Michael Taylor scored when Garrett Crochet misplayed Andrew Benintendi's bunt in the 10th inning, sending the Royals to a 4-3 win over Chicago on Sunday.
Michael A. Taylor scored when Garrett Crochet misplayed Andrew Benintendi's bunt in the 10th inning, sending the Royals to a 4-3 victory over the White Sox.
Former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi made a nice first impression with a sensational catch in his Royals debut.
Welcome to theScore's MLB Power Rankings ahead of Opening Day. Here we look at each team's most important player for the 2021 season: 1. Los Angeles DodgersMookie Betts: Adding the superstar outfielder gave the Dodgers that extra boost of confidence needed last season to push them over the edge finally. No other player on the roster brings the sort of athleticism that Mookie possesses. His elite combination of defense, base running, and plate presence are unmatched. His ability to cover multiple outfield positions helps Los Angeles cover the depth it lost in the offseason.2. San Diego PadresFernando Tatis Jr.: The 22-year-old shortstop is the face of the franchise and should be for the next decade and beyond after signing his 14-year extension last month. He's a rare power/speed threat and has already accrued 39 home runs and 27 stolen bases in just 143 career games. The sky is the limit for Tatis, who could help usher in the first championship team in franchise history.3. Atlanta BravesFreddie Freeman: The reigning NL MVP is the leader of a World Series contender looking to win its first title since 1995. The four-time All-Star is the complete package, as he can hit for power and average while playing exceptional defense at first base. Atlanta has a lot of talent, but it would have a hard time replacing the 31-year-old if he's out of the lineup.4. New York MetsFrancisco Lindor: The $341-million man is now the face of the franchise after inking a record-setting extension. As the team's highest-paid player, all the pressure is on him. Lindor's ability to switch hit gives the left-handed club balance, and he's an elite defensive player at arguably the most important position. New York also traded away two shortstops to land Lindor, making his presence in the lineup each day that much more important.5. New York YankeesGerrit Cole: The Yankees will be in some serious trouble if Cole underperforms or misses any time. New York's rotation is already shaky with the three-time All-Star leading the way, as Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, and Domingo German combined to throw just one pitch in 2020 due to injuries and suspension. The Yankees' best shot of winning its first World Series since 2009 begins with Cole being a monster on the mound every fifth day. Ron Vesely / Getty Images Sport / Getty6. Chicago White SoxJose Abreu: The reigning AL MVP and longest-tenured White Sox player is the rock of their lineup. In addition to his award-winning production at the plate, Abreu serves as a clubhouse leader and respected mentor to the team's young players. He's even more important following Eloy Jimenez's injury that will cost him most of 2021. Abreu makes Chicago go, and it's hard to imagine them without him.7. Toronto Blue JaysHyun Jin Ryu: Toronto knows it has a chance to win every time the left-hander takes the mound - something that can't be said for any of its other starters. Ryu finished third in AL Cy Young voting after posting a 2.69 ERA over 12 outings in 2020. On a team with so many questions surrounding its pitching staff, you need that constant in the rotation. Ryu's starts will likely be the difference between the Blue Jays making or missing the postseason.8. Minnesota TwinsKenta Maeda: The Twins gave Maeda a fresh start last year by moving him into the rotation full time. In return, he gave Minnesota a fantastic campaign that ended with him finishing second in AL Cy Young voting. A lot will be expected of Maeda now that he's firmly entrenched as the Twins' ace, but there's no reason to think he can't handle it. A lot also rides on his arm, though. Without him, Minnesota's rotation - and chances for postseason success - would take a sizeable hit.9. Houston AstrosJose Altuve: The 2017 AL MVP looked lost at the plate last season, accruing a .219/.286/.344 slash line. Altuve picked it up