Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley throws out Philadelphia Phillies Alec Bohm on a groundout in the third inning of a spring training baseball game in North Port, Fla., Saturday, March 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NL East Season Preview

Major League Baseball opening day is Thursday with all 30 teams in action and the NL East is set to be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. The division has three World Series contenders and two teams who are counting on stellar young talent.

The New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies all made the postseason in 2022. All three hope to do the same this year as the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals look to shock the world.

Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves come into 2023 with very high hopes. Atlanta won 101 games last season and secured their fifth straight NL East title.

Ronald Acuña Jr. had somewhat of a down year by his standards in 2022. The perennial MVP-candidate will look to bounce back this season and lead his team to a second World Series title in three years.

Austin Riley will also be a big part of the Braves’ offense this season. He put up solid numbers last year hitting .273 with 38 home runs and 93 RBIs. He signed a 10-year, $215 million contract extension with Atlanta in 2022 that locked him into the third-base position for the Braves for years to come.

Atlanta boasts one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball. Their top three arms, Max Fried, Spencer Strider and Kyle Wright all pitched extremely well last season. Fried will get the ball on opening day after posting a 2.48 ERA in 2022, which led Atlanta.

The Braves have lofty aspirations for themselves in 2023, and many experts around the league expect them to go all the way.

The Braves will open their season against the Nationals in Washington D.C. at 1:05 p.m. This is the first of a three-game series.

New York Mets

The New York Mets are a team many are looking at to win the division, and more, in 2023. They are coming off of a 2022 campaign that saw them reach the wild card round of the playoffs, but ultimately fell to the San Diego Padres.

The Mets had some key departures during the offseason with Jacob deGrom going to the Texas Rangers and Chris Bassitt leaving for the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite this, New York still has what ranks as the No. 1 starting rotation in baseball.

The addition of Justin Verlander has a lot to do with the high praise. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is now 40 years old. Despite his age, Verlander had one of his best seasons of his long and illustrious career last season. He posted a 1.75 ERA for the Houston Astros, which led all of baseball.

New York also signed Kodai Senga during the offseason. He will be an X-Factor on this team as not many people around the league know if he will be able to adjust to MLB hitters. However, his 2.75 ERA in over 1,000 innings in the NPB in Japan look very promising. With Verlander and Senga at the top of the rotation with Max Scherzer, the Mets’ rotation is looking dangerous.

New York also has one of the most high-powered offenses in the majors. Francisco Lindor had a very productive second season with the Mets. He hit .270 with 26 home runs and 107 RBIs as he showed he is still one of the game’s best shortstops. Pete Alonso had an MVP-caliber year in 2022. He had another season with over 40 longballs and was tied for the league lead with 131 runs driven in. The Mets also have the defending batting champion in Jeff McNeil in what is a very deep lineup.

Even after the loss of Edwin Diaz, who tore his patellar tendon in the World Baseball Classic, New York has World Series expectations this season.

The Mets will begin the year on the road against the Miami Marlins. Scherzer will take the ball against defending Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara. This will be the first of a four-game series, starting at 4:10 p.m.

Philadelphia Phillies

The reigning National League champion Philadelphia Phillies had a magical postseason run, last year. They snuck into the playoffs just one game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers, but made it all the way to the World Series, where they fell to the Astros in six games.

The two-time NL MVP, Bryce Harper, will not begin the season with the club. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Harper will likely be out until mid-June.

This does not mean Philadelphia are out of it, however. They locked up shortstop Trea Turner, who showed the world what he could do everything in the WBC. He, along with Kyle Schwarber, who led the NL with 46 home runs last season, will lead the pack until Harper comes back.

The Phillies will be without Rhys Hoskins this season as he tore his ACL during Spring Training. He was outstanding during their October run, hitting six homers.

Philadelphia may not have the starting rotation the Braves and Mets have, but it’s still solid nonetheless. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and newly-acquired Taijuan Walker will all play huge roles on the bump.

Nola and the Phillies will begin their NL title defense against deGrom and the Rangers in Arlington. First pitch is set for 4:05 p.m.

Miami Marlins

After ending a 16-year postseason drought in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Miami Marlins have fallen back off course the past two years. However, they have playoff hopes this season with some key offseason additions and a very impressive young core. While they may not compete for a NL East title, they do have a chance for a Wild Card spot.

Miami added some much-needed bats in the offseason. Jean Segura and Luis Arráez will both play important roles for the Marlins this season. Arráez led the American League last season batting .316. Segura played less than 100 games in 2022, but was productive in his appearances, batting .277.

The Marlins had some key departures since last year, including Miguel Rojas and Pablo Lopez.

Lopez was the second best pitcher in the rotation last year, posting a sub-four ERA in 32 starts. Despite the loss of Lopez, the Marlins starters look very promising. It all starts with the reigning NL Cy Young award winner Sandy Alcantara. He had a 2.28 ERA, a WHIP of below one and over 200 strikeouts in his impressive season.

Alcantara and the Marlins will take on Scherzer and the Mets at Loan Depot Park Thursday at 4:10 p.m.

Washington Nationals

Since the Washington Nationals won the World Series in 2019, they have come in last place in the NL East all three years. They traded away generational talent in Juan Soto at last year’s trade deadline. Soto was the final piece to go before starting a complete rebuild in the nation’s capital.

Although the Nationals are not predicted to win many games this year, they do have some young players who will look to make big strides in 2023.

MacKenzie Gore and Josiah Gray are two starting pitchers Washington fans are excited about. Last year was Gray’s first full season in the majors, but he didn’t live up to the expectations. He has a career ERA of over five, but the Nationals are hoping he can have a breakout year this season.

On the offensive side, CJ Abrams, Lane Thomas and Jeter Downs highlight a young lineup for Washington. Abrams played in 44 games last year, hitting well in his first year in the big leagues. Downs has been regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball for years. He was released by the Boston Red Sox over the offseason and was picked up by the Nationals.

While they may not win tons of games this season, Washington’s young core is very promising.

The Nationals will have Patrick Corbin on the bump against Fried and the Braves in their season opener. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m.

About Hugh Green

Hugh is a third year student majoring in Journalism: Sports and Media at the University of Florida.

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