Predicting the 10 MLB Playoff Teams at the 2021 All-Star Break
With the MLB All-Star break upon us, now is the perfect time to take a good, long look at everything that has happened during the first half of the 2021 MLB season while also looking ahead at the second half of the season.
With half of the season in the books, we have a lot of information to work with as far as making predictions is concerned. That being said, there are still at least 20 teams that have legitimate hopes of reaching the playoffs. There’s a lot that could still happen, especially with the trade deadline still a couple of weeks away, but let’s take a crack at predicting the 10 teams that will make the MLB postseason in 2021.
AL East: Boston Red Sox
Admittedly, we’re going a little bit out on a limb with this pick because there are four teams that could conceivably make a push in the second half and win the AL East. But the Red Sox are in first at the All-Star break and they look poised to win the division behind a potent offense and a rotation that’s been better than expected. Boston could also see Chris Sale return to give the rotation a boost late in the year.
To be fair, the Rays look good enough to win the division as well. But Tampa Bay’s cold streak in June was concerning to watch. The Rays don’t have the high-end arms at the top of the rotation that they did last year, putting too much stress on their bullpen and a lineup that’s largely average. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays and Yankees have dug themselves too big of a hole considering how well the Red Sox have played this season.
AL Central: Chicago White Sox
This is one of the easiest picks at this point in the season.
Chicago has lost the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Yasmani Grandal, and Nick Madrigal to injury, yet the White Sox have built a comfortable lead atop the AL Central. The team’s rotation is one of the deepest in baseball, which means they aren’t going to experience a lot of long losing streaks. Plus, all of those injured players — except Madrigal — have a chance to return before the end of the season.
Meanwhile, the rest of the division is a disaster. The Tigers and Royals are still a year or two away from competing. Minnesota has been a disaster and could sell some huge pieces before the trade deadline.
In fact, Cleveland could be in the same boat with the Indians falling eight games behind at the break. In other words, the White Sox should coast to a division crown.
AL West: Houston Astros
The A’s have made things interesting in the AL West, but this is the Astros' division to lose. The Astros are so dangerous offensively and have received great performances during the first half from several young pitchers. Granted, the bullpen is a potential issue and we don’t know how the club’s young starters will hold up late in the year. But the Astros should score enough runs to hold off the rest of the division.
Frankly, the A’s look like an average team if you take away their long winning streak early in the year. They’re solid across the board but lack the top-tier talent to be better than the Astros after 162 games.
The Mariners and Angels, meanwhile, will be lucky just to be relevant in the Wild Card race come September, which should make it relatively easy for the Astros to win another division crown.
AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays & New York Yankees
The chances look good that the AL East will send two teams to the Wild Card Game.
In fairness, Oakland owns one of those spots now while the Indians, Mariners, and Angels are also within striking distance. There’s also a chance that the four teams in the AL East will cannibalize one another. But it’s hard not to feel like the Rays have enough to at least earn a Wild Card spot, especially with so many top prospects getting a chance in the big leagues.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are too talented not to make a run at some point. Unlike last season, they’re at least healthy, so if they can rattle off eight or 10 straight wins at some point, it can be a springboard toward the postseason.
NL East: New York Mets
In a way, the Mets could win this division almost by default. But remember that they were hit hard by the injury bug during the first half and have still managed to spend the last two months in first place. They’re starting to get healthy and should be a little more consistent offensively during the second half. It’s also reasonable to expect the Mets to be a little aggressive at the trade deadline, adding one or two pieces that should help.
Of course, the rest of the division is New York’s best friend. The Phillies sit in second place at the break with a .500 record. Philly doesn’t necessarily look like a team that should be much better than .500 when all is said and done. Meanwhile, the Braves are all but done with Ronald Acuna’s season-ending injury. Also, the Nationals look more like sellers than buyers after going 2-9 right before the All-Star break, negating a strong June. Considering all of that, the Mets are winning this division.
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers
Not enough people gave the Brewers a chance before the season, but they are well-positioned to win the NL Central after holding a four-game lead at the break.
Milwaukee’s lineup was a huge disappointment early in the year, but the Brewers have started to hit a little more recently to complement an outstanding rotation. Even without a dynamic lineup, as long as the Brewers can be average offensively, they should have more than enough pitching to close out a mediocre division.
At the moment, the Cubs look like they’ll be sellers and the Cardinals don’t appear to have enough to mount a comeback in the second half, as they currently sit two games under .500. Of course, the Brewers will have to look out for the Reds, who have the hitters to make a serious push. But Cincinnati’s bullpen, especially the bullpen, could get in the way and keep the Reds from stringing enough wins together to overtake the pitching-rich Brewers.
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Look, it’s been fun and interesting to have a three-team race in the NL West, but the Dodgers are going to win this division for the ninth straight year. They’ve underperformed based on preseason expectations and are still only two games behind San Francisco. At some point, the L.A. lineup will start clicking and the Dodgers will start to look like the unstoppable force that’s won this division in each of the last eight years.
Meanwhile, it’s hard not to be skeptical of the Giants, who have relied on so many veterans. If those guys slow down during the second half, which seems reasonable, it’ll be hard to hold off the Dodgers.
As for the Padres, they’ve run a little too hot and cold during the first half to be a serious threat. They may not be able to avoid another long losing skid that could take them out of the running for the division crown.
NL Wild Card: San Diego Padres & San Francisco Giants
At this point, we all know the two Wild Card spots in the National League are coming out of the West division. There are only three NL teams outside of the West with a winning record, and two of them lead their division.
The Reds are the only team within five games of the Wild Card right now and they have far more questions than the Padres and Giants, who look good to solidify those spots if Los Angeles wins the NL West.
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