in the playoffs, and the Astros are hoping his 2020 numbers are a result of small sample size in a weird season. Houston needs the star second baseman to be in vintage form to make another postseason run after losing George Springer.10. Washington NationalsJuan Soto: An argument could be made for Max Scherzer, but it's Soto who's taking on the mantle as the franchise's most essential player. The 22-year-old phenom showcased an elite ability to get on base in his brief career and led the majors in OPS (1.185) in 47 games last summer. He walked 41 times compared to 28 strikeouts and even stole six bases. Soto is as good and exciting as they come.11. Tampa Bay RaysBrandon Lowe: The 2019 All-Star epitomizes the Rays and their pesky nature. Lowe can beat a pitcher in many different ways, and so can Tampa Bay's offense. The 26-year-old is turning into one of the best second basemen in baseball, thanks to a career .855 OPS over three seasons. Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox / Getty Images Sport / Getty12. Philadelphia PhilliesBryce Harper: Don't overthink it, the Phillies' $330-million man is the guy who'll bear the brunt of the blame if Philly can't return to the postseason. However, through the first two seasons of his contract, it's apparent that he's not the problem as he's crushed 48 home runs with a .903 OPS in 215 games.13. Los Angeles AngelsShohei Ohtani: Look, Mike Trout is baseball's best player and can't be replaced. Everyone knows that. But if the Angels lose their two-way phenom in Ohtani, the entire operation falls apart in a different way. Ohtani is finally healthy (outside of a blister late in spring) and showed what he's capable of as a two-way machine during camp. The Angels built their lineup and rotation around making sure he can play both positions, and although that's very risky given his injury history, the reward is incredibly high. Trout's going to do his thing, win or lose. L.A. is going nowhere if Ohtani doesn't produce.14. Boston Red SoxXander Bogaerts: The 28-year-old gets lost in the shuffle when talking about the MLB's best shortstops. Since 2018, only Francisco Lindor has posted more WAR at the position. Not only is Bogaerts one of Boston's offensive leaders, but he also plays a premium position where the Red Sox don't have much cover at. Over the last three years, he's appeared in 87% of the team's defensive innings at shortstop.15. St. Louis CardinalsNolan Arenado: Like the Mets and Lindor, the Cardinals traded for a star in Arenado who gives them a chance to win now. The former Rockies third baseman has been one of baseball's best players since 2013, accruing 32.3 fWAR, and should form a productive pairing with Paul Goldschmidt in the heart of St. Louis' lineup.16. Oakland AthleticsMatt Chapman: The Athletics reached the ALDS without Chapman last year after he underwent hip surgery. Imagine how far they could have gone if he was healthy. Chapman's been one of the five best third basemen since debuting in 2017. He's the rock in the A's lineup and face of the franchise for however long he remains in East Bay. They had a bit of success without him during a shortened season, but the A's need Chapman at his best if they're going to get over the hump finally.17. Milwaukee BrewersChristian Yelich: Yelich's third season in Milwaukee fell well short of his brilliant award-winning campaigns. We'll probably find out quickly if his .786 OPS was caused by the oddball 2020 season. The Brewers have to hope he rediscovers his old form because any chance they have of competing in the NL Central rests on his bat. Jason Miller / Getty Images Sport / Getty18. Cleveland IndiansJose Ramirez: The Indians need Ramirez more than ever with Lindor gone. The former will be counted on to do a lot of heavy lifting for Cleveland's offense, and he's more than capable of being "the man." The two-time All-Star finished as a finalist for AL MVP voting in three of the last four years, including runner-up in 2020.19. Cincinnati RedsLuis Castillo: A legitimate ace. The 28-year-old puts Cincinnati in a position to win whenever he's on the hill. With Sonny Gray injured, Castillo will need to carry the load early. He's shown that he's more than capable, striking out 30.5% of the hitters he faced last season.20. Kansas City RoyalsWhit