5 bold predictions for second half of 2021 MLB season

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·8 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jose Altuve, Starling Marte, Shohei Ohtani, and Pete Alonso TREATED ART
Jose Altuve, Starling Marte, Shohei Ohtani, and Pete Alonso TREATED ART

We’re going to find out a lot more about Steve Cohen in the next couple of weeks. In his first year as MLB’s richest owner, he might be smelling October baseball already, considering the Mets’ first-place standing and the weak state of the NL East.

So how tempted will he be to make a blockbuster trade by the July 30th deadline and improve not only the chances of his team winning the division but making some noise in the postseason as well?

Remember, Cohen was willing to offer Trevor Bauer $40 million per year over the first two years of a three-year deal last winter. So, yes, I think he’ll be in go-for-it mode, even if it means going over the payroll luxury-tax threshold, and even if it means giving up the type of top prospect that Sandy Alderson and Zack Scott would rather keep.

With that in mind, here are my five second-half Bold Predictions, as well as a review -- and in some cases much-needed revisions -- of the 10 Bold Predictions I made going into the season.

1. Mets Trade For Jose Berrios

Would they give up Ronny Mauricio, the 20-year old shortstop ranked as their No. 4 prospect by SNY contributor Joe DeMayo? It’ll take a top prospect to land Berrios from the Minnesota Twins, as the right-hander has one more arbitration-eligible season before reaching free agency, and maybe the Mets could justify giving up Mauricio because they have Francisco Lindor locked up for another 10 years.

At age 27, Berrios is a premium talent capable of dominating any lineup, though scouts say he still needs to command his elite fastball and slider more consistently to reach his full potential. He could be an important weapon come October and he could also give the Mets some cover for 2022 if they don’t want to pay what Marcus Stroman -- and/or Noah Syndergaard -- will be looking for as a free agent.

Berrios has been durable throughout his career, and this season has pitched to a 3.48 ERA with 114 strikeouts in 108.2 innings. A source says Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, formerly with the Twins, has recommended Berrios highly to the front office based on working with him in the past.

They could always pursue a trade with the Cubs for Kris Bryant and Zach Davies, but both players are free agents after the season and I can’t see the Mets giving up a prospect like Mauricio in a rental deal.

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jose Berrios (17) pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the second inning at Target Field.
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jose Berrios (17) pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the second inning at Target Field.

2. Yankees Deal For Starling Marte

Perhaps Joey Gallo could be had, and his left-handed bat would a much-needed weapon in the Bronx, but he’ll cost more because he’s got another year of contractual control. And besides, do the Yankees really want to have to play Aaron Judge in center field full-time?

In that sense, a Marte deal seems more doable, with the Miami Marlins 11 games under .500 and the Yankees in need of a center fielder. The question is whether what’s left of Marte’s $12 million salary would put the Yankees over the luxury-tax threshold, because that might be a deal-breaker for Hal Steinbrenner.

Even in that case, I’m betting Brian Cashman could find a way to move some money in a separate trade to make it work. And the Yankees could almost certainly do it by giving up a couple of prospects from outside of their top 10.

3. Shohei Ohtani Hits 55 Home Runs, Wins AL MVP

It’s a big number but 55 seems within reach for Ohtani if he stays healthy, considering he seems to be getting more and more comfortable with double-duty, both pitching and hitting. He hit 33 home runs while playing in 84 games in the first half and arrived at the All-Star break on a long-ball tear, going deep 18 times in his last 34 games.

So there’s plenty of reason to believe Ohtani could hit 22 more in the Los Angeles Angels’ remaining 73 games. And, though at 45-44, his team is hanging within striking distance of a Wild Card spot. You’d have to think if the Angels fall out of contention that Joe Maddon would rest Ohtani’s arm and allow him to focus solely on his offense, especially if he got into September close enough to make a run at 60.

4. Pete Alonso Catches Fire, Hits 30 Second-Half Home Runs

It won’t be like hitting soft-tosses at Coors Field, but I’m betting Alonso will be riding a wave of confidence off his Home Run Derby championship that results in him finding something resembling his rookie long-ball stroke.

