The 2023 Major League Baseball season is quickly approaching. As the offseason comes to a close and with Spring Training on the horizon, The Athletes Hub’s baseball writers combined forces to break down and predict the most important storylines of the 2023 campaign. Dive in as five writers detail their thoughts and forecasts as they attempt to uncover the future of the upcoming MLB season.
What’s one team that missed the postseason in 2022 that will make it this year?
Devon Withers: The Chicago White Sox were riddled with injuries in 2022, but with their current roster coming into the new season, the White Sox appear primed for a postseason position. Their starting rotation is still deep, while the offense signed Andrew Benintendi to a franchise record-setting five-year, $75 million deal in the offseason. Outfield prospect Oscar Colas should prove to be a worthy addition as well following an impressive season in the Minors. New manager Pedro Grifol replaces Tony La Russa as the 42nd manager in franchise history. Grifol previously served as the bench coach to Mike Matheny of the Kansas City Royals for three seasons. His first season with Chicago should be a successful one.
Jake Crumpler: The White Sox are the clear pick to return to the postseason after missing the fun in 2022. Having underperformed expectations for the last couple of years due to a multitude of injuries and an inept manager, the South Siders are primed for a rebirth in 2023. Outside of inking Andrew Benintendi to the largest free agent contract in franchise history, the only other impact transaction the team has made was bringing in veteran starter Mike Clevinger. However, the biggest alteration the team made was moving on from Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa and, in the process, bringing Pedro Grifol aboard. This isn’t a statement about Grifol as much as it is recognizing how much La Russa has held the team back since he joined the club in 2021. Healthy seasons from Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez as well as a bounce back season from Lucas Giolito will go a long way in returning the Pale Hose to the AL Central powerhouse they were as recently as 2021.
Matt Partridge: My head says White Sox, but I’m going to put it out there with a way-too-early and way-too-optimistic prediction that the Texas Rangers will make a surprise run and secure a playoff spot in 2023. My thinking here is starting pitching, with Jacob Degrom bringing his career 2.52 ERA and two-time Cy Young award winning pedigree to impress at Globe Life field along with fellow recruit and previous Red Sox opening day starter, Nathan Eovaldi. Factoring in last year’s 12-game winner Martín Pérez, happy recipient of a nearly $20 million contract, you arguably have as strong a front three as any other team in the AL. Offensively, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, and Adolis García will again hit for power and with highly touted third baseman Josh Jung heading a well-stocked farm system that comes with five straight losing seasons, the Rangers might just run the Seattle Mariners close for a wildcard spot.
Davis Byrd: My colleagues seem pretty favorable towards the Chicago White Sox, but I have a good feeling about their AL Central contemporaries, the Minnesota Twins. The Twins have been a mixed bag in the last few years and have had their usual troubles with the injury bug post Bomba Squad. They return star shortstop Carlos Correa to a squad that will feature hopefully injury free Byron Buxton, Jose Miranda and Jorge Polanco. They add Pablo López to an already solid rotation featuring Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, and Tyler Mahle. The Twins traded away batting title winner Luis Arraez for López and signed Joey Gallo, who is the virtual antithesis of Arraez. Gallo is hoping to bounce back from one of the worst seasons of his career but could add a formidable power bat back into the outfield. The Twins bullpen is top heavy with Jhoan Duran and Jorge López the back end arms. The Twins are almost in the literal sense, a wild card. They have question marks in a lot of places with their current roster construction, but I feel good about them in a vacuum. If things go right and they avoid contracting that nasty injury bug that likes to linger at Target Field, they could channel the spirit of the Bomba Squad from a few seasons ago and power into the playoffs.
Isaiah Hansen: The door is open the door for the “Crew” to return to the postseason after taking a short break in 2022. They added Jesse Winker and William Contreras to their equation on the offensive side and are hoping to get production out of Garrett Mitchell who is projected to be their starting center fielder. After a semi-healthy season for the first time since 2019, this has to be the year that Christian Yelich fully returns to form. It’s either now or never for the 31-year-old. Their pitching rotation is still led by Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff and there have been some baseball writers who’ve predicted Aaron Ashby could potentially have a break-out season in 2023. I believe the Milwaukee Brewers did more to add to their equation to help makeup the one game difference between the Phillies and themselves in 2022.
What’s one team that made the postseason in 2022 that will miss it this year?
