Why Each NL Team Could Win the World Series

Every team has a shot on Opening Day!

The beauty of Opening Day is that each team starts with the same blank slate. Sure, there are always division favorites or teams that have given themselves the best chance to make the playoffs by drafting, developing, and supplementing through trades or free agent signings. But ultimately the projections and expectations must be set aside in favor of the actual games.

We’ve seen this time and time again with recent National League teams. The New York Mets went into the 2023 season with two future Hall of Fame pitchers in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. They also added Kodai Senga, José Quintana, and David Robertson, and re-signed Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Diaz, and Adam Ottavino. FanGraphs projected the Mets to go 89-73 with a 77.4% chance to make the playoffs, fifth-highest playoff odds in baseball. Things did not go as planned. The Mets were 42-48 at the All-Star Break, sitting 18.5 games back of the division-leading Atlanta Braves. They tore it all down at the trade deadline, trading Scherzer, Verlander, and more. The 2023 Mets finished 75-87, fourth place in the NL East.

Just last season we saw regular season juggernauts trounced by unassuming teams. The 104-win Atlanta Braves saw a swift exit when the 90-72 Philadelphia Phillies took the NL Division Series 3-1. Even more jarring was the 100-win Los Angeles Dodgers getting swept by the 84-78 Arizona Diamondbacks who made it all the way to the World Series.

For as much as the marathon of the regular season tries to weed out the randomness and narrow it down to the best teams, the postseason is the polar opposite. The beauty of playoff baseball is that once you’re in, anything can happen. Just ask the 2023 Braves and Diamondbacks.

As each team’s blank slate begins, fans hope that this could be their year. And it can. Here’s why each NL team could win the World Series.


Arizona Diamondbacks: Avenge their 2023 World Series defeat

The Diamondbacks came out of nowhere last season, and I mean that in the best way possible. Sports fans love a Cinderella story and the D-Backs felt like that team in 2023. At 84-78, they snuck into the Wild Card before sweeping the Brewers two games to none and mowing down the 100-win Dodgers with another sweep to put them in the NLCS vs. the Phillies. The NLCS came down to the wire, but the Diamondbacks prevailed. Their luck ran out against the Rangers, making them extra motivated in 2024.

Arizona needs to avenge their 2023 World Series loss. While everyone was focused on the big moves the Dodgers made this offseason, the Diamondbacks made more measured acquisitions to upgrade their starting rotation and lineup. One of their main areas of weakness last season was at the third base position. It was a revolving door of poor production, with Emmanuel Rivera and Evan Longoria sharing the bulk of the duties. Eugenio Suárez, who the D-Backs traded for this offseason, will take over at third base. Although his production dipped last season (.232/323/.391), he was a league-average hitter (102 wRC+) who swatted 22 home runs. The boost in power will be beneficial for a team that ranked 10 of 15 in NL home runs last season.

Their biggest move on the pitching side was signing left-handed Eduardo Rodriguez. Despite Rodriguez’s struggle to generate swinging strikes and merely average groundball and ideal contact rate, his production with the Tigers last year was pretty good. He held a 3.30 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Adding Rodriguez behind Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly is certainly an upgrade from last season, but it now appears Rodriguez will miss the start of the season with a lat strain.

The Diamondbacks will look to avenge their 2023 World Series defeat. They may not have made the flashy upgrades the division’s big brother made, but they’re ready to prove 2023 wasn’t just a fluke.


Atlanta Braves: They’re the only lineup that can go toe-to-toe with the Dodgers

The Atlanta Braves might be the only lineup that can go toe-to-toe with the Dodgers. However, as we’ve seen the last two years, that all goes out the window in the postseason. Barring a wild run from another NL East team, Atlanta will likely win the division. They’ve got to find a way to keep the intensity and momentum going if they earn the bye in the Wild Card round.

The Braves are a really good team, so watching them fall apart as the calendar flips to October is puzzling. Their lineup was one of the best in baseball last year, so it’s not like they had to make a slew of upgrades there. Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Matt Olson is a top of the lineup only the Dodgers can compete with. Those four will propel them through the regular season, but pitching is king in the postseason. A full, healthy season from Max Fried and newly acquired Chris Sale will bolster their pitching staff mightily. Why can the Braves win the World Series? They’re one of the best teams in baseball. They’ve just got to keep it going in October.


