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2024 MLB Season Preview: National League

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There are at least another eight months of “World Series champion Texas Rangers,” and as a long-suffering Rangers fan, I’m going to soak up those eight months of the 2024 MLB season like mad. The Rangers might win again! They also might win 70 games. Either way, I don’t care, because I remember jumping around my living room on the first night of November celebrating my favorite team winning the title for the first time ever.

 

Someone is going to get to do that this year. Maybe someone new, maybe not. Either way, we are less than eight months away from some fandom running around its collective living room in celebration, and that’s just great.

So as we speed toward the start of the 2024 baseball season, today and tomorrow I’m going to look at every team around the league and consider the best- and worst-case scenario for each one. National League today, American League Tuesday.

2024 Major League Baseball Preview: National League

NL East

Atlanta Braves

2023 results: 104-58, NL East champion, lost in NLDS
Biggest additions: Jarred Kelenic, Adam Duvall, Chris Sale, Reynaldo López, Aaron Bummer, David Fletcher, Luis Guillorme
Biggest subtractions: Vaughn Grissom, Braden Shewmake, Nicky Lopez, Michael Soroka, Jared Shuster, Kirby Yates, Kolby Allard, Eddie Rosario, Brad Hand, Jesse Chavez

Best-Case Scenario

Jarred Kelenic finally realizes his prospect promise. Ronald Acuña goes from 41-73 to a 50-75 season and back-to-back MVPs. Chris Sale shows the vintage ability he displayed in his White Sox days, giving the Braves three Cy Young-caliber starters. Reynaldo López takes to the rotation like gangbusters. The Braves run away with the East at 111-51 and coast to a World Series title.

Worst-Case Scenario

All the work Acuna has done starts to catch up to him, and he misses a month or so of the season. Kelenic proves to be only a platoon bat at best, while Marcell Ozuna’s strong 2023 was just a dead-cat bounce. Sale is actually done, Lopez can’t handle a starting role, and Charlie Morton collapses at age 40. There’s no reasonable way for the Braves to be bad, but they go 86-76 and fall behind the Phillies in the East, only nabbing a wild card and bowing out of the postseason quickly.

Funniest Scenario

Acuna scuffles, putting up a fine-but-not-spectacular season. But Matt Olson hits 55 home runs, Austin Riley hits 52, and even Ozzie Albies flirts with 40. The Braves succeed despite Acuna’s disappointment, and then Kelenic knocks the Mets out of the playoffs and wins World Series MVP over the Mariners.

Actual Prediction

99-63, NL East champion, lose in NLCS

Philadelphia Phillies

2023 results: 90-72, second in NL East, No. 1 Wild Card, lost in NLCS
Biggest additions: Whit Merrifield, Spencer Turnbull, Kolby Allard
Biggest subtractions: Rhys Hoskins, Craig Kimbrel, Josh Fleming, Michael Lorenzen, Scott Kingery

Best-Case Scenario
<img src="https://d2y4ihze0bzr5g.cloudfront.net/source/2020/Bryce_Harper.jpg" alt="

Trea Turner and Bryce Harper both play like MVPs. Nick Castellanos still can’t field very well, but Kyle Schwarber moving to DH saves the outfield defense. Rolling back the starting rotation works just fine, with Aaron Nola continuing his good-every-other-year trend to be a Cy Young candidate. José Alvarado is an elite closer as the Phillies jump the Braves to go 95-67, win the East and claw and fight their way to the World Series.

Worst-Case Scenario

Someone else (Alec Bohm perhaps?) has another arm injury that forces him to DH, sending Schwarber back to the outfield yet again and ensuring more fielding adventures. Aaron Nola turns out to be more 2021 (4.63 ERA) or 2023 (4.46) than 2022 (3.25), while Trea Turner is more “first half of 2023” (.687 OPS) than second half (.902). The Phillies fall short of the playoffs at 80-82.

Funniest Scenario

Nick Castellanos goes down, and the Phillies have to roll with an outfield of Brandon Marsh, Johan Rojas and Cristian Pache. They have the best outfield defense of all time and a combined OPS of .614.

