be the best team of the 21st century and are easily the 2021 World Series favourites.
It seems silly to say that anyone else in the division could compete, but it’s very possible that the San Diego Padres could wind up as the second best team in the league! They also added a Cy Young winner to their rotation after trading for Blake Snell, stole Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish from the Cubbies and traded for Joe Musgrove. With Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack rounding out the group, that’s probably the second best rotation in baseball. Their lineup is headlined by Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado and could very well go toe-to-toe with L.A. Both teams are shoe-ins for the playoffs — I just hope we get to see them play each other at some point in the postseason.
The rest of the division is pretty blah. San Francisco, Arizona and Colorado all have professional baseball teams. The Padres and Dodgers traded knockout punches all offseason; I cannot wait to stay up until 2 a.m. watching these teams play each other on East Coast time. Plus, knowing Machado and Brusdar Graterol, it’s possible some actual knockout punches will be exchanged at some point during the season.
Prediction: (1) Dodgers; (2) Padres; (3) Giants; (4) Diamondbacks; (5) Rockies