Fantasy Baseball 2021: American League predictions

Dalton Del Don
·7 min read

Check out my National League preview here.

AL East

1. New York Yankees

2. Tampa Bay Rays (Wild Card)

3. Toronto Blue Jays (Wild Card)

4. Boston Red Sox

5. Baltimore Orioles

Comments/Fantasy Predictions: The Yankees have some question marks in their rebuilt rotation and familiar injury concerns with their stars but still project to have the best offense in baseball. They enter as the favorites to win the American League (Luis Severino’s eventual return certainly helps) … Gary Sanchez hits 10+ more homers than any other catcher, while Domingo German finishes as a top-40 fantasy starter … Aaron Hicks is a top-30 outfielder, while DJ LeMahieu is a fantasy bust.

Thanks to platoons, defense, and a bullpen committee, the Rays are a better real-life team than they are fantasy helpful, but there are a couple of possible superstars hiding in plain sight in Tampa Bay. Tyler Glasnow wins the Cy Young and looks like robbery in the fourth round of fantasy drafts, while Austin Meadows bounces back in a big way … Randy Arozarena isn’t without risk given his breakout age, limited track record, and ADP, but he also has to be the most favored player ever to win a Rookie of the Year award coming off a postseason that included 10 homers in 20 games and a comical 239 wRC+ against the best pitchers in the world … Francisco Mejia overtakes Mike Zunino at catcher and becomes a hot waiver wire pickup, while Willy Adames is the most undervalued fantasy shortstop.

Manuel Margot goes 20/30.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finishes runner-up in MVP voting and easily wins the batting title, while Marcus Semien has more fantasy value than Cavan Biggio … Jordan Romano is a top-10 fantasy closer, while Alejandro Kirk is a top-10 catcher.

Boston is counting heavily on Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, and Nick Pivetta, and their bullpen is equally as old with as many questions … Adam Ottavino leads the Red Sox in saves … Alex Verdugo misses too many games to live up to his exceedingly high ADP expectations; Franchy Cordero is the better fantasy pick … Rafael Devers rebounds with a big season rivaling any fantasy third baseman, while Bobby Dalbec knocks 30+ homers.

Cedric Mullins is a sneaky option for 20+ steals, while Maikel Franco is a sneaky top-20 fantasy third baseman … Fangraphs gives the Orioles a 0% chance to win the World Series and 0.1% odds of making the playoffs.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays
Dalton Del Don expects great things from Vladimr Guerrero Jr. this season. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

AL Central

1. Chicago White Sox

2. Minnesota Twins

3. Cleveland Indians

4. Kansas City Royals

5. Detroit Tigers

Comments/Fantasy Predictions: In a super tight race at the top of the division, the White Sox overcome the loss of Eloy Jimenez to barely win the Central … Jose Abreu’s ADP drops 50 spots in 2022, while Yoan Moncada’s jumps 50 … While Andrew Vaughn gets the fantasy hype, Adam Eaton pays the fantasy bills. He’ll have a better spot in the lineup with Jimenez out and is a career .282 hitter who runs. Eaton has a low ADP coming off an ugly (short) season but now calls home to a park that significantly boosts power for lefties … Michael Kopech and Garrett Crochet are ready to step up in a loaded pen, while Carlos Rodon goes down as one of the best late-round SP steals.

Lucas Giolito finishes runner-up in the AL Cy Young voting and should be a first-round fantasy pick.

The addition of Andrelton Simmons at short is huge for Minnesota’s staff, a staff that also benefits from throwing to Ryan Jeffers … Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda outperform their ADPs, but Kenta Maeda doesn’t last the full season … Josh Donaldson is a top-10 fantasy third baseman, while Randy Dobnak is a bona fide sleeper.

Byron Buxton misses a month of action but goes 30/20 anyway.

Zach Plesac disappoints compared to his ADP, while Triston McKenzie emerges as the team’s No. 2 starter … Josh Naylor is a deep sleeper ... James Karinchak is the AL’s biggest boom/boost fantasy reliever, with his range of outcomes going from entering 2022 as the consensus No. 1 RP to losing saves all year to Nick Wittgren (and Emmanuel Clase) … Cleveland pitchers all benefit from the team’s new catching tandem, as Roberto Perez and Austin Hedges finished top-three in converting non-swing pitches into called strikes during MLB’s last full season. In other words, two of the league’s best pitch framers both now catch in Cleveland.

Franmil Reyes hits 40 homers and records 115 RBI.

Andrew Benintendi benefits from joining a Royals team that led MLB in stolen base attempts last season but goes to one of the few home parks that’s even tougher on lefty power than Fenway Park is, as KC has decreased homers for LHB by an MLB-high 25% over the last three seasons … Adalberto Mondesi is fantasy’s biggest risk/reward … Brady Singer emerges as the team’s clear ace, while Danny Duffy proves more fantasy valuable than Brad Keller … Mike Minor had the third-highest spin rate on his four-seamer among starters last season, so he better watch his back.

Spencer Torkelson doesn’t take long to become the next big thing, as he’s commonly taken in the first five rounds of fantasy drafts in 2022 … Casey Mize’s upside now looks underwhelming for a No. 1 pick, but Tarik Skubal, Jeimer Candelario, and Jonathan Schoop are all interesting sleepers.

Matthew Boyd isn’t being drafted as a top-80 SP in Yahoo leagues, but he’ll finish as a top-25 fantasy starter in 2021.

AL West

1. Los Angeles Angels

2. Houston Astros

3. Oakland Athletics

4. Seattle Mariners

5. Texas Rangers

Comments/Fantasy Predictions: The Angels will get a nice boost when/if they turn to Jared Walsh at first base, as octogenarian Albert Pujols is entering his 21st season and ranks last in WAR (-2.0) since 2017 … With Dylan Bundy emerging as an ace, the game’s best player in Mike Trout, an improved defense/bullpen and their place in a wide-open division, I like the Angels as a long shot to win the World Series at 40/1.

Shohei Ohtani posts a unicorn season and wins the AL MVP.

Houston faces major question marks regarding a once loaded pitching staff, although Yordan Alvarez might be good enough to overcome the loss of Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Josh James, and top prospect Forrest Whitley all by himself if his knees cooperate … Jose Altuve finishes with more fantasy value than DJ LeMahieu and is one of the bigger ADP steals of 2021 drafts.

Lance McCullers finishes as a top-15 fantasy starter.

Matt Olson and Ramon Laureano don’t live up to their ADPs, but Sean Manaea, Elvis Andrus, and Mark Canha vastly outperform theirs … Few pitchers will have a higher ADP in 2022 compared to this year than A.J. Puk, who remains curiously free at the end of many drafts. There’s still ace potential should a few mph return now that he’s finally feeling healthy after offseason surgery.

His name is Robert Puason!

Ty France and his 2B eligibility as well as Yusei Kikuchi are both fantasy sleepers, while Mitch Haniger is the reason you can wait to fill your outfield … Marco Gonzales is vastly outperformed by James Paxton, who finishes as a top-20 fantasy starter.

As feared, Texas became a far less hitter’s haven in new Globe Life Field, as this suddenly looks like one of the least helpful fantasy rosters in the league … Dane Dunning emerges as the team’s ace, with Texas’ bullpen another example of why the top tier fantasy closers are being pushed up in competitive leagues … Ronald Guzman finishes as the Rangers’ second-best hitter.

ALCS: Yankees over White Sox

Check back for my National League preview soon!

Follow Dalton Del Don on Twitter