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2021 Prospect Projections: NL East rookies

How Steamer600 views Braves, Fish, Mets, Phils, Nats prospects
Sixto Sanchez and Ian Anderson are preparing for their second Major League seasons. (Mark Brown/Getty Images, Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
@SamDykstraMiLB
January 20, 2021

This is the second in a six-part Toolshed series that uses FanGraphs' Steamer600 projections to look at how prospects would fare over a full Major League season in 2021. The system bases its forecast on 600 plate appearances for position players, 450 plate appearances for catchers, 200 innings for starting

This is the second in a six-part Toolshed series that uses FanGraphs' Steamer600 projections to look at how prospects would fare over a full Major League season in 2021. The system bases its forecast on 600 plate appearances for position players, 450 plate appearances for catchers, 200 innings for starting pitchers and 65 innings for relievers -- taking into account age, past performance and previous Minor League levels, among other factors. Because of the canceled Minor League season in 2020, all players included in the team tables below are ranked prospects who either played at Class A Advanced or above in 2019, sit on their organization's 40-man roster or are placed among MLB.com's Top 100. The first edition covering AL East rookies can be found here.

They don't hand out an award for top rookie pitcher in the NL East. They do, however, give out one for top rookie in the entire National League, and based on the projections, two hurlers from that specific division might just be favorites to take home that hardware in 2021.

Marlins right-hander Sixto Sanchez and Braves right-hander Ian Anderson made spectacular first impressions on the Major League scene in 2020, ones that should have them moving right back into their respective rotations at the start of 2021. Sanchez posted a 3.46 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP with 33 strikeouts and 11 walks over 39 innings for Miami while Anderson had a 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 41 punchouts and 14 free passes in 32 1/3 frames. That doesn't include the postseason, where both took their Major League resumes to new heights. Sanchez tossed five scoreless innings against the Cubs in the Wild Card Series while Anderson opened with three shutout starts against the Reds, Marlins and Dodgers before hitting his only bumps in Game 7 of the NLCS.

Sanchez showed Major League readiness quickly by averaging 98 mph on his fastballs (four-seamers and sinkers) and mixing in changeups, sliders and curves. (The changeup, in particular, was deadly with opponents batting just .148 off it with no extra-base hits.) Anderson's cambio was perhaps even more of a weapon with an OBA of .104 while he mixed in a 94-mph average heater and curve that worked well as a third option.

That mix of stuff and Major League experience is a big reason why MLB.com just named Sanchez and Anderson the No. 3 and 4 right-handed pitching prospects respectively headed into the 2021 season.

While the stuff is good to know for scouting purposes, it doesn't matter to a Steamer projection system that only relies on numbers -- and regular-season numbers at that (Minor League included). This is how the two match up when it comes to Steamer600 projections:

NAME IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Sixto Sanchez (MIA)2003.964.071.30248.02.93.2
Ian Anderson (ATL)2004.294.401.40279.44.32.5

Rejoice, Marlins fans. Even though Anderson looked like the more dominant pitcher in the Majors last year, Steamer actually believes it's Sanchez who will have the upper hand in 2021. Why is that? Minor League results play a part.

While Anderson was sparkling in his six regular-season starts for the Braves last season and even tougher in the postseason (which Steamer doesn't count), his five outings before that came at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he finished with a 6.57 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. Sanchez never had the same Minor League stumble, though he never reached Triple-A. His last pre-2020 performance came at Double-A Jacksonville, where he posted a 2.53 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP over the solid sample of 103 innings. What's more, Steamer tends to shine well on pitchers with histories of solid control; that pertains in this case to Sanchez, who has a career 1.7 BB/9 rate in the Minors, over Anderson (4.0 BB/9).

There is bound to be some nuance here and both are very close no matter how one slices it. Sanchez's WAR projection is the highest among potential rookie pitchers, while only he, Dane Dunning and Tarik Skubal rank higher than Anderson in the category. The 200-inning projection puts both on an even playing field, but Sanchez, who dealt with elbow issues in 2018, has reached triple-digits in terms of frames only once in his career. Anderson has hit that mark twice since being drafted third overall in 2016. A full Major League season (insofar as one is possible in 2021) will test the endurance and stamina of both players in ways they haven't been before.

But assuming good health, prepare for a rookie arms race in the NL East this summer.

