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2021 MLB Predictions: Ranking the Strength of Each Division

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Spring Training is drawing closer, which means it’s time for some more 2021 MLB predictions. There has been a flurry of moves lately across each division, and the strength of each division is now clearer. Here are the rankings of the divisions based on the toughness of each.

2021 MLB Predictions: Division Rankings

6. NL Central

The NL Central is a complete mess right now. None of the teams look like postseason contenders, as there have been major roster shakeups. The reigning division champion Cubs have traded their former ace Yu Darvish and non-tendered Kyle Schwarber. Furthermore, it is expected that the team will trade former MVP, Kris Bryant.

The Reds were favored to win the division last year, but only went 31-29 before falling completely flat against the Braves in the Wild Card round. Cincinnati is expected to lose NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer to free agency and the club is rumored to be shopping Luis Castillo, Eugenio Suarez, and Sonny Gray. The Pirates went 19-41 last year and traded two of their best players in Joe Musgrove and Josh Bell this offseason.

As for the Cardinals and Brewers, both teams had mediocre seasons in 2020 and neither team has made inspiring moves. The 2021 MLB predictions for the NL Central are almost impossible to make because it will likely be a race to see which team is the least mediocre.

5. AL West

2021 MLB predictions for the AL West are also quite difficult to make. The division has seen the departure of some key players. The Astros lost George Springer and Justin Verlander is expected to miss the season due to Tommy John Surgery. The reigning division champion A’s lost Liam Hendriks to the White Sox and may lose Marcus Semien too.

The Rangers traded Lance Lynn to the White Sox and let Corey Kluber walk to the Yankees. The Mariners and Angels are both still a ways away from competing for a playoff spot, leaving the division with no clear favorite. The Astros and A’s are expected to battle for the top spot, but with both teams weakening, the AL West may look a lot like the NL Central.

4. AL Central

The AL Central is going to be very top-heavy. The Indians went 35-25 in 2020, but they have the lowest payroll in baseball after they shipped Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to Queens. The White Sox have been extremely active this offseason, but they made the questionable decision to hire Tony La Russa as their manager. They are seen as the favorites by many, but fans shouldn’t count out the Twins, who have won the division two years in a row.

The Royals have quietly had a great offseason, bringing in veterans such as Carlos Santana and Mike Minor to lead their young roster. The Tigers have a new manager in AJ Hinch and brought in Robbie Grossman to shore up their outfield. While neither of these teams is expected to contend, they both have young and exciting players and will likely improve.

3. NL West

The NL West is going to be very exciting to watch in 2021. The reigning world champion Dodgers are still loaded, while the Padres have had arguably the best offseason of any team in MLB. They traded for pitchers Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Joe Musgrove, and they signed Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim. These two teams are expected to fight all year long for the division crown and look like the two best teams in baseball.

Outside of the Dodgers and Padres though, the NL West is rather weak. The Giants and Rockies are both coming off mediocre years and have done almost nothing to improve. The Diamondbacks are coming off a horrendous year and have also been inactive this offseason. The NL West is going to be a two-team race this year, and whoever wins this division will likely have the best shot at winning the World Series.

2. NL East

The NL East has seen a ton of action this offseason. The Mets have a new owner and have been extremely active in free agency and on the trade market. They traded for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, and also brought in Joey Lucchesi in a deal with the Padres. The team also signed Trevor May to shore up their bullpen and James McCann to be their new catcher. The rotation will receive a boost when Noah Syndergaard returns in the middle of the season.

The Braves haven’t done as much, but they brought in veterans Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to help out their pitching staff. They also still return their young core of mashers and still have a dangerous lineup despite possibly losing Marcell Ozuna. The Nationals have been active as well, signing Kyle Schwarber and trading for Josh Bell.

2021 MLB predictions for the Phillies won’t be too far off from what I predicted in 2020, as they look to be a fourth-place team. They haven’t done enough to shore up their historically bad bullpen and may lose J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius to free agency. They can still have a high-powered lineup though, led by Bryce Harper.

The Marlins were a surprise playoff team in 2020, but considering their -40 run differential, don’t expect them to make it back in 2021. Overall though, the NL East will be very competitive this year.

1. AL East

There’s no clear favorite in the AL East, not because it’s similar to the NL Central, but because four of the five teams have been very active this offseason. The team that’s least likely to contend is the Orioles, but even they have reasons to get excited as their young roster continues to grow. The reigning AL champion Rays traded Blake Snell and lost Charlie Morton to free agency, but the team has a ton of depth and still looks poised for a postseason run. They also received a lot from the Blake Snell trade, which means that they will be just fine without him.

The Yankees are returning most of their talent and added two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to their rotation. While they will likely lose James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, the team looks like they will contend once again. When healthy, the Yankees have one of the best offenses in baseball, though they still need to add some pitching depth.

The Blue Jays surprised many in 2020 and have improved by signing George Springer, Kirby Yates, and Tyler Chatwood. With their very young and still improving core, the Blue Jays will contend again in 2021, and could even make a run at the division title.

The league shouldn’t count out the Red Sox either. Despite a pretty disappointing 2020, the Red Sox are a prime bounce-back candidate. They still have a strong lineup and they recently signed utility-man Kiké Hernández. The team also added Garrett Richards to their pitching staff and they expect to get their two best pitchers back in Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale.

2021 MLB Predictions: Final Thoughts on the Divisions

Each division will have different 2021 MLB predictions due to the many moving parts. Most divisions don’t have clear favorites, and it will be exciting to see how the races shape up.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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Mathias is a graduate student at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. He is currently studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism on the Sports Media and Communications track. He graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2021, where he studied journalism and served as the Sports Editor and Opinions Editor for the school's newspaper, The Signal. He joined Overtime Heroics as a writer in June of 2019 and became an editor in December of 2020 before taking over the MLB department in June of 2021. Mathias is also a former varsity swimmer and is the youngest of five kids.

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