Devon Withers: The Tampa Bay Rays secured a Wild Card spot with an 86-76 record last season, and while adding Zach Eflin on a franchise record-setting three-year, $40 million deal is a step in the right direction, I don’t believe Tampa Bay will have what it takes to keep up with the rest of the AL East in 2023. Kevin Kiermaier, Corey Kluber, and Mike Zunino have departed in free agency, so the Rays will need to look elsewhere to chase improved rosters in their own division such as the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays – two teams that finished above them in the regular season standings in 2022.
Jake Crumpler: With the White Sox joining the playoff field, that likely means an AL team will need to get kicked out to make room. The likeliest candidate in my eyes are the Cleveland Guardians. As much of a supporter as I was of their 2022 postseason push, I can’t help but notice the deficiencies of the roster. The lineup lacks pop and the additions of Josh Bell and Mike Zunino likely won’t be enough to change that. The rotation lacks depth and could quickly fall apart if Shane Bieber’s reduced velocity haunts him, Triston McKenzie regresses, or someone unfortunately suffers an injury. The bullpen is the lone strength, but it lacks household names, relying heavily on Emmanuel Clase and the erratic James Karinchak. The Guardians subverted our expectations in 2022, but that won’t be the case in a more competitive AL Central in 2023.
Matt Partridge: In my opinion, the six teams from last year’s NL playoff picture look locked in again this time around, so I’m also inclined to choose an AL victim. I’m afraid it might be the Tampa Bay Rays who fall short this time around despite boasting an excellent rotation including a fit-again Tyler Glasnow, Shane McClanahan, and new three-year signing, Zach Eflin. I think they lack an offensive prowess to rival the AL East powerhouses, the Yankees and Blue Jays, with only Harold Ramírez hitting .300+ amongst their starters and as team sitting at a lowly 25th place on the home run charts.
Davis Byrd: I think the easiest answer here is the Tampa Bay Rays. They had the worst record of any playoff team in the entirety of MLB. Their biggest addition in the offseason was Zach Eflin, who they inked to a three-year, $40 million dollar deal. While I like Eflin and trust the Rays to make smart moves for their franchise, it’s just tough to see this as a move that puts them over the top towards contention or even winning the division. Their rotation is the strength of their team with Shane McClanahan and Drew Rasmussen leading the way. They extended Jeffrey Springs and obviously added the aforementioned Eflin, but a large chunk of their potential success is going to hinge on the returning Tyler Glasnow. Their offense isn’t really anything special, especially compared to their other AL contemporaries. I’d typically bet on the Rays but someone had to hit the chopping block. Sorry Tampa.
Isaiah Hansen: Philadelphia Phillies. This may come as a slight surprise considering the Phillies were just in the World Series and have added one of the premier players in the league in Trea Turner. However, as the team added to their crop of talent, they also lost Bryce Harper. Harper is expected to undergo elbow surgery that has put his 2023 status in question. The lineup has potential, but that’s really it. Turner is great, but it’s natural to expect his debut year to be an adjustment. Harper himself is guilty of the same thing during his first year with the Phillies.
The Phillies offense is really dependent on a bounce back season from Nick Castellanos and the ascension of Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott. Without those pieces, Turner and Kyle Schwarber are hardly enough to carry them. Their pitching rotation is also capable of crumbling behind Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler. This is combined with a bullpen that can also crumble at any point.
Who will win the World Baseball Classic?
Devon Withers: The USA and Dominican Republic appear to be the two favorites going into 2023, with the USA holding the slight advantage. The star-studded USA lineup will include the likes of Mookie Betts and Mike Trout among others, but I love the roster the Dominican Republic is putting forward. Their talent includes a rotation of Sandy Alcantara, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, and Luis Castillo. Both the Dominican Republic and Japan are among the contenders that will rely on pitching as their strength, so with a few things falling the right way, the Dominican Republic could take it all the way.
Jake Crumpler: There’s a clear top three heading into the fifth edition of the WBC. I’m putting my faith in an underdog that shines outside of traditional baseball analytics. Team Puerto Rico is going to surprise many baseball fans with its play in the tournament. Their squad may not be the most loaded, but they make up for that by playing with heart, vigor, and enthusiasm while exhibiting enhanced teamwork due to their camaraderie. Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor make up an electric left side of the infield that has proven to be effective in past tournaments. Javier Baez joins Lindor up the middle, and he displayed the fire he brings to the field when playing for his country back in 2017. The rest of the offense is boosted by young up-and-comers such as MJ Melendez and Jose Miranda. The rotation is solid, headlined by José Berríos, but team Puerto Rico shines in its bullpen. Not only do they feature capable relievers such as Joe Jiménez and Jorge López, but they also lay claim to the best pair of brothers in the tournament. The fire-breathing duo of Edwin and Alexis Díaz are sure to light up radar guns on their way to shutting down plenty of wins this Spring.