Atlanta Braves

Braves POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Braden Shewmake (5)SS6001012.249.302.366.6687300.6
William Contreras (6)C450103.235.290.360.65067-0.20.5
Alex Jackson (21)C450203.206.269.400.669690.10.4
Terone Harris (13)OF600168.260.312.407.7208500.1
CJ Alexander (18)3B600169.222.290.364.654690-0.2
Cristian Pache (1)OF6001410.247.301.388.68977-6-0.3
Drew Waters (2)OF6001412.252.304.397.702800-0.4
Greyson Jenista (20)OF600167.224.292.361.653690-1.1
Logan Brown (27)C45063.201.240.279.519330-1.5
Shea Langeliers (4)C45064.176.222.253.475210-2.2
Braves IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Ian Anderson (3)2004.294.401.40279.44.32.5
Tucker Davidson (8)2004.785.031.53287.54.61.2
Kyle Muller (6)2005.075.341.55327.84.90.5
Jasseel De La Cruz (10)654.514.661.4398.14.10.1
Jeremy Walker (25)654.444.561.4096.93.10.1
Thomas Burrows (24)654.454.801.4698.84.6-0.1
Patrick Weigel (14)654.805.011.46358.54.4-0.3
Philip Pfeifer (26)654.955.171.50107.74.3-0.4
Daysbel Hernandez (16)655.795.991.72117.66.2-1.0
Freddy Tarnok (11)2006.306.391.71405.95.1-1.4

Most ready: Anderson.

Give it time: Usually this spot is reserved for players in need of more time in the Minors. We'll bend the rules slightly. As things stand, top prospect Cristian Pache looks ready to claim the center-field spot after appearing in 12 playoff games last year, 10 more than he saw in the regular season. As was the case with Randy Arozarena last week, Steamer doesn't take those postseason numbers into account, and the result is a Pache projection that makes him look more ready for a lengthy stay at Triple-A. Here's what most in baseball know that Steamer doesn't -- Pache is a tremendous defender and will provide plenty of value with the glove alone. As Steamer projects, the bat will take longer to come around in the Majors. That's where "Give it time" comes in. Pache is capable of being a Major League asset right now, but for those thinking that means he'll be a great hitter right away, we preach more patience. A little more experience at the top level is needed before the 22-year-old can show his all-around potential as a future star.

Wild card: The Braves' starting staff is in a solid place with the ascent of Anderson, the improvement of Max Fried, the additions of Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly and the eventual return of Mike Soroka. (Not to mention the way Kyle Wright seemed to have things figured out at the end of 2020.) But contending teams like Atlanta can never have too much pitching, and that should have left-handers Tucker Davidson and Kyle Muller on edge in anticipation of the ways they could help in 2021. Davidson, who got one brief cup of coffee in his Major League debut last year, is more prepared to help out right out of the gate, according to Steamer, but Muller -- last seen making 22 starts at Double-A in 2019 -- isn't far off either. If either or both show they're capable of beating these projections when called upon, the Braves will be in an even better place in their attempt to go beyond the NLCS this time around.

Top-100 talent: Beyond Anderson and Pache, No. 22 Drew Waters should be looking at a Major League debut at some point in 2020. Steamer believes the switch-hitter is actually ahead of Pache offensively -- not an unfair thought given Waters won the MVP and batting title in the Southern League in 2019 -- but there will be added emphasis on the bat since he's more likely pushed to a corner. No. 65 Shea Langeliers is a victim of having not enough Minor League experience to get a serious projection almost two years after Atlanta took him ninth overall out of Baylor.

Miami Marlins

Marlins POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Jazz Chisholm (4)SS6002014.213.280.373.653730.60.2
Jesus Sanchez (5)OF600197.247.303.401.70486-0.4-0.2
Lewin Diaz (8)1B600233.241.285.422.707841-0.6
Monte Harrison (10)OF6001723.210.274.348.622662.2-0.9
Jose Devers (13)SS600410.217.259.281.540450-1.6
Connor Scott (15)OF6001012.195.247.287.535430-2.2
Will Banfield (30)C45083.161.204.244.448180-2.3
JJ Bleday (2)OF600156.204.255.322.577530-2.4
Jerar Encarnacion (17)OF600145.202.247.317.564490-2.7
Peyton Burdick (16)OF600158.192.247.308.555480-2.8
Griffin Conine (18)OF600155.184.236.323.559440-2.8
Marlins IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Sixto Sanchez (1)2003.964.071.30248.02.93.2
Trevor Rogers (9)2004.124.371.34278.63.62.5
Braxton Garrett (7)2004.464.701.48257.54.21.8
Edward Cabrera (6)654.154.361.3988.84.10.2
Paul Campbell (25)654.664.841.41107.13.4-0.2
Jordan Holloway (27)654.534.841.5688.55.6-0.2
Nick Neidert (11)654.824.981.43107.13.5-0.3
Jorge Guzman (26)655.225.511.58118.15.5-0.7

