The 2021 MLB season is coming sooner than you'd think, judging by the temperatures we're seeing across the country.
As spring training is right around the corner, FindBet is releasing their initial power rankings for the 2021 season. These rankings will be updated throughout the season; but based on what teams have done since the end of last year, here are where we see all 30 teams standing going into this new campaign.
We have seen some superstar players find new homes this offseason including Nolan Arenado, Blake Snell, and Francisco Lindor, just to name a couple. With some major contenders making moves to put themselves in a position to unseat the Dodgers as the reigning champs, this year is already shaping up to be a hot summer.
Agents for Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Javier Baez upon seeing Fernando Tatis Jr. contract ex… https://t.co/1KPvsMMpOf— Bill Plunkett (@Bill Plunkett)1613613535.0
Let's jump into the power rankings.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
2020: Finished 5th in NL Central (19-41)
The Pirates finished with the worst record in baseball in the 60 game 2020 season. This offseason has seen them ship out starting pitchers, Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon along with all-star first baseman Josh Bell. 2021 is not going to be any better for Pirate fans, if anything it's going to be worse.
Monster win total of 104 for the Los Angeles #Dodgers. Meanwhile the poor Pittsburgh #Pirates are below 60. https://t.co/HhQIX1jyx2— . (@.)1613772679.0
29. Baltimore Orioles
2020: Finished 4th in AL East (25-35)
While their record may not indicate as such, Baltimore was in playoff contention for most of 2020, and they received an emotional boost when Trey Mancini returned after his battle with colon cancer. However, the AL East is uber competitive and they were unable to keep pace with the Yankees and Rays.
The biggest of strides into Sarasota. @TreyMancini is back and ready to work. https://t.co/iCpRuWC9ek— Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Baltimore Orioles 😷)1613924121.0
Jose Igesias, who hit .373 last season was traded to the LA Angels, taking away one of their best hitters from an already baron lineup. Unless the Yankees deal with injuries and we see major regression from Tampa Bay, don't expect Baltimore to climb the division this year.
28. Texas Rangers
2020: Finished 5th in AL West (22-38)
The Rangers sported the league's worst offense in 2020 as their star hitter, Joey Gallo, struggled to return to the form we saw him enjoying prior to his season ending injury in 2019. The Rangers have added Khris Davis and David Dahl to help bolster the lineup, but have also parted ways with Lance Lynn who had been the team's ace before being sent to the White Sox. Texas is expected to be aggressive in shedding contracts as they're in rebuild mode.
i wish i was as happy about anything in my life as Joey Gallo is in this picture at Rangers Spring Training today https://t.co/wyNT6dV36c— kennedi landry (@kennedi landry)1613777853.0
27. Detroit Tigers
2020: Finished 5th in AL Central (23-35)
Detroit is in a tough spot currently as they don't have much talent on their major league roster, and play in a division with three playoff contenders in Minnesota, Cleveland, and the Chicago White Sox. So this year is already written off as a transition season. Detroit does however boast one of the league's best farm systems and the hire of former Astros manager A.J. Hinch, provides them with a leader with championship pedigree to try to mold some of the brightest prospects in baseball.
26. Colorado Rockies
2020: Finished 4th in NL West (26-34)
The Rockies started 2020 on fire opening the year 11-3. They finished the season on a 15-31 stretch which saw them miss the postseason. That promising start and disappointing ending is a perfect comparison to Nolan Arenado's career in Colorado. Not that he as a player was ever a disappointment, but after consistently proving he's one of the best two way players in baseball for nearly a decade, the organization never fully committed to building around him, and now he is a member of the Saint Louis Cardinals after being traded this offseason.
Something tells me that Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Corey Seager and Javier Baez feel the same way. https://t.co/5xlo7HHG1g— Mark Feinsand (@Mark Feinsand)1613616438.0
Expect the Rockies to be shopping Trevor Story before the deadline as well as he will be due a big pay day following this season, and Colorado isn't the kind of team to give their players those paydays.
25. Arizona Diamondbacks
2020: Finished 5th in NL West (25-35)
Finished just a game behind the Rockies last year in the NL West, the Diamondbacks were a team that struggled to find their identity in 2020. Hoping to build on what they saw last year out of Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen, Arizona could at least have a strong enough rotation to keep them competitive in one of baseball's best divisions. That's especially if Madison Bumgarner can get back to form after a tough first season in Arizona.
