Baseball is a game of hot streaks and slumps, and as a fantasy baseball manager it's sometimes difficult to know when to part with someone on your roster to take a chance on someone new.
Here we'll examine three players you may want to consider moving on from if you have them rostered, and provide three potential replacements for them. Just like in real baseball, sometimes you have to make the tough moves in order to win. But if you don't know what the right moves are to make then you just end up looking like the Pittsburgh Pirates of your fantasy league.
Here's some advice for you so you don't become the Pirates of your league.
Cole Irvin Oakland A's SP (30% Rostered in Yahoo)
Cole Irvin was on his game tonight A's Postgame Live is airing right now on NBC Sports California and streaming he… https://t.co/7ec4GeS6Vv— A's on NBCS (@A's on NBCS) 1620187381.0
Irvin hasn't allowed more than two runs in the past four starts and will carry a 3.09 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 34/5 strikeout to walk ratio heading into his next one against Tampa Bay this weekend. To put how effective Irvin has been into perspective, he's averaging nearly a strikeout per inning while only .1 walk per inning.
Even if Irvin comes back down to earth a little, now is the time to pick him up while he's riding this hot streak. He is coming off a game against the hard-hitting Blue Jays where we saw him set his career-high in strikeouts with nine over eight innings. Take into consideration he has three quality starts (out of six) and his most recent loss was to the Rays who he sees again on Saturday. In that last appearance against Tampa he went six innings, striking out eight, allowed only two runs and earned a quality start in a loss.
If you're looking for a long term option at starting pitcher, Irvin presents a great opportunity to snag a hidden gem off waivers but don't expect him to last much longer if he puts in another strong performance against the Rays on Saturday.
Kyle Hendricks Chicago Cubs SP (88% Rostered in Yahoo)
Kyle Hendricks is dealing GAS to start this game! I’m so happy I drafted him somewhat high in fantasy baseball! He… https://t.co/M5Dfs5SPNG— Vinnie Parise (@Vinnie Parise) 1619653359.0
Hendricks seems far removed from his 2016 season where he helped lead the Cubs to a World Series win and finished third in NL Cy Young voting. In the three seasons that would follow we'd see Hendricks' ERA slightly climb higher and his strikeouts decline. We thought we saw a glimmer of hope that his fortunes were reversing in the shortened 2020 season as he did well enough to finish ninth in NL Cy Young voting last year.
However, what we've seen from him this year is enough for us to have already raised the red flag, and at this point we're giving up. It seems early, but if you gave us the straight up choice between Hendricks and the aforementioned Cole Irvin, it's an obvious decision for us.
Hendricks' ERA currently sits at 6.07, but that's only after reducing it from 7.54 in just one game. Sure Hendricks pitched great against the Dodgers in that last start, but it appears that the great start from Hendricks is the anomaly now.
Shane McClanahan Tampa Bay Rays RP (25% Rostered in Yahoo)
So McClanahan is a tough one to put accurate value on as it stands today. What we do know is that he's looked impressive in his two starts this season. Yes, even though McClanahan is listed as a relief pitcher, he's getting starter reps in Tampa. Kind of.
McClanahan is one of the Rays' most valued prospects as a hard throwing lefty and we have seen their plans to limit the amount of pitches we'll get to see from him this season. Going only four innings in both of his starts this season he's amassed a stat line of 2.25 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and has a 10/2 strikeout to walk ratio. He has hit over 100 mph on the gun a few times and has displayed a 93 mph slider.
You may not get a ton of innings out of him or many crooked numbers in the win column, but he is a viable replacement for a reliever in your bullpen that has possibly lost their role as closer.
Alex Colome Minnesota Twins RP (47% Rostered in Yahoo)
@JasonPuckett20 Reminds me of the Alex Colome experience.— Casey Ferguson (@Casey Ferguson) 1620191041.0
Speaking of closers who have lost their role, it's time to sell Alex Colome immediately. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli announced on Tuesday that he was moving Colome to a "lower-leverage role" making way for Taylor Rogers to assume the closer position. Now Rogers has also struggled in that role, but considering the struggles we saw out of Colome, it should be safe to assume Baldelli will give some time for the new pecking order to play out.
