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Kalemkerian: MLB season preview

| Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The wait is finally over. Entering our last week without Major League baseball until next fall, now seems as good a time as ever to look forward to the upcoming season and predict how the full season and the playoffs will play out all the way until the Fall Classic. 

AL East Division Winner: New York Yankees 

All is back to normal in the AL East this season, with the Yankees reclaiming their stranglehold on the division after the Rays’ magical analytics-driven run to the AL pennant last season. New York retooled and reloaded, boosting their only weakness, starting pitching, with the acquisitions of Jameson Taillon and two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, as well as the anticipated mid-season return of ace Luis Severino. Masahiro Tanaka’s return to Japan’s NPB hurts, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of the Yanks and their second division title in the last three seasons. 

AL Central Division Winner: Chicago White Sox

Similar to the Yankees, the White Sox appear to be set up for long-term success, boasting nearly the same lineup that scored the second most runs in the AL last season. However, despite adding veteran Lance Lynn to the rotation, the back end of their rotation is still an area of concern. Their most important addition this offseason, star closer Liam Hendricks, should be more than enough to replace Alex Colome, who stayed in the division after signing with the Twins this offseason. Both the Twins and the Indians could give Chicago a run for their money in the division race, but the Sox are the more complete team.

AL West Division Winner: Oakland Athletics

Living in the shadow of their division rival the Astros for a while, the A’s finally broke through last year, capitalizing on Justin Verlander’s absence to take the division title away from Houston. All signs point to the A’s repeating as division champs for the first time since their 2012 and ’13 90-win seasons. After losing starting shortstop Marcus Semien and closer Liam Hendricks in free agency, Oakland made some moves of their own, bolstering the bullpen with Trevor Rosenthal and Sergio Romo. Either way, unless Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani can finally break the Angels into the playoff picture, the A’s will only have the Astros to worry about for control of the AL West.

NL East Division Winner: New York Mets

This one may surprise some people, but I fully buy into Steve Cohen’s new-look Mets team. The additions of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, along with the re-signing of Marcus Stroman, have the Mets in a solid position to compete with the Braves for division supremacy. Their rotation, especially once Noah Syndergaard returns mid-season, will be among the best in the league. Assuming the Mets can finally provide Jacob deGrom with run support, I not only see them taking the division crown but also potentially making a deep postseason run. 

NL Central Division Winner: St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals executed the biggest trade of the offseason, flipping a whopping five players for superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado, who will add Gold Glove defensive talent as well as a red-hot bat in the middle of their lineup. St. Louis hovered around .500 last season and had to deal with a long COVID pause, so the upcoming season will likely allow them to overtake the Cubs, who lost Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish. The Brewers have a sneaky good team, but the Cardinals should be able to hold them off to win the division, especially with flame throwing closer Jordan Hicks back in the fold.

NL West Division Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers

Laying claim to possibly the two best teams in baseball, this season’s edition of the NL West is set to be a battle for the ages between the reigning champions, the Dodgers, and the up-and-coming Padres. San Diego, which finished dead last in the division in 2019, piled up 37 wins in the shortened 2020 season, fueled by rising superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. However, the Dodgers did just enough in the offseason, especially in acquiring Cy Young award winner Trevor Bauer to bolster their already-stacked rotation. Essentially keeping their championship team intact, the Dodgers are in good shape to repeat not only as division winners but also as World Series Champions. 

World Series Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 New York Yankees

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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