Merrifield: He's a mainstay on the Royals since his breakout 2017 campaign and remains their most prized player. The two-time league hits leader should get the most lineup support of his career after Kansas City added Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi this offseason. His ability to play all around the diamond cements his importance.21. Miami MarlinsBrian Anderson: Miami's loaded with young pitching, but its offense is lacking. The team ranked 21st in runs scored last season and 23rd in OPS, making Anderson's bat in the middle of the order vital for success. The 27-year-old was the only Marlins player with double-digit home runs in 2020. His defensive versatility also gives the club cover at third base and right field.22. Chicago CubsKris Bryant: Whether the Cubs extend Bryant, trade him, or let him walk in free agency, he's going to be inextricably tied to where the franchise goes from here, even if he's ultimately not a part of it. Injuries have limited his appeal of late, particularly after a disastrous 2020, but he was an excellent hitter as recently as 2019 (.282/.382/.521), and rumors of his demise may have been greatly exaggerated.23. San Francisco GiantsMike Yastrzemski: The 30-year-old owns a career .281/.357/.535 slash line with 31 homers in 161 games over two seasons with the Giants. His ascent to stardom has been meteoric, and San Francisco is banking on him being an offensive catalyst on a team lacking firepower. Abbie Parr / Getty Images Sport / Getty24. Seattle MarinersKyle Lewis: The reigning AL Rookie of the Year will likely be flanked by future stars Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez by the end of the season, forming the best young outfield in the majors. Lewis' emergence as a star could expedite the team's rebuild. No player on the current roster owns the tools that Lewis has. Once he's healthy (a bone bruise forced him to start 2021 on the injured list), a strong sophomore season would make the Mariners an intriguing team to watch.25. Arizona DiamondbacksMadison Bumgarner: With emerging ace Zac Gallen on the shelf with a hairline fracture in his forearm, eyes will shift to MadBum as he enters the second season of a five-year, $85-million contract. He wasn't good over 41 2/3 innings (6.48 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 7.18 FIP) in his first year in the desert, so it's vital that he rights the ship.26. Detroit TigersJeimer Candelario: While much of the focus on Detroit will be directed to the Tigers' bright young arms, Candelario is now the team's most important offensive piece. With Miguel Cabrera in the home stretch of his career and a shadow of his former self, Candelario has become the anchor of this lineup. The former top prospect finally broke out last summer and is poised to continue his growth atop the Tigers' lineup. Candelario is a switch-hitter and only 27 years old, so he could very easily be a part of Detroit's next contending clubs.27. Colorado RockiesTrevor Story: As long as he remains in a Rockies uniform, Story is their engine. He's arguably the best all-around shortstop in baseball. It's sad to see him languishing on a bad team, especially after his infield partner was traded. Story's likely to follow him out the door, either via a midseason trade or through free agency next winter.28. Texas RangersJoey Gallo: Not only is Gallo the most impactful player on the rebuilding Rangers, but he's shown he can be one of the league's most dangerous hitters. The "three true outcomes" wizard ranked seventh in homers and eighth in slugging percentage among AL players between 2017-19.29. Baltimore OriolesRyan Mountcastle: The Orioles are finally starting to see some of their can't-miss prospects make some noise in the big leagues. Mountcastle, 24, put up a solid rookie campaign in 2020, accruing a .878 OPS over 35 games. Baltimore will still be bad for some time, but it feels like the organization is starting to turn a corner.30. Pittsburgh PiratesKe'Bryan Hayes: Hayes, the Pirates' top prospect and starting third baseman, burst onto the scene last September and followed that performance up with a monster spring. He finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting last season and could already be the front-runner for this year's NL honor (he's still considered a rookie due to the shortened 2020 season). It's going to be a miserable season in Pittsburgh, but the 24-year-old provides a small glimmer of hope to long-suffering fans at PNC Park this summer. Heck, he's basically the only reason to tune into a Bucs game.