2021 MLB Preview: Who's Going to Win the World Series?

SI's MLB experts dive into their postseason and World Series predictions.
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Opening Day is here at last, and what a joy it is.

Entering the season, the Dodgers are looking to become the first repeat champion since the 1998-2000 Yankees. They could be even better this season than they were a year ago, but so are a number of National League teams, including the Mets, Braves, Nationals, Cardinals and Padres. Meanwhile, in the American League, the Yankees look like the team to beat, but don't overlook the White Sox, Twins, Astros and yes, even Mike Trout's Angels.

As we begin the most important baseball season since 1994, it's time to get into playoff and World Series predictions.

MLB Predictions 1300x724

Tom Verducci

• AL East Winner: New York Yankees
• AL Central Winner: Chicago White Sox
• AL West Winner: Los Angeles Angels
• AL Wild Card 1: Tampa Bay Rays
• AL Wild Card 2: Oakland A’s

• NL East Winner: Atlanta Braves
• NL Central Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
• NL West Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
• NL Wild Card 1: San Diego Padres
• NL Wild Card 2: New York Mets

You must have two losing teams from last year in your playoff picks, given a trend three decades in the making, and the Angels and Mets fit the bill. Minnesota and Houston are the two best teams on the outside who could easily crash the party. Look for Kansas City and Miami to be better than expected.

World Series Prediction: Atlanta Braves over New York Yankees (7 games)

Atlanta nearly took out the Dodgers in five NLCS games last year. The Braves added Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly, get Mike Soroka back and get a full season from Ian Anderson. That’s a deep pitching staff behind what was the No. 2 offense in baseball last year. New York has a wider swing factor in just how good (or bad) it can be. It’s all based on health. Giancarlo Stanton looks primed for a monster year. The Yankees’ postseason chances depend on getting two of three injury-prone pitchers to October healthy and throwing well: Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Luis Severino. If not, a reminder: don’t count out the Rays going back to the World Series.

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Stephanie Apstein

• AL East Winner: New York Yankees
• AL Central Winner: Minnesota Twins
• AL West Winner: Houston Astros
• AL Wild Card 1: Chicago White Sox
• AL Wild Card 2: Los Angeles Angels

• NL East Winner: New York Mets
• NL Central Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
• NL West Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
• NL Wild Card 1: San Diego Padres
• NL Wild Card 2: Atlanta Braves

The National League race is going to be a lot more fun to watch this year than that of the American League, where it's the Yankees and then everybody else. While the Dodgers and the Padres, and the Mets and the Braves, give us 19 playoff games each, the junior circuit will consist mostly of teams fighting for 90 wins. The Eloy Jiménez injury is going to be huge for the White Sox, who with him would probably have taken the AL Central. Instead, I predict they will now have to face a coin-toss game against the Angels, whom I just can't quit even though they have shown virtually no evidence that they can put together a good team behind Mike Trout. But this year, surely, is the year.

World Series Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Yankees (6 games)

Honestly, we just deserve this matchup. Gerrit Cole vs. Mookie Betts with a title on the line? Yes please.

Bold Predictions for the 2021 Season

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Emma Baccellieri

• AL East Winner: New York Yankees
• AL Central Winner: Minnesota Twins
• AL West Winner: Houston Astros
• AL Wild Card 1: Oakland Athletics
• AL Wild Card 2: Tampa Bay Rays

• NL East Winner: Atlanta Braves
• NL Central Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
• NL West Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
• NL Wild Card 1: San Diego Padres
• NL Wild Card 2: New York Mets

One of the biggest questions for me was whether the Mets have done enough to overtake the Braves. I do expect it to be close—and can easily see it going the other way—but I'm giving the edge to the Braves for now based on the strength of their offense.

World Series Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Yankees (6 games)

What's frightening is not just that the Dodgers remain too good to bet against—but that they're even better than they were last year. With this much depth on the roster, a deep run seems not just possible for October, but almost guaranteed.

Team-by-Team Guide to Start the Season

Will Laws

• AL East Winner: New York Yankees
• AL Central Winner: Chicago White Sox
• AL West Winner: Houston Astros
• AL Wild Card 1: Tampa Bay Rays
• AL Wild Card 2: Los Angeles Angels

• NL East Winner: Atlanta Braves
• NL Central Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
• NL West Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
• NL Wild Card 1: San Diego Padres
• NL Wild Card 2: New York Mets

I initially had the Nationals taking the NL's second wild card at the expense of the Mets largely due to my undying belief in Juan Soto—and wariness of Francisco Lindor's worryingly average offensive output last year—but couldn't pull the trigger. Washington will be in trouble if any of its Big Three starters can't regain their old form, and the Mets possess the pitching depth that will probably come into play as teams re-adjust to a 162-game schedule. Similarly, the Twins and Blue Jays have too many question marks at the back end of the rotation for my liking and not enough bullpen arms to overcome it a la the Rays.

