Division Prediction: NL East
What is going on, ball boys and girls? As always, I hope you guys are doing super well. Going into spring training, I wanted to gather all the divisions to predict the division's outcomes. I also wanted to predict the most likely CY Young, MVP, and ROY from each division. For each team in the said division, I will give you a breakout candidate, rebound candidate, an impact NRI(non-roster invite), and one Rookie to watch.
Let's wrap up the predictions with the NL East and best division in baseball without further ado!
Atlanta Braves: 102-60
Washington Nationals: 95-67
Philadelphia Phillies: 93-69
NY Mets: 90-72
Miami Marlins- 85-77
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After a fantastic season, MVFreeman was incredible, and so were the Braves. The NL East is LOADED with talent, MVP candidates both pitcher and position player, and it's hard to predict. However, let's give the MVP to OF Bryce Harper. Harper is a top 5 OF, in my opinion. Coming off a season where he had a league-leading 49BB to help him earn a .420OBP. The 28yo Harper is too dang good to say he won't win after not missing more than five games; with an improved Philly offense, I see Harper smashing 40+HR, 100+RBI, and a slash of .290+/.420+/.550+ on his way to leading the Phillies to the Playoffs.
Other candidates: Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., Fransisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, Brian Anderson
The Cy Young could go to anyone in this division. Each team has a Cy Young contender. Somehow, Stephen Strasburg has earned a 7yr $245mil contract, 3x All-Star, Silver Slugger, and a World Series MVP and NO Cy Young award. After missing the entire 2020 season due to injury. Strasburg got some extra rest, rehab and the 32yo is primed to deliver in year 2 of that big contract.
Other candidates: Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Zack Wheeler, Sixto Sanchez, Mike Soroka, Max Freid
The Rookie of the Year in the NL East is easily Marlins ace Sixto Sanchez. Sixto was a revelation for the Marlins in 2020. He came on to post a 1.4WAR, 3-2 record, 3.46ERA/3.50FIP with 33K-11BB in 39IP. Sixto is the real deal and will surely build off his excellent debut.
Other candidates: Ian Anderson
Players to Watch: Braves
The MLB time has been pretty much good to start his career, but we have only scratched the surface for Ozzie Albies. The below-average .271/.306/.466 left much to be desired. However, he did lead the league in AB and H in 2019. Part of the problem for Albies in 2020 was 30K-5BB. The outlandish 6-1 ratio was the highest in his career. The Braves have improved the roster, and so has the rest of the NL East. The Braves need their young star to produce.
The rebound is coming for Mike Soroka. He missed most of 2020 due to injury and was only able to pitch in 13.2IP. Soroka is looking to get back to his 2019 form when he earned an All-Star nod, 6th place Cy Young finish, and 2nd place RoY finish.
The NRI I am watching in the camp is RHRP Victor Arano and RHRP Carl Edwards Jr. Both are coming off seasons where they didn't pitch at all. Both have excellent track records of success. If both show healthy this spring and look to be back in their form from 2019, they could help form one of the NL East's best pens.
The Rookie I have my eye on this spring is RHP Ian Anderson. In his first 32.1IP, he had 41K-14BB with a 1.95ERA/2.54FIP. He finished 7th in the RoY vote and could steal the award from Sixto.
Players to Watch: Nationals
The breakout is coming for Josh Bell. In my opinion, the former Pirate finds himself going from a bottom-5 team to a top-10 in the MLB. Bell doesn't have to carry the load anymore offensively; he has to play his part now. You got to remember just back in 2019, he was an All-Star and hit 37HR, 116RBI with a .277/.367/.569 slash. Bell may top all those numbers in 2021.
The rebound is on for two former Cubs. LHP Jon Lester and LF Kyle Schwarber are both coming off awful seasons. Schwarber slashed .188/.308/.393 in 224PA. Lester had his moments in 2020, but he ended up in -0.2WAR, 5.16ERA/5.14FIP in 61IP. Neither have the same pressure coming into 2021, and the change of scenery could serve both incredibly well.
The NRI I am watching in camp this spring is C/OF Blake Swihart. I am interested in Swihart because of the prospect pedigree. He was a first-round pick of the Red Sox back in 2011. In his rookie season in 2015, he slashed .274/.319/.392 in 309PA. Compare that to 2019, where he slashed .163/.222/.304. The decline has been hard in recent season; however, the Nationals do something right with their hitters.
The Rookie I am watching for the Nationals is LHP Seth Romero. The 24yo Romero made his MLB debut in 2020, posting a -0.2WAR in 2.2IP with a 13.50ERA/7.69FIP. Give Romero a chance, and he may surprise all of us.