Don't keep Colome on your roster waiting to see what happens. Go drop him and grab Shane McClanahan for the meantime. Trust us, Colome will be on the waiver wire if you ever want to grab him again.
Willie Calhoun Texas Rangers OF (12% Rostered in Yahoo)
Career-high 9-game hitting streak for Willie Calhoun— Jared Sandler (@Jared Sandler) 1619981049.0
If I were to tell you there was a player available in nearly 80% of leagues that has hit .318 with three home runs and five RBI over the last two weeks you would probably be excited to pick him up. Until I told you that player was Willie Calhoun of the Texas Rangers. At that point you would probably have an audible response of "Oh".
But don't sleep on Calhoun, especially when he's riding a hot streak like he is now. That is especially if you had stock in the recently injured Luis Robert.
Luis Robert Chicago White Sox OF (79% Rostered in Yahoo)
Luis Robert was examined today at Rush and a scan showed a grade 3 strain (complete tear) of the hip flexor. Furthe… https://t.co/jwb5TmSIbP— Chicago White Sox (@Chicago White Sox) 1620079749.0
Robert suffered a very serious injury this past week, being diagnosed with a Grade 3 hip flexor strain. That doesn't sound as bad as it really is. It's a complete tear, and at this point surgery is still an option being kicked around the organization. The timetable for a return puts Robert out for another 12-16 weeks minimum, but surgery would likely end his season.
Robert and the team's decision may not be decided until later on in his initial recovery stage as they may decide to shut him down for the year if the team is falling out of contention in a very deep AL Central. It would be wise to try to keep him on the injured-reserve list if your league offers one, but if it doesn't or if you are just low on available IL spots don't shy away from dropping Robert.
Sure he was a top pick in your draft, but the likelihood that Robert returns this season is slim already, and by the time he'd be back you would be sacrificing a lot of production from any player that is just flat out healthy and available. Willie Calhoun is a solid option for at least a short-term replacement. Replacing someone like Robert won't be easy and it may require streaming throughout the rest of the season until you find the right player.
Start with Willie Calhoun, because compared to Robert he has one ability that the star prospect doesn't, and that's avail-ability.
Second Base Is a Thin Position in Fantasy
Going into 2021 there are only a handful of elite options at second base to add to your fantasy team.
D.J. LeMahieu and Ozzie Albies are clear cut studs that won't last beyond the second or third round in most drafts. The next tier includes the likes of Whit Merrifield, Ketel Marte and Jose Altuve, so there is still plenty of production to be had there. But once you start getting past those guys, question marks begin to surround the remaining options, and you're going to have to decide whether or not to reach on someone like Jeff McNeil or wait on a prospect like Gavin Lux.
Here are the top 20 second basemen for fantasy baseball according to FindBet.
D.J. LeMahieu New York Yankees
Brett Gardner on DJ LeMahieu: He's one of the best I've seen at leading by example. https://t.co/2GXrga7aVh— YES Network (@YES Network) 1616531400.0
The third place finisher in the AL MVP race last season is fresh off signing a new contract worth $90 million over the next six seasons, as the Yankees prioritized retaining LeMahieu. D.J. has been one of the best hitters in the league for several years, and he's helped by being in one of the best lineups in the MLB today. No matter where LeMahieu hits in the Yankee order, he's so good at finding holes in the defense and getting on base that D.J. is going to produce for your fantasy team across the board.
LeMahieu has some of the best pop in his bat at the position and should be among position leaders in hits, runs, runs batted in, average, and home runs. If that's not enough to warrant a pick inside the top 20 I'm not sure what is.
Ozzie Albies' home run. https://t.co/RLjbYGBAy9— Baseball GIFs (@Baseball GIFs) 1614799160.0
It's very easy to overlook Albies considering he plays on the same team as Ronald Acuna Jr. But that probably means that you're forgetting that Albies is only 24 years old and he has plenty of time to get better, which is scary considering he's already one of the best middle infielders in the game. In his only full seasons (his first season he only played 57 games, and in 2020's already shortened season managed to play in only 29 games) Albies earned an all star nod and a silver slugger award.
