Fantasy Baseball: National League team-by-team preview and predictions

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/10626/" data-ylk="slk:Juan Soto">Juan Soto</a> is a dark-horse MVP candidate in the NL. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Juan Soto is a dark-horse MVP candidate in the NL. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

You can check out my American League predictions here.

East

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1. Washington Nationals

2. Philadelphia Phillies (Wild Card)

3. Atlanta Braves

4. New York Mets

5. Miami Marlins

Comments/Fantasy predictions: Washington suffers injuries throughout its staff but still takes home the division thanks to the league’s best offense (even with Bryce Harper’s departure), as Victor Robles wins Rookie of the Year and Juan Soto becomes the youngest player to win the MVP award. Soto, who hit fastballs like Ted Williams’ career line last season as a 19 year old, enters 2020 as part of a three-way debate with Mike Trout and Ronald Acuna Jr. to be the No. 1 fantasy pick.

Andrew McCutchen is a big profit for fantasy owners, as he’s a top-25 outfielder, while Nick Pivetta disappoints owners thanks to a poor Phillies defense and a home park that’s extremely favorable for homers … Zach Eflin is a sleeper worth targeting.

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Acuna Jr. goes 30/30 and finishes with more fantasy value than Mookie Betts, while Freddie Freeman has a huge season and is runner-up in MVP voting … The batters who hit a baseball 95+ mph the most times last season: 1) Manny Machado 2) Nick Markakis 3) Francisco Lindor 4) J.D. Martinez 5) Christian Yelich. One of these things is not being drafted like the others … Dansby Swanson becomes a key waiver wire add in a breakout season, but an underwhelming performance by Atlanta’s pitching staff leaves them outside the playoffs.

Zack Wheeler, who allowed the lowest exit velocity among starters (84.7 mph) last season and posted a 1.68 ERA with a 0.81 WHIP after the All-Star break, finishes as a top-10 fantasy SP. Noah Syndergaard suffers through another injury-marred campaign, while Jacob deGrom repeats as Cy Young award winner. Michael Conforto finishes with more fantasy value than Lorenzo Cain, Marcell Ozuna, Tommy Pham and A.J. Pollock, all of whom have higher ADPs.

Realizing that Marlins Park has easily been baseball’s premier pitching venue over the last three seasons, Miami’s management decided to punt offense altogether this year, but Caleb Smith and Trevor Richards are two starters who prove plenty fantasy valuable, even if wins are hard to come by. Smith’s 16.9 K-BB% would’ve ranked top-25 among starters (tied with Jameson Taillon) had he qualified last season.

Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals

2. Chicago Cubs (Wild Card)

3. Milwaukee Brewers

4. Cincinnati Reds

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

Comments/Fantasy predictions: Yadier Molina is being underrated at drafts, while Harrison Bader is being overrated … Alex Reyes’ limited role in middle/long relief destroys the fantasy value of a sleeping giant but helps a Cardinals bullpen that could be dominant … Jack Flaherty is runner-up in Cy Young voting and enters next year drafted as a top-five fantasy starter.

Kris Bryant bounces back with a huge season, and Kyle Schwarber hits 35 homers with 100 RBI … Brandon Morrow records fewer than five saves, while Jon Lester isn’t a top-100 fantasy starter, as the Cubs’ pitching staff helps contribute to them failing to win their division for the second straight year.

Christian Yelich, who led MLB by a mile last year with a 35% HR/FB rate (next closest was 29.5%), disappoints fantasy owners who took him ahead of Acuna Jr. and Aaron Judge Freddy Peralta goes down as one of the better pitching bargains at drafts, while the same goes for Ryan Braun in the outfield ... Travis Shaw and Mike Moustakas both finish as top-10 fantasy second basemen and are cheat codes at the position in drafts right now.

