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Opening Day: 2021 Season Preview

Opening Day. Objectively, the most incredible day of the year. The beginning of a beautifully long baseball season. The dark, cold winter nights are now long gone in our rearview mirrors as we drive towards the glorious warmth and sunshine of summertime. Drinks taste better, grills burn hotter, days grow longer. It’s the beginning of the best time of the year! Enjoy the ride, everyone.

If you are looking for the complete history of Opening Day or a source for the best Opening Day facts, be sure to check out the Opening Day post on the JustBats’ blog.

Since our friends over at JustBats have already covered the complete history of Opening Day plus the best Opening Day facts, we’ve decided to take this opportunity to prepare you, the fan, for the 2021 MLB season. We’re going to break down the best teams to watch, the 2021 MLB projected win totals, MVP frontrunners, and the top rookies for 2021. We’re just too excited not to. Hope you enjoy this 2021 MLB season preview.

MLB Teams to Watch in 2021

If you are just looking for pure baseball entertainment in 2021, now is the time to throw your sleep schedule back a few hours and prepare for some late-night west coast baseball. The reigning World Series champions added one of the game’s most polarizing players to an already stacked rotation of arms. According to anyone born in the past two decades, their crosstown rivals, led by one of the most eccentric managers in baseball, feature a two-way superstar and the GOAT. And that’s just a couple of the storylines heading into the 2021 season. The Bronx Bombers are loaded, the White Sox are trendy, and the Astros will have to face opposing crowds for the first time since their trash can scandal. But let’s get to it; these are our favorite MLB teams to watch this season.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: The best team in baseball over the past five seasons. They added Trevor Bauer. Their lineup remains electric. It feels like it’s going to take a meaningful effort by any team to keep these guys from repeating in 2021. 
  • New York Yankees: It has been 12 years since the Yankees won the World Series, but they appear to be the clear-cut favorites representing the American League this year. If they can stay healthy, America’s pastime of rooting about the Yankees will be in full effect this summer (and fall.)
  • Houston Astros: Referenced previously, the Astros will face opposing crowds for the first time since their cheating scandal was made public. Beyond the fan reaction allure, the Astros are an outstanding team with many vital parts in place from their dominant stretch at the end of the 2010s.
  • New York Mets: Signalling their intentions to push all the chips into the middle of the table, the Mets made the move of the off-season when they conducted a trade for Cleveland’s superstar SS Francisco Lindor. Once they get Syndergaard back to tandem with Jacob deGrom, the Mets will look to challenge Atlanta for the top spot in the NL East.
  • Toronto Blue Jays: Blessed with a surplus of young, exciting position players, the Toronto Blue Jays will create “did you see that?” moments on a nightly basis. And for those of you that remember Vlad Guerrero, Dante Bichette, and Craig Biggio, this team is about to make you feel really old.
  • San Diego Padres: If anyone is going to compete with the Dodgers in the NL West, it’s likely to be the Slam Diego Padres. The Padres traded for both Yu Darvish and Blake Snell as they attempted to upgrade their pitching staff to go along with a young, explosive offense.

The NL Central Race: The Cardinals went out and acquired 8-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Rockies to bolster their defense and their lineup. This division is far from a lock, though. Each of the Cubs, Reds, and Brewers feel they can make a run at the division. This could very well be a division race that comes down to the final week of the season.

2021 MLB Projected Win Totals

The following information and projections are according to CBS Sports.

AL Central (Projected Win Totals)

  1. Chicago White Sox (90.5)
  2. Minnesota Twins (89.5)
  3. Cleveland Indians (81.5)
  4. Kansas City Royals (72)
  5. Detroit Tigers (68)

AL East (Projected Win Totals)

1. New York Yankees (97)
T2. Toronto Blue Jays (86)
T2. Tampa Bay Rays (86)
4. Boston Red Sox (79.5)
5. Baltimore Orioles (63.5)

AL West (Projected Win Totals)

  1. Houston Astros (87)
  2. Oakland A’s (86.5)
  3. Los Angeles Angels (83)
  4. Seattle Mariners (71.5)
  5. Texas Rangers (67.5)

NL Central (Projected Win Totals)

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (86)
  2. Milwaukee Brewers (83.5)
  3. Cincinnati Reds (81.5)
  4. Chicago Cubs (79)
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates (58)

NL East (Projected Win Totals)

  1. Atlanta Braves (91.5)
  2. New York Mets (90)
  3. Washington Nationals (84.5)
  4. Philadelphia Phillies (81.5)
  5. Miami Marlins (72.5)

NL West (Projected Win Totals)

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (103.5)
  2. San Diego Padres (93.5)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (75.5)
  4. San Francisco Giants (73.5)
  5. Colorado Rockies (62.5)

MVP Candidate from Every MLB Team

Major League Baseball does not have a shortage of young talent. Every team seems to have a player under the age of 30 that could reasonably challenge for their league MVP award. We took it upon ourselves to pick the player with the best shot to win the 2021 AL or NL MVP. But you can think of this more as a guide of MLB players to watch from each team.

