Surprise Teams & Dark Horses
What is going on, Ball Boys and Girls? I hope you guys are doing super well as always. If you missed it recently had my second piece published with Authenticity Mags. I talk about how baseball looks and the long-term changes post-2020. Check it out here. However, 2021 is here, and I am as excited as ever to bring you all my six surprise teams for 2021 and 2 darkhorse candidates for MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year. One from the AL and one from the NL. Don't forget to go into the 2021 Previews to catch all the preseason content.
Dark Horse: MVP
AL: Orioles 1B/OF Trey Mancini- When Mancini got the news of his cancer, I was shocked, as was the baseball world. All we wanted was for him to make a quick and safe recovery, and he did so. In 2019 he played 154G and hit 35HR, 97RBI, and a .291/.364/.535. I feel Mancini will ball out in 2021, be an inspiration to kids battling cancer and go OFF!
NL: Giants OF Mike Yastrzemski- Somehow, people are still sleeping on Yaz. Yaz was merely remarkable in 2020. He posted a 2.7WAR, .297/.400/.568 line with 10HR and 35RBI. In Yaz 636PA, he has a .281/.357/.535 slash. If you aren't excited for Yaz in 2021, then you need to WAKE UP!
Dark Horse: Cy Young
AL: Red Sox LHP Eduardo Rodriguez- The 27yo E-Rod was dominating in 2019, posting a 3.81ERA/3.86FIP. Okay, maybe not dominate, but he led the MLB with 34 starts and finally looked to come into his own with a 6th place Cy Young finish. He missed 2020, and we are all curious if he will be the budding #2 to Chris Sale. I think E-Rod could help the Red Sox turn some heads as some, like myself, don't see them finishing above 4th place in the tough AL East.
NL: Nationals LHP Jon Lester- Yes, old man Lester. The 5x All-Star, 3x World Series champ, and NLCS MVP. The same old man who has a career 3.60ERA/3.69FIP over 2598.2IP. The same one showed in both 2019-20 that he still has something left in the tank. Looking back at 2018, he was an All-Star and finished 9th in the Cy Young. He is in Washington as the 4th option in the rotation and is my darkhorse pick for Cy Young.
Dark Horse: Rookie of the Year
AL: Blue Jays C Alejandro Kirk- After a short showing of 24AB, he posted a 0.2WAR with a .375/.400/583. With 52INN behind the dish, he had a 1.000FLD%. The sample size was so small in 2020 that it is hard to tell where Kirk is. However, the Jay's told teams no when they called on him during the winter. Kirk could be the missing piece of the puzzle on this excellent Blue Jays team.
NL: Cubs LHP Brailyn Marquez-The 22yo made his MLB debut last season, and it wasn't a great showing. He only was able to manage 0.2IP with 5ER, 1K, and 3BB. He made the leap from A+ ball to MLB action, which can be a huge reason to go along with age. In his 103.2IP in 2019, he had a 3.13ERA, 128K-50BB in that span. The track record of success is there for Marquez, and he just barely dipped his toes into the pool.
Washington Nationals- I love the Washington Nationals in 2021. After a 2019 ring, injuries and poor performance led them to a 26-34 record. The offense had a .264/.336/.433 slash with 66HR and 279RBI. Only Turner and Soto were in double-digit HR's. The pitching staff 5.09ERA/5.02FIP over 503.2IP. The rotation feature Scherzer, Corbin, who was decent. But Anibal Sanchez, Erick Fedde, Austin Voth each had a 4.29ERA or higher and a 5.46FIP or higher. However, the additions of Brad Hand, Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell give this team a sweet edge over the roster they had in 2019. With Strasburg and Ross, both coming back is also a massive plus for the rotation.
