What team will be the 2021 World Series Champion?

With teams continuing to play more and more games, current records are starting to more accurately represent how good a team actually is. And while it is still very early, it has allowed at least a decent sample of data to make projections off of. Having some of this data, my goal is to answer the ultimate question this season: Who is going to win the 2021 World Series? While I will be listing my champion, I will also be listing two others who I believe to have a legitimate chance at a ring this year.


3. Chicago White Sox

Currently, in First Place in the AL Central with a 22-13 (.629) record, that entire division has been nothing short of surprising this year. With the Twins projected to be behind the White Sox in Fangraphs Preseason Rankings by 3 wins, they are in last place, and the Indians are only one game back. Now, with a somewhat surprising competitive division, it may cause one to wonder if putting the White Sox as a World Series pick is somewhat risky. But to that concern, I say not at all. While they were shortened some games, they currently have the highest winning percentage in the American League. Plus, I would argue that even though their division is currently playing somewhat decently, most of them are overperforming or near where they’re supposed to be (excluding the Twins). With the White Sox continuing to do amazing despite an overperforming division, this shows their ability to do well against the hard competition, which will be very necessary for a chance at the Series.


But while keeping the fellow ball clubs they play most often in mind is important, that is not why they’re on this list. Rather, it is because of their loaded lineup and starting rotation. Beginning with their lineup, the Sox currently carry 4 players who have already produced over 1 fWAR (Tim Anderson, Yermin Mercedes, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert). While admittedly Robert is out for 3-4 months due to injury, they still carry such names as Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, and rookie Andrew Vaughn. Through these explosive hitters and more not mentioned, the team carries a 117 wRC+ and .332 wOBA, ranking them as one of the top offensive teams of the year so far. With that, they also hold hot starting pitchers such as Lance Lynn (2.26 FIP, 1.3 fWAR) and Carlos Rodon (1.84 FIP, 1.3 fWAR), as well as great relief with Liam Hendricks (3.30 FIP). With this mixture, the White Sox are almost definitely a playoff team, and potentially a World Series contender.


2. Houston Astros


While the Astros are currently on an exact pace to hit their tough preseason Fangraphs projection with a 21-17 record (.553), they still manage to trail the Athletics by 1.5 games. Like the AL Central, the AL West has been very surprising this year. Lowly-touted teams such as the Mariners and the Rangers began hot, but both are .500 and below in their last 10 outings. The Athletics were also projected to be 3 games under .500 for the entire season, yet they have managed to continue to hold on to 1st Place spot in the AL West. So, what does this mean for the Astros? While the Athletics have kept going, the remaining teams have continued to conform to what their records actually should be. Many bad teams start hot to begin a season, and it is not surprising to see some of the Astros competitors doing the same. With Houston being one of the teams to start slow, it is again not surprising to see their record turn around. With the Astros having the ability to even beat some of the rougher teams when they were hot, it shows their ability to face tough competition when necessary. And while it may be hard to capture whether the ability to beat these teams will transfer to the rest of the league when the time comes, the Astros have shown their ability to do this in previous seasons as well.

Like the White Sox and the other teams on this list, the Astros carry both a stacked lineup and pitching rotation. Having three hitters in the lineup with above 1 fWAR (Yuli Gurriel, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman), the Houston offense has been explosive thus far. Having a team wRC+ of 118 and a .330 wOBA, many other hitters such as Kyle Tucker (0.9 fWAR, 106 wRC+, 8 HR) and Michael Brantley (0.9 fWAR, 141 wRC+, .363 wOBA) have stepped up this year. On the other side, Christian Javier and Jose Uriquidy have also stepped up. With Javier’s 3.50 FIP and Uriquidy’s 4.04 FIP, as well as having support from Lance McCullers Jr. and Zack Greinke, this rotation is solid. On top of that, they carry one of the best relievers in the game with Ryan Pressly, who has a 1.40 FIP and 28.8 K% so far this season. With both the solid pitching and the loaded offense, while it may come to much dismay for the reader, the Astros could win again this year.


1. My Projected Champion - Los Angeles Dodgers


This pick should be of no surprise to the reader, as this team has been favored to win the World Series this season ever since they won last year, or at least until recently. Before the season, Fangraphs projected them at a 20.3% chance to win the World Series. In their updated projections as of May 14th, this has fallen to 16.6%, 0.8% less than the now World Series favorite New York Yankees. The drastic change in these projections can easily point at the Dodger’s recent struggles as they are 7-13 in their last 20 games, a big dropoff from their hot start. But even with these struggles, I am not the least bit worried about this team. As records tend to adjust to a team's actual skill as the season goes on, I can say this with absolute certainty: the Dodgers are underperforming. Currently, they have a 20-17 record (.541) for third in the NL West, the amount of skill and ability on this roster warrants a much higher record. With that in mind, I can assume that their record will more accurately represent their talent towards the second half of the season.


Keeping that skill thought in mind, let's look at the roster. In their lineup, they have Max Muncy (.396 wOBA, 155 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR), Justin Turner (.405 wOBA, 160 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR), Mookie Betts (.358 wOBA, 130 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR) among many other hitters that can explode against a pitcher in any spot of the lineup. On top of that, the team doesn’t even currently have its best possible lineup. Most notably, they are missing former NL MVP Cody Bellinger due to injury. Given that he is not out for the season, he will add a great deal to this already star-studded cast. On the pitching end, they’re just as loaded. Led by Clayton Kershaw (2.45 FIP, 26.1 K%, 1.6 fWAR) and reigning NL Cy Young Trevor Bauer (3.52 FIP, 34.7 K%, 0.9 fWAR), along with both Julio Urias and Walker Buehler, this rotation is legendary. If it were not for the recent injury of Dustin May, one could argue that all 5 of their pitchers would go into the SP1 or SP2 spot on almost any team. Being backed up by both Blake Treinen (2.25 FIP, 0.5 fWAR) and Jimmy Nelson (2.17 FIP, 34.9 K%), who both have been surprising assets, this team is incredibly hard to hit against. The Dodgers are also currently missing David Price to injury, who will be a great help after he returns. Being one of the most well-rounded teams not only in baseball but rather any I’ve ever witnessed, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the obvious 2021 World Series Champions.


Sources:


Baseball-reference.com

Fangraphs.com

MLB.com