Photo via bostonglobe.com
As we move closer to the start of the 2021 season, it’s time for everyone’s favorite exercise, specific and mostly meaningless projections! That means we’ll take an inexact science and apply it to a wildly variable season to get some hard numbers that we can all look back at at the end of the season and either exclaim how smart we are, or just ignore because “no one takes these seriously anyways right? Right?!?”. All joking aside though, projections can help set realistic expectations on players, as well as be a guide for seeing how your team stacks up against the rest of the league. I based these projections on an amalgamation of all the other projections from other respected sites, as well as some insights of my own. This week I’ll be showing some likely and realistic projections for individual players and the team overall, but next week I’ll be doing some #BoldPredictions for the 2021 season that won’t be shown in these base projections. So let’s get started:
I think we’re all hoping and expecting for bounce back seasons from Devers, Gonzalez and JD. Verdugo, Vazquez and Bogaerts should be putting up their standard high quality seasons. I’m holding out that Dalbec and Renfore can hit above .230 to show off their massive power. Renfroe will likely be given a longer leash due to his average to above average fielding in CF/RF. I think Kiké surprises some people getting a full time role and playing under Cora leading to one of his best seasons ever. Franchy, Arroyo and Santana could honestly fall anywhere in between “Biggest Surprise of 2021” to off the 40-man roster. Chavis will get some looks early due to the injuries, but I think he ends up spending most of 2021 in Worcester (again unless injuries continue). Plawecki comes down from his unexpected .371 avg to hit more like a standard backup catcher. And Duran will be up at some point and will be showing off his speed as much as possible. I’d like to project a little more power, but I’m betting his Slugging % will mostly be propped up by him turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples.
Health is the big unknown with the starting staff. On top of that, we have pitchers coming off a shortened 60 game season, so expecting 150-200 innings will be tough for most MLB staffs. Martin Perez likely becomes the most consistent pitcher, putting up his usual solid but not spectacular stats while eating lots of innings. E-Rod and Eovalidi will likely be solid when healthy, but are both likely to miss a few starts to keep their arms fresh. I think Pivetta will end up being a solid add to the rotation and should stay healthy and consistent enough to put up some solid numbers and a significant amount of innings. You just have to hedge your bets and assume Richards will miss a handful of starts due to a few little injuries and a couple DL sprints. Whitlock and Andreise will likely play a pivotal role picking up a handful of starts filling in for injuries as well as some long relief outings. Let’s all hope Chris Sale is back as expected late in the summer and can shake off the rust to be ready to post some diminished stats (for him) but more importantly get him ready for the 2022 season. Houck is the first man up from Worcester to make some starts for any longer term injuries, and it’s pretty likely Seabold could make a couple appearances later in the year as long as he continues to show improvement in AAA.
Who is the closer? Right now every projection site seems to point to Matt Barnes. Maybe we end up in a 2013 situation where the 3rd/4th option at the start of the season ends up being the full time closer, but going on most likely scenario, Barnes is the full time closer with Ottavino likely snagging a couple saves based on matchups or on Barnes’s off days. Darwinzon should continue to show some impressive strikeout numbers but mostly still having some walk issues. Taylor will be the other lefty out of the pen and should be a solid contributor again after a positive Covid test and shoulder tendonitis interrupted his 2020 season. Sawamura is a bit of an enigma, as he was solid in the Korean league but has had mixed results this Spring. Brasier is expected to miss the start of the season, but should return to his usual solid numbers. Brice, Valdez, Schreiber and Brewer are all vets who one or 2 of will likely be solid contributors with the others spending most of 2021 up and down from AAA. This list could easily expand with names like Kevin McCarthy, Matt Hall, Ryan Weber, Matt Carasiti, Stephen Gonsalves, Caleb Simpson and Marcus Walden, but the projections would all pretty much be the same for each. The last addition is Eduard Bazardo, the 25 year old flamethrower who started turning some heads during Spring Training. He was optioned to the minors already so he won’t open 2021 in the big leagues, but he’ll be up at some point and could be quite the boost to the back end of the pen.
Projected W/L: 88-74
Projected Finish: 3rd AL East
Playoffs: Wildcard Spot
Third in the East but making the playoffs?!? First of all, I don’t think it will be surprising at all if 3 playoff teams come from the AL East. The Yankees are expected to finish in the top spot, but the 2,3 and 4 spots are up for grabs. The Rays got worse and are relying on some pretty shaky pitchers to prop up the bulk of their rotation (Hill, Archer, Wacha). The have plenty of depth, and the Rays do seem to find a way to turn mediocre pitchers into short term solid contributors, but they have plenty of question marks in their staff. As for the lineup, they’re the usual collection of solid hitters with no real name recognition or All-Star expectations, which has clearly worked well enough in the past. They’re also hoping 2020 Breakout Randy Arozarena wasn’t just a flash in the pan, and will anchor the middle of that lineup. As for the Blue Jays, they had a great offseason adding Springer, Semien, Ray and Matz, but as with any team who “won the offseason”, the results usually fall short of the expectations. Will the 31 year old Springer be the .260 hitter he was in 2016 and 2018, or the .280-.290 All Star he was in 2017 and 2019? Can Matz finally stay healthy? Will the youth movement of Vlad Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Nate Pearson show breakout years or sophomore slumps? Finally the Orioles……… Anyways, while it’s not likely the Sox make the playoffs (don’t check the Vegas odds), it’s not impossible. They have one big hurdle they likely won’t overcome in the Yankees, but with a few lucky breaks the Jays and Rays are easily within reach. And once you’re in the playoffs, any team can get hot over a 5-7 game series. This will be a really fun team to watch this year. There’s some younger players to keep eyes on, veterans coming back from some injuries who could impress, and fan favorites who should hopefully help the team bounce back from a disappointing 2020 season.