National League East Preview Capsules

Thu, Mar 14, 2024
MLB News (AP)

National League East Preview Capsules

Capsules of National League East teams, listed in order of finish last year:

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ATLANTA BRAVES

2023: 104-58, first place, lost to Philadelphia in Division Series.

Manager: Brian Snitker (ninth season).

Opening Day: March 28 at Philadelphia.

He's Here: LHP Chris Sale, RHP Reynaldo Lopez, LHP Aaron Bummer, OF Jarred Kelenic, INF David Fletcher, INF Luis Guillorme.

He's Outta Here: OF Eddie Rosario, SS Vaughn Grissom, OF Kevin Pillar, OF Sam Hilliard, LHP Brad Hand, RHP Kirby Yates, RHP Collin McHugh, LHP Jared Shuster, RHP Michael Soroka, RHP Kyle Wright, RHP Nick Anderson.

Top Hitters: OF Ronald Acuna Jr. (.336, 41 HRs, 106 RBIs, 149 runs, MLB-leading 73 SBs, 1.012 OPS, NL MVP), 1B Matt Olson (.283, MLB-high 54 and 139, 127 runs, .993 OPS), 3B Austin Riley (.281, 37, 97, 117 runs), 2B Ozzie Albies (.280, 33, 109), DH Marcell Ozuna (.274, 40, 100).

Projected Rotation: RH Spencer Strider (20-5, 3.86 ERA, MLB-high 281 Ks), LH Max Fried (8-1, 2.55), LH Chris Sale (6-5, 4.30 with Boston), RH Charlie Morton (14-12, 3.64), RH Reynaldo Lopez (3-7, 3.27 in 68 relief appearance with White Sox, Angels and Guardians).

Key Relievers: RH Raisel Iglesias (5-4, 2.75 ERA, 33/37 saves), LH A.J. Minter (3-6, 3.76, 10 saves), RH Joe Jimenez (0-3, 3.04), LH Aaron Bummer (5-5, 6.79 in 61 appearances with White Sox).

READ MORE American League West Preview Capsules American League East Preview Capsules American League Central Preview Capsules

Outlook: After winning the 2021 World Series, the Braves have been eliminated by the Phillies in the Division Series two consecutive years. They enter this season looking to extend their string of six straight NL East titles and determined to add another World Series championship. Acuna leads a potent lineup that topped the majors in hitting, hits, homers, runs and RBIs. He became baseball's first player to hit at least 40 homers and steal at least 70 bases as he became the unanimous NL MVP. Then he shook off a spring training scare when soreness in his surgically repaired right knee was found to be irritation around the meniscus. He is expected to be ready for the start of the season. The major offseason additions were Sale and Kelenic, expected to assume the starting job in left field. The goal will be to have Sale healthy to claim one of the top three rotation spots in the postseason.

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PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2003: 90-72, second place, lost to Arizona in NL Championship Series.

Manager: Rob Thomson (third season).

Opening Day: March 28 vs. Atlanta.

He's Here: OF Whit Merrifield, RHP Spencer Turnbull, LHP Kolby Allard.

He's Outta Here: 1B Rhys Hoskins, RHP Craig Kimbrel, RHP Michael Lorenzen.

Top Hitters: 1B Bryce Harper (.293, 21 HRs, 72 RBIs, .900 OPS), DH Kyle Schwarber (.197, 47, 104, 108 runs, 126 BBs, .817 OPS), RF Nick Castellanos (.272, 29, 106, .788 OPS), C J.T. Realmuto (.252, 20, 63, .762 OPS), SS Trea Turner (.266, 26, 76, 35 2Bs, 30 SBs, 102 runs, .778 OPS), 3B Alec Bohm (.274, 29, 97, .765 OPS).

Projected Rotation: RH Aaron Nola (12-9, 4.46 ERA), RH Zack Wheeler (13-6, 3.61), RH Taijuan Walker (15-6, 4.38), LH Ranger Suarez (4-6, 4.18), LH Cristopher Sanchez (3-5, 3.44).

Key Relievers: LH Jose Alvarado (0-2, 1.74 ERA, 10 saves), RH Orion Kerkering (1-0, 3.00), LH Matt Strahm (9-5, 3.29), RH Jeff Hoffman (5-2, 2.41, 1 save), RH Seranthony Dominguez (5-5, 3.78, 2 saves), LH Gregory Soto (3-4, 4.62, 3 saves).

