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The Post’s Greg Joyce previews the NL East…

1. Atlanta Braves

O/U wins: 91.5

Key player: Matt Olson. The face of the franchise, Freddie Freeman, is gone and Olson was brought in to replace him at first base. The Atlanta-area native got an eight-year, $168 million extension shortly after the trade from the Athletics and will be looking to build off his career year in 2021.

Player who’ll need to step up: Marcell Ozuna. The 31-year-old outfielder wasn’t very productive in limited action last season, then was placed on administrative leave after being arrested for domestic violence in May. He still has three years and $49 million left on his contract.

Name you’ll get to know: Kyle Wright. The 26-year-old right-hander pitched in only two regular-season games last year but showed what he’s capable of with a strong effort in Game 4 of the World Series. This may be his best chance to break into the rotation and stay there.

Ronald Acuna working out with the Braves on March 14, 2022.
Ronald Acuna working out with the Braves on March 14, 2022.
AP

Biggest question mark: When Ronald Acuna Jr. returns, will he be the same? The star outfielder is aiming for a May comeback after tearing his ACL last July, but it remains to be seen whether the injury will have any lingering effects on one of the most electric players in the game.

How it’ll go down: The Braves will have to deal with the potential hangover effects from winning a World Series and figure out how to move on without Freeman. But the arrival of Olson and return of Acuna should be shots in the arm if everything goes according to plan. If the Braves rotation can stay healthy and pitch like it did last season, a fifth straight division title could be in sight.

2. New York Mets

O/U wins: 88.5

Key player: Max Scherzer. The 37-year-old right-hander signed a three-year, $130 million deal to join the Mets, and his presence atop the rotation became even more important after Jacob deGrom was found to have a stress reaction on his right scapula. Scherzer was battling hamstring tightness at the end of camp, and his availability will be vital.

Player who’ll need to step up: Francisco Lindor. The star shortstop had a rough first season in Queens, but showed signs late of beginning to look more like himself at the plate.

Max Scherzer in a spring training outing for the Mets on March 21, 2022
Max Scherzer in a spring training outing for the Mets on March 21, 2022
Corey Sipkin

Name you’ll get to know: The veteran-laden team is built to win now, but third-base prospect Mark Vientos could get a chance to help later this season, especially if there are injuries at the major league level.

Biggest question mark: How many starts will deGrom make? The two-time Cy Young winner hasn’t made a regular-season start since July as elbow issues limited him to 15 starts last year. Now with his shoulder setback in the final week of spring training, he could miss at least the first two months of the season.

How it’ll go down: New manager Buck Showalter takes over a team that spent 103 days in first place last season — only to crumble late — before adding Scherzer and Chris Bassitt to the rotation and bolstering the lineup with Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar. The new additions, and bounce-back seasons from some of their own, should land them back in the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

3. Philadelphia Phillies

O/U wins: 85.5

Key player: They were late additions, but Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos signed with the Phillies during spring training to join reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper in what could be a powerful outfield. Their defense has some questions, but that crew can hit.

Player who’ll need to step up: Didi Gregorius. The former Yankees shortstop is coming off one of the worst years of his career in which he hit .209 with a 71 OPS-plus in 103 games. He battled elbow issues that he blamed on the COVID-19 vaccine, but if he’s healthy this year, he’ll need to produce.

Name you’ll get to know: Bryson Stott. The first-round pick in 2019 is a top-100 prospect who has hit at every level as he zoomed through the minors. He can play shortstop, third base and second base, but could fight to unseat Alec Bohm at third.

New Phillies outfielder Nick Castellanos (left) with Bryce Harper
New Phillies outfielder Nick Castellanos (left) with Bryce Harper
USA TODAY Sports

Biggest question mark: Did they do enough to bolster the bullpen? The Phillies lost Hector Neris in free agency but added Corey Knebel, Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand. The three veterans have had some up-and-down seasons in recent years, but if they are at their best, could solidify an often shaky bullpen.

How it’ll go down: The Phillies should certainly pack a punch with their lineup, even if the outfield defense might suffer at times because of it. But how far they go this season will likely depend on their arms, needing Zack Wheeler to repeat his workhorse performance from 2021 and Aaron Nola to bounce back from a down year.

4. Miami Marlins

O/U wins: 76.5

Key player: Sandy Alcantara. The Marlins rebuild continues, but they should have solid ground to stand on thanks to their promising rotation — led by the right-hander Alcantara, who posted a 3.19 ERA across 205 ⅔ innings last season.

Player who’ll need to step up: Jesus Sanchez. Since Starling Marte was traded away last summer, there’s been an opportunity for somebody to fill the void in center field. Sanchez could be the answer after playing the corners last season and showing some pop — 14 home runs in 64 games.

Sandy Alcantara tops an impressive Marlins rotation
Sandy Alcantara tops an impressive Marlins rotation
AP

Name you’ll get to know: Max Meyer. The No. 3 overall pick in 2020 is a fast riser and could arrive in the big leagues this season. He’s only 6 feet tall, but has a fastball that reaches the high-90s and a wipeout slider that is considered one of the best in the minors.

Biggest question mark: Can veteran additions give their lineup a jolt? The Marlins signed Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia, hoping that the proven hitters can help jump-start an offense that was one of the worst in the majors last season at scoring runs.

How it’ll go down: Derek Jeter is no longer running the show, having stepped down as CEO in February, citing a difference of opinion over the vision of the organization’s future. While it remains to be seen how that all shakes out and what it means for the franchise on the field, the Marlins could be more of a threat if their lineup catches up to their rotation.

5. Washington Nationals

O/U wins: 71.5

Key player: Juan Soto. In what has the makings of a tough season for the Nationals, Soto will be a reason to watch them on a nightly basis. The on-base machine also bears watching to see if the Nationals can lock up the star outfielder long term.

Player who’ll need to step up: Patrick Corbin. The left-hander was brutal last season, posting a 5.82 ERA over 31 starts while giving up a National League-high 37 home runs. The Nationals could use a bounce-back from him to anchor the rotation.

Name you’ll get to know: Keibert Ruiz. The catcher, 23, was the key part of the return that the Nationals got from the Dodgers in the Max Scherzer trade last summer. He has the chance to become another building block for the franchise.

Juan Soto in a spring training at-bat for the Nationals on March 20, 2022
Juan Soto in a spring training at-bat for the Nationals on March 20, 2022
USA TODAY Sports

Biggest question mark: What do the Nationals get from Stephen Strasburg? The right-hander is working his way back from thoracic outlet surgery, which has taken a toll on other pitchers’ careers. He has thrown just 26 ²/₃ innings since leading the Nats to a World Series in 2019.

How it’ll go down: The Nationals signaled their rebuild last summer when they traded away most of their key pieces before the deadline, then mostly sat out this offseason aside from adding veteran DH Nelson Cruz. It could make for a long summer in the nation’s capital.

Source: NYPOST

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