As baseball season begins to sneak up on us, here at Fantasy Six Pack we are breaking down each division. Today, we are breaking down the NL East for the 2021 season. Over the years, we have seen the division change drastically. In 2021, the NL East is arguably one of the best divisions in baseball. We have seen each team make many moves this offseason, and a case can be made for each team to win the division.
In this Division Preview, I will take a look at stars, breakout candidates, potential draft busts, and prospects for each club in one of the league's most competitive divisions.
Now, let's get into the breakdown of the NL East!
2021 Fantasy Baseball NL East Division Preview
For this upcoming Fantasy Baseball season, take a look at some of these fantastic tools. Here at Fantasy Six Pack, we have our own 2021 Redraft Fantasy Baseball Rankings as well as our own 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Baseball Rankings. Be sure to check them out while preparing for your Fantasy Baseball league! Not only that, but one of my favorite ways to prepare is via mock draft. Fantasy Pros Draft Wizard is a fantastic tool for mock drafting!
The Braves were one game away from making the World Series in 2020. This roster has quite a few stars, anchored by long time Brave Freddie Freeman and stud Ronald Acuna Jr. Other than Dodgers star Cody Bellinger, Freeman is the top 1B for 2021.
He had an MVP season in 2020 and there is no reason to believe that he won't be able to continue what he has been doing over the past few years. Always able to hit for a high average with 30+ HR potential, Freeman should continue to hit in the heart of the order where his counting stats could, and very well might reach 100+ Runs and 100+ RBI.
Acuna Jr is the other star on this Braves team that is littered with talent both in their lineup and rotation. He should hit leadoff or second for the Braves in 2021, followed by Freeman and the returning Marcell Ozuna.
Acuna has the unique ability to hit for power and steal bases, where he continues his quest to be a 40 HR, 40 SB star. He came close to this in 2019 when he hit 41 HRs and stole 37 SBs. Acuna is almost a lock for 30/20 given good health, and he could push 40/40 if he continues his star-like ascent.
Ian Anderson, who had a fantastic season after his call-up midseason, is someone who could break out in a major way. While the cat is no longer in the bag when it comes to him, he may still fly under radars. A top prospect in the Braves system, Anderson has a fantastic changeup that leaves hitters guessing. While he needs to continue the step he has taken with his command, he could break out in a big way if he is able to more consistently spot his pitches.
Don't sleep on the 22-year-old this year, as he should become a staple in the Braves rotation for years to come. Don't miss out on him taking this next step.
You can make an argument that most of the Braves players are drafted right where they should be. However, Dansby Swanson is someone that I am shying away from in drafts. Shortstop has been very deep in recent years. While Swanson isn't being drafted until around pick 100 in NFBC drafts, I would rather draft someone a bit earlier.
The reason for this is that I do not feel confident in Swanson as my starting SS. We have been waiting on his breakout for years now, and while he has had mini breakouts at points over the past seasons, I would rather not bank on him being a consistent starter.
Swanson does provide some nice speed and power, but I do not think he ever steals 20 bases. He is an okay second SS, but owners shouldn't rely on him putting up starter numbers. He is a pass for me if he is going around pick 100, and I would rather wait for a few rounds and grab new Blue Jays middle infielder Marcus Semien in hopes of a bounceback.
The Braves have a very solid farm system, highlighted by Cristian Pache and Drew Waters. This season, I expect Pache to see the majority of the starts in CF. An elite defender, Pache is still putting it together at the plate. His glove should continue to keep him in the lineup, which should give him time to get better with the bat.
Pache has some speed but has never been a big stolen base threat. While he has not been great with the bat, there is no reason to think he can't put up adequate numbers in a great Braves lineup.
Another prospect that could see some playing time this year is William Contreras. Willson Contreras' younger brother. William is a catcher for the Braves and the second catcher on the team behind Travis d'Arnaud. I expect Contreras to get some time behind the plate this year.
While he may not be anything special, he could be a viable option in two catcher or deeper leagues. I am not one to draft a catcher early, and if an injury happens to d'Arnaud, which is not out of the question, Contreras could find himself on the fantasy radar.
The 2021 Phillies are essentially the same exact team as they were last year, with a few more bullpen arms. They are still headlined by stars Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, along with ace Aaron Nola. Harper put together a fantastic sprint season, hitting .270 with 13 HRs and 8 SBs.