Albies has the potential to score 100 runs, drive in 100 runs, reach 200 hits, finish around 30 home runs, and should end the year batting around .300. Atlanta has a potent offense and that means Albies should have a lot of chances to hit good pitches. If you miss out on Acuna, don't sleep on Atlanta's other young stud. Feel good about grabbing Albies early to secure one of the top options at a thin position.
Whit Merrifield Kansas City Royals
Merrifield has been one of the most consistent players both from a fantasy and real world perspective since entering the league in 2016. A rare player that can score for you in every statistical category while virtually being able to carry your entire team in stolen bases. While his stolen base total has decreased over the past two years, 2020 can't be taken into account due to the length of the season.
Most hits in MLB since May 18, 2016 (Whit Merrifield's big league debut): 1.) Charlie Blackmon - 644 2.) Whit Merr… https://t.co/HtxX00yWum— Danny Vietti (@Danny Vietti) 1616383375.0
If Merrifield can get his SB total back up closer to 30 and maintain his high batting average, the Royals stand to be much better this season and that can only mean good things for Whit Merrifield fantasy owners. Considering Merrifield appears to be moving to right field full time, this will also be the last year we'll be able to play Whit at 2B/INF in fantasy.
Ketel Marte Arizona Diamondbacks
Keston Hiura Milwaukee Brewers
Solid Mid-Round Options
Marcus Semien Toronto Blue Jays
Mike Moustakas Cincinnati Reds
Moustakas is slotted to be the second baseman for Cincinnati which makes him an interesting player for fantasy. Moustakas' ability to hit for power makes him someone to keep tabs on heading into your draft.
Mike Moustakas makes it 5-0 #Reds after an RBI single. https://t.co/8ikWWmE21j— Justin Groc (@Justin Groc) 1616035209.0
In most formats he will have eligibility at 1B, 3B, and 2B, so you can move him around your lineup if needed, but in regards to second basemen he possesses some of the best power at the position. If you miss out on some of the elite players ahead of him, and you can solely focus on power numbers, Moustakas is a sneaky good option this year.
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades - Prospects and Everybody Else
Jake Cronenworth San Diego Padres
Cronenworth is part of the young nucleus that the Padres organization is building to become a championship contender. He may not have the gravitas that Fernando Tatis Jr. brings or the sweeping power of Manny Machado, but he looked the part as a rookie which earned him votes for NL Rookie of the Year, finishing second last season.
Jake Cronenworth has his 2nd RBI of the game after splitting the gap for a double! @Padres | #PadresST https://t.co/07hBLKyzcV— Fox Sports San Diego (@Fox Sports San Diego) 1616364748.0
Considering there will likely be a good number of players taken ahead of him at the position, Cronenworth is a good bet to provide consistency at the position. Hitting in one of the best lineups in the MLB will provide a lot of chances for both scoring and driving in runs. You can do much worse for a later round pick as Cronenworth should be a staple of his fantasy owners' lineup throughout 2021.
Nick Madrigal Chicago White Sox
Jean Segura Philadelphia Phillies
It appears that the Dodgers are ready to hand the keys to second base to one of the top prospects in baseball in Gavin Lux. Lux has spent time with the major league club having the occasional cup of coffee with the boys in blue. So far he has only shown glimpses into the potential the club is hoping he can tap into.
Although he'll certainly hit towards the bottom of the Dodgers lineup for most if not all of the season, there will be stats to go around. If he can continue his run of play into the regular season it will be a nice boost for the young player to gain some confidence early. He's raking right now in Spring play so he may be climbing the ranks before your draft.
#Dodgers Gavin Lux continues his hot spring with a double down the 3B line past Manny Machado. Now 12 for 29 (.414) in Cactus League games— Bill Plunkett (@Bill Plunkett) 1616272495.0
Tommy Edman Saint Louis Cardinals
How to Use Relief Pitching to Win Fantasy Leagues
It's a common practice to load up on offense and as many top tier starting pitchers early in fantasy baseball drafts.
It's not until the mid rounds do you start to see relief pitchers coming off the board. The purpose of this article isn't to persuade you to reach on the top closers available, but rather to give you a different strategy to utilize during your draft if things start to fall apart.
