Now that the 2020 Major League Baseball season has finally wrapped up, we can start looking ahead to the 2021 season! I think we all hope that 2021 will be a return to normalcy for Major League Baseball and the rest of the world for that matter. The 2020 MLB season was quite entertaining, and I actually really enjoyed the expanded playoffs, but at the end of the day, I want my 162-game regular season with fans in the stands back next year.

The books are excited about 2021 as well, as many of them have already posted future’s odds to win the World Series. Last week, we took a look at the National League and gave you three teams that you are going to want to bet on while the odds are still square. Today, we will shift gears and head over to the American League and breakdown the three teams you need to bet now to win the 2021 Major League Baseball World Series. Let’s get started!

Chicago White Sox (+1500)

The Chicago White Sox had been building towards the 2020 MLB season for several years. They carefully timed all of their moves to culminate this year, going all the way back to when they traded away ace pitcher Chris Sale in 2016. And while Chicago did field a very talented team, COVID-19 threw them a curveball, and instead of taking home a world title, the White Sox went home with broken hearts.

The White Sox finished the regular season by losing seven out of their last eight games, which cost them the AL Central Division title. Despite winning the opening game of their wild card round series with the Oakland Athletics, Chicago wasn’t able to win in games two or three and they saw their season come to a disappointing and premature end.

2021 Outlook

But when you look at this roster for 2021, it is hard not to think that Chicago will again be one of the most talented teams in the game. The White Sox are anchored by a bevy of young prospects all coming into their primes at the same time. No team in the American League comes close to the White Sox stock of young, under thirty, studs. The AL Central Division looks to be very competitive again in 2021, but the team with the highest upside, and by quite a wide margin, is certainly the Chicago White Sox.

Lineup

Luis Robert came into the league with as much hype as any player in recent memory. And somehow, he managed to live up to that ample billing, as this kid showed that he is a superstar in the making. Robert flashed what is going to eventually be his Golden Glove in the outfield, and before a September slump, he was leading all AL rookies in basically every single hitting category. Robert is fast, can hit for power, and now that he has some big-league games under his belt, is only going to get better.

Roberts is the flashy name, but he is nowhere near the best player on this White Sox roster. Chicago has Tim Anderson, a guy who won the batting title in 2019 and finished second this year, hitting leadoff. Anderson is only 27 years old and is amongst the best hitters for average in the game. Eloy Jimenez, Nick Madrigal, Yoan Moncada, and Nomar Mazara join Robert and Anderson as guys that are under 30 and really, really good. This lineup is loaded.

James McCann, who many people think is the long-term answer for Chicago behind the plate, is a free agent, but even if they aren’t able to sign him, they still have Yasmani Grandal on the roster to fall back on. There aren’t very many good hitting catchers around these days, and the White Sox have two of the best and would love to keep their two-headed monster.

But if the fallback plan is going with Grandal as their everyday backstop, that still positions them better than most other teams. The White Sox finished 2020 5th in MLB in runs scored and slugging and 3rd in home runs and could be even better in 2021.

Pitching

The White Sox had a better than expected pitching staff in 2020, and before falling apart in the season’s final ten games, Chicago looked like they had a staff that could lead them to a world title. Lucas Giolito was the ace and played that part well, as he finished 2nd in the AL in strikeouts and posted a more than respectable 3.48 ERA. Dallas Keuchel was a bit of a gamble when the White Sox acquired him in the offseason, but that gamble paid off huge, as he was light’s out all season long, posting a 1.99 ERA.

The rest of the White Sox rotation was made up of prospects that had big upside and looked great on the mound in 2020. Dane Dunning, the former first rounded draft pick, made his MLB debut and had a sub-four run ERA. Dylan Cease, a second-year starter, saw his ERA drop nearly two full runs over his rookie year. Renaldo Lopez didn’t have much success in 2020, but he has nasty stuff, and the White Sox still feel like he is part of their future.

The scary part about this White Sox rotation is that all of them, with the exception of the veteran Keuchel, are 26 years old or younger. It wouldn’t at all be surprising to see Dunning or Cease take big steps up in 2021 and turn into All-Star level starters, as they are both capable of dominating on the mound.

The big question for Chicago is, what are they going to do at closer? Alex Colome was basically unhittable this season with a 0.81 ERA, finishing 3rd in the AL with 12 saves. It looks like Colome will test the market and likely won’t be back in the Windy City next year.

Luckily for Chicago fans, though, the market has several strong closers available if Chicago wants to spend some cash as Kirby Yates, Trevor Rosenthal, Liam Hendricks, Blake Treinen, Jeremy Jeffress, Mark Melancon, and Shane Greene are all free agents. As long as Chicago snatches up one of those guys, the White Sox should be strong on the mound again next year.

