Generating 2021 NL East Predictions is a tough task to be faced with. Each of the five teams seems to be trending upward, and each has made waves this offseason. At a minimum, four of the five are making a serious attempt to compete for the division title, and the fifth was a playoff team last season.
2021 NL East Predictions: Atlanta Braves
The Braves are probably the division favorite heading into 2021. Despite the additions made by New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, the Braves have commandingly won the division the last three years.
Atlanta has not had significant roster turnover this offseason, and still have one of the best young cores of any team in the majors. Their recent resigning of Marcell Ozuna solidified their offense, and they can likely count on some improvement of youngsters like Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, or Cristian Pache.
Nonetheless, the Braves still face a legitimate challenge from the Mets, Phillies, and Nationals.
2021 NL East Predictions: New York Mets
Mets fans have a lot to be excited about heading into the 2021 season. Steve Cohen’s purchase of the team completely changed the team’s offseason operations, leading to the blockbuster Francisco Lindor trade, and the signings of pitcher Marcus Stroman and catcher James McCann. Reports have also indicated that the Mets are still seeking more additions, potentially in the form of a Kris Bryant trade.
In terms of 2021 NL East predictions, there is a lot to be positive about, especially considering that the Mets are projected to have the sixth-highest team fWAR out of all 30 major league teams. Notably, the Mets 40 WAR is two wins better than Atlanta, seven above the Nationals, and nine more than the Phillies.
This bodes well for New York, though the projections were also high on them before the 2020 season, in which they failed to finish the season above .500. The Mets are probably the biggest threat to Atlanta’s throne, but the Braves’ consistency over the last three years gives them an edge.
2021 NL East Predictions: Washington Nationals
The Nationals are perhaps the most difficult team to get a read on. In 2019, they won the World Series; then promptly turned around and finished last in the NL East in 2020. The loss of Anthony Rendon was a major blow to the offense after 2019, but they have made strides to recover some of this production in the form of Kyle Schwarber and Josh Bell.
The three-headed monster of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin are still poised to lead a formidable rotation. Let’s not forget they also have Juan Soto, likely the best young hitter in the league.
If things break right for them, the Nationals could find themselves competing for a postseason spot, however, if the offense flounders it’s not hard to see them selling at the trade deadline.
2021 NL East Predictions: Philadelphia Phillies
In many ways, the Phillies are the antithesis of the Nationals. In the past three years, the Phillies have finished within two games of .500 each time. Despite free agent acquisitions, the on-field product has shown little improvement since 2018.
The majority of the Phillies’ offseason has focused on bringing back the 2020 squad. Outside of Archie Bradley, just about all the money has been spent on J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius. The Phillies could really use a tangible upgrade, like a Jake Odorizzi signing, or a shock-the-world Kris Bryant trade. All indications are that their offseason is all but done. Based on this, it’s hard to see the Phillies finishing the season more than a few games over .500. A few more wins will likely be needed to compete for a playoff spot.
2021 NL East Predictions: Miami Marlins
The Marlins were the most interesting club in the 2020 NL East. The rebuilding team fought through significant adversity and pushed into the playoffs in the pandemic-shortened season, and shockingly eliminated the Cubs before the Braves ended Miami’s postseason journey.
Along the way, they acquired star center fielder Starling Marte, who can hopefully provide some guidance for the Marlins plethora of young position players. In addition, top prospect Sixto Sanchez emerged as a potential ace pitcher. The Marlins will likely not be able to hang with the rest of the division over a full season; however, they certainly have enough talent to throw a wrench into the rest of the division’s plans.
It’s certainly possible that the 2021 NL East predictions could come down to which team can best take advantage of their games against Miami.
2021 NL East Predictions: Final Thoughts
The NL East is shaping up to be one of the deepest and most competitive divisions in MLB, especially with several teams reportedly still in the market for last-minute acquisitions.
In recent weeks a number of prominent projection systems, have announced their MLB playoff odds for 2021. Surprisingly, they both gave the Mets a significant edge over the Braves to win the east, however, it’s worth noting that the Braves have been criminally underrated by these projection systems in the past three years, each of which they won the division. Most anyone who has watched the NL East in recent years would take the over on the 82-80 PECOTA projection for the Braves.
The Braves’ ability to maintain their core and count on improvement from their young players allows them to keep their place atop the division in my 2021 NL East Predictions. That being said, they should still face a significant challenge from the Mets, Nats, and Phillies.
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