Matt Partridge: The Australian baseball league will have just wrapped for the season come March, so maybe there will be some nicely tuned-up Aussies ready to take the WBC by storm. Failing that I’m going with the fully-loaded USA team to repeat from 2017 and get their second win in the tournament. I don’t think their rotation is as strong as rival team Dominican Republic, as has already been mentioned, who boast a frighteningly good line-up. But the hitters and defense in the field should help get the job done for the USA team!
Davis Byrd: It’s tough to bet against strong squads like the United States and the Dominican Republic here. Both squads are absolutely loaded to the brim with big league talent with names like Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Pete Alonso, and many others on the American side. The Dominican team is spearheaded by names like NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara and countless other big league studs. I’m going to go against the grain a bit and pick Japan as a dark horse to win the entire thing. Their preliminary roster is very strong and is obviously led by Shohei Ohtani, but the rest of their rotation is very strong with Yu Darvish factoring in, as well as a young stud in the NPB, Roki Sasaki. Their lineup is dangerous as well with Ohtani likely factoring in with Masataka Yoshida, Seiya Suzuki, and 22-year-old NPB powerhouse Munetaka Murakami, who just finished clubbing 56 home runs and driving in 134 runs in the most recent NPB season. Samurai Japan is not one to be underestimated here.
Isaiah Hansen: This is definitely a two-headed race in my eyes. The United States and Dominican Republic are two monster power-houses and we hope to see this All-Star Game-like matchup take place. That said, I think the Dominican Republic is full of hunger all around. There are many great veterans on Team USA, but the DR is full of youth extending to an elite bullpen and all throughout their lineup. It’ll be a great game, but the Dominican Republic will need a lot of things to go wrong for them to lose this year’s World Baseball Classic.
Who are your picks for the MVP Award in each league?
Devon Withers: In the American League, I am favoring the Cleveland Guardians’ José Ramírez to have a favorable 2023 season. Even with the lingering thumb injury last season, Ramírez slashed .280/.355/.514 to go with 29 home runs and 126 RBI. He was also intentionally walked a league-high 20 times. The addition of Josh Bell to hit behind Ramírez in the lineup should only improve Ramírez’s chances at the MVP crown. He has finished in the top five in MVP voting on four occasions and was the runner-up for the award in 2020.
In the National League, I believe Mookie Betts quickly finds himself in the MVP race. The Los Angeles Dodgers lost some notable pieces in the offseason such as Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, and Trea Turner, so it could put Betts in a position to carry the Dodgers in 2023. His defense has never been in doubt, so it will be interesting to see how Betts and Los Angeles finish the upcoming season.
Jake Crumpler: It’s got to be Shohei Ohtani in the American League. The man is arguably the best athlete in the world and is doing something we have never seen and may never see again. Following an unanimous 2021 AL MVP Award-winning campaign, Ohtani took his game to another level in 2022, posting what may be considered the best season of all time. If not for a record-breaking season from Aaron Judge with a hint of East Coast bias, Ohtani would have taken home the award again last year. The Angel’s ace and leadoff hitter brings one of the most electric arms and powerful bats to the table. Being both an All-Star pitcher and All-Star hitter is something that is unmatched across the league, making Ohtani the unquestioned best player in baseball. As long as he stays healthy, he should have a clear path to the AL MVP Award in 2023.
