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Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. prepares for his batting practice during the first full-squad spring training workout at CoolToday Park, Tuesday, February, 20, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /
Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. prepares for his batting practice during the first full-squad spring training workout at CoolToday Park, Tuesday, February, 20, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /

The Hoosier Network's 2024 MLB preview: The National League

Just how good will the Dodgers and Braves be?

In part two of the Hoosier Network’s MLB preview, yours truly flips the script to take a look at the National League. The Arizona Diamondbacks are the defending NL champions, taking the momentum of a surprising postseason run all the way to the Fall Classic where they ultimately fell short to the Texas Rangers. 

[Read our American League preview here]

Now, the onus shifts to Arizona attempting to defend their league title while also trying to take another step forward. And just like in the AL, there are 15 other clubs looking to take that crown for themselves. The competition ranges from postseason favorites who underachieved in October of last year to young, aspiring clubs who just missed the cut looking to make a name for themselves on the game’s biggest stages.

The NL is full of intriguing storylines for each team. Let’s take a look at them all.

NL East

Atlanta Braves

The Braves are coming off a brutally disappointing end to the 2023 season, where they were far and away the best team in the NL and viewed by many as World Series favorites, only for it all to come crashing down in the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies.

This season, there is no reason to believe that they won’t have the same type of regular season success again. Ronald Acuna Jr. is viewed to be by some the best player in baseball, period, and he is flanked by two other MVP-caliber bats in the lineup in Austin Riley and Matt Olson. Oh, yeah, and All-Star hitters Ozzie Albies and Sean Murphy are in there too, just for good measure. And don’t even get me started on the rotation, which, while already good, added Chris Sale as another starter.

So, I think you know where I’m going with this. There is no reason whatsoever that Atlanta shouldn’t be viewed as one of the favorites to take home the NL crown and represent their league in the World Series. Another elite regular season should be in the cards once again.

Prediction: 101-61

Miami Marlins

What exactly are the Marlins trying to do with their team?

Do they fancy themselves as contenders, or do they think that they should just tear it down and rebuild around their young budding stars? Jazz Chisholm Jr. is due for some flashy plays, but his stats somewhat suggest that he isn’t quite as good as the vast majority of MLB fans think he is. Sandy Alcantara is out for at least the first half of the season, which is a major blow to the pitching rotation. The depth is pretty good after him, but that part of the team will absolutely have their work cut out for them. On the other hand, the rest of the lineup is what the kids would call ‘mid’ outside of Chisholm Jr. and Luis Arraez, and the bullpen is not much to write home about.

The Marlins are trying to contend, I think, but this year likely won’t be the year it all comes together. They could surprise us, but there are too many problems or unknowns to really take them seriously. Another middling regular season resulting with them ending somewhere around .500 is the most likely outcome.

Prediction: 77-85

New York Mets

Hey, do you guys remember how catastrophically awful the Mets’ season was last year? Well, I sure do!

However, joking aside, the Mets are looking to put all traces of 2023 behind them and turn the page. We all remember how terrible the “all-in” team was, and the stench of that disaster forced New York to trade away Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer at the deadline. The lineup is still pretty solid, as Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso are the usual suspects headlining the bats. Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo are still here as well. Young third baseman Brett Baty looks to be a solid piece too, and they have two other intriguing hitters in Francisco Alvarez and Mark Vientos. On the other hand, this winter, they tried to reinforce their pitching rotation with the Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but he ended up signing with the Dodgers. So now their rotation is led by the likes of Jose Quintana, Luis Severino, and Sean Manea. So…yeah. 

The lineup should be very good once again. But that isn’t the problem with this iteration of the Mets. That lies in the pitching rotation, and while it isn’t completely terrible, it doesn’t match up with the better ones in the NL. And I’m unsure that they can be viewed as a legitimate playoff contender.

Prediction: 79-83

Philadelphia Phillies

Man, what a heartbreaking end to the season it’s been the past couple of years for this team.

First, they advanced all the way to the World Series before losing to the Astros. However, last season was probably twice as painful: Philly held leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in the series before losing Game 7 at home to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

However, that is in the past, and the Phillies should be viewed as World Series contenders once again. Bryce Harper is still the engine that makes this lineup (and team) go, and talent surrounds him at every level of the lineup. However, the pitching rotation is a bit of a worry. While locking up Aaron Nola to a long-term extension certainly helps, the back half of the rotation is a legitimate question mark, especially when considering the general inconsistency of Taijuan Walker and Ranger Suarez.

However, if Philadelphia can shore up the back end of the rotation at the trade deadline or something like that, then this roster will have very few holes. And for a team that came up just short of advancing to their second consecutive World Series last year, that’s an awfully scary thought for the rest of the NL.

