The reigning 2020 World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers enter the 2021 season as a favorite to repeat. In fact, the best-case scenario for this year's L.A. squad is downright scary. But that doesn't mean the rest of the league is just going to lie down and watch the Dodgers waltz to back-to-back titles.
With that in mind, we asked five our ESPN MLB experts to each pick one team they think is best-suited to take down the Dodgers -- in October, when it counts the most. While none of our experts necessarily expect this team to be better than L.A. for the 162-game long haul, they all made their strongest cases why their selection could be the team to knock L.A. out of the postseason. Just how strong were their cases? Well, we left that for our resident judge, the honorable Jeff Passan, to decide with his ruling for each case.
Chicago White Sox
The case for the White Sox: If ever a team was poised to explode, it's this year's White Sox. Last year, Chicago had the AL's second-best offense even though Yoan Moncada had an off year after contracting COVID-19 and the Sox had massive holes in right field and DH. This year, they've filled those holes with a veteran in Adam Eaton and a Rookie of the Year front-runner in Andrew Vaughn, two upgrades whose skill sets balance the lineup. And Moncada is a full go.
There's no question that the loss of Eloy Jimenez takes a bite out of the White Sox's chances to reach October. But if they are able to compensate for his absence until he returns late in the season, the White Sox become the team no one -- including the Dodgers -- wants to face in the playoffs. At that point, the White Sox will truly go one-through-nine in the lineup with at least four players -- Jose Abreu, Moncada, Jimenez and Luis Robert -- capable of putting up an MVP-type season. Then when the White Sox do get into the playoffs, they have a solid veteran rotation built for October and a bullpen of flamethrowers (Codi Heuer, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet) who will bridge the gap to Chicago's new elite closer, Liam Hendriks. -- Bradford Doolittle
Judge Jeff says: The court will not spend too much time belaboring your decision to omit Tim Anderson from Chicago's MVP candidates. It does, however, take issue with your unwillingness to acknowledge what could preclude a meeting with the Dodgers: a rotation that is not exactly "built for October." Lance Lynn hasn't started a postseason game since 2014. Lucas Giolito has made one career postseason start. In Dallas Keuchel's past eight playoff starts, he has lasted more than five innings once. That's built for October like I'm built for the beach. Further, as much as the White Sox should be helped by Moncada's health, a number of regression candidates exist, starting with Abreu and Anderson.
None of this is to say the White Sox are a bad choice. The threshold of evidence simply needs to be higher. Motion denied.