The NL MVP field is at a weird spot going into 2023. Taking a look at the odds, not only is there not a clear frontrunner, but also the 18 players with the best odds are from a group of just six teams (SDP, LAD, STL, ATL, PHI, & NYM), a stark contrast to the 12 different teams represented by the top 18 players with the best odds in the AL. That is a problem on two fronts. First, it means stars on the same team will be taking votes away from each other. Second, it makes it difficult to construct an argument that one player was the most valuable in the league when cases can be made suggesting that player isn’t even the best player on their own squad. With that being said, I’m forced to expand my NL MVP search to a player outside of the consensus pre-season MVP field. 2023 is the year that Jazz Chisholm Jr. takes center stage. So far in his career, he has struggled to overcome plate discipline issues and injury setbacks, but a fully healthy season at the age of 25 with two years of Major League experience under his belt will help Jazz take that next step. It’s not all hypothetical. The young Marlin was on pace for a 30-30 season worth six fWAR last season before succumbing to injury. If he can carry that across a full season, with possible improvements in the average department, the sky’s the limit. Add that to the fact that he’s now the face of MLB The Show 2023 and is moving to center field where his WAR numbers will be boosted even further. It’s got the makings of a season defined by Jazz Chisholm Jr.
Matthew Partridge: I am going to select Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as my pick for the AL MVP Award for 2023. Still only 23 years old, it seems like the man once described by J.D. Martinez as “The Pitcher Killer” has been atop the hitting charts for quite some time. He stayed healthy for the best part of last season and put up impressive numbers once more, leading the team in home runs (32) and RBI (97) during the regular season. Once again for 2023, he’ll be part of a deep line-up for pitchers to navigate through, with little room for walks and careless pitching, so he’ll face his fair share of opportunities. The Blue Jays once again reckon to be in the mix for the postseason and have strengthened this off-season, signing starting pitcher Chris Bassitt to join fellow rotation members Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and José Berríos. Guerrero Jr. is an infectious player, and if this team hits the ground running, he could be a catalyst and rack up some impressive numbers.
With regards to the NL MVP, I am going to predict that Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres goes one better than his 2022 runner-up finish behind Paul Goldschmidt of the Cardinals. Unsurprisingly, with a top-two finish, he placed highly in all major hitting categories for the Padres during the regular season, hitting 32 home runs, with 102 RBI, and a .298 average. Already boasting a loaded lineup following the August 2022 trade for Juan Soto, there seems little reason for change going into 2023 and the Padres will no doubt run the Los Angeles Dodgers close once again in the NL West.
Davis Byrd: My pick for AL MVP is Shohei Ohtani. Look, let’s not make this complicated. Ohtani is a unicorn of a baseball player and the only things that should ever prevent him from being a favorite for this award are a historic season, a la Aaron Judge’s 2022 season, and voter fatigue. He just posted nearly 4.0 fWAR and a 142 wRC+ as a hitter to go along with a 2.33 ERA , 2.40 FIP, 2.65 xFIP, and 5.6 fWAR as a pitcher. If Ohtani is playing baseball professionally in MLB this year, pencil him in as MVP until further notice.
NL MVP is a different animal to predict with Paul Goldschmidt winning it last year. While Goldy is an excellent player, I don’t think everybody had him locked in as NL MVP in preseason. I’m going to pick an MVP vote getter from last season and hedge my bets on Pete Alonso. Alonso last year quietly hit 40 home runs and drove in 131 runs last year while compiling a 143 wRC+. He did this while walking at a nearly 10% clip and posting a career low strikeout rate. It’s a weird landscape for MLB when they have him as the fifth best first baseman in the entire league behind guys like José Abreu. Alonso stands to benefit as well from the new rule changes regarding the shift as he was shifted against 41.2% of the time last year and his wOBA was exactly 60 points better without the shift at .391 to .331 with the shift. If you’re tired of advanced metrics and want traditional stats, he led the league with the most plate appearances putting his team in the lead with 35, four better than the next man up, and led all of baseball in RBI. 2023 Most Valuable Polar Bear.
Isaiah Hansen: In the American League, it’s a boring but very real pick. After Mike Trout once again established himself as the best player in the league. Despite only playing in 119 games, he was still able to smash 40 homers and net 80 RBIs. Trout was recently quoted expressing his desires to reach the postseason. Trout is expected to be healthy and it’s time for him to reclaim his award.
Don’t look now, but Manny Machado is in a contract year. What once seemed impossible is now a possibility. That ridiculous 10-year, $300 million deal now appears to be a bargain and Machado is one elite season away from being able to command another major contract as such. After seeing Aaron Judge bring home nine-years and $360 million at the same age he will be when he hits the market, it’s hard to imagine Machado being content with what would be a remaining five-year, $150 million contract that is remaining on his current deal. Machado is one of the best defensive players in the game and is truly in his prime offensively. With his teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. set to miss a chunk of games, in addition to other stars in the National League who are still finding their footing after injuries or set to miss a chunk. The door is open for Machado and I expect him to smash his way through it.
