Part three of our annual preview series. This year, we present for each team a 60-word-or-so takeaway from 2020, a 162-word-or-so preview for the 2021 season, a win prediction, and a song to represent the team. For more, visit our season preview index.

Standings by win total prediction

CHW92-70
MIN84-78
CLE84-78
KCR75-87
DET68-94

Chicago White Sox

By James Cardis

60-word Takeaway from 2020

For the first time since 2008, the White Sox made the playoffs. That they did so under unusual circumstances is no small feat. Luis Robert’s struggles were exaggerated, and thankfully so too was the concern around Garrett Crochet’s ALDS Game 3 shutdown. The White Sox are set to make a deeper playoff push as ballparks welcome fans back into seats.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

The White Sox doubled down on their bullpen advantage by signing Liam Hendriks, by far the best available reliever on the market. They also added Lance Lynn, the only pitcher in Major League Baseball’s pandemic-shortened season to throw 80+ innings with a plus K/9. Valid questions surround the team’s pitching depth. Tim Anderson continues to prove he’s a generational talent — any regression has to figure in the discernment he’s developed in his approach. Adam Eaton may not be fans’ favorite candidate to return, but in four seasons away from the Sox he averaged a .279/.365/.419 line and won a World Series. PECOTA is bearish, while FanGraphs has the team projected for a tie with the Twins. An inordinate amount of value hinges upon Andrew Vaughn’s performance, but by all accounts he’s a professional hitter. I like their chances to win over 90 games and establish themselves as the team to beat for years to come in the AL Central.

Win prediction: 92-70

Song to Represent the Team: What’s Next by Drake


Cleveland Baseball Team

By Marina Bostelman

60-word Takeaway from 2020

Their ace won a Cy Young, Jose Ramirez was an AL MVP finalist, the roster construction was obscenely top-heavy, a rookie starting pitcher arose seemingly out of nowhere, the outfield was literally the second worst in major league history, the lineup couldn’t hit its way out of a paper bag, and they still made the postseason. In short, it was the most Cleveland season ever.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

Cleveland has established stars in Shane Bieber and Ramirez, the lowest payroll in the American League, and a whole bunch of question marks. The team is trying to transition from one contention window to the next, but most of the high-end prospects expected to anchor the next window aren’t ready yet.

For 2021, they have a core of veterans who should keep the team from crashing. Almost everyone else still has something to prove. Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, and Triston McKenzie are major leaguers, but are they great, okay, or something in-between? There’s more mystery surrounding a collection of position players from Bobby Bradley to Bradley Zimmer, yet to establish themselves due to injuries, ineffectiveness, or lack of opportunity.

Even if there aren’t any stars among those unknown quantities, some should be the kind of role players who round out a contending roster. A 162-game tryout for the future of the organization isn’t as fun as a postseason race, but it’s still compelling — and if a few of those mystery players turn out to be hidden gems, they could end up playing baseball in October anyway.

Win prediction: 84-78

Song to Represent the Team: (It’s Gonna Be) Okay by The Piano Guys. The title is both a reassuring sentiment for anyone who is sad about A Certain Shortstop and my guess at what the team’s record is going to look like. Besides, I like to be hopeful. Hope to see you at the ballpark this summer.


Detroit Tigers

By Dan Freedman

60-word Takeaway from 2020

If ever a team needed to flush a season, it would be the 2020 Tigers. The beloved “Mr. Tiger,” Al Kaline, died in April; the team had the third-worst record in MLB (23-35) and the worst team ERA (6.37); and manager Ron Gardenhire retired two weeks before the end of the campaign. But Tyler Alexander did strike out nine consecutive Reds to tie an MLB record for relievers, so that was nice.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

All we have for the 2021 Tigers are questions:

Will fans boo A.J. Hinch when he steps out of the dugout? If they do, will it affect the young players on the squad?

Will Miguel Cabrera reach 3,000 hits (he needs 134) and/or 500 home runs (he needs 13)? Will he stay on the field long enough to even make this interesting?

Will Spencer Torkelson (#3 on MLB’s Prospect Rankings) get called up and make an impact on the club?

The same question applies to Riley Greene (#21).

Will Casey Mize live up to the hype and bounce back from a subpar seven game 2020 audition?

Will Michael Fulmer return to his 2016 and 2017 form and be a potential ace?

Will Matthew Boyd return to his 2018 and 2019 form and help anchor the rotation?

Will Jonathan Schoop continue his career resurgence on his fourth team in five years?

All interesting questions, but it won’t matter. Absent collapses by the entire division, this looks like a last place finish in the AL Central.

Win prediction: 68-94

Song to Represent the Team: The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades) by Timbuk 3


Kansas City Royals

By Darius Austin

60-word Takeaway from 2020

A late season surge saved the Royals from having a truly dreadful record. On September 7th they had lost twice as many games as they’d won, sitting last in the AL. A 12-6 finish raised them all the way up to mediocre. They did get some promising glimpses of the future, plus a truly extraordinary 37 games from Salvador Perez.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

That surge clearly reinforced Kansas City’s faith in their franchise catcher, who inked an $82 million extension last week. Perez will be charged with shepherding well-regarded prospects like Brady Singer and Kris Bubic through this season and beyond.

He’s far from the sole veteran presence, because the Royals appear to believe they can compete in 2021. They made moves more characteristic of a contender adding to an established core, signing Carlos Santana, Mike Minor and Greg Holland to address first base and add stability to the inexperienced staff. They bet on a resurgence from Andrew Benintendi, shipping out Franchy Cordero and Khalil Lee for the former Red Sox outfielder.

The issue is that the Royals don’t have that established core beyond the likes of Perez and Whit Merrifield. Adalberto Mondesi is thrilling but wildly inconsistent. Hunter Dozier fell back to league-average. An awful lot of bounce-backs and breakouts need to happen simultaneously to get this team to where they believe they are.

Win prediction: 75-87

Song to Represent the Team: Time to Pretend by MGMT


Minnesota Twins

By Ahaan Rungta

60-word Takeaway from 2020

Previously known for an electric lineup, the Minnesota Twins instead rode a mega-breakout from AL Cy Young runner-up Kenta Maeda and had bullpen studs step up to post the second-best fWAR among pitching staffs. Minnesota held a competitive division to win the Central by 1 game but extended their postseason losing streak to 18, the longest in North American sports.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

Minnesota led the way with surprising offseason moves by non-tendering their former MVP vote-getter Eddie Rosario and later watching him sign with their division rival Cleveland. They also lost pitching depth in Rich Hill and Jake Odorizzi but inserted veteran J.A. Happ in free agency.

The biggest upwards storyline for the Twins is the development of their young talent, both in the bullpen and on offense. In 2020, their #2 prospect OF/1B Alex Kirilloff became the first MLB player to make his debut starting in the postseason. Their #3 prospect OF Trevor Larnach currently resides in AA but is projected to make his arrival to the big leagues in 2021. Even infielders Nick Gordon and Travis Blankenhorn could make an impact as early as this season. What the Twins need to have a chance at repeating as division champions is a leadership role out of new closer Alex Colomé and an explosion from their #2 starter with Cy Young potential, José Berríos.

Win prediction: 84-78

Song to Represent the Team: Breakout by Swing Out Sister

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