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2021 MLB Predictions: NL East Breakout Candidates

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With Spring Training just around the corner, it’s time to make some more 2021 MLB predictions. The NL East has become a lot more interesting this offseason. The Mets have led the pack in terms of offseason moves while the Nationals and Braves have added some nice pieces as well. Looking ahead to the 2021 season, each team has players that are poised to break out. Here is one breakout candidate to watch for each NL East team.

2021 MLB Predictions: Players to Watch in the NL East

Atlanta Braves: Ian Anderson, RHP

Ian Anderson burst onto the scene in 2020. The former third overall pick pitched to a 1.95 ERA/2.54 FIP and a 1.082 WHIP with 41 strikeouts in 32.1 innings (11.4 K/9). Even though he only made six starts, Anderson still finished seventh in Rookie of the Year voting.

Anderson continued his dominance in the postseason, allowing just two earned runs 18.2 innings pitched. He will likely have a more prominent role in the Braves‘ rotation in 2021, and it will be interesting to see how he performs over the course of a full season. After his showing in 2020 though, it’s easy to envision a big season coming from Anderson this year.

Miami Marlins: Sixto Sanchez, RHP

Many 2021 MLB predictions show that the Marlins are likely to regress in 2021, given that they made the playoffs despite a -40 run differential. Sanchez though seems like he is trending upwards. He tied with Anderson for seventh in Rookie of the Year voting, pitching to a 3.46 ERA/3.50 FIP and a 1.205 WHIP with 33 strikeouts in 39 innings (7.6 K/9). He impressed a lot of people with his blazing fastball that averaged 98.5 miles per hour. Sanchez looks to be an ace in the making, and it will be exciting to watch him perform for a full season.

New York Mets: Brandon Nimmo, OF

Some may argue that Nimmo has already broken out, while a surprisingly large number of Mets fans for some reason aren’t sold on him. Nimmo hasn’t played a full season since 2018, mainly due to a neck problem which also hampered his performance in 2019. When he came back from his injury in 2019, Nimmo finished the year strong by hitting .261/.430/.565 with five homers in 26 games.

Nimmo’s strong finish to 2019 carried over into 2020 as he hit .280/.404/.484 (146 OPS+) with eight homers. He was particularly strong in September, hitting .338/.417/.514. While Nimmo has shown flashes of being an elite hitter, he could elevate his game if he started hitting for more power. Look for him to tap into that power potential in 2021.

Philadelphia Phillies: Alec Bohm, 3B

Bohm was fantastic in 2020 and looks to be a cornerstone for the Phillies franchise. In 44 games, Bohm hit .338/.400/.481 (136 OPS+) with four homers, 11 doubles, and 23 RBIs. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting just behind Devin Williams. While Bohm’s defense still needs work, his bat is more than ready for a big 2021 season. He is expected to be the Phillies’ everyday third baseman in 2021 and a pretty potent lineup, he can continue to produce at a high level. There isn’t much for the Phillies to get excited about heading into this season, but Alec Bohm will rake for years to come.

Washington Nationals: Tanner Rainey, RHP

Brad Hand is expected to hold down the ninth inning for the Nationals, but Rainey will likely have a big role in their bullpen too. He was fantastic in 2020, pitching to a 2.66 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 20.1 innings pitched (14.2 K/9). Rainey’s 42.1 strikeout percentage was near the top of MLB and his fastball averages a scorching 96.8 miles per hour. Rainey’s biggest issue has been his control, as he’s averaged 6.8 BB/9 thus far in his career. If Rainey can build on his strong 2020 season and maintain his deadly fastball/slider combo, then he will have a huge 2021 season.

2021 MLB Predictions: Closing Thoughts

The NL East is going to be very exciting to watch in 2021 and these players are widely expected to be a big part of their team’s success for the foreseeable future. 2021 MLB predictions likely paint the division as a two-team race, but each team has some reasons to get excited.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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Mathias is a senior journalism major at The College of New Jersey. He has served as the Sports Editor and Opinions Editor for the school's newspaper, The Signal. He joined Overtime Heroics as a writer in June of 2019 and became an editor in December of 2020. Mathias is also a varsity swimmer and is the youngest of five kids.