We are now just days away from the opening of the 2023 Major League Baseball regular season. The Philadelphia Phillies, defending National League champions, are fired up for a chance to return to the Fall Classic, this time to capture the first World Series title for the franchise since 2008.

It will be a long, grueling season filled with the usual baseball excitement, drama, exasperation, frustration, heartbreak, exhilaration, defeat, and triumph. The Phillies and every single team and fan base in the game will feel each of those emotions at some point during the coming campaign.

Most prognosticators are picking the Phillies to once again finish in third place in the National League East Division behind the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves, though in perhaps a closer and more spirited battle than took place a year ago. In 2022, the Phillies won 87 games and finished 14 behind both the Mets and Braves.

However, just as they finished a year ago, those same prognosticators look upon the Phillies as a playoff team, one that could once again do damage in October if healthy.

That concept of health will be one of the team’s biggest challenges from the outset. Already knowing that they would be without superstar and two-time Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper for up to half of the season, the team has now lost first baseman and clubhouse leader Rhys Hoskins for the year with pending knee surgery.

Also, pitchers Ranger Suarez and Andrew Painter, who each entered spring training this year with likely roles in the starting rotation, have suffered injuries and will open the year on the Injured List.

So, where does that leave the club? Will they still be able to keep up with New York and Atlanta in the division? Can they return for another spirited ‘Red October’ postseason run?

Here are my predictions for each of the MLB division races and some of the major award winners. Would love to hear your thoughts and your own predictions. You can leave them as a reply to this article, as a response when I share this to The Bell social media feed @PhilliesBell on Twitter, or any of the Facebook social media Groups at which you might find it.

MLB PREDICTIONS

NL East Division: Atlanta, New York, Phillies, Washington, Miami

NL Central Division: Saint Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh

NL West Division: San Diego, Los Angeles, Arizona, San Francisco, Colorado

AL East Division: Toronto, New York, Boston, Tampa Bay, Baltimore

AL Central Division: Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota, Kansas City, Detroit

AL West Division: Houston, Seattle, Texas, Los Angeles, Oakland

NL Wildcards: New York, Phillies, Los Angeles

AL Wildcards: New York, Chicago, Seattle

NL Champions: Phillies

AL Champions: Seattle

World Series: Phillies over Seattle

MLB AWARDS

Most Valuable Players: NL – Trea Turner (PH), AL – Julio Rodriguez (SE)

Cy Young Awards: NL – Zac Gallen (AZ), AL – Luis Castillo (SE)

Rookie of the Year: NL – Corbin Carroll (AZ), AL – Gunnar Henderson (BA)

Comeback POY: NL – Fernando Tatis Jr.(SD), AL – Anthony Rendon (LA)

Manager of the Year: NL – David Ross (CH), AL – Terry Francona (CL)

PHILLIES PREVIEW

The Phillies final roster will be announced later today or tomorrow. But the starting lineup for the most part should look something like this for manager Rob Thomson:

1B – Darick Hall, 2B – Bryson Stott, SS – Trea Turner, 3B – Alec Bohm, C – J.T. Realmuto, OF – Nick Castellanos, Brandon Marsh, Kyle Schwarber

Until Harper returns, the DH slot will be juggled among the bench/reserves. The most likely scenario would see some combo of Kody Clemens and Jake Cave getting most of those at-bats.

In the rotation, the quartet of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Taijuan Walker, and Bailey Falter will take the ball for most of the first couple of weeks. It remains to be seen when, or even if, Ranger Suarez can get back early in the year. Thomson would likely try using Matt Strahm as an opener if a fifth starter is needed before Suarez is (again hopefully) ready, with Michael Plassmeyer as another option.

It is very possible that, for once, the bullpen could actually prove a Phillies strength. The group of Seranthony Dominguez, Craig Kimbrel, Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, Andrew Bellatti, Gregory Soto, Strahm, and Plassmeyer looks like the best group we have seen around these parts in a decade. Southpaw Andrew Vasquez will pitch situationally against lefty hitters or in mop-up duty.

I am confident that Hall can replace Hoskins production at the plate, and can he really be worse defensively at first base? I honestly believe this is a loss they can cover. And Turner gives them an MVP caliber player with Harper missing. For me, the biggest question right now is Suarez. How bad is his injury? I don’t think we really know yet.

Most recent years have seen me predict that the Phillies will win the division. I am playing it more conservatively this time around for two reasons: because of the injuries, and because the Mets and Braves are both very talented ball clubs.

However, there is no reason that the Phillies should not once again hang around. If they can stay relatively healthy from this point forward, get the right answer on Suarez, and have Harper return with his bat in MVP form, they will be fine in the end.

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