Welcome to the first part 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

NYY99-63
TOR88-74
TB86-76
BOS86-76
BAL64-98

Baltimore Orioles

By Christopher Baber

60-word Takeaway from 2020

2020 was supposed to be about player development. With the minor league season canceled, it was mostly a lost year for prospects. The O’s got to see what guys like Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer could offer. Jose Iglesias, Hanser Alberto, and Ryan Mountcastle sure could hit though! I am glad that they are back for next year! Mountcastle is at least back for next year.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

If you squint and forget that it is 2021, you might be excited to see Felix Hernandez and Matt Harvey pitching this spring for the O’s. Then you remember that it is 2021 and it makes you sad.

You will be happy to see Trey Mancini, who received a standing ovation during his first spring training at-bat, is back after missing all of 2020 recovering from colon cancer. Mickey Jannis and his knuckleball should also make you happy. I have no clue if he will actually pitch for the Orioles this year, but I can watch his six-second clip a million times.

The O’s have a shiny new infield too with Mancini at first, Sanchez at second, Galvis at short, and new addition Maikel Franco at third. This season is all about identifying players that will be on the next winning team. But none of that matters, because gone is Gary Thorne. Seriously MASN, y’all couldn’t bring back Thorne? Like for real though! WTF

Win prediction: 64-98

A Song to Represent the Team: I am going to have to go with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, Pt. 1-4. It’s cheating because it’s four songs. It’s an intentionally terrible album, and the Orioles are intentionally terrible.


Boston Red Sox

By Jamieson Weiss

60-word Takeaway from 2020

2020 was, one hopes, rock bottom for the Boston Red Sox. (By my count, the third rock bottom of the last decade, after 2012 and 2014.) In the wake of the Mookie Betts trade and Chris Sale’s Tommy John surgery, the team’s incredible lack of depth was exposed even more than expected. The fact that the season was only 60 games was almost a godsend. 

162-word 2021 Season Preview

The 2021 (and beyond) Red Sox have two saving graces: first, they did, in fact, get under the competitive balance tax threshold – accepting that that is a thing they should get credit for (it’s not!), they nailed it; second, Sox chief Chaim Bloom got to work. One quarter of their top 20 (and top 40) prospects per SoxProspects.com were acquired by Bloom, as he has consistently managed to turn water into … slightly better tasting water, and they’ll have the fourth overall pick this coming June. 

They don’t have the sort of farm system that once produced Bogaerts, Betts, Devers, Bradley, Moncada, and Benintendi within a few years, but it’s a start, and they still have the financial resources to make a splash on the free agent market when the time comes. 

I don’t expect the 2021 Red Sox to do much better than .500 and an outside shot at a wild card spot, but this team should, at the very least, be watchable. 

Win prediction: 86-76

Song to Represent the Team: In honor of Alex Cora’s return, Welcome Back by Mase.


New York Yankees

By Andrew Calagna

60-word Takeaway from 2020

The Yankees were clearly the most talented team in the AL going into 2020. Sometimes, talent isn’t enough. Injuries and underperformance produced a 33-27 record, with their playoff berth saved by the hastily-revamped format. A lack of bullpen depth and lineup diversity led to their ALDS exit, leaving us wondering if this core will ever reach the World Series.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

The Yankees offseason was lifeless until January when DJ LeMahieu re-signed. Brian Cashman then quickly addressed their rotation departures of Tanaka, Paxton & Happ with high ceiling, low floor additions of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. Adam Ottavino was traded to the Red Sox in a eyebrow-raising salary dump. They used that payroll space to add Justin Wilson & Darren O’Day and re-sign Brett Gardner.

Despite the activity, the Yankees are clearly treating the luxury tax as a mandate. This is the second time in the last four years that a team with championship aspirations has cut more than 50 million in payroll from year to year. If things break right in terms of injuries (a big IF you have watched this team from 2018-2020) and performance, the Yankees can potentially be the best team in baseball. They should have enough depth to weather any storm but at some point you’d like to see a healthy squad put it together over a full 162.

Win prediction: 99-63

Song to Represent the Team: Winning Ugly by The Rolling Stones


Tampa Bay Rays

By Jamieson Weiss

60-word Takeaway from 2020

In 2008, an upstart and overachieving Tampa Bay Rays team made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The dynasty that some predicted never really materialized, though, as the team failed to make it past the ALDS in each of their next four playoffs appearances. Until last year.

2020’s goofy season saw Tampa post the best record in the AL en route to another surprise World Series appearance and a similarly crushing loss.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

The 2021 Rays will be defined by two questions: is Randy Arozarena for real? and, can their pitching hold up over 162 games sans Blake Snell?

Arozarena was good in the regular season, posting a .281/.382/.452 slash line in 23 games, but he was transcendent in the playoffs, hitting .377/.442/.831 in 20 games. Most projections have him not even living up to his 2020 regular season numbers, but if Arozarena is even close to the 176 wRC+ he posted during the shortened campaign, the Rays will have unexpectedly found themselves one of the game’s best outfielders (which they’ll need, as only four of their nine starters posted an OPS+ above 100 last season).

On the mound, even without their former ace, the Rays possess a rather high-variance starting rotation, with frontline starters Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough ahead of reclamation projects Chris Archer, Rich Hill, Michael Wacha, and Collin McHugh, plus breakout candidates Josh Fleming, Luis Patiño, and Brent Honeywell. A suitable microcosm for this team as a whole, nearly everyone on this roster could boom like Randy – or bust.

Win prediction: 86-76

Song to Represent the Team

The song that best represents the defending AL champion Tampa Bay Rays (they hope, at least) has to be Bad Boys for Life, the theme song of the city’s newest local champion, Tom Brady.


Toronto Blue Jays 

By Bryan Thomas

60-word Takeaway from 2020

Despite playing even their home games “on the road,” the Blue Jays were able to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 under the revised and expanded playoff format for 2020. Their rising crop of stars were able to weather the ever-changing storm and show that, despite their age, they were ready to challenge the behemoths of the AL East.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

For the second consecutive year, the Toronto Blue Jays will start the season playing their home games “on the road.” Last year, they hurried to ready their minor league facility in Buffalo, NY. This season they will open at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, FL, home of another of their minor league teams. Changes like this could throw a wrench in the plans of most teams, but with a similar situation last season, the Blue Jays should be unfazed.

They spent money this off-season (a rarity) to lure George Springer away from the Astros. The return of Robbie Ray from injury and addition of Nate Pearson to the roster (if he can stay healthy) should round out an impressive squad for their 2021 campaign. Their biggest competition would appear to be the vaunted Yankees, but the Jays were able to split the season series last year including an impressive 5-2 record at home.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.may be the most recognizable name amongst the Jays’ loaded young infield, but he may be the least recognizable face after dropping 42 lbs. over the winter. Despite that, the addition of Marcus Semien to play second base will likely force Cavan Biggio to find a new home at third and permanently move Vlad Jr. to first. No matter how they line them up, the Blue Jays are gunning for the AL East crown.

Win prediction: 88-74

Song to Represent the Team: Tonight We Ride – Micky and the Motorcars

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