Chicago White Sox: Luis Robert
Minnesota Twins: Nelson Cruz
Cleveland Indians: Jose Ramirez
Kansas City Royals: Adalberto Mondesi
Detroit Tigers: Casey Mize
New York Yankees: Aaron Judge
Toronto Blue Jays: Bo Bichette
Tampa Bay Rays: Randy Arozarena
Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers
Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini
Houston Astros: Alex Bregman
Oakland A’s: Matt Chapman
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout
Seattle Mariners: Jered Kellenic
Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo
St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado
Milwaukee Brewers: Christian Yelich
Cincinnati Reds: Nick Castellanos
Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez
Pittsburgh Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes
Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr.
New York Mets: Francisco Lindor
Washington Nationals: Juan Soto
Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper
Miami Marlins: Starling Marte
Los Angeles Dodgers: Mookie Betts
San Diego Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Ketel Marte
San Francisco Giants: Mike Yazstrzemski
Colorado Rockies: Trevor Story

10 Prospects to Watch

One of the most fun parts about being a fan of the MLB is tracking the best young players through the minor leagues. Dreaming about what could be can sometimes be more fun than seeing the player they become. We took a moment to sort out the best prospects in baseball to give you an idea of what the next wave of superstars might look like.

1. Rays SS Wander Franco (20)

Blessed with a complete toolbox, Franco can do it all on a diamond. He’s a switch-hitting shortstop with the highest graded bat in all of minor league baseball. 

2. Orioles C Adley Rutschman (23)

Selected with the first overall pick out of Oregon State, Rutschman continues to excel behind the dish both offensively and defensively. He’s a switch-hitting catcher with incredible plate discipline. Rutschman walked more times than he struck out during his collegiate career.

3. Tigers 3B Spencer Torkelson (21)

Torkelson likes to hit baseballs with authority. This power-hitting third baseman from Arizona State shattered the Sun Devils’ freshman HR record held previously by Barry Bonds. 

4. Mariners OF Jarred Kelenic (21)

Rumored to be in the running to make the Mariners opening day roster, Kelenic will soon be patrolling the outfield in Seattle with effortless grace. He makes the game look easy and has all the tools to hit, hit for power, steal bases, and play a Gold Glove caliber centerfield.

5. Padres SP Mackenzie Gore (22)

The Padres lefty has a full arsenal of pitches. All of which grade out exceptionally well with the scouts. Sitting anywhere between 92-96 on the radar gun, Gore’s fastball is the perfect setup for his wipeout slider. Keep an eye out for this young athletic arm.

6. Royals SS Bobby Witt Jr. (20)

Taken just after Adley Rutschman in the 2019 MLB Draft, Witt Jr. has already drawn comparisons to past superstar shortstops such as Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Kansas City’s got a good one on the horizon.

7. Padres SS CJ Abrams (20)

There may not be a faster player in baseball than CJ Abrams. But Abrams has more to his game than just his legs. He hit .401 with 23 extra base hits in just 32 games en route to winning the Rookie Arizona League MVP.

8. Twins OF Alex Kirilloff (23)

After dominating the Twins’ alternate site during 2020, Kiriloff received his MLB debut during one of the Twins playoff games against the Astros in 2020. Nonetheless, this smooth swinging lefty will be a thorn in the side of AL pitching for the next decade.

9. Yankees OF Jasson Dominguez (18)

The youngest player on our list might end up being the best. 18-year old Jasson Dominguez is garnering Bryce Harper-levels of hype. Some have already compared him to the likes of Bo Jackson and Mickey Mantle. He’s still a few seasons away, but definitely, one to keep an eye on.f

10. Marlins OF JJ Bleday (23)

After leading the NCAA in HRs (27) and total bases (192) in 2019, the Marlins selected the Vanderbilt outfielder 4th overall. And while Bleday is mean with the bat, he was also a standout pitcher in high school and boasts a cannon for an arm in the outfield.

With Opening Day getting underway, we hope you enjoyed this thorough guide to the 2021 MLB season. We’re certainly excited to watch all the action unfold as we soak up our first full baseball season since 2019. And for you players out there, we have a full selection of baseball and softball gloves available for you. It’s an easy one-stop-shop any time you swing by JustGloves. Every order comes with free, fast shipping and customer support from our team of Glove Experts. Enjoy the 2021 MLB season, and know that we’ll be with you from Click to Catch!

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