Harper is still a power/speed threat, and should not be slept on in drafts. In fact, I believe Harper is underrated in fantasy now. Continuing to walk a tremendous amount, Harper actually cut down on his strikeouts in 2020, a trend we hope to see continue. Harper is a good bet for a .270 average, 30+ HRs, and 15+ SBs, with a chance for more.
Realmuto is the top fantasy baseball catcher and re-signed in Philadelphia on a five-year deal. He should hit in the heart of the order and provide a solid average along with very good pop. Finding a reliable catcher outside the top five is very hard and the former Marlin is the most bankable player at the position.
Realmuto is the only catcher I can reason with as to taking early. While I usually wait until the end of the draft to grab a catcher, Realmuto is very worth it. He has the potential to hit for .280 along with 25 HRs, something that is unheard of from catchers.
Alec Bohm is one of my favorite breakout candidates for this season. I believe he truly has the ability to hit for a high average, provide a great deal of power, and prove himself to be one of the better 3B in the league. Bohm had a strong 2020 season, and I expect him to continue that this year.
He struck out at a 20 percent clip, which was great for a rookie. Bohm hitting in this Philadelphia lineup also helps his value, although he may hit lower in the order. Expect Bohm to be a good source of HR, Runs, and RBI throughout the season.
Another breakout candidate is starting pitcher Spencer Howard. Howard battled injury in the 2020 season and it was ultimately seen as disappointing. However, I expect Howard to breakout in 2021 as long as he wins a rotation spot. He should be competing for the fifth spot this spring and I think he wins it.
Howard is very talented and, health permitting, should outperform where he is being drafted. Howard has multiple great pitches, so going through an order three times should not be too much of a problem. Do not miss out on this potential breakout, and it is worth grabbing him towards the end of the draft.
Jean Segura is, in my opinion, not that great anymore. He had a down season and has struggled with ankle injuries recently, limiting his speed. Segura's calling card was a high average and a good amount of SBs. With the SB factor not being much anymore, he is becoming a worse fantasy asset and a better real-life asset.
While a high average is always nice for fantasy, there can be such a thing as an empty average. Segura fits that bill. Being drafted around pick 190, I would rather take my chances on someone like Jorge Polanco or even David Fletcher. Both of these guys can provide similar stats while playing the same position.
The Phillies drafted Mick Abel in the 2020 Draft, and he immediately takes over as their top prospect, pending Spencer Howard graduating from prospect status. Abel was a High School arm, and at only age 19, he has a whole bunch of developing ahead of him. Abel throws a mean fastball, sitting around 99. While Abel is still very young, with the Phillies' success recently in terms of developing pitching talent, he should be able to become a solid mid-rotation arm.
While he won't make the majors any time soon, keep an eye on Abel as he moves up the rankings as he continues to develop. A Nola/Howard/Abel triple threat at the head of the rotation could be something Phillies' fans dream of in the coming years.
The Miami Marlins were a surprising playoff team in 2020. The end of this forever long rebuild seems to be on the horizon. While a lot of Miami's stars are prospects and still in the minors, Starling Marte is a veteran leader on this team for them. Marte is who he is - a high average, minimal power, speedster.
Marte's ability to steal bases at a high pace while hitting for a high average makes him very valuable in fantasy. He should also be hitting either leadoff or second, which means he should be in line to score plenty of runs. This Miami team continues to be slept on, but you no longer need to shy away from Marlins players in fantasy anymore.
On the pitching side of things, Sixto Sanchez is becoming a star before our eyes. He generates relatively soft contact and knows how to limit walks. His fastball sits at 98, and he has a devastating 89 MPH changeup. While he doesn't strike many guys out, Sanchez should be able to provide solid ratios.
The downside with Sanchez is that his lack of strikeouts may limit him from becoming an all-around stud pitcher for fantasy. However, that does not mean you should shy away from Sixto and his fantastic pitch mix. The only knock on him is where he is going in drafts, but I think he will be worth it.
The Marlins seem to have an infinite amount of quality starting pitching. While a few of them are still in the minors, guys like Pablo Lopez and Elieser Hernandez are in the majors. Both of these players have a chance to break out this year. While Lopez had somewhat of a breakout season last year, I expect him to continue to improve.
