Welcome everyone to the 2021 Fantasy Baseball NL Central Division Preview. We're doing things a little differently here at Fantasy Six Pack this year.
The days of the position preview is dead, welcome to the era of division previews.
We will be going through every division and providing the stars, breakouts, draft busts, and prospects for each team in that division.
Let's dig in.
Where do I start with the NL Central? First off, this division has no clear front runner. Instead, we have a division where four of the five teams have a chance to win. Sorry, Pirates! The close competition should bring out the best of these teams.
The NL Central is stacked offensively with names like Christian Yelich, Javier Baez, and Paul Goldschmidt. Have I mentioned the acquisition of Nolan Arenado by the St. Louis Cardinals yet?
This is going to be a tough division for pitchers considering most of the parks are hitter-friendly. However, it is not all bad news for the pitchers as there are some studs that you should target in your drafts.
So fantasy baseball addicts, let's jump right into the 2021 Fantasy Baseball NL Central Division Preview.
2021 Fantasy Baseball NL Central Division Preview
Get prepared for the upcoming Fantasy Baseball season by using the Fantasy Pros Draft Wizard.
The Reds, surprisingly, have a bevy of fantasy stars. Luis Castillo went 4-6 with a 3.21 ERA and 89 strikeouts (11.4 K/9) last season. However, he doesn't get much help offensively, even though the Reds have a solid lineup. In 2019 Castillo won 15 games with 3.40 ERA and 226 strikeouts, if he can do this in 2021 he should be near the top of your draft boards for starting pitchers. He is currently being discussed in trades with the Yankees but I think, for right now, he is staying put as a Red. By the trade deadline, he could be in a new uniform.
Eugenio Suarez is probably the Reds' best power hitter and their star on offense. He hit 15 home runs in a shortened 2020 and 49 in 2019. Saurez has had two straight years of 100+ RBI's with a batting average no lower than .271 in those two years. The only knock on him is his K% which has been 28 percent or higher since 2019. If he can bring that down, Suarez can be deadly.
Jesse Winker is my choice to breakout for the Reds this year. He has never gone over 340 plate appearances in his career and he still puts up good numbers. In 2019 he hit 16 home runs with a .269 batting average. In a shortened 2020 season he almost matched his HR total from 2019. Give him a full year and 500+ plate appearances and the sky will be the limit for Winker. Draft him late in drafts and hope he plays more than they give him.
I like where most of the Reds' players are being drafted. The one that jumps out the most is Castillo as SP8 despite me listing him as a star. I'm not saying Castillo will be terrible but keep an eye on his ADP creeping higher. He could be traded or if the Reds struggle, he will be going down with that ship.
The Reds have a ton of prospects in their organization that could probably make an impact right now. Starting pitcher Hunter Greene has top-end potential but is a little bit away from making a big league impact. In 2020 he pitched one inning and got roughed up a bit(6.61 ERA) so I wouldn't expect him till late this year. There is also Nick Lodolo, he is young and has no MLB experience just yet but he is a name to look out for.
The 2020 Chicago Cubs struggled to hit the ball. Most of the stars on the team hit terribly in the shortened season including Baez (.203 batting average) and Kris Bryant(.206) but I expect them to turn it around. Coming into the 2021 season this team could boast a very potent lineup.
Anthony Rizzo struggled last year (.222 AVG) but that was a shortened season. With a full season under his belt, I consider Rizzo a star. Up until 2020, Rizzo had six straight years of 150+ hits with his batting average never going below .273. He has hit at least 25 home runs in each of the last six seasons and has driven in at least 100 RBI in four of the last six. He is one of the more consistent first basemen out there. Don't be scared to take him.
The runner-up MVP in 2018, Baez has come along way in his career and has turned himself into a bonafide star. He is one of the flashiest players in the league. He is a terrific fielder and is one of the better power-hitting shortstops in the league. Prior to 2020, Baez was hitting the ball very well (.290 in 2018 and .281 in 2019) along with 34 HR's in 2018 and 29 in 2019. I expect him to get back to the numbers from 2018 and 2019, consider 2020 an outlier for him.
