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The Atlanta Braves have won five consecutive NL East titles entering 2023 and are the clear favorite to win a sixth straight division. However, I think there could be a changing of the guard this season.
The New York Mets won 101 games in 2022 (the same as the Braves) and got better this offseason by inking future Hall-of-Fame ace Justin Verlander to a 2-year deal.
Furthermore, the NL East’s 3rd-place team last season — Philadelphia Phillies — were two games away from winning the whole thing and signed an MVP contender, SS Trea Turner, this winter.
Both New York and Philadelphia got bit by the injury big in Spring Training but still have the rosters to compete. The Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals on the other hand do not.
NL East Odds (DraftKings Sportsbook)
- 2022 record: 101-61, 1st place in the NL East. Eliminated 3-1 in the 2022 NLDS by the Phillies.
- World Series odds: +750.
- NL Pennant: +370.
- NL East: +105.
- To make the playoffs: Yes: -550, No: +425.
- 94.5 Regular-season wins: Over: -110, Under: -110.
Braves superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. has the 2nd-best odds to win the NL MVP (+850) and leads off the league’s best lineup, which is mostly under contract.
Behind Acuna is 3B Austin Riley, 1B Matt Olsen, CF Michael Harris II, and 2B Ozzie Albies. Riley, Olsen and Albies are All-Stars and Harris won 2022 NL Rookie of the Year.
Atlanta will have a top-five rotation in the NL once starting RHP Kyle Wright makes his 2023 debut after a short stint on the IL to start the year.
Braves ace Max Fried is 7th in WAR among NL starters with a minimum of 200 innings pitched since 2020. Hard-throwing righty Spencer Strider has some of the nastiest stuff in MLB and finished 2nd for the 2022 NL Rookie of the Year.
The Braves added RHP Joe Jimenez and crafty LHP Lucas Luetge to a bullpen that ranked 4th in MLB both ERA and WHIP and 3rd in K/9.
Lefty A.J. Minter steps into the closer role with Kenley Jansen shipping off to Boston. This is addition by subtraction. Minter is FanGraphs’ 9th power ranked relief pitcher in MLB and Jansen always puts runners on in the 9th inning.
I have no objection to the Braves being the favorite to win the NL East or the Pennant. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll have any season-long bets on Atlanta.
The MLB season is too long and I don’t like tying my money up in even-money futures. When betting baseball futures, I’m looking for long-shots.
PASS ON BRAVES FUTURES.
New York Mets
- 2022 record: 101-61, 2nd in the NL East. Eliminated 2-1 in the 2022 NLWCS by the Padres.
- World Series odds: +950.
- NL Pennant: +475.
- NL East: +170.
- To make the playoffs: Yes: -380, No: +310.
- 91.5 Regular-season wins: Over: -115, Under: -105.
The Mets signing Verlander this offseason was an upgrade despite Verlander being 40 years old. Jacob deGrom has the best stuff in baseball but Verlander is infinitely more reliable.
Max Scherzer and Verlander are as good as a 1-2 punch as any in MLB. Scherzer’s 2.29 ERA last season is a career-best and Verlander won the 2022 AL Cy Young. Age is obviously a concern for both.
I like what I see from 30-year-old rookie Mets starting RHP Kodai Senga who comes from the Japanese leagues. Senga’s fastball tops out a 99 mph and he has this crazy “ghost” forkball as a K-pitch.
New York’s relief pitching is its biggest question mark, especially after All-Star closer RHP Edwin Diaz suffered a season-ending injury in the World Baseball Classic. But, the Mets’ relief pitching was solid last year.
They were 10th in ERA, 9th in WHIP and 2nd in K/9 and added two quality arms to the bullpen: RHP David Robertson as the new closer and LHP Brooks Raley. Overall, NYM’s pitching staff has a top-five ceiling and top-10 floor.
New York’s lineup projects to be top-five in MLB. The Mets were 1st in wRC+, 2nd in wOBA, and 3rd in WAR after the All-Star break last season, per FanGraphs.
The Mets have a dynamic balance of left-, right-, and switch-hitters. Mets 1B Pete Alonso is one of the best power hitters in MLB and there are potentially four other All-Star-caliber hitters in the lineup.
BEST BET: New York Mets (+170) to win the NL East
Ultimately, NYM’s roster is too good and 2nd-year manager Buck Showalter is the perfect guy for this clubhouse. The Mets opened as favorites (+110) to win the NL East. To go from +110 to +170 based on Diaz’s injury is a little dramatic.