Most ready: Sánchez is the obvious answer. Also want to quickly mention Trevor Rogers, who would likely top the majority of pitching tables elsewhere in this series. The 23-year-old left-hander may have posted a 6.11 ERA in his seven starts for the Marlins last season, but his other numbers (like a 12.5 K/9 and 4.33 FIP) paint a much rosier story. That's what Steamer is depending on to project the 2017 first-rounder as the third-best Miami starter at present. Also notably, Rogers' projection of 192 strikeouts over 200 innings is second-highest among all Marlins pitchers.

Give it time: Jazz Chisholm's 2020 debut was highly anticipated in the midst of a Marlins season fraught with roster turnover and surprising success. However, the No. 61 overall prospect struggled to find offensive rhythm in the Majors by hitting just .161 with two homers and a 30.6 percent K rate over 21 games. (He did go 1-for-3 with a double and a walk in his lone postseason game, for whatever that's worth.) Those strikeout concerns, which are carried over from Chisholm's Minor League time, hurt his Steamer projections for now. The system has him pegged for 192 strikeouts over 600 plate appearances, or a 32 percent K rate. The power makes Chisholm's profile at shortstop intriguing, highlighted by his 20-homer projection, but he'll need to work at making more contact at Triple-A before he can take over a more permanent place on the Miami infield.

Wild card: Take your pick. Besides the three above, Jesús Sánchez, Lewin Diaz, Monte Harrison, Braxton Garrett, Jorge Guzman and Jordan Holloway made their debuts last season. Of those six, Steamer likes Garrett's chances best to impact the Major League roster in a positive way this season, but it's likely each member of the half-dozen will be called upon in the bigs in some fashion in 2021. With the Marlins largely staying away from any big moves this offseason so far, they'll need at least one of those six (and a few more rookies) to catch on next season if they are to return to the playoffs, and if those players are going to catch on, they'll need to beat their projections.

Top-100 talent: Miami runs deep in Top-100 names with six such players on the list. Among those not discussed yet, 2019 first-rounder JJ Bleday certainly has a chance to impact the Marlins two years removed from his dominance at Vanderbilt, but without significant Minor League time, he didn't get much of a Steamer projection. Last year's top pick Max Meyer didn't receive one at all. No. 80 overall prospect Edward Cabrera has killer stuff with a plus-plus heater and a plus breaking ball, but received a reliever projection for now. Miami has hopes of him sticking in the rotation, and that's where his efforts will remain headed into 2021 as he tries to break the 100-inning mark for the first time.

New York Mets

Mets POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Patrick Mazeika (24)C450123.217.287.352.6397200.7
Ali Sanchez (21)C45074.224.279.324.60262-0.60.1
Luis Carpio (29)INF6001010.222.288.328.616670-0.4
Quinn Brodey (30)OF600159.217.275.350.625670-0.4
Carlos Cortes (18)2B600116.204.262.304.567530-1.4
Ronny Mauricio (1)SS60068.194.224.260.489300-2.7
Mets IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Thomas Szapucki (8)2004.795.061.47317.84.21.1
Ryley Gilliam (22)654.474.651.4599.74.80.0
Sam McWilliams (23)654.524.741.40107.93.6-0.1
Franklyn Kilome (10)654.724.931.46108.54.4-0.2
Tylor Megill (27)654.804.911.46108.14.1-0.2
Tony Dibrell (26)655.755.931.61126.94.8-0.9

Most ready: The Mets addressed the catching position by signing James McCann as a free agent this offseason. Tomás Nido is expected to back him up, considering he is without options. But Steamer suggests that 27-year-old Patrick Mazeika get a look at some point, two years after he hit 16 homers and finished with a .738 OPS in a breakout season at Double-A Binghamton. With a 72 wRC+ projection, the 2015 eighth-rounder is projected to be a smidge better than Nido (66) at the plate, and his status as a left-handed hitter could help his case. Defense could be the breaker here. Mazeika, who is on the 40-man roster, has improved defensively during his time in the Minors, but also saw plenty of time at first base in 2019. He faces a much more difficult fight at the cold corner, where he would sit behind Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith on the depth chart. The bat is at least serviceable to get Mazeika some Major League opportunities in the months ahead.