24. Seattle Mariners
2020: Finished 3rd in AL West (27-33)
Kyle Lewis had his MLB debut for the @Mariners on September 10, 2019, and is the second player to ever have a home… https://t.co/DUITsBbySu— Baseball Beyond (@Baseball Beyond)1613691015.0
Finishing only two games behind the Astros, the Mariners just missed out on a chance to get back to the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades. Seattle has been rejuvenated by outfielder Kyle Lewis who won AL Rookie of the Year with his outstanding performance in 2020. The Mariners also have a deep farm system with talented arms and a platoon of outfielders that could be utilized if need be. If Justus Sheffield can take a step forward this year, we could see the Mariners competing for a playoff spot in 2021.
23. Kansas City Royals
2020: Finished 4th AL Central (26-34)
The Royals face the same uphill climb as the Tigers do in trying to frog leap teams like Cleveland, the White Sox, and the Twins, but the difference between Kansas City and Detroit is that the Royals have been very active this offseason making moves to improve their roster for this season.
Additions include Carlos Santana, Michael Taylor, Andrew Benintendi, and Mike Minor. They aren't splashy moves that garner the attention of national media, but they are solid improvements to a team with a handful of good players returning. The Twins are the closest thing to a favorite in the AL Central, but no team is impervious to being overtaken by an up and coming team like the Royals.
22. Miami Marlins
2020: Finished 2nd in NL East (31-29)
The Marlins shocked the baseball world last year by earning a playoff berth with a roster that could have very easily been confused with that of a double A team. They were lead by their promising young arms in Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Sixto Sanchez. While the rotation looks to be on the rise, they don't offer much pop in their batting order. Over the course of a longer season we don't expect Miami to be as competitive as what we saw them be in 60 games last year. But out of respect they come in a little higher than maybe what they deserve to to open the 2021 rankings.
21. San Francisco Giants
2020: Finished 3rd in NL West (29-31)
The Giants managed to stay competitive throughout most of the 2020 and just missed the postseason in the waning moments of the season. We'll get to see the return of Buster Posey this year and they added Tommy La Stella who has flashed all-star ability at getting on base, but they don't have much in the way of starting pitching and they play in the NL West with the Dodgers and the Padres. Ouch.
20. Boston Red Sox
2020: Finished 5th in AL East (24-36)
There may not have been a bigger disappointment in Major League Baseball last year than the Red Sox. Everyone knew it was going to be bad after Mookie Betts went to the Dodgers, but they still had guys like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez there to pick up the slack. Even though Martinez had a down year, offense wasn't their problem. Boston's pitching was horrid from their starters to the back end of their bullpen.
Chris Sale putting in the work. #SoxSpring https://t.co/pk0fToQdIL— Red Sox (@Red Sox)1613836042.0
With Chris Sale still recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Sox are going to have to rely on Garrett Richards and Eduardo Rodriguez to keep opponents in check and hopefully allow their offense to win them some more games than they did last year.
19. Cincinnati Reds
2020: Finished 2nd in NL Central (31-29)
The Reds got into the postseason in 2020 behind the three headed monster of Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Trevor Bauer. The Reds saw Bauer leave in free agency this offseason and they traded closer Raisel Iglesias leaving a few gaping holes in their pitching staff. The Reds offense was poor last year and they haven't added anyone that will help with that matter. The pressure is really going to be on Castillo and Gray to deliver every time they toe the mound in 2021.
18. Chicago Cubs
2020: Finished 1st in NL Central (34-26)
The Cubs went from World Series contender to being a borderline playoff contender in the blink of an eye, and it could get worse after this season. With Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo all playing on expiring contracts, this could be the start of a rebuild depending on what the Cubs front office wants to do.
Jon Lester left to sign with the Washington Nationals and the team traded Yu Darvish to the Padres this offseason. Instead Chicago will send out Zach Davies, Trevor Williams, and Jake Arrieta to headline their new look rotation. Based on the club selling Darvish who has been one of the league's best starters over the past two seasons, we think the Cubs will be sellers before the deadline and a lengthy rebuild is on the horizon.
