Creating MLB's Division-by-Division Superteams for the 2021 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2021

Creating MLB's Division-by-Division Superteams for the 2021 Season

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    As the 2021 season kicks into gear, we set out to create division-by-division MLB superteams.

    Let's set the stage with some parameters.

    • Roster Construction: We selected a 26-man roster for each team, consisting of 13 position players and 13 pitchers who all reside within the same division.
    • Payroll Limitations: To spice things up a bit, we instituted a payroll cap of $150 million for each team based on 2021 salaries (via Spotrac). For pre-arbitration players whose salaries aren't public, we assigned the league-minimum salary of $570,500.
    • Notes: Below each division's roster are a few notes explaining the logic behind certain picks, notable omissions and other useful tidbits.

    The full roster and payroll breakdown for each superteam can be found here.

    Let's get started.    

AL East

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    Gerrit Cole
    Gerrit ColeGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Starting Lineup: 1. CF Alex Verdugo (BOS), 2. 2B DJ LeMahieu (NYY), 3. RF Aaron Judge (NYY), 4. 3B Rafael Devers (BOS), 5. 1B Luke Voit (NYY), 6. SS Bo Bichette (TOR), 7. DH Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR), 8. LF Randy Arozarena (TB), 9. Christian Vazquez (BOS)

    Bench: C Alejandro Kirk (TOR), IF Cavan Biggio (TOR), IF/OF Brandon Lowe (TB), OF Teoscar Hernandez (TOR)

    Starting Rotation: 1. RHP Gerrit Cole (NYY), 2. LHP Hyun Jin Ryu (TOR), 3. RHP Tyler Glasnow (TB), 4. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS), 5. John Means (BAL)

    Bullpen: LHP Ryan Yarbrough (TB), RHP Chad Green (NYY), LHP Tanner Scott (BAL), RHP Rafael Dolis (TOR), RHP Diego Castillo (TB), RHP Pete Fairbanks (TB), RHP Matt Barnes (BOS), LHP Aroldis Chapman (NYY)

    Total 2021 Salary: $149.4 million



    • Center fielder George Springer ($23.7 million) and shortstop Xander Bogaerts ($20 million) were both tough omissions. Leaving them off allowed room for Gerrit Cole ($36 million) and Hyun Jin Ryu ($20 million) atop the starting rotation, where there were fewer viable options.
    • With Tampa Bay Rays closer Nick Anderson sidelined with a partially torn ligament in his right elbow, splurging on Aroldis Chapman ($17.2 million) became more of a necessity to anchor the back of the bullpen.
    • The reasonably priced corner infield tandem of Luke Voit ($4.7 million) and Rafael Devers ($4.6 million) freed up money for an expensive pitching staff.     

AL Central

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    Jose Ramirez
    Jose RamirezRon Schwane/Associated Press

    Starting Lineup: 1. SS Tim Anderson (CWS), 2. 2B Whit Merrifield (KC), 3. 3B Jose Ramirez (CLE), 4. 1B Jose Abreu (CWS), 5. DH Nelson Cruz (MIN), 6. RF Max Kepler (MIN), 7. LF Eddie Rosario (CLE), 8. C Salvador Perez (KC), 9. CF Luis Robert (CWS)

    Bench: C Roberto Perez (CLE), IF/OF Luis Arraez (MIN), 3B/OF Hunter Dozier (KC), OF Byron Buxton (MIN)

    Starting Rotation: 1. RHP Shane Bieber (CLE), 2. Lucas Giolito (CWS), 3. RHP Lance Lynn (CWS), 4. RHP Jose Berrios (MIN), 5. RHP Zach Plesac (CLE)

    Bullpen: RHP Brad Keller (KC), LHP Garrett Crochet (CWS), RHP Scott Barlow (KC), RHP Tyler Duffey (MIN), LHP Aaron Bummer (CWS), RHP James Karinchak (CLE), LHP Taylor Rogers (MIN), RHP Liam Hendriks (CWS)

    Total 2021 Salary: $148.0 million



    • The money was more evenly spread around with the AL Central team than anywhere else. Jose Abreu ($17.7 million), Salvador Perez ($14.2 million) and Liam Hendriks ($11.3 million) are the only players on the roster with salaries north of $10 million.
    • Chicago White Sox veterans Dallas Keuchel ($18 million) and Yasmani Grandal ($18.3 million) both would have found their way onto the roster if not for their lofty salaries.
    • This looks like the best bullpen unit of any of the superteams, and the players' combined salaries are just $26.7 million, including right-hander Brad Keller, who was included on the roster to fill a long relief/spot starter role.   

