Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins), Jason Heyward (Braves), Bryce Harper (Nationals) and David Wright (Mets) are all viable NL MVP candidates this season -- provided their clubs meet or exceed expectations.
**For those who believe Chris Johnson’s 2013 numbers (12 HR, 68 RBI, .321 batting, .358 OBP) were more fluke than substance, check this out: For September 2012 (with Arizona), Johnson racked up supreme tallies of two homers, 14 RBI, .355 batting, a .400 OBP and .965 OPS.
**The pressure’s on Denard Span to replicate his excellent numbers from last September — nine steals, a .303 batting average and .333 on-base percentage. If the Nationals want to avoid another 28-27 start for April and May, which greatly hindered their chances of catching the Braves in the NL East, it’s imperative that Span starts fast in 2014.
**The sky’s the limit for Harper, despite modest reductions with hits (116), runs (71), doubles (24), homers (20), RBI (58) and steals (11) in 2013, compared to his rookie year. The reasons for such optimism: Harper enjoyed noticeable upticks in batting average, OBP and OPS last season … and the three-year vet doesn’t turn 22 until mid-October.
**The days of LaRoche rolling for 100 RBI may be gone, especially if pitchers opt to bypass him for Anthony Rendon in the Nationals lineup. But he’s still a healthy lock for 25-27 homers — with a 45-day spurt of 10-12 bombs at some point during the season.
**If healthy, Revere (2011-12 averages: 37 steals, .321 OBP) should be a threat for 35 steals and a .300 batting average. Just don’t expect anything on the power side.
**There’s a definite upside to Rollins’ prospects for this season: He has nowhere to go but up … after last year’s cumulative debacle of six homers, 39 RBI and 65 runs. The big keys: The 35-year-old must flirt with 25 steals and post an OBP north of .330 to justify the 2-slot.
Last year, Domonic Brown (27 HR, 83 RBI, 65 runs) finally morphed from a Grapefruit League wunderkind to a certifiable power threat in the majors. However, that doesn’t explain his identical tallies with batting average/on-base percentage during the month of May (.303).
Seriously, how does someone unconsciously produce 12 homers, 25 RBI, 17 runs, 33 hits and a .991 OPS in a single month … but only draw three walks from the opposition?
**Mets fans and fantasy enthusiasts shouldn’t expect Granderson to replicate his 40-homer, 100-RBI campaigns of 2011-12, with the outfielder switching from wind-aided Yankee Stadium to cavernous Citi Field.
The only nitpicks here: Wright (an annual bet for 15 steals) is no longer a threat for 30 homers (thanks to Citi Field). He has played 120-plus games just once in the last three years, as well.
**At 28 (he turns 29 in April), Daniel Murphy has the capacity to replicate last year’s stellar numbers (13 HR, 78 RBI, 92 runs, 23 steals). Of equal importance, his .319 OBP is deceptive, since Murphy had just two months of .324 or less (splits-wise).
**Bottom line: The Mets’ ranking above the Marlins is subject to change before Opening Day. On potential alone … Miami has a greater upside.
**The precocious Ozuna (age 23) is a classic hot-cold asset, one that could produce 20 homers, 20 steals and 150 strikeouts in the same season. He’ll need to develop his craft in the majors … for which he’ll get with the almost-patient-to-a-fault Marlins.
**As expected, Saltalamacchia’s power splits from last year were more prodigious at Fenway Park (nine homers, .500 slugging) than on the road (five homers, .429 slugging). But there was no great disparity in any major category, fueling hope for Salty’s 2014 prospects at Marlins Park.
**Hechavarria still has a long way to go on the offensive end, but we couch that with the following line from May 5 (last year): One homer, one run, two hits and seven RBI against Roy Halladay and the Phillies.
**The Marlins aren’t blessed with tremendous depth, but the lineup — when healthy — should take a sizable step above last year’s anemic figures.