Players to Watch: Phillies
We are all thinking we saw the kind of player that Alec Bohm is going to be long-term. I would disagree after a 2nd place finishes in the RoY and only 24yo. Bohm showed to be a shift beater in 2020. Bohm slashed .338/.400/.481 in 160AB. We saw Bryce Harper taking reps at 3B during summer camp in 2020, but Bohm said, hold up; that's my position. The defense wasn't excellent after posting -5DRS, however, he is a rookie, and the glove should acclimate. I have a funny feeling that Bohm may end up being the 2nd best player on the Phillies and pushing Harper for years to come.
I am calling the rebound for new arrivals RHP Chase Anderson and LHP Matt Moore. Both pitchers are into their 30's. Anderson pitched to a 7.22ERA over 33.2IP, and career, he owns a 3.94ERA over 857IP. Moore spent the 2020 season pitching in Japan and missed all of 2019 with a torn meniscus. The Phillies need all the help they can get in the rotation to compete in this division.
The NRI I am watching in camp is RHRP Brandon Kintzler. With the Cubs and Marlins over the last two seasons, he has a 2.55ERA. He has a 3.15ERA or lower in 4/5 seasons. How Kintzler is on a minors deal, I am shocked. But don't be shocked when he is rocking in the bullpen for the Phillies.
The Rookie I am watching this season is RHP Spencer Howard. After a brief debut in 2020 with a 0.1WAR, 5.92ERA/5.86FIP in 24.1IP. The 24yo could make some waves in the 2021 season out of the pen and with some spot starts.
Players to Watch: Mets
I will call the breakout for C James McCann; since the start of the 2019 season, he has slash .276/.334/.474 in 587PA. McCann is finally coming in as the primary catcher for the Mets and has an opportunity to ball out for really the first time in his career. He is also a whiz behind the plate, framing and throwing out 37% of would-be base stealers.
I have two guys I am looking at as rebound candidates for the Mets RHP Joey Lucchesi and RHP Jordan Yamamoto. Both of their seasons were lackluster. Lucchesi was pitched in just 5.2IP, while Yamamoto only threw 11.1IP. Both have shown upside in spurts; let's see if they can put it together for the Mets in 2021.
The NRI's I am watching in the camp are a bunch of veteran bullpen pieces. LHP Mike Montgomery(53.1% groundball rate since 2017), LHP Jerry Blevins(A former lefty specialist), RHP Trevor Hildenberger(44.5% groundball rate in 2018-19). Keep an eye on these three as they could anchor the Mets pen in 2021.
The Rookie I am watching for the Mets in 2021 is LHP Thomas Szapucki. After posting a 2.63ERA between A, A+, and AA in 2019, he could leap to the MLB this spring with the Met's needing LHP in the bullpen. In 2019 he had 72K-26BB and held opposing hitters to a .214BA over 61.2IP.
Players to Watch: Marlins
I am going to call a breakout season for RHRP Anthony Bass. It was already stated within the first week of camp; the team wants to give Bass the 9th inning opportunities. Bass gets a ton of groundballs with a 95MPH sinker; he produced a 62.3% clip in 2020, which was the 4th highest in 2020. If Bass can lock down the 9th inning role with the Marlins, expect a few more wins. The Marlins played the analytics exceptionally well in 2020; they can play that game as well as anyone in the MLB.
I am looking at a rebound season for C Jorge Alfaro. The 27 backstop has the complete confidence of the coaching staff going into the 2021 season. After posting a -0.3WAR with a .226/.280/.344 slash in 93AB. With the coaches' confidence and organization, look for Alfaro to get back on track in 2021.
The NRI I am watching in Marlins camp is RHP Thompson. The 27yo has yet to make his MLB debut, and in his last season at AAA in 2019, it wasn't pretty on the surface with a 5.50ERA over 70.1IP. However, once you dig a little deeper, you find 10.0K/9 and 2.9BB/9 ratios that could show the kind of pitcher he is.
The Rookies I am watching, along with Sixto Sanchez, are a trio of young pitchers showing improved stuff early in camp. Kyle Nicolas, Max Meyer, and Zach McCambley. Each will get an extended look in camp this spring and could get a chance to open the season in the bigs.
Thanks for reading today, I am so grateful for your time reading, and I hope you enjoyed reviewing the winners as much as I have. I also want to thank my partners over at Repp Sports for RAZE Energy. Thanks to this clean and sufficient energy, I can have the intense focus to deliver content to you guys consistently. Click here to save 15% right now with the code "BALL BOY" at check out.