AL West

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    Mike Trout
    Mike TroutJeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Starting Lineup: 1. 2B David Fletcher (LAA), 2. LF Michael Brantley (HOU), 3. CF Mike Trout (LAA), 4. DH Yordan Alvarez (HOU), 5. SS Carlos Correa (HOU), 6. 1B Matt Olson (OAK), 7. RF Joey Gallo (TEX), 8. 3B Matt Chapman (OAK), 9. C Sean Murphy (OAK)

    Bench: C Jose Trevino (TEX), SS/3B Alex Bregman (HOU), OF Kyle Lewis (SEA), OF Kyle Tucker (HOU), DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani (LAA)

    Starting Rotation: 1. RHP Dylan Bundy (LAA), 2. RHP Chris Bassitt (OAK), 3. LHP Marco Gonzales (SEA), 4. Lance McCullers Jr. (HOU), 5. Jesus Luzardo (OAK)

    Bullpen: LHP Framber Valdez (HOU), LHP Enoli Paredes (HOU), RHP Rafael Montero (SEA), LHP Adam Kolarek (OAK), RHP Mike Mayers (LAA), LHP Jake Diekman (OAK), RHP Ryan Pressly (HOU)

    Total 2021 Salary: $147.4 million



    • Two-way star Shohei Ohtani allowed some flexibility from a roster standpoint. He was technically included as one of the 13 pitchers on the AL West roster, though he's listed on the bench, where he would also fill a DH and pinch-hitter role.
    • Jose Altuve ($29 million), Anthony Rendon ($28.1 million) and Zack Greinke ($24.7 million) were among the notable veterans who proved prohibitively expensive. The same was true of Trevor Rosenthal ($11 million) and Raisel Iglesias ($9.1 million) in the bullpen.
    • With a salary of $37.1 million, Mike Trout chewed up roughly 25 percent of the AL West team's payroll, but it wouldn't be much of a superteam if he were excluded.   

NL East

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    Jacob deGrom
    Jacob deGromLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Starting Lineup: 1. RF Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL), 2. LF Juan Soto (WAS), 3. SS Francisco Lindor (NYM), 4. 1B Freddie Freeman (ATL), 5. 3B Alec Bohm (PHI), 6. C J.T. Realmuto (PHI), 7. 2B Ozzie Albies (ATL), 8. CF Cristian Pache (ATL)

    Bench: C Chad Wallach (MIA), SS Trea Turner (WAS), IF/OF Jeff McNeil (NYM), 3B/OF Brian Anderson (MIA), OF Victor Robles (WAS)

    Starting Rotation: 1. RHP Jacob deGrom (NYM), 2. LHP Max Fried (ATL), 3. RHP Aaron Nola (PHI), 4. RHP Sandy Alcantara (MIA), 5. RHP Ian Anderson (ATL)

    Bullpen: RHP Sixto Sanchez (MIA), LHP Tyler Matzek (ATL), RHP Yimi Garcia (MIA), RHP Miguel Castro (NYM), LHP A.J. Minter (ATL), RHP Tanner Rainey (WAS), RHP Anthony Bass (MIA), LHP Brad Hand (WAS)

    Total 2021 Salary: $148.1 million



    • Spending big on Freddie Freeman ($22.4 million), Francisco Lindor ($22.3 million) and Jacob deGrom ($22 million) left roughly 55 percent of the budget to fill the other 23 spots on the NL East roster.
    • The Washington Nationals trio of Max Scherzer ($34.5 million), Patrick Corbin ($24.4 million) and Stephen Strasburg ($23.6 million) were left on the outside looking in as a result of their bloated salaries, and the same is true of Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper ($27.5 million).
    • Trea Turner ($13 million) is an expensive luxury on the bench, but someone needed to be able to backup shortstop, and he could also fill in as an outfielder. The alternative would have been to give that bench spot to Michael Conforto ($12.3 million) and use Ozzie Albies as the backup shortstop.