Lopez allows soft contact while having great control. These two are a match made in heaven when it comes to finding quality pitchers. While none of his pitches stick out, Lopez throws five different quality pitches and has been continuously learning the best scenarios to throw each pitch. Lopez is one of my favorite players in all of baseball to continue his breakout this year.
Hernandez was effective when he played last year. His season was cut short due to a lat injury. Prior to that he managed a 3.16 ERA with a 1.01 WHIP. Elieser does get hit relatively hard, as evident by his 91.8 average exit velocity.
However, he is able to strike out a good amount of players and has some of the best control among Marlins pitchers. Hernandez's slider generated a whopping 39.3 whiff rate. While the sample size is small, Hernandez is someone I will continue to draft with my last few picks.
While I have applauded the Marlins for their development of pitchers, they have one I will continue to shy away from in the draft. Sandy Alcantara is someone who, in my opinion, is being drafted too high. Alcantara is being drafted within picks of his rotation mate Sanchez, who has much higher upside at the same price.
I believe Alcantara overperformed in 2020, as evidenced by a 4.04 xERA in comparison to his 3.00 ERA. Alcantara has a great fastball, but he tends to have a problem with walks and is unable to generate many whiffs. Let Alcantara fall in the draft, and instead grab his rotation-mates instead.
The Marlins have built a very solid farm over the past few seasons. Two of my favorite prospects who I think could contribute this season are Jazz Chisholm and JJ Bleday. Chisholm is competing with Isan Diaz for the 2B job this spring, and I believe he will win it.
Chisholm showed swing and miss issues in his late-season debut last year. However, he also has the ability to become a 20 HR, 20 SB player. Chisholm could either be a complete bust or pan out and become a very good major leaguer. It all depends on if he can knock down his issues with swinging and missing.
The young infielder is someone I would target at the backend of drafts due to his massive upside. If he doesn't pan out the first few weeks, I wouldn't mind dropping him, but he is someone to keep an eye on throughout the season.
Bleday is another intriguing prospect that could be called up during the summer this year, as the Marlins OF is anything but set in stone. He also could remain in the minors this year as a way to really hone his skills against competition other than the alternate site. While Marte should handle CF duties, their RF and LF spots are in store for possible platoons.
Bleday is one of the better hitters in the minors and he should be able to tap into some power when he comes to the majors. While it is uncertain if he will or will not be called up, keep a close eye on him.
The Nationals have arguably the best player in baseball on their team. Yes, that title still remains with Mike Trout, but don't be shocked if Juan Soto takes that title at some point. Soto headlines this Nationals team and is a first-round pick in fantasy baseball. Soto has a fantastic eye at the plate, crushes the ball, and walks more than he strikes out.
The only downside to Soto is that he doesn't steal, but when he does everything else, who cares? I don't think Soto needs to be explained anymore, as he is one of my favorite players to watch. Draft him, and Soto Shuffle your way to the fantasy playoffs.
On the pitching side of things, the Nationals' big three in their rotation showed some weakness last year. However, never count out Max Scherzer. While Scherzer had a down year to his standards, he was still a great pitcher for fantasy purposes.
Scherzer is getting older, but I have confidence in a rebound after a down year. He still strikes a lot of guys out, and while the control took a step back last year, there is no reason not to expect a bounceback. Injury and the whacky spring season played major factors.
A majority of this Nationals team are who they are. However, someone I expect to return to form from their original breakout season is Josh Bell. A change of scenery should help him, plus he is hitting in a much better lineup. Going from the Pirates to the Nationals is a full 180-degree spin.
While Bell had a very down year in 2020 after a 2019 breakout, Bell still made hard contact. His strikeout rate snuck up last year to a career-high. I expect Bell to bounceback this year and return to some form similar to his breakout 2019 year. 1B is shallow, but Bell is being drafted among 1B like Rhys Hoskins, Christian Walker, and Miguel Sano. Give me Bell in that scenario.
This may not come as shocking, but Victor Robles has seemingly been a bust to start his MLB career. Robles, a top prospect for years, possesses above-average speed. However, is it almost impossible to utilize his speed when he can barely get on base.
Robles is someone I am completely shying away from in drafts despite the possibility of him providing help in the stolen bases category. Robles does not hit the ball hard, strikes out way too much, and does not walk enough. Pass on Robles and take fliers on other guys who can help you with speed while not killing you everywhere else.
