2021 Season Preview: Part III

April 1st, 2021 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
Today is Opening Day!  No, that isn’t an April Fools’ joke.  It is really happening.  Starting today, we will have meaningful baseball to watch nearly every day for the next seven months.  That is a welcome change from this time a year ago when we didn’t know when we would have that opportunity again.  While there is still a great deal of uncertainty heading into the season, at least we should expect this to resemble a normal season far more so than in 2020.

As for the DTBL, the teams that are projected to finish near the top of the standings are not a huge surprise.  Last year, many teams were in the hunt for a the championship for most of the short sprint.  But the two teams that broke away from the pack in the end are expected to be right there again this season.  The third favorite is probably the most star-studded team in the league that had several things go wrong a year ago to derail their championship hunt.  This year’s projected top three happens to be the same three that were tabbed as preseason favorites a year ago, but in the reverse order.  Here are the three projected championship favorites for the 2021 DTBL season.


Jay’s Jackalope

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 9th (8th)
  • Home Runs – 8th (3rd-T)
  • Runs Batted In – 9th (7th)
  • Runs Scored - 5th (7th)
  • Stolen Bases – 1st (3rd-T)
  • Earned Run Average - 1st (1st)
  • WHIP Ratio - 2nd (1st)
  • Wins – 1st (1st)
  • Saves – 7th (7th)
  • Strike Outs - 1st (1st)
  • Total Batting Points – 8th (6th)
  • Total Pitching Points - 1st-T (1st)
  • Total Points – 3rd (2nd)


The Jackalope came close to winning a title a year ago on the strength of the league’s best pitching staff.  But their offense just wasn’t quite good enough to close the deal.  These projections paint a very similar picture heading into 2021.  The starting rotation looks like the best in the league with the Jackalope expected to finish in the top two of every pitching category except for saves.  They have added exciting young fireballer Sixto Sanchez to a group that already contained several of the best pitchers in the game.  Gerrit Cole is a perennial Cy Young contender at this stage of his career.  Luis Castillo, Tyler Glasnow and Dinelson Lamet may not be spoken of in the same terms as Cole, but all are well established fantasy stars.  And Lance Lynn keeps getting better with age.  As intriguing as Sanchez is, he may have a tough time cracking this rotation if it is fully healthy.  The Jackalope bullpen is not quite as strong.  Raisel Iglesias is the only well established closer.  But the rest of the group could be in line for saves at some point, and will add impressive strikeout totals regardless.  That group includes Giovanny Gallegos, Drew Pomeranz and Jake Diekman.  The Jackalope will probably need to beat this eigth place batting points projection to win the title this year.  What was once the league’s best infield in the not so distant past, has fallen off a bit lately.  Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rendon and Adalberto Mondesi are back to lead the way.  They used their first round draft pick to bring in shortstop Dansby Swanson.  They will also look to last year’s first rounder, Keston Hiura, to be a bigger factor in 2021.  In the outfield, Ronald Acuna has the highest batting PAR projection in the league, which forecasts an impressive 42 home runs and 30 steals.  Giancarlo Stanton is the returning sidekick.  But the rest of the outfield is new, including Ramon Laureano and Leody Tavares.  With the pitching staff nearly certain to lock up a significant amount of points, the Jackalope will just need a few pleasant surprises on offense to win it all this year.


David’s Darkhorses

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 5th (2nd)
  • Home Runs – 4th (2nd)
  • Runs Batted In – 6th (3rd)
  • Runs Scored - 2nd (1st)
  • Stolen Bases – 6th (3rd-T)
  • Earned Run Average - 2nd (7th)
  • WHIP Ratio - 1st (7th)
  • Wins - 2nd (5th-T)
  • Saves – 2nd (1st)
  • Strike Outs – 5th (5th)
  • Total Batting Points – 3rd-T (1st)
  • Total Pitching Points – 1st-T (4th-T)
  • Total Points - 2nd (1st)


