2021 Fantasy Baseball Division Preview

2021 Fantasy Baseball AL East Division Preview

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Welcome to baseball season! With the Super Bowl in the books, fantasy managers can look forward to MLB Opening Day, which is scheduled for Apr. 1. This season Fantasy Six Pack has decided to spice up our pre-season content, shifting away from individual position previews and moving towards previewing each division individually. We’ll start today with the 2021 Fantasy Baseball AL East Division Preview.

The AL East is arguably the toughest division to pitch in, thanks to four above-average offenses, two of which could be elite in 2021. Throw in four very hitter-friendly parks and this division should be full of fantasy production for the upcoming season.

In the new Division-Preview format, each writer will take a look at the star players, breakout candidates, possible draft busts, and upcoming prospects for each club.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the year ahead in the 2021 Fantasy Baseball AL East Division Preview.

2021 Fantasy Baseball AL East Division Preview

Get prepared for the upcoming Fantasy Baseball season by using the Fantasy Pros Draft Wizard.

Baltimore Orioles

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Stars

The 2020 Orioles were a team so devoid of top-end, major-league ready talent that it’s difficult to call anyone on their roster a star. That will change in 2021 with the return of first baseman Trey Mancini.

The 28-year-old slugger missed the entire 2020 season after he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Mancini told reporters in November that his blood work showed no tumor DNA and that he would be to go for the 2021 season.

The last time we saw Mancini was in 2019 when he hit 35 home runs with 97 RBI and 106 runs scored. His supporting cast might make it difficult to consistently rack up counting stats but the slugger should have no issue reaching 30 home runs with an average around .280.

Breakouts

John Means will sneak under the radar in 2021 drafts thanks to a pedestrian 4.53 ERA. However, the 27-year-old finished last season strong, allowing just four runs over his final four starts (23.2 innings) while striking out 30 batters in that span.

Means should get the Opening Day start for the O’s and, if he builds on the strides he made at the end of last season, Baltimore’s ace should be a decent low-end starter, at worst, for Fantasy managers.

Anthony Santander is another under the radar player that could have a breakout 2021. In just 37 games last season, the 26-year-old smacked 11 homers and drove in 32 runs.

He made massive strides in his approach, lowering his K% by six percent and increasing his launch angle to 24.7 degrees from 15.2 degrees. For reference, known sluggers Joey Gallo and Rhys Hoskins had 2020 launch angles of 26.8 and 24.8 degrees, respectively. With a new approach, Santander could reach 30 home runs with a .260 average over a full season.

Busts

No Orioles player is being drafted high enough to be considered a “bust” for Fantasy purposes. The highest is Santander who is currently ranked 153 on FantasyPros.

Prospects

2016 second-round selection Keegan Akin has the potential to make some noise this season. The 25-year-old made his major league debut last season and delivered mixed results. Akin missed a ton of bats (30.2 K%) but also gave up a ton (41.4%) of hard contact in 2020.

If he is able to harness his off-speed offerings, Akin could be a good streaming option who can provide plenty of strikeouts.

Boston Red Sox

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Stars

Xander Bogaerts is far and away the most valuable BoSox player in fantasy. The 28-year-old is just hitting his prime and is ready to build off his last two seasons, where he’s hit 44 home runs in 211 games.

Bogaerts is one of the safest picks in the first two rounds and is almost guaranteed to hit 30 homers to compliment great counting stats and elite ratios. He finished 2020 as the No.2 shortstop and should have no problem finishing near the top of the position once again.

Rafael Devers has the potential to be a fantasy monster but bad habits continue to weigh him down. His free-swinging ways caused his swinging strike percentage to balloon to a career-high 16.1% which played a big part in his slow start to the season. The 24-year-old struggled to a .222 average and 12 RBI through the season’s first 27 games.

Devers managed to lower his K% each month of the season and finished as the player most were expecting, crushing seven homers and driving in 31 runs over the final 30 games. If he can put it together for a full season he could build on the terrific season he posted in 2019.

Breakouts

Alex Verdugo was never going to replace Mookie Betts. But in 2020 he showed some flashes of being a solid fantasy contributor. His .308/.367/.478 slash line was by far the best of his short career and will help him score plenty of runs if he keeps batting in front of Bogaerts and Devers.

Verdugo could end up with a 20-10 season if everything falls his way. At worst, he is a fourth outfielder that managers can pair with low average sluggers in order to boost their ratios.

Currently ranked No. 300 on FantasyPros preseason rankings, first baseman Bobby Dalbec has plenty of breakout potential. In his first 23 games of MLB action, the 2020 fourth-round pick crushed eight home runs with 16 RBI.

His 42.4 K% leaves a lot to be desired but it’s encouraging that he was able to maintain a solid .263/.359/.600 slash line despite swinging at pitches outside of the zone 35 percent of the time. Look for the 25-year-old to be a cheap source of 25 home runs in 2021.

Busts

Andrew Benintendi went the opposite way that managers were hoping. Instead of bouncing back from a poor 2019, the former first-round pick completely tanked, hitting just .103 in 14 games before losing the rest of his season to a rib injury. His strikeout percentage has gone up in three-straight seasons and he has not looked like the player he was in 2018.