Most people will play in a standard Yahoo! weekly head to head format. Meaning managers will play opponents for a week at a time, accumulating points in a variety of categories. Most leagues will include categories such as wins, losses, ERA (earned run average), WHIP (walks and hits per nine innings pitched), strikeouts, saves and a newer category we've been seeing more of is the combination of saves and holds into one category.
This is due to the fact that many people don't like having to draft and keep up with closers. There are only a handful of closers that have enough job security warrant a mid round selection in fantasy drafts. By combining the saves and holds category it allows fantasy managers to worry less about grabbing a closer and instead on getting quality relievers who don't necessarily have to get saves.
Most leagues will still run with a more traditional setup though and that means either splitting saves and holds into two separate categories or not having a holds category and only including a saves category for relief pitchers (as this has always been the equivalent to "wins" for starting pitchers).
For the purposes of this article we are looking at pitching stat categories of Wins, Losses, Saves, Strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP.
Obviously starting pitchers will be who you turn to in order to make up most of your wins and strikeouts. Closers are going to get your saves. You hope that all your pitchers help to limit your weekly losses. ERA and WHIP are categories that are representative of how consistently your players perform.
If a starter goes out in the first inning and gives up four runs and gets replaced he ends the day with a 36.00 ERA. But if that starter goes eight innings not allowing another run, he finishes the day with a 4.5 ERA. A player like Gerrit Cole or Max Scherzer is going to be given the opportunity to overcome bad starts. A backend rotation guy that happened to land on your roster may not.
Gerrit Cole gets Didi on three pitches: 83 mph curveball 98 mph fastball 90 mph changeup (!!) https://t.co/If9H2gaWda— Talkin' Yanks (@Talkin' Yanks) 1615488218.0
If you are a fantasy manager that is lucky enough to land some top end starters early in the draft, you know that you have the ability to turn to building your offense in the mid rounds and are probably putting getting relievers on the bottom of the priority list.
That's good for you if you are one of the managers that missed on the Jacob deGrom's and Yu Darvish's of the world.
Jacob deGrom faced 9 Astros tonight. He struck out 7 of them. 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/qQGFwupF6m— SNY (@SNY) 1615509255.0
I've never personally prioritized getting starting pitching when playing in a head to head format. The reason for this is, I instead focus on getting strong relievers to pad my teams' stats. This also allows me to be adding bats to my roster with my first few (usually four or five) picks giving me an edge offensively in my matchups.
Okay that's step one. Gain an offensive advantage by ignoring starting pitching early.
Now even though this is about using bullpen guys to help you win, after adding a few top tier position players I typically will grab one or two starting pitchers here. Get the best available that will help you in at least three categories. A guy like Dallas Keuchel is a perfect example. In 2020, Keuchel, went 6-2 in 11 starts with a 1.99 ERA, 1.09 WHIP. But only accounted for 42 strikeouts over 63 and 1/3 innings.
Lucas Giolito. Dallas Keuchel. Lance Lynn. You absolutely love to see it. https://t.co/ipf8Hx0cCO— Chicago White Sox (@Chicago White Sox) 1607814006.0
This is the opposite of a sexy fantasy pick. It is so boring that you may want to shotgun a Red Bull before hitting the draft button on him. But it's laying the foundation for building the rest of your pitching staff up.
After grabbing a few starters, now you may want to start picking off relievers in rounds 7-10. This seems really early, I know. But remember this is a different strategy and you've got four studs on offense already in the draft.
So here's a quick snap shot of how I break down the relief pitcher "tiers".
