Division Outlook: NL East
By Sam Holstine
The regular season began yesterday and with that baseball is finally back in full. That means it's time to come fully around and finish the six week series that has been the division outlooks, and this week, we're coming back home to the NL East. Without wasting any more time, let's hop right into and preview what should be a top heavy, but still competitive, division.
Despite losing Dansby Swanson to free agency this past offseason, the Braves have one of the most balanced rosters in baseball and should be playoff bound once again this year. Their rotation is started by Max Fried and Spencer Strider, a top five duo in baseball. Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton follow, making an exceptional rotation. Combine that rotation with a bullpen that has bits and pieces of quality arms creates an overall strong pitching staff.
On the other end, homegrown stars Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, Michael Harris II, and Ozzie Albies headline a lineup that also includes recent trade acquisitions Matt Olson and Sean Murphy. There will be some questions regarding the lineup, like if Acuna can get back his power back and reach his MVP level of production or if Vaughn Grissom can truly take over the starting shortshop gig for Swanson. Even without those things necessarily going completely their way, this team will be right in the playoff mix. But if they get that level of production from those guys, they immediately jump into World Series contenders.
The Braves will probably have the Nats number for most of, if not all of, the year. But who knows, maybe the Nats can play spoiler and create some chaos in the division.
Team MVP: Austin Riley
Team Cy Young: Spencer Strider
Team X-Factor: Ronald Acuna Jr.
The Nationals host the Braves for series from March 30-April 2 and September 21-24, and visit Atlanta for series from June 9-11 and September 29-October 1.
Miami made the playoffs in the shortened 2020 season and have since immediately fallen back to mediocrity, a trend that looks like will continue in 2023. While they have improved and should continue to this year, they play in an insanely top heavy NL East division and haven't made enough offensive improvements to pass any of the top teams.
Miami's offensive star is Jazz Chisholm Jr., a guy who broke out last year before getting injured. This year, he is moving to CF and is hoping to remain healthy throughout. The rest of their lineup is weird. They have quality bats in guys like Luis Arraez, Garrett Cooper, and Jean Segura, but they also have struggling bats with potential in Bryan De La Cruz and Jesus Sanchez.
Where Miami's strength lies is their starting pitching. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara is their ace, followed by Trevor Rogers, Edward Cabrera, Johnny Cueto, and Jesus Luzardo. They traded away Pablo Lopez in their deal with Minnesota this offseason, yet still have a strong rotation and elite prospects coming up soon.
Miami is decent, not great but not terrible. They should be better than the Nats but not good enough to truly compete with the top 3 in a loaded division.
Team MVP: Sandy Alcantara
Team Cy Young: Sandy Alcantara
Team X-Factor: Bryan De La Cruz
The Nationals host Miami for series from June 16-18 and August 31-September 3, and visit them for series from May 16-18 and August 25-27.
New York Mets
The Steve Cohen led Mets are going all in for a World Series win. They unfortunately already lost elite closer Edwin Diaz to a tragic injury during the WBC, but this team is still built very strong. A rotation with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer is nothing to joke about, especially with Kodai Senga, Carlos Carrasco, and Jose Quintana as a supporting crew. Even with the loss of Diaz, they added guys like David Robertson and Brooks Raley in the offseason, so Buck Showalter still has a competitive bullpen to work with.
On the other side of the ball, the Mets have some firepower. Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso, who seems to be turning into a Nats killer, anchor this lineup. Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte, and Jeff McNeil join them in what should be a killer lineup, barring any major injuries.
It's a new year and we'll have to see if the Mets are gonna find a new way to Met. Until that happens, the Mets look like potential NL East division winners.
Team MVP: Francisco Lindor
Team Cy Young: Max Scherzer
Team X-Factor: Health
The Nationals host the Mets for series from May 12-15 and September 5-6, and and visit Queens for series from April 25-27 and July 27-30.
The reigning NL Champs are going to be really good again this year, and if weren't for the unfortunate loss of Rhys Hoskins to a turn ACL in spring training, they'd be even better. With Rhys Hoskins, I had the Phils winning the NL East, but now that they don't have him for the full year and won't have Bryce Harper for half of it, their road ahead gets a little more bumpy.
Similar to their NL East counterparts, the Phillies have an elite 1-2 duo to begin their rotation in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. Ranger Suarez, Taijuan Walker, and Bailey Falter follow, which makes an overall strong rotation. Their bullpen isn't insane, but Seranthony Dominguez Jose Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, and Connor Brogdon isn't bad.
The scariest part of the Phillies roster is that offense. Their biggest flaw last season was the shortstop position, and all they did was go out and sign arguably the best shortshop in baseball. Add Trea Turner to Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto,and bounce back candidate Nick Castellanos makes quite the star-powered lineup. The midseason reinforcement of Harper could add ignite a fire in this team for the second half of the year.
Philadelphia's main issue is the lack of depth, and this goes for the entire roster. Ranger Suarez is already injured and will miss the beginning of the season. Top prospect Andrew Painter is currently slated to miss about the first half of the year. Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper are down. Without some bounce back seasons and other guys stepping up, the Phillies road to the playoffs could get a lot harder.
Team MVP: Trea Turner
Team Cy Young: Aaron Nola
Team X-Factor: Nick Castellanos
The Nationals host the Phillies for series from June 2-4 and August 18-20, and visit them for series from June 30-July 2 and August 7-10.
We all know the story of the 2023 Nationals, so I won't go into too much depth. The roster is a mix of young players with great potential and old veterans that are hold overs. They won't be good, or even average, but they can be fun to watch.
All eyes will be on the young guys. With the Nats shipping off multiple generational players over the last few years, they got a good haul of prospects. They won't mean anything if they don't amount to much in the majors, so what they really need this season is for those prospects to improve. The main pieces are obviously CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz, Luis Garcia, Josiah Gray, and MacKenzie Gore. There are other young players that have been brought in that the Nats hope to show them something, but those five have the spotlight.
On the other hand, there are a number of vets hoping to prove they still have something in the tank that could become valuable trade assets to sell off at the deadline. Joey Meneses will hope to maintain the insane stretch he finished 2022 off on while Jeimer Candelario and Dom Smith try to recapture their 2021 and 2020 forms, respectively.
Overall, there isn't much to this roster. It's a bit of a mess and won't be a recipe for success. The ceiling isn't high but the best that we can ask for is for the young guys to improve in some way and for the veterans to turn into those trade assets.
Team MVP: Luis Garcia
Team Cy Young: Josiah Gray
Team X-Factor: Patrick Corbin
The NL East will be a top heavy division this year, with three serious league competitors at the top and two bottom feeders at the bottom. Nevertheless, those two will try to play spoiler ball in September and mess with the others' playoff pushes. So, let's wrap this outlook out the same way I've done it with each of the other divisions - with my predicted standings.
1. Atlanta Braves (95-67)
2. New York Mets (92-70)
3. Philadelphia Phillies (87-75)
4. Miami Marlins (74-88)
5. Washington Nationals (61-101)