Pitchers and catchers reported last week, and Spring Training games will kick off in a few days. This is the time of year when every outlet puts out projected records for all 30 teams. Some teams’ projections seem to make perfect sense, while other projections are sure to be surpassed or completely unmet. Let’s examine these latter teams and evaluate what their records will look like in 2021.
Tampa Bay Rays (Fail to Meet): Projected 83 wins (FanGraphs), 86 wins (PECOTA)
As reigning American League Champions, the Rays’ offseason move makes no sense. They designated outfielder Hunter Renfroe for assignment, let veteran pitcher Charlie Morton walk and traded lefty pitcher Blake Snell. All they added was the washed-up Michael Wacha and Chris Archer — the fact that he is back in Tampa Bay after the 2018 trade is hilarious — and a 40-year-old Rich Hill. They also still only have one talented right-handed hitter in Randy Arozarena. All told, the Rays seem to want to rebuild, albeit quickly, and that does not bode well for reaching either projected record.
Los Angeles Angels (Fail to Meet): Projected 84 wins (FanGraphs), 87 wins (PECOTA)
Aside from the depressing notion that — in my opinion — Mike Trout’s career is destined for zero playoff success, the fact remains that the Angels missed out on every big free agent of the offseason. No Bauer, Realmuto, Springer, Lemahieu or elite relief pitching was added.
Expecting pitcher Andrew Heaney to stay healthy and asking fellow pitcher Dylan Bundy to play like he did last year are tall tasks. Another challenge is getting José Quintana, their biggest offseason add, to play like a No. 3. The Angels are still stuck with Albert Pujols, no bullpen and a Trout/Anthony Rendon duo that has very little support. There is no way the Angels have a winning record in 2021.
Chicago White Sox (Will Exceed): Projected 87 wins (FanGraphs), 83 wins (PECOTA)
The White Sox have a young core, combined with the perfect group of veterans. Not to mention they made several significant additions to the roster in the offseason. Bringing back Adam Eaton, trading for innings-eater Lance Lynn and signing star-closer Liam Hendriks headline Chicago’s transactions. In order to win, Luis Robert and Yoán Moncada need to find more consistency. Dylan Cease should stay healthy and show off his arm talent. Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jiménez need to keep up the good work. And Nick Madrigal and Michael Kopech need to get their chance. Losing James McCann stings, but these White Sox should exceed the projections and win the American League Central this year.
New York Mets (Fail to Meet): Projected 93 wins (FanGraphs), 96 wins (PECOTA)
The Mets made many moves in the offseason to try and put together a division-winning, championship-caliber team. Adding defensive stud McCann, along with Lindor — who I see as the league’s best shortstop — plus Trevor May, Carlos Carrasco, Joey Lucchesi, Taijuan Walker and more all add up to a net-positive gain by the team this offseason. However, there are still issues here. The Jared Porter scandal will loom over the organization heading into 2021. McCann has a history of struggling at the plate and will now make $10 million per year.
Lucchesi played horribly last season and has never been great. Walker’s FIP was over four last season, and has a 4.24 FIP for his whole career, making him an average pitcher. Noah Syndergaard is set to return from Tommy John surgery, which always carries risk, and Marcus Stroman has not pitched since 2019. These rotation concerns all loom behind the league’s top starter in Jacob deGrom. All of these factors considered, there’s no way the Mets will reach 90 wins this season.
San Diego Padres (Will Exceed): Projected 95 wins (FanGraphs), 96 wins (PECOTA)
Yes, the Padres already have sky-high expectations. Yes, they play in the same division as the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will end up with more than 100 wins next season. However, what this team did in the offseason secures an over 90-win season ahead. They added strikeout machines Yu Darvish and Snell, along with steady mid-rotation righty Joe Musgrove. On top of this, the team added veteran relievers Keone Kela and Mark Melancon and brought in infielder Ha-seong Kim.
The bullpen may raise some concerns, but this rotation has great depth and this lineup has to rank in the top five in the league. Finally, the Padres still have top-ranked prospects such as CJ Abrams and MacKenzie Gore on the way. The Padres should reach for 100 wins in 2021, despite the Dodgers’ presence.