Editor’s note: We asked Paul Sanders, one of the founders of LGBTQ baseball groups on Facebook, to preview the 2021 MLB season.
Mets: It has been long said “wait till next year” for the Mets faithful. Is 2021 finally “next year”? With a new owner, a dynamic new shortstop in Francisco Lindor and Jacob deGrom headlining a solid rotation the Mets have what it takes to dethrone the Braves as division champs and maybe even the Dodgers as N.L. Champions.
Must have a good season to win: The Bullpen — injuries tend to run rampant on the Mets pen in previous seasons.
All-Star Hottie: James McCann
Braves: The defending East Champions get little respect, coming off a NLCS berth, with some off-season predictions have them winning only around 85 games. If they can exercise the demons of an embarrassing collapse against the Dodgers in the NLCS, there is no reason not to have a repeat divisional title.
Must have a good season to win: Charlie Morton, free agent pick up from the Rays, although pushing 40 is still a workhorse and a quick return for Mike Soroka from last season’s complete shutdown injury.
All-Star Hottie: Dansby Swanson
Nationals: The poor Nats could not celebrate their 2019 World Series title with fans last year and then their season happened. With injuries, poor play, and an overall campaign to forget, the Nats could not welcome 2021 quick enough.
Must have a good season to win: Starlin Castro, who only played 16 games last season, and a healthy Stephen Strasburg.
All-Star Hottie: Joe Ross
Phillies: Good news is the Phillies will score a lot of runs; the bad news is the Phillies will give up a lot of runs. Powerhouse players in Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins will need to turn it up a little more because after Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, the Phillies pitching staff is a bit of a mess.
Must have a good season to win: A healthy Realmuto and a consistent starting rotation past Nola and Wheeler.
All-Star Hottie: Bryce Harper
Marlins: The Marlins clearly were above the grade in 2020, not only making the playoffs, but knocking off the Cubs in the first round, but this season the Marlins will be hard pressed to find themselves out of last place in a very competitive East. New Marlins GM Kim Ng has a team that is on the verge of doing great things. They have a solid starting rotation and some decent hitters, but the bullpen is a concern with a combination of other team castoffs beyond closer Anthony Bass and Yumi Garcia.
Must have a good season to win: Jorge Alfaro, sidelined from Covid-19 a good portion of last season, needs to rebound, and reemerge as the Marlins top catcher.
All-Star Hottie: Jon Berti
Pirates: While 2021 might be a long, hot, disappointing season for the Pirates, the core of talent on the team should have them turning the corner soon. Adam Frazier and Ke’Bryan Hayes are both young, exciting players who bring a lot to the table. The problem is the rotation — the only name factor is Trevor Cahill brought in this spring to solidify a staff that is mired in mediocrity.
Must have a good season to win: The whole team is going to need to overachieve and overperform to come close to a .500 record.
All-Star Hottie: Philip Evans
Brewers: The 2021 Brewers will pencil in lineups without the name Ryan Braun for the first time since the 2006 season. It will be a new look team with Jackie Bradley Jr. coming over from Boston and Lorenzo Cain back in the outfield after opting out of the 2020 campaign. The Brewers were a playoff team in 2020 should be back in the hunt this season. The pitching remains solid, with Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, as does the bullpen anchored by Devin Williams and Josh Hader.
Must have a good season to win: Christian Yelich had a very down 2020 season, which was well documented in the media. He started to show life at the end of the season, hopefully he continues the upward climb back in 2021.
All-Star Hottie: Christian Yelich
Reds: The Reds had a fantasy 2020, but 2021 could be a nightmare. Losing Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, closer Raisel Iglesias, plus catcher Curt Casali, reliever Archie Bradley and outfielder Brian Goodwin is a blow. Now Joey Votto is out with Covid-19, all-star 3rd baseman Eugenio Suarez will play at shortstop and injuries to pitchers Luis Castillo, Sonny Grey and Lucas Sims are a concern. The Reds did sign reliever and LGBTQ supporter Sean Doolittle, but his best days are in the past. Amir Garrett, the new closer, became a community hero when he publicly denounced the Reds former TV announcer who made anti-gay comments on air.