If he can’t quickly turn things around he could be replaced in left field. It’s best to let someone else draft him and hope for a bounce back.

Prospects

Triston Casas is the best prospect in the Red Sox system. The 21-year-old has great power potential, receiving 60-grade power in many scouting reports. Casas has received comparisons to Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto thanks to his advanced approach at the dish.

He hasn’t played a game above High-A but a strong start in Double-A could fast-track him to the majors for a September cup of coffee.

Middle infielder Jeter Downs is another BoSox prospect worth watching this season. He should spend most of the year in Triple-A but could find himself in the majors to close the season. Downs posted 24 homers and 24 steals across 119 minor league games in 2019 and will be a five-tool threat when he reaches the big leagues.

New York Yankees

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Stars

Managers know what they’ll get from Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The hulking outfielders can provide 50 home run power in their sleep but simply cannot stay healthy. Stanton has played just 41 games over the last two seasons while Judge has fared a bit better with 130 games over the past two years. If either can play 140 games they’ll greatly outperform their current ADPs.

Gleyber Torres is a more interesting case. The 24-year-old failed to build off his 38 home run performance in 2019. He hit just three in the shortened 2020 and only drove in two RBI in his first 16 games. Torres undoubtedly struggled last season but could be a bargain at his current ADP of 66 if he’s able to bounce back.

Fresh off signing a new six-year contract, D.J. LeMahieu should continue to put up MVP-type numbers in the Bronx. 25 homers, 200 R/RBI, and a .330 average are near locks if the Yankees’ lineup can stay healthy.

Last season saw the rise of a new star in pinstripes, Luke Voit. The first baseman surpassed all expectations last season, leading the league with 22 home runs in just 56 games.

The 29-year-old also lowered his strikeout rate to a career-best 23 percent. The power is real and while the 63 home run pace isn’t realistic, Voit’s batted-ball profile paints a picture of someone who can hit at least 35 home runs across a full season.

Everyone knows what Gerrit Cole is about. At worst, the former Cy Young winner is the No.2 pitcher off the board and will provide owners with elite production across the board.



Breakouts

Is 2021 finally the year of Clint Frazier? Drafted fifth overall by the Indians all the way back in 2013, the 26-year old may finally have a clear path to playing time. Frazier is slated to be New York’s starting left fielder and bat behind Voit and Torres. In 39 games last season, Frazier slashed .267/.394/.511 with eight homers and 26 RBI.

Brett Gardner was not re-signed and, for now, Frazier is in line for a full season of playing time. If the Yankees are willing to give him the keys, Frazier should have no problem blowing past his current rank of 183.

Busts

How the mighty have fallen. Once seen as one of the best hitting catchers in the league, Gary Sanchez has bombed owners for three straight years. The 28-year-old has hit below the Mendoza line in two of his last three seasons, finishing last year with a miserable .147/.253/.365 slash line.

His strikeout rate has increased every year since 2017, peaking at last year’s 36 percent. If Sanchez can’t find a way to make more consistent contact, he will be one of the biggest average anchors in fantasy.

Prospects

Jasson Dominguez is easily the club’s top prospect. However, the outfielder is just 17 years old and will not see the majors for some time.

Deivi Garcia is the Yankees’ top pitching prospect and should be able to build off a promising big-league debut in 2020. The diminutive Garcia (5’9, 163 lbs) started six games for the Bronx Bombers last season, posting a 4.98 ERA and 5.50 K/BB ratio.

The young starter’s biggest issue seems to be keeping the ball in the yard (1.57 HR/9). If he is able to limit fly balls (46.7 FB%) this season, Garcia could find himself as a dependable No.3 starter for the Yankees and fantasy managers.

Tampa Bay Rays

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Stars

Outfielder Austin Meadows was one of the breakout stars of the 2019 season when he smacked 33 home runs and stole 12 bases in his first full major league season. His follow-up season did not go as well, as a positive COVID test and multiple injuries limited him to just 36 games.

Without the benefit of a full training camp, the 25-year-old finished with a .205/.296/.371 slash line and a struck out in a career-worst 32.9 percent of his at-bats. If Meadows comes into Spring Training with a clean bill of health, he should once again reach the 30-10 mark.

Brandon Lowe is not a household name. Yet. The infielder has impressed in a pair of short seasons. In 2019 he hit 17 home runs in 82 games but missed nearly three months due to injury. Lowe outdid himself in 2020, launching 14 home runs in just 56 games while cutting down on his strikeouts by nearly 10 percent. If Lowe is able to play a full season, he could reach the 30 home run plateau for the first time in his career.

Breakouts

Randy Arozarena‘s heroic playoff performance may have already been his breakout but with only 42 regular-season games under his belt, he still has room to grow. No one is expecting the 25-year-old to hit a clutch homer every other game or hit .377 over a full season.

He struck out in 29 percent of his regular-season at-bats last year, which could cause his average to dip a bit if the issue is not corrected. However, Arozarena’s combination of power and speed could make him a part of the 20-20 club this season.