Kyle Hendricks is now the lead man in the Chicago Cubs rotation and will presumably be the opening day starter. In 2020 Kyle Hendricks had six wins with a 2.88 ERA but only 64 strikeouts(7.1 K/9) so he won't be a plus in that category. Hendricks has been very consistent winning 10+ of his games in three of the past four years prior to 2020. He is finally starting to become an inning eater(190+ twice in his career). Don't be afraid to draft Kyle Hendricks, he is super consistent and stays relatively healthy.
Most of the Chicago Cubs players have broken out but if there was any candidate for it, Ian Happ would fit the bill. Happ is currently going as OF48 or 176 overall according to FantasyPros. With Happ going back to the leadoff spot he should have a lot of opportunities to produce for fantasy teams. With this potent lineup behind him, he should score plenty of runs, provided he can get on base.
Happ hasn't played over 100 games since 2018 so it will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy for the whole year. If he can stay healthy, Happ could finally become a star in this league.
I hate to put him here but there is plenty reason why Willson Contreras could end up busting this year. He is going as the No.3 catcher which is pretty high to me. He is currently the subject of constant trade talks and the Cubs have a catcher in the minors, Miguel Amaya, that I'm sure they want to get up to speed in the MLB.
Contreras has only played over 120 games once and has only had 400+ at-bats once in his career too. His K% keeps climbing(over 25.3% now) while his BB% keeps declining (8.9% now). With his price so high in drafts I would avoid drafting him this year guys.
The Cubs farm system has been rough lately but with the trade of Yu Darvish, they have replenished a little bit of it. There are only a few to name here that could have an impact in 2021. Brailyn Marquez, the hard-throwing lefty should be able to find a role in the Chicago Cubs for 2021. With such a weak pitching rotation, it is only a matter of time till Marquez comes up to the big leagues.
Another one to mention is Amaya. With Contreras in constant trade talks, he could finally get his shot in the majors. The highest ball he has played was A+ so don't expect him to contribute in a big way. Outfielder Brennan Davis might be able to find some time in the outfield.
Yelich is the apple of Milwaukee's eye for good reason, winning MVP in 2018 and finishing as runner up in 2019. Although he struggled in 2020 (.205 AVG) he is still a must draft on draft day. Prior to 2020, Yelich was on a dominant run with the Brewers hitting no less than 36 home runs in a season. In those two years before 2020, Yelich had a batting average no lower than .326 with an insane 1.000 + OPS.
If you are in category leagues, he also provides solid steals. He had 22 steals in 2018 and 30 in 2019. Yelich only had four last year but I'm just going to call it a rough year for most baseball players.
I don't see any real breakouts coming from this team this year. The Brewers in 2021 are going to have a tough time producing fantasy value. The team is a little thin on talent.
Don't get mad at me, Brewers fans but I'm putting your ace on here. Brandon Woodruff is currently going as SP13. What? The most innings he has pitched in a season was 121 in 2019. He was only averaging 5.5 innings an outing. I think he is a good pitcher but with the way the Brewers use their pitchers and his short start length, it would be best to avoid Woodruff this year in drafts.
I don't expect him to be an inning eater and owners need to rely heavily on the strikeouts and win totals. The strikeouts will still be there (11.12 K/9) but I don't know if he will be able to get to double-digit wins again. This team won't be producing many runs to help him out.
Brice Turang might be able to find some playing time this year. He is currently ranked as the Brewers' No.2 prospect. He isn't much of a power hitter but he can still make solid contact on the ball. Another name to look out for is outfielder Corey Ray. They both have yet to have any MLB experience but with a lack of offensive talent for the Brewers, they could easily find a role on the team.
Garrett Mitchell was the Brewers first-round pick in 2020. During camp, they said he is the fastest baserunner, best athlete, and best defensive outfielder in the organization. That is some high praise for the 22-year-old outfielder. He has all-star upside so there's a chance he could crack the lineup at some point this season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates pretty much got rid of all their stars when they shipped away first basemen Josh Bell. Without him, the lineup looks pretty brutal. The pitching rotation without Joe Musgrove looks worse than the batting lineup. I don't have any stars for you guys on the Pirates. It might be best to completely avoid this team in fantasy.