Who are your picks for the Cy Young Award in each league?
Devon Withers: If the Chicago White Sox make the postseason in 2023, it will be in large part thanks to a successful season from Dylan Cease. He finished second last season in Cy Young voting, only behind Justin Verlander. Cease posted a 2.20 ERA last season while totaling 227 strikeouts. It marks the second consecutive season in which Cease has totaled 200+ strikeouts in a single season. He will be due for a Cy Young at some point in the near future.
The National League has a variety of stellar names, but I am going with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Julio Urías. He finished last season third in Cy Young voting following a year in which he posted a 2.16 ERA. The year prior, Urías once again finished inside the top-10 in Cy Young voting. Clayton Kershaw is surely the face of the pitching staff, but Urías could be the next household name.
Jake Crumpler: It looked to be Shane McClanahan’s year in 2022 as the young lefty pitched to a 1.71 ERA (110.2 IP) with a 0.80 WHIP and a 35.7% K% in the first half, but a pinched shoulder nerve and fatigue slowed him down after the All-Star break. Heading into 2023, I’ve got McClanahan pegged as the favorite to overcome his second half woes and become the AL Cy Young Award winner. In a cushy ballpark with some of the nastiest pitches in baseball, he produced a K% over 30% while limited hard contact (20.5% HC%) and forcing ground balls (51.2%). From a more granular perspective, he induced the fourth-best swinging strike rate and second-best CSW% among starters. Those stats are buoyed by one of the hardest fastballs by a left-handed starter paired with an elite changeup and complimentary curveballs and sliders. Watch out in 2023, because McClanahan is going to light the American League on fire.
You’ve got to love what Max Fried brings to the table. He limits free passes (4.4% BB%) and is one of the elite ground ball pitchers (51.7% GB%) in baseball, thanks to his ability to induce weak contact (.259 xwOBA), all while striking batters out at an above-average clip (23.2% K%). All of that adds up to a pitcher that has pitched to a 2.74 ERA and 1.05 WHIP across the past two seasons (351 IP). The thing is, in each of those campaigns, he put up even better second halves. 2021 saw Fried pitch to a 1.74 ERA (93 IP) in the second half while 2022 featured a 2.18 ERA (66 IP) after the All-Star break. Those numbers hint at a higher level for Fried if they were to be maintained across a full season. Sandy Alcantara showed last year that a blistering strikeout rate isn’t required to win the award, so that won’t be holding him back. I was a year early when I predicted Fried would win when I saw him pumping 98 mph in his first start of 2022, but after back-to-back years with slow starts, I believe 2023 is the year he is finally hot out of the gates and carries it throughout the year.
Matt Partridge: I think the Houston Astros’ starting pitcher Cristian Javier will pick up from where he left off – throwing six innings of shut-out ball in game four of the World Series – to be a leading light and strong candidate for the Cy Young award in the AL for 2023. Leading the Astros in the 2022 regular season with 17 wins and 194 strikeouts, the 25-year-old went on to put in some impressive postseason performances against the hot-hitting New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies and should emerge as a legitimate ace this time around en route to more silverware in 2023.
Corbin Burnes of the Milwaukee Brewers is my pick for the Cy Young Award in the NL for 2023. The starting pitcher led the team in strikeouts (243) during the regular season and finished second only to the Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole, who had 257. He finished with a 2.94 ERA and threw a whopping 202 innings to finish with 12 wins for the season. Though displaying a drop-off from his 2021 numbers, the right-hander figures to be in the mix for the top pitcher award as the Brewers look to overcome their 2022 disappointment and, with their strong rotation, put in a legitimate challenge in the NL race.
Davis Byrd: I’m going to stay away from strict favorites for my two picks. I’ll start with the AL Cy Young. My pick is Mariners’ starter Luis Castillo. Castillo was the big prize for Seattle last year in the trade market and he showed exactly why, striking out 167 batters in 150.1 innings. Castillo switched up his pitch usage a good bit once he landed in Seattle, becoming more of a prototypical fastball and slider pitcher. This yielded some major results. Last year Castillo gave up a paltry .152 AVG and .180 xBA against his fastball. His slider lagged a little behind but was still dominant yielding a .183 AVG and .218 xBA. Opposing batters only collected five extra base hits against his fastball all season, good for a .194 SLG. His fastball was good for a -18 run value and his slider -8. He was nails last year during the Mariners’ hot streak as well, posting a 2.37 ERA to lead the team. +1500 odds for him to win is doing him a great disservice.