Good morning. @JArrieta34 is back. https://t.co/dh56g1KnR7— Chicago Cubs (@Chicago Cubs)1613667412.0
17. Oakland Athletics
2020: Finished 1st in AL West (36-24)
Oakland has always managed to shuffle their roster, see budding stars leave, pluck a diamond out of their farm system, and find ways to sneak into the playoffs for years now. Very rarely though have we seen so much turnover in one offseason from the club. Major pieces from the 2020 roster are gone including Kris Davis, Joakim Soria, Marcus Semien, Tommy La Stella, and Liam Hendriks.
That's a lot of players from a team that had championship aspirations coming into 2021. The good news for Oakland is that they saw a down season from Matt Olson last year, and Matt Chapman went down with an injury halfway through the season. If they bounce back in a big way this year it would go a long way in making up for some of the losses they've incurred on their roster.
Some Matt Chapman action via A’s IG account. https://t.co/DXXS4fFgCb— Martín Gallegos (@Martín Gallegos)1613690205.0
They also benefit from playing in a poor division. Depending on what we see out of the Astros, the A's could have little competition for the division pennant.
16. Philadelphia Phillies
2020: Finished 3rd in NL East (28-32)
The Phillies lack of success should be an anomaly. They were 10th in the league in ERA and fifth in runs scored. They let the Marlins sneak up on them and steal second place in the NL East and also a playoff spot. They will see catcher J.T. Realmuto returning along with shortstop Didi Gregorius who are both solid bats in the middle of the order.
This is gold😂😂 congrats on a great career, buddy! @locatejared https://t.co/b7IElUflO6— Jacob Realmuto (@Jacob Realmuto)1613531333.0
Maybe most importantly they added Archie Bradley and Brandon Kintzler to help plug up one of the leakiest bullpens in all of baseball who allowed a 7.06 ERA in 2020, blowing plenty of leads and costing quite a few wins for the squad in 2020.
For the top 15 in the MLB according to FindBet check back on Tuesday Feb. 23 to catch the rest of our opening 2021 MLB power rankings.
In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.
After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.
The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.
It should also be stated that Reggie Jackson has been really good for Los Angeles throughout the playoffs and is someone that the team leans on to take and make tough shots in crunch time. His fearlessness attacking the rim provides a lot of space for his teammates.
Reggie Jackson after getting his free agency bag this summer https://t.co/kgR7AUeQZ5— Josiah Johnson (@Josiah Johnson)1624936925.0
The Suns have dropped two of the last three games, and their win came in Game 4 which saw a final tally of 84-80 so it's tough to gauge how much stock to take in that victory. What I'm trying to say is the Clippers have definitely looked the part of a Western Conference Champion the past three games, and the Suns are at risk of flaming out.
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (MCL sprain) will not play tonight in Game 5 of the WCF against the Phoenix Suns.— Chris Haynes (@Chris Haynes)1624923130.0
The Clippers' starting big man, Ivica Zubac, was out with a knee injury while Los Angeles out scored the Suns by 26 in the paint. So far in every game but one (Game 3 when L.A. beat Phoenix 106-92) the team that has scored the most points in the paint has ended up winning. Both teams are good from the free throw line and it gets the opposition into foul trouble so it is a sound strategy for either side. But Deandre Ayton wasn't able to get much going offensively in Game 5 finishing with only 10 points in 37 minutes.
For the Suns, they were quick to point out their own shortcomings following the loss. Coach Monty Williams noted, "It's just unacceptable the way we started the game," he continued on to compare the Suns and Clippers in Game 5, "We showed up in the first quarter, and they played with desperation."
Monty Williams: “Leadership is tricky - if you can’t get people to follow you, you’re just walking by yourself”— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel Nichols)1624922492.0
Chris Paul who had 22 points and eight assists talked about Phoenix's inability to hold onto advantages, "We've got to close quarters better," Paul goes on to say, "that's been a problem for us all series long."
Paul has been a leader both on and off the court helping this young team to play far above the level anyone expected them to this season, but he's also been a part of many teams that fell short in the playoffs.