I was going to save him for the prospect watch section but it looks like Ke'Bryan Hayes will be getting a lot of playing time at third base this year. Hayes had a .376 batting average along with five home runs and 17 RBI's in 2020. I don't expect him to hit the ball that well again but if he can play like that in 2021, the Pirates will have a real star on their hands. Currently going as the No.16 third baseman it already looks like there is a lot of hype on this kid.
Don't be afraid to take a risk on him, he will see a ton of playing time and is the main focus in this offense.
There is literally no one from this team that is being drafted too high. The consensus rankings have been spot on for the Pirates this year. They all find themselves way down the list which is justifiable.
Nick Gonzales, the seventh pick in the 2020 draft and an MVP in college, looks to be the top prospect in the Pirates organization. He has yet to have any MLB experience but with a lack of talent on the team, he can find himself in the lineup sooner rather than later. Shortstop O'Neil Cruz is another name to look out for in the Pirates organization.
St. Louis Cardinals
Nolan Arenado is now the big kahuna in St. Louis and he deserves it. Arenado is a bonafide star and is a must draft for fantasy players this year. He wasn't his usual self in 2020 (.253 AVG) but that goes for most players in 2020. Up until last season, Arenado was the definition of consistency. From 2015 to 2019 he had a batting average of .287 or higher, 37+ home runs, and 110+ RBI's.
He is a very disciplined hitter, only striking out in 10 percent of his at-bats last year. In fact, he has never been over 18% in strikeout percentage in his career. Draft him early and draft him often in your fantasy leagues.
Paul Goldschmidt is an excellent first baseman and should be going early in drafts. Last season's .304 average was his best since 2015. Unlike most hitters in 2020, Goldie was on fire and found himself as an MVP contender. Prior to 2020, he had 30+ home runs in four of his last five years along with four years of 97+ RBI's.
Although he struggled last year going 4-3 with a 4.91 ERA, I believe Jack Flaherty will bounce back in a big way. In 2019 Flaherty was deadly, winning 11 games with a 2.75 ERA and 231 strikeouts (10.9 K/9) in 196.1 innings. If he can go back to 2019 Flaherty, we should be seeing a true ace in St. Louis. I expect his wins to increase behind a more potent offense.
There are two breakouts I can see coming from the Cardinals this year. 21-year-old outfielder Dylan Carlson struggled last year with a .200 batting average and a super-high K% (29.4) but if he can figure that out we could be seeing a star brew. He will be getting a lot of the playing time in the outfield. He is currently going as OF49 which could end up being very good value for managers.
Look out for Carlos Martinez, they thought of him as the ace at one point until he got injured. He was the closer for a little in 2019 and 2020 (31 total saves) but now he is back in the rotation and they say he looks like he is back to his old self. That is scary for the rest of the NL Central because at one point Martinez was an ace and dominated the league. From 2015 to 2017 he was amazing. In those three years, he won 12+ games every year and had an era no higher than 3.64. Martinez also struck out 174 or more batters in those three years. I would be drafting him everywhere as one of the top sleepers in fantasy baseball.
I don't think anyone really is going to be a bust. They are all being drafted close to where they should be drafted. If anyone comes to mind it is Yadier Molina. He is currently going as catcher No.15 which is just a little too high for the 38-year-old. As he gets older, I don't expect him to play as much as he did in the past. It would be best to avoid him in drafts.
The Cardinals don't have much room for prospects to be making a huge impact this year. One name to mention is lefty SP Matthew Liberatore, who the Cardinals got from the Tampa Bay Rays. He could find a spot in the rotation if someone goes down.
Another name to mention is third baseman Nolan Gorman. He has a lot of skill but Arenado is blocking him at third, which makes Gorman nonexistent this year, barring some injuries.
As you can see from the 2021 Fantasy Baseball NL Central Division Preview it is full of really good hitters and sub-par pitching so draft your hitters from this division and do not regret it one bit.
Make sure you bookmark our Fantasy Baseball category page to consume all of our 2021 MLB content in the coming weeks!
|2021 Fantasy Baseball Division Previews|
|AL East||AL Central||AL West|
|NL East||NL Central||NL West|