Outlook: The Phillies made few roster changes in the offseason and instead decided to run it back with a team that's reached two straight NL Championship Series. Philadelphia re-signed Nola and gave Wheeler an extension to keep the top of the rotation intact. The Phillies would like to become more of a contender in the NL East and give the perennial champion Braves a run at the division title. But making the playoffs as a wild card has worked out fine in Philly. Harper, Turner and Schwarber are the heart of an offense that should help lead Philadelphia into the postseason for a third straight year.

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MIAMI MARLINS

2023: 84-78, third place, lost to Philadelphia in Wild Card Series.

Manager: Skip Schumaker (second season).

Opening Day: March 28 vs. Pittsburgh.

Here: President of Baseball Operations Peter Bendix, SS Tim Anderson, C Christian Bethancourt, OF Nick Gordon, INF Vidal Brujan.

Outta Here: GM Kim Ng, DH Jorge Soler, LHP Steven Okert, 1B Garrett Cooper.

Top Hitters: 2B Luis Arraez (MLB-best .354, 10 HRs, 69 RBIs, .861 OPS), 3B Jake Burger (.250, 34, 80, .828 OPS with White Sox and Marlins), OF Bryan De La Cruz (.257, 19, 78, .715 OPS), CF Jazz Chisholm Jr. (.250, 19, 51, .761 OPS), OF Jesus Sanchez (.252, 14, 52, .777 OPS).

Projected Rotation: LH Jesus Luzardo (10-10, 3.58 ERA), LH A.J. Puk (7-5, 3.97, 15 saves), RH Eury Perez (5-6, 3.15), RH Edward Cabrera (7-7, 4.24), LH Trevor Rogers (1-2, 4.00, missed most of season with multiple injuries).

Key Relievers: LH Tanner Scott (9-5, 2.31 ERA, 12 saves), LH Andrew Nardi (8-1, 2.67, 3 saves), RH Anthony Bender (Tommy John surgery), RH Bryan Hoeing (2-3, 5.48).

Outlook: The Marlins will be without their ace and 2022 NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara for the entire 2024 season after he underwent Tommy John surgery in October to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Still, the team boasts a pretty deep rotation that will be led by Luzardo. Bendix, newly in charge of baseball operations, did not add many flashy pieces during the offseason but did sign Anderson, a former AL batting champion, to a one-year contract. Miami made the postseason last year for the first time in a full season since 2003 thanks to Arraez's hitting and Schumaker's guidance.

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NEW YORK METS

2023: 75-87, fourth place.

Manager: Carlos Mendoza (first season).

Opening Day: March 28 vs. Milwaukee.

He's Here: President of Baseball Operations David Stearns, RHP Luis Severino, LHP Sean Manaea, RHP Adrian Houser, CF Harrison Bader, OF Tyrone Taylor, INF Joey Wendle, LHP Jake Diekman, RHP Jorge Lopez, RHP Shintaro Fujinami, RHP Michael Tonkin, RHP Yohan Ramirez, OF Trayce Thompson, INF Zack Short, RHP Max Kranick, LHP Kolton Ingram.

He's Outta Here: Manager Buck Showalter, GM Billy Eppler, RHP Carlos Carrasco, DH Daniel Vogelbach, INF Luis Guillorme, RHP Trevor Gott, RHP Jeff Brigham, RHP Sam Coonrod.

Top Hitters: 1B Pete Alonso (.217, 46 HRs, 118 RBIs, .821 OPS), SS Francisco Lindor (.254, 31, 98, .806 OPS, 31 SBs, 108 runs in 160 games), LF Brandon Nimmo (.274, 24, 68, .829 OPS), C Francisco Alvarez (.209, 25, 63, .721 OPS), 2B Jeff McNeil (.270, 10, 55, .711 OPS).

Projected Rotation: LH Jose Quintana (3-6, 3.57 ERA in 13 starts), RH Kodai Senga (12-7, 2.98, 202 Ks in 166 1/3 IP), RH Luis Severino (4-8, 6.65 with Yankees), LH Sean Manaea (7-6, 4.44, 1 save in 37 games, 10 starts, with Giants), RH Adrian Houser (8-5, 4.12 with Brewers), RH Tylor Megill (9-8, 4.70 in 25 starts).

