National League Fantasy Baseball Preview: Dodgers eye World Series as new contenders set to emerge in 2020

Go here for my American League preview.

NL East

1. New York Mets

2. Washington Nationals (Wild Card)

3. Atlanta Braves

4. Philadelphia Phillies

5. Miami Marlins

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Mets: Their pitchers have a poor defense behind them (including throwing to Wilson Ramos) and now have to face the DH, but they should receive plenty of run support with New York’s suddenly loaded lineup, and it helps getting to play in arguably baseball’s best pitcher’s park (Citi Field has decreased run scoring an MLB-high 17% over the last three seasons) … Yoenis Cespedes bounces back with a big performance at the plate, while Ahmed Rosario ends the year as a top-10 shortstop … With a strong bullpen as well, the Mets win their division despite Noah Syndergaard’s absence.   

Nationals: The World Series champs provide a bunch of underrated fantasy value thanks to the universal DH, Ryan Zimmerman opting out and one of MLB’s best hitter’s parks … Starlin Castro finishes as a top-10 fantasy second baseman (he goes from an extremely unfavorable home park to a highly favorable one and will be hitting next to Juan Soto), Howie Kendrick finally (officially) wins that batting title (while 2B eligible as full-time DH), and Eric Thames ends among the league-leaders in homers (he quietly averaged the fifth-longest fly ball distance last season) … Max Scherzer wins the Cy Young, and the over/under on Juan Soto career MVPs is 2.5.

Nationals ace Max Scherzer could be in line for his fourth Cy Young award. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Braves: Marcell Ozuna finishes as a top-10 outfielder and Mark Melancon a top-10 fantasy closer … Ender Inciarte and Adam Duvall are real sleepers, with the latter the single cheapest source of power at draft tables … Dansby Swanson is THE shortstop to target in 2020 drafts … Ronald Acuna vs. Christian Yelich is quite a debate (my answer is Gerrit Cole) ... Max Fried posted a 4.02 ERA last season, but his pCRA was top-20 in baseball ... Mike Soroka, meanwhile, was the single biggest over-performer among all starters last year according to FRA.

Phillies: With the DH now available, J.T. Realmuto separates himself even further from the rest of the catchers unlike any other position, making him one of the most valuable fantasy hitters … Andrew McCutchen could lead the league in runs and no longer has a pitcher batting in front of him, while Rhys Hoskins and Jean Segura are also undervalued at draft tables … Jay Bruce quickly becomes one of the most popular waiver wire adds as Philly’s DH against righties; no park in baseball has increased homers more (24%) than Philadelphia over the last three seasons (expect a monster season from Aaron Nola regardless) … Gavin Lux is the heavy favorite (+250) to win Rookie of the Year, but give me all the Spencer Howard at 60/1.

Marlins: Miami has been one of the most favorable pitcher’s parks but saw its dimensions change during the offseason, although few hitters are all that interesting in fantasy … Take Pablo Lopez late in your draft.

[Still time to join or create a fantasy baseball league for the short season]

NL Central

1. Cincinnati Reds

2. Milwaukee Brewers

3. Chicago Cubs

4. St. Louis Cardinals

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Reds: Nick Senzel goes 10+ rounds higher in 2021 fantasy drafts, while Luis Castillo is a fantasy disappointment … It certainly would help fantasy managers if Trevor Bauer did throw every fourth day like he wants to (his off-field tossing has been unique dating to UCLA), and his spin rate experiment is worth paying attention to … It’s wild that Aristides Aquino hit 11 homers in his first 16 games (and 15 bombs over his first 112 ABs) and now can’t make the roster … Jesse Winker is a sleeper, while Nick Castellanos might hit all the homers in his new park … I bet the Reds at 40:1 to win the World Series back in March, and they are down to 25/1.

Brewers/Cubs: Josh Hader finishes as a top-five most valuable fantasy pitcher, while Corbin Burnes emerges as the team’s No. 2 starter … Justin Smoak is yet another cheap source for power, while Avisail Garcia finishes as a top-25 fantasy outfielder … Christian Yelich wins another MVP, while Kris Bryant has another MVP-type season and batting leadoff in the NL suddenly isn’t so bad … Javier Baez > Alex Bregman and Gleyber Torres … Yu Darvish posted a silly 118:7 K:BB ratio over 81.2 innings after the All-Star break last season (2.76 ERA, 0.81 WHIP) and should surprise no one if he wins the Cy Young.

Cardinals/Pirates: Harrison Bader is a sleeper in St. Louis, while Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong typically go too cheap at draft tables … Dylan Carlson doesn’t appear ready to contribute, while it would be so Alex Reyes for him to emerge as the Cardinals’ closer just when fantasy managers have finally given up … Clayton Kershaw > Jack Flaherty (who’s coming off arguably the greatest second half ever) … Josh Bell finishes as a top-three fantasy first baseman, ahead of Freddie Freeman, while Kyle Crick leads Pittsburgh in saves.

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. San Diego Padres (Wild Card)

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

4. Colorado Rockies

5. San Francisco Giants

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Dodgers: Los Angeles is so loaded it’s enough to make you ill, and provide a bunch of undervalued fantasy options including A.J. Pollock, Alex Wood and Dustin May … Justin Turner is one of the best hitter’s in the game and produces more fantasy value than LA newcomer Anthony Rendon, while Julio Urias finishes as a top-20 fantasy starter … Gavin Lux wins Rookie of the Year, while Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw should both be first-round fantasy picks.

Padres: Chris Paddack should be insulted by his 40/1 odds to win the Cy Young, as he’s a real threat to do so, while Garrett Richards and Dinelson Lamet both carry a ton of fantasy upside (it helps throwing to Austin Hedges, as does Petco) … With Fernando Tatis Jr. a budding star, Manny Machado a candidate to bounce back in a big way, Tommy Pham joining, an absolutely loaded bullpen and both MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino looming, I’m all over the Padres at 50/1. Obviously having the Dodgers in their division hurts, but all odds should be shortened given the much smaller sample this season, and San Diego has a roster that could easily make a deep run in the playoffs.

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

Diamondbacks/Rockies: Madison Bumgarner has turned in one of the best postseason performances in the history of sports, owns a career 0.25 ERA in the World Series (36.0 innings) and is a national treasure, but he won’t be on any of my fantasy teams in 2020 … Zac Gallen, meanwhile, ends up a top-25 fantasy starter … With Carson Kelly, Stephen Vogt and Daulton Varsho, the Diamondbacks are quietly well-stocked at catcher … Scott Oberg overtakes Wade Davis as the Rockies’ closer, while David Dahl continues to battle injuries … The answer to Ryan McMahon or Garrett Hampson turns out to be Brendan Rodgers, while Raimel Tapia is a sleeper in Colorado.

Giants: Kevin Gausman goes from the Orioles and the AL East to San Francisco, and the former No. 4 pick had a 14.8 SwStr% last season. Put differently, Gausman is going from a park that increased home runs more than any in the AL over the last three seasons to one in SF that’s historically suppressed HR more than any in baseball … The Giants actually have some interesting bats in deeper fantasy leagues (Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria, Mauricio Dubon), with the new right field dimensions especially likely to help lefties Alex Dickerson, Mike Yastrzemski and Brandon Belt … I will miss Crazy Crab’z this year … The Giants have relatively quickly gone from having one of the league’s worst farm systems to one of its best, and there isn’t a more intriguing prospect in baseball right now than 18-year-old Marco Luciano.

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