For the rest of March, I’ll be taking a look at the Opening Day true talent rankings of the 30 MLB clubs by division. While the rankings are based on actual 2022 batted ball data, offseason player movement and the potential impact of 2023 rookies will be addressed. Yesterday, we started it with AL East; today, we move to the NL East.
1 – Atlanta Braves – “Tru” Talent Record = 104-58 = Offense = 116.6 (1st), Pitching Rating = 88.3 (4th), Defensive Rating = 98.5 (11th); IN: C Sean Murphy; OUT: RHP Jake Odorizzi, C William Contreras, RHP Kenley Jansen, SS Dansby Swanson, LF Robbie Grossman
It’s been an offseason of sorts for the Braves, moving on from the players above while dealing much of their one-star prospect, A’s catcher Sean Murphy. The club is counting on the full return to health of young star signing Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, a solid encore performance from Rookie of the Year Michael Harris and MLB-readiness from SS Vaughn Grissom . The strength of this club remains their offense, and while it should remain strong, there are some high-variance pieces in place.
This bunch is all about winning now. Their front four of Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton could be the best in the game and the oft-injured Mike Soroka could also help. Bullpen depth may be a concern compared to years past, though Raisel Iglesias should be a worthy replacement for Jansen.
One potential issue here – the minor league locker is as bare as it has been in recent memory. Plan B and C are not attractive this time. LHP Jared Shuster lacks impact but has an advanced feel for pitching. The Braves’ player development machine has had success with their draft, though it sometimes takes a while for everything to click.
2 – New York Mets – “Tru” Talent Record = 95-67 – Offense = 106.2 (9th), Pitching Rating = 89.2 (5th), Defensive Rating = 100.2 (18th) – IN: RHP Justin Verlander , RHP Kodai Senga, LHP Jose Quintana, C Omar Narvaez, LHP Brooks Raley, LF Tommy Pham; OUT: RHP Jacon deGrom, RHP Chris Bassitt, RHP Taijuan Walker, RHP Trevor May, RHP Seth Lugo, RHP Trevor Williams, C James McCann, LF Dominic Smith
Are we really sure this will be a great team? Not signing Carlos Correa finally gives them a completely different look than expected. On the pitching side, their upside remains significant, though the cast of characters has changed a lot. Verlander is great but has to go down someday, Senga’s adjustment to a new culture and level of competition carries some risks, and Quintana has been sidelined with a rib injury this week. The bullpen also looks a little light behind Edwin Diaz for a team with such a high salary.
But my biggest concerns are on the running front. The production of Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso can be largely written off, but the quantity of Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte and the quality of most of the rest of their lineup is of some concern. Jeff McNeill is a good hitter, but he’s not your typical batting title champion – his batted ball data just doesn’t support it. Eduardo Escobar is a big step below Correa, Mark Canha is the fourth OF on a great team, and a team with high aspirations shouldn’t be running Omar Narvaez behind the plate.
The farm system, which is top heavy and heavily skewed toward the position player, may need to be relied upon heavily. Francisco Alvarez should move Narvaez relatively quickly and provide power, and 3Bs Brett Baty and Mark Vientos are both near MLB ready and offer power potential and at least strong corner defense. One could move to LF and compete for playing time there. 2023 could be a transition year for both New York clubs, which I’m sure isn’t exactly what their fans want to hear.
3 – Philadelphia Phillies – “Tru” Talent Record = 89-73 – Offense = 109.1 (7th), Pitching Rating = 94.1 (9th), Defensive Rating = 105.3 (27th) – IN: SS Trea Turner, RHP Taijuan Walker, Craig Kimbrel, LHP Gregory Soto, LHP Matt Strahm, UT Josh Harrison; OUT: 3B Jean Segura, RHP Kyle Gibson, RHP Zach Eflin, RHP David Robertson, RHP Noah Syndergaard, UT Matt Vierling, UT NIck Maton
Last fall was a wild, exciting ride for the Phillies and their fans, almost culminating in a World Series title. Before the Delaware Valley came down from their collective high. the club went out and signed arguably the best player in the free agent market, SS Trea Turner. If there was any earlier doubt, that and the almost sole focus on strengthening the team’s long-standing Achilles heel made their focus on the win-now clear.
