NL East Division Preview

It's Still Atlanta's Division To Lose

The Atlanta Braves have won the NL East each of the last six seasons and, at least for the foreseeable future, things don’t seem likely to change. Atlanta has a loaded roster — much of which is locked up for multiple years on team-friendly terms — and made some excellent additions to bolster an already-solid rotation and bullpen.

As this MLB NL East division preview will show, even after a second-consecutive disappointing Division Series loss to the rival Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves are still likely to take home another division crown.

Philadelphia as mentioned above won 90 games in 2023 and made it to a second-straight NLCS before falling to the surprise Arizona Diamondbacks. The Phillies didn’t do much this offseason, but they kept rotation anchor Aaron Nola, signing him to a significant extension.

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Their powerful lineup and elite 1-2 rotation punch of Nola and Zack Wheeler is as good as it gets. In the MLB standings by division, the Phillies are one of the best clear No. 2 MLB teams.

Then come the somewhat retooling Mets following a disastrous 2023 season, the Marlins fresh off a somewhat fluky playoff appearance, and the rebuilding Nationals, who boast an underratedly talented young core. This division isn’t as deep as the AL East, for example, but there are no true pushovers anymore (at least on paper). Let’s get into it:

Braves logo Atlanta Braves: -245 division, +450 World Series, o/u 101.5 wins

As evidenced by their highly favorable division odds, the Braves are the cream of the crop in the NL East, and it would be fairly surprising for them not to repeat while winning over 100 games.

They did lose some useful pitching depth in free agency, but in trading for Chris Sale and Aaron Bummer (and signing Reynaldo López), Atlanta was able to stabilize its MLB odds and possibly improve its staff.

Outside of trading for former top prospect Jarred Kelenic, who has been underwhelming in the Majors, the Atlanta Braves didn’t make many offensive changes, mostly because they just didn’t have to.

Atlanta led baseball in pretty much every major offensive category in 2023 — average, on-base percentage, OPS, runs, and home runs, to name a few — and had three 40+ home run hitters (and a ridiculous seven 20+ home run hitters). It helps to have reigning MVP Ronald Acuña Jr., who became MLB’s first ever 40-70 player with homers and steals.

The only thing that can hold this team back is rotation help. Charlie Morton is 40 years old, Max Fried only threw 77.2 innings in 2023, and Chris Sale has pitched just 151 innings since 2019.

It’s easy to envision Atlanta needing to add another starter at the deadline, but the Braves could have a comfortable division lead by that point.

Phillies logo Philadelphia Phillies: +300 division, +1400 World Series, o/u 90.5 wins

If any team is going to push the Braves for the division, it’s going to be the Phillies. Philadelphia has had Atlanta’s number in the playoffs each of the last two years, but the regular seasons have been much more of a grind for Rob Thomson’s club.

As noted at the start of this MLB NL East division preview, Philadelphia is pretty much running things back from a year ago, except for the addition of Whit Merrifield as a utility option in the lineup.

Keeping Nola around for seven more years was big but the Phillies really should have pursued a guy like Jordan Montgomery to provide some more reliability to the middle of the rotation.

Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker, and Christopher Sánchez are useful arms, but their track records just aren’t as good as Montgomery’s. Philadelphia will also have to make up for the losses of Craig Kimbrel and Michael Lorenzen.

A big question for the Philadelphia Phillies will be defense. It’s great that Bryce Harper is a full-time 1st baseman now because that allows Kyle Schwarber to DH (and keep him out of the outfield), but there will be continued growing pains for Harper at the position.

Nick Castellanos in right field continues to be an adventure, even if the rest of the outfield is more than adequately manned by Johan Rojas and Brandon Marsh. Philadelphia needs Alec Bohm and Trea Turner to hold things down on the left side of the infield. Still, +300 to best the Braves seems like a stretch.

Mets logo New York Mets: +1000 division, +3500 World Series, o/u 81.5 wins

It’s hard to have much different vibes from season to season than the Mets have now as compared to the start of 2023. They were a bona fide championship contender before last year after adding Justin Verlander.

