A division rival's problems help the Miami Marlins
MLB.com made some interesting predictions for the 2023 season. The most important thing to remember is that games have to be played for a reason. Teams that look like the favorites now, might not be as good during the season. Let's get something out of the way first however, the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets are more likely to win the division than the Miami Marlins. That's a sad fact, but as I just said games are to be played for a reason and all of these teams have red flags.
The Miami Marlins can benefit from Atlanta's problems.
I already covered the 87 win Philadelphia Phillies who actually declined overall according to Fangraphs WAR projections, and the aging New York Mets led by 40 year old aces fighting Father Time. Those are some of the reasons why I think that the Atlanta Braves are the favorites to win the NL East. There's a reason why they won the division annually since 2018 and will likely do this again for the sixth straight season.
So what red flags do the Atlanta Braves have? Well for one thing the massive losses that they suffered this off-season. They lost veteran closer Kenley Jansen (3.38 ERA/3.21 FIP in 65 games and 64.0 innings pitched in 2022). He has a career 2.46 ERA/2.44 FIP in 766 games and 769.0 innings pitched. There's also Dansby Swanson and his elite 5.7 WAR in 2022 with a .277/.329/.447 batting line, 25 home runs and 96 RBI. Putting it bluntly, Atlanta wouldn't have won the division without him.
I actually think that the Atlanta Braves made the right call to let him walk, as there's just no way that he repeats that career year for various reasons. The problem is that they didn't replace him, going with questionable internal options. Losing a 5.7 WAR player with no acceptable replacement is just bizarre for a team that has been winning their division annually. They should've tried harder to replace him.
There's also CF Michael Harris II. The rookie exploded in 2022 with 5.3 WAR and a .297/.339/.514 batting line (with 19 home runs and 64 RBI) in 114 games and 414 AB. Harris looks impressive, but there are obvious red flags... He's never shown power like this in the Minors, has a lowly 89.2 EV and a high .361 BABIP. Fangraphs expects a decline to a .268/.320/.438 batting line. That is still solid, but is certainly nowhere near the elite numbers from 2022.
The Atlanta Braves have a weaker bullpen, lost a star SS with no adequate replacement and will likely see a decline from their breakout star CF. Are they no longer the favorites in the division? I can't say that. Do the Miami Marlins have a chance to see a worse Atlanta team? I can deinitely say that.