162 Games On Deck

MLB Begins Spring Play April 1

Caroline Carmichael, Reporter

The Major League Baseball season is right around the corner, as major league players have reported to spring training. The MLB spring training season began February 28, with the regular season scheduled to start April 1.  Following a shortened 2020 schedule, there will be a full 162-game season this year, and a limited number of fans will be able to attend games.

While the National League has received more publicity with their off season signings, the American League promises to be an extremely competitive race. 

The top American League teams are the Yankees, Twins, White Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays. These five teams have a core group of returning players and strong pitching rotations. 

The Rays, 2020 American League Champions, lost in six games to the Dodgers in the World Series. 

The AL will be a more balanced league where a number of teams will have a chance to be at the top come October. While the NL might have the best teams in baseball this season, the race for the championship might include fewer teams than the AL. 

American League 


Houston Astros players Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman did not quite live up to their all-star status last year, but they are expected to bounce back to their normal level. During the offseason, George Springer was lost to the Blue Jays, but the Astros continue to stay the front runner for the AL west race. As long as Altuve and Bregman can return to their normal form, the Astros should be fine. Justin Verlander is out for the season, as he is recovering from Tommy John surgery from an injury during the 2020 season. However, veteran pitcher Zack Greinke is still there to lead the team.

The Oakland Athletics have won 97 games in each of the past two seasons, yet have not won the West division, thanks to the Astros’ success.  This year, the A’s will be led by Matt Olson, former Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, and Matt Chapman. 

The Los Angeles Angels have all-star outfielder Mike Trout leading their strong lineup, but they have questions about how well their pitching staff will hold up over a full season. One question for the Angels will be two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who is coming off of a pitching related injury, and how he is utilized in their rotation. 

The Seattle Mariners are in rebuilding mode. The Mariners are a long way from being in contention for the AL west, but if they are going to be a contender, then they will need a solid season from Kyle Lewis, Kyle Seager, and top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield.

Much like the Mariners, the Texas Rangers are focused on rebuilding their roster. They are coming off of a tough season, and will be very young and mostly inexperienced this year, as they are focusing on developing their younger players. Some key departures for the Rangers in the offseason were the pitching staff ace Lance Lynn and their longtime shortstop Elvis Andrus. They are led by Joey Gallo this year who had 1o home runs in the 2020 season. Gallo is projected to be a key figure in the lineup, as he is projected to bounce back into his all-star form. 


Like the other divisions in the American League, the race for the AL central could come down to the final days of the season. The top two teams should be the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox. 

The Twins, who won the AL central by one game last season, made several offseason moves to improve their roster. Their biggest addition is Andrelton Simmons, who played shortstop for the Angels the last five years. They return Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson, and their pitching staff will be led by Kenta Maeda who was the AL Cy Young runner-up. 

For the first time in many years, the White Sox feel like they are a team capable of reaching the World Series. Their lineup returns intact and will be led by José Abreu, the American League MVP. Lucas Giolito is their returning star pitcher, and they added former Rangers pitcher Lance Lynn. 

Shane Bieber is the Cleveland Indians top returning pitcher this year after winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2020, when he led the AL with an 8-1 record and a league low 1.63 ERA. . José Ramirez, who hit 17 home runs last season, and pitcher Triston McKenzie, who posted a 2-1 record as a rookie,  will be two other key performers for the Indians this year. The Indians are going through a transitional season since they traded Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, and Carlos Santana during the offseason, but with Bieber leading their pitching staff, they should stay in the hunt most of the season.

While the Kansas City Royals figure to be improved, they will have a hard time competing with the Twins, White Sox, and Indians. Salvador Perez is returning to the team on a four year deal, and former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was added to the roster. 

Similar to the Rangers and Mariners, the Detroit Tigers are in a youth movement. They figure to be a team that will only improve as the year goes on. Although much of their roster will be young players, they will be led by veteran hitter Miguel Cabrera. 


The team to beat in the AL east will be the New York Yankees, who are led by star pitcher Gerrit Cole. While Cole is the leader of this pitching staff, the Yankees have numerous arms to fill out the rest of their rotation, including newcomers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. The Yankees’ strength is their everyday lineup, and in order to win the AL east the Yankees need to keep Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and DJ LeMahieu healthy.  

On paper, if there is a lineup that is better than the Yankees, it is the Toronto Blue Jays. With the addition of former Astro George Springer and former A’s shortstop Marcus Semien to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette, the Blue Jays should not have a problem scoring runs. Their pitching staff is led by Hyun Jin Ryu, a finalist for the 2020 Cy Young Award. 

The Tampa Bay Rays ran away from the Yankees and Blue Jays in the AL east standings last season, and made it all the way to the World Series. The Rays are determined to take that final step this season. The pitching staff will be led by Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough, but they must replace Charlie Morton and Blake Snell. Randy Arozarena set major league records for hits, home runs, and total bases in a single postseason and looks to build on that this season. 

For the Boston Red Sox to fight for the AL east crown, they will have to improve their offense this season, as last year they were one of the weaker lineups. A strong season offensively from Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, plus the eventual return of Chris Sale who missed the 2020 season with Tommy John Surgery. 

