Phillies face tough 2021 season competition in NL East

Sixto Sánchez #73 of the Miami Marlins (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Sixto Sánchez #73 of the Miami Marlins (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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Ronald Acuna Jr. #13 of the Atlanta Braves (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves had a very successful 2020 season — going all the way to the NLCS and being one game from the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers woke up, however, and beat them in three straight games.

The Braves went into this offseason asking how they can sustain their success and even improve. While the team does look very good in 2021, it is hard to say how much they improved. Their projected lineup:

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr., RF
  2. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  3. Marcell Ozuna, LF
  4. Travis d’Arnaud, C
  5. Ozzie Albies, 2B
  6. Dansby Swanson, SS
  7. Austin Riley, 3B
  8. Cristian Pache, CF

This lineup looks very good, including a potential 40-40 guy in Ronald Acuna Jr., reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman, and Marcell Ozuna — who just had the best season of his career with a 179 wRC+. Even after that, Travis d’Arnaud, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson who have high potential. d’Arnaud is also coming off the best season of his career offensively, with a 144 wRC+. Austin Riley has plenty of potential, too, in this lineup. Christian Pache, a top prospect, should be nasty in center.

The Braves bench includes guys like Ender Inciarte, Johan Camargo, and Jake Lamb — really solid veteran options.

Looking at the projected Braves rotation, it is not bad, but will have some questions to answer:

  1. Max Fried, LHP
  2. Charlie Morton, RHP
  3. Ian Anderson, RHP
  4. Drew Smyly, LHP
  5. Kyle Wright, RHP

At the top, Max Fried is coming off the best season of his career — especially looking at his ERA of 2.25. With that said, his FIP and xFIP are much higher at 3.10 and 4.05. The season before, he did not perform like a No. 1 arm, with a 4.02 ERA/3.72 FIP/3.32 xFIP.

Charlie Morton could be a good get, but at 37 and coming off his worst year since he was in Philadelphia, you have to ask if regression will be an issue. Ian Anderson will be in his first full season at 22 years old. He did look very promising when he was called up in 2020, especially with an ERA under 2. The back end also has some questions with former Phillies lefty Drew Smyly going from San Francisco to Atlanta. He did, however, just have the best season since he was in Tampa. Finally, Kyle Wright will want to turn the corner in 2021.

The Braves bullpen will also be interesting, headlined by Will Smith — who really struggled in 2020, including a FIP over 7. Chris Martin should be good for them, with already promising results in a Braves uniform. A.J. Minter and Tyler Matzek are both quality lefties who had career years in 2020. This bullpen overall should be really solid. Expect a Smith bounce-back year.

Overall, the National League East is quite stacked, but the Phillies will not be the worst team in the division. The Marlins should be back there, as the team that just isn’t quite ready. Don’t expect the Phillies to contend with the Braves or Mets, but rather battling with the Nationals for third. That is nothing for Dave Dombrowski to be ashamed of in his first year with the organization.

The season is going to be so much fun and this division will be the best in all of Major League Baseball.

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