2024 NL East Division Preview

Previewing the National League East in 2024.

The top of the NL East was projected to be a tight race between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets in 2023, but the Mets severely underperformed and the Braves ran away with the division. Both the Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins outperformed expectations, and both teams snuck into the postseason. The Washington Nationals weren’t as bad as most people thought they’d be, but they sat firmly in last place in the NL East.

Ultimately, the Phillies swept the Marlins in the Wild Card Series, beat the Braves in the Division Series, and lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in game seven of the NL Championship Series.

As we look ahead to the 2024 season, Atlanta is still the clear frontrunner in the NL East according to FanGraphs’ projections. Philadelphia seems like a safe bet for second place, Miami and New York slot in around .500, and Washington looks like one of the worst teams in baseball.

Although the NL East doesn’t appear to be as competitive as other divisions, there are still some interesting storylines with every team. Let’s look at each team’s offseason moves and their outlook for 2024.


Atlanta Braves

Atlanta’s starting rotation was led by one of the best pitchers in baseball, Spencer Strider, in 2023. His 36.8% K%, 20.5% SwStr%, and 35.4% CSW% all led the league. Behind Strider were Charlie Morton and Bryce Elder who were both serviceable despite their flaws. The Braves will hope to get a healthy season from Max Fried, who was great in 14 games but spent a considerable time on the injured list last season. Speaking of injured pitchers, enter Chris Sale. Atlanta traded Vaughn Grissom to the Boston Red Sox for Chris Sale this offseason. The veteran left-handed pitcher has thrown just 151 innings in the past three seasons combined because of a myriad of injuries. No one is expecting Sale to look like an ace again, but a fresh start on one of the best teams in baseball might prove to revitalize a healthy Sale.

Led by NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves had the best offense in baseball last season. The top of the lineup will likely be Acuña, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, and Matt Olson because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! The only offensive starter the Braves lost is Eddie Rosario, who they’ll replace with former top prospect Jarred Kelenic. Atlanta traded for Kelenic this offseason and, by his own admission, Kelenic is excited for a fresh start with the Braves. The 24-year-old outfielder struggled to quell his strikeout rate and made poor contact in 2021 and 2022. Kelenic had a great start to 2023, slashing .308/.366/.615 with 7 doubles and 7 home runs through his first 26 games. His production started falling off as the season went on, and kicking a watercooler in frustration led to a broken foot that derailed the second half of his season. Like Sale, Kelenic will try to take advantage of a fresh start in 2024.


Philadelphia Phillies

The biggest move the Phillies made this offseason was ensuring Aaron Nola didn’t wind up on the list of subtractions. The two sides agreed on a long-term deal, ensuring the veteran righthander will remain in Philadelphia for seven more years. Nola is a workhorse. He’s thrown at least 180 innings in each of the last five full seasons, eclipsing the 200 innings mark three times. The one-two punch of Zack Wheeler and Nola is one of the best in baseball, but things get a little dicey behind them. Taijuan Walker’s splitter carried his arsenal in 2022, but it regressed significantly in 2023. Walker’s 18.8% strikeout rate and 1.31 WHIP were his worst marks since 2018. Rounding out the back of the rotation are Ranger Suárez and Cristopher Sánchez. Suárez uses his sinker to dominate left-handed hitters inside but can struggle against right-handed hitters. Sánchez was a nice surprise in 2023, and Philly will hope to see him continue to build upon the success he had with his sinker/changeup combo. And with the departure of Craig Kimbrel, it’s likely José Alvarado slides into the closer role.

One of the biggest changes on the other side of the ball for the Phillies is Bryce Harper moving to first base full time. When Harper returned from Tommy John surgery last May, he slid into the DH role for the Phillies. Having Kyle Schwarber play the field was less than ideal, but it was necessary to get Harper’s bat back in the lineup. With a vacancy at first and Harper feeling better, he started playing first base in the second half of the season, allowing Schwarber to slide back into the DH slot. The Phillies, confident in what they saw last year, recently announced Harper would be the team’s first baseman going forward. The position change likely means Nick Castellanos will be the regular right fielder and Schwarber the DH. The rest of the infield remains the same: Bryson Stott at second, Trea Turner at shortstop, and Alec Bohm at third. Newly acquired Whit Merrifield will likely come off the bench, with Brandon Marsh, Cristian Pache, and Johan Rojas battling for spots in left and centerfield.


Miami Marlins

The Marlins’ offseason has been disappointing at best and infuriating at worst. Miami did nothing to capitalize on their first full-season playoff berth since they won the World Series in 2003, killing whatever interest South Florida sports fans had in the Marlins. General manager Kim Ng declined her end of the mutual option after it became clear that owner Bruce Sherman wanted to demote her by hiring a president of baseball operations to oversee her. With Ng gone, the Marlins hired former Tampa Bay Rays general manager Peter Bendix. He spent much of the offseason revamping the front office, making only nominal moves for former Rays and minor leaguers. The Marlins were the last team to sign a player to a big-league contract, inking shortstop Tim Anderson to a one-year, $5 million deal on February 24th.

Both the Marlins and Anderson hope his dismal 2023 season was more a fluke than a signal of his current ability. In 123 games, Anderson slashed .245/.286/.296 with a career-low 60 wRC+. The most memorable moment of his season was the punch José Ramírez landed that spurred one of the best radio calls in recent memory: “They’re fighting! They’re swinging! Down goes Anderson! Down goes Anderson!” 