SF Giants- The Giants play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. However, they are the 3rd best team in the division after the Padres and Dodgers. The Giants were able to get Kevin Gausman back, move on from Samardzija, which were both massive wins. The team also signed Alex Wood, Anthony Desclafani to help stabilize the rotation after Gausman and Cueto. Buster Posey is returning to the team; they signed INF Tommy La Stella and C Curt Casali to help the offense. The team added some pen stability in Matt Wisler, Jake McGee, and Rule 5 pick Dedniel Nunez. No, the Giants aren't the Dodgers or Padres or even the Giants of the early 2010s. But they are a solid team all around and could give the Padres and Giants as per usual.
Milwaukee Brewers- The Brewers were able to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season at 29-31 and lost in the wildcard. The moves have been few and far between for the Brewers. The signing of Kolten Wong opens up Luis Urias's opportunity to play SS and Keston Huira to get daily reps at 1B. Yelich is too good not to come back into MVP form in 2021. The Brewers have one of the best back-end bullpens in baseball in Devin Williams and Josh Hader. The offense hit a miserable .223/.313/.389 slash for a .702OPS. An OPS of .700 is average. The pitching wasn't awful as they posted a 4.16ERA/3.80FIP which shows the offense could have used more help this off-season. I think the Brewers have a great defense around the diamond, with solid players up and down the lineup. Don't be surprised when Yelich is in MVP form and leading this team to an NL Central title.
Boston Red Sox- The 5th place finish in the AL East in 2020 was embarrassing, saying the least. However, they were missing their best two pitchers in Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez. The Red Sox finished 1st in the AL with a .265BA, 3rd in the AL with a .330OBP and .445SLG and .775OPS. Looking at the Red Sox, they were pretty dang good. However, look to the pen at you will find a 5.58ERA which was 2nd worst in the AL, they gave up 325ER, which was 15th in the AL, The pitching staff did finish 3rd in the AL with 537K however to AL worst 252BB. With RHP Hirokazu Sawamura, UTL Kike Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez, P Garrett Richards, Martin Perez, Matt Andriese, and OF additions in Hunter Renfroe, Francy Cordero. The Red Sox also acquired RHRP Adam Ottavino. I am excited to see what the Red Sox does in 2021.
Cleveland Indians- Why are people still sleeping on the Indians? All because they traded SS Francisco Lindor and SP Carlos Carrasco? The rotation still features Cy Young winner Shane Beiber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, and Triston McKenzie. The offense returns 3B Jose Ramirez, Cesar Hernandez. With the additions of Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, who both carry excellent prospect pedigree. Add in OF bats of Franmil Reyes and Eddie Rosario. I don't see why anyone doesn't see the Indians as a legit threat to the Twins and Whitesox in the Central. The offensive woes were evident for the club in 2020, posting a bottom of the pack .228(12)/.317(9)/.372(13) for an AL 13/15 .689OPS, which made the offense a below-average player. However, the pitching carried the team in 2020 with a 1st place finish in the AL in ERA(3.29), Strikeouts(621), Hits allowed(440), Runs(209), Earned Runs(196), and Walks(157). Should the Indians be able to get top-half results from the offense in 2021, watch out.
Seattle Mariners- No, I didn't just put the M's on my list because of homer bias. The M's had two gold glove winners(Crawford, White) the Year's Rookie (Kyle Lewis). The team in 2021 should also have top-5 MLB prospect Jared Kelenic by May and top pitching prospect Logan Gilbert by mid-April. OF Mitch Haniger and C Tom Murphy will both have their bats back in the lineup. With James Paxton's additions, Chris Flexen, Rafael Montero, and Keynan Middleton give the M's vet depth and quality arms in the rotation and pen. The improved season from Yusei Kikuchi in 2020 and a strong showing from Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, and Nick Margevicius form an excellent rotation behind Marco Gonzalez and James Paxton. The AL West has weakened after the Athletics on the top of the division; the M's could strike after missing the 2020 playoffs by just ONE game!
Thanks for reading today, I am so grateful for your time reading, and I hope you enjoyed reviewing the winners as much as I have. I also want to thank my partners over at Repp Sports for RAZE Energy. Thanks to this clean and sufficient energy, I can have the intense focus to deliver content to you guys consistently. Click here to save 15% right now with the code "BALL BOY" at check out.