- The Toronto Blue Jays will win the AL East.
After coming third in the division last season, Toronto is actually in a decent position to win it this year. Many of the reasons have to do with the offseason, and not necessarily their own. The Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles haven’t done anything to improve, so they will likely finish in fourth and fifth again. The Tampa Bay Rays, who won the division last year, lost their two best pitchers. Starting pitching was a huge strength for them so they seem unlikely to repeat. As for the New York Yankees, the favorites to win the division, there are just too many question marks. They are easily one of the most talented teams in the league, but they can’t seem to stay healthy. It also looks like they could lose DJ LeMahieu. The Blue Jays themselves are tied to multiple star free agents including George Springer and Justin Turner. Either player would put the Blue Jays’ talented young roster ahead of the Yankees’ and Rays’.
2. Juan Soto will win NL MVP.
When healthy last season, Soto was one of the best players in baseball. In only 47 games, he hit .351 with 13 HRs and 37 RBIs. He also led the majors in OPS while winning a silver slugger award and finishing fifth in MVP voting. The Washington Nationals’ additions of Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber should make it harder for opposing teams to pitch around Soto while also helping the team win more games, boosting Soto’s MVP resumé. It also helps that many of the other NL MVP candidates are on the same teams (Corey Seager and Mookie Betts, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatís Jr, Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña) because those players’ success can be attributed to their superstar teammates, at least to the voters. Juan Soto’s MVP numbers, however, will be accredited to Juan Soto.
3. If the regular season is 162 games, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres will both win 105+ games.
It is far from guaranteed that there will be a 162 game season, but let’s assume there will be for this prediction. The Dodgers won 106 games in 2019 and that was before adding Mookie Betts and winning a World Series, becoming even more stacked along the way. The Padres have improved tremendously over the offseason and are now one of the best teams in the league. Of course it is extremely unlikely that two teams in the same division win 105 games each because of how many times they play against each other, but these are unique circumstances. A huge factor in play is that the rest of the division is really bad. The San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks are not good baseball teams. Both the Padres and the Dodgers should win most of their 19 games against each of those teams. Because of how loaded their rosters are and how weak the rest of their division is, the only thing that could stop these SoCal teams from winning 105 or more games is the number of games they actually play.
4. Both Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant will be traded.
A few years ago, this would have been unspeakable. Unfortunately, though, the Colorado Rockies and the Chicago Cubs went from World Series contenders to probable sellers. The Rockies seem to underachieve every year despite all the talent that they have. Considering that the Dodgers and Padres will likely own the NL West for the foreseeable future, the Rockies should trade their superstar 3rd baseman while they can still get maximum value for him. The Cubs actually won their division last year under first year manager David Ross. Despite their 60 game success, Chicago traded their Cy Young candidate pitcher Yu Darvish and could trade their star catcher Wilson Contreras very soon. Rather than putting out a decent team who won’t win anything, the Cubs should continue what they started with Darvish and shore up the farm system while Bryant still has value.
5. Cleveland will still make the playoffs.
Welcome to the José Ramirez show. Ramirez actually led the team last season in batting average, HRs, RBIs and OBP, not Francisco Lindor. He also won a silver slugger award last season and finished second in AL MVP voting. Trading away Lindor and Carlos Carrasco are huge losses of course, but Cleveland can withstand it for this season. Behind their pitching Triple Crown winner Shane Bieber, Cleveland still has one of the best pitching staffs in the game even if 2020 saves leader Brad Hand leaves as well. They don’t have enough firepower anymore to win the division after the all the moves the Chicago White Sox made but they’ll be good enough to sneak in as a wildcard team. Cleveland’s pitching will keep them in almost every game but it’ll be up to Ramirez and their 2020 hits leader Cesar Hernandez to manufacture enough runs.