The Nationals do not have many top prospects. While they drafted Cade Cavalli in the MLB Draft, they do not have many other intriguing prospects. Cavalli has a 98 mph fastball, but has struggled to stay healthy throughout his professional career.
The Nationals have not dangled his name in possible trades this offseason, a look into how high they are on him. Keep an eye on Cavalli throughout the season, as if he can stay healthy he should fly up prospect lists.
Carter Kieboom is another prospect that is somewhat interesting. While Kieboom exhausted his prospect status by 8 at-bats, he is still considered a prospect in my eyes. He has a cup of tea in each of the past two seasons and is the frontrunner for the Nationals starting 3B spot.
A former top prospect, if Kieboom is able to return to that form, he should provide solid fantasy value while hitting in this lineup.
New York Mets
Last but certainly not least is the New York Mets. The Mets saw a new owner in Steve Cohen take over this offseason, and he has made some very nice moves so far. Among those moves was the trade for Francisco Lindor. Lindor is among the best shortstops in all of baseball and the Mets managed to get him and Carlos Carrasco for a few prospects, Amed Rosario, and Andres Gimenez. Lindor may hit leadoff for the Mets, and this lineup is no longer something to ignore.
The superstar still possesses a nice speed/power combo, and I fully expect a bounceback after a down 2020. With the trade rumors no longer swirling around his head, Lindor can focus on the game that he loves the most. Expect to see that million-dollar smile many times throughout this season.
Jacob deGrom is arguably the best pitcher in baseball right now. Coming off back to back Cy Young winning seasons, there was a case for him to win his third one last year. deGrom provides No.1 overall SP upside and will be an anchor to this rotation.
The Mets have one of the best rotations in all of baseball, and it will only get better when Noah Syndergaard comes back from injury in June or July. While he has had elbow concerns over the past few seasons, that is definitely something to keep an eye on. However, I wouldn't be too concerned as deGrom anchors your rotation in fantasy this season.
Dominic Smith broke out in a big way in 2020. Smith hits the ball hard and often. His .316 average was backed up with a .304 xBA. While he could walk more for my liking, his strikeout rate isn't bad at all. Smith should see playing time in LF, 1B, and potentially DH if the National League keeps the universal DH.
Smith was a highly regarded prospect, and many thought he was a bust until last year. Once finally given full playing time, we saw what he could do. Believe in the breakout of Dom Smith and expect it to continue this season.
James McCann could be a real steal at catcher for both the Mets and for fantasy. An elite defender and framer, McCann was a great catcher in 2019 when he hit .273 with 18 HRs. I expect McCann to play a big role for the Mets this year, and being drafted after catchers like Gary Sanchez, could be a steal in fantasy. With catcher being so slim in fantasy, McCann could really provide some great value this year.
The Mets have very few players that have bust potential this year. The closest one I can think of is Pete Alonso. With an average draft position of around pick 60, Alonso could bust if he does not return to form. 2020 was a down year for Alonso in terms of average, although the power was still there.
Going ahead of 1B like Luke Voit and Matt Olson, I would rather grab either of them over Alonso. I believe both of those players have similar power potential with the ability to hit for a similar, if not better average. Strikeouts will always be a problem for Alonso. Draft with caution. Don't be surprised if Alonso is a bust, but also don't be surprised if Alonso bounces back and outperforms his draft position.
The Mets do not have many prospects who are close to making their major league debut, however, someone to keep an eye on is Ronny Mauricio. While Mauricio will not be up this year, he could be involved in a trade. The Mets have been known to be in the market for a 3B, so it is possible that he gets moved for one.
If he does, look to see where he goes as Mauricio has the tools to become a star. While there is some bust potential on Mauricio after a down 2019 year in the minors, he should prove haters wrong this year.
Keep an eye on this type of trade, as if the Mets do get a 3B that could limit the amount of playing time JD Davis will receive.
Be sure to keep a close eye on the Fantasy Baseball section of Fantasy Six Pack! As the season continues to move closer, we will continue to put out content that will help you in your fantasy baseball drafts. As always, if you have any other questions, comments, or concerns feel free to hit me up on Twitter @mikesollicito1. Please, everyone, continue to stay safe!
|2021 Fantasy Baseball Division Previews