Must have a good season to win: Sonny Grey, who seems to have found a home and niche in Cincy, needs to stay healthy for the Reds to have any chance at .500 ball.
All-Star Hottie: Lucas Sims
Cardinals: The Cardinals always seem to find a way to be in the thick of things and in a mediocre Central, they should be right there. The trade to bring in Nolan Arenado from the Rockies has energized a fan base that is one of the best in baseball and the return of Jordan Hicks, the 100 plus MPH closer, will solidify things at the end of games.
Must have a good season to win: Adam Wainright & Yadier Molina — both Cardinals legends who were free agents — were brought back partially for who they are and now they need to play like that. Bad seasons from both would open the door for another team to sweep in.
All-Star Hottie: Jack Flaherty
Cubs: The Cubs are on the tail end of the best winning stretch in their history. The 2022 version of the Cubs will most likely have a different makeup, so it’s one last shot for this current team. Being in the Central helps, but an average starting rotation, with the return of former star Jake Arrieta is not scaring anyone. The pickup of Joc Peterson to replace Kyle Schwarber has the potential to reap rewards.
Must have a good season to win: Craig Kimbrel is one of the best closers in the past decade but his two seasons in Chicago have had some rather horrific blown saves and high ERA.
All-Star Hottie: Javier Baez
Dodgers: The reigning World Champions have a good chance to raise that pennant again in 2021. They have all the major parts back and would be the first team since the 1999 Yankees to repeat. The addition of Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer makes this Dodgers team have the potential to be one of the best of all time. Winning 110-plus games would not be out of the question.
Must have a good season to win: Even a bad season from one or two players puts them into the West title. But if I had to pick someone, closer Kenley Jensen might be the weakest part of a stacked bullpen.
All-Star Hottie: Mookie Betts
Padres: It’s a great time to be a Padres fan, but it’s a bad time since they will finish no better than second place due to the Dodgers juggernaut. The addition of Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove give the Padres one of the elite pitching staffs in the game. Not to mention they have the top pitching prospect in the game in MacKenize Gore waiting in the wings. The Padres were smart locking up Fernando Tatis Jr. to a long-term contract, to play alongside Manny Machado for years to come. It’s is the start of a golden era of Padres baseball.
Must have a good season to win: Mark Melancon, the former Giants and Braves closer is great when he is on, but watch out if he is off.
All-Star Hottie: Joe Musgrove
Giants: The 2020 season could be the last with pieces of their postseason runs of 2010-16. The Giants had a decent 2020 with a view of what life without Buster Posey is like. The 2021 version will likely not battle for a playoff spot as they did in 2020 due to being in the same division with the Dodgers and Padres. Solid pickups in Tommy La Stella and Anthony DeSclafani will help keep the team in most games throughout the year.
Must have a good season to win: Buster Posey, in what is likely Posey’s last season by the Bay (or perhaps anywhere). His absence last year was really the difference in the Giants being a playoff team and staying home. He is the leader of this team even if it is only for now.
All-Star Hottie: Mike Yastrzemski
Diamondbacks: The Dbacks are a time on the rise, but 2021 doesn’t look good for a playoff spot. Bright spots are Zac Gallen (who is hurt and will likely miss Opening Day) and Ketel Marte, who despite a down 2020 is projected to be more of the 2019 version of himself. The only notable signing the Dbacks made was light-fielding, slightly-above-average journeyman infielder, Asdrubal Cabrera.
Must have a good season to win: Madison Bumgarner. His 2020 was by far the worst season of his career after making the jump from San Francisco to the desert. His velocity was down, his ERA up. His spring 2021 has looked promising.
