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2023 NL East Preview: Best Division in Baseball?

NL East

(Photo Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports)

Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

NL East Preview: Best Division in Baseball?

The NL East should be really, really good again in 2023. It might even be better than it was in 2022 when the division sported two 100-plus-game winners. The Atlanta Braves edged out the New York Mets on the last weekend of the regular season, sweeping them to steal the division crown.

Did I mention neither of those 100-win teams would win a playoff series? Actually, the team that ended up going the furthest in the NL East won 87 regular season games and finished in third.

That’s right, the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies were an 87-win team going into the playoffs. They would take out the Cardinals in the wild-card round, then the Braves in the divisional series before winning the National League against the Padres. Much to the pleasure of the rest of Philly’s NL East foes, the Phillies would fall to the Astros in the World Series.

This NL East preview is the first of each division preview we will do here at Vendetta, leading up to Opening Day 2023. Let’s get into the predictions!

5th Place: Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals sold their soul for the 2019 World Series title. Those days are long gone and the roster since then is nearly unrecognizable. The Nationals had plenty of negative WAR players in 2022, a trend that can’t continue if they want to win.

We all know Washington won’t be contending for the NL East division title in 2023. This season will be about previewing prospects and getting them real MLB action. They have some exciting prospects to look forward to, including five prospects in the top 100 of MLB Network’s rankings.

Cade Cavalli, Brady House and Josiah Gray are some of the most notable prospects. This season is about them.

As for the current team, they could have a couple of guys that could be trade deadline sell pieces. Dominic Smith and Victor Robles stand out to me in this category.

Projected record: (65-97)

4th Place: Miami Marlins

The more I look at the Miami Marlins roster, the more I start to like them in 2023. They look to be beefing up their lineup to try and contend. They have a strong pitching staff but will have to adjust to life without manager Don Mattingly.

This is Miami’s best roster in a long time, in my opinion. They have what it takes to be a flukey team that can win a bunch of games and makes a run. Unfortunately for them, the NL East is so damn stacked.

Their rotation stacks up against anyones in the whole league. Losing Pablo López hurts, but the group is still headlined by reigning NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara. Jesús Luzardo, Trevor Rogers and Johnny Cueto will all be key pieces to watch. Sixto Sánchez will try to regain top status after back-to-back lost seasons with injury.

Newly acquired AL batting champ Luis Arráez and Jean Segura will man first and second. I was surprised when the club moved on from Miguel Rojas since I’m not sure who will fill the vacant shortstop hole. Jazz Chisholm? Jon Berti? Jacob Amaya? Third base will be Joey Wendle’s, rounding out the infield. Don’t forget about Jorge Soler in left field and Avisail Garcia at right field.

The lineup is decently deep, and the bullpen should be strong again, but I just don’t know how they can hang with the big boys in the division. The verdict? Maybe next season, fish.

Projected record: (82-80)

3rd Place: Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies might expirence a World Series hangover to start the season, just like so many teams do. This is especially true because they probably won’t have Bryce Harper until later in the season. They won the Trea Turner sweepstakes, but more than that, they actually filled holes in their roster that they needed to fill.

Taijuan Walker was a good pickup along with relievers Matt Strahm and Gregory Soto.

Overall, this roster doesn’t look that different than it did last year. They have a lot of depth in that bullpen now, which is something Phillies fans have not heard in a long time.

They held their weight against the Braves last season, winning eight of their regular season matchups. Where they need to pick it up is against the Mets, because going 5-14 against your division rival won’t cut it. I think both New York and Atlanta narrowly edge them out at the end of the season. In fact, they play Atlanta six times in the last three weeks of the season, and New York seven times in that same stretch.

Projected recrord: (94-68), 3rd NL Wild Card

2nd Place: Atlanta Braves

I really liked the Atlanta Braves’ offseason, until I didn’t. They were strong out of the gates and then I thought they got a little bit complacent. I understand this core is here for the future, and they only strengthened that core by acquiring and signing Sean Murphy and extending mustached Spencer Strider. However, they lost a strong leader in Dansby Swanson and let their biggest rival outbid them for Justin Verlander. As for Swanson, they didn’t really find a replacement either.

Overall, they probably did get better. Their catching duo of Sean Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud is one of the league’s best. Ronald Acuña Jr. will be his typical self again, and they’ll get Ozzie Albies back from injury. Matt Olson, Austin Riley and Michael Harris II will all be in contention for All-Star nods. Their bullpen is very strong.

The rotation isn’t my favorite, however. Eventually, I think that’s what will be their downfall. The top-three is very solid, with Fried, Strider and Wright. Old man Charlie Morton may not be the answer as No. 4 starter, and Bryce Elder is an okay No. 5 starter.

I don’t know how to feel about Atlanta. Expectations have become really high for the Braves since 2021, and I have some feeling they won’t win the division for a third straight time. They’ll be one of those teams that, other teams look at their schedule, see they’re playing the Braves and say “Aw, Shit!”

Projected Record: (100-62) 1st NL Wild Card

1st Place: New York Mets

The Mets could have had a disasterous offseason if they did not play their cards right. In fact, they had about as many free agents as a team could have.

They missed out on Carlos Correa dramatically. They’ll be okay without him, especially in the hands of veteran Eduardo Escobar and young stud Brett Baty.

Re-signing Edwin Diaz, Brandon Nimmo and Adam Ottavino was huge. Replacing Jacob DeGrom with Justin Verlander was even bigger.

Their rotation stacks up as one of the best in baseball. Verlander, Scherzer, Quintana and Carrasco. Also, don’t forget about former NPB superstar Kodai Senga.

The lineup is stacked. Alonso, NL batting champ Jeff McNeil, Lindor, Marte, Nimmo just to name a few.

New York will be extremely strong in 2023. Steve Cohen is able and willing we all know that. If they need something at the trade deadline, expect the Mets to pounce.

Projected record: (103-59), 1st seed in NL

So, there you have it, the NL east preview! I think the NL east will be the most competitive division in baseball this season.

May the best team win.

***

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