2021 Fantasy Baseball: Favorite draft targets from the NL East
Our fantasy baseball analysts reveal their favorite draft target on each of the five National League East teams. This could be a perceived draft value, an emerging star they're picking everywhere, or anything in between
Andy: Ideally, I’ll walk away from most drafts with multiple Braves — this team’s lineup is loaded and its rotation is full of fun names. As far as values go, I’m a huge fan of Austin Riley as a late source for 25-30 homers with significant RBI potential.
Dalton: Travis d’Arnaud is a bit of an injury concern, but he led all catchers in wRC+ (144) last season and is slated to hit cleanup in Atlanta behind three of the league’s best hitters. At a desperately thin catcher position, d’Arnaud is someone I want on as many fantasy teams as possible.
AL Draft Targets: AL West | AL Central | AL East
NL Draft Targets: NL West | NL Central | NL East
Scott: Dansby Swanson had a breakout half in 2019, and he was quietly excellent last year (he beat Tim Anderson and Francisco Lindor in 5x5 value). While Swanson probably would have cooled somewhat in a full season, his two months of 2020 extrapolate to 132 runs, 27 homers, 94 RBIs, 13.5 steals. No one expects those absurd numbers, but his ADP makes him an attractive target. It will be pesky if Swanson doesn’t command the No. 2 slot — Ozzie Albies is also in that mix — but I’ll gladly bet on the player and the overall depth of this lineup.
New York Mets
Andy: Gotta say, I’m not sure there are a ton of obvious fantasy bargains on this team’s roster, based strictly on ADP. I’ll simply note that Edwin Diaz was a pretty clear offseason winner, as he dodged Brad Hand and other potential ninth-inning complications. Diaz offers a K-rate that few relievers can match (39.5 career K%).
Dalton: Jacob deGrom has battled some bumps and bruises, but he also has Tommy John in his rearview mirror and recently hit 99 mph while throwing batting practice. With pitching getting pushed up higher than ever in fantasy baseball and fewer 200-inning horses existing, deGrom is the No. 1 player on my board. It helps when you combine the league’s best pitcher with a highly favorable situation, as the NL looks unlikely to have the DH and Citi Field has become baseball’s best pitching park. In fact, it leads MLB in decreasing run-scoring and batting average over the last three seasons. The Mets should also provide better run support and defense this year with the addition of Francisco Lindor.
Scott: Jacob deGrom is no one’s sleeper or under-repped player, but I want to make the point that you can justify drafting him at any slot. First or second overall? I’m not saying you have to do it, but you could. Make sure you get at least one bonafide ace this year. The Mets have upgraded deGrom’s supporting cast and he’s already been through the rigors of physical problems; these are the safe years. I’ll spend many summer nights watching deGrom work his magic, while baseball’s best broadcast booth describes the action. Nirvana.
Andy: Zach Eflin helped me win a title in an NL-only league last season with a pair of late, clutch 9-strikeout games. If I’m anything as a fantasy manager, I’m loyal to a fault. Eflin’s K-rate jumped last season (28.6%) and he was actually a bit unlucky (.344 BABIP, 3.39 ERA). I’m in for whatever’s next, as he enters his age-27 season. Dodging the universal DH certainly helps.
Dalton: Projection systems loved Scott Kingery entering last season coming off a year in which he went 19/15 over just 458 at-bats, but now he’s mostly an afterthought due to a disastrous 2020. Last year can at least partially be blamed on a tough case of COVID that lingered, but he’s much healthier now, and ready to bring “Scotty Jetpax” back. Kingery has nice power/speed potential, is eligible at four different positions, and hits in one of the most favorable home run parks for righties. He’s a sleeper.
Scott: I was in favor of Hector Neris into last season, but it turned into Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. So this is a bullpen where I want to look for the longer shots. Archie Bradley could use better control, but he has closer swing-and-miss stuff and closer facial hair. Two out of three ain’t bad. A good idea in the late rounds.
Andy: We have lots of great options on this squad, including two players — Juan Soto and Trea Turner — who are reasonable No. 1 overall picks. But if you guys think I’m gonna pick anyone but Kyle Schwarber as my must-have member of the Nationals, you have not been reading us for long. He’s a clear contender to win a home run title someday soon; a deadened ball isn’t gonna limit Schwarbs.
Dalton: Starlin Castro is back healthy after dealing with a wrist injury during his first season in Washington. He could easily find himself atop the Nationals’ lineup, one season removed from posting a .270-22-86 season in one of the toughest hitting environments in Miami. He’s now calling a park home that’s been one of the most favorable to bats over the last three seasons (only Coors Field has boosted batting average more in the NL over that span). Castro is one of my favorite middle-infield sleepers.
[Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]
Scott: Josh Bell gets a change of scenery at the perfect time, and he’ll likely be slotted behind some teammates that are OBP gods. It’s the oldest fantasy frame going: Last year’s zero, this year’s hero.
Andy: Gimme all these pitchers; I don’t want to pick just one. Miami is a sneaky-fun club. Pablo Lopez was a revelation last year and Sixto Sanchez clearly has another level or two that he can reach. Elieser Hernandez and Sandy Alcantra both have live arms, too. I’ll take whichever Marlins starters a draft gives me.
Dalton: Elieser Hernandez recorded a K-BB% (27.4) that would’ve ranked No. 5 in baseball had he qualified last season, accompanied by a 3.23 expected ERA and a strong CSW (31.3) on par with Max Scherzer and Trevor Bauer. It was only a six-start sample, but Hernandez has elite control and will benefit from a home park that’s one of the most favorable to pitchers. He’s a fine SP target.
Scott: It was cute of Behrens to annex this entire pitching staff, and he’s right. All sorts of targets there, and I’ll be proactive as well. As for the less-fun offense, I can talk myself into Miguel Rojas, especially at his giveaway ADP. Over the last two years, he’s slashed .288/.344/.403 with a little power and some speed. Not a bad middle on a budget.