NL Cy Young is a weirder pick than Castillo, but we’ll stay out west for this one. 2023 NL Cy Young Award Winner Yu Darvish. Darvish has become a bit of an unsung pillar of the Padres rotation amongst guys like Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove, both of whom could potentially win this award themselves. Darvish posted a very solid 3.10 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and a 3.58 xFIP last season in 194.2 innings for the Padres. Darvish has one of the deepest arsenal of pitches among any starter in baseball and had four pitches last season with a sub .200 batting average against. Darvish has also become a control freak in his later years in his career, refusing to walk anybody, posting a sub-two BB/9 for the first time since his Cy Young runner-up in 2020 with the Cubs. He still maintains that blistering strikeout stuff with 197 K’s in his 194.2 innings. He’s 36 years old this upcoming season but Justin Verlander proved last year this can be an old man’s award still. Expect Bad News to be just as good if not better than his rotation mates, and potentially pip them to the award this Summer.
Isaiah Hansen: The AL Cy Young could go a few different directions, but I think it’ll ultimately go across the border! Alek Manoah has quickly established himself as one of the premier arms in MLB and gives no reason to believe he won’t get even better. At just 25 years old, Manoah is set to be a candidate for the CY Young and will continue to command ship for the Toronto Blue Jays.
In the National League, I expect Aaron Nola to establish even more consistency and to go on an absolute tear in a contract year. He’s set to hit the market next season. He’s always been in the conversation for best starting pitchers in the National League, but it’s time for something extra this season. Although I still expect the Phillies to miss the playoffs, Nola will keep them in the mix most of the year.
Who are your picks for the Rookie of the Year Award in each league?
Devon Withers: The runaway for Rookie of the Year in the American League should be the Baltimore Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson. He has the most big league experience among those qualified for the award in 2023 and has a clear path to a starting spot on Opening Day. He began last season in Double-A for the Orioles before being called up to the Majors. Taken in the 2019 MLB Draft one round after Adley Rutschman, the lefty hitter finished with a 20-20 season. Baltimore continues to improve and surround their youth with opportunities, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Henderson became a worthwhile everyday starter.
In the National League, I believe New York Mets’ Francisco Álvarez is suited for a promising season. Omar Narváez signed a one-year, $8 million deal with a $7 million player option for 2024, but Álvarez could take the starting role sooner than later. Across the last two seasons in the minors, Álvarez has hit a combined 51 homers. The Mets clearly trust Álvarez, who was called up to the Majors late last season and was included on the postseason roster. With enough playing time, he could be the first rookie catcher in franchise history to hit 30 home runs since Mike Piazza in the 1993 season.
Jake Crumpler: My money’s on Japanese import and new member of the Boston Red Sox, Masataka Yoshida. It all starts with his incredible plate discipline that saw him walk twice as much as he struck out in each of his final three seasons in Japan. However, he isn’t just adept at controlling the strike zone. The sweet-swinging lefty also batted over .320 in each of the past five season and topped out at 29 homers in 2019. It doesn’t end there. Projections systems are incredibly bullish on the otufielder, with Steamer projecting a .298 AVG with 18 dingers and a 140 wRC+, and The BAT X projecting a .283 AVG with 16 bombs and a 129 wRC+. If he comes anywhere near those numbers in 2023, it will be a cake walk for Yoshida to take the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
Not many people seem to be talking about Jordan Walker as the potential 2023 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner, so I will. Entering his age-21 campaign, the Cardinals’ top prospect is primed for a show-stopping debut. The 6’5″ athlete jumped to Double-A in his second full season of pro ball and lit the league on fire. He batted .306 with 19 homers, 22 swipes, and a 128 wRC+. Blocked at third base by perennial All-Star Nolan Arenado, Walker displayed his ability to adapt by playing the outfield (including some center) in the Arizona Fall League where his skills were on full display. That gives the supremely athletic future superstar an avenue for playing time. Without the pressure to be the saving grace of a team that made the playoffs in 2022, and with all of the talent in the world, MLB’s #4 prospect will take the league by storm in shocking fashion in 2023.
