Bold predictions for the 2021 MLB season

As the new baseball season draws near, the USA TODAY Sports baseball team peeked look into the crystal ball to get some insight on how the 2021 campaign will play out.

Here are some of the more specific things that may very well happen around baseball this season:

A Padre will throw a no-hitter in 2021: San Diego is the only franchise in baseball that has never recorded a no-hitter. With new faces in Yu Darvish and Blake Snell leading a talented young rotation – and top prospect Mackenzie Gore nearing the majors – this will be the year the Padres end the drought.

Albert Pujols will decide to retire: In the final year of his 10-year contract with the Angels, the future Hall of Famer announces that he'll call it quits at the end of the season. With 662 home runs entering 2021, Pujols will come up short of 700 – but end his career fifth on the all-time list.

Walker Buehler will be the Dodgers’ best pitcher: While Trevor Bauer consumes oxygen and Clayton Kershaw rides into an uncertain future, it all comes together for L.A.’s playoff hero, who avoids blisters and rides to the top of the NL strikeout charts.

Tim Anderson will win the AL MVP award: Despite a batting title and a .331 average over the past two seasons, the shortstop has been overlooked on a team full of exciting youngsters. The 27-year-old will get even better this year and follow up teammate Jose Abreu’s 2020 award with one of his own.

Cleveland will make the playoffs: Everybody hates the team that pinches pennies and trades the beloved cornerstone. Popularity doesn’t win games, though; pitching does.

Javy Baez will get traded to the Yankees: They’ve got DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela in the infield, but the Yankees will make a big move ahead of the trade deadline and land the free-agent-to-be as part of a run at their first title since 2009. He’ll quickly become a fan favorite in the Bronx.

Randy Arozarena will win AL Rookie of the Year: Still rookie-eligible, Arozarena showed what he is capable in October, breaking the single-postseason records for hits (29) and home runs (10). He'll head into the new season with high expectations, but Arozarena has already proven that he can deliver under pressure.

The Padres will win 100 games: They were on pace (37-23, .617) to reach the milestone during the 60-game shortened 2020 season and their big additions this winter make them even better. 

Trevor Story will be traded by the deadline: The Colorado Rockies traded Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals already this winter, opening the door for their All-Star shortstop, who becomes a free agent this winter, to be sent to a contender in July.

Wander Franco will reach the majors this year: Franco, the consensus top prospect in baseball turns 20 on March 1 and still hasn't appeared in a game above Class A, but is so impressive in the minors that the Rays call him up down the stretch.

Mike Trout will hit 50 home runs: Trout set a career-high with 45 home runs in 2019, two short of Troy Glaus' club record. The 30-year-old will break it this year, adding a 50-homer season to his ever-growing resume.

The Pirates will lead baseball in losses: Pittsburgh had the worst record in baseball (19-41) in the shortened 2020 campaign and look set to earn that honor again, finishing last in the NL Central for the third season in a row.

Nolan Arenado will have the worst year of his career: The five-time All-Star – unquestionably one of baseball's best players – struggles to adapt to life away from Coors Field and posts a disappointing first season with the Cardinals. He does win a ninth consecutive Gold Glove award.

No manager will be fired during the season: It's hard to say that anybody in particular is on the hot seat entering 2021, but there are a few teams facing high expectations that could make a change in the offseason if things don't go according to plan.

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