Key Relievers: RH Edwin Diaz (3-1, 1.31 ERA, 32/35 saves, 118 Ks, 18 BBs over 62 innings in 2022; missed last season following knee surgery), LH Brooks Raley (1-2, 2.80, 3 saves), RH Adam Ottavino (1-7, 3.21, 12 saves), LH Jake Diekman (0-2, 3.34, 64 Ks in 56 2/3 IP with White Sox and Rays), RH Drew Smith (4-6, 4.15, 3 saves), RH Jorge Lopez (6-2, 5.95, 3 saves with Twins, Marlins and Orioles), RH Shintaro Fujinami (7-8, 7.18, 2 saves in 64 games, 7 starts, with Athletics and Orioles).

Outlook: After falling flat last season despite the biggest payroll in baseball history, this team is under new management. Mets owner Steve Cohen brought in Stearns, who hired a rookie manager in Mendoza - the former Yankees bench coach. Alonso's impending free agency next winter will put him under a microscope all year. But the lineup could hinge on a bounce-back season at age 35 for All-Star right fielder Starling Marte, and the maturation of young hitters such as Alvarez, third baseman Brett Baty and DH Mark Vientos. A suspect rotation took a significant blow when Senga, runner-up for 2023 NL Rookie of the Year, went down early in spring training with a shoulder strain. He's expected to be sidelined until at least late April or May. Diaz returns from his knee injury to anchor a much deeper bullpen. The defense should be improved, and the position-player nucleus from a 101-win playoff club in 2022 is still here. But this looks like a third- or fourth-place team in the NL East. With some touted prospects in the pipeline, New York is pointing toward 2025 while hoping to squeeze into the 2024 postseason behind several stopgap arms.

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WASHINGTON NATIONALS

2023: 71-91, fifth place.

Manager: Dave Martinez (seventh season).

Opening Day: March 28 at Cincinnati.

He's Here: OF Eddie Rosario, INF Nick Senzel, 1B/OF/DH Joey Gallo, OF Jesse Winker, RHP Derek Law.

He's Outta Here: RHP Carl Edwards Jr., RHP Cory Abbott, 1B Dominic Smith.

Top Hitters: OF Lane Thomas (.268, 28 HRs, 86 RBIs, .783 OPS), SS CJ Abrams (.245, 18, 64, 47 steals), C Keibert Ruiz (.260, 18, 67), OF Eddie Rosario (.255, 21, 74 with Braves), 1B/OF/DH Joey Gallo (.177, 21, 40 with Twins).

Projected Rotation: RH Josiah Gray (8-13, 3.91 ERA), LH MacKenzie Gore (7-10, 4.42), LH Patrick Corbin (10-15, 5.20), RH Trevor Williams (6-10, 5.55), RH Jake Irvin (3-7, 4.61).

Key Relievers: RH Kyle Finnegan (7-5, 3.76 ERA, 28/36 saves), RH Hunter Harvey (4-4, 2.82, 10 saves), RH Derek Law (4-6, 3.60, 2 saves with Reds), LH Joe La Sorsa (1-0, 4.41 with Rays and Nationals).

Outlook: The Nationals are still a work in progress, as Martinez and GM Mike Rizzo oversee the ongoing roster reconstruction. This season, like last, is not about any sort of win-loss expectations but rather whatever positive steps forward can be taken by the inexperienced bunch counted on to eventually end the run of futility - four last-place finishes in a row in the NL East - since the 2019 World Series championship. Will 2023 NL All-Star Gray, Gore, Abrams and Ruiz blossom? Could outfielders James Wood (who, like Gore and Abrams, arrived in the trade of Juan Soto to the Padres) and Dylan Crews (the No. 2 overall pick in June's amateur draft) get some time in the majors? One thing no longer hanging over the franchise: The Lerner family has decided not to sell the club after nearly two years of looking for a buyer. Still up in the air as the season approaches: When and how will Stephen Strasburg, no longer able to pitch after a series of injuries and operations, announce that his playing days are done?

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