10 Burning Questions for the 2021 MLB Season (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
This will be one of the most anticipated MLB seasons in recent memory. Coming off a shortened 2020 season, this MLB season is full of headlines, big-time moves, and star power. It should be a tremendous season, and I am looking forward to it.
Let’s get right into it! Here are 10 burning questions I had for the upcoming 2021 MLB Season.
These rankings are up to date as of March 24th via Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) and average draft position (ADP) from FantasyPros.
1. What will Trevor Bauer’s impact be on the defending World Champs?
It’s only right we begin this discussion with the world champion, Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are coming off their first World Series championship since 1988. A team that could never quite get over the hump, the Dodgers acquired all-world outfielder Mookie Betts to help them secure a championship. Now, they’re even more loaded than last year, having acquired the 2020 Cy Young Award winner in Trevor Bauer. Bauer was dominant in Cincinnati last year. The righty ranked in the top three in the league for ERA, WHIP, H/9, SO/9, strikeouts, and shutouts. Bauer’s season was a sight to behold, and now he is pitching for a loaded offense, which should give him all the run support he needs. It will be interesting to see how he does this year, but expectations need to be tempered as his season last year will be hard to replicate.
2. Will the San Diego Padres position players and rotation live up to high expectations?
The Dodgers’ 2020 championship set off a chain reaction of events within the division. The San Diego Padres went all out during the offseason. The Friars acquired plenty of star power in players such as Blake Snell and Yu Darvish, along with Joe Musgrove and Ha-Seong Kim. These acquisitions, along with Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and company, create one of the most potent rosters in all of baseball. There are plenty of players for fantasy baseball managers to target on this team. It will be interesting to see if the Padres can keep pace with the Dodgers and if their new roster will live up to expectations and produce stellar numbers.
3. What do we expect from Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani?
Mike Trout, the three-time MVP, has almost gone under the radar the last few seasons. But, all Trout does is produce incredible numbers. In what could be described as a “down year,” Trout still produced a .993 OPS along with a 168 OPS+ en route to a top-five MVP finish. Although the stolen bases have dropped, Trout is currently ranked 5th overall on the ECR, and that may be too low. He’s been as consistent a hitter as they come. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trout produced his greatest statistical season yet.
As far as Trout’s teammate, Shohei Ohtani will reportedly be without any restrictions this upcoming season. He is currently ranked 165th on the ECR, and that also seems low. Ohtani’s very poor 2020 season is largely factored into his current ECR, but I believe this could be the last season fantasy baseball managers can get Ohtani at such a steep discount. It should be fun to watch both Trout and Ohtani this season, and I believe fantasy baseball managers will want to select either of them on draft night.
4. Which prospects will make their debuts and blow us away?
The MLB.com top 100 prospects list is loaded with talent. Ten out of the top fifteen prospects are expected to play for their big league clubs in 2021. Wander Franco headlines the talented group, but there is plenty of potential on this list. Adley Rutschman, Jarred Kelenic, and MacKenzie Gore are all projected to contribute to their major league teams. Players such as Ke’Bryan Hayes, Nate Pearson, Casey Mize, Cristian Pache, Dylan Carlson, and Sixto Sanchez are already on their club’s Opening Day rosters. Fantasy baseball managers will want pieces of this loaded prospect list.
5. Can we trust the Blue Jays lineup this year?
Via Fangraphs, the Blue Jays are projected to score the second-most runs per game. Their lineup is stacked with both experienced and young talent. When it comes to this offense, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and George Springer will rightfully get much of the attention, but this is a deep lineup. It will be interesting to see how this lineup performs throughout the season. Even with Springer’s injury, I do believe fantasy baseball managers will be able to trust this lineup.
6. Will Ronald Acuna Jr. finish as the number one overall rated player?
As of March 24th, Ronald Acuna Jr. sits atop the ECR. It’s a familiar spot for the Atlanta Braves’ centerfielder, as he was atop many rankings just last season. Although Acuna dealt with injuries, he still turned in an incredible season in 2020, but he could not finish first at his position, let alone first overall. Acuna is again in a similar position. He should, once again, perform admirably, but the question is, will he end the 2021 season as the number one overall rated player? As always, it will be a treat watching Acuna play the game of baseball, and he should be in the run for NL MVP honors. Draft him with confidence, and let’s see if he can take the crown this year as the number one rated fantasy baseball player.
7. Can Cody Bellinger bounce back?
Cody Bellinger is making it a habit to put up absurd numbers in odd-numbered years. The 2019 MVP had lofty expectations for 2020 and struggled out of the gate. However, Bellinger caught fire towards the end of the year and ended up being an above-average hitter, posting a 113 OPS+ and 30:42 BB to K ratio. But we’re used to Bellinger producing a .900+ OPS. Will he be able to do it this year? That question remains to be seen, and fantasy baseball managers will have to invest an early pick on the slugger from LA. It should be interesting to watch how he performs in 2021.
8. Outside of Gerrit Cole, how will the rest of the Yankees’ starting rotation perform?
Outside of their ace, Gerrit Cole, the Yankees have nothing but question marks surrounding their starting rotation. Jameson Taillon, Corey Kluber, Jordan Montgomery, and Domingo German are expected to round out the rest of the rotation. Taillon and Kluber are coming off significant injuries, and Montgomery and German have been inconsistent throughout their young careers. However, all four pitchers can be selected in the later rounds of most fantasy baseball drafts. There’s plenty of upside to be had here, and taking a shot on any of these guys as a 4th or 5th option may pay off for fantasy baseball managers.
9. Can Nolan Arenado produce in St. Louis as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing?
The star third baseman from Colorado finally got what he has been asking for – a trade from the organization. In a huge offseason move, the Rockies sent Nolan Arenado to St. Louis. For the first time in his career, Arenado is playing for a new team, and, along with his 2020 season, his average draft position has taken a huge hit because of it. Arenado is being selected outside of the first two rounds for what seems like forever. The Cardinals possess a solid lineup, which should be capable of producing plenty of runs. Will he be able to bounce back in St. Louis?
10. Will the Mets be the best offensive team in New York?
The New York Mets have arguably the deepest lineup in all of baseball with the acquisition of Francisco Lindor. And although Lindor had a subpar season last year (102 OPS+), I do believe he will bounce back in a big way. Via FanGraphs, the Yankees are projected to score a league-leading 5.52 runs/game, while the Mets are projected for 4.86 runs/game. However, if you put the Mets lineup up against the Yankees, it favors admirably. The Mets have three projected players to hit over 30 home runs, while the Yankees have four projected as such. I don’t believe it’s too far-fetched to project the Mets to put up more runs, but, either way, it should be a treat to watch the fireworks unfold from both New York teams.
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Travis Cain is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For More from Travis, follow him @TravisCain_.