NL Central

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    Nolan Arenado
    Nolan ArenadoJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Starting Lineup: 1. 2B Kolten Wong (MIL), 2. 1B Paul Goldschmidt (STL), 3. RF Christian Yelich (MIL), 4. 3B Nolan Arenado (STL), 5. LF Ian Happ (CHC), 6. C Willson Contreras (CHC), 7. SS Javier Baez (CHC), 8. CF Lorenzo Cain (MIL)

    Bench: C Jacob Stallings (PIT), IF/OF Tommy Edman (STL), 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes (PIT), OF Dylan Carlson (STL), OF Bryan Reynolds (PIT)

    Starting Rotation: 1. RHP Luis Castillo (CIN), 2. RHP Kyle Hendricks (CHC), 3. RHP Brandon Woodruff (MIL), 4. RHP Jack Flaherty (STL), 5. RHP Corbin Burnes (MIL)

    Bullpen: RHP Alex Reyes (STL), RHP Tejay Antone (CIN), RHP Lucas Sims (CIN), RHP Giovanny Gallegos (STL), RHP Jordan Hicks (STL), LHP Amir Garrett (CIN), RHP Devin Williams (MIL), LHP Josh Hader (MIL)

    Total 2021 Salary: $149.4 million



    • A cheap bench ($3.7 million) and a cheap bullpen ($12.4 million) created a lot more spending room for the starting lineup and the starting rotation in the NL Central, and those two low-cost areas are by no means a weakness.
    • It was tough leaving Sonny Gray ($10.2 million) out of the rotation, and there's a case to be made for him earning a spot over Kyle Hendricks ($14 million) as the high-priced member of the starting rotation. His early injury clinched the spot for Hendricks.
    • Richard Rodriguez ($1.7 million) was originally penciled into the final spot in the bullpen, but with the roster just narrowly over budget, he was replaced by Lucas Sims ($599K) to get below the $150 million threshold.

NL West

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    Mookie Betts
    Mookie BettsSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Starting Lineup: 1. RF Mookie Betts (LAD), 2. 2B Ketel Marte (ARI), 3. SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD), 4. 3B Manny Machado (SD), 5. 1B Cody Bellinger (LAD), 6. LF Mike Yastrzemski (SF), 7. CF Trent Grisham (SD), 8. Will Smith (LAD)

    Bench: C Austin Nola (SD), SS Corey Seager (LAD), IF Jake Cronenworth (SD), IF Tommy La Stella (SF), IF Ryan McMahon (COL)

    Starting Rotation: 1. RHP Walker Buehler (LAD), 2. RHP Yu Darvish (SD), 3. LHP Blake Snell (SD), 4. RHP Zac Gallen (ARI), 5. RHP German Marquez (COL)

    Bullpen: LHP Julio Urias (LAD), RHP Yency Almonte (COL), RHP Reyes Moronta (SF), RHP Stefan Crichton (ARI), LHP Victor Gonzalez (LAD), RHP Tyler Rogers (SF), RHP Emilio Pagan (SD), LHP Drew Pomeranz (SD)

    Total 2021 Salary: $149.8 million



    • In a division loaded with quality starting pitching, spending big on Trevor Bauer ($31.3 million) and Clayton Kershaw ($31.0 million) didn't make sense. The five starters that were selected only cost $42.3 million combined, with Yu Darvish ($19 million) and Blake Snell ($11.1 million) accounting for the bulk of that total.
    • The second shortstop spot was purely a financial decision. Corey Seager ($13.8 million) costs a little less than Trevor Story ($18.5 million). They're both great players, but financial wiggle room was extremely limited in this division.
    • Blake Treinen ($8 million) and Daniel Bard ($2.9 million) both proved too expensive for a bullpen that features five players making below $1 million, along with Emilio Pagan ($1.6 million), swingman Julio Urias ($3.6 million) and closer Drew Pomeranz ($8 million).


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, while salary information comes via Spotrac.


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