Liam Hendriks looks like the kid on your little league team who slept in his uniform the night before picture day b… https://t.co/60NTBTHxm2— Jessica Kleinschmidt (@Jessica Kleinschmidt) 1615424914.0
Josh Hader MIL
Liam Hendriks CWS
Aroldis Chapman NYY
Brad Hand WSH
Kenley Jansen LAD
Fun fact: James Karinchak had the 7th highest BB% among qualified relievers last season. However, since he punches… https://t.co/rcWyYsj5Yn— The Stable (@The Stable) 1615477383.0
Edwin Diaz NYM
James Karinchak CLE
Drew Pomeranz SD
Raisel Iglesias LAA
Craig Kimbrel CHC
Kirby Yates TOR
Next Best (it's pretty early to really know enough about a lot of these guys)
Get to know the guys on the 40-man roster! RHP Ryan Pressly had an impressive Spring Training debut, striking out… https://t.co/J3QxCkw3TT— Houston Astros (@Houston Astros) 1615328454.0
Ryan Pressly HOU
Rafael Montero SEA
Archie Bradley PHI
Greg Holland KC
Richard Rodriguez PIT
Jake Diekman OAK
Jose Leclerc TEX
Will Smith ATL
Joakim Soria ARI
Daniel Bard COL
Matt Barnes BOS
So from this list you can see there aren't a lot of closers with clearly defined roles. There are far more options that might be the closer or that are hanging on by the thinnest of threads. I try to seek out three of what I consider to be top 10 relievers. They can be non-closers. I drafted Josh Hader before he was a closer in this spot and would draft someone like Devin Williams in this spot now. Just make sure that the players you're getting here are consistent and can get you saves if he isn't the primary closer.
Most important is that these relievers will consistently lower your team's weekly ERA, WHIP, and contribute to strikeouts. Some weeks your best starter only pitches once. If three of my best pitchers are relievers they are going to have much more exposure to playing throughout the course of a week and thus giving my fantasy team more chances for my best pitchers to rack up stats for me.
Step two complete. Gain an advantage in relief pitching against opponents.
Considering in fantasy baseball there's really only three ways to score: offensive stats, stats that starting pitchers primarily get, and stats that relief pitchers primarily get, you've put yourself in a good mathematical situation to win on a week to week basis.
Try this strategy in a few mock drafts and see how the roster shakes out. Keep checking back for more things fantasy baseball before your draft happens this month.
2021 MLB Power Rankings Part Two
Earlier this week we released the first half of our 2021 power rankings for the upcoming MLB season.
Now that we know who ranks 30-16, we can take a look at the rest of the 15 teams, most of whom will be vying for playoff positions and dreaming about a World Series championship. It's been a wild offseason so far as we've seen a handful of superstar players finding new homes, and top contenders have gotten even better as teams attempt to separate themselves from the rest of the competition.
The Padres, Mets, and Cardinals all made attempts to improve their rosters to catch up with the Dodgers, but the defending champs made a splashy move themselves by signing one of the biggest fish in the free agent pond this winter by acquiring starting pitcher Trevor Bauer who they lured away from the Cincinnati Reds.
Position players, you’re up! https://t.co/N9LADklt0r— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Los Angeles Dodgers) 1614015548.0
2021 may be a season that depicts the haves and the have-not's more than any other in recent history. Thus far, we've seen the top teams spending to get better, and the bottom dwellers shedding whatever talent they have left to build for the future. Let's take a look at the teams that have a good shot to win this season.
15. Los Angeles Angels
2020: Finished 4th in AL West (26-34)
This is a perfect spot for the Angels dead center in the middle of the rankings. The Angels have had Mike Trout for his entire illustrious career, and the entire duration of it has been an utter and complete waste. Trout is undoubtedly one of the most individually talented players the league has seen in 100 years, but whether it's his mentality, leadership skills, or an incapable organization around him, it hasn't resulted in any tangible success.
High, middle, or low, @MikeTrout can hit everything. https://t.co/NdBVWjSJWW— MLB (@MLB) 1613781559.0
The team added some arms to help with their effort to leap over the A's and/or Astros in the standings this year, but offensively they only get Shohei Ohtani back, maybe? The fact that Trout has been able to go through most of his career without being criticized for his inability to help his team to the postseason baffles me. Don't forget that Trout had the opportunity to leave the Angels and test free agency to find himself in a better situation to win, but he chose to stay in California collecting a half billion dollar check while toiling in Middlesville USA with the Angels.
14. Cleveland Indians
2020: Finished T-2nd in AL Central (35-25)
Cleveland is in the midst of an offseason that saw them trade away Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor. Lindor is a top three player at his position and a top 10 or so player in the league. So this may seem like a soft landing spot for a team on the decline, but the Indians have consistently proven the ability to reach into the farm system to pull out replacements for stars.