Actual Prediction

88-74, second in NL East, No. 1 Wild Card, lose in NLDS

New York Mets

2023 results: 75-87, fourth in NL East
Biggest additions: Ji Man Choi, Harrison Bader, Luis Severino, Sean Manaea, Adrian Houser, Joey Wendle, Tyrone Taylor, Jake Diekman, Shintaro Fujinami, Jorge López, Sean Reid-Foley
Biggest subtractions: Daniel Vogelbach, Cooper Hummel, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Gott, Luis Guillorme, David Robertson, Abraham Almonte

Best-Case Scenario

Kodai Senga recovers quickly and builds on last year’s debut. Harrison Bader remembers when he could kind of hit. Pete Alonso goes into free agency with an MVP performance. Luis Severino pitches as many innings as he did in 2019-2023 combined (209.1!), as the Mets grab a wild card berth at 89-73 and make it to the NLCS.

Worst-Case Scenario

Alonso’s dip in hard-hit numbers wasn’t a blip, it was the start of aging for a guy with a doesn’t-age-well skillset. Senga doesn’t pitch all year, and Severino spends a good chunk of the season hanging out on the IL with him. The Mets ace is somehow Sean Manaea, which is exactly as bad as it sounds, and the team goes 69-93.

Funniest Scenario

A year after spending a bajillion dollars and failing miserably, the Mets roll into July in a battle for first place in the East. The team trades for three different big contracts at the deadline … and then goes into a tailspin and misses the playoffs.

Actual Prediction

81-81, third in NL East

Miami Marlins

2023 results: 84-78, third in NL East, No. 2 Wild Card, lost in NLWCS
Biggest additions: Tim Anderson, Christian Bethancourt, Vidal Bruján, Nick Gordon, Declan Cronin
Biggest subtractions: Jorge Soler, Jacob Stallings, Joey Wendle, Garrett Hampson, Johnny Cueto, Steven Okert

Best-Case Scenario

The ex-White Sox contingent (Jake Burger, Tim Anderson, Avisaíl García) all have their best years in a while, with Garcia and Burger combining for 55 homers and Anderson bouncing back to an OPS in the .800 range. The A.J. Puk-to-the-rotation experiment works out, while Eury Pérez wins the Cy Young. The Marlins go 87-75, nab the second wild card and win a playoff series.

Worst-Case Scenario

Burger’s power bat disappears, and the Marlins set a 21st-century, non-pandemic-season record with only 90 team home runs. Puk can’t handle the rotation, Tanner Scott can’t handle the closer role, and Perez gets innings-limited to a less consequential role. The Marlins follow up a playoff berth with a 74-88 season and remind everyone of their Marlinsness as they start to sell off any usable parts.

Funniest Scenario
<img src="https://d2y4ihze0bzr5g.cloudfront.net/source/2020/Jazz_Chisholm.jpg" alt="

Anderson really is done, and instead of finally playing Jazz Chisholm in his natural position, the Marlins put … Christian Bethancourt or someone at shortstop. Just keep moving people around. Meanwhile, yes, the team sets a power-drought record, while the pitching staff is elite. Marlins games feature more than a run less than any other team’s games.

Actual Prediction

75-87, fourth in NL East

Washington Nationals

2023 results: 71-91, fifth in NL East
Biggest additions: Joey Gallo, Eddie Rosario, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Derek Law, Dylan Floro, Robert Gsellman
Biggest subtractions: Dominic Smith, Carl Edwards, Michael Chavis

Best-Case Scenario

CJ Abrams, Lane Thomas, Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore put it together enough to give the team visions of a playoff berth in 2025 or 2026. Joey Gallo remembers how to hit even a little. Patrick Corbin is only a little bad, not “lol.” The Nationals go 76-86.

Worst-Case Scenario

Abrams’ breakout season, which was still only a 95 OPS+, was a mirage, and he slides back to a .280 OBP. Corbin puts up a 5.50 ERA … and is still the Nationals’ best starter. Everything that isn’t nailed down gets shipped out at the deadline as the team goes 56-106.

Funniest Scenario

Keibert Ruiz and Carter Kieboom both play well enough for some enterprising headline writers to desperately try to form some sort of nickname out of Keibert and Kieboom and fail miserably at every attempt. The Nationals finish not-last.