Seattle Mariners (+8000)

I know, I know, calm down. I am fully aware that the Seattle Mariners have the longest current active streak of missing the playoffs and that the M’s have never made it to even a single World Series in franchise history but hear me out here. Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto is the most active GM in all of baseball. This guy is always looking for ways to improve and he isn’t afraid to make trades or to sign players as free agents.

Dipoto hit the reset button in 2019, and Seattle bottomed out. Most expected the Mariners to be at least a couple years away from truly competing, but Seattle surprised a lot of folks when they still had a shot at the playoffs heading into the final weekend of the regular season. The Houston Astros finishing with a losing record, and the expanded playoffs helped Seattle out a lot, but at the end of the day, you can’t deny that this team was better than nearly everyone expected.

2021 Outlook

The Mariners used 2020 to get all of their young prospects playing time on the Major League level. Many of those players far exceeded expectations, and it looks ike the Mariners might be wrapping up this rebuild a year or two earlier than expected.

Kyle Lewis is the star of this team, and he showed that he has flashes of a young Ken Griffey Jr, both at the plate and in center field. While it is a little early in his career to compare this kid, to THE Kid, Lewis is going to be a great player for a very long time in Seattle.

It wasn’t just Lewis that impressed in his first big league action, as other youngsters like Evan White, Shed Long, Dylan Moore, JP Crawford, and Ty France all look like legit MLB ready players. Seattle will need to go out and snag a couple of high priced free agents if they really want a shot at the AL West Division title, but Dipoto is rumored to be going after Trevor Bauer and is looking to add several relievers. This team is going to surprise a lot of people in 2021, and the hedge value alone at 80-1 makes them worth a speculative play.

Lineup

Kyle Lewis is the anchor of this Mariners lineup, but I really liked what I saw from some of these other young Mariners. Evan White might have the best glove at first base in the American League and is a finalist for this year’s Gold Glove award. White wasn’t able to hit for average, but he did hit eight home runs. Power was a concern for White coming into the season, and the fact that he seems to be developing some early in his career is a great sign for Seattle.

Dylan Moore is another guy that I liked what I saw out of him in 2020. Moore hit eight home runs in just 38 games, which translates out to 30+ home run power, and showed plus speed with 12 stolen bags. Moore wasn’t a blue-chip prospect like Lewis or White, but he got better in every way in 2020 and looks to be a guy that Seattle will want to keep around for years to come.

The other guy that deserves a mention here is Mitch Haniger. Haniger was once one of the most promising young players in the game and, unfortunately, has spent most of the last two years battling injuries. Haniger should be ready to go in 2021 and is still on the right side of thirty. If the Mariners can get him back to his All-Star level form of 2018 and get another solid year from Kyle Seager, this Seattle lineup is going to be good.

Pitching

Marco Gonzalez has always been Jerry Dipoto’s go-to guy. He never really pitched like an ace, but Dipoto still felt that eventually, he would turn into one. That premonition came true in 2020, as Gonzalez had a breakout season. Marco led the AL in walk rate, and his WHIP was second best, trailing only Kenta Maeda of the Minnesota Twins. Seattle finally has the ace that they need, and when you look at the rest of the Mariners rotation, there are lots of reasons to be optimistic.

Justus Sheffield got his shot at being a regular in the Seattle rotation and made the most of it. Sheffield finished third in the AL in WAR for rookies, with only teammate Kyle Lewis and the White Sox’s Luis Robert finishing with more wins above replacement. Sheffield really turned it on in September, when he went 4-0 with a 2.16 ERA.

Justin Dunn and Nick Margevicius both showed flashes of what is to come, and Seattle, all of the sudden, just might have a sneaky good rotation. Margevicius, Dunn, and Sheffield are all just 24 years old right now, and they all have huge upside. Marco is the elder statesman of this Seattle rotation, at 28, and if these guys all continue to develop, they are going to be solid.

The bullpen is full of question marks, but as we discussed above, Dipoto is looking to rehaul it, top to bottom, and there is a lot of bullpen talent available on the market. If and when Seattle makes a play for a Trevor Bauer or a Liam Hendriks, these odds are going to drop significantly, so the time to back Seattle is now. This one is high risk, high reward, but Seattle will be in the playoff hunt in 2021, and at this price, they show outrageous value.

Cleveland Indians (+2200)

2020 was a tumultuous year for the Cleveland Indians. They had to ship one of the best pitchers out of town for breaking quarantine rules and lying about it, and they suffered through a devastating power outage, as many of their established sluggers just couldn’t hit for power, and they finished near the bottom of the game in home runs and runs scored. But the Indians elite pitching staff still carried them to the playoffs, and with most of that coming back, Cleveland is going to be hard to score on again in 2021.

The Indians couldn’t hold back the hard-hitting New York Yankees in the playoffs as the Bronx Bombers punished them for 22 runs in two games, ending their postseason early. But when you look around the rest of the American League playoff teams, the Indians stick out as a team that won’t be losing many key pieces, when just about every other contending team is going to have to go shopping to reload. Assuming the Indians go out and add at least one or two impact bats, they could end up being the best team in the American League.