It is not surprising that the defending champions are one of the favorites again this year.  But this is still a very interesting forecast, which seems to indicate a significant change in the Darkhorses strengths and weaknesses.  Last year, they had far and away the best offense in the league with a good, but not great pitching staff.  These projections show them with an elite pitching staff, tied with the Jackalope for most pitching points, but with not quite as strong of an offense.  What makes this even more interesting is that they didn’t have a pitching focused draft at all.  Mike Soroka was the only pitcher selected by the Darkhorses in the first five rounds.  Perhaps it boils down to Jacob deGrom being the most dominant pitcher in the league, according to these numbers.  His 11.3 PAR projection is nearly two full points better than the next highest pitcher.  They could also benefit from better seasons out of Patrick Corbin, Jose Berrios and Chris Paddack.  The Darkhorses probably have the best bullpen in the league again this year, thanks to Liam Hendriks and Brad Hand.  Joakim Soria and Hector Neris were solid additions as well who should help boost the save total.  Perhaps the forecasted drop in batting points is a small point of concern, but the Darkhorses still feature an extremely deep lineup.  J.T. Realmuto is probably the best catcher in the league, giving them a huge leg up on most teams at that position.  Third basemen Alex Bregman and Matt Chapman look to bounce back from injury plagued seasons.  Brandon Lowe was one of the breakout stars of ’20.  Xander Bogaerts remains a steady presence at shortstop.  Dominic Smith joins the squad to provide some more power out of the first base position.  The outfield trio of Bryce Harper, George Springer and Christian Yelich is hard to top.  It is actually quite impressive that the Darkhorses were as good as they were last year despite getting so little from Yelich, who should be expected to return to form this year.  This is a very deep roster, top to bottom.  The batting projection seems rather pessimistic.  I would expect the Darkhorses to be one of the teams to beat again this year and a safe bet to finish in a top two spot for what would be an impressive fourth straight season.


Marc’s Mavericks

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 1st (5th)
  • Home Runs - 1st (1st)
  • Runs Batted In - 1st (1st)
  • Runs Scored – 1st (5th)
  • Stolen Bases – 7th (10th)
  • Earned Run Average – 5th (3rd)
  • WHIP Ratio - 5th (3rd)
  • Wins - 3rd (9th)
  • Saves – 4th (5th-T)
  • Strike Outs - 4th (9th)
  • Total Batting Points – 1st (4th)
  • Total Pitching Points - 3rd (6th)
  • Total Points - 1st (5th)


I hate to start by raining on a parade, but the Mavericks batting projections may be a tad inflated because of a flaw in my system.  They completed the draft with just one catcher on the roster, a very good one at that.  So their batting numbers are not dragged down by the typical below average output of a pair of catchers like every other team.  Also, they include a full season of Eloy Jimenez, who is now expected to miss most of the season with a pec injury.  So it might be fair to chop off a point here or there on the batting side of things.  That said, this is unquestionably an elite offensive team.  Their Opening Day lineup will likely consist of players with 2+ PAR projections in every slot but two.  Nobody can touch the Mavericks talent in the outfield, in particular, even without Jimenez.  Mike Trout and Juan Soto might be the two best baseball players on the planet.  Aaron Judge isn’t far behind when healthy.  Nick Castellanos is very good as well.  The Mavericks infield has plenty of star power too.  Manny Machado, Ozzie Albies and Javy Baez are all among the top players at their respective positions.  Eric Hosmer should give them more production at first base than they have had in recent years.  Didi Gregorious and Nick Madrigal are nice luxuries as depth middle infielders.  Finally, Yasmani Grandal is one of the top catchers in the league too.  There just aren’t any weaknesses with the Mavericks bats.  The pitching staff is a little less of a certainty, but also has high upside.  Stephen Strasburg missing almost all of 2020 was a major blow, but he should be good to go this year.  Jack Flaherty also had some health issues and was slightly disappointing a year ago.  Clayton Kershaw, on the other hand, had a bit of a career resurgence and once again appears to be a guy the Mavericks can count on to carry the rotation.  They also have a host of other starters with big potential.  The bullpen is a bit of an unknown in terms of save productivity, but could be a plus.  Kenley Jansen is the main guy, as usual.  James Karinchak has potential to be an elite closer.  Jordan Romero figures to be the beneficiary of the Kirby Yates injury for Toronto.  As usual, the Mavericks are one of the top contenders to win the championship.  This year, they are the pre-season favorites.  Can they end a three year streak of slightly disappointing mid-standings finishes?  Pretty good chance, I would say.


That wraps up our preview of the ten teams for the 2021 season.  Here are the full projected standings and team point totals for the ten categories:


Good luck to everyone this season.  Let’s hope it is a full, safe and healthy one for all.  Happy Opening Day!

Leave a Reply