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Last year, the National League East played host to three playoff teams, and two of them had more than 100 wins in the regular season. Even crazier, the only one that didn’t have 100 wins ended up in the World Series. This is the sign of a truly competitive division.
As the calendar gets ready to turn to April and the baseball season is ready to get underway, will we see even more competition? Who will step up to the plate to break the glass ceiling, and who will hit their peak before falling to the ground? This is the National League East preview for the 2023 season:
1. Atlanta Braves
Last Year’s Record: 101-61
Player To Watch: Second Baseman Ozzie Albies
X-Factor: Outfielder Michael Harris II
Much like last year, the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets will be locked in a war for supremacy of the division. Both teams have great pitching as well as great lineups to boot. However, there is one advantage that Atlanta has over New York: team chemistry.
Most of Atlanta’s team hasn’t been acquired in free agency or trades, rather, they did it through their minor league system and had them come up together gradually over the past few years. If the Braves can stay healthy this very well could be a team that makes not only the playoffs, but the World Series. Even if they can’t stay healthy, with general manager Alex Anthopoulos at the helm, they’ll be a hard team to beat.
2. New York Mets
Last Year’s Record: 101-61
Player To Watch: Pitcher Kodai Senga
X-Factor: Pitcher David Robertson
As stated above in Atlanta’s prediction, the New York Mets’ should be in a dog fight with Atlanta for the National League East crown. However, longer term chemistry, as well as now an overall question of who will close out games for New York following Edwin Diaz’s season-ending injury during the World Baseball Classic, may be the reason they just miss out.
Overall, New York is going to also find out how well their pitchers hold up. Their recently acquired Japanese import pitcher, Kodai Senga, has had some difficulty transitioning to the pace of play in America. There’s also Justin Verlander, who will be pitching for a major market after spending most of his career in Detroit and Houston. Their pitching on paper should be close to elite, it’s just a question of it can come together when the games actually count.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Year’s Record: 87-75
Player To Watch: Outfielder Brandon Marsh
X-Factor: Third Baseman Alex Bohm
Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies shocked the world when they advanced to the World Series, overcoming the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres. General manager Dave Dombrowski wasn’t content with just an appearance and quickly got to work trying to improve the team. Included in the improvements were pitcher Craig Kimbrel and shortstop Trea Turner, as well as making Rob Thompson the full time manager after he became the interim manager last year following Joe Girardi’s firing.
With the departures of pieces like second baseman Jean Segura, pitcher David Robertson and pitcher Kyle Gibson, as well as injuries to designated hitter Bryce Harper and first baseman Rhys Hoskins, there will be some adversity this team now has to face. Philadelphia has faced odds like this before, but now with impending possibility of a World Series hangover, things may get even harder. How they handle themselves may determine their course of action.
4. Miami Marlins
Last Year’s Record: 69-93
Player To Watch: Outfielder Bryan De La Cruz
X-Factor: Manager Skip Schumaker
The Miami Marlins have been rebuilding for a while now. Even after making the playoffs in 2020, they’re still trying to rebuild and retool this team into a consistent competitor. This year could be the year they finally turn corner after retooling the infield with second baseman Luis Arreaz and infielder Jean Segura. This team also has quite a bit of potential with young outfielders Bryan De La Cruz and Jazz Chisholm Jr.
Pitching and coaching will ultimately determine how much of a leap this team will make. If the pitching can catch up to the hitting then this team could break .500. If the coaching staff can put the pieces together properly, this team could shock the division.
5. Washington Nationals
Last Year’s Record: 55-107
Player To Watch: Designated Hitter Joey Meneses
X-Factor: Pitcher Stephen Strasburg
There’s no word that fits the downfall of the Washington Nationals better than “ugly”. Ever since their World Series win in 2019, this team fallen down rapidly, with departures of key players and the ones that stayed with the team have just either not looked good or end up on the injured list. The team either doesn’t have a direction or needs to step back at this point.
This season shouldn’t be any different, leading to the question, is it time to tear the rest down? Maybe get a new voice in at manager, focus on the future. They’ve seemingly started to do that while at the same time, are holding onto the final vestiges of the 2019 team.