MLB preview: a report on all 30 teams

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Washington Nationals shortstop Trae Turner rounds first base. The Nats are among the teams hoping to rebound from a rough 2020 season. Opening Day for the new season is April 1.

After the unprecedented, shortened MLB season in 2020, baseball is back for the full 162-game marathon. That being said, here is a preview of the season with a report on all 30 teams.

NL (National League) East:
The Nationals have all the pieces to win the division. With a burgeoning star in Juan Soto and a great pitching staff featuring Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester, the Nats are set up for success. The Braves have won the division the last three years and this year could be their fourth straight. With stars Ronald Acuna Jr. and reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman, the Braves have a great offense, and the addition of Charlie Morton will certainly help their pitching rotation. The new-look Mets could easily win the NL East. Bringing in shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Indians was a huge move and they have arguably the best pitcher in the game, Jacob DeGrom. The Phillies have big names Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto, but each year they disappoint. The Marlins will be competitive but don’t expect another surprise playoff run.

NL Central:
The NL Central is full of good but not great teams. Expect the Cubs and Cardinals to emerge from the pack. While Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo all turned in down years in 2020, they’re bonafide stars who lead a talented Cubs lineup. The Cardinals struggled to hit home runs last year, finishing last in the league. Adding Nolan Arenado who averaged 40 home runs from 2015-19 will surely help with that. The Brewers always seem to find a way to sneak into the playoffs and with one of the best players in the game in Christian Yelich, you can’t count them out. The Reds and Pirates will be the worst teams in the division. The Reds lost key players in the offseason and the Pirates are in the midst of a rebuild.

NL West:
This is a two-team race. The Dodgers and Padres on paper are the two best teams in the NL and possibly in the whole league. Both teams have elite pitching rotations. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, Walker Beuhler and Trevor Bauer. The Padres have Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Chris Paddack. And of course, both teams have tantalizing lineups led by Mookie Betts for the Dodgers, and Fernando Tatis Jr. for the Padres. The rest of the division figures to be underwhelming with the Giants and Rockies undergoing rebuilds. The Diamondbacks ought to do the same with how they played last year.

AL (American League) East:
The Rays topped the Yankees last year for the division title, but don’t expect it to happen again. The Rays traded Snell and let Morton walk in free agency, effectively losing their best two starting pitchers. The Yankees, meanwhile, held onto their key free agent DJ LeMahieu. With LeMahieu, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees have a great lineup. The Blue Jays will look to build off their surprise postseason berth from last year. They have great young pieces in Bo Bichette and Vladimir Gurerro Jr., and they just signed former World Series MVP George Springer. The Red Sox were terrible last year and figure to be again. Bringing back the disgraced manager Alex Cora won’t help. The Orioles were a surprise team last year, contending for the expanded playoffs for much of the year, but it’s unlikely to happen again for the young and unproven O’s.

AL Central:
The White Sox are the talk of the MLB. They’ve built a superb young team with Tim Anderson, Luis Robert and Jose Abreu leading a young core. They’ve also been building up a superb starting rotation, adding Lance Lynn in the offseason. The Twins will be close behind the White Sox. With power-hitting Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Max Kepler they’ll be in contention. The Indians were a solid team last year, but trading Franciso Lindor may signal a retool by the front office. The Royals have been making solid moves. They traded for Andrew Benintendi, while also signing Carlos Santana and Mike Minor. Those big names will join Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Royals are in contention for the AL Wild Card. Rounding out the division are the Tigers who are measuring up to be one of the worst teams in the MLB.

AL West:
This division is up for grabs. The Athletics will be competitive, they always are. They have a good lineup featuring Matt Chapman, Matt Olsen and Mark Canha to go along with a stellar pitching staff. Can the Angels get Mike Trout to the playoffs? Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is healthy, but for the Angels to get to the postseason they’ll need reliable pitching. I am glad to say that fans will be back in 2021, namely to boo the Astros or as they are commonly referred to: the Asterisks. In all seriousness, the Astros are a solid team, but they lost Springer in free agency, and their ace Justin Verlander will be out the entire season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. The Mariners and Rangers will both finish towards the division cellar. Both teams have some talented players, but neither team approaches consistency over a 162 game slog.

World Series?
The Padres will come out of the NL. They were knocking on the door last year and actually played the Dodgers really close in the playoffs. Winning the AL pennant will be the Yankees, who’ve now been on the cusp of a World Series berth several times in the past few years. The White Sox will be close but the Yankees have Gerrit Cole who’s proven he can pitch well in big games. Padres vs Yankees is a great match-up but ultimately winning it will be the Padres. They have better pitching depth with multiple number ones in Darvish and Snell. Those two aces along with Manny Machado and Tatis Jr. will lead the Pads to their first World Series title ever.

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