Cy Young winner Shane Bieber out of Covid-quarantine and has rejoined Tribe's bubble in Goodyear. Working out today.— paul hoynes (@paul hoynes) 1613844513.0
We have seen them do this since they've been regularly making playoff appearances and winning division titles since the mid 90's. The Tribe did add Eddie Rosario and Amed Rosario who will be nice additions to a lineup void of Lindor's bat, but this should be a transition year for an organization looking for their next franchise player. Unless the Twins and White Sox collapse, expect Cleveland to finish where they did last season, 3rd in the AL Central.
13. Milwaukee Brewers
2020: Finished 4th in NL Central (29-31)
Somehow the Brewers made it to the playoffs last year even as former MVP Christian Yelich had a terrible season. Yelich only two years removed from his MVP award hit a paltry .205 with 12 home runs, and his OPS went from 1.100 in 2019 to .786 in 2020. The Brew Crew were also without leadoff man Lorenzo Cain who also provides excellent defense in the outfield. Both will be hoping to turn the team's fortunes around this year, and they'll be joined by Kolten Wong who comes over from Saint Louis.
Poetry in motion. @ChristianYelich | #CactusCrew https://t.co/2nuqQlF5Af— Milwaukee Brewers (@Milwaukee Brewers) 1614023931.0
Milwaukee has some solid arms, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes lead their starting rotation, and Josh Hader and Devin Williams provide high end stoppers in the bullpen. The Brewers will have stiff competition in the form of the Cardinals and Cubs within their division, and it will be a dogfight in the NL Central all year.
12. Tampa Bay Rays
2020: Finished 1st in AL East (40-20)
While the Rays' run to the World Series in 2020 may have been a bit of a surprise, once we saw them play it appeared that they had a solid foundation to build a dynasty upon. Since losing to the Dodgers though they have begun deconstructing the team that almost got them to the promised land.
Team ace Blake Snell was traded to the Padres and Charlie Morton walked as a free agent. The team has indicated they may be open to trading away more players before the deadline this season. It would be a quick fall from grace for a team that looked to be on the rise behind the play of Randy Arozarena down the stretch last year.
#Rays World Series stars Brett Phillips and Randy Arozarena head out for first full squad workout https://t.co/PhQ2rmgpNr— Marc Topkin (@Marc Topkin) 1614090405.0
The Yankees will be very good, Toronto should be much improved, and Boston will be better. The good news for Rays fans is that they still play in a division with the Orioles.
11. Toronto Blue Jays
2020: Finished 3rd in AL East (32-28)
Adding George Springer and Marcus Semien to a lineup that already included Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes gurriel Jr. makes Toronto one of the most dangerous batting orders in the American League. Hyun-Jin Ryu was a Cy Young Award finalist in 2020, but the Jays will likely pursue some help for the rotation via a trade before the deadline.
Sights from (🎥 #BlueJays) camp in Dunedin, Florida. INF Vladimir Guerrero Jr. https://t.co/k67ZrRU4pb— Hazel Mae (@Hazel Mae) 1614031988.0
The team should produce plenty of offense, but the question for them is how many runs they can limit their opponents to. Playing in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox means needing a lot of arms to get to the top of this division.
10. Houston Astros
2020: Finished 2nd in AL West (29-31)
Unfortunately Houston is still a good baseball team. For as much as I'd like to see them go winless and all of their players be banned from the MLB for life, that isn't going to happen. Instead I have to take solace in the fact that they will be without Justin Verlander who is recovering from Tommy John surgery which should be enough to keep them from making yet another deep playoff run.
Carlos Correa can become a free agent after the season: “If the #Astros want to extend me I would like to get it do… https://t.co/QdKnXSq3DI— Mark Berman (@Mark Berman) 1614024946.0
Offensively they're still very talented. They fell just short of a third World Series appearance even with down years from Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. The team lost George Springer to the Blue Jays, but they resigned Michael Brantley. The Astros have a few good young arms in the farm system, and they may be needed this season to fill in for their ace Verlander.