2021 Outlook

We just talked about how the rest of the top teams in the AL have to fill lots of spots on their roster. The Chicago White Sox are losing an All-Star level catcher and closer. The New York Yankees have free agents in batting champ DJ LeMahieu, and two-thirds of their top three starters, with James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, both no longer under contract.

No team is going to have a bigger roster turnover this offseason than the Oakland Athletics, as the A’s have Mike Fiers, Robbie Grossman, Liam Hendriks, Tomma La Stella, Jake Lamb, T.J. McFarland, Mike Minor, Yusmeiro Petit, Marcus Semien, and Joakim Soria all testing the free-agent market.

In Minnesota, the Twins may need to replace Nelson Cruz’s big bat, as well as Marwin Gonzalez, Alex Avila, Tyler Clippard, Rich Hill, Trevor May, Jake Odorizzi, and Sergio Romo. The Toronto Blue Jays went all in at the trade deadline last year, and they are going to pay for it this year as rentals Robbie Ray, Jonathan Villar, and Taijuan Walker are all no longer under contract.

Even the Houston Astros, who shocked just about everybody in the playoffs this year, are going to get hammered as they have lineup stalwarts Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick, and George Springer to resign or replace.

The Indian’s free agents are only Cesar Hernandez, Sandy Leon, Oliver Perez. That means all of that stellar starting pitching staff is coming back, and big bats like Frankie Lindor, Franmil Reyes, and Jose Ramirez will all be back as well. Cleveland underachieved in a major way at the plate in 2020, and I see them getting back to hitting and scoring runs in 2021. That combination of a filthy pitching staff and a resurgent lineup has me very high on the 2021 Cleveland Indians.

Lineup

As a group, the Indians were bad at the dish in 2020. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a couple of guys that hit the ball hard. Jose Ramirez is going to end the season with more than his fair share of MVP votes, and Franmil Reyes reminded everyone that he is capable of being a 30+ home run hitter, when he crushed seven bombs in the month of August alone. The Indians are hoping that former first-round draft pick Josh Naylor, one of the big pieces that got back from the San Diego Padres when they exiled Mike Clevinger, can mature next year as well.

Francisco Lindor is still one of the best young players in baseball, and super prospect Nolan Jones is expected to get his first crack at the show in 2021. Oscar Mercado nearly won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2019, before seeing his production fall off a cliff in 2020, and you have to think that the still 25-year-old Mercado will break out of that slump at some point.

I do think that the Indians need to go out and acquire a big bat, and the rumors that they may be shopping Lindor are a bit scary, but Cleveland has been dumping talent for the last several years, and it hasn’t seemed to slow them down much at all, so I love them at this inflated price.

Pitching

If you have been reading this section on the Indians and saying to yourself, why does this guy love the Indians so much, even though they can’t hit? Well, this final section is for you.

Shane Bieber is an absolute animal on the mound and had an unbelievable season in 2020. Bieber led the majors in wins, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and WAR. His K/9 rate of 14.2 is one of the highest we have ever seen for a starter. Bieber leads what I see as the best rotations in the American League.

Zach Plesac and Carlos Carrasco both finished with ERA’s below three runs, and while Aaron Civale wasn’t sharp late in the season, he is still a very good young pitcher. Even without Clevinger, this staff is still nasty, and it is going to be even better in 2021.

Tristian McKenzie is a former first-rounder who made his debut in 2020 and showed that he fits right in with the rest of these strikeout artists in Cleveland when he sat down 42 hitters in just 32.1 innings pitched. McKenzie will likely end up as an every fifth-day starter for the Indians next year, and the sky is the limit for this kid that is just 23.

Cal Quantrill was the other big piece the Indians got back from San Diego for Clevinger, and all he did was post a 1.84 ERA in eight appearances for Cleveland after the trade. Quantrill is yet another former first-rounder, and he took a big leap forward in 2020 and will fight for innings with the rest of this stacked Cleveland rotation. The Indians had the best pitching staff in the AL last year, and they are near mortal locks to be the best again in 2021. Pitching wins championships, and on paper, nobody has a better staff than the Cleveland Indians do right now.

Wrap Up

The deadline for teams to pick up options on their players was yesterday, and now that the free-agent picture is clear, we are going to start to see a flurry of activity. With franchise changing players like JT Realmuto, George Springer, Trevor Bauer, DJ LeMahieu, and Marcel Ozuna all looking for new homes, we are about to see a bidding war for talent that will change the Major League Baseball landscape.

With so many high impact players available, the offseason has never been more important. Make sure that you stay tuned to TheSportsGeek all offseason long, so you don’t miss any of the Major League Baseball action!