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Ahead of the real thing, we decided to simulate the 2021 season on MLB The Show 20 (the new game doesn't launch until next month) to see how the year shakes down. Here are the results from the virtual season: Note: Rosters were based on Opening Day projections. Injuries and trades were disabled. AL East Team W-L PCT GB RD Yankees 103-59 .636 -- +276 Red Sox 82-80 .506 21 +84 Rays 80-82 .494 23 +47 Blue Jays 75-87 .463 28 -40 Orioles 55-107 .340 48 -309 Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Judge combine for 122 homers to help New York cruise to a second division title in three years.Red Sox: J.D. Martinez (41 homers) and the club both bounce back after a miserable 2020, but the team still falls well short of the playoffs.Rays: Randy Arozarena follows up his incredible debut with a 35-homer campaign. Chris Archer ends up being Tampa Bay's best starter, posting a 2.94 ERA over 165 2/3 innings.Blue Jays: Toronto's offense ranks 10th in runs scored but the team is done in by miserable pitching. The staff finishes 27th in ERA ahead of only Pittsburgh, Texas, and Baltimore.Orioles: Trey Mancini caps his incredible comeback season with 28 homers and a .761 OPS. He's one of the few bright spots for a team that finishes in a tie for MLB's worst record.AL Central Team W-L PCT GB RD White Sox 103-59 .636 -- +135 Twins 85-77 .525 19 +37 Indians 84-78 .525 18 +88 Tigers 79-83 .488 24 -91 Royals 59-103 .364 44 -142 White Sox: Eloy Jimenez's extended absence doesn't hinder the offense as the club ranks first in average and second in runs. Jose Abreu follows up his AL MVP by crushing a career-high 40 home runs.Twins: The Bomba Squad ranks second in the majors in homers, with Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, and Mitch Garver going deep at least 30 times. Despite the offense, Minnesota misses the postseason for the first time in three years. Indians: Cleveland's starters post the fourth-best ERA thanks to electric seasons from Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac. Jose Ramirez carries the offense in Francisco Lindor's absence, posting a career-high 1.072 OPS.Tigers: Miguel Cabrera reaches the 500-homer plateau, adding another milestone to his Hall of Fame career. Casey Mize struggles, posting a 5.42 ERA over 113 innings.Royals: It's a disappointing year for Kansas City despite an encouraging offseason. Andrew Benintendi is solid, slashing .260/.342/.403 while adding 19 home runs, the second-highest mark for his career.AL West Team W-L PCT GB RD Astros 97-65 .599 -- .+158 Athletics 93-69 .574 4 +126 Angels 90-72 .556 7 +70 Mariners 82-80 .556 15 +14 Rangers 55-107 .340 42 -335 Astros: Another playoff appearance for Houston despite an underwhelming offseason. Yordan Alvarez leads the club with 46 homers after missing last season, while Zack Greinke anchors a pitching staff that ranks seventh in ERA.Athletics: Matt Chapman returns to his All-Star level with 36 home runs and 96 RBIs. Trevor Rosenthal has no issues replacing Liam Hendriks, collecting 46 saves in 53 appearances.Angels: Mike Trout is back in the postseason for the first time since 2014. The Angels rely on a solid pitching staff and AL saves leader Raisel Iglesias to reach the 90-win plateau for the first time in seven seasons.Mariners: Seattle's future looks bright after finishing above .500 for the first time since 2018. Kyle Lewis follows up his AL Rookie of the Year with 32 homers and a .959 OPS. Rangers: Texas finishes in a tie for the worst record in the majors. Joey Gallo only manages 26 homers and strikes out a career-worst 217 times.NL East Team W-L PCT GB RD Mets 93-69 .574 -- +127 Braves 83-79 .512 10 +36 Phillies 83-79 .512 10 +31 Nationals 83-79 .512 10 +15 Marlins 83-79 .512 10 +4 Mets: New York is back in the postseason for the first time since 2016 and claims its first division title since 2015. Dominic Smith and Pete Alonso combine for 81 homers while Jacob deGrom strikes out a career-high 305 batters.Braves: Atlanta's