21 Bold Predictions for 2021

March 31, 2021
 
Twenty-one bold predictions for 2021. And, as always, you're invited to post your own predictions in the comments below, and we can check back on our collective prognostical power at the end of the year.
 
1.       Carlos Correa has a better year than Francisco Lindor
 
Francisco Lindor’s red-hot spring, combined with the Mets efforts to get him inked to a long-term deal before he hits free agency, have made the former Cleveland shortstop a popular preseason MVP candidate. But I'm guessing that Houston shortstop Carlos Correa will be the shortstop who has the big breakout 2021, posting the kind of season we’ve been waiting for since he won the Rookie-of-the-Year award back in 2015.
 
As for Lindor: if he doesn’t sign an extension with the Mets prior to Opening Day, I think he’ll regret it. While Lindor is a terrific all-round player, he is coming off consecutive seasons with a .335 on-base percentage, and he'll be playing his home games in a pitcher-friendly park. I expect a decline in his batting numbers this year.
 
2.       Aaron Civale will pace the AL in quality starts in 2021.
 
Civale, my baseball obsession from last season, notched seven quality starts last year, trailing teammate Shane Bieber’s ten. But he actually threw 6+ innings in all of his starts except the last one, when he got hammered by the Pirates. I’m guessing that the crafty right-hander - who is one of the most entertaining pitchers in the game to watch - has a big year in 2021.
 
3.       The Brewers win 100 regular season games.
 
If the season goes the full 162 games, here’s a guess that the Brewers are the team that runs away from the pack and hides. Christian Yelich hitting .205 obscured some really impressive pitching performances, particularly from starters Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. Add in a spectacular bullpen, and I'm going with the Brew Crew takes control of a mediocre division.
 
4.       Yu Darvish throws two no-hitters.
 
One no-hitter isn’t sufficiently bold, so let’s go ahead and give the Whirling Darvish a couple no-hitters on the season. Everyone knows that Nolan Ryan, Halladay, and Scherzer had multiple no-hitters in a season, and Johnny Vander Meer went back-to-back. Who are the other two pitchers to pull off the trick?
 
5.       Randy Arozarena doesn’t crack 20 HR.
 
Counting his bonkers playoff performance, the Rays outfielder swatted 17 homeruns in 43 games last year, which projects to something in the ballpark of 1,649 homeruns over a full season. Just to be a downer, I’m taking the under on everyone’s excitement about what he might do in a regular season.
 
6.       Junior passes Senior.
 
I am more bullish on the younger Vlad Guerrero. Vlad Sr. hit a career-high 44 homeruns in 2000: I'm going to guess that Impaler-the-Younger will eclipses that mark and hits at least 45 homeruns in 2021. He is a good candidate to lead the AL in RBI's, too. 
 
7.       Gary Sanchez leads the Yankees in HR.
 
Speaking of optimistic takes on power hitters, I’ll toss out Gary Sanchez to out-dinger Judge, Stanton, and Voit, and pace the Bronx Bombers in…bombs.
 
Sanchez has about as awful a 2020 season as any player could imagine, so this will require a considerable rebound from the still-very-bad-at-catching catcher. But Sanchez has twice posted 30+ HR seasons in his short and rocky career, and more spells at DH could give him a chance to outpace his more recognized teammates.
 
8.       Zack Greinke wins twenty games.
 
About the only box that Zack Greinke hasn’t ticked on his Hall-of-Fame resume is a 20-win season. It won’t matter - Greinke is a shoo-in for Cooperstown – but here’s a guess that 2021 is the season baseball's cerebral stranger crosses the old-time measure for pitching effectiveness, and wins 20.
 
9.       German Marquez has a better road ERA than the NL Cy Young winner.
 
Not as bold as you might think: Marquez posted a 2.06 ERA on the road last season, and is (quietly) one of the best young starting pitchers in the NL. He’ll have a hard time winning hardware in the high altitudes of Denver, but he’s an underrecognized talent who is quickly staking his claim as the best pitcher in the franchise’s dismal pitching history.
 
10.   Cavan Biggio will lead the majors in bases on balls runs scored.
 
I though leading the majors in walks was a little too obvious, as Biggio has already established himself as a premier walker, collecting 112 walks in 159 career games. So we’ll do one better and project that those walks will translate to runs scored, and Biggio will break the 24-year drought of having a person named Biggio atop the runs leaderboard.
 