Actual Prediction

61-101, fifth in NL East

NL East Standings

Team Wins Losses Pct. GB
Atlanta Braves 99 63 .611
Philadelphia Phillies 88 74 .543 11
New York Mets 81 81 .500 18
Miami Marlins 75 87 .463 24
Washington Nationals 61 101 .377 38
https://ftnfantasy.com/pricing

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

2023 results: 83-79, second in NL Central
Biggest additions: Michael Busch, Garrett Cooper, Shota Imanaga, Hector Neris, Yency Almonte
Biggest subtractions: Jeimer Candelario, Marcus Stroman, Michael Fulmer

Best-Case Scenario

Justin Steele, NL Cy Young. Cody Bellinger, NL MVP. Michael Busch, NL Rookie of the Year. Craig Counsell, NL Manager of the Year. Adbert Alzolay, NL Rolaids Relief Man (that award doesn’t actually exist anymore). Cubs go 93-69, win the NL Central and lose in the NLCS.

Worst-Case Scenario

Bellinger reminds us why the Dodgers nontendered him like 17 months ago. Steele can’t come close to replicating his 2023 season. The Cubs have like four or five guys with closer ability, which means they don’t have a closer. Bellinger’s struggles leave the team with a bunch of average-or-worse hitters and no one special as they go 75-87 and finish in fourth.

Funniest Scenario

Injuries force Drew Smyly into the rotation, and someone drops balloons for the 50th consecutive season in which that has happened to some team.

Actual Prediction

87-75, NL Central champion, lose in NLWCS

Cincinnati Reds

2023 results: 82-80, third in NL Central
Biggest additions: Jeimer Candelario, Tony Kemp, Frankie Montas, Nick Martinez, Emilio Pagán, Brent Suter
Biggest subtractions: Hunter Renfroe, Harrison Bader, Joey Votto, Nick Senzel, Ben Lively, Wil Myers

Best-Case Scenario

Elly De La Cruz maintains the electricity of his rookie year while dropping the 33.7% K rate, resulting in a season that looks good and actually is good. The pitching staff finds a way to each take a step forward (Frankie Montas stays healthy, Hunter Greene gets the walks in check, Nick Martinez … does some non-Nick Martinez things). Noelvi Marte uses the rest he garners from his suspension to be a difference-maker down the stretch as the Reds go 90-72, win the Central and make it to the division series.

Worst-Case Scenario

The pitching staff predictably crumbles (why haven’t we made fun of the Reds for not signing Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery, exactly?), while De La Cruz creates 200 highlights but puts together a .280 OBP. There’s a bunch of average hitters here with no one much above that, and the Reds go 75-87 and finish in fourth.

Funniest Scenario

Jeimer Candelario puts up a 6-WAR season, while the myriad other infielders come up short, to make all those Twitter people (me definitely included!) who criticized the signing look silly.

Actual Prediction

85-77, second in NL Central, No. 3 Wild Card, lose in NLWCS

Milwaukee Brewers

2023 results: 92-70, NL Central champion, lost in NLWCS
Biggest additions: Rhys Hoskins, Joey Ortiz, Gary Sánchez, Jake Bauers, Jakob Junis, DL Hall, Taylor Clarke, Joe Ross
Biggest subtractions: Corbin Burnes, Abraham Toro, Adrian Houser, Tyrone Taylor, Victor Caratini, Carlos Santana, Andrew Chafin, Rowdy Tellez, Jesse Winker, Eric Lauer

Best-Case Scenario
<img src="https://d2y4ihze0bzr5g.cloudfront.net/source/2020/Christian_Yelich.jpg" alt="

The Brewers are more the team that signed Rhys Hoskins than the one that sold off Corbin Burnes, adding instead of selling. The starting pitching machine keeps developing successful arms, while Devin Williams comes back strong in the second half. Christian Yelich is more 2023 Yelich than 2020-2022 Yelich. The Brewers go 88-74 while the Cubs and Reds slip, giving the Brewers a Central title and a playoff appearance.

Worst-Case Scenario

Willy Adames doesn’t even make it to Opening Day in Milwaukee, and the team gradually sells off other moving parts as it moves to a rebuild. Devin Williams doesn’t make it back at all, and the Brewers go 71-91.