The Braves running the Mets down to win the NL East last year and NYM’s 2-1 NLDS loss to the Padres left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Atlanta was the defending World Series champs and San Diego is one of the most talented rosters in MLB.
However, New York won 101 games mostly without deGrom. Not only did the Mets replace an ace with an ace but Verlander brings World Series-moxie to the clubhouse and he’s a proven big-game pitcher.
- 2022 record: 87-75, 3rd place in the NL East. Lost 4-2 in the World Series to the Astros.
- World Series odds: +1800.
- NL Pennant: +900.
- NL East: +425.
- To make the playoffs: Yes: -170, No: +145.
- 88.5 Regular-season wins: Over: +105, Under: -125.
Philly should be one of the six NL playoff teams but I’m not laying -170 for a full season. The Phillies’ NL Pennant price is sharp and their World Series odds are a little low.
They signed SS Trea Turner to a massive deal this offseason. Turner is tied with Acuna for the 2nd-best odds to win the NL MVP at +850. Behind Turner in the lineup is lefty slugger Kyle Schwarber and 3-time All-Star C J.T. Realmuto.
That said, Bryce Harper will be out until at least mid-June after getting Tommy John surgery this offseason and 1B Rhys Hoskins tore his ACL in Spring Training.
Philadelphia’s lineup should be elite once Harper returns yet is definitely behind the Braves and Mets for now.
I lean OVER 88.5 for the Phillies’ regular-season win total since they made the World Series last year, their roster improved and 1.5 wins above 87 in 2022 isn’t too much to ask for.
But, I’m staying away from Philly futures because of the pitching. There is too big of a dropoff in the starting rotation from Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.
I’m not convinced Philly’s additions to the bullpen (Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto) can make up for that. The Phillies’ relief pitching ranked 23rd in ERA and 25th in WHIP last season.
Philly’s +425 to win the NL East isn’t a fat enough payout considering how strong I feel about the Braves and Mets.
PASS ON PHILLIES FUTURES.
- 2022 record: 69-93, 4th place in NL East.
- World Series odds: +7500.
- NL Pennant: +3500.
- NL East: +2000.
- To make the playoffs: Yes: +320, No: -400.
- 76.5 Regular-season wins: Over: -110, Under: -110.
Miami has the 22nd-biggest payroll in MLB (according to Spotrac) and the 18th-ranked farm system (according to ESPN). I’m not sure the Marlins are even trying to win.
They traded starting RHP Pablo Lopez this offseason to the Twins for 2B Luis Arraez. Lopez is Minnesota’s Opening Day starter. He was Miami’s 2nd-best starter behind 2022 NL Cy Young Sandy Alcantara who has little help in the rotation.
Arraez is the only everyday player ranked inside FanGraphs’ top-150. The Marlins were 27th in batting average, 24th in home runs, and 27th in OPS last season. A majority of their lineup is older than 30 as well.
The most important things I consider when handicapping season-long futures is a teams’ bullpen and depth. Miami’s bullpen ERA was 22nd and 27th in WHIP. The Marlins don’t have a lot of talent to call up to The Show.
Miami won 69 games last season so the question is “Did the Marlins improve by 7.5 wins this offseason?” The answer is a resounding “No”.
BET: Miami UNDER 76.5 wins (-110)
- 2022 record: 55-107
- World Series odds: +50000.
- NL Pennant: +25000.
- NL East: +25000.
- To make the playoffs: Yes: +2500, No: -10000.
- 59.5 Regular-season wins: Over: +2500, Under: -10000.
I watch a lot of baseball and I don’t know who most of Washington’s lineup is. None of the Nationals starting everyday players are inside FanGraphs top-120.
Washington has the 13th-best farm system, per ESPN, so there’s a glimmer for hope. Maybe for next year though because I don’t see any for 2023.
The Nationals’ bullpen was 22nd in WAR last season and their starters were dead-last by a wide margin. The next closest team to Washington’s -1.1 starting pitching WAR was the Athletics at 3.5.
Washington’s 2023 Opening Day starter, Patrick Corbin, was 6-19 last season with a 6.31 ERA and an auto-fade whenever he was on the mound. Ace Stephen Strasburg will start the year on the 60-day IL. He has only made eight starts since the beginning of 2020.
The front office didn’t add big names to the rotation and Washington is hoping LHP MacKenzie Gore becomes the ace. The Nationals acquired Gore from the Padres in the Juan Soto trade.
While I cannot make an argument Washington got better this offseason, it’s hard for a team to lose 100+ in back-to-back years. The Nationals’ long odds this season explains how far this team has to go to be relevant.
PASS ON NATIONALS FUTURES.
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