All-Star Hottie: Luis Urueta, bench coach
Rockies: Fans of the Rockies are still shell shocked from the trade of Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals. The Rockies are projected to have the worst record in the NL by many this coming season and its easy to see why. Except for Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon, no player on the Rockies offense had a positive Wins Above Replacement in 2020 and the two with decent numbers, David Dahl and Kevin Pillar, are now with the Rangers and Mets. The Rockies rotation is the biggest strength, but playing in the mile high air of Coors Field is never helpful.
Must have a good season to win: Raimel Tapia. He has the potential to hit for average, has good speed and is a solid defender. He has not played to potential in his previous seasons.
All-Star Hottie: Antonio Senzatela
Yankees: “The Yankees will win it all in 2021.” That is the common phrase and the only acceptable one in the Bronx, despite the fact that it has been more than a decade since the last world championship. If the offense stays healthy, they will be a powerhouse, and the addition of Corey Kluber to the rotation is a big plus. If the team stays in shape, there is no reason they cannot be the last team standing from the A.L.
Must have a good season to win: A healthy Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton — without them, there will be a huge hole in the middle of the lineup.
All-Star Hottie: Luis Cessa
Blue Jays: The Jays were a playoff team in 2020 and have all intentions of being so in 2021. The Jays signed many players — George Springer and Marcus Semien to start and expanded the payroll to win now. The problem is that they play in a division with the Yankees and Rays, so it will be wild card or bust. Also hurting the team is the nomadic status of the franchise — pandemic travel issues caused them to play in Buffalo last season and they will start 2021 in Dunedin, Fla., their spring home.
Must have a good season to win: Robbie Ray — while he slots in as a No. 3 starter and his career ERA is strikingly high, his strikeout totals are impressive. His 2021 spring stats were interesting as they trended much better than his career averages.
All-Star Hottie: Lourdes Gurriel, Jr.
Orioles: It has been a rough few seasons in Baltimore and 2021 will be no different. Chris Davis continues to eat salary for little return and starts the season injured yet again. Thankfully, the O’s have one of the majors’ top farm systems, so help is on the way, and 2023-2024 will see some potentially magical years for the Birds. Until then, individual performances from prospects Ryan Mountcastle, Bruce Zimmermann and Adley Rustchman will have to tide the fanbase over.
Must have a good season to win: Matt Harvey — the former Mets All-Star is now with his fifth franchise since leaving New York less than three years ago. Harvey is only 32, if he can be steady and perform at even half of his former self, it would go a long way to help lead that pitching staff.
All-Star Hottie: Bruce Zimmermann
Rays: The defending A.L. Champions will have a difficult time repeating in 2021 with the loss of Blake Snell and Charlie Morton from the rotation, the injury to Nick Anderson in the bullpen and a vastly improved Jays and healthier Red Sox teams. Thankfully, the Rays have the top farm system and have many impressive replacements in the wings, as well as the return of former staff ace, Chris Archer.
Must have a good season to win: Randy Arozarena. The 2020 postseason hero needs to show that he is the real deal over the course of a full season. A bat with some pop and some speed on the bases, he has been hurt a little this spring. A full return to health will help push the Rays that much closer to a title.
All-Star Hottie: Kevin Kiermaier
Red Sox: The Red Sox have lost Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. and somehow the team is in better shape then it was in 2020. The return of tarnished manager Alex Cora helps steady a ship that was full of injuries last season. The team has a shaky pitching staff and that could be the Achilles heel in what could be a surprising season in Beantown.
Must have a good season to win: Eduardo Rodriguez, who was out for the 2020 season due to heart complications from a covid-19 infection, was named the Sox Opening Day starter only to get injured the last week of spring training. He needs to return healthy and quickly to front the rotation.
