First week of baseball is just a sneak peek at the 162-game main course, which is an MLB season. But we won’t let that stop us from having fun in early April as the sport returns to a full schedule after last year’s shortened 60-game campaign.
We asked a group of our MLB experts to dive into the early returns by making a bold prediction based solely on what they’d seen so far. They were allowed to choose any topic of their choice under the following conditions: it had to be brave and it had to be something they believed could happen.
From a polarizing pitching team to two teammates who could battle for the 2021 MVP honors – and even collect a World Series trophy together in October – here’s what they picked.
The New York Mets ends with MLB’s best starting rotation ERA … and worst bullpen ERA
So far we’ve only had a very small taste of what this team has to offer as the first games have been brought forward in Washington due to the COVID-19 issues, but I understand that the combination of Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman will lead a generally solid arms corps with routine quality launches, if not downright dominant outings.
It is also clear to me that “1 IP, 1 ER” will be the new normal for every single Mets helper – except of course for Jeurys FamiliaWho is likely to continue his career-long routine: “Infield hit, weak ground ball leading to a bang-bang-force game (but only after video review), walk, strike out, walk, hit line ride, the 50% of the die Time finds a glove, 50% of the time goes in two. “If it’s still on the list in June, you’re buying tons of stocks in Tums. – AJ Mass
The defending AL champion Tampa Bay Rays are in trouble
Hey, I’m the tall man on the rays. Called her the most exciting team in baseball in 2019 and they won 96 games and made the playoffs. Said they were will do the world series in 2020 and they did. So when I’m on the rays, watch out.
The big problem here is the rotation behind it Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbroughand we still have to see if Glasnow can dominate for an entire season. The rays count Michael Wachawho hasn’t had a 2 WAR season since 2015. Rich Hill is 41. Chris Archer? Collin McHugh? These are dice rolls.
The Rays got their bullpen riding last season, but that was in a short season of extended rosters. That will be a tougher strategy in 2021, even more so without Nick Anderson, your best helper who will miss at least half the season. The offense really needs meanwhile Randy Arozarena to be a big star and he hasn’t looked good before. Including spring training, he has 18 strikeouts and two walks. I hate to say it, but it could be a case of a guy who just rode a hot all-time series last October and settled in as a good – but not great – hitter. Wander Franco will help if he shows up, but you can’t rely on a 20-year-old to carry the line-up. – David Schoenfield
The Chicago White Sox will go undefeated against left-handers, but will never win a game started by a right-hander
Too hot? Maybe. But that trend already took shape when the Sox faced a 3-0 home game on Thursday against a left and 4-0 against a right on the hill. This comes after a 2020 season in which they went 14-0 against Südpfoten, but only 21:25 against right winger. It is not accidental. Except Jose Abreu, their rights don’t hit the right very well, but more importantly, the Sox have a lack of dangerous hits from the left side of the batter box.
There are games that need a snail of the left and they just may not have enough. That does not mean Adam Eaton, Yasmani Grandal and Yoan Moncada are not good thugs, but they don’t bring with them the thunder – or threat – that other left thugs in the league possess. It will be a problem against the right all year round. – Jesse Rogers
Corbin burns will finish in the top three in NL Cy Young
At the time I write this, he’s only made one start this year – but it was a dominant outing that he started with another on his second start on Thursday. He throws the toughest cutter in the league (96.3 mph) – and threw it 47% of the time in that first game – and is for the third toughest fastball among starters (behind Jacob deGrom and Shohei Ohtani) at 98.1. In his 14 career MLB starts, his strike rate would rank third and his xFIP (a better predictor of ERA than ERA itself; 2.81) would rank fifth among starters in baseball in the 2020 season if no pitcher had more than 12 starts. An even bolder prediction would be that three brewers among their four elite guns would get Cy Young’s top 5 votes: Burns, Brandon Woodruff, Devin Williams and Josh Hader – Kiley McDaniel
Shohei Ohtani receives at least one MVP vote
A message to all skeptics: this is happening. Ohtani won’t just be a two-way player for the Angels this season. He will strike on the days he starts and play with no restrictions that he does not willingly put on himself. And he’ll be good at it. Ohtani has already proven to be an elite hitter. He has what it takes to be an elite pitcher, but he also needs to get involved as he only amassed 79 2/3 innings from 2017 to 2020.
As an angel source recently said, “Judge him in May.” Translation: Ohtani only gets better, not worse. By the end of the year, he will have the kind of influence we haven’t seen since Babe Ruth in 1919 – with an added element in that Ohtani is able to exert an influence on the bases. – Alden Gonzalez
This will be the year of Byron Buxton
I hate to curse a guy who is completely incapable of connecting to hot takes, but here it is: Byron Buxton is going to win the AL MVP Award. This is not an overreaction based on his three early homers. I just love where Buxton’s offensive approach is right now. He’s in that magical 27 year old zone. With a little patience he could beat 30 homers. With a career-first season from start to finish – the biggest question mark in this scenario – he’s going to steal 50 bases. In this strong, balanced offensive by the twins, he will score 110 runs and drive 100. And his work in midfield is historic. This is the year that the version of Buxton that we always knew would appear will appear. – Bradford Doolittle
Or do that for the year of Nelson Cruz
Nelson Cruz leads baseball on home runs and OPS and wins AL MVP honors and leads the twins to a world championship. All-in. Align. Rotation. Bullpen. Manager. And the 40-year-old boomstick. Does Cruz look old to you? It’s incredible to think about where he was in his career a decade ago, but now he seems to be at the top of his game, regularly producing 40 seasons of homer. Now comes 50. Homer. Not age. Not yet. – Eric Karabell
OK, do that for the year of Jose Berrios
Berrios will win the American League’s Cy Young Award, the World Series MVP Award and Record said the Fall Classic Finale. Most of the problems with Berrios’ 2020 concerned the fastball commando – a pitch where he added speed despite those problems – and since the start of the show season he certainly seems to have corrected it. He’s added spin and a touch more speed to the field, giving it two true swing and miss fields, and he’s one of the few who should get an “ace” workload in today’s game. These twins will go far in the playoffs, thanks in large part to his efforts. – Tristan Cockcroft