Yasiel Puig benefits from the huge upgrade in parks and finishes as a top-10 fantasy outfielder, while Joey Votto and Jesse Winker’s OBP provide more value to the Reds than to their fantasy owners … Nick Senzel is passable defensively in center field, making him a top-12 fantasy third baseman … I placed a bet on the Reds to win the World Series at 100/1 back in early February, hoping they’d sign J.T. Realmuto and Dallas Keuchel, but now I’m just hoping for a wild card run (at least the division appears wide open).

Joe Musgrove proves to be the best return on investment among Pittsburgh’s starting staff, while Keone Kela has top-five closer upside should Felipe Vazquez go down ... Starling Marte is a second-round-worthy pick often available in the late third, while Corey Dickerson is one of the better outfield bargains this year … Jung Ho Kang finishes as a top-15 fantasy third baseman.

West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. San Diego Padres

3. Colorado Rockies

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

5. San Francisco Giants

Comments/Fantasy predictions: Justin Turner, who posted a 190 wRC+ after the All-Star break last year after he sufficiently recovered from offseason wrist surgery, is simply one of baseball’s very best hitters and criminally underrated in fantasy drafts, as his eighth round ADP is Gary Busey-level crazy … Corey Seager also goes down as profitable at draft tables, while Kenley Jansen and especially Clayton Kershaw decidedly do not. Kershaw doesn’t throw even 50 innings, but the Dodgers have the best staff in the NL anyway, with Ross Stripling pitching like an ace when on the mound. LA’s seventh starter would be the best pitcher on some teams.

Franmil Reyes, whose exit velocity (92.3 mph) ranked top-15 last year, slugs 35 homers and records 100 RBI ... Chris Paddack lives up to the hype, finishing as a top-40 fantasy starter despite a limited workload (whose isn’t?) … Matt Strahm is another San Diego starter who proves to be a huge profit to fantasy owners, as the suddenly loaded young Padres team appears to have an extremely bright future and looks like an interesting long shot at 60/1 odds.

German Marquez isn’t a top-40 fantasy starter, while David Dahl has a better fantasy season than Charlie Blackmon … Owners who fought for the winner of the battle between Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson are annoyed when it’s Brendan Rodgers who’s the most valuable Colorado second baseman in the second half … Daniel Murphy also finishes as a top-three fantasy 2B … Trevor Story is one of the 20 fastest players in baseball and had the longest average home run length (422 feet) among all hitters last season (and he hit 37 of them), which is a pretty solid combo for a shortstop … Archie Bradley emerges with 30+ saves, while Wilmer Flores goes down as a steal at draft tables.

The Giants are in full rebuild mode; a tradeoff not unexpected after the team went years ignoring its farm system while winning three championships in five years. Now, they are left with the worst outfield in baseball and a farewell tour for manager Bruce Bochy that’s going to be ugly … Will Smith pitches like one of the best closers in baseball up until he’s traded, where he no longer finishes games with his new team … Ray Black emerges as a deep sleeper for saves down the stretch, while Brandon Belt’s real baseball value once again crushes his fantasy worth, at least in between injuries.

Buster Posey bounces back at the plate, while Dereck Rodriguez crashes back down to earth … Madison Bumgarner, who since 2015 has a 3.89 ERA on the road compared to a 2.15 ERA at home, gets traded midseason, which further accelerates his decline, as the best part about the Giants’ 2019 season is eating at Crazy Crab’z (check out the price of that sandwich).

Finally, here are awards and playoff predictions!

NL Rookie of the Year: Victor Robles (Runner-up: Chris Paddack)

AL Rookie of the Year: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Runner-up: Eloy Jimenez)


NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom (Runner-up: Jack Flaherty)

AL Cy Young: Jose Berrios (Runner-up: Gerrit Cole)

[Busted bracket? No problem. Make more tourney picks for free to win cash]

NL MVP: Juan Soto (Runner-up: Freddie Freeman)

AL MVP: Aaron Judge (Runner-up: Mike Trout)


NLCS: Phillies over Dodgers

ALCS: Yankees over Astros


World Series: Yankees over Phillies


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