All-Star Hottie: Enrique “Kiké’” Hernandez
All-Star Hottie: The Royals had the best winning percentage in the Cactus league this spring and we’ll see if it’s a sign of good times in the regular season. Perhaps the Royals are poised to be the surprise team of 2021, with some up-and-coming talent, starting with Bobby Witt Jr., who despite starting the season at Triple A Omaha, will see himself in K.C. sooner than later. The addition of Andrew Benintendi, Carlos Santana and a full season return of closer Wade Davis could be the help the Royals have long needed.
Must have a good season to win: Newly extended catcher, Salvador Perez, who took a team- friendly four-year extension, has been one of the best in the majors when healthy. A full 2021 of no injuries would help not just on the field but in terms of leadership to a young Royals team.
All-Star Hottie: Jorge Soler
Tigers: While there will be many stories to follow in Detroit in 2021. The team will be young and exciting but will struggle to have success. The hiring of former Astros Manager AJ Hinch will be scrutinized for seasons to come unless there are some great improvements seen in this season. The biggest story though is Miguel Cabrera, who this spring has looked in shape, healthy and years younger. He is posed to become the first player to get his career 500th home run and 3,000 hits in the same season.
Must have a good season to win: Wilson Ramos — the former Mets, Phillies and Nats backstop comes to Detroit to catch an up-and-coming starting rotation. A solid hitter, he has had some issues defensively in the past.
All-Star Hottie: Willi Castro
White Sox: The loss of Eloy Jiminez is a huge blow to the Southsiders, but that should not stop them from seeing him return for the playoffs in 2021, the first time in Sox history they would make the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The Sox have a sharp bullpen and well-above-average rotation led by possible Cy Young winner Lucas Giolito. Chicago has only the Yankees at their level to represent the A.L. in the World Series.
Must have a good season to win: Tony LaRussa — the Hall of Fame manager has come out of retirement and will be managing a team for the first time since 2011. Will LaRussa’s brand of baseball translate to the present player? If he is unable to find common ground, this could be a recipe to ruin the gourmet meal that the Sox have put together.
All-Star Hottie: Yasmani Grandal
Twins: The Twins will have a fantastic 2021, but will it be enough to take down the greatly improved White Sox?The pitching staff is improved, with 2020 closer Taylor Rodgers shifting to coming in the eighth inning with All-Star Alex Colome joining the team. Byron Buxton looks fully healthy for the first time since 2018 and Twins superstar prospect Alex Kiriloff is just over the river in St. Paul waiting for a call up to rejoin the team after being active for the playoffs last year.
Must have a good season to win: Josh Donaldson — the former MVP had a slow spring, despite hitting with power. The Twins likely will not start him every day until he really builds back up to full strength, but that is a necessary thing for the Twins to contend in 2021.
All-Star Hottie: Jose Berrios
Indians: A solid rotation with the defending AL Cy Young winner and two other pitchers capable of 200+ innings and the Indians might not even make it above .500. Newly acquired Andres Gimenez replaces fan favorite and All-Star Francisco Lindor and while he is a capable player, he will not replicate the talent lost. The biggest offensive threat is third baseman Jose Ramirez. The Indians do have a chance if things break their way and their pitching can keep runs down.
Must have a good season to win: Amed Rosario — the other player acquired for Lindor, he will be the primary utility player and back up the middle infield and some outfield.
All-Star Hottie: Zach Plesac
Astros: The Astros will be competitive, but they will feel the loss of the departed George Springer. All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa declined a six-year contract extension as well a few weeks, back. This could be the sign that the parts of the 2017-19 championship teams are crumbling.
Must have a good season to win: Jose Altuve — Altuve had a horrendous 2020 campaign. He batted almost 100 points lower than his career average at .219. Did the pandemic, combined with the cheating scandal play mind games? We shall see if he is back to being closer to his 2017 MVP season or if 2020 is his new normal.
All-Star Hottie: Michael Brantley
Athletics: A playoff team last season, the A’s will certainly make a run for the West title in 2021. Elvis Andrus, who came over from Texas, will replace fan favorite Marcus Semien on the roster and former All-Star Jed Lowrie returns to the Bay Area after two disastrous injury-filled seasons with the Mets.
