B/R MLB Community: Bold Predictions for the Second Half of the 2021 Season
Welcome to the Bleacher Report MLB community article!
This week's crowdsourcing thread simply asked readers for their best bold predictions for the second half of the 2021 MLB season.
The responses ranged from predictions of how various division races will play out to potential trade-deadline deals to individual accomplishments and awards.
Shohei Ohtani will fall just short of 60 home runs. Kevin Kopps will go from 2021 draft pick to the San Diego Padres' postseason roster. Zack Wheeler will steal the NL Cy Young from Jacob deGrom.
That's just a sampling of what's to come, so let's dive right in.
Yadier Molina, Kevin Kopps and Joey Gallo
'Yadier Molina replaces Mike Shildt, becoming the first player-manager in almost 40 years. He leads the Cardinals to a surprise wild-card berth.' (@QRcode)
It took Mike Matheny three straight years of missing the postseason before the Cardinals fired him, so Shildt probably has a slightly longer leash after he won NL Manager of the Year in 2019 and led the team to a wild-card berth a year ago. I would absolutely love to see Yadi as a player-manager, though. He has to be the most likely candidate to become the first to do it since Pete Rose did it with the Cincinnati Reds in the mid-1980s, even if it is a long shot.
'Kevin Kopps is on the Padres playoff roster this year.' (@joshuag71)
Even though he slipped to the third round of the 2021 draft, Kevin Kopps might be the most MLB-ready player in the class. He was brilliant out of the Arkansas bullpen this year, going 12-1 with 11 saves while posting a 0.90 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 131 strikeouts in 89.2 innings. He simply slipped because he's 24 years old and has a reliever-only profile. My only hesitation here is finding him a spot in the best bullpen in baseball.
'Joey Gallo leads the league in home runs.' (@GOATLUKA)
Gallo hit 11 home runs in 12 games leading up to the All-Star break, so it's hard to rule anything out as far as his home run total is concerned. His newfound plate discipline has taken his game to another level. However, to lead the AL in home runs, he'll need to finish the year playing for an AL team. That's far from guaranteed as the Texas Rangers gear up to sell at the July 30 deadline.
Surprises in the Standings
'Tigers finish above .500.' (@FOSU)
The Tigers are 31-27 since May 7, and their first 18 games after the All-Star break are against the Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Twins again and Baltimore Orioles. Detroit is 11 games under .500 but could make up a lot of ground during that stretch. If the Tigers trade guys like Jonathan Schoop and Matthew Boyd, it becomes a bit more difficult but not impossible.
'Twins go on a run and somehow make the playoffs.' (@fitchkarma66)
It took 97 wins in 2018 and 96 wins in 2019 to secure the second wild-card spot. Even if we assume the playing field is more level this year and 90 victories gets you into the postseason, that would still mean a 51-22 record the rest of the way. At no point has this looked like a team capable of winning 70 percent of its games over any stretch.
'Phillies go on a tear and win the NL East.' (@Aidan261)
It all depends on what they do to address a relief corps that has a 4.75 ERA and 22 blown saves in 42 opportunities. They have the bats, and they have a Big Three in the starting rotation capable of shouldering the load during a playoff push. But they need to acquire several impact bullpen arms to have a chance of contending.
'Marlins win the NL East!' (@wr5)
If Trevor Rogers, Pablo Lopez and Sandy Alcantara keep pitching the way they did during the first half, anything is possible. The offense needs to do better than a third-worst 3.97 runs per game during the second half, but if the Mets continue to battle the injury bug, the Marlins have as good of a chance as anyone in the division to overtake them.
'Oakland wins the AL West after Houston collapses.' (@Shimmy)
Oakland could do it, as the A's have ripped off some impressive stretches this year. However, expecting them to do it on the back of a Houston collapse is wishful thinking. That Astros team is not going away.
The NL West
'Padres end up winning NL West.' (@Str8Coastin)
Does this qualify as a bold prediction? The Padres are third in the NL West standings, but they also have the third-highest run differential and the fourth-best record in the National League. As long as Yu Darvish does not miss significant time with the hip inflammation that landed him on the injured list before the break, they should be right in the thick of the division race.
'The Giants, just like the Phillies under Gabe Kapler, collapse in the second half, setting up a fight with the Reds for the second wild-card spot in September.' (@ryty4)
Kapler has something to prove, and the manager will likely take the brunt of the blame if this team does crumble down the stretch. However, pitching has been the key to San Francisco's success, and not one of its key arms is pitching over his head to the point that serious regression appears likely. The Giants are for real, though they could still wind up with the second wild-card spot.
'Cody Bellinger will come back with a vengeance and do what he did in April in 2019.' (@carsonreeese)
Bellinger is hitting .176/.291/.303 with four home runs in 141 plate appearances, and his strikeout rate has spiked from 17.3 to 27.7 percent this year. All of his underlying metrics have also plummeted relative to 2020. I'm not convinced he'll even return to last season's level of production, let alone to the juggernaut level we saw at the start of his MVP campaign.
'Diamondbacks only win 12 more games and secure the first pick.' (@UnpopularOpinion)
That means they would finish with a 38-124 record. Seems about right.
The AL East
'The Red Sox pitching staff will hit a wall, and they will fall to third place in the AL East to finish the season.' (@carsonkamm)
A lot of Red Sox fans seem to be viewing Chris Sale as the savior, and that's risky thinking. Even the best pitchers need time to shake off the rust after Tommy John surgery, and if he can give them 10 starts and a sub-4.00 ERA, they have to be happy with that. If anything is going to derail them, it will be that rotation.