Busts

Newest Ray Francisco Mejia has been touted by some as a post-hype sleeper hoping that the Rays’ prospect magic will help him realize his dormant potential. But Mejia’s problem is, and always will be, his defense behind the plate. That Rays already have one of the game’s best defensive catchers, Mike Zunino, behind the plate.

Unless Mejia’s bat is otherworldy to start the year and forces manager Kevin Cash‘s hand, the former top prospect is looking at a timeshare similar to his situation in San Diego, when the more defensive-minded Austin Hedges and Austin Nola took the majority of the at-bats.

Prospects

Is there any more that needs to be said about Wander Franco? MLB’s top prospect has the potential to be a true five-tool superstar. He has power, speed, on-base skills, and plate discipline. As soon as the 19-year-old hits the majors, he could become one of baseball’s most exciting players.

The Rays will likely keep him in the minors as long as needed to ensure they control his rights for as long as possible. However, as soon as he’s called up, Franco needs to be rostered in every league.

Toronto Blue Jays

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Stars

The Blue Jays have one of the most exciting young infields in baseball. Vladimir Guererro Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio will man the infield for a long time. Each one of these second-generation players has the potential to be a fantasy superstar.

Guerrero was by far the most hyped player of the three, landing as MLB Pipeline’s No.1 prospect before making his major-league debut in 2019. He hasn’t lived up to the hype yet thanks to a sky-high groundball rate.

Guerrero is still only 21 and has plenty of time to make the necessary adjustments. If he’s able to put it together, the player we saw put on an absolute show in the Home Run Derby could finally make his long-awaited appearance in the majors. His apparent commitment to losing the excess weight certainly won’t hurt.

Bichette is the highest-ranked of the Jays’ infield trio, for good reason. The 22-year-old has done nothing but hit since making his debut in 2019.

He set an MLB record when he became the only player in history to hit a double in nine-straight games. He’s also the only player in the modern era to record 12 extra-base hits in his first 11 games. Over a full season, Bichette has the potential to hit 25 home runs, steal bases, and do it with a .300 average.

Biggio is the oldest of the Jays’ young stars but it doesn’t make him any less exciting. Like Bichette, the Jays’ second baseman has a solid power/speed combo that projects to 25 homers and 15 steals over a full season.

Biggio has an excellent eye at the plate, as he’s carrying a 16 percent walk rate over 695 at-bats. He’s much more valuable in OBP leagues but his .250 isn’t a deal-breaker.

UPDATE: Full disclosure, I wrote this whole article before the Jays signed George Springer and Marcus Semien. The addition of the two veterans makes the Blue Birds one of the best offenses, on paper, in the league. FanGraphs is projecting them to score 5.41 runs per game, second-highest behind the division-rival Yankees.

Breakouts

Top prospect Nate Pearson didn’t have the MLB debut he was hoping for. He dealt with injuries and managed to pitch just 18 uninspiring innings in the regular season. While Blue Jays fans didn’t see the results right away, they can take solace in the fact that the 6’6, 245 phenom was able to showcase his filthy repertoire.

His fastball averaged 97.5 MPH and regularly hits triple digits. He can also pull the string back on a high-80’s slider, curve or changeup. Don’t expect Pearson to stay in the rotation all season as the Jays try to limit his innings. But if he is able to stay healthy Pearson has the stuff and the pedigree to be an excellent pitcher on a per-inning basis.

Busts

Teoscar Hernandez was last year’s breakout player, hitting 16 home runs and bumping his average from .230 to .289. The Dominican has always been a free swinger and, even in a career year, managed to strike out in more than 30 percent of his at-bats.

His fly-ball rate actually dropped to the lowest rate of his career, resulting in a massive jump in his HR/FB rate to 32.7 percent, the sixth-highest mark in the league. Whether that mark is sustainable will be the biggest factor in Hernandez repeating his career-year.

The 28-year-old’s average will likely fall back into the .250 range. In 2020 he had a .348 BABIP which is nearly 40 points more than his career-high. He also carries a contact rate of just 66 percent, 111th worst among qualified hitters in 2020.

Hernandez typifies the modern power hitter – tons of pop and tons of swing and miss. If he plays a full season, 30 home runs should be well within reach but expect the average come down.

A final note. The Blue Jays are looking to contend. If Hernandez and his notoriously bad defense start costing them wins, he could find himself on the bench very quickly.


Prospects

The Blue Jays were gifted Vanderbilt standout Austin Martin with the No.5 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Touted by many, including MLB.com, as the best pure hitter in the draft. He can play all over the diamond and gives the Blue Jays yet another 20/20 threat in the pipeline. He’s unlikely to have any more than a September cup of coffee in 2021. However, his advanced plate approach (82 K/85 BB in college) should make his eventual transition to the big club much smoother.

Projected Standings

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Toronto Blue Jays
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles

Make sure you bookmark our Fantasy Baseball page to consume all of our 2021 MLB content in the coming weeks!

2021 Fantasy Baseball Division Previews 
AL EastAL CentralAL West
NL EastNL CentralNL West

About Jonathan Chan

Winning fantasy leagues since 2004. Losing them for much longer. Follow Jonathan on twitter @jchan_811 and he'll be ready for all your questions!

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