As deals are made and trade rumors continue, it’s time to make some early 2021 MLB Predictions for the NL West. The Padres surprised the baseball world with a busy offseason and Spring Training is just around the corner. Here are my 2021 MLB Predictions for the NL West.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers finally hoisted the World Series trophy in 2020. The addition of Mookie Betts provided spectacular offense and defense, but he also contributed in other ways as well. The future is uncertain for free agents such as Justin Turner, Enrique Hernandez, and Joc Pederson, however, the Dodgers will feature a potent lineup of bats to challenge for the NL West again. The 2020 Dodgers offense averaged 5.77 runs per game to lead the majors. They averaged 1.90 home runs per game and relied on the deep ball to carry them into and through the postseason.
The Dodgers have pitching depth, and a potential return of David Price would add another arm to the roster after he chose to opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Clayton Kershaw‘s off-season adjustments seem to have paid off with a solid 2020 season, and a combination of Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Julio Urias should have Dodgers fans feeling confident. Brusdar Graterol and Victor Gonzalez emerged as effective options out of the bullpen in 2020, and the recently announced return of Blake Treinen will help make this a top bullpen in 2021.
2021 MLB Predictions: The experience and depth of the Dodgers will carry them to a 9th straight NL West title in 2021. If they can add another big bat, their case to win the NL West will be more solidified.
San Diego Padres
It was evident in 2020 that the framework was in place for a Padres team that could make a push to win a World Series shortly. Fernando Tatis Jr. had a remarkable 2020, with one of his most memorable moments coming with his grand slam against the Texas Rangers.
Manny Machado, Wil Myers, and Eric Hosmer also had excellent seasons for the Padres. Myers hit .288 for the season, which was his highest BA since 2013. The signing of Ha-Seong Kim from the KBO is an intriguing addition to a very good infield. He offers depth and versatility with his experience at 3B and SS.
After signing Mike Clevinger to a two-year deal, it seemed as though a deeper starting rotation was the key piece necessary to get this team to the next level. On December 27, 2020, the Padres acquired Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays. 24 hours later, they received Yu Darvish in a trade with the Chicago Cubs. Clevinger will be unavailable in 2021 (TJ surgery), but this rotation is now one of the best in baseball. A top four of Darvish, Snell, Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack is scary. The Padres pitching staff had already combined for a team ERA of 3.86 in 2020, well below the league average of 4.44.
2021 MLB Predictions: While the Padres have made drastic improvements to make a run at the NL West title and beyond, I predict they will finish 2nd just behind the Dodgers in a close race. 2022? That’s a discussion for another day.
2020 began with news that Nolan Arenado was unhappy with the team that awarded him a contract extension in 2019. Arenado’s performance was not up to his usual standards, and surely he is due to bounce back in 2021. Assuming Ian Desmond returns after opting out in 2020, they will have a strong lineup with Desmond, Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, Ryan McMahon, and Raimel Tapia.
While the Rockies’ bullpen had its problems in 2020, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela should provide excitement in the rotation for fans in the mile-high city. They were the only two pitchers in the starting rotation to finish the season with an ERA below 4.00, with Marquez posting a 3.75 and Senzatela posting a 3.44. For a team who plays half their games at Coors Field, those are respectable numbers. Kyle Freeland also improved his ERA from 6.73 in 2019, to 4.33 in 2020. I expect Marquez, Senzatela, and Freeland to be key pieces of this rotation in 2021.
2021 MLB Predictions: The bats for the Rockies will have a much better 2021, and their young pitching staff will improve. If they can get proper support for the bullpen, this team could surprise people. I have them finishing third.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants finished 2020 with a record of 29-31 in Gabe Kapler’s first season as manager. After Buster Posey chose to opt-out of the 2020 season, there was an understandable concern of what the season may look like for the Giants. Brandon Belt had a great season, batting .309 with an OPS of 1.015. Rookie Mike Yastrzemski picked up where he left off in 2019, batting .297 with 10 HRs and 35 RBI’s. Wilmer Flores also proved to be an excellent addition, driving in a team-leading 12 HR’s. The addition of Curt Casali will allow Posey to split reps and make the most of his starts.
The Giants’ pitching staff finished slightly over the ERA league average of 4.44, coming in at 4.64. Johnny Cueto appears to be preparing for Spring Training, after rumors that he may try the Dominican Winter League. Kevin Gausman will remain with the Giants in 2021, after accepting a qualifying offer. Logan Webb didn’t have the 2020 season we expected, but a bounce-back year in 2021 is likely. The Giants have been actively adding to their bullpen, adding Matt Wisler, Anthony DeSclafani, and John Brebbia.
2021 MLB Predictions: The Giants have a good lineup and a rotation that could surprise people in 2021. The rebuild project is moving along well, but I think they are one season away from a true playoff push. I see them building on some of last season’s successes and finishing fourth in the NL West.
2020 did not go as planned for the Diamondbacks. After signing Madison Bumgarner to a 5-year, $85 million contract he had one of his worst seasons in the majors going 1-4 with an ERA of 6.48. On a positive note, Zac Gallen had an excellent season. He led the team with 82 strikeouts and is sure to be a bright spot for the Diamondbacks in 2021. Their bullpen will have different faces next year, as Archie Bradley, Hector Rondon, and Junior Guerra are free agents. Stefan Crichton was solid for the bullpen. He pitched 26 innings, only giving up seven earned runs with 23 strikeouts.
The Diamondbacks lineup was a mixed bag. Kole Calhoun had a great year, crushing 16 HR’s and driving in a team-leading 40 RBI’s. There was excitement surrounding the addition of Starling Marte, but he ended up joining Miami en route to their playoff run. First baseman Christian Walker, had a respectable season batting .271, coming just behind David Peralta (.300). The Diamondbacks will need their bats to deliver more in 2021, and it will be interesting to see if they make any moves after a quiet off-season so far.
2021 MLB Predictions: 2020 was rough for the Diamondbacks, and I feel as though they are due for a better 2021. There is still time between now and Spring Training to make additions, but if the front office remains idle. I see Arizona finishing fifth in the NL West.
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