World Series Prediction: San Diego Padres over Chicago White Sox (6 games)

I'll feel better about this come October if San Diego doesn't have to get by Jacob deGrom in a wild card game. But I'll take the Padres' top three hurlers—Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Dinelson Lamet—over anyone's, including the Dodgers' group. That's what matters most in a five-game NLDS, which is where NL West bragging rights will likely be decided, as it was in 2020 when San Diego didn't have any of the starters it would rely on in a rematch. From there, the Padres would be favored in every series against any opponent at full strength. They've come a long way in a short time, but it's been a long time coming for a title-starved fan base.

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Gleyber Torres swings away

Matt Martell

• AL East Winner: New York Yankees
• AL Central Winner: Chicago White Sox
• AL West Winner: Los Angeles Angels
• AL Wild Card 1: Minnesota Twins
• AL Wild Card 2: Oakland Athletics

• NL East Winner: Atlanta Braves
• NL Central Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
• NL West Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
• NL Wild Card 1: San Diego Padres
• NL Wild Card 2: Washington Nationals

It would be the most Metsian thing for them to miss the postseason in Big Money Steve Cohen's first season as their owner. Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor are great, and their offense should be quite good, but there are concerns in their rotation and bullpen. The Nationals have two superstars in their lineup (Juan Soto and the criminally underrated Trea Turner) and a better rotation than New York. The Yankees are the team to beat in the AL East, and I think on paper the Angels are much better than the A's and Astros. We'll see if that's enough for Mike Trout to return to the playoffs.

World Series Prediction: New York Yankees over Los Angeles Dodgers (7 games)

This is the year the Yankees return to the World Series and win their first title since 2009. Gleyber Torres is on the verge of joining the ranks of the game's great young shortstops. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will be (mostly) healthy, and I am still a believer in Gary Sánchez. When healthy, this lineup is unstoppable. Gerrit Cole is the ace, but Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon are worthy additions to the rotation—again, so long as they're healthy—and Luis Severino should be cooking come October.

Nick Selbe

• AL East Winner: New York Yankees
• AL Central Winner: Minnesota Twins
• AL West Winner: Houston Astros
• AL Wild Card 1:  Chicago White Sox
• AL Wild Card 2: Los Angeles Angels

• NL East Winner: Atlanta Braves
• NL Central Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
• NL West Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
• NL Wild Card 1: San Diego Padres
• NL Wild Card 2: Washington Nationals

Juan Soto's masterful hitting will help lead the Nats back to the postseason. Mike Trout's will do the same for the Halos, whose playoff drought reached six years last season. It's a shame the Padres will have to settle for a wild card spot, as they appear to be the second-best NL team on paper. The Mets and Blue Jays are the two "just missed" teams.

World Series Prediction: New York Yankees over Atlanta Braves (7 games)

Because of the inherent randomness of the MLB playoffs, it's not often the two best teams actually meet in the World Series. Besides, a chalk pick is boring anyways, right? Here's betting the Braves get over the hump, beat the Dodgers and avenge last season's collapse to win the NL pennant, only to lose a heartbreaker to Yankees. Gary Sánchez will deliver the crucial hit in Game 7.

Michael Shapiro

• AL East Winner: New York Yankees
• AL Central Winner: Chicago White Sox
• AL West Winner: Houston Astros
• AL Wild Card 1: Minnesota Twins
• AL Wild Card 2: Oakland Athletics

• NL East Winner: Atlanta Braves
• NL Central Winner: Milwaukee Brewers
• NL West Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
• NL Wild Card 1: San Diego Padres
• NL Wild Card 2: New York Mets

Imperfect pitching staffs for the Angels and Blue Jays will keep a pair of potent lineups out of the American League playoffs, while the Astros will cobble together enough starting pitching to continue their reign atop the AL West. We could see a trio of tight division races in the National League, especially in a potential four-team battle for the NL East crown. Don't sleep on the Braves as World Series contenders in 2021. Another Dodgers championship isn't exactly a fait accompli. 

World Series Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers over Houston Astros (6 games)

The Braves, Padres or Mets could give the Dodgers a scare in the NL, but it feels foolish to pick against the most loaded roster in recent memory. As for the AL, there's no clear favorite entering Opening Day. If the Astros can find themselves healthy by August, we could see them sprint to yet another pennant.