10 burning questions for the 2021 MLB season

By Robbie Stratakos
Mar 29, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres (25) is congratulated by New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (17) after he scored a run during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 MLB season is just days away. Expectations are set, and there are plenty of storylines to keep tabs on as the season progresses.

A young Tampa Bay Rays player will be key to their success in the ultra-competitive American League East. The National League West promises to be more competitive than a season ago. However, is any team really close to the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers?

These are among the 10 burning questions for the 2021 MLB season as we prepare for Opening Day around the league.

Read More: 2021 MLB predictions: From MLB playoffs to 2021 World Series winner

1. Will Randy Arozarena’s postseason heroics continue in the regular season?

2021 MLB season: Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays
Mar 2, 2021; Fort Myers, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Randy Arozarena (56) gestures prior to the spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park at Fenway South. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Randy Arozarena was a gun blazing in the 2020 MLB postseason, blasting 10 home runs and posting a 1.273 OPS. He performed like a bonafide star at the plate. Will the heroics continue heading into the 2021 MLB season?

The Tampa Bay Rays get back a healthy Austin Meadows. But they need Arozarena to swing at a high level, helping them be a legitimate offensive attack. While they have the organizational depth to sufficiently replace Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, the Rays need their offense to pick up the slack while their rotation comes into form.

2. Can the New York Yankees finally win the American League pennant?

Burning questions for 2021 MLB season: New York Yankees
Feb 18, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone looks on during the first day of spring training workouts at the Player Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, the Yankees are the presumed favorite to win the American League pennant. Do they finally break through this season?

Their rotation is seemingly improved with healthy versions of offseason additions Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. That said, the Yankees have been eliminated from the playoffs in each of the last four seasons for different reasons. They’re stacked across the board. It looks different, but will it ultimately end in a World Series appearance?

Read More: MLB power rankings: 2021 outlook for every team before Opening Day

3. Are the Toronto Blue Jays a contender?

MLB teams: Toronto Blue Jays
Mar 17, 2021; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (13) and center fielder George Springer (4) talk against the New York Yankees at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays are loaded around the diamond, a situation furthered by the free-agent signings of George Springer and Marcus Semien. That unit is accompanied by a precarious rotation. Is that combination enough for the Blue Jays to contend?

Their offense should be able to go toe-to-toe with any offense in MLB. It’s a matter of their rotation stabilizing and the organization taking the next step from a win-loss standpoint. This task comes with attempting to overtake one or both of the rival Rays and Yankees.

Read More: 5 rebuilding MLB teams on the verge of playoff contention

4. Will the Chicago White Sox live up to the hype?

Eloy Jimenez: Chicago White Sox
Mar 15, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Chicago White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez against the Chicago Cubs during a Spring Training game at Camelback Ranch Glendale. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox making the playoffs last season was the result of years of internal growth and pouncing on savvy upgrades at opportune moments. They have the talent to contend for the American League title. Will they come through?

Even with outfielder Eloy Jimenez sidelined for the majority of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle, the White Sox have a formidable offense headlined by 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson. Meanwhile, ace Lucas Giolito spearheads a reliable starting rotation. Can talent and growth lead them to the promised land in 2021?

5. Is the Los Angeles Angels starting rotation good enough to make the playoffs?

Los Angeles Angels: Griffin Canning
Sep 22, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Griffin Canning (47) pitches during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

While they didn’t make a blockbuster move for their rotation, Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb are cost-effective pickups for the Angels. The veterans will only be impactful additions, though, if they help the Angels get to the playoffs. Additionally, they’ll need Griffin Canning to prosper and Dylan Bundy to be a steady force.

Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon lead a high-profile offense. They now need starting pitching to get them in the playoffs and/or win the American League West.

6. Who will win the National League East?

MLB predictions: World Series
Oct 12, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) celebrates after scoring during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game one of the 2020 NLCS at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Every team in the NL East (Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals and New York Mets) has an internal roadmap to winning the division crown. Who will actually do it?

These teams are separated by literal hairs from a talent standpoint. It will come down to a combination of health, bullpen execution and stars playing the part. This is the best division in MLB.

Read More: MLB games today: MLB schedule, probable pitchers for Opening Day of 2021 season

7. Does Nolan Arenado make the St. Louis Cardinals a World Series contender?

MLB season burning questions: Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
Mar 29, 2021; Jupiter, Florida, USA; St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) celebrates his solo homerun in the 1st inning of the spring training game against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals are coming off a .500 season, but they also won 88-plus games in 2018 and 2019 and acquired the best third baseman in the sport in Nolan Arenado. Is this team a World Series contender?

Arenado is part of a veteran positional core, headlined by Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina, that’s capable of doing damage at the plate. All the while, the Cardinals have a well-versed rotation and play in a now-underwhelming National League Central. The pieces are there. It’s a matter of overcoming the firepower in other divisions.

8. Are the Los Angeles Dodgers a given to win the World Series?

Dodger World Series
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers signed Trevor Bauer to an elite rotation and kept Justin Turner on a depth chart that could’ve functioned without him; they have the deepest roster in MLB. With that said, are the Dodgers a given to repeat as World Series champions or a trap pick?

There’s productive-to-elite players at every position on manager Dave Roberts’ ballclub. While cliché, are they too good to be true? Will they crumble to expectations in October? They’re otherworldly talent-wise, but will their end product be the same?

Read More: 2021 MLB season: X-factor for each National League team

9. Can the San Diego Padres challenge the rival Dodgers?

MLB power rankings: San Diego Padres
Oct 8, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (23) reacts and signals safe after a play against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the second inning during game three of the 2020 NLDS at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres added Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove to an already reliable rotation and have a vibrant offense led by Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eric Hosmer. This is a World Series contender.

Can they challenge the rival Dodgers in the National League West and for the league pennant? They each have stout rotations and highly productive offenses. Head-to-head play will be pivotal. In any other offseason, the Padres are the story. The Dodgers just so happened to add a potent starter to a rotation that may have already been the best in the majors this season anyway.

10. Will the Colorado Rockies continue to sell, trade Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon?

MLB power rankings: Colorado Rockies
Sep 24, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (27) high fives teammates after scoring a run against the San Francisco Giants during the seventh inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockies traded Arenado. Will others follow the third baseman out the door? Story is a free agent after this season, and the Rockies supposedly can’t afford to extend him. Meanwhile, Blackmon is one of the best hitters in the sport. Story and Blackmon could each be moved before the MLB trade deadline.

If the Rockies are entering a full-fledged rebuild and/or trying to shed payroll, it’s feasible to expect them to entertain offers for their star players. If the Rockies slump out of the gate and/or are out of the playoff picture in July, they could very well pull the trigger.

Read More: 2021 MLB season: X-factor for each American League team