Must have a good season to win: Matt Chapman needs to rebound from his .195 batting average in 2020 to show more of the power and average he had in 2019, when he hit 36 hour runs despite a broken bone in his hand.
All-Star Hottie: Matt Olson
Rangers: The Rangers are a team on the rise and while 2021 will show improvement, they are not there quite yet. The faith that the brass sees in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the 2020 A.L. Gold Glove winner at third is evident in his move to shortstop to replace longtime Ranger Elvis Andrus. Alas, the Rangers pitching has some big question marks, including a plan to tandem starters and the loss of closer Jose Leclerc to spring injuries.
Must have a good season to win: Joey Gallo, one of the longest tenured Rangers is all or nothing — home run or an out. He needs to find a balance and to improve on his .181 batting average from 2020.
All-Star Hottie: Khris Davis
Angels: This is looking like the season that Mike Trout might get a taste of postseason victory. The Angels have not won a postseason game since 2009, two years before he joined the team. With some solid offensive additions in Dexter Fowler, Kurt Suzuki and Jose Iglesias, plus the return of two-way player Shohi Ohtani, the Angels will likely win the West in 2021.
Must have a good season to win: Shohi Ohtani — The highly touted two-way player has show the flashes, despite injuries, of being able to successfully be a hitter and pitcher. His 2021 spring success only helps solidify this expectation.
All-Star Hottie: Mike Trout
Mariners: The Mariners are close to being a playoff team. They have last year’s Rookie of the Year in Kyle Lewis and the possibility of Jarred Kelenic winning this year’s award. Kelenic will be called up before the end of May and will add a multifaceted dimension to the club — hitting, fielding, speed and more. The outfield is solid with Mitch Haniger, Lewis and Taylor Trammell, who played his way onto the club with an impressive spring.
Must have a good season to win: James Paxton — “Big Maple” returns to Seattle after two seasons with the Yankees, including an injury-plagued 2020. If he can rebound and return to his 2017-18 form when he won 23 games and had a 3.37 ERA, he will be a much-needed addition to the M’s rotation.
All Star Hottie: Kyle Lewis
American League Championship Series: White Sox over Yankees
National League Championship Series: Dodgers over Braves
World Series: White Sox over Dodgers
Paul Sanders founded the LGBTQ Facebook group dedicated to the New York Mets. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listing of the LGBTQ Major League Baseball Facebook Groups
Arizona Diamondbacks: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTDbacks
Atlanta Braves: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTBraves
Baltimore Orioles : www.facebook.com/groups/GLoW.OriolesGamesGroup
Boston Red Sox: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTRedSox
Chicago Cubs: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTCubs
Chicago White Sox: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTWhiteSox
Cincinnati Reds: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTReds
Cleveland Indians: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTTribe
Colorado Rockies: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTRockies
Detroit Tigers: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTTigers
Houston Astros: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTAstros
Kansas City Royals: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTRoyals
Los Angeles Angels: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTAngels
Los Angeles Dodgers: www.facebook.com/groups/GAYLADODGERFANS
Miami Marlins: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTMarlins
Milwaukee Brewers: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTBrewers
Minnesota Twins: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTTwins
New York Mets: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTMets
New York Yankees: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTYankees
Oakland Athletics: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTAthletics
Philadelphia Phillies: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTPhillies
Pittsburgh Pirates: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTBuccos
San Diego Padres: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTPadres
San Francisco Giants: www.facebook.com/groups/gaysfgiantsfans
Seattle Mariners: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTMariners
St. Louis Cardinals: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTCardinals
Tampa Bay Rays: www.facebook.com/groups/157508967674147
Texas Rangers: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTRangers
Toronto Blue Jays: www.facebook.com/groups/LGBTBlueJays
Washington Nationals: www.facebook.com/groups/26783974897