The NL East is up next, a division that has been growing in strength every season, from being dominated by the Nationals and Braves for the past ten seasons, the Mets, Marlins and Phillies are all now in the mix very much for the division. As always, the front runner is the player most likely to win the MVP on the team, and the sleeper is the player who many are not discussing, but has a sneaky chance of being in contention for the award. And once again, I will be leaving the likelihood next to the player from 1 to 100 of them winning the award (1=no shot, 100=absolute favorite)
New York Mets
Front Runner: Pete Alonso(61/100)
Sleeper: Michael Conforto (48/100)
Alonso dealt with a bit of a Sophomore slump in 2020, after an unreal 2020 that saw him set the rookie home run record, just a few seasons after Aaron Judge set it. Finishing 7th in MVP voting in 2019, and taking home the ROTY, there were higher expectations of the 25 year old in 2020. Now was it a bad season for Alonso? Not at all, but compared to his lofty expectations he set in 2019, a .231/.326/.490 slash with a .817 OPS was a bit off of what people were expecting from the second year player. Going into 2021, if the Mets can get over the hump like they did in 2015, then Alonso will be in the spotlight as the face of this offense.
Conforto has quietly been one of the better outfielders in baseball over the last two seasons, for a Mets team that has underachieved. For Conforto’s career, he has a .843 OPS with a 128 OPS+ and in 2020, he posted the best overall stats of his career, posting a .927 OPS, 156 OPS+ and career high .322 Batting Average. It is a shame he has not received more fan fare, being overshadowed on his own team by the likes of Alonso and the top tier pitching of Jacob DeGrom, Conforto is a very sneaky pick for MVP in 2021 going into his age 28 season.
Front Runner: Brian Anderson (14/100)
Sleeper: Corey Dickerson (12/100)
Now is Brian Anderson going into his age 28 season, having the progression to become an MVP caliber player? No. But he is the best player on the team, even with the acquisition of Starlin Marte, As Anderson has posted an OPS over .800 the past two seasons on a rising Marlins team. On top of that, he has improved defensively and cemented himself at third base for a Marlins team that is slowly putting pieces in place to contend for the division title moving forward. Going from posting a -8 DRS for the first two years of his career, the last two have seen him post a positive 12 DRS.
Dickerson has long been an underrated player, and I loved the pick up of him by the Marlins going into 2020. While his 2020 stats were not the prettiest, posting a .258/.311/.402 slash with a .713 OPS, that is the first time in the past three seasons his OPS has been below .800, and has a career OPS of .824. Dickerson has seen his power output stay pretty steady in the high .400’s to low to mid .500’s in the SLG category, outside of 2020. Im not entirely sure about going into his age 32 season if an MVP vote is in his future, but crazier things have happened, like remember when Bryan LaHair was an All-Star?
Front Runner: Juan Soto (93/100)
Sleeper: Trea Turner (50/100)
The 22 year old Juan Soto is one of the top 10 players in the game, after an record setting rookie season as a 19 year old, there was no slump moving forward, as he posted outstanding stats in 2019 and 2020, finishing top 10 in MVP voting in both seasons. Soto is having a start to a career we haven’t seen since the likes of Griffey Jr, having a three year career slash of .295/.415/.557 with a .972 OPS and 151 OPS+. It isn’t out of question that Soto will get even better moving forward, and might be a player that can hit .300/.480/.570 next season with 40 plus homeruns, and I would imagine Soto will be in contention for MVP awards for a damn long time moving forward, and will take home plenty of awards in his career.
The Nationals got a huge steal when they traded Steven Souza to Tampa Bay in a three team deal, and got back a PTBNL. That player to be named later was Trea Turner, who has developed into one of the top five shortstops in the game. In 2020, Turner put everything together and stayed healthy, and posted a .335/.394/.588 slash with a .982 OPS and a seventh place finish in the MVP voting. With his rare combination of power and speed, Turner is going to be a terrific player moving forward, and is going to get paid sooner rather than later, as he becomes a free agent in 2023.
Front Runner: Bryce Harper (71/100)
Sleeper: Alec Bohm (30/100)
Since Harper signed his monster contract, the story line has been that Harper is overrated, but I would argue he has all but lived up to his contract. While his Batting Average has been up and down in his time in Philadelphia, he has not seen his OPS drop below .880 as a Phillies player. 2020 was a great season for Harper who posted a .268/.420/.542 slash with a .962 OPS, even with the Phillies dealing with dwindling production from players on the team. The worrisome thing about Harpers candidacy for MVP is the potential of the Phillies attempting to sell off some pieces to free up some space financially, which could hurt his protection in the lineup.
Bohm has only played in 44 games in his Major League career, but the 24 year old from Omaha Nebraska, has an outstanding rookie season and finished second in MVP voting, after posting a 136 OPS+ and .881 OPS. Bohm looks like a young up and coming player for the Phillies that can help the Phillies try to take the next step towards not being bottom feeders that are perennial disappointments.
Front Runner: Freddie Freeman/Ronald Acuna Jr. (90/100)
Sleeper: Travis D’Arnaud (28/100)
I know Freddie Freeman took home the 2020 NL MVP award, but Acuna Jr is just an unreal player with all the talent in the world, and one season soon, he is going to win an MVP award. Acuna finished 12th in MVP voting in 2020, 5th in 2019, and 12th again in 2018, when he also took home the NL ROTY award. Acuna has legitimate 40/40 talent, and going into has age 23 season, it will be an awesome battle to see from Acuna and Soto moving forward. As for Freeman, he is on a Hall of Fame path, already collecting over 1500 hits in his first 11 years in the big leagues, and almost 250 home runs. Only going into his age 31 season, Freeman finally got the league wide recognition of being one of the better players in the game in 2020, after posting a .892 OPS for his career.
Travis d’Arnaud was picked up from the Mets after a lackluster first six seasons of his career, and since then, for the Rays and now Braves, he has developed into one of the better catchers in the game within just a two season span. This was highlighted by a shortened 2020 season that saw him hit .321/.386/.533 with a .919 OPS and collecting a Silver Slugger award. Going into his age 32 season, and just signing a team friendly two year deal with the Atlanta Braves, he will continue being a premier catcher in the future.