|World Series Champions||Toronto Blue Jays|
|AL Pennant||Toronto Blue Jays|
|NL Pennant||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|AL East||New York Yankees|
|AL Central||Chicago White Sox|
|AL West||Oakland Athletics|
|AL Wild Card||Toronto Blue Jays|
|AL Wild Card||Minnesota Twins|
|NL East||Atlanta Braves|
|NL Central||Milwaukee Brewers|
|NL West||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|NL Wild Card||San Diego Padres|
|NL Wild Card||New York Mets|
|AL MVP||Matt Chapman|
|AL Cy Young||Lucas Giolito|
|AL ROY||Bobby Dalbec|
|NL MVP||Fernando Tatis Jr.|
|NL Cy Young||Jacob deGrom|
|NL ROY||Ke’Bryan Hayes|
Tag: Toronto Blue Jays
Spring Training of 2021 is as unique as there has ever been. Typically the oddities are limited to seeing minor league guys come up wearing a number in the 70s or 80s pinch hitting with the massive MiLB dual flapped helmet while listening to the announcers shuffling through their notes to try and find the player’s name. Instead, the minor league guys are wearing single flapped helmets and there aren’t any call ups for the day thanks to the limited number of players in camp, but the rest of the game has gone odd, here are the ones that stand out:
7 inning Games
The default length of a game this Spring is just 7 innings. With the previously mentioned limited rosters there aren’t the guys to fill out the 8th and 9th inning duties, so most games end after seven, which is just weird to watch MLB games essentially last as long as a local High School game.
6 Inning Games
If 7 inning games are odd, 6 inning games are downright bizarre. In no level of baseball are there games scheduled to go just 6 innings, except Spring Training 2021. A number of games have been scheduled to go just six due to pitching availability.
8.5 Inning Game
The March 4 game between the Los Angeles Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks was scheduled to go 8.5 games regardless of the score. The D-Backs happened to be up 9-2 after the top of the 8th, so the box score looks normal, but had the score been flipped, there still would not have been a bottom of the 9th!
On March 2, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 after 6 innings thanks to not one, but two winning free passes. Bases loaded tied 2-2 with Christopher Sanchez in the mound, Riley Adams gets hit by the pitch to give the Blue Jays the 3-2 victory. One problem, the Phillies wanted to see more from Sanchez, so they allow Phillip Clarke to step into the batter’s box where he proceeds to draw a walk to walk it off….again.
Also on March 2, John Means got the start on the mound for the Baltimore Orioles against the New York Yankees. Means gave up a single, fly out, single, groundout, single and was pulled from the game in favor of Jay Flaa who got a fly out to end the inning. Fast forward to the top of the second, replacing Flaa on the mound was, yup, John Means! He after struggling with his feel in the first he took a breather then went back out despite having already been removed from the game and finished the second inning on his own, but only going 1.2 innings.
Box Score Glitches
So, this one is more of a glitch, or somebody asleep on the job, or both, but the Phillies-Yankees game from Sunday March 7 showed a bizarre scenario. DJ LeMahieu lined out for the first out of the second inning before Aaron Judge is called out on strikes for out number two, then it gets weird. I have yet to confirm what actually happened, mainly because I don’t want facts to get in the way of a good story, but apparently Zach Britton, the pitcher, “starts inning at 3rd base” despite there having already been a grand slam earlier in the inning and he was not on base, and he is immediately out at third. No explanation, not play-by-play just out at third. The box score after the game does not list Britton as having participated in the game, and the Yankees opened the next inning with Aaron Hicks, who was batting behind Judge in the lineup.
The AL East is as intriguing a division as there is in baseball. The two big teams in the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees both have massive needs. The Red Sox pitching staff is barely middle of the road, and the catcher who was expected to make each of them better, Christian Vazquez, is out for the year with TJ surgery. Meanwhile the Yankees have yet another old/injury prone lineup and the distraction that is Alex Rodriguez. Their pitching staff may be improved, but the depth in the middle infield, pitching staff, and behind the plate leave a lot to be desired. The Tampa Bay Rays trail only the Oakland Athletics in roster turnover it seems this off-season, but have an interesting squad. They open the season with several injury concerns, but if the young pitching staff can stay healthy and pitch up to their potential, it could be the best staff in the East by far. The Baltimore Orioles are still waiting on Matt Wieters to come all the way back from TJ and JJ Hardy will enter the year on the DL. Chris Davis has one game left on his suspension, but he has a therapeutic exemption to go back on Adderall so time will tell if he returns to his 2013 form. The Toronto Blue Jay will roll out six rookies with major roles to start the season. All have tremendous upside (except maybe Devon Travis who just has solid upside) but there is obviously plenty of risk with such a young roster.
Projected Winner: The risk just might pay off for the Jays. They traded Brett Lawrie for Josh Donaldson this off-season, and signed the best catcher on the market In Russell Martin. Justin Smoak will look to resurrect his career in the friendly confines of the Rogers Centre, and there might not be a better trio in the middle of an order than Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Donaldson. If their pitching can hold up, there is a chance the Blue Jays not only win the division, but run away with it.
Is there a Wild Card, perhaps? Probably not, but there are some situations that I could see a team sneaking in. The division is rather weak as a whole, so if a team like Tampa Bay or Baltimore perform really well within the division, they could put up enough wins to sneak in as a Wild Card. The bottom of the division will likely be the Red Sox and Yankees, unless the Red Sox move some of their quality pitching prospects and outfield depth to improve both their rotation and bullpen. If they get a guy like Cole Hamels and a bullpen piece or two in July, it could be enough to catapult them up to Wild Card contention.