2021 MLB Division Series Preview

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American League Division Series

1. Tampa Bay Rays vs. 4. Boston Red Sox

It shouldn’t surprise us, but it usually does. The Rays are the top seed in the American League. And they did it the way they always do. Their pitching depth is just about unmatched and they play the bullpen game better than anyone. With the likes of Andrew Kittredge, Jeffrey Springs and Pete Fairbanks their backend of the pen is among the best in baseball this season. With no clear cut ace it will fall to Shane McClanahan to lead this unit. Austin Meadows was their top run producer and will need to be again in the Postseason. Randy Arozarena was a bona fide star last year for the Rays World Series run. No doubt he will be looked to again. Brandon Lowe and Mike Zunino are their other top bats. This team has always defied the odds and will probably be overlooked once again.

The usual suspects are here for Boston. J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts. Now they have a few new faces in the mix; Hunter Renfroe, Bobby Dalbec and two former Dodgers in Kike Hernandez and Alex Verdugo. Kyle Schwarber’s impact was felt albeit in limited fashion during the regular season, but when healthy he adds much needed protection. For this team to succeed their pitching will have to be on point. A healthy Chris Sale will do wonders for them, but Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez will need to continue to carry this staff. The bullpen is the weakest part of this team, but Matt Barnes isn’t a slouch. He was an All-Star and needs to prove it.

Rays in 4 games

2. Houston Astros vs. 3. Chicago White Sox

Not having Justin Verlander for this Postseason could be a detriment to the Astros. However, there have been some names that have kept things afloat. Lance McCullers and Zack Greinke have anchored the rotation. Luis Garcia, Framber Valdez and Jose Urquidy were pleasant surprises. The bullpen isn’t the best Houston has had, but Ryan Pressly has been solid as the closer. Cristian Javier has performed in many crucial situations for them. Their lineup doesn’t have George Springer for this Postseason run, but that doesn’t mean they still aren’t stacked from top to bottom. Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Jose Altuve all hit 30 or more home runs during the regular season. Yuli Gurriel led the American League in batting average and Carlos Correa drove in 92 runs. If Alex Bregman wakes up, Houston will be in great shape.

Whether or not you knock them down a peg because of the division they played in, there’s no doubt they are a talented team. Jose Abreu had another fantastic season. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada each drove in 61 runs. Not having a full season of Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez didn’t really hurt them during the regular season, but they are both healthy now at the right time. Their bullpen boasts two of the best closers in the game today in Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks. If Carlos Rodon can return sooner rather than later, their rotation is among the best in baseball. Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease will have to anchor it until then.

Astros in 4 games

National League Division Series

1. San Francisco Giants vs. 4. Los Angeles Dodgers

I’m just as shocked as you are to see the Giants in this position. However, you can’t be when you see the performances of some of their best players. Kevin Gausman is going to get some consideration for the NL Cy Young award. He anchored this rotation that had career years from Anthony DeSclafani and Logan Webb. Their bullpen has so much and almost all of them had career years as well. Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee were the rocks all season. Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey are still here and had the kind of years that reminded fans of their run of 3 World Series titles a decade ago. Mike Yastrzemski and LaMonte Wade had solid seasons and they also have Kris Bryant to throw into the mix.

The Dodgers did what they have always done and actually improved upon the depth they already had when they acquired Max Scherzer and Trea Turner at the trade deadline. Turner went on to hit .338 10 HR 28 RBI in his 52 games for them. Expect more of the same. The other Turner, Justin (no relation) had another solid season. Along with Will Smith, Chris Taylor, AJ Pollock and don’t forget Mookie Betts, this lineup has an insane amount of options. With Scherzer it turns out he is exactly what they needed. Clayton Kershaw probably won’t pitch the rest of the year so now they can insert Scherzer in that role. Julio Urias and Walker Buehler both had stellar seasons and will help carry the rotation. Kenley Jansen achors the bullpen and hasn’t been alone as in years past. Corey Knebel, Joe Kelly, Victor Gonzalez and even David Price have been key pieces for the pen all season.

Dodgers in 5 games

2. Milwaukee Brewers vs. 3. Atlanta Braves

It’s easy to root for the Milwaukee Brewers. They boast the best rotation in baseball statistically this season. Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta had career seasons. Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer were revelations and make the staff whole. Their bullpen has been just as good with Josh Hader and Devin Williams. However, with Williams’ broken hand he likely won’t be available unless they make a World Series run. There haven’t been a lot of household names in their lineup this year, but they have been good most of the year. Christian Yelich will need to shine in October and lessen the pressure on Avisail Garcia, Luis Urias and Willy Adames who were the key cogs during the regular season. If they get a Postseason resurgence out of Lorenzo Cain that will be an added bonus.

Atlanta will hope to exercise their shortfalls from the NLCS last season. Their lineup has surprisingly not fallen off with the injury to Ronald Acuna. Trade deadline acquisitions Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario have been spectacular. If that continues it’ll be hard to stop them. Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman were all great and performed to expectations. Dansby Swanson had a strong season and hopefully will take that into October. Max Fried and Charlie Morton are a solid 1-2 option for the rotation. Can Ian Anderson match that and give the bullpen a break when needed? The bullpen has been solid and great at times, but can Will Smith shake off some rough outings and get back to a shutdown mentality for the Braves? If he does the Braves will be right back on the doorstep of the World Series.

Braves in 5 games

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