MLB Crystal Ball 2021

Today is opening day, the start of the new season. How will it end up?
Using RotoValue player projections for each team, I’ve estimated win totals based on projected runs scored and runs allowed. Here are the standings:

AL East Won Lost Pct RS RA
Yankees 87.1 74.9 0.538 665 617
Blue Jays 82.1 79.9 0.507 655 646
Rays 81.3 80.7 0.502 551 549
Red Sox 79.0 83.0 0.488 641 657
Orioles 72.9 89.1 0.450 556 619
AL Central Won Lost Pct RS RA
Indians 88.3 73.7 0.545 658 601
White Sox 87.1 74.9 0.538 645 598
Twins 84.4 77.6 0.521 621 594
Royals 73.5 88.5 0.454 675 734
Tigers 68.4 93.6 0.422 586 686
AL West Won Lost Pct RS RA
Astros 91.6 70.4 0.565 663 580
Athletics 82.0 80.0 0.506 613 605
Angels 80.2 81.8 0.495 679 685
Mariners 79.8 82.2 0.493 600 610
Rangers 76.9 85.1 0.475 614 646
NL East Won Lost Pct RS RA
Braves 88.6 73.4 0.547 739 680
Mets 87.0 75.0 0.537 623 576
Phillies 81.5 80.5 0.503 618 614
Nationals 80.3 81.7 0.496 656 662
Marlins 75.6 86.4 0.467 638 680
NL Central Won Lost Pct RS RA
Cardinals 85.9 76.1 0.530 644 606
Brewers 82.7 79.3 0.510 664 651
Reds 76.5 85.5 0.472 605 640
Cubs 76.1 85.9 0.470 668 706
Pirates 71.3 90.7 0.440 605 681
NL West Won Lost Pct RS RA
Dodgers 96.7 65.3 0.597 758 635
Padres 84.6 77.4 0.522 561 533
Rockies 78.1 83.9 0.482 660 683
Diamondbacks 76.0 86.0 0.469 628 667
Giants 74.6 87.4 0.460 555 605

Not surprisingly the defending World Champion Dodgers are projected with the highest win total in MLB at 96.7. The team led by Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw, and Cody Bellinger also added the year’s highest profile free agent in Cy Young award winner Trevor Bauer. San Diego added Yu Darvish to the team anchored by the most exciting young player in the game, Fernando Tatis Jr. and 2019’s biggest free agent signing Manny Machado, but the Padres lack the Dogders’ offensive depth and stellar rotation, and RotoValue projects them to finish 12 games behind, but comfortably in 2nd in the division. Their 84.6 projected wins should barely get them the second wild card slot.
The Dodgers are one of just 2 teams projected to beat 90 wins, with the Houston Astros as the other. Although George Springer signed with Toronto, Houston still projects to win 91.6 games, tops in the AL and nearly 10 games ahead in its division. RotoValue sees Kyle Tucker as a breakout star this year who should flirt with a 30/30 season and could break 100 in both runs and RBIs.
The most surprising projection to me was Cleveland, whose 88.3 expected wins are 2nd most in the AL. Despite trading star shortstop Francisco Lindor, Cleveland still boasts sluggers José Ramírez and Franmil Reyes, but the strength of the team will likely be its starting pitching. Shane Bieber may be the best pitcher in baseball, while youngsters Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale gives the team an imposing top three.
The big spending Yankees are favorites in the AL East, but are not at the Dodgers’ level because of injuries. While Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have been healthy this spring, but Judge missed at least a third of each of the last three seasons, and Stanton was out for more than half of the last two, which depresses projections. If they can manage to stay healthy all year, the Yankees should beat their 87.1 projected wins. But last year’s HR champ Luke Voit is already on the injured list.
Had the Chicago White Sox not lost Eloy Jiménez until September, they probably would be favored in the AL Central. They’re still projected 2nd, just 1.2 wins behind Cleveland, with a lineup headed by Luis Robert and Tim Anderson, and a rotation headlined by Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn. The AL Central may be the game’s closest division, as the Minnesota Twins’ projected 84.4 wins would give them the league’s second wild card slot behind Chicago. Minnesota’s lineup can mash, headed by the ageless Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson.
The East projects to be the National League’s closest division, with Atlanta less than 2 wins ahead of the New York Mets. Atlanta is led by offense from young superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. and reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman, while the Mets pair Lindor with two time Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom. Even though RotoValue doesn’t see the Mets winning the division, it does project them to host San Diego in the wild card game.
St. Louis, which traded for Nolan Arenado, projects to win the NL Central by 3 games over Milwaukee. These projections are best thought of as expected values or over/under levels for each team. There’s a good chance at least one team will win 100 or more games, and the Dodgers are the best bet to do so, but I wouldn’t make an even money bet they’ll get to 100. Similarly Pete Alonso projects to lead the majors with 42 HR, but after the year is over, it’s likely one, or perhaps several, players, will have more than that. Fellow Met Jacob deGrom projects to lead the majors in both ERA and wins, while despite starting the year on the IL, Adelberto Mondesi projects to have the most steals.

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