Top storylines from each MLB Division in 2023 that will continue to impact teams in 2024

Veronica Chung
1 month ago
The 2023 season was nothing short of unpredictable. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves showed off their dominance, but even they were not immune from the randomness of the baseball world come playoff time.
Many teams faced unexpected storylines, and even the teams with the highest payrolls, like the New York Mets, the San Diego Padres and the New York Yankees, missed playoffs this year. This season was full of developments that will continue to impact different teams. Below are some key storylines from each MLB division that will play a key role in 2024. 

AL East

The continued pressure of competitiveness in baseball’s toughest division 
The AL East as a whole has always been a challenging division to compete in. For the most part, the division has remained highly competitive to the point that all five teams recorded winning records in 2023 for some time. Putting out a competitive product on the field is good for baseball, but it can also spell a continued headache for AL East teams as they compete for limited playoff spots. 
The Baltimore Orioles are flushed with young talents, the Tampa Bay Rays have demonstrated their savviness in operating a competitive team despite the payroll challenges, the Boston Red Sox also have intriguing younger talents waiting for their opportunities, New York Yankees are hoping to invest in great players again and the Toronto Blue Jays still have to prove their ability by winning a playoff game. 
This group has a lot to prove after its rather disgraceful exit from the playoffs in 2023 (none of the AL East teams won any playoff games), and the hyper-competitiveness won’t go anywhere in 2024. 

AL Central

The uncertainty of the division’s future with a handful of middling teams
Unlike AL East, AL Central has been plagued with austerity measures for several years. All teams are classified as small market teams and none of them were able to put out competitive teams for a few years, which led to the division being the most uncompetitive among all six divisions. The problem around uncertainty, unfortunately, isn’t going away in 2024 as the Minnesota Twins hold back on their spending due to broadcast deal complications and the Chicago White Sox aims to find their winning ways again. 
However, uncertainty can also mean an opportunity for some teams. The Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals are using this opportunity to invest more in building more competitive teams. In other words, 2024 could see surging teams like the Tigers and the Royals at the top of the division while other teams take a step back. 
Another variable the AL Central should consider is the Cleveland Guardians’ unexpected competitiveness. The team saw its peak in 2022 with its young pitching talents at the centre. The Guardians’ major weakness has been the position player development and as long as the team is able to find the right talent, they may be an unexpected contender within the division. Overall, the AL Central division is the most wide-open division that could see a new division leader next season.

AL West

The Texas Rangers’ first World Series victory 
For most of the 2023 season, AL West remained competitive with the Houston Astros, the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners all aiming to solidify themselves as contenders. This picture is about to change as the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners are all attempting to exercise payroll restraints this offseason. 
Despite all these woes, the Rangers will still be pressured to defend their World Series champion status while the Houston Astros will face the question of maintaining their competitive window. For now, the Mariners are projected to shed more payroll wherever possible and the Los Angeles Angels will always try to compete even if the team won’t overhaul their systemic problems. 
A lot of things are up in the air but the Rangers and Mariners’ self-imposed restrictions in spending will loom larger in 2024 – it could fundamentally transform the division outlook and characteristics of successful contenders. 

NL East

The Atlanta Braves dominate while the New York Mets disappoint 
Aside from the fiercely competitive 2022 season between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves, the NL East has always been the Braves’ division to lose. Since 2022, the Braves have won more than 100 regular season games while securing the division leader spot successfully each year. One of the most notable developments from the Braves season was the offensive explosion from all parts of the lineup, which led to record-breaking seasons for a few players. 
That dominance will remain in the 2024 season as the Braves attempt to complement their strong offence. The team’s front office has already been busy this offseason with multiple trades to surround the core with more talents and the team’s pressure to have a deeper playoff run will only increase as time goes by. The Braves’ heydays aren’t over yet and if other teams within the division are unable to challenge them with stronger groups of players, Atlanta’s reign will continue for a long time. 

NL Central

The emergence of younger cores throughout the division
NL Central has accumulated and developed young players for years and they witnessed a glimpse of this investment in the 2023 season. The Cincinnati Reds’ young position players were called up to make a major difference in the team’s trajectory with a 12-game winning streak and the Milwaukee Brewers also reaped the benefits from their young players both in the infield and outfield.
The Chicago Cubs, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals also have younger players they can count on even if their seasons haven’t been as successful as they hoped. This youth movement in the NL Central will only continue in the 2024 season and the division will see more younger players contributing to the overall competitiveness of the division. 
With younger cores throughout the division, NL Central will see more teams actively contending for 2024 and beyond.

NL West

The surprise run of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the financial woes of the San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres had the intention to remain competitive for years to come but that was until they ran into financial troubles and lost their owner Peter Seidler this offseason. Even if the Padres’ payroll shed has been off to a slower start, the team will most likely listen in on more trade proposals from now on to downsize even more. 
So far, the team has traded generational talent Juan Soto while letting free agents like Blake Snell, Josh Hader, Nick Martinez and Seth Lugo walk. Depending on which trades the team entertains and which free agents they sign, it will determine the trajectory of multiple teams’ contention window along with the Padres’ future. 
Padres’ spending austerity contrasts the Los Angeles Dodgers’ exorbitant spending spree. This dichotomy is expected to create an intriguing storyline to see how NL West teams will aim to remain as competitive as possible. Add rising Arizona Diamondbacks, wishful San Francisco Giants and hopeless Colorado Rockies to the equation and you get a compelling divisional competition arc. The Dodgers’ dominance is unquestionable but the remaining four teams’ competitiveness will be at stake.


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