Matt Partridge: I predict starting pitcher Grayson Rodriguez to win the Rookie of the Year Award in the American League for 2023, pipping hot favorite and teammate Gunnar Henderson. Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round in 2018, the tall right-hander impressed during 2019 and registered a 10-4 record while posting a 2.68 ERA. Bringing a legitimate four-pitch arsenal to his game, including a fastball in the upper 90s, he posted stats of 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings during 2021, heading into 2022 in fine form. That season started well until a right lateral muscle injury shut him down in early June. To compound the frustration, he recorded an ERA of 0.79 in his final six starts. Returning for one late (and very impressive) September start in Triple-A, Rodriguez is poised to be in the mix for a big league rotation spot which could be a springboard towards an award-winning season.
I’m going with a popular pick in the National League race, selecting Arizona Diamondbacks’ outfielder Corbin Carroll as the front-runner in the Rookie of the Year Award race. Slated to make the Opening Day roster following the trade of Daulton Varsho to the Toronto Blue Jays, Carroll possesses high-end hitting and athletic prowess. He went into the 2021 season at the High-A level in fine form, hitting .435 in his opening seven games before shoulder surgery derailed his season. Undeterred, the left-hander smashed his way through 2022 producing an OPS of 1.035 as he climbed through Double-A and Triple-A ball before earning a shot on the big league roster, where he hit four home runs and knocked in 14 run in 104 plate appearances. Hitting to all fields and displaying outstanding range in the outfield with his impressive speed, Carroll will turn heads in the NL West in 2023.
Davis Byrd: Starting off with the American League I’m going to go with Los Angeles Angels’ catcher Logan O’Hoppe. O’Hoppe was traded to the Angels from the Philadelphia Phillies last season and he has one of the clearest paths to being more or less an everyday starter for his team amongst the AL candidates. His biggest competition for the job in this instance is Max Stassi, who is fine, but O’Hoppe is better. He only featured for a handful of games last season at the big league level posting a 98 wRC+ in five games for the Angels, but his numbers in Double-A speak for themselves. He clubbed 26 homers last season both with the Phillies and Angels’ systems combined. He has excellent plate discipline to go along with that power he flashed, and posted a 194 wRC+ with the Angels system and a 144 wRC+ with the Phillies Double-A affiliate. He’s a budding young offensive catcher who has a clear path to starting on a team that will have a lot of eyes on them.
Corbin Carroll is a preseason favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year and it’s easy to see why. Carroll will likely start the season as the starting center fielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s the overall number 2 prospect in baseball and one of the most hyped center field prospects since Mike Trout. Those are lofty expectations for Carroll but they’re warranted. He’s a high on-base hitter with a career .426 OBP in the minors. His slash line in the minors overall last year was .307/.425/.610 with 24 homers and 31 steals across 93 games. He graded as the fastest player in all of baseball last year with the fastest average sprint speed. He played just 32 games for the D-Backs last year and compiled 1.4 fWAR and posted a 130 wRC+. Over a full season at the pace he was on he would have had a six fWAR season. He’s an easy choice here, if not the easiest.
Isaiah Hansen: The American League Rookie of the Year appears to be headed to the Baltimore Orioles one way or another. Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez are expected to be in the mix, but I’m going another route. The New York Yankees have stated that Spring Training will serve as a proving ground for their shortstops. Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s spot is up for grabs as he competes against Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe for a spot on the roster. After posting the first minor league season with 20-homers and 50 stolen bases since Andruw Jones in 1995, I expect Volpe to make the main roster and make an impact. The Yankees may try for service-time manipulation. However, if Volpe delivers on his potential, they will have no choice but to give him a spot.
As for the National League, I am admitting to some bias. I watched Francisco Álvarez play against my Hudson Valley Renegades in some High-A matchups. Álvarez is a nice human being. He’s also got a lot of pop in that bat! He will have plenty of support in the Mets lineup and has been set up for success. He will have some competition (Michael Toglia deserves a mention), but I expect him to be one of the center pieces that help the Mets reach the playoffs. They’ll still be eliminated in the first round, but he will help them get there!
What teams make the World Series in 2023 and which team wins?
Devon Withers: The New York Yankees made the proper moves in the winter to deserve respect as contenders once again in the American League. The front office extended Aaron Judge to a nine-year, $360 million deal following his 2022 MVP season. In addition, the pitching staff got a huge boost from signing left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodón to a six-year deal. As for the National League, I’ll go with the New York Mets, who signed Justin Verlander while retaining Edwin Díaz as well. A rivalry renewed in the infamous “Subway Series” seems fitting. As for the winners, the Mets have a 9-7 record against the Yankees across the last three seasons, but I see the Yankees taking it all in six competitive games.