pitching ranks sixth in the majors in ERA but a sputtering offense has the Braves outside the playoff picture for the first time since 2017. The bottom half of the lineup struggles, resulting in the team ranking 21st in runs scored.Phillies: Bryce Harper produces another solid season with 37 homers and a .940 OPS, though it isn't enough to get the Phillies back into the playoffs. Harper has yet to reach the postseason since signing in Philadelphia.Nationals: Juan Soto continues his ascent into superstardom, finishing with a career-high 46 home runs, 114 RBIs, and 33 doubles. Max Scherzer becomes the 19th member of the 3,000-strikeout club. Marlins: There's no Cinderella run into the postseason, but Miami does finish with a winning record in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2008-09.NL Central Team W-L PCT GB RD Brewers 89-73 .549 -- +44 Cubs 87-75 .537 2 +62 Cardinals 74-88 .457 15 -89 Pirates 60-102 .370 29 -212 Reds 59-103 .363 30 -215 Brewers: Christian Yelich bounces back in a big way, hitting 30 home runs and 35 doubles to lead Milwaukee to a second division title in four years. Corbin Burnes strikes out 218 over 180 1/3 innings Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant help lead the team to an unlikely playoff berth in potentially their final season together in Chicago. The Cubs' pitching is surprisingly good, finishing ninth in ERA.Cardinals: Nolan Arenado's addition isn't enough as St. Louis posts the fewest runs scored and home runs in the majors. The Cardinals' 74 wins are the fewest for the franchise since 1997 (excluding the shortened 2020 season).Pirates: Not finishing last is likely a disappointment for Pittsburgh as it costs them a chance at a higher draft pick. Ke'Bryan Hayes leads the club in homers, RBIs, and OPS.Reds: A disaster for Cincinnati. The offense ranks 28th in runs scored and the pitching staff is 24th in ERA. It's the worst season in Reds history, and just the second time the team has lost more than 100 games.NL West Team W-L PCT GB RD Dodgers 107-55 .660 -- +289 Padres 84-78 .519 23 +48 D-Backs 77-85 .475 30 -51 Giants 78-84 .481 29 -55 Rockies 68-94 420 39 -141 Dodgers: Fresh off a World Series win, Los Angeles sets the franchise record in wins, eclipsing the mark set in 2019. The team's incredible pitching staff allows 78 fewer runs than the next best team. Padres: San Diego underperforms under lofty expectations but still manages to sneak into the postseason. It's just the second time in franchise history the club makes the playoffs in consecutive seasons. D-Backs: Madison Bumgarner bounces back following a miserable first season with Arizona. While the pitching staff is the club's strong point, the offense's struggles lead to a losing record. Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar combine for just 34 homers.Giants: San Francisco is unable to find much magic in what is likely the final year with some of its core players. Buster Posey manages just 10 homers and a .710 OPS in his return after sitting out 2020. Rockies: Colorado's season goes as poor as expected. The offense ranks 27th in runs and 29th in homers - only two players hit more than 20. German Marquez is one of the few bright spots, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over 216 innings. Playoffs Greg Nelson / Sports Illustrated / GettyAL wild card: Angels over AthleticsNL wild card: Cubs over PadresALDS: Yankees over Angels (3-1)ALDS: Astros over White Sox (3-2)NLDS: Dodgers over Cubs (3-1)NLDS: Brewers over Mets (3-2)ALCS: Astros over Yankees (4-2)NLCS: Dodgers over Brewers (4-0)World Series: Dodgers over Astros (4-3)Major awards Mike Stobe / Getty Images Sport / GettyAL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels GP R HR RBI SB OPS WAR 145 123 45 121 20 1.127 11.7 NL MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves GP R HR RBI SB OPS WAR 158 100 49 112 20 1.017 9.3 AL Cy Young: Shane Bieber, Indians IP K ERA WHIP WAR 219.2 251 2.58 1.08 4.2 NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom, Mets IP K ERA WHIP WAR 216 305 3.00 1.03 7.2 AL Rookie of the Year: Bobby Dalbec, Red Sox GP R HR RBI OPS WAR 135 63 25 70 .854 5.7 NL Rookie of the Year: Sixto Sanchez, Marlins IP K ERA WHIP WAR 181 171 3.74 1.25 2.4 Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.