Chicago Cubs: Counsell and Belli have been there before

For a team that missed the NL Wild Card by one game, the Chicago Cubs offseason was largely uninspiring. They pried manager Craig Counsell away from the Brewers, but that was their biggest move for much of the offseason. They wound up re-signing Cody Bellinger at the end of February, a move that had to happen if they wanted a chance to compete in 2024. Counsell and Bellinger have both won World Series rings before, Counsell as a player with the Marlins in 1997 and Diamondbacks in 2001 and Bellinger with the Dodgers in 2020. They’ve been there before and I think the two of them can get the Cubs back to the World Series.

Along with Bellinger, the Cubs added Shota Imanaga to the rotation of Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks, Jordan Wicks, and Javier Assad. Jameson Taillon, dealing with a back injury, will start the season on the IL. As Nick noted in his SP Breakdown, Imanaga has an elite four-seam fastball to go with “fantastic command of a wide arsenal that includes a splitter, curve, sweeper, and cutter, limiting walks and boasting the best Stuff+ of all starters in the WBC (yes, better than Yamamoto and Shohei).” As for the Cubs lineup, they’re mostly running it back. Will that be enough to make the playoffs and a solid run in October? Considering the state of the NL Central, it might be.


Cincinnati Reds: Let the kids play

The NL Central is the most wide-open division in baseball. FanGraphs’ projections have the first and last place teams separated by less than seven games. With the departure of Joey Votto, the Cincinnati Reds are leaning into the let the kids play movement. Led by Elly De La Cruz at shortstop, they are expecting improvements from Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Will Benson, and Spencer Steer. Cincinnati struggled to get offensive production from the third base position in 2023, relying mostly on a combination of Nick Senzel, Kevin Newman, and De La Cruz. Jeimer Candelario, who the Reds signed this offseason, will provide more consistent production in 2024. Pitcher List projects Candelario to slash .254/.327/.438 with 29 doubles and 19 home runs. On the pitching side, Hunter Greene, Andrew Abbott, and Graham Ashcraft headline the rotation. Frankie Montas, the veteran right-handed pitcher signed this offseason, will start Opening Day for the Reds. Now fully healthy, he offers solid upside for their otherwise young rotation.

The Reds have had a few recent setbacks. Noelvi Marte looked good in 35 games last season, but he was just suspended for 80 games for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Injuries have also plagued Cincinnati. Matt McLain, TJ Friedl, Nick Lodolo, and Brandon Williamson all went down with injuries. The lack of depth from all the injuries is concerning, but I love when young players are given the opportunity to flourish. If the Reds win the World Series, they’ll need their youngsters to step up. And the Reds are certainly giving them every opportunity to do so.


Colorado Rockies: Miracles happen!

The Colorado Rockies don’t really inspire confidence. At 59-103, they were the worst team in the National League in 2023. They did little to improve in 2024 outside trading for Cal Quantrill. Kris Bryant seems to be in a better mindset heading into the 2024 season and the Rockies need him to have a healthy, bounce-back year if they want to surprise anyone. Besides Bryant, Colorado will also rely on Charlie Blackmon, Ryan McMahon, Brendan Rodgers, and Elias Díaz. Young players like Ezequiel Tovar and Nolan Jones will also get opportunities to prove themselves. Why can the Rockies win the World Series? Miracles happen!


Los Angeles Dodgers: You already know the answer

The Los Angeles Dodgers enter the 2024 season as the World Series favorites. They have four former MVPs in Shohei Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, and Clayton Kershaw. And in case you’ve been living under a rock this offseason, they also added Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, and Teoscar Hernández. It’s clear to see why the Dodgers are the favorite.

The nature of the 162-game season is that nothing ever happens exactly as teams hope, so I’ll play devil’s advocate for a minute. The Dodgers’ pitching staff is kind of sketchy. Ohtani will not pitch in 2024 because of his elbow surgery. Kershaw will miss at least the first half of the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Walker Buehler is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery with an expected return in mid-to-late April. Glasnow has a lengthy injury history, and it appears there’ll be an adjustment period for Yamamoto.

But honestly, even with these considerations, the Dodgers are my pick to win the World Series.


Miami Marlins: Magic Mel

The Miami Marlins made an improbable postseason appearance in 2023. They had luck on their side, going 33-14 in one-run games. In his first ever season at the helm, Skip Schumaker won NL Manager of the Year. He mixed and matched his pinch hitters very well; the team’s 115 wRC+ from pinch hitters was third-best in the game. Schumaker and his staff were also superb in deciding when to use their replay challenges. The Marlins were incredibly lucky and Schumaker made the most of the roster he had in 2023. Miami added to that luck by signing Tim Anderson this offseason, giving the team two batting champs. (Ignore Anderson’s big decline last season, we’re thinking positive here.)