'The Yankees will make no significant moves at the trade deadline and will win the AL East by one game over the Red Sox.' (@CCrodirguez99)
They're better off accepting this year's mediocrity and selling off what they can to gear up for contending again next season. This just isn't a great team. If you think this roster can make a second-half push without any reinforcements, all the power to you. It's more likely they finish fourth in the AL East than it is that they win the division.
'Rays fall off big time and miss the playoffs.' (@Kyrieisgone)
Charlie Morton and Blake Snell chewed up some important innings the last two years. The Rays have heaped a lot on Ryan Yarbrough, Rich Hill and rookie Shane McClanahan, and there's no telling how they will hold up as their innings count continues to climb. I have a hard time betting against the Rays, but this year's roster is more of a house of cards than last year's team.
'Toronto earns the second wild-card spot on the back of a torrid second half from George Springer and a significant addition to the pitching staff ([Craig] Kimbrel?).' (@Blevin34)
I'll take it one step further. With a few key additions at the deadline, the Blue Jays can win the AL East. I love the Springer prediction. After what was essentially a lost first half thanks to a quad strain, he could be the team's biggest addition during the second half. I'm a believer in this Blue Jays club.
Trade Deadline Predictions
'White Sox trade for Trevor Story and put him at second base.' (@Cjesio09)
The White Sox should and likely will be in the mix for Trevor Story. However, I would try awfully hard to convince Tim Anderson (-13 DRS, -5.8 UZR/150 career at SS) to be the one who slides over to second base, because Story (64 DRS, 3.2 UZR/150 career at SS) is a vastly superior defender at shortstop.
'Jose Berrios winds up on the West Coast...with the Seattle Mariners.' (@CHS_OsFan)
Berrios is the perfect target for a rising Mariners team that has something to play for this year but is also still firmly focused on building a long-term contender. The 27-year-old is controllable through the 2022 season and has career bests in ERA (3.48) and WHIP (1.10) through 18 starts. My only question is whether a team in position to win it all this year might be willing to give up more in a trade.
'Trey Mancini will get traded to the Giants.' (@AcesAnd8s)
I don't love this fit. First baseman Brandon Belt is on the mend from a knee injury, and the platoon of LaMonte Wade Jr. and Darin Ruf has been productive in his absence. Mancini was miscast as an outfielder in the past with brutal defensive metrics (-13 DRS, -11.4 UZR/150), so playing him in the grass isn't viable.
'Freddie Freeman signs a five-year, $125 million extension with the Braves.' (@QRcode)
Freeman is making $22 million this year in the final season of his contract, so this would represent a modest raise for the 2020 NL MVP. It's unlikely anyone would be willing to offer beyond five years for a first baseman headed for his age-32 season, so he's not leaving anything on the table as far as length is concerned. Get it done, Atlanta!
'Ryan Mountcastle makes a serious push for AL ROY.' (@CHS_OsFan)
Mountcastle is poised for a good second half after hitting .293/.389/.537 with six home runs and 16 RBI in his final 23 games leading into the break. However, I don't see Adolis Garcia loosening his stranglehold on the AL Rookie of the Year race. The 28-year-old ranks among the MLB leaders in average exit velocity (84th percentile), hard-hit rate (79th percentile) and barrel rate (92nd percentile)—all good indicators for his ability to sustain his breakout performance.
'Mookie Betts has a monster second half and wins NL MVP.' (@koopa_kid)
While they are down numbers by his lofty standards, Betts has a 131 OPS+ with 21 doubles, 13 home runs and 38 RBI, and his 3.0 WAR ranks ninth among NL position players. He does not have an insurmountable hole to dig out of in the NL MVP race by any means.
'Zack Wheeler win the NL Cy Young Award.' (@KkPhilliesPhool)
If Jacob deGrom gives up 12 earned runs in one inning in his next start, his ERA would still be lower than Wheeler's 2.26 mark. That's not meant to take anything away from Wheeler, who is having a fantastic season, but no one is catching up to deGrom this year.
'John Means comes back off the IL and captures the AL Cy Young from Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon.' (@CARvns12)
It's possible that both White Sox pitchers fall off their pace in the second half. Lynn is due for some regression with a 3.20 FIP backing his 1.99 ERA, and Rodon has not topped 120.2 innings since 2016. Expect the AL Cy Young to be a wide-open race the rest of the way. Don't rule out Chris Bassitt and Robbie Ray as contenders as well.
'Vlad Jr win the Triple Crown.' (@QRcode)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leads the American League in with a .332 batting average and 73 RBI, and his 28 home runs trail only Shohei Ohtani (33). He is up six points on Michael Brantley in the batting race and one RBI on Rafael Devers. It's not an easy thing to accomplish, but he's the best candidate to do it since Miguel Cabrera pulled it off in 2012.
'Shohei Ohtani falls JUST short of 60 home runs, finishing with 59 like Giancarlo Stanton in 2017. Joe Maddon bats him leadoff the last three or four weeks to maximize at-bats.' (@Blevin34)
Ohtani is on place for exactly 60 home runs, and he established that pace by slugging 13 long balls in June after tallying just 15 total over the season's first two months. A run at 50 seems more likely than a run at 60, even if Maddon does some lineup finagling, but betting against Ohtani doing anything is not a wise move.
'Jacob deGrom finishes with a 1.35 ERA and 325 strikeouts.' (@ben_osman8)
The Mets have 75 more games, so we'll pencil in deGrom for 15 more starts. He has made 15 starts so far, posting a 1.08 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 92 innings.
The ERA is doable given his dominance, but getting to 325 strikeouts will be extremely difficult. He would need to average 12 strikeouts per start over his final 15, and as brilliant as he's been, he's only topped a dozen strikeouts four times this season.
If you'd like to have your question or hot take included in a future mailbag, be on the lookout each Monday afternoon for the crowdsourcing thread on the MLB stream in the B/R app.