Then, he got hurt during Spring Training, Max Scherzer was ineffective, Jeff McNeil struggled mightily, and everything else seemed to fall apart. Then, New York was a big seller at the trade deadline and limped to 75 wins.

Now, expectations have lowered massively for the MLB regular season in New York. The Mets pursued Yoshinobu Yamamoto hard but lost out to the Dodgers and, instead of trying to get another big name, new president of baseball operations David Stearns pivoted to mostly secondary moves.

The rotation has a bunch of new names in Luis Severino, Sean Manaea and Adrian Houser — even more important additions with Kodai Senga out for a few months with a shoulder injury — and the bullpen has been revamped as well.

Harrison Bader was the only really notable offensive pickup, which further emphasizes how much the Mets need their stalwarts Pete Alonso (a pending free agent), Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and Starling Marte to all play to their full ability.

New York has the bones of a competitive team, but the rotation questions and offensive inconsistencies make this a hard team to project. It should win 84-86 games, yet the Senga injury (and the front office’s seeming reluctance to make a big splash) limits the ceiling a lot. Division contention looks to be out of the question.

Marlins logo Miami Marlins: +1600 division, +6500 World Series, o/u 78.5 wins

The Marlins rode solid starting pitching, timely hitting, and some luck into 84 wins and a playoff berth in 2023, ultimately losing 2-0 in the Wild Card round to the Phillies.

After a very quiet offseason in which Tim Anderson was the only impact player added, and huge power threat Jorge Soler left in free agency, it’s hard to envision the Miami Marlins recapturing that level of success again. Also, staff ace Sandy Alcantara will miss the whole season with Tommy John surgery.

So, Miami doesn’t figure to play a role in the MLB NL East division preview as a division contender, but the Marlins should be in the race for a Wild Card spot because they still have a ton of exciting young starting pitchers.

Jesús Luzardo, Eury Pérez, Braxton Garrett, Edward Cabrera, and Trevor Rogers make up an impressive rotation, but it remains to be seen how much they’ll each be able to pitch, considering that Miami will want to be careful with their innings.

Run production is the concern here. Jake Burger and Josh Bell helped the offense after being picked up at the trade deadline, but outside of perennial batting title contender Luis Arráez, there just isn’t a ton of offensive upside.

Jazz Chisholm was disappointing in 2023 and while Bryan de la Cruz and Jesús Sánchez have showed flashes, they need to be a lot of better if Miami is going to make up for Soler’s production. If the Marlins get the scoring up into the middle-of-the-pack in MLB, then they could definitely be .500 or better.

Nationals logo Washington Nationals: +8000 division, +15000 World Series, o/u 66.5 wins

It could be a long season in D.C., but the light at the end of the rebuilding tunnel is getting closer. Washington managed to win 71 games in 2023 thanks to some huge steps taken by key pieces like CJ Abrams, Josiah Gray, Mackenzie Gore and Keibert Ruiz.

Lane Thomas, Joey Meneses, and Stone Garrett also put together solid seasons to give Nationals’ fans hope that this team can be something like the 2023 Arizona Diamondbacks either this season or next.

All of the blockbuster trades Washington has made in recent years are starting to pay off, there are still exciting guys in the Minors, like power bat James Wood and No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 draft Dylan Crews.

The present might be rough with Patrick Corbin’s contract and bloated ERA clogging up innings, yet there are reasons for optimism. It’s tough to be in the Braves’ division and feel confident about winning a division title in the next five years but Washington is set up well.

This season, the lack of offseason pickups besides reclamation projects in Joey Gallo, Jesse Winker, and Nick Senzel, as well as the limited rotation depth beyond Gray and Gore, will likely do the Nationals in.

Still, continued growth from the young core guys and maybe some prospect callups should keep Washington from being a 100-loss team. 66.5 wins might be a drop too high, but winning 68 games or so isn’t unmanageable.

For MLB betting news, odds analysis, and more, visit Point Spreads Sports Magazine.


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