Fantasy Baseball NL East Preview: Is Bryce Harper overrated?

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Atlanta Braves

Atlanta is the slight favorite in a very intriguing NL East. Four teams were pegged to win between 85-91 games (over/unders courtesy of Bet MGM), and then you have the Marlins, shipwrecked at 64.5.

The top three of Atlanta’s order is mouth-watering: Two MVP candidates and the broad skills of Ozzie Albies. Marcell Ozuna slots in nicely as a cleanup man; maybe the 2017 career year is unreasonable to dream about, but his three-year average is .281-81-30-100. The Braves will split time at catcher and be strong from a per-game standpoint, but you have to accept modest at-bat upside. 

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Dansby Swanson is one of my favorite cheap targets; you can get him outside the Top 240 in Yahoo drafts. Part of that is the depth of shortstop talking, but with Swanson you get category juice, prospect pedigree (he was the first pick in his class), and a solid 2019 semi-breakout that was eventually muffled by injury. His batting slot is a drain to the angle, but those things don’t have to stick all season. 

Mike Foltynewicz is one of my late-round pitching targets; maybe it’s because I remember 2018 fondly, or maybe I’m just humble-bragging that I know how to pronounce it. Mark Melancon will probably cede some saves to Will Smith, a lefty who can also get right-handers out. Save striation is a fact of life in 2020, but it also means we can be more accepting of save-grabbers who don’t have complete ownership of their bullpens. 

Likely Buy/Fade: Swanson; Melancon.

Atlanta Braves projected lineup. (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)
Atlanta Braves projected lineup. (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

Washington Nationals

The discussion of Washington’s title defense starts on the mound, where they have a Big 3 to match anyone’s. Max Scherzer makes sense as an early second-round pick in Yahoo leagues, and Patrick Corbin’s tasty 52.2 goes down well. Strikeouts and ground balls, those are the keys to the kingdom. I’ve been a Stephen Strasburg fader for most of his career; in several years, that paid a dividend, but he beat me last year. Now up to Yahoo ADP 26.7, I’ll respectfully pass. 

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While Strasburg was paid and retained, Anthony Rendon left for Orange County. Any lineup would feel a sting from that. Howie Kendrick might not start Opening Day, but they’d like to find 400 at-bats for him. He’s projected to have the second or third-best wOBA on the roster. Juan Soto and Trea Turner belong in the first round, and Victor Robles could enjoy a breakthrough year if he can take control of the leadoff spot. I can talk myself into Castro at the No. 5 slot, but then it’s three cases of hope-and-hack. 

Sean Doolittle is the closer in name, but Daniel Hudson is another save-grabbing source. The smarter teams are willing to be open-minded at the end of games; whatever gets you through the ninth.

Likely Buy/Fade: Corbin; Strasburg.

Washington Nationals projected lineup (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)
Washington Nationals projected lineup (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

New York Mets

Slotting Brandon Nimmo first and Amed Rosario eighth (or ninth) might not last long, given Nimmo’s propensity to run into things (and have pitches run into him). I’m starting to accept he’s a multi-talented player with a star-crossed career. If Nimmo can’t play, Jake Marisnick gets run in center field. Just what the Mets badly need, a plus defender. Michael Conforto and Robinson Cano probably should be flip-flopped in the order, but they don’t ask for my lineup input. Pete Alonso can’t be expected for 53 homers again, but it’s a question of where the regression falls. If you like him for 40-plus, his ADP makes sense; under that, you probably pass. I’m in the latter group. 

Fresh off two Cy Young Awards, Jacob deGrom has proven he can succeed despite the Mets’ allergy to defense. But I’m leery on Noah Syndergaard, even at a moderately discounted price; his jaw-dropping stuff doesn’t mesh with an ordinary (for the era) strikeout rate, and he’s never had a clue on stopping the running game. Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello would interest me more on a different team, given how much they pitch to contact. Still, those two and Steven Matz round out a deep starting five; the Mets have a puncher’s chance at the division.

Everything went wrong for Edwin Diaz last year, which is why a sympathetic drafting crowd is still here to chase (eighth closer off Yahoo boards). But the Mets have terrific depth after Diaz, should anything go wrong. Dellin Betances and Seth Lugo make sense in most formats simply for the quality of innings; any saves would be a bonus.

Likely Buy/Fade: J.D. Davis; Syndergaard.

New York Mets projected lineup (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)
New York Mets projected lineup (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

Philadelphia Phillies

I pitched Andrew McCutchen for 130 runs last year, and he was basically on schedule before the ACL surgery. It remains to be seen how ready he’ll be for the rescheduled Opening Day, which is why you don’t see him on the chart. Maybe it’s time to stop chasing him into an age-33 season, but at least the price is right (Yahoo: 217). Once you’ve filled the outfield slots, he’s a lottery ticket I can sign off on. 

[Yahoo Rankings: Overall | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

Is Jean Segura really a third baseman (or a second baseman)? Would a static position help Scott Kingery find his best offense? Has Bryce Harper been notably overrated since his MVP season? Can I stop asking rhetorical questions? (The answer on Harper is “yes.”)

I generally don’t pay vanity prices for catchers, so I sheepishly let J.T. Realmuto pass. Logical metrics point to Rhys Hoskins having a bounce-back season, and his lineup spot provides a reassuring buoyancy. 

Hector Neris has a good chance to be a solidified closer, with new manager Joe Girardi replacing cutesy, experimental Gabe Kapler. There are reasonable pro cases for Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler at their ADPs, but Jake Arrieta is mostly downside into his age-34 season. 

Likely Buy/Fade: Neris; Arrieta (and probably Harper, too).

Philadelphia Phillies projected lineup (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)
Philadelphia Phillies projected lineup (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

Miami Marlins

The key to Jonathan Villar is minding the gap between fantasy value and real-life value; he’s a much better player in our game about a game. But I don’t understand the Great Stolen Base Freakout of 2020; with bags disappearing, we need fewer of them to be competitive. I’m not dismissing Villar out of hand, but I’m not prioritizing him either, now that his 2019 breakthrough has been baked into his price. He also has the stress of a position switch, and obviously the ballpark change is a drag. 

Miami’s a dead-lock for last place in a deep division, but there’s always something worth buying on the bad rosters. Maybe it’s catcher Jorge Alfaro (Yahoo: 229), who has 18-homer power and some latent speed. Corey Dickerson is well-traveled, despite batting .299 for Colorado, making an All-Star team in Tampa, and acquitting himself well in Pittsburgh and Philly last year. His career OPS+ is 119 (that’s a park-adjusted metric where 100 is average), and he’s been a plus hitter for six straight years. He’s not going to walk a ton, but he’ll put the ball in play. Look for contenders to sniff around for him when trade season begins.  

The raw skills of Caleb Smith and Sandy Alcantara put them on my streaming and DFS radar, but the stench of the roster makes me less interested as seasonal investments. The Marlins would love to see Brandon Kintzler rack up three months of saves, then hit the market — that was Sergio Romo’s angle last year. That’s worth a penny investment during the endgame. 

Likely Buy/Fade: Alfaro and Dickerson; Smith.

Miami Marlins projected lineup (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)
Miami Marlins projected lineup (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

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