Funniest Scenario

The Rays find themselves needing a shortstop and trade for Adames. The Yankees find themselves needing a catcher and trade for Gary Sánchez. The Mariners find themselves needing a pitcher and trade for Freddy Peralta. Everybody goes back to their original rosters!

Actual Prediction

82-80, third in NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals

2023 results: 71-91, fifth in NL Central
Biggest additions: Matt Carpenter, Brandon Crawford, Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn, Andrew Kittredge, Keynan Middleton, Riley O’Brien, Ryan Fernandez
Biggest subtractions: Tyler O’Neill, Richie Palacios, Andrew Knizner, Dakota Hudson

Best-Case Scenario

Maybe 2022 wasn’t the reality for Nolan Arenado, but neither was 2023, and he puts it back together at a 4-WAR clip. This aged starting rotation stays healthy and combines for 750-plus innings at a good enough ERA for the offense to help. The myriad outfielders in St. Louis finally gel into a productive unit, and they go 88-74 and sneak into the playoffs.

Worst-Case Scenario

Arenado’s bad 2023 was real decline, and Paul Goldschmidt follows him. It turns out building a rotation out of AARP members isn’t a savvy play, and the Cardinals are diving into the minor leaguers for guys who aren’t ready by May. Things really fall apart, and the team goes 64-98 and finish in last.

Funniest Scenario

Goldschmidt goes down with an injury and the Cardinals trade for Nolan Jones, giving them the closest they can get to an all-Nolan infield (there are unfortunately no current Nolan shortstops).

Actual Prediction

77-85, fourth in NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates

2023 results: 76-86, fourth in NL Central
Biggest additions: Rowdy Tellez, Edward Olivares, Yasmani Grandal, Martín Pérez, Marco Gonzales, Aroldis Chapman, Josh Fleming
Biggest subtractions: Vince Velasquez, Chris Owings

Best-Case Scenario

Henry Davis takes the move back to catcher like you’d think a first overall pick might do. Ke’Bryan Hayes builds on his offensive breakout of 2023, stays healthy and becomes a down-ballot MVP candidate. The rotation isn’t any great shakes, but it’s just good enough. The Pirates make it to 84-78 and flirt with a wild card berth.

Worst-Case Scenario

This team has Martín Pérez slated to be its No. 2 starter, guys. The worst-case scenario is bad. Andrew McCutchen is 37 and coming back from a September torn Achilles. Its catcher put up a .653 OPS as an outfielder last year. The worst-case scenario is legitimately something like 61-101.

Funniest Scenario

Oneil Cruz keeps playing like he has so far in the spring, and we get a super-cool Elly De La Cruz/Oneil Cruz ad campaign (“Cruz Control”?), with people being really confused how the Reds and Pirates of all teams get a national commercial.

Actual Prediction

70-92, fifth in NL Central

NL Central Standings

Team Wins Losses Pct. GB
Chicago Cubs 87 75 .537
Cincinnati Reds 85 77 .525 2
Milwaukee Brewers 82 80 .506 5
St. Louis Cardinals 77 85 .475 10
Pittsburgh Pirates 70 92 .432 17

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

2023 results: 100-62, NL West champion, lost in NLDS
Biggest additions: Shohei Ohtani, Teoscar Hernández, Tyler Glasnow, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, James Paxton
Biggest subtractions: Lance Lynn, J.D. Martinez, Ryan Pepiot, Jonny DeLuca, Julio Urías, Shelby Miller, Ken Giles, Amed Rosario, Caleb Ferguson, Victor González, Daniel Hudson

Best-Case Scenario

The Dodgers have 1-2-3 in the MVP voting, 1-2 in the Cy Young voting, the Rookie of the Year. Gavin Lux works out his yips, Mookie Betts takes to shortstop like he’s taken to everything else. They go 125-37 and coast through an undefeated postseason. 

Worst-Case Scenario

A surprisingly old group of position players (Lux and James Outman are the only ones under age 29) really starts to show its age, and the defensive deficiencies of a Lux-Betts-Max Muncy infield hurts. Yoshinobu Yamamoto struggles in his USA debut, while Tyler Glasnow can’t stay healthy yet again. The Dodgers scuffle (you know, relatively) to an 86-76 record, an early playoff dismissal as a wild card, and just oh so many Twitter jokes and mockery. 

Funniest Scenario

I can’t decide if 130 wins and a title would be funnier or a sub-.500 record and just all the mockery. Actually, it’s probably 130 wins and a sweep out of the postseason. Yeah, that’s the answer.

Actual Prediction

102-60, NL West champion, lose in World Series

Arizona Diamondbacks

2023 results: 84-78, second in NL West, No. 3 Wild Card, lost in World Series
Biggest additions: Joc Pederson, Eugenio Suárez, Tucker Barnhart, Randal Grichuk, Eduardo Rodriguez
Biggest subtractions: Austin Adams, Evan Longoria, Mark Melancon, Tommy Pham, Zach Davies, Dominic Fletcher, Carlos Vargas, Seby Zavala

Best-Case Scenario

The Diamondbacks are basically running it back with Eduardo Rodriguez and Joc Pederson added. The roster proves to be more team that rolled through the postseason than the No. 3 Wild Card with a losing record, and the new additions propel the team to a record of 91-71 and a trip to the NLCS.

Worst-Case Scenario

The team proves to have put too much stock in its playoff run than it did in its regular-season performance, and the additions weren’t enough. They go 78-84 and drop to a disappointing third place.

Funniest Scenario 

At some point this season, there’s a Joc Pederson/Jace Peterson confusion. I don’t know how it could play out, but still.

Actual Prediction

84-78, second in NL West, No. 2 Wild Card, lose in NLDS

San Diego Padres

2023 results: 82-80, third in NL West
Biggest additions: Dylan Cease, Kyle Higashioka, Tyler Wade, Tucupita Marcano, Michael King, Jhony Brito, Yuki Matsui, Enyel De Los Santos, Wandy Peralta, Woo-Suk Go, Luis Patiño
Biggest subtractions: Josh Hader, Juan Soto, Blake Snell, Trent Grisham, Drew Pomeranz, Rich Hill, Ji Man Choi, Garrett Cooper, Seth Lugo, Steven Wilson, Michael Wacha, Nick Martinez, Luis García, Gary Sánchez, Tim Hill, Austin Nola, Matt Carpenter, Ray Kerr, Scott Barlow

Best-Case Scenario
<img src="https://d2y4ihze0bzr5g.cloudfront.net/source/2020/Dylan_Cease.jpg" alt="

Health. The Padres still have a perfectly strong lineup and now-with-Dylan Cease rotation, but there’s not much depth. Once the injuries start, things are going to take a turn. But if this team can stay healthy, the Padres could get to a wild card berth and an 88-74 record.

Worst-Case Scenario

Jake Cronenworth hits like a little-used shortstop again … still as a first baseman. Manny Machado’s slide continues, and Ha-Seong Kim’s breakout proves to be a mirage. Cease, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove all turn out to be past their elite days. Injuries pop up and the lack of depth rears its ugly head. The team slides down to 74-88.

Funniest Scenario

The Padres trade for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and move him back to catcher so they really can roll out a lineup of guys who played shortstop at every position.

Actual Prediction

82-80, third in NL West

San Francisco Giants

2023 results: 79-83, fourth in NL West
Biggest additions: Jung Hoo Lee, Jorge Soler, Matt Chapman, Nick Ahmed, Tom Murphy, Robbie Ray, Jordan Hicks, Ethan Small, Daulton Jefferies, Austin Warren
Biggest subtractions: Sean Manaea, Joc Pederson, Mitch Haniger, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Jakob Junis, John Brebbia, Scott Alexander, Brandon Crawford, Ross Stripling, Joe Ross, Paul DeJong, AJ Pollock, J.D. Davis

Best-Case Scenario

Jung Hoo Lee, not Yoshinobu Yamamoto, proves to be the most valuable overseas import of the offseason, scoring 100 runs because he’s always on base in front of the bats of Jorge Soler and a rejuvenated Matt Chapman. Logan Webb is a Cy Young candidate and carries the rest of the rotation. The team makes it to 87-75 and sneaks into a Wild Card.

Worst-Case Scenario

The Giants are literally slated to start Nick Ahmed. Michael Conforto, who has a .384 slugging since 2020 and doesn’t even hit .240 anymore, is slated to hit fifth. The starting rotation after Webb is made up of hurt guys (Robbie Ray), a converted reliever (Jordan Hicks) and other castoffs. The top names aren’t enough to carry them, and they struggle to 72-90.

Funniest Scenario

Conforto has a bounce-back season … which makes him an attractive free agent, and he leaves next offseason, which means the Giants have to start a new Opening Day left fielder for the record-tying 19th straight year.

Actual Prediction

78-84, fourth in NL West

Colorado Rockies

2023 results: 59-103, fifth in NL West
Biggest additions: Jacob Stallings, Sam Hilliard, Cal Quantrill, Dakota Hudson, Jalen Beeks, Anthony Molina
Biggest subtractions: Brent Suter, Chris Flexen, Chase Anderson

Best-Case Scenario

A team that went 59-103 last year had Jacob Stallings, Cal Quantrill and Dakota Hudson as its top offseason additions. The best-case scenario is, like, Nolan Jones puts up 6 WAR, Kris Bryant bounces back, and the pitching isn’t too horrible as the team makes it to 66-96.

Worst-Case Scenario

The 1999 Rockies allowed 1,028 runs, the second most in a season since 1962 expansion (the Tigers allowed 1,103 in 1996). The ’99 pitching staff gets together to celebrate no longer being the worst staff in Rockies history as this year’s crew allows a solid 1,200. The team slips down to 50-112, and … you know, are just as much a laughingstock as always.

Funniest Scenario

Brenton Doyle tests the limit of how bad a hitter an outfielder can be if his defense is elite. He’s positively Andruw Jones-ian in the field and end-of-career Chris Davis-ian at the plate. Such a fascinating player.

Actual Prediction

61-101, fifth in NL West

NL West Standings

Team Wins Losses Pct. GB
Los Angeles Dodgers 102 60 .630
Arizona Diamondbacks 85 77 .525 17
San Diego Padres 82 80 .506 20
San Francisco Giants 78 84 .481 24
Colorado Rockies 61 101 .377 41

National League Award Winners

MVP: Mookie Betts

Take an MVP-caliber outfielder and have him play even a passable shortstop and hit in front of two other MVPs for a 100-plus-win team? He could coast to this award.

Cy Young: Spencer Strider

It was just bad luck costing Strider last year, as his 2.85 FIP was more than a run below his 3.86 ERA. He’s the best pitcher in baseball as long as Gerrit Cole is banged up.

Rookie of the Year: Yoshinobu Yamamoto

I think it’s fine that longtime pros in Asia are eligible for the award, even if it feels squirrelly. But if Yamamoto is anything like he is promised, he’ll coast to this.

Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell

With the other two divisions going to dynasty-level winners, Counsell can swoop in by taking the Cubs to a division title in his first season.

National League Playoffs

Projected playoff seeds:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West winner)
  2. Atlanta Braves (NL East winner)
  3. Chicago Cubs (NL Central winner)
  4. Philadelphia Phillies (first NL Wild Card)
  5. Cincinnati Reds (second NL Wild Card)
  6. Arizona Diamondbacks (third NL Wild Card)

National League Wild Card Series

Diamondbacks over Cubs (3 games)

The Cubs are good enough to win a rough Central, but they would be battling for a wild card in other divisions.

Phillies over Reds (2)

The Reds’ lack of pitching catches up to them in the postseason.

National League Division Series

Dodgers over Phillies (4)

Just a load of stars in this one. The Dodgers stave off the “October chokers” storyline by bumping the Phillies in what would be an exciting series.

Braves over Diamondbacks (3)

In a short series, anything can happen. We just saw that in last year’s playoffs. But I’m just never going to pick a team like Arizona over a goliath like Atlanta.

National League Championship Series

Dodgers over Braves (6)

I am fine expecting a rebound from Chris Sale in 2024, but counting on that to last all the way into late October is a lot. The Braves peter out yet again.

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