Thanksgiving is around the corner, and all 30 teams in Major League Baseball have something to cherish. Here is what every National League team should be thankful for.
Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr.
One could argue that the Braves have the best all-around outfielder under 25 in baseball in Acuna. He has exuberant power, is an intimidating presence in the batter’s box, and flat-out rakes pitches all around the zone. In his first two years in the big leagues, Acuna has launched 67 home runs. Meanwhile, he’s an exceptional defensive center fielder and one of the best baserunners in the sport.
Washington Nationals: Young Outfield Duo
The World Series-champion Nationals have a killer outfield duo in Juan Soto (21) and Victor Robles (22). Soto is a force to be reckoned with at the plate, best exemplified by his postseason heroics (.333 World Series batting average and .927 postseason OPS), and Robles is a speeding bullet who is an elite fielder and has underrated power.
New York Mets: Pete Alonso
The Mets have a franchise player in Alonso. The power-hitting first baseman blasted an MLB rookie record 53 home runs last season, won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, and appeared in the MLB All-Star Game. Concurrently, he’s adept at stretching out for bad throws and keeping groundballs in front of him.
Philadelphia Phillies: Aaron Nola
Last season was a bit of a step back for Nola, but he still has elite offerings. The right-hander has control of a high-90s fastball and throws a nasty curveball. He pitches deep into games, totals strikeouts at a high rate, and is one of the most dominant pitchers in the sport when he has his command.
Miami Marlins: Young Starting Pitching
The Marlins have quietly been grooming some compelling young starting pitchers. Sandy Alcantara (24) has a consistent multi-pitch arsenal, gradually improved throughout last season, and finished with a 3.88 ERA; Caleb Smith (28) had an encouraging first half; Jordan Yamamoto (23) and Pablo Lopez (23) have shown potential.
St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty
The Cardinals have their ace in the 24-year-old Flaherty. He has command of his offerings, held opponents to a .192 batting average in 2019, and recorded an astonishing 0.93 ERA across his last 16 regular season starts. In the Cardinals’ NL Division Series matchup with the Braves, Flaherty surrendered just four runs across 13 innings in Games 2 and 5.
Milwaukee Brewers: Christian Yelich
Yelich is a complete player and well-versed hitter who won the 2018 NL Most Valuable Player Award and finished second in the MVP voting in 2019. Not too shabby.
Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez
Injuries hindered his performance a bit in 2019, but Baez remains one of the preeminent middle infielders in the sport. He’s adept at playing second base and shortstop, turning double plays at each position, and operates quickly. Couple those skill sets with his high-octane bat and Baez is arguably the Cubs’ most irreplaceable player.
Cincinnati Reds: Starting Rotation
The Reds are on the rise, and their starting pitching is an integral reason for that development. Luis Castillo is coming off a monster season, headlined by a 3.40 ERA and fooling hitters with his off-speed pitches; Sonny Gray recorded a 2.87 ERA; while he struggled in his two months with the organization, Trevor Bauer is a proven commodity.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Young Infield
The Pirates have one of the best infields in baseball, and the average ages of their starting infielders is 26.8. Josh Bell is a towering left-handed hitter who was in the NL MVP conversation last year; Kevin Newman hit .308 in his first full big-league season; Colin Moran totaled 80 RBIs last season; Adam Frazier is a steady presence at second base.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Walker Buehler
Buehler may very well be the Dodgers’ best pitcher just two years into his MLB career. He has an overpowering fastball and gets great movement on his off-speed pitches. Buehler totaled 215 strikeouts in 2019 and, for the most part, has been lethal on the rubber in the postseason.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Ketel Marte
The D-Backs have one of the best players in the sport in Marte. He has played both center field and second base on a consistent basis, been a pain to get out, and had a case for being the 2019 NL MVP. In said year, Marte hit .329, posted a .981 OPS, and totaled 32 home runs and 92 RBIs.
Sam Francisco Giants: Mike Yastrzemski
A great deal of uncertainty clouds the Giants’ future, but they have a diamond in the rough in Mike Yastrzemski. The late bloomer came on the scene and dazzled the Bay Area in 2019, blasting 21 home runs and posting an .852 OPS across 107 games. Yastrzemski gives the Giants a power bat in the middle of their order to build around moving forward.
Colorado Rockies: Left Side of the Infield
Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story remain one of the elite infield duos in baseball. They’re vacuums and human highlight reels at their respective positions and power machines at the plate. Arenado and Story combined for 76 home runs and 203 RBIs in 2019.
San Diego Padres: Starting Infield
The Padres infield is filthy. Manny Machado is slick at the hot corner and a potent force at the plate; Fernando Tatis may be the best shortstop in baseball in a couple years; Eric Hosmer is a source of power and has considerable defensive range; Luis Urias will improve with reps.