Dodgers, Padres favorites in NL West; A’s, Angels still chasing Astros in AL West


Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer throws a pitch for the Cleveland Indians. Bauer was recently acquired by the Dodgers in free agency. Erik Drost – Creative Commons

Major League Baseball will be returning to a 162-game season on April 1. A limited number of fans will be allowed to attend MLB games without showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination. State and local officials could put their own restrictions into place, however, so this may change for some teams as the season progresses.

Here’s what our California teams have done to prepare for the 2021 season.

The San Francisco Giants are having a relatively quiet offseason. They haven’t gone for the top free agents or tried to make blockbuster trades. Their team has remained almost the same, and they hope that it will be enough to compete with some of the tough competition they’ll face. The biggest signing this offseason for the Giants was the acquisition of pitcher Alex Wood and third-baseman Tommy La Stella. 

Chico State softball player and Giants fan Brooke Larsen is ready for the baseball season to begin. Larsen has been a long time fan of the Giants.

“I’m from Sacramento, but I lived in the Bay Area for a few years,” Larsen said. “We used to get $5 tickets to go and watch their games every other week.”

The Athletics have had a rough offseason so far. They lost infielder Marcus Simien to the Toronto Blue Jays, third-basemen Tommy La Stella to the Giants and American League Reliever of the Year Liam Hendriks to the White Sox. They also lost one of their pitchers, Joakim Soroka, while pitchers Yusmeiro Petit and T.J. McFarland remain free agents.

The Angels have the best player in the MLB in Mike Trout. They also have Anthony Rendon, an elite third-baseman. Still, the Angels have the second-worst pitching in the league, a squad that blew more saves in 2020 than any other MLB team. Los Angeles hasn’t made many moves to fix their pitching woes so far, aside from acquiring pitchers Alex Cobb from the Orioles and Aaron Slegers from the Rays. Last season’s General Manager Billy Epler was fired a year before his contract ended. The Angels have since signed the Braves’ former Assistant General Manager Perry Minasian, after the five disappointing seasons that preceded this signing.

The Chico State baseball infielder Willie Lajoie, an Orange County native has been a lifelong Angels fan who even attended Game 6 of the 2002 World Series. 

“All Angels fans know is that we just need pitching, and we haven’t really had any good pitching acquisitions this year,” Lajoie said.

Lajoie has high expectations for the team’s all-around utility infielder.

“David Fletcher’s my favorite player right now,” Lajoie said. “I think he’s a beast, he plays really hard and I love how he plays.”

Coming into the offseason, the Dodgers were favored to defend their World Series title. They signed Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer and All-Star relief pitcher Corey Knebel, adding to an already deep bullpen.

Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer throws a pitch for the Cleveland Indians. Bauer was recently acquired by the Dodgers in free agency. Erik Drost – Creative Commons

The Dodgers did have some setbacks. They lost second-baseman Kike Hernandez, relief pitcher Pedro Baez and outfielder Joc Pederson to free agency. However, they did secure free agent third-baseman Justin Turner, who they signed to a two year deal.

Third-baseman Justin Turner stands on a base. Turner re-signed with the Dodgers for another two years. Ken Lund – Creative Commons

The Padres pulled off two of the biggest trades of the offseason, getting catcher Victor Caratini and ace pitchers Yu Darvish and Blake Snell. They have possibly the best infield in the league, with Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Fernando Tatis Jr., as well as the recent acquisition of top free agent Ha-Seong Kim. 

Former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell throws a pitch for the Rays. The Padres acquired Snell in a trade with Tampa Bay. Matt Britt – Creative Commons

 Coming into the 2021 MLB season, the Yankees have the highest betting odds of any team in the American League, due to their star-power on offense. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu are just a few of the All-Star- caliber players on the Yankees’ roster. They’ll have to try and get their injury woes under control, though, to stay competitive in their division.

Chico State baseball head coach Dave Taylor gave his thoughts on the following season, saying he doesn’t root for anyone, but is excited for the season to begin.

“I don’t have a favorite team,” Taylor said. “I just like the game.” 

2020 was a unique year for baseball. Several players, including Kenta Maeda and Luke Voit, had breakout seasons. Maeda went from a middle of the order pitcher to a Cy Young runner-up. Voit broke his home run record in a 60 game season with 22, while also leading the league in that category. Others, like former MVPs Kris Bryant and Christian Yelich, barely hit above 200. This could be just a down season, or it could have to do with some of the rule-changes from last season.

Aside from the shortened 60-game schedule, the MLB adopted three controversial changes to account for the virus last season. The first is implementing a universal designated hitter, for both leagues. The second is playing only seven-inning games if the teams are playing a doubleheader. The third is that every inning played past the ninth will allow both teams to start with a runner on second base. The universal designated hitter will not be coming back in 2021, but the other two will remain in place.

Spring Training is set to begin on Feb. 28, with stadiums allowing limited attendance. Fans will not, however, be permitted to attend team workouts. This will be fans’ first chance to look at their team’s new roster, and for teams to evaluate the players they plan on inviting to their Major League squad for the 2021 season. 

Connor McPherson can be reached at [email protected] @theGOATMcphers1 on Twitter.