ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian discussed the upcoming MLB season, teams to watch and fan attendance with ESPN Gainesville.
Rays and Marlins
Both teams from Florida made the playoffs in the 2020 season. The Rays ran all the way to the World Series, while the Marlins lost in the NLDS against Atlanta.
While the Rays have been able to consistently be a contender in the American League East, Kurkjian doesn’t see the same success for them in 2021. He said that the loss of both Blake Snell and Charlie Morton may be too much to bear for Tampa Bay. Kurkjian still thinks the Rays can make a push for the playoffs but another World Series appearance may have to wait.
As for Miami, the Kurkjian’s prognosis does not include another playoff run. He chalks that up to belonging to a tough division, though. The Marlins made a somewhat surprising playoff run in the 2020 season even advancing to the divisional round. Kurkjian isn’t necessarily counting them out, but he doesn’t have high hopes either.
Around the League
Kurkjian’s teams to watch list this season is deep so far. He included the White Sox and Padres for moves they made in the pitching rotation. He noted that the Mets made a big move in singing Francisco Lindor to strengthen their lineup. Additionally, he said the Cardinals are the team to be in the National League Central.
As for the Angels, Cubs and Astros, Kurkjian isn’t expecting anything great. He said the window of winning for the Cubs and the Astros have passed. In regard to the Angels, he doesn’t see them putting together the pieces quite yet. Pitching and fielding issues overshadow Mike Trout’s abilities overall.
The Fan Situation
Another big question heading into the 2021 season is the number of fans allowed inside the stadiums. With a recent announcement that Texas will allow full capacity, the decision of more teams will surely follow. Kurkjian said that while he doesn’t think it wise at the moment to open up completely, he hopes by the end of summer, stadiums will be at least see increased attendance.