11.   Mike Trout plays in the World Series…
 
This is a bold prediction, as the Angels are only a bubble playoff team, and not well-designed to run the table in playoff baseball. But I am contractually obligated to make a bold Mike Trout prediction every year, so that’s my guess for this year.
 
So how will he get there?  
 
12.   …Because Shohei Ohtani wins the MVP.
 
Let’s go ahead and predict that Shohei Ohtani breaks our collective minds by combining 120 innings of solid pitching with a breakout season at the plate. With the Angels sneaking into the playoffs, the writers will credit Ohtani for stabilizing a rotation while giving Trout with some much-needed help on offense.
 
13.   Mookie Betts will not be the worst hitter against left-handed pitcher in 2021.
 
Mookie Betts, an overrated player justifiably punished by the BABIP Gods for leaving Fenway Park, will see his triple-slash line of .200/.313/.218 improve at least slightly in 2021. And if that it not sufficiently bold, I will double-down on my optimism and hazard that old #50 will improve on his 2020 tally of extra-base hits against southpaws (one) in the coming season.
 
14.   Slam-Diego Slammers are in for a decline.
 
Here’s a guess: the four best hitters on the Padres last season will all see declines in their OPS+ in 2021. That’s Wil Myers (162), Manny Machado (161), Tatis Jr. (157) and Eric Hosmer (134). All will have lower adjusted OPS tallies in 2021.
 
And it probably won’t matter too much: this is a terrific baseball team.
 
15.   Brad Keller leads the AL in WHIP.
 
Brad Keller is another not-hard-throwing pitcher that I have more affection for than I perhaps should. He’s twenty-five and unknown, but he’s managed a career 3.50 ERA over three seasons, and he was quietly effective over the short 2020 year, posting a 2.47 ERA and a WHIP of 1.02. He doesn’t strike out a lot of hitters, but he keeps the ball in the yard and doesn’t walk too many hitters, so here’s a guess that the Royals Opening Day starter gets some Black Ink on his Baseball-Reference page.
 
16.   The Oakland A’s finish under .500.
 
The A’s managed to finish twelve games above .500 last year, a remarkable feat considering that they played a 60-game season, and they are projected to remain competitive this year. But a rebounding Houston and an upstart Angels team are going to knock the Bay Area club back a little in 2021.
 
17.   Mike Yastrzemski has a better OPS+ than any Carl Yastrzemski season except that season.
 
This probably isn’t as bold as it seems: Yaz’s best OPS+ season - outside his epic 1967 Triple Crown year -  was a 177 mark in 1970. Mike Yaz nearly matched that last year, posting an impressive 166 mark over the short season. While the odds favor a regression for the Red Sox legend’s grandson, we’ll go ahead and project another stride forward for the Giants outfielder.
 
18.   Joey Gallo hits 60 homeruns.
 
It isn’t shaping up to be an exciting season in Arlington, but Joey Gallo has revamped his approach to hitting after a rough 2020 season, and the results have been excellent this spring. Here’s guessing the Texas slugger posts a big year.
 
19.   Trevor Bauer gets traded.
 
This is just an absolute, off-the-wall guess, and I’m not sure, given the complexities of his three-year contract, if it is even possible, but I’ll throw it out there anyway. Bauer…traded.
 
20.   Ozzie Albies wins the NL batting title.
 
Albies had strange platoon splits last year: after bashing .335 off southpaws in 2018 and .389 in 2019, Albies saw his average against lefties drop to a dismal .214 mark last year. But what he lost to lefties he gained against righthanders, hitting a career-best .289. If he maintains his gains against righthanders and comes back to clobbering lefties, he’s snag his first batting title.
 
21.   The Mets win the World Series.
 
Not that bold a prediction, I guess, but picking anyone other than the Dodges or San Diego seems like a lunatic proposition these days.
 
So let's hear your predictions, and have a great Opening Day! 
 
 
David Fleming is a writer in southwestern Virginia. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

COMMENTS (14 Comments, most recent shown first)

wovenstrap
Just wanted to point out that Correa has a high career OPS+ than Lindor, and the two players have almost identical career OPS. Not very bold!
10:42 AM Apr 5th
 
FrankD
No data, just a bad feeling which is common for Twins fans. Twins won't make the playoffs this year. But, on the good side, they won't add to consecutive playoff game streak losses this year, either.
6:37 PM Apr 2nd
 
DaveFleming
One day in, at least Gary Sanchez is holding his own. Can't say the same for Brad Keller.