The Marlins also benefit from Mel magic. Pitching coach Mel Sottlemyre Jr. is a wizard. From Sandy Alcantara to Pablo López to Jesús Luzardo, he’s gotten the most out of his guys the last few years. Alcantara is out for the season because he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, but Luzardo is stepping up and taking on the ace role. Braxton Garrett benefited from some Mel magic in 2023 and he’ll need to take a step forward in 2024. Healthy seasons from Edward Cabrera and Trevor Rogers will be needed if the Marlins want to make a postseason push, and Eury Perez seems to have escaped a serious elbow injury. Beyond the names you know, Mel has also worked with Ryan Weathers and A.J. Puk to transition into starters for 2024. Mel’s wizardry doesn’t stop there. His biggest act was raising Sixto Sánchez from the dead, and he’s coming soon to a bullpen near you.


Milwaukee Brewers: Let the kids play (lite)

After trading Corbin Burnes to the Orioles, it’s hard to envision the Milwaukee Brewers outperforming their 2023 season. But what division do the Brewers play in? That’s right, the NL Central. Trading away your ace is not a recipe for success but it feels like Milwaukee is doing a lighter version of let the kids play. 20-year-old top prospect Jackson Chourio made the Opening Day roster after hitting .316 with a .739 OPS this spring. Chourio will join a young group of position players that includes William Contreras, Sal Frelick, Brice Turang, and Garrett Mitchell. Joining veterans Christian Yelich and Willy Adames is first baseman Rhys Hoskins.

The other side of the ball is where things get murky for Milwaukee. Burnes is gone and Brandon Woodruff, Devin Williams, and Wade Miley are all hurt. Woodruff might not pitch at all this season as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Williams will miss three months with stress fractures in his back. Miley has dealt with shoulder and groin soreness this spring and it’s unlikely he’ll be ready for Opening Day. The Brewers will need Freddy Peralta to lead the pitching staff and hope a young, explosive offense can carry them until health returns to their pitchers.


New York Mets: Alonso, Lindor, and Steve Cohen’s Checkbook

When healthy and firing on all cylinders, the top of the New York Mets lineup is one of the best in baseball. Pete Alonso is an elite power hitter and Francisco Lindor has improved his numbers in each season with the Mets, putting up a 30/30 season last year. They’ve also added veteran J.D. Martinez who will presumably hit behind Alonso, providing him with some lineup protection. In Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos, the Mets also have a few young hitters they’re counting on to take a step forward in 2024.

New York will start the season without Kodai Senga which is a huge blow, but he appears to be making progress from his shoulder strain and should be back sooner rather than later. José Quintana gets the Opening Day nod with Luis Severino, Sean Manaea, and Adrian Houser behind him. Getting Edwin Diaz and his lethal fastball/slider combination back is a tremendous boost for the bullpen. Although the Mets didn’t make any big, splashy moves this offseason, they’re in a good spot to contend for a Wild Card. Also, knowing they have an owner who will have no hesitation to go for it at the trade deadline if they’re in it makes me optimistic we’ll see a better Mets team in 2024.


Philadelphia Phillies: ~vibes~

Those of us active on baseball Twitter know the Philadelphia Phillies run on vibes, and we all saw the run they made in 2022. The nucleus of that team remains in 2024. Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, and Nick Castellanos are still there, and they added Trea Turner to the mix. Bryson Stott and Alec Bohm have also improved since 2022.

Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, both superb starters for the 2022 squad, continue to provide the Phillies with one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball. Cristopher Sánchez is another pitcher to watch and might be on the cusp of a breakout season. As Jake Crumpler noted earlier this month, PLV loves Sánchez. His sinker earns a ton of called strikes (28.3%, 91st percentile) and changeup gets a ton of whiffs (43.0%, 92nd percentile). As Crumpler mentioned, Sánchez slider is his worst pitch but he had success with it by stealing strikes early in counts. These three pitches gave him a 58.0% GB% (98th percentile), making the lefty one of the best ground ball pitchers in baseball last season.

A really good team + immaculate vibes = a World Series-bound Phillies? As a Marlins fan, I hope not!


Pittsburgh Pirates: This is the year of Hayes and Cruz

Ke’Bryan Hayes took a huge step forward for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. He finally started hitting the ball in the air more, posting an above-average 7.4% barrel rate and 36.0% hard contact rate (8th-best among qualified hitters). Putting the ball in the air while maintaining hard contact boosted his IPA% to 32.4% (also 8th-best among qualified hitters). He really hit his stride about mid-way into 2023, so I’m really excited to see how he starts off in 2024. He’s already looked great in spring training, hitting .391 with three doubles, three home runs, and four strikeouts in 48 plate appearances.

A broken ankle kept Oneil Cruz out for nearly the entire 2023, but he’ll remind us why he’s a star in 2024. Cruz is hitting .293 with seven home runs this spring. He had a two-homer game a few weeks ago where he hit a 412-foot home run that left the bat at 116.6 mph and one inning later hit a 434-foot home run at 114.4 mph. I’m so ready for this duo to catapult the Pirates back into relevancy.


San Diego Padres: A lineup full of shortstops + a top-10 rotation? Why not!

What do Fernando Tatis Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, and Jackson Merrill have in common? They’re all shortstops who won’t be playing shortstop for the San Diego Padres. Ha-Seong Kim, who won a Gold Glove in 2023, will be the shortstop playing shortstop. Confused yet? Tatis moved to right field last year and also won a Gold Glove. Bogaerts is playing second, Machado third, and Merrill center. As long as they’re serviceable on defense and hit the way we know they can, why not?

Although they lost Blake Snell, Seth Lugo, and Michael Wacha, a trio that combined for 82 starts and one NL Cy Young in 2023, the Padres’ rotation still seems ok. Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove are still there and joining them will be Dylan Cease. Although he wasn’t as good in 2023 as he was in 2022, Cease’s 27.3% K% and 14.4% SwStr% were top-20 among qualified starters. A better defense behind him certainly doesn’t hurt either. Also in the rotation are Michael King and Jhony Brito, two pitchers the Padres got in return for Juan Soto.


San Francisco Giants: They had us in the first half!

The San Francisco Giants offseason started really slow. The only significant move they made prior to the new year was signing international free agent Jung Hoo Lee. A 25-year-old centerfielder, Lee won the KBO MVP in 2022. He has a contact-focused approach and walked more than he struck out in his last five seasons in the KBO. Although Lee projects to be an above-average centerfielder, being the Giants’ only significant move for much of the offseason was a disappointment considering what the division rival Dodgers did.

That was until the Giants stepped on the gas in mid-February. They signed designated hitter Jorge Soler, third baseman Matt Chapman, and 2023 NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell in the span of five weeks. Before these three moves, PECOTA projected the Giants to win 81 games in 2024; since they signed Snell, PECOTA projects the Giants to win between 85-86 games. Although that leaves them far behind the Dodgers, the recent acquisitions give them a real chance to get in via the Wild Card. And entering the playoffs with Snell and Logan Webb at the front of the rotation puts them in a pretty good spot to make a postseason run.


St. Louis Cardinals: It’s the NL Central

The St. Louis Cardinals have veterans Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Willson Contreras to set the tone. Jordan Walker feels primed for a breakout season and they can still expect above-average production from Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan. Getting Tommy Edman and Lars Nootbaar back from the IL will help too. The Cardinals lineup doesn’t jump out at you as a really good one, but they don’t really have any glaring holes.

If you asked me to sum up St. Louis’ 2024 pitching staff in a few words, it’d be “older and wiser.” Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson are 36 years old, Miles Mikolas is 35, Sonny Gray (starting on the IL with a strained hamstring) is 34, and Steven Matz is 32. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out for them but hey, it’s the NL Central.


Washington Nationals: Miracles happen! (Part 2)

In his 10 Bold Predictions for 2024, one of Ben Pernick’s hot takes was that CJ Abrams will outproduce Trea Turner. If the Washington Nationals somehow make the postseason and push themselves to the World Series, it’ll be because Abrams put the team on his back. The Nationals’ lineup is all unproven players and crossed fingers. Besides Abrams, Joey Meneses, Keibert Ruiz, Luis Garcia, Riley Adams, and Stone Garrett all have roughly two or fewer years of service time. Then there’s veterans Joey Gallo, Jesse Winker, and Eddie Rosario, so cross your fingers. Starting pitchers Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore are a combination of pitchers with both flaws and upside, but barring a miracle, I’m not sure this team will be very competitive in 2024.



Photo by Jimmy Conover/Unsplash | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)

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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