The Baltimore Orioles are in restructuring mode, meaning they are like the Rangers, trying to piece together a lineup of young players. The Orioles player to watch is Adley Rutschman, who is considered one of the top prospects in baseball. 

National League


While the Dodgers are the defending World Series champions, the NL west promises to be an intense race from start to finish, as the Padres significantly upgraded their roster from last season. Both teams have strong pitching staffs and some of the best hitters in baseball. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers are coming off of a 2020 World Series Championship, and with the majority of their lineup returning, they are again the team to beat. Not only did they keep their lineup intact, they also added the top free-agent pitcher, Trevor Bauer, to their rotation. They still have Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, and Justin Turner who all had great seasons last year and hit 32 home runs combined. Clayon Kershaw, their top starter, and Kenley Jansen, their top reliever, will also be returning.

The San Diego Padres fell short of making it to the 2020 National League championship last year, but they do have the ability to give the Dodgers some major competition. Fernando Tatis Jr. returns, after signing a huge deal with the Padres in the offseason, and Manny Machado is also a strong returning player. With Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack returning as pitchers, the Padres acquired Blake Snell (Rays) and Yu Darvish (Cubs), to give them a strong pitching staff.  

The San Francisco Giants were close to a playoff berth last season, and they have the roster to make the run again this season. But, they are in the same division as possibly two of the best teams in baseball, so making the playoffs could be a challenge.  The San Francisco Giants players to watch are outfielder Mike Yastrzemski and pitcher Kevin Gausman. 

Both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies do not have the rosters that can compete consistently with the other teams in the NL west. The Diamondbacks are led by Ketel Marte, who had a strong 2019 season but struggled in 2020. The Rockies are led by all-star shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder Charlie Blackmon. Story hit 11 home runs in the 2020 season. 


The NL central should be very tight because the Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, and Brewers all finished within five games of each other last season. The Pirates are going to have to fight to get in their wins this year. This division is up for grabs and could come down to which team gets off to the best start. 

The St. Louis Cardinals could be the team to beat because they made the biggest trade in the offseason acquiring Nolan Arenado from the Rockies. Adding his bat to Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina will strengthen their lineup. The pitching staff is led by Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty.

The Milwaukee Brewers had one of the top pitching staffs in the 2020 season, keeping them in the playoff race. That entire pitching staff returns led by Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader. Christian Yelich is also back, and they signed Kolten Wong from the Cardinals

The Chicago Cubs are the defending division champ despite off years from Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, and Anthony Rizzo. If those three players bounce back, and with the addition of Joc Pederson then the Cubs become the team to beat in the central. The pitching staff is led by Kyle Hendricks, and they brought back Jake Arrieta to fill a spot in the rotation. 

Despite losing Cy-Young award winner Trevor Bauer, the Cincinnati Reds strength remains their pitching staff. Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray return plus some talented young pitchers to form a solid rotation. Like last season the Reds will need to find a way to score runs. 

The Pittsburgh Pirates are generally considered at the bottom of most preseason power rankings, and they are going to have to fight hard to find their wins. 


The NL east will be very competitive as the Braves, Mets, and Nationals return with solid combinations of key veterans along with several up and coming younger players. The winner of the NL east will likely come down to the team that has consistent pitching throughout the whole season.

The Atlanta Braves fell short last season, losing to the Dodgers in seven games in the National League championship series. First baseman Freddie Freeman returns, after winning the National League MVP award. The Braves typically go with a relatively young lineup that includes all-star Ronald Acuña Jr., infielder Ozzie Albies, and top prospect Christain Pache. Late in the off-season, Marcell Ozuna was signed to a four-year contract. Max Fried and Ian Anderson both had strong 2020 seasons on the mound, and during the offseason, the Braves added Charlie Morton from the Rays.

One team that made several key moves in the offseason, was the New York Mets.    They acquired all-star shortstop Franciso Lindor, and pitcher Carlos Carrasco from the Cleveland Indians, two players that played key roles in the recent success of the Indians. The Mets have a strong pitching staff led by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, and offensively they are led by first baseman Pete Alonso, who hit a team-high 16 home runs last year. 

The Nationals won the 2019 World series, then dropped to last place in the East standings last season. Behind superstar Juan Soto, new additions Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell, and Trea Turner, the Nationals have a solid lineup. But like 2019, if they are to reach the postseason, then the veteran pitching staff, led by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and former Cub Jon Lester must stay healthy.

The Philadelphia Phillies have a talented roster, but probably not enough depth to reach the postseason. They do have sluggers Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Rhys Hoskins, and catcher J.T. Realumto, but will that be enough to compete with the rest of the division?  

The Miami Marlins were a surprise team last season, making the playoffs for the first time since 2003. They were led by a number of young players, like Miguel Rojas and Brian Anderson, who had strong seasons, but the question will be: are they able to duplicate their 2020 numbers?

The 2021 Major League Baseball regular season begins on April 1, and this season will be a tough and hard-fought race to the top of the standings.