A championship run is the one knock on his hall of fame resume, and it seemed destined to happen this year especially after the Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. But he isn't the only player who has had their reputation affected by playoff performances.
The nickname Playoff P isn't an endearing one. It has become synonymous with Paul George and his failures in the postseason up to this point. Any success that the Clippers were going to have this year was always likely to be attributed to Kawhi Leonard, but now that he is sidelined it's all on PG to carry the load.
George entered rarified air Monday night joining the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant as players who scored 20 or more points in each of the first 18 games in a postseason. All of their teams reached the Finals. George is hoping to follow suit as the Clippers are headed back home to host Game 6.
Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.
Offense being the key word here.
Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.
For a player that relies so heavily on driving to the basket to get shots off close to the hoop, it's expected for that player to draw plenty of contact resulting in a lot of free throw opportunities. That was certainly indicative of what we saw from Simmons in the first two rounds of the 20-21 playoffs.
He got to the line 45 times against the Hawks in their second round matchup, but only converted 15 freebies which equates to a 33% free throw percentage in the series. Simmons shot just 34.2% from the stripe if you include their first round games against the Wizards, which accounts for the worst free throw percentage by a player with at least 70 attempts in a postseason in NBA playoff history.
With a minimum of 70 attempts, Ben Simmons' 34.2% free throw percentage this postseason is the worst in a postseaso… https://t.co/EvEcQxEe8m— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPN Stats & Info)1624244835.0
In the four games that Atlanta beat Philly in this series, they lost by a combined 17 points. If Ben Simmons shoots just 70% from the line and makes 31-45 during this series, that adds 16 to Philadelphia's series point total. Obviously, the attempts might not directly impact the losses, but from a very broad overview, it would draw the series significantly closer — especially taking into account that three of the four losses the 76ers took in the series were lost by four points or fewer.
Also let's not allow people to say that the free throw stat is overblown and out of context. It's not. Shaquille O'Neal, who is notoriously one of the worst free throw shooters in league history, still managed a career playoff free throw percentage of 50%. That's why we saw the conception of "Hack-a-Shaq" where teams would intentionally foul O'Neal to put him on the line rather than allowing him to hurt them in other ways.
We've begun to see teams adopt this practice now with Simmons, which is just flat out embarrassing for a player of Simmons' pedigree. We have seen what he's able to do with the ball. He flies down the court on fast breaks, is a brilliant creator for teammates, and is one of the better finishers at the rim that we have in the league today.
We've already touched on his defensive prowess that has elevated him to becoming NBA All-Defense multiple times and a three time All-Star. But what do the Sixers do with Simmons before next season?
The 24-year-old point-forward still has plenty of time to work on his game. We've seen other players add a jumper later in their careers to great success; just ask Vince Carter how that works. But, usually, in order to develop a perimeter shot, there is at least a solid foundation to build on — that being the ability to consistently hit free throws.
Simmons is a career 60% free throw shooter, and he shot right around the mean during the regular season. The decline in made shots from the charity stripe in this postseason is cause for concern that this isn't the beginning of a trend.
Add to that Simmons' reluctance to take shots further away from the basket, and defenses have the luxury of ignoring Simmons in the half court set. We have seen teams (like the Jazz and 76ers) that rely heavily on the pick and roll get shut down in these playoffs, and it's teams like Atlanta and Phoenix that are able to spread defenses thin by putting multiple shooters on the court at one time succeed.
In 34 career playoff games, Ben Simmons has made 5 shots outside of 10 feet (from the basket).— Paul Hembekides (@Paul Hembekides)1624277710.0
Joel Embiid was phenomenal in the postseason, so let's not ignore that fact. Also, he was playing on one knee and still almost willed the Sixers to a win. But again, Embiid was not 100% in the playoffs, which limited his abilities.
Doc Rivers answers a question whether Ben Simmons can be the point guard of a championship team https://t.co/8xL35u98RC— Rob Perez (@Rob Perez)1624244460.0
Following their loss, Doc Rivers was asked if he thought Ben Simmons could be the point guard of a championship team, to which he responded, "I don't know that answer to that question right now," which doesn't provide a whole lot of confidence in Simmons' status with the team next year. Trade rumors have already begun to circulate, and it would make sense for this Philly team to hit the reset button now.