Give it time: The Mets have worked to address their starting pitching depth by adding Carlos Carrasco and Joey Lucchesi in recent weeks. It's possible Thomas Szapucki could be an option as well. The 24-year-old southpaw only pitched 61 2/3 innings in 2019 as he returned from Tommy John surgery, but all indications are that he had a healthy 2020 working out of the alternate site in Brooklyn. With a career 2.42 ERA and 188 K's over 145 innings in the Minors, Szapucki received a fairly strong projection from Steamer for someone of his experience, including a 1.1 WAR projection that places sixth among potential Mets starters. (Note: Lucchesi wasn't yet included in Mets projections at press time.) The southpaw has a plus curveball and above-average fastball that could get him looks, even just as a reliever in 2021. He'll just need to first establish himself at the upper levels, where he only has one career start.

Wild card: The Mets are believers in Sam McWilliams. They proved that when they signed the 25-year-old right-hander to a Major League contract, despite the fact he hasn't yet debuted in The Show. Steamer is a little less optimistic, projecting McWilliams to be below-replacement-level over a full Major League season. New York, of course, is betting it sees something that McWilliams' previous clubs in Philadelphia, Arizona and Tampa Bay have not -- namely a way to make the most of his upper-90s velocity and improving slider. The move could be the equivalent of finding a diamond in the rough that is Minor League free agency. It could also be a swing-and-a-miss on an unproven pitcher.

Top-100 talent: The Mets have a solid base of Top-100 prospects in No. 57 Ronny Mauricio, No. 58 Francisco Alvarez and No. 88 Brett Baty. Unfortunately for the purposes of this column, all three have yet to see Class A Advanced. Mauricio was the only one to receive a Steamer projection, and his is representative of a player who last played 116 games at Class A in 2019.

Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Rafael Marchan (7)C45096.246.302.369.67174-0.50.8
Nick Maton (13)SS600109.225.292.335.627640-0.1
C.J. Chatham (23)INF60097.249.288.348.636640-0.8
Rodolfo Duran (20)C450133.197.240.327.566440-0.9
Arquimedes Gamboa (27)SS600714.193.276.281.557480-1.3
Mickey Moniak (12)OF6001310.227.281.359.63965-3.8-1.5
Simon Muzziotti (11)OF600915.214.262.304.566460-2.0
Jhailyn Ortiz (19)OF600215.183.241.328.569450-3.0
Bryson Stott (2)SS60097.167.213.241.453160-3.8
Phillies IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Spencer Howard (1)2004.794.931.40348.63.81.9
Damon Jones (15)2004.725.061.55288.35.21.7
David Parkinson (21)2005.165.431.48387.64.00.9
Adonis Medina (5)2005.335.511.53357.04.20.8
JoJo Romero (14)654.384.671.4298.34.00.2
Connor Brogdon (30)654.374.581.331110.03.90.2
Mauricio Llovera (16)654.634.811.39118.93.90.1
Kyle Dohy (28)654.474.961.55910.66.40.0
Enyel De Los Santos (9)654.905.111.42128.23.8-0.2
Cristopher Sanchez (18)654.905.181.55107.34.5-0.2
Ethan Lindow (25)655.756.041.61136.44.5-0.8
Erik Miller (10)656.126.41.78126.46.0-1.0
James McArthur (22)656.126.341.77126.76.1-1.0
Francisco Morales (4)656.236.441.81126.86.6-1.1

Most ready: Spencer Howard's first trip to the Majors didn't quite go as planned. The Phils' top prospect debuted on Aug. 9 and made six starts at the top level, finishing with a 5.92 ERA, 23 strikeouts and six homers allowed over 24 1/3 frames. Major League batters particularly feasted on his off-speed stuff, while his fastball, which averaged 94 mph, acted at least closer to above-average. Even as the right-hander's stock is dipping, Steamer still believes he deserves a spot in the Philadelphia rotation as currently constituted. Howard's 1.9 WAR projection is fourth-highest among pitchers on the club behind Aaron Nola (3.8), Zack Wheeler (3.4) and Zach Eflin (2.2). In reality, Howard will be competing to stick in the Majors this spring and not open the year at Triple-A, where the 24-year-old has yet to make an official appearance.

