Five Bold Predictions for the 2021 MLB Season

Mike Hallihan
Mike Hallihan March 29, 2021
Updated 2021/03/29 at 12:01 PM

Making sound, well-educated predictions is one thing. But making wild, against-the-grain, loopy predictions is a whole other ball game (yes, that pun was intended). You either come out looking ridiculous or a genius, there’s almost no in-between.

But that never stopped me before. Here are five out-of-left-field (another pun for you) predictions that have at least an outside chance at happening in 2021.

1. The Padres will snatch the division, the pennant, and the World Series trophy from the Dodgers.

There’s a realistic chance that the National League West division has not one, but two 100-game winners. The defending-champion Dodgers and re-established Padres are expected to engage in tactical warfare that resembles the Red Sox and Yankees circa the 2000’s.

However, a lot of people appear to be just handing the division, the pennant, and the World Series trophy over to the Dodgers. I get it, they’re deep, talented, and fresh off a championship. But not so fast. Baseball can be weird. And the Padres have significantly bolstered their roster each of the past two offseasons and while they’ve yet to execute on their short-term plan, they have the depth to challenge the Dodgers every step of the way. Division honors could easily come down to the final week of the regular season, with the true differentiator between them being the outcomes of their head-to-head matchups. Once the postseason begins — I think we can all agree they are locks for the playoffs — who knows what could happen. Nobody would be surprised to see these two squads face off in the NLCS.

Both teams have ridiculously deep starting rotations that feature All-Star and Cy Young-caliber arms. They also possess lineups filled with proven and budding young superstars that can simply rake at the dish. I expect these two goliaths to beat up on the lowly Giants, Diamondbacks, and Rockies within the division. I’m not handing the Dodgers a thing yet and believe the Padres have a legitimate shot at winning the division, and the whole damn thing.

Let’s put it in writing. I’d love to see it.

2. The White Sox win 100+ games (and make it to the World Series).

There’s recent evidence that I may love the White Sox going into this season. I officially projected them to win only 97 games, but let’s get crazy for a second and toss out 100. Sadly, this wild prediction of 100+ wins with the potential to crash the NL’s World Series party took a major hit last week when the team announced that they’d be losing young slugger Eloy Jimenez for most or all of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Some have claimed that the team isn’t deep enough to withstand a major injury, so management may or may not be scrambling to replace him via free agency or a trade, as they are firmly entrenched in “win-now” mode. I had decided to make this bold prediction the very day before the injury occurred and had Jimenez heavily factored into the team’s potential success. I definitely feel cheated without having this injury information at the time. But you know what? Even though it’s slightly less likely to happen now, I’m going to stand pat.

Five Questions As Chicago White Sox Head Out For Spring Training
The White Sox have plenty of talent, but just lost one of their key young guys. | Photo by Ron Vesely (Getty Images)

Last season, the White Sox finished 35-25 (.583% winning percentage) and only a single game back of trying for the division. That pace projected over a full regular season would have put them at 94-95 wins, which isn’t exactly miles from 100. Perhaps the notion of thin roster depth is true, but with the offseason acquisitions they did make, as well as another year of experience for the other younger guys, what’s five more wins? Besides, these aren’t safe predictions, they’re bold ones. Unfortunately for the Pale Hose, and as you saw above, I have the Padres defeating them in the World Series.

3. Cleveland finishes last in the American League Central.

When mid-March rolls around every year, I can typically be observed claiming that Cleveland will “take a step back this season.” No thanks to Terry Francona, I’m typically wrong. Here I am, doing it once again, but this time with an added twist. The nameless franchise won’t just take a step back, but they’ll actually finish in last place in the division. The scary part about typing that prediction out loud is that I’m depending on the Detroit Tigers (and to a lesser degree, the Kansas City Royals) to have a year where they sniff 70ish wins. And while they’ve made a few veteran additions, the Tigers have finished in last place in four of the last six seasons, so… gulp.

Yeah, this prediction is definitely a stretch.

Tito has this team overachieving practically every year. While they do still have some quality arms in their rotation (including reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber), the lineup has too many holes and too many unproven players that are expected to just produce on command. For instance, Jake Bauers, Cesar Hernandez, Andres Gimenez, Amed Rosario/Josh Naylor are all expected to be every day players. Like, who? It’s one of the weaker lineups that the team has had in a long time. Without the ability to trade runs with most teams, regression is all but a certainty. This season, they fall into the basement.

4. The National League Central will make history by finishing in a three-way tie for first place.

The numerical odds of this actually happening are extremely slim to non-existent. But hey, why not throw it out there? The NL Central is actually the opposite of top-heavy, where as many as four of its teams (sorry Pirates) have a realistic shot at claiming the division. These teams could just end up beating the hell out of each other all season long. In my projected standings, in a partial act of randomness, I picked the Cincinnati Reds to edge out the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs, winners of the division last season, also lurk. Whichever team does end up winning will likely get pounded in the first round of the postseason anyway.

With so little separating these teams, why not call for a three-way tie? It’s never happened before in MLB’s long-standing history. I didn’t officially project this in the The pandemic certainly made things weird in 2020, and it’s probable that things get even more chaotic (especially in terms of scheduling of games) in 2021. The winner of this division could win 90+ games, or barely scrape 85. Good luck picking the winner.

5. The league’s single-season team home run record of 307 will be broken yet again.

As of 2018, the single-season team home run record was held by the New York Yankees, who swatted a grand total of 267, which certainly seemed like a lot (at the time). Incredible right? Fast forward to the very next season, in 2019, that record was demolished by not one, not two, not even three, but by four different teams. The Dodgers (279), the Astros (288), the Yankees (306), and the Twins (307) all blew past the previous mark. Absolutely annihilation.

There’s no reason to believe that his record can’t be broken once again. Even though Major League Baseball plans to deaden the baseballs for the 2021 season as part of their “small” rule changes, the sources of power still exist. Coming into this season, teams like the Yankees, Blue Jays, Twins, White Sox, Dodgers, Padres, and maybe Braves, all have chances (some to a lesser degree than others) to eclipse this power record again. I think at least one of them will end up accomplishing the feat and while not an official prediction, chicks will continue to dig the long ball.

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