9. Saint Louis Cardinals
2020: Finished 3rd in NL Central (30-28)
The acquisition of all-star third baseman Nolan Arenado makes the Cardinals the favorite to win the NL Central this season. The Cubs finished just in front of them last year and now they're without Yu Darvish who they sent to San Diego. Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt present a problem for opposing pitchers in the middle of this order, and they have a very solid pitching staff to support their offense.
Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Nolan Arenado, Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Josh Bell were all traded this offse… https://t.co/rEuT1Tz7Ad— Danny Vietti (@Danny Vietti) 1613505163.0
With no real powerhouse contenders in the NL Central the path is clearing for the Cards to return to the top of the standings in the division, and just maybe another World Series appearance.
8. Washington Nationals
2020: Finished T-4th in NL East (26-34)
After winning the World Series in 2019, the Nationals appeared to be dealing with a major championship hangover in 2020. Finishing at the bottom of their division and looking flat most of the year, the Nationals decided they needed some new blood on the roster entering 2021.
TASK: Choose a 22-year-old. 🔃 for Juan Soto 💙 for Fernando Tatis Jr https://t.co/3VTOxdq7nE— Dan Clark Sports (@Dan Clark Sports) 1613683204.0
Stephen Strasburg was injured a lot in 2020, but when healthy he's part of a lethal rotation that includes himself, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin. Washington also brought in Jon Lester to solidify the rotation, and Brad Hand who has been a proven closer in both the American and National League. To round out the team's offseason acquisitions all-star first baseman Josh Bell was acquired from the Pirates, and long time Cub, Kyle Schwarber was signed as a free agent.
Overall the Nationals did a lot to improve the club and most importantly they added depth in places they needed to, especially with the addition of Lester who can alleviate any losses to the starting rotation due to injury.
7. Minnesota Twins
2020: Finished 1st in AL Central (36-24)
Minnesota looked the part of a championship contender during the 2020 regular season, but were swept by the Astros in the Wild Card round of the playoffs 2-0. With one of the highest run producing lineups in baseball, the Twins will return mostly the same roster with some minor improvements on the defensive side.
Nelson Cruz is heading back to the Twins on a 1-year, $13M deal. (via @JeffPassan & @jonmorosi) https://t.co/BAle0MOOiJ— FOX Sports: MLB (@FOX Sports: MLB) 1612327698.0
Andrelton Simmons was brought in, who is a former Gold Glove award winner, and J.A. Happ and Alex Colome will add to an already strong group of pitchers. There are quite a few strong contenders in the AL Central this season, but Minnesota is hoping that their explosive offense will be enough to keep them at the top of the division in 2021.
6. New York Mets
2020: Finished T-4th in NL East (26-34)
The Mets were one of the first teams to strike with a major move this offseason. By making the trade with Cleveland to acquire Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, the Mets fast-tracked their timetable for winning a championship. Even in the current state of the league where we have giants like the Dodgers and Yankees standing in the way, the Mets will be toting a starting rotation that will include Jacob deGrom, the aforementioned Carrasco, and the returning Marcus Stroman who opted out in 2020 and Noah Syndergaard who missed last year because of Tommy John surgery.
Star gazing! 🤩 https://t.co/vtuiomF8Ag— New York Mets (@New York Mets) 1614013451.0
As for Lindor, he will join a lineup that already includes Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, and Dominic Smith. The Mets should be considered one of the favorites to reach the World Series out of the NL if they can stay healthy. Even though they missed out on the Trevor Bauer sweepstakes, it already seems like people have forgotten how impactful the Lindor and Carrasco acquisitions by New York are going to affect baseball this Fall.
5. Chicago White Sox
2020: Finished T-2nd in AL Central (35-25)
The other Chicago baseball team is starting to look like the lead dog in the Windy City. As the Cubs have a bunch of major stars playing on expiring contracts, the White Sox are a team on the rise. After making the playoffs for the first time in over a decade last season, the Sox are looking to build upon the success they've started to enjoy.
Big goals for the Big Baby. https://t.co/xwVKJtrOda— Chicago White Sox (@Chicago White Sox) 1614042008.0
With one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball the organization knew they needed to add some arms to get them further than they got last year. In December, the team traded for starter Lance Lynn who will join Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel to form a very formidable front end rotation. But maybe more important for the team's success was the signing of Liam Hendriks who will serve as the team's closer. Hendriks had been fantastic in Oakland the past few seasons and helped them during their playoff run in 2020.