Losing former Cy Young-winning Sandy Alcantara to Tommy John surgery and filling the offensive void left by Jorge Soler will be the two biggest challenges for the Marlins in 2024. Alcantara wasn’t as dominant last season as he was in 2022, but being without their workhorse will still be challenging. Lefty Jesús Luzardo is the 2024 Opening Day starter and he’s earned it. His 28.1% K%, 15.2% SwStr%, and 30.9% CWS% were at the 90th percentile or better among starters in 2023. 20-year-old Eury Perez will try to build upon his rookie campaign. He’s got an electric fastball that averages 97.5 mph and his slider and curveball generated a lot of whiffs and weak contact. Pérez’s 28.9% K% and 16.8% SwStr% were also in the 90th percentile or better, with his 30.5% CSW% not far behind. Braxton Garrett had a breakout year last season, Edward Cabrera is good but needs to throw more strikes, a healthy Trevor Rogers is really good, A.J. Puk is transitioning to a starter, and Tanner Scott and Andrew Nardi are lethal in the back end of the bullpen. The Marlins pitching is obviously their strong suit. The offense? Not so much.

Miami’s offense scored the fewest runs in the NL and was in the league’s bottom-six in home runs, slugging percentage, and wOBA in 2023. Soler led the team with 36 home runs, 77 runs scored, and a .512 SLG, but they didn’t make any effort to re-sign him. It seems as if they’re crossing their fingers and hoping full seasons from Jake Burger and Josh Bell and a healthy one from Jazz Chisholm Jr. will fill that void, but I’m not convinced. The Marlins were incredibly lucky last season, going 33-14 in one-run games and benefiting from opposing teams’ late-inning meltdowns. Will that luck carry over into 2024? I sure hope so.


New York Mets

The Mets were dealt another spring training blow when it was announced that starting pitcher Kodai Senga will begin the 2024 season on the injured list with a shoulder strain. The rookie righthander and his ghost fork dazzled in 2023, posting a 2.98 ERA, 29.1% K%, and 29.0% CSW%. But now Senga isn’t likely to return until late April or early May. Veteran José Quintana will be the Opening Day starter, but he’s a far cry from the pitcher he once was. The Mets will rely upon the three starters they added this offseason: Luis Severino, Sean Manaea, and Adrian Houser. Severino had a disastrous 2023, posting career lows in nearly every category including a 6.65 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 18.9% K%, and 45.0% HardHit%. Severino, who hit 98 mph in his first spring training start, is likely the highest upside option in this Mets rotation with Senga sidelined. Edwin Diaz will also return to the mound in 2024. He was sidelined all of last season with a knee injury he suffered during the World Baseball Classic.

On the offensive side, Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso will provide the steady offensive production that makes them two of the game’s best. Francisco Alvarez swatted 25 home runs last year, but PL’s Pablo Figueroa is hoping Alvarez can refine his approach to become a breakout candidate in 2024. Brandon Nimmo, Harrison Bader, and Starling Marte will patrol the outfield for the Mets. Nimmo hit a career-high 24 home runs last year while still walking 10.9% of the time. Bader and Marte both missed significant time last year with injuries, playing only 98 and 86 games, respectively. Overall, the Mets feel like a bandaged-up dart throw rather than the team everyone hoped they’d be when Steve Cohen came aboard.


Washington Nationals

The 2024 season hasn’t even started yet, but it already looks bleak for the Nationals: FanGraphs gives them just a 0.2% chance to make the playoffs. The top of the rotation is headed by Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore, two young pitchers with both issues and upside. Gray, then a Top-100 prospect, was traded for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Gore, once ranked as high as the 6th-best prospect according to Baseball America, was traded for Juan Soto. Both pitchers have struggled to throw strikes and limit the long ball. Behind them in the rotation are Patrick Corbin and Jake Irvin, while Trevor Williams and Zach Davies look to be battling for the #5 starter.

The projected starting lineup doesn’t offer much excitement either. Young players like CJ Abrams, Joey Meneses, and Keibert Ruiz will get ample opportunities to show they deserve spots on a post-rebuild Nationals team. Abrams, also included in the trade package for Juan Soto, offers the biggest upside. He hit 18 home runs and stole 47 bases in 2023 despite a below-average 90 wRC+. Like many young hitters, Abrams’ plate discipline could use some work. His 37.4% chase rate was sky-high (league average is 30.7%), leading to a lot of poor contact on pitches outside of the strike zone (.314 wOBA with an average exit velocity of 77 mph). Joey Gallo, king of the three true outcomes, signed a free agent deal with the Nationals this offseason. Gallo is coming off 111 games with the Minnesota Twins where he slashed .177/.301/.440 with 21 homers, a 104 wRC+, and a staggering 42.8% strikeout rate. Rounding out the rest of Washington’s lineup are Lane Thomas, Nick Senzel, and Victor Robles. Eddie Rosario and Jesse Winker are non-roster invitees who might crack the Opening Day roster.



Photos by Icon Sportswire | Designed by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Nicole Cahill

Nicole Cahill is a freelance writer who focuses on mental health and sports. She recently founded a nonprofit that helps youth athletes living with mental health challenges. When she's not fighting stigma or exploring Baseball Savant visuals, you can find Nicole enjoying a cup of coffee and a good book. Portfolio: NicoleCahill.com.

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