If Simmons continues to be exploitable in big moments, as we've seen him be so far in his career, his value is only going to go down. Adding further complications into the situation is the team just agreed to a new contract extension with Simmons and is due to make between $33 and $40 million per season over the next four years.
As the two cornerstone pieces of The Process appear to be two Scotties without a Mike, the early departure for the East's top seed will likely mean a big shakeup in the near future. If Embiid is healthy, he is elite without question. Maybe Philadelphia will go out and add around their two stars, but unless the organization is confident that Simmons can avoid another atrocious offensive performance in future playoff series, all they have is a really good regular season team.
The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.
After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.
LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.
The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.
🗣 DEVIN BOOKER— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622601795.0
The idea of effort is something that was lacking on the purple and gold side last night though. It didn't take long after Booker started hitting everything that the Lakers team started playing sloppy and launching up bad threes in a failed attempt to not let the game get out of hand. Well it did.
The two teams were among the best defensive teams in league this season, the Suns finished seventh in overall team defensive rating and the Lakers first. The Lakers typically like to use their defensive prowess to control pace and work in the half court with their combination of speed on the wings and their combination of big men down low that includes Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis (when healthy), and former Sixth-Man of the Year winner Montrezl Harrell. Incase you forgot Harrell does in fact still play for the Lakers, but before last night if you blinked for too long you would've missed him on the court.
WHY ISN’T MONTREZL HARRELL GETTING PLAYING TIME?????@MONSTATREZZ #FreeMontrezl https://t.co/j55u9zg9kN— NBALakersReport (@NBALakersReport)1622603465.0
For some unknown reason Trez has been an afterthought in Frank Vogel's rotations, not only in this series, but throughout parts of the regular season. With AD being ruled out for Game 5, it would've been logical to think that we'd see an uptick in minutes for the high energy reserve, and we did. But not until the game was far out of hand in the second half. While the Suns were building a 30 point lead we saw Phoenix's guards cooking the slower big men of the Lakers off pick and rolls.
30 points is the largest lead at half in Suns playoff history. 🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/UoozhMf6Io— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622604230.0
It's understandable to want some size to limit Deandre Ayton, but when it's Booker, Payne, and Bridges hurting you offensively why not see how a quicker and more agile defender like Harrell might fare slowing down the pick and rolls? We saw Jae Crowder having success doing that on the other side for the Suns all night!
It's not fair to just talk about how bad the Lakers were, in fairness it looked like they were getting open looks and were just collectively having an unlucky shooting night. Maybe they all got it out of their system now? But the Suns would have beat anyone on that home court last night. Let's give all credit to them by playing one of the best games ever seen against a LeBron James-led playoff team. Devin Booker is an absolute star and this team plays with a very focused chip on their shoulder which has been manicured by Chris Paul. His leadership has made ALL the difference for this Phoenix team and it can be seen most on the defensive side of the ball. The Suns players have adopted Paul's attitude and intensity on that end and it all paid off last night.
We've seen LeBron actively frustrated during playoff games on the court, and last night is one of the most cringe-worthy to have seen. James spent way too much time talking to officials about calls, and not just between whistles. It would be interesting to know how many possessions the Lakers played four on five because James never made it back on defense before the Suns put more points on them. LeBron was seen leaving the court with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and sure it could be to start receiving treatment on the injured ankle. But we know the real reason he left. We can only hope he didn't punch anything on the way to the locker room.
While the teams will travel back to L.A. for Game 6, the Lakers know they are in a must-win situation. We saw the rest of the team around LeBron scrambling because they felt the pressure. James was the only Laker in the second half that kept the team functioning. When we've seen a visibly dejected James like we did last night, it's been because he knew his team didn't have it. I don't think that's the case with this Lakers team.
There's plenty of talent on the roster even without Anthony Davis. Maybe Game 6 is when we get to see Harrell getting some meaningful minutes. Maybe Vogel can devise a way to get Andre Drummond more involved offensively. Maybe AD plays and isn't slowed by the groin injury. Or maybe you should've listened to us back in January when we told you the Suns were a pretty good basketball team.