I thought about giving Mookie a couple perfectos (his BB-Ref page credits him with three) but I've probably spent too much time writing about his bowling. His splits last year were very much a small-sample-size thing, though he also struggled against lefties in the postseason. Still, he's too smart/talented to not figure out an adjustment.

It's like Trout. The most recent line is you can beat him upstairs. I was watching the White Sox broadcast and they made that point when he had two strikes, and the pitcher threw a fastball upstairs and he smoked it: foul, but hard. There's no book for guys like Trout or Mookie.

To Mikewright's point: Albies is absolutely a different hitter from the right side, and it'll be interesting if he gives up hitting left-handed altogether. Help me out: who are some hitters who gave up switch hitting early in their careers, and how did it work out for them? Anyone have any memories?
8:22 AM Apr 2nd
 
villageelliott
Johnny Vander Meer threw those back-to-back to hitters in 1938 for the Cincinnat Reds.
Nolan Ryan of the California Angels threw the first two of his record seven in 1973.
Roy Halliday of the Phillies threw no-hitters in both a regular season and playoffs in 2010.
Max Scherzer threw two for the Washington Nationals in 2015.
6:23 PM Apr 1st
 
ajmilner
Not only did Virgil Trucks throw two no-hitters in a season, as BobGill pointed out, he went 5-19 that season.
3:39 PM Apr 1st
 
mikewright
I love me some Albies, but his splits were freak occurrences last year. He's just a different hitter right handed. I'd rather he give up switch hitting, but if he won't he should never try to pull the bill hitting left handed and make contact.
2:53 PM Apr 1st
 
OBS2.0
re: Bauer's contract. I don't know if the actual contracts are made public? I saw one place that there was something in a trade clause about whether he was in the running for the Cy Young. But AP has it like this:

""Bauer has a limited no-trade provision that requires his consent to be dealt to an American League team from opening day through the All-Star Game. He has a contingent limited no-trade provision for the rest of each season requiring his approval to be dealt to an AL team if he is an All-Star, has thrown more than 80 innings before the All-Star Game or pitches at least one inning in each start before the All-Star Game.""

Seems like somebody realllly wants to make the All Star game and win another Cy Young, since he only has one of each at Age 30. He doesn't notch those up, his optouts and market value 2024 will be notsohotso.

Sorta interesting to speculate whether he would have made the All Star game in 2020's "season" Halfway through (yeah, only 6 starts) he was only 3-2 and at least four NL pitchers had lower ERAs...deGrom, Darvish, Lamet and fellow 2019 All Star Sonny Gray, who would have siphoned off votes.

Are the full text of contracts released?
2:06 PM Apr 1st
 
OBS2.0
While not in one year, it should be mentioned that deadball era no-hitters were thrown by guys named Pud, Noodles and Bumpus. Because it just should.
1:35 PM Apr 1st
 
benhurwitz
I'm on the record as being a big fan of this series of season predictions (and follow-ups!), so thanks for another one. That said, I was disappointed at the Mookie Betts "prediction", so I will supply a better one for you: Mookie Betts will complement Yu Darvish's performances by bowling two 300 games. You're welcome.
12:31 PM Apr 1st
 
GuillermoMountain
Mookie's career OPS vs. LHP including last year is .888 (.897 vs. RHP). Is there some reason to believe last season's small sample of 55 PA indicates a sudden inability to hit lefthanded pitching? My bold prediction is that Mookie has a normal platoon split for a right handed batter over the full season, with a better OPS against lefties.
12:12 PM Apr 1st
 
BobGill
About the question in No. 4: I think Allie Reynolds and Virgil Trucks are the other two. Both did it in the early 1950s -- 1951 and '52, maybe.
8:55 AM Apr 1st
 
OBS2.0
Wow on Betts.

An MVP-2 and Silver Slugger who batted .200 /.313/.218/.531 against lefties.

His righty OPS was almost exactly double his lefty: .531 to 1.061
2:19 AM Apr 1st
 
OBS2.0
Your best column ever!!
1:47 AM Apr 1st
 
mauimike
I love your Angel comments. I think Ohtani will have a breakout year. From your thoughts to God's ear.​
9:09 PM Mar 31st
 
 
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