Long story short, the White Sox are a major World Series contender.
4. Atlanta Braves
2020: Finished 1st in NL East (35-25)
Atlanta wants another shot at the Dodgers this year after losing to them in the NLCS in 2020. After Mike Soroka went down with a torn Achilles, the rotation felt a little thin to be going up against the likes of the Dodgers or any other World Series contender. It was their offense led by the performance of Marcell Ozuna that really kept them advancing throughout the year.
Five @Braves land in the #Top100RightNow ▪️#4 Freddie Freeman ▪️#7 Ronald Acuña Jr. ▪️#37 Marcell Ozuna ▪️#70 Max… https://t.co/tf4BaUDqTw— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOX Sports: Braves) 1613697079.0
The team made it a priority to resign Ozuna who was an MVP candidate in 2020, and also addressed their starting rotation by bringing in Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton. It's unknown when Soroka will be ready to return, but when he does the Braves' starting pitching will go from being a weakspot in 2020 to a strength in 2021. Max Fried and Ian Anderson both improved while being asked to lead the rotation and any progression from them could mean trouble for the rest of the NL East this season.
3. New York Yankees
2020: Finished 2nd in AL East (33-27)
While the Yankees haven't made any splashy moves like the teams ahead of them on this list, they have made some very smart ones. For a short time it looked like the team and DJ LeMahieu weren't going to be able to come to terms on a new deal, but the two sides agreed to a six year contract last month. Retaining their star second baseman means the Bronx Bombers will get to run it back with the lineup they were hoping to be out there last season.
Full squad's here 💪 https://t.co/ocDHvGpQFd— New York Yankees (@New York Yankees) 1614007061.0
Injuries have been a thorn in the side of the organization over the past few seasons, but if they can keep this roster intact the Yankees should undoubtedly contend from start to finish. Two pitchers the team brought in this offseason are coming off injuries of their own, but Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber both have high ceilings if they're able to return to previous form. Luis Severino is also expected to return at some point in 2021 after Tommy John surgery, but the team will be without Masahiro Tanaka who decided to return to play in Japan this offseason.
As long as Gerrit Cole and their bats are working, the Yankees could be adding some more hardware to their crowded trophy room.
2. San Diego Padres
2020: Finished 2nd in NL West (37-23)
The Padres started scratching the surface of what this team could be in 2020. Even though the Dodgers knocked them out of the playoffs in the NLDS, the Padres weren't expected to be there in the first place. That alerted the Padres' brass that this team is ready to win now. As a result we have seen San Diego be very active this offseason and now have one of the best starting rotations in baseball.
No longer unwritten. 🖋 https://t.co/MeyCBkvkgl— San Diego Padres (@San Diego Padres) 1614024032.0
The club traded for Yu Darvish (8-3, 2.01 ERA), Joe Musgrove (1-5, 3.86) and Blake Snell (4-2, 3.24 ERA) who will join Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack. The extension of shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. proves that the club is dedicated to long term success and they've identified Tatis as the focal point to build around. The only offensive addition was Ha-seong Kim from the KBO who can rake, but the Padres lineup will look mostly the same as last year. Don't mess with success.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2020: Finished 1st in NL West (43-17)
No surprise here. The rich got richer this offseason and the defending champs will enter 2021 as the favorite to do it again. Their offense will be led again by Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, and Cody Bellinger but they can hurt you 1 through 9 in the order and have reserves that can continue that trend.
Walker Buehler said he thinks Trevor Bauer's personality will fit in just fine with the team and the starting rotat… https://t.co/s9F4kxbpS9— Blake Harris (@Blake Harris) 1613846744.0
More impressive will be there rotation after signing Trevor Bauer to add to Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. This is a baseball team designed to win a lot of games, and in a playoff series opponents will have to worry about seeing their elite three starters twice. With so many great teams entering the 2021 season, the Dodgers still seem far and away in a league of their own.
It may take some in season trades for anyone to seriously contend with LA this year.