The 2021 Major League Baseball season is upon us with Opening Day festivities beginning on Thursday. A full and successful Spring Training gives hope that a healthy slate of baseball is well within reach this year. And more baseball means more picks and previews coming your way.
What better way to kick things off than to start diving into some futures.
Picks: Atlanta Braves to win division, Miami (see below)
The Braves are going for four straight division titles. So far, they have seen progression each year under coach Brian Snitker. The skipper was rewarded appropriately in the offseason.
Reigning MVP Freddie Freeman will once again be accompanied by the 2018 Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna, Jr. and slugger Marcell Ozuna.
The pitching staff is healthier and more experienced. Mike Soroka is ahead of schedule in terms of returning from an achilles injury. Max Fried will be joined by Ian Anderson to head up the starting rotation. Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly will be the new veteran additions.
Atlanta was first in both runs scored (2.46) and runs given up (1.25) in innings 6-9 last season. If they start the season as anything but the favorite to win the division, a futures bet may be one of the best picks of the year.
Don’t Bet on the Rest
The Philadelphia Phillies have yet to come close to competing after major signings and trades. Could this be the year the Phils pounce now that they have Joe Girardi manning the dugout? Based on this roster’s track record we can’t count on General Joe to turn things around in a loaded sectional.
The New York Mets acquired one of the best hitters in the game. Fransico Lindor not only brings a ton of smash to the lineup, but the 4-time All-Star can also flash the glove as well. The Mets already have the best pitcher in the league in Jacob DeGro. Will the addition of Lindor be enough to compete with the likes of Atlanta?
The biggest question mark in the East surrounds the nation’s capital. The 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals seem like an afterthought. This lineup will be vastly different from the one that took home the hardware two seasons ago. Gone are Anthony Rendon, Michael A. Taylor, and Kurt Suzuki. Enter Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber. Sean Doolittle won’t be returning to the pen. It’ll be up to veterans Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg to help revitalize a pitching staff that had an ERA of 5.11, a mark that firmly settled in the bottom third of the league.
Best Bet: Who Picks the Miami Marlins?
I do … The salty fish from South Beach are coming off of a winning – albeit – truncated season. They didn’t just catch a hot wave and ride it to the playoffs. This is a team that loves to play small ball and they do it very well. Miami was second in the National League in stolen bases (51) and sixth in sacrifice hit rate (9%).
This style of play will bode well in a division that will be a grind. The Marlins have a strong foundation of arms to man their pitching staff. Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and prospect Sixto Sanchez combined for a 3.35 ERA and an 8.4 SO9 in 2020. All performed well above average, considering Lopez had the lowest ERA+ (127) of the three. The key will be solidifying the bullpen and stabilizing the back end of the rotation.
The Miami bats are in a position to get even better. It will be former All-Star Starling Marte’s first full season in Miami. The signing of outfielder Adam Duvall will provide some pop. Duvall has hit 58 home runs in his last 199 at-bats, including Triple-A stints.
A team coming off of playoff experience with good pitching, rising talent, and more power? Yes, please. I will predict – and bet – OVER 71.5 wins all day for the Fins.
Check back with Fanrunradio.com for more picks and best bets for this upcoming MLB season.