Give it time: There will be a lot of eyes on No. 4 prospect Francisco Morales heading into 2021 to see whether the right-hander can get his changeup to a place that enables him to leap to elite-prospect status. (The fastball and slider are arguably plus-plus pitches already.) Steamer's projections serve as a reminder that the 21-year-old has only reached Class A ball, and while it was promising to see him added to the 40-man roster this offseason, he remains too far away to be considered an option out of the gate in 2021. Control could be a point of emphasis with the projection system expecting he would walk roughly two batters every three innings at the top level. Again, the development of the change will be huge. If that comes along and the Phils still need an arm in the second half, expect Morales' name to come up in promotion discussions. But both he and the Phillies remain some time away from that.

Wild card: The Phils have an opening for a utility infield spot this offseason and addressed that, in part, by selecting Kyle Holder in the Rule 5 Draft. The club also traded for new No. 23 prospect C.J. Chatham this week in an attempt to add to the mix on the dirt. As of now, Steamer thinks Holder, whose numbers aren't included above because he isn't ranked among the Phillies' top 30, and Chatham would be relatively similar batters in the Majors. Holder's 62 wRC+ and -0.9 WAR projections match up almost squarely with Chatham's 64 and -0.8 respectively. The difference could be the glove, and it's there that Holder holds an advantage. It's also worth pointing out Holder needs to be on the Major League roster to stay with Philadelphia while Chatham can be optioned back to Lehigh Valley. That could be the difference maker in the short term. It's a race worth keeping an eye on.

Top-100 talent: Besides Howard, No. 82 Bryson Stott and No. 84 Mick Abel round out the Phillies' Top-100 contingent. Both first-rounders remain too far away from the Majors to get a serious Steamer projection, or in Abel's case, a Steamer projection at all.

Washington Nationals

Nationals POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Tres Barrera (17)C450104.239.299.368.6677200.7
Raudy Read (26)C450144.235.281.389.670690.50.5
Cole Freeman (27)OF/2B600416.240.294.312.606580-1.1
Nick Banks (28)OF600128.239.287.360.648660-1.4
Israel Pineda (12)C45074.182.228.262.490240-2.0
Yasel Antuna (10)SS/3B60079.187.237.259.496260-3.0
Nationals IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Tim Cate (6)2005.135.331.60295.94.31.0
Steven Fuentes (25)654.094.241.3888.43.70.4
Seth Romero (7)654.384.621.4498.94.40.2
Sterling Sharp (23)654.494.641.4976.23.60.1
Ben Braymer (22)655.345.571.54126.94.2-0.5
Joan Adon (14)656.546.621.86125.26.2-1.2

Most ready: The 2020 graduations of Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia thinned out the system in terms of Top-100 talent and notable Major League-ready prospects as well. (The recent trade of Wil Crowe to the Pirates also took away another candidate for this spot.) Left-hander Seth Romero made three appearances for the Nationals after his Aug. 13 debut, but his Major League time came to an end after he suffered a broken right hand. Right-hander Steven Fuentes has a decent projection for a reliever, but he had started to pitch out of the Double-A rotation in 2019 before a drug-related suspension ended that campaign early. Tres Barrera and Raudy Read will compete for the backup catching job with new signing Welington Castillo. Otherwise, not a lot of big impact here.

Give it time: Jackson Rutledge and Cade Cavalli -- Washington's last two first-rounders -- are also the club's top two prospects, and as former college hurlers who will be 22 by the time the Minor League season starts, there might be some inclination to see whether they could quickly push for Major League jobs. Don't go looking to the projections for such answers. Cavalli hasn't even pitched in the Minors yet, and Rutledge only has 10 starts at Class A Short Season, making him ineligible for this list. Both have the stuff to pop in 2020 as big right-handers with plus fastballs and promising breaking stuff. But it likely won't be until 2022 when either could help the D.C. rotation.

Wild card: Fuentes feels like a wild card in the truest sense of the term. The 2019 season presented a breakout for the right-hander as he posted a 2.23 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP with 89 strikeouts over 80 2/3 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A. At the former, he was primarily a reliever. At the latter, primarily a starter. Steamer thinks he could be serviceable out of the bullpen right now. His WAR projection ranks fifth among potential Washington relievers, meaning he could compete for a role there as early as the spring. Continuing his development as a starter will take more time.

Top-100 talent: The Nationals have no Top-100 prospects.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.