Prediction: 89-73

Washington Nationals

Kinda the same way the previous year went, this season is going to suck for Nationals fans.

There is no denying that the Nats will once again be one of the worst teams in baseball, and they are certainly a strong contender for the worst team in the NL in 2024. Another thing that really stings is that the CJ Abrams experiment looks like it won’t produce the intended results, while it could similarly be time to pull the plug on Keibert Ruiz. One thing I will give them is that their farm system is steadily improving. There are also some really good-looking top prospects that should be on their way soon. See? Positives!

Oh, who am I kidding, I can’t delay the negativity any longer. The Nationals will not be good this year, nor will they even sniff any semblance of respectability in 2024. I’m really sorry, Nats fans. I really am.

Prediction: 62-100

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

Perhaps the most interesting team in the NL, the Cubs have aspirations to win the NL Central and make the playoffs following last season’s end, where they came painstakingly close to making it before an ugly September derailed their postseason hopes.

Cody Bellinger is somehow back on a three-year, $80 million deal, and the question remains whether or not the All-Star play he showed at the end of last year was a fluke. Shota Imanaga looks to be a potential dark horse for Rookie of the Year, Michael Busch looks to be a breakout candidate at first base, and they also boast one of the best defenses in baseball. Dansby Swanson was one of the most underrated free agency pickups of the winter, and he should make an immediate impact on the North Side. But possibly the biggest news of the offseason for Chicago was the poaching of manager Craig Counsell from the division rival Brewers, a move that sent shockwaves throughout the baseball world.

Chicago Cubs pitcher Shota Imanaga pitches live batting practice before the start of a game between the Chicago Cubs and the San Diego Padres at Sloan Park on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Mesa, Arizona. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune)

Counsell is managing a team that is hungry to win the division title and get back to October baseball. Another key thing about him is that he is far less likely to let a late-season collapse like the one last year happen. There is still competition, but this is looking like it could be the Cubs’ year in the NL Central.

Prediction: 86-76

Cincinnati Reds

Somewhat similarly to the Cubs, the Reds are in an interesting spot. Many didn’t expect them to be in the position they’re in currently, but there is no denying that the rebuild is ahead of schedule.

Longtime franchise stalwart Joey Votto is gone, but Jeimer Candelario is a stark upgrade at this point in time. Elly De La Cruz showed an insane amount of potential, but the question remains on whether he will be able to keep up his game-breaking abilities consistently, because he struck out last year. Like, a lot. However, De La Cruz’s strikeout issues aside, there’s a ton of other upside with players like Matt McClain, Jonathan India, Spencer Steer, and Noelvi Marte. The pitching is also an interesting factor, but there is a bit of an asterisk because those pitchers’ ERAs will be inflated because Great American Ballpark caters very well to hitters. Like, almost abnormally well. 

Anyway, the Reds are the definition of a wild card. Can they be completely ruled out for an NL Central title? No. But, at this point in time, there are a few too many questions, especially when they are trying to keep up with the preseason favorite in the Cubs.

Prediction: 80-82

Milwaukee Brewers

It is clear that this iteration of the Brewers will not be nearly as good as they’ve been over the last half-decade. 

Corbin Burnes is gone, now a member of the Baltimore Orioles. Brandon Woodruff is in the shop for at least half the season. Now, the once-feared starting rotation of the Brewers has largely become a sore spot for Milwaukee. Freddy Peralta is a good player who has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but the consistency and health status are legitimate questions. The lineup is pretty good overall, and it should be better than it has been in the past few years, but the concerns about the decline in pitching prowess are tough to shake.

The 2024 roster almost feels like it’s the Brewers teams of the past but in complete reverse. The lineup is better than it has been in the past and could even be considered a strong point, but the pitching will not be nearly as good as it has been. That in itself might result in a down year for Milwaukee.

Prediction: 77-85

Pittsburgh Pirates

They’re…getting better? I guess?

This team has not won 80 games since the 2018 season. That is…not good. The rebuild is coming along very slowly for the Pirates, and that’s what we’ve seen from this club over the past few years now. They made some relatively marginal improvements during free agency, but there aren’t any needle-movers that jump off the page. They do have lots of potential, as players like Bryan Reynolds, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Mitch Keller have shown a lot of promise. In addition, Oneil Cruz looks like he could be a potential face of the franchise for Pittsburgh. Henry Davis is a bit of a question mark going into the season, but if he improves, that could be another factor working in the Pirates’ favor.

This team is still in the middle of a deep, deep rebuild. They should once again be towards the bottom of the division. However, if the Pirates have proven one thing, it’s that they are always feisty and they are difficult to get rid of. They should be competitive, at the very least, in most of their contests.

