Each year, there are teams that look just so good on paper that we can’t think of many scenarios in which they miss the playoffs; but they do, potentially opening the door for clubs like the San Francisco Giants, the Cleveland Indians, and the Seattle Mariners to, why not, find their way into October baseball.
Injuries or bad performance by crucial players may result in some teams that looked like the “favorites” underperforming, thus opening up opportunities for “lesser” clubs to capitalize.
Baseball is full of surprises, and these three teams can qualify to the 2021 postseason if things break right for them. Here is why:
3 Surprise Teams That Can Qualify To The 2021 Playoffs
San Francisco Giants
For now, it appears that MLB will have five teams per league in the playoffs: the three division winners, and two wild card spots, although things could potentially change.
For a team like the Giants, having eight teams per league making it into October would have been beneficial, but even though that’s not the case, it doesn’t mean that they can’t make a postseason run.
In fact, the Giants are poised to surprise in 2021.
They made several savvy pitching additions that make the rotation a good unit, headlined by the returning Kevin Gausman, who broke out in 2020 (3.62 ERA in 59.2 innings, with 79 strikeouts.)
Will Anthony DeSclafani be this year's Kevin Gausman? The Giants are betting $6 million on it. Here's a look at the new right-hander: https://t.co/QguNmTDNmy
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) December 16, 2020
Nick Tropeano was a good addition, as he has the talent to win a bullpen spot.
But reliever Matt Wisler (1.07 ERA in 25.1 frames, with 35 punchouts) is the one who will help change the face of the relief corps.
Mike Yastrzemski will lead a sneaky good offense, with Alex Dickerson, Austin Slater, a resurging Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt, Mauricio Dubón, Wilmer Flores, and Donovan Solano as a very good supporting cast.
The Giants should finish no higher than third in the National League West, but they could still claim a wild card berth.
The short answer is player development.
In the last few years, Cleveland has lost Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, and other crucial players, only to replace them with in-house options such as Shane Bieber (AL Cy Young in 2020, with a 1.63 ERA), Zach Plesac (2.28 ERA), Aaron Civale, and Triston McKenzie.
The area in which the Indians may struggle the most is offense, but it’s not like it’s a completely lost cause, either.
Additionally, they brought heavy-hitting outfielder Eddie Rosario.
We have signed OF Eddie Rosario to a contract for the 2021 season.
Welcome to Cleveland, Eddie! pic.twitter.com/OZwwhc1VqP
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) February 4, 2021
The Twins and White Sox look better than the Indians at this point, but that doesn’t mean Cleveland can’t surprise.
Julio Rodriguez is another top prospect that may be a key contributor to the next great Mariners’ team, but if he is up in 2021, it should be come September.
While Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are grabbing headlines, Logan Gilbert could be in the Majors first for the #Mariners.
Toolshed looks at AL West prospect projections!
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) February 10, 2021
For now, the team just brought James Paxton to help a surprisingly good rotation that includes 2020 breakout star Marco Gonzales (3.10 ERA in 69.2 innings) and young, promising pitchers like Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn.
But if things go right and Mitch Haniger returns to his 2019 form (.285/.366/.493, 26 homers, 93 RBI) then the M’s can make some noise, as far-fetched as it sounds.