In 2022, the Philadelphia Phillies ended an 11-year playoff drought, entering the National League postseason as the sixth and final seed. It’s fair to say they took quite the advantage of the opportunity given to them, as they won the National League pennant over the San Diego Padres, and advanced to the World Series for the first time since 2009. While they would fall to the Houston Astros in six games, the Phillies turned some heads. They’ve gotten even better this offseason with the additions of SS Trea Turner, SP Taijuan Walker, and RP Craig Kimbrel. As they attempt to repeat as National League champions, let’s take a look at the biggest National League threats to take away that crown from the Phillies.
1. Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves won the NL East title for the fifth straight season, coming back from a 10.5-game deficit to take the division from the New York Mets in the final week of the season. Atlanta is returning NL MVP candidate Ronald Acuna Jr, 2022 NL Rookie of the Year Michael Harris II, Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson, and Austin Riley among others to a stacked lineup that is adding former Gold Glove-winning catcher Sean Murphy. In the rotation, NL Cy Young candidate Max Fried returns along with young stud Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton, and Kyle Wright. They’ll have Raisel Iglesias in the bullpen for a full year, along with Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter, and Nick Anderson who hopes to have a bounce-back season after returning from Tommy John. The Braves have been one of the NL’s best teams since 2018, they’ve won a World Series during this span (2021). They are the biggest threat to their divisional rivals in Philadelphia.
2. San Diego Padres
San Diego was the National League runner ups in last season’s postseason. The Padres already are returning NL MVP candidates in Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr (as he returns from suspension), but they added perennial All-Star SS Xander Bogaerts in free agency, signing him to an 11-year, $280 million deal. They’ve also added Matt Carpenter, who had a career renaissance with the Yankees in 2021, and Nelson Cruz to serve as the DH. They have one of the strongest rotations in the majors with Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove, and they still have Josh Hader closing games out of a formidable bullpen that added Seth Lugo. The Padres have taken the keys to the car that is the National League West, but can they take down the Phillies and reach the World Series for the first time since 1998?
3. New York Mets
Considering the team they assembled and the regular season they had, the 2022 Mets disappointingly ended the season, losing the NL Wild Card Series at home to San Diego. While they did lose longtime ace Jacob deGrom in free agency to the Texas Rangers, the Mets have regrouped with some known new faces that they hope can lead them to their first World Series appearance since 2015. They signed 2022 AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, won the bidding for Japanese phenom Kodai Senga, and brought on Jose Quintana to shore up the rotation even more. They are also joined by David Robertson who will add to an already solid bullpen that includes the re-signed Edwin Diaz and Adam Ottavino. They re-signed Brandon Nimmo long-term, and return perennial All-Star SS Francisco Lindor, 2022 NL batting champion 2B Jeff McNeil, 1B Pete Alonso, RF Starling Marte, and ace SP Max Scherzer. They also hope for some strong contributions from up-and-coming young players in Brett Baty and MLB’s number three prospect Francisco Alvarez. The Mets will wear the disappointment of last season on their chest, and look to use it as fuel as they try to take the National League from their hated rival Phillies in 2023.
(Photo creds: Charles Fox, The Philadelphia Inquirer)