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Ball ParksThe highlight of Managers every year.  A day that bring new hope and reshapes teams for years to come.  Championships can be won this day or a team can be set back with but a couple of bad picks. 

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East Division Preview

1. St Louis Cardinals

Last year: 103-59, 1st place in division

The defending division champion Cardinals had a light offseason focused on strengthening the outfield with the acquisition of Jake Fraley, Yonathan Daza, and Austin Hays.  The Cardinals are well balanced across their lineup, starting pitching, and bullpen.  Their starters are deep – Jacob DeGrom is the number 3 behind Max Scherzer and Framber Valdez.  Any of the three could challenge for the Cy Young award.  Behind them is “the Lizard King” Miles Mikolas and Michael Wacha, both of which posted strong statistics.  Kenley Jansen returns to lead the bullpen with Ryan Helsley and Clay Holmes supporting him.  Paul Goldschmidt will challenge for the MVP and he is joined by potential All-Stars Nolan Arenado, Willy Adames, and JT Realmuto.  Ronald Acuna Jr is the star of the outfield.  After Acuna there is a bit of a dropoff to Ynathan Daza in CF and a platoon of Chas McCormick and Austin Hays in left field.

Best-case scenario: The Cardinals click on all levels and the pitching staff leads a World Series run.

Worst-case scenario:  The lineup falters and the Cardinals fall to second within the division.

Most likely scenario:  For the third time in four years the Cardinals take the division but this time make a World Series Run

Predicted record: 102-60, 1st Place

2. Atlanta Braves

Last year: 100-62, 2nd Place in division and World Series Participant

The aging Braves had a solid year in 2022 but lacked the draft capital to bring in a major difference maker.  Shrewd Manager Noland was able to land a #3 starter in Martin Perez via trade and used his mid round picks to strengthen the bullpen with Jimmy Herget, Hunter Harvey, and Erasmo Martinez.  The lineup has some real pop behind Freddie Freeman, Manny Machado, Tim Anderson, Rafael Devers, and the legendary Albert Pujols.  However, it will be prone to injuries with Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, and Byron Buxton all projected to spend significant time on the injured list.  The starting pitching is serviceable, but not in the same class as the White Sox or the Cardinals.  The bullpen will also need to be upgraded if the Braves are to make a deep run in the playoffs.  

Best-case scenario: The Braves score more runs than anyone in the division making up for some weakness in the pitching staff and winning the division.

Worst-case scenario: Injuries pile up, the pitching staff underperforms and the Braves fall to third in the division and miss the playoffs.

Most likely scenario:  Manager Noland pulls off a few trades and finishes second just beating out the White Sox. 

Predicted record: 90-72, 2nd place

3. Chicago White Sox

Last year: 66-96, 4th place

The White Sox were relatively quiet in the offseason with only a few trades.  They were able to obtain some solid picks in the draft by selecting Josh Jung, Mackenzie Gore, Jhoan Duran, Seiya Suzuki, and Shea Langeliers.  The strength of the team is the starting pitching.  If the Cardinals are impressive with Jacob DeGrom as a number 3, then the White Sox are just as impressive with Gerrit Cole manning the 3rd spot behind Shane McClanahan and Aaron Nola.  Marcus Stroman and Frankie Montas are more than adequate in the fourth and fifth spot.  The lineup also has some star power behind World Baseball Classic hero Trea Turner, Bryan Reynolds, Luis Robert, and Jose Altuve.  The bullpen is an unmitigated disaster.  Jhoan Duran is fine as the closer and AJ Puk can provide some solid innings, but I’m not sure where to go after that.  I can’t figure out why Bruce Zimmerman (1.48 WHIP), Cole Sulser (1.62 WHIP), or Miguel Castro (1.45 WHIP) are on the roster.  To quote Pepper Brooks in Dodgeball – “it’s a bold strategy Cotton, Lets see if it pays off for ‘em”.

Best-case scenario: The pitching dominates and Manager Russell picks up a few bullpen arms to eat up innings.  The White Sox challenge the Cardinals for the division, but end up in second.

Worst-case scenario: The bullpen falls apart and blows game after game as Chicago falls far behind the Braves and the Cardinals.  The White Sox start selling off pieces, but still manage to squeak into the playoffs and lose out in the draft lottery.

Most likely scenario: Manager Russell picks up a few quality bullpen arms and challenges the Braves for second place while making the playoffs.

Predicted record: 86-76, 3rd Place

4. Toronto Blue Jays

Last year: 79-83,3rd Place and lost in the Divisional Series

The Blue Jays made a good run to the Playoffs in 2022.  A repeat performance does not seem likely in 2023.  Manager Wright brought in Rowdy Tellez and Isiah Kiner-Falefa to try to bolster what looks to be an anemic lineup.  George Springer and Tellez will be the main producers with Tyler Stephenson, Carlos Santana, and Ryan Jeffers supporting.  The pitching staff is led by Alek Manoah with Chris Bassitt, Joe Musgrove, Tyler Wells, and Tyler Anderson all projected to provide solid innings.  The bullpen has a few nice pieces in Brandon Hughes and Steven Wilson but lacks depth overall.  Important to note is that the Blue Jays still possess their first round picks in each of the next three years.

Best-case scenario:  The lineup overproduces and the Jays somehow surpass the White Sox for third place.

Worst-case scenario: The Jays decide to trade their first round picks for one year of Albert Pujols.

Most likely scenario: Manager Wright is patient and trades pieces for picks at the deadline.  The Jays end up with one of the worst records in the league, but are able to land a top 3 pick in the 2024 FCBL draft.

Predicted record: 55-107, 4th place