Jake Crumpler: World Series predictions are really hard to get right, so I’m going to select a couple of teams that I believe will be fun on their way to reaching the pinnacle of the season. The Braves and Mariners are some of the most well-put-together teams in MLB. Atlanta has done an incredible job of extending every player on their team, affording them the luxury of featuring countless stars on a loaded roster. They were already stacked before adding Sean Murphy behind the dish, who I believe will be a major difference maker in 2023. On the AL side, the Mariners already own what could be considered the best pitching staff in baseball, and they supplemented that by bringing Teoscar Hernández and Kolten Wong aboard on the offensive side.
If and when these two teams clash in the Fall Classic, I see the Mariners pulling out the W in six games. Julio Rodríguez would be the clear frontrunner to win the World Series MVP Award, but I think Luis Castillo shines across two dominant starts and takes home the award.
Matt Partridge: I’m going with the Houston Astros and the San Diego Padres winning their respective league championship series and making the World Series for 2023. For the winners, I’ll say Astros in 4.
Davis Byrd: My guess as of now is Padres vs. Astros. The Padres figure in highly in terms of contenders from the National League with the Astros being an ever-present threat towards the top of the American League. The defending champion Astros return much of the same talent from their World Series winning squad last year, sans Justin Verlander. The rest of the AL realistically has to run through Houston in any attempt at making the World Series and I think the Astros are just too much to handle, at least for now. The Padres should be returning controversial young star Fernando Tatis Jr. to a team that pushed the Phillies to the brink last year in the NLCS. The Padres lineup with new addition Xander Bogaerts, as well as young phenoms Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto, and let’s not forget MVP runner-up Manny Machado, they have one of the most dangerous corps in all of baseball. Padres in seven.
Isaiah Hansen: This isn’t bias speaking. I expect the Yankees to finally make it over that mountain that has been the Houston Astros. The Astros are still elite, but they did lose one of their biggest guns in Justin Verlander. In response, the Yankees added one of the best pitchers in baseball to go with Gerrit Cole. They still have Nestor Cortes and potentially a healthy Luis Severino. If the Yankees can remain healthy, a World Series spot is in their future.
Although the Mets, Braves and Dodgers would make for viable opponents for the Yankees, I expect this to be the year the Padres finally put it all together. The Padres added Xander Boegarts to the mix and could be the best lineup in baseball if Fernando Tatis Jr. is able to return to form and stay healthy. They also added Nelson Cruz who seems to get better with age, despite having an off-year with the Washington Nationals. Although they didn’t do much to add to their pitching equation, they still have one of the better pitching rotations in baseball. Ultimately, it’ll be the team’s coming out party, but I expect the league’s best pitching rotation to beat one of the league’s best lineups. The Yankees beat the Padres in six games.
What is your bold prediction for 2023?
Devon Withers: The St. Louis Cardinals will return to 100 regular season wins for the first time since the 2015 season. The Cardinals had a quiet offseason in which they only lost Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and José Quintana. In return, St. Louis won the Willson Contreras sweepstakes. The pitching staff welcomes back Jack Flaherty, who missed most of last season as well. The Cardinals went 43-25 following last season’s All-Star Break, but don’t be shocked if they led the National League (and possibly the majors) in wins this season.
Jake Crumpler: The Dodgers experience a fall from grace, narrowly squeaking into the postseason, only to be ousted in the Wild Card round. In a positive note, Clayton Kershaw makes up for it with a renaissance season, maintaining his health all season, and reminding everyone of his heyday.
Having done very little this offseason, in unfamiliar fashion, the Dodgers are looking mortal compared to the previous iterations of their ballclub. With the rest of the NL beefing up and the Padres looking deadlier than ever, I think the Dodgers will struggle to dominate in 2023 and will be the final Wild Card team. Relying too heavily on unproven talent and veteran starters to cover up the holes in the roster will be the death of one of baseball’s juggernauts. At least Kershaw will have one final Hall of Fame-caliber season, in a Justin Verlander-esque fashion.
Matt Partridge: Other than the Texas Rangers to make the postseason (that’s pretty bold!), I’m putting it out there that 2022 Rookie of the Year, Julio Rodríguez will be in the