The problem is that there is no surefire relief pitcher, at least outside of Edwin Diaz, Emmanuel Clase and maybe a few others. The Phils also extended existing shortstops Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez, increasing their investment in the back end. I expect their pen to be compensated better, but not necessarily much better.
So is their rotation – I’ll take the departed Zach Eflin over Taijuan Walker any day, though the latter might be a bit more confident of getting the ball every fifth day for six months. I also think the Phils will miss Vierling and Maton a bit more than one would think – they were Plan B or C at a bunch of positions. As for Turner, he’ll be great in the short to mid-term, which is something an article like this can focus on.
The farm is top heavy and concern over big RHP Andrew Painter is a front page topic in Philly right now. He has young Dwight Gooden on the upside, but the delay in word on his status is troubling. Mick Abel and Griff McGarry are also interesting starting prospects, but they are not Painters. On the position player side, I find 2B Hao-Yu Lee to be the most intriguing. He has the sense of hitting beyond his years.
4 – Miami Marlins – “Tru” Talent Record = 71-91 – Offense Rating = 92.5 (23rd), Pitching Rating = 99.1 (15th), Defensive Rating = 105.4 (28th); IN: 1B Luis Arraez, 3B Jean Segura, RHP Johnny Cueto, LHP AJ Puk, RHP Matt Barnes; OUT: RHP Pablo Lopez, SS Miguel Rojas, CF Adam Duvall, 3B Brian Anderson, CF JJ Bleday, LHP Richard Bleier
There are two teams in baseball that I struggle to wrap my head around each season – the Colorado Rockies and the Miami Marlins. The former has no excuse that he can’t build a good offensive club in his home park, but he can’t, and the latter has no excuse that he can’t build a good run prevention club in his home park , but it can”. do not do it. That criticism aside, I think the Marlins will figure it out before the Cubs.
Obviously, Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara is the #1 building block. And even though Lopez is gone like Zach Gallen before him, once Sixto Sanchez is nothing more than a lottery pick at this point, and Trevor Rodgers took a big step back last season, there are still potential top performers. . Eury Perez is still a teenager and is right up there in the conversation with Andrew Painter and Grayson Rodriguez in the best pitching prospect in baseball discussions. Edward Cabrera and Jesus Luzardo hold high upside, while Cueto is just a placeholder at this stage of his career.
I’m still not sure how this team will score. Segura and Arraez aren’t exactly big boppers – it will take a lot of singles to put up enough runs for this team to contend with. They desperately need Jazz Chisholm to take his new center position, stay healthy and become an offensive force. That’s asking too much.
It doesn’t help that most of the short-term farm help is on the infield side, with righty Max Meyer and lefty Dax Fulton slotting in behind Perez in the order,
5 – Washington Nationals – “Tru” Talent Record = 64-98 – Offense = 94.8 (19th), Pitching Rating = 116.9 (29th), Defensive Rating = 100.3 (19th); IN: 3B Jeimer Candelario, 1B Dominic Smith, RHP Trevor Williams; OUT: DH Nelson Cruz, CF Michael A. Taylor
This is the closest thing to a modern tank job in this sport, and we’re right at or just past the end of the sensational run. The club made some deadline deals to acquire some flashy talent, and now they just have to see if SS CJ Abrams and outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood can live up to the hype. Although he’s only 21 years old, Abrams’ complete lack of discipline was a bit scary last season and gave me pause. Hassell and Wood have comparable pedigrees, with the former an accomplished journeyman and the latter an explosive 6’7”, 240 athlete who could develop into some serious power. The Nats desperately need to hit these guys to justify trading first baseman Juan Soto.
Most of their 2023 additions are worthy restoration projects with at least some potential to regain their former glory. Just a few years ago, few could have seen starters Candelario and Smith becoming freely available, and Williams looked pretty good in a more limited role with the Mets last season.
Obviously, Hassell and Wood are the names to watch on the farm, but righty Cade Cavalli and lefty Mackenzie Gore are expected to break camp in the starting rotation. They and youngster Josiah Gray may still have some pieces to do, but the Nats are in a position to be patient.
One final note Nat – I’m still not giving up on 2B Luis Garcia, another young (turns 23 in May) rookie with pop and exciting raw tools. He just might be the guy who finds other gear after getting 1000 developmental MLB at bats.
Next week the two central sections.