Thirty in the remaining 75 games, which would get Alonso to 47 home runs for the season, is a big ask, but when he gets hot anything is possible. Scouts say he’s been guilty of overswinging and chasing high fastballs too often, but perhaps he’ll relax a little after what he did in Colorado and let his talent take over.

5. Houston Astros Annoy The World, Win AL Pennant

The sign-stealers just won’t go away quietly. Without Justin Verlander, without Gerrit Cole, without George Springer, the Astros are rolling once again at 55-36, leading the Oakland A’s by 3.5 games in the AL West and looking dangerous.

The biggest surprise has been their pitching. You knew they still had mashers in that lineup, and indeed they lead the AL in runs scored by a wide margin, but their starting pitchers also lead the AL with a 3.35 ERA. Home-grown youngsters Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia have emerged to join Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers, Jr., and free-agent signee Jake Odorizzi in the starting rotation.

As such, the ‘Stros are going to be tough to beat come October, especially if they add a significant bullpen arm at the trade deadline.

And here’s a look back at my 10 Bold Predictions going into the season, with revised thoughts where necessary:

10. Jameson Taillon Wins AL Comeback Player Of Year Award

Looks like a big miss here. Taillon has been mediocre, 4-4 with a 4.90 ERA.

NEW PREDICTION: Trey Mancini seems like an obvious choice for this award. He's having a solid season for the Orioles -- and a strong Home Run Derby -- after missing 2020 due to cancer.

9. Jack Leiter Picked No. 1 Overall

Came close to hitting on this one, as Leiter went No. 2 overall to the Texas Rangers.

8. Jarred Kelenic Wins AL Rookie Of The Year Award

Uh, not exactly. Kelenic, the former Mets first-round draft choice, wasn’t ready for the bigs, hitting .096 in 23 games before the Seattle Mariners sent him back to the minors.

NEW PREDICTION: Not backing off entirely here. He won’t win ROY but I still think Kelenic will make a splash in the big leagues at some point this year, perhaps August/September. Too much talent not to.

7. Trevor Bauer Shuts Down Twitter Account By July

Turns out Bauer has more to answer for than his past social media issues. He’s on administrative leave, via MLB, after he was accused of sexual assault.

6. Lindor Signs Extension, Wins Gold Glove

Fortunately, I didn’t predict he’d win an MVP Award because that’s not happening. But his defense has been as good as advertised so he does have a chance to win that Gold Glove.

NEW PREDICTION: Lindor is finally looking comfortable at the plate after a strong finish to the first half. I’ll say he gets to .260 with 25 home runs, which isn’t great for $341 million, but wouldn’t be bad considering how poorly he started.

5. Juan Soto, Bo Bichette Win MVP Awards

They’re both having nice seasons, just not in the class with the likely winners.

NEW PREDICTION: Ohtani almost can’t miss at this point, even if the Angels are also-rans again. The real drama in the NL could be pitcher vs. shortstop -- Jacob deGrom vs. Fernando Tatis Jr. I think Tatis’ numbers will be too good for deGrom to overcome, even if his season proves to be historic.

4. Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole Win Cy Young Awards

Almost feels like a given for deGrom but if he slips a bit in the second half, a bunch of NL starters having outstanding seasons could steal it, including ex-Met Zack Wheeler.

In the AL, the Texas Rangers’ Lance Lynn (1.99 ERA) might be the favorite right now, but Cole’s 129-pitch shutout over the Astros last Friday is reason to ride with him, even without his sticky stuff.

3. Mets Win Second Wild Card, Lose To Padres

It’s NL East or bust now, with the Mets atop the division and both Wild Card teams likely to come out of the NL West.

NEW PREDICTION: Mets win the division, defeat the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS, lose to the San Diego Padres in the NLCS.

2. Yankees Finally Make It Back To World Series

I don’t see it happening. They’re playing better lately but they’ve got a big hill to climb with an obviously flawed roster.

NEW PREDICTION: The Yanks miss the postseason.

1. Padres Win It All

Their starting pitching hasn’t been as dominant as I expected, but the Padres are pretty much a lock to at least make the postseason, so I’ll stand by my pick.