Throughout the offseason the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff.. This week we’re going to tackle the NL East.
Now that the Mets didn’t land Carlos Correa, who is the team to beat in the NL East?
R.J. Anderson: You can’t go wrong here. The Braves are the reigning divisional champions (who added a top-flight catcher); the Mets have as much star power as any team in the majors; and the Phillies won the National League pennant before signing Trea Turner — not to mention they have Andrew Painter on the way. I guess if I had to choose, I’d say the Braves, but again, this is going to be a heck of a three-team race all summer long.
Dayn Perry: In terms of the divisional face, I see the Mets and Braves being a step ahead of the Phillies even with the Turner acquisition. I’m going to narrowly lean Mets thanks to the work done in the rotation and the potential of a full season from Francisco Alvarez at catcher. That position was a major weak spot for the Mets in 2022 and it figures to be improved with Alvarez as the primary beginning at some point in 2023. Beyond that, the underrated Omar Narváez is also in the fold. Circling back, the NL East once again looks like a coin flip between the Mets and Braves, so neither outcome would surprise me in the slightest.
Matt Snyder: I really like the improvements the Phillies have made, but they were 14 games worse in the regular season than two other teams here and also have to deal with Bryce Harper’s absence for a few months to start next season. That means it’s the Braves and Mets. If the Mets get to the postseason firing on all cylinders, they could well win the World Series, but over the course of the entire regular season, I like the Braves’ roster depth better. Plus, that’s an awfully old rotation for the Mets. It’s always a tall order to keep everyone healthy for 162, but the concern is amplified with those ages. I might like the Mets better in the playoffs, once we get there, but for now the Braves are the regular-season pick.
Mike Axisa: With all due respect Matt, I don’t think the 14-game difference in the standings last year reflected the quality of that Phillies team. The Phillies played at a 95-win pace after replacing Joe Girardi with Rob Thomson, and they had roughly the same record as the Mets the rest of the season. It was a very different team the final two-thirds of the season (and of course into the postseason). They replaced Jean Segura and Zach Eflin with Trea Turner and Taijuan Walker this offseason, and added to the bullpen a bit, so I think they’re improved even with Harper set to miss a good chunk of time to begin 2023.
That all said, I do think the Phillies are a step behind the Braves and Mets, though the gap isn’t nearly as big as last year’s standings would indicate. I’m going to lean Braves over Mets right now because there is a good deal of age-related risk in New York’s rotation, and I feel better about Atlanta’s offense even without Dansby Swanson. The Braves have a significant power advantage over the Mets, it was obvious in their head-to-head meetings last year, and I don’t think Narváez and a full season of Daniel Vogelbach is enough to close the gap. I have the Braves as the best team in the NL East by a win or two right now, on Jan. 12 (FanGraphs projections agree).