After an offseason that saw several stars change teams, there is a different balance in the MLB. Many of the teams who had success last season have gotten worse and will likely drop in the standings. Of course, plenty of teams who struggled last season are now in positions to compete. Of the 16 teams who had losing records last season, here are the five most likely to produce a winning season in 2021.
5. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels’ weakness the last few years has been pitching. Finally, they have begun to address the issue. Adding starters Alex Cobb and Jose Quintana as well as several solid bullpen arms will help the team a lot. Shohei Ohtani’s health is also a huge factor in the Angels’ success, as he can be a star as a pitcher and a hitter. The lineup also got some good upgrades, including Kurt Suzuki, Jose Iglesias and Dexter Fowler. If David Fletcher continues to perform well, Jo Adell takes the step that he is expected to, the new guys make a real impact and Mike Trout continues to be the best player in baseball, the Angels will be a good baseball team. Considering the only real competition in the division, the A’s and the Astros, have gotten worse on paper due to the departure of some of their stars in free agency, the Angels are in an excellent position to have a winning season and probably even make the playoffs.
4. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers were only one game under .500 last season so they didn’t need to do a lot in the offseason, but they did anyway. Their most notable additions were Kolten Wong and Jackie Bradley Jr. Assuming Christian Yelich can bounce back after a very disappointing 2020 campaign, this is already a playoff team. The trio of Yelich, Bradley and Lorenzo Cain, who opted out of the 2020 season early, can potentially be one of baseball’s top outfields. Milwaukee also has two of the top relievers in the MLB in Josh Hader and 2020 NL Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year winner Devin Williams. Arguably now the second best team in the division, the Brewers have the pieces to get back to where they were in their highly successful 2018 run. More realistically, however, they can be an above-average playoff team who can’t quite keep up with the NL powerhouses, but they will compete with them.
3. Houston Astros
Like the Brewers, the Astros were only one game under .500 before their surprising run in the playoffs last season. However, they did lose their star outfielder George Springer. Luckily for the Astros, the only team in the division with a winning record, the A’s, also lost their star player. Houston also boosted their pitching staff with starter Jake Odorizzi and reliever Pedro Baez. As long as ace pitcher Justin Verlander and designated hitter Yordan Alvarez are healthy after injuries the last couple of seasons, the Astros have one of the best rosters on paper in the AL. The A’s still might be the division’s best team, but the Astros should be right behind them. Over a full 162 game season, Houston would not have finished under .500 in 2020 and, health permitting, they will be a threat to win the division in 2021.
2. Washington Nationals
The Nationals have a very good roster this season. In addition to one of the best starting pitching staffs in the league, Washington made moves to bolster their bullpen as well as their lineup. NL MVP favorite Juan Soto is the headliner, but star shortstop Trea Turner should have a great year too. The Nats also added Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber as big-time home run threats to hit behind Soto and Turner. The biggest reason for concern with the Nationals is that their division is unbelievably talented. The Braves were one game away from reaching the World Series last season and have only gotten better. The Mets added a ton of talent in the offseason and are real contenders. The Phillies have the pieces to make the postseason despite their recent struggles, and the Marlins won a playoff series last season. The Nationals will rely heavily on their excellent pitching staff and their MVP candidate, but they have what it takes for a playoff run.
3. New York Mets
The Mets were tied with the Nationals for last place in the division last season, and both teams have improved since then. But while the Nats were focused on getting pieces around their superstar, the Mets went ahead and got a superstar. Acquiring Francisco Lindor immediately changed the direction of the franchise. The starting pitching staff, mostly Jacob deGrom, has been the face of the team for years, but now the lineup is just as powerful after adding Lindor and catcher James McCann. They will face tough competition in their own division and even harder competition from the Dodgers and Padres on their path to potentially the World Series, but after finishing last in the division a season ago, the Mets are ready to win now. MLB fans are already licking their chops over a potential subway series World Series matchup.