Prediction: 73-89

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are coming off an abysmal season in 2023, as they finished last in the division during a season that held lofty expectations with it. Now, they are looking to go from worst to first. And they did an excellent job of addressing their biggest weakness, starting pitching, in free agency. They landed Sonny Gray from the Twins, and they also strengthened the back half of the rotation with Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn. Add in the fact that the lineup should, barring any catastrophic injuries, be solid like it usually is, and this team is in a good position to massively improve from this past season.

This iteration of the Cardinals holds plenty of intrigue. They’re in position to make a big jump in their division standings. And, if absolutely everything goes according to plan, a run in October can’t be ruled out for this club. I’m not sure if I see them winning the division, but a Wild Card spot is certainly in the cards. See what I did there?

Prediction: 84-78

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

The National League pennant defense officially begins this season.

Last year, this was a young, dynamic club that far exceeded expectations. They beat the Phillies in a Game 7 at Citizens Bank Park to punch their ticket to the World Series. They then fell at the hands of the Rangers, but the future is incredibly bright. Corbin Carroll looks to be the face of the franchise for the next decade-plus. There is lots of talent in the lineup around him, from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to Ketel Marte to Christian Walker to Joc Pederson. Plus, top prospect Jordan Lawlar is expected to make his MLB debut this season. The front office was also aggressive in upgrading the rotation. Eduardo Rodrigue was a fantastic and slightly underrated addition for the pitching staff. 

The Diamondbacks should be good once again this season. It’s somewhat unlikely they’ll win the NL pennant again, but they will be a solid team. However, like the Rangers, they now have a target on their backs. They have legitimate expectations. And that is something they need to watch out for.

Prediction: 86-76

Colorado Rockies


This team might be in the worst situation in baseball outside the Oakland Athletics. The Rockies are not going to be good in 2024, and they should compete for the title of the worst team in the NL just as they did in 2023. The pitching rotation was already bad, and injuries to several of their starters makes things even worse. And yes, I know Coors Field is extremely hitter-friendly, and this will end up in Colorado being able to produce a fairly healthy amount of runs. However, there is no denying that this team is going to be at the bottom of the standings once again in 2024.

Prediction: 65-97

Los Angeles Dodgers

The modern-day superteam of the MLB.

If there were any year to win another World Series title, this is it. With all the talent this roster has assembled, playoff failure will not be accepted yet again. The Dodgers have gone all-in, and there have been instances where that’s failed before. The 2023 Mets are a prime example of this. However, LA’s front office has proven to be, for the most part, competent in running baseball operations. The Dodgers are quite possibly the most talented team, top to bottom, in the major leagues. The signing of Shohei Ohtani for an amount of money that is, let’s settle for the term “exorbitant”, was the headliner of this winter. Oh, and not to mention they picked up two quality pitchers in former Tampa Bay Ray Tyler Glasnow and Japanese sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Clayton Kershaw is also coming back at some point during the year. 

Shohei Ohtani during the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Los Angeles Angels spring training game at Dodger Stadium on Monday, March 25, 2024, in Los Angeles, California. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

The NL West title seems like a given at this point. Honestly, if this team somehow is unable to win the World Series this year, it’ll be considered a massive disappointment by the fans and the front office. This is your moment, LA. It’s on you to get it done.

Prediction: 105-57

San Diego Padres

It’s an interesting time for the Padres, and it’s perhaps unlike anything their fans have seen over the past few years.

Shedding payroll was a significant part of the team’s offseason. Juan Soto is gone, but that was always a possibility in the back of San Diego’s mind. The unexpected part was the team landing a huge move in the acquisition of ace Dylan Cease. Longtime owner Peter Seidler also passed away during the offseason, and that was a big blow to both the franchise and its fans. The hitting core has remained mostly intact, as Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth, and others are still here. However, pitching remains a big question heading into the year even with the acquisition of Cease. That helps, but doesn’t completely solve it.

This could very well be a hit-or-miss type of season for San Diego. If everything goes according to plan, then they should contend for a Wild Card spot. If things don’t line up, well, then it could mean more losing than the franchise has grown accustomed to.

Prediction: 84-78

San Francisco Giants

The Giants could very well be a sleeper team in the NL after a frustrating 2023 that had a myriad of things go wrong.

They made some shrewd moves this past offseason, although this comes with the disclaimer that these moves came pretty late in the cycle. Jung Hoo Lee, a former KBO stud, arrives to fortify the outfield. Matt Chapman hopped on board late, and his combination of big power and solid defensive instincts make him an underrated addition at third base. And finally, the big fish they reeled in was reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Snell and Logan Webb make a deadly starting combo, and it could be one of the best in the NL if Alex Cobb can stay healthy. 

This team is very interesting, and not in the way I called the Padres interesting. They are a sneaky Wild Card contender in 2024, and they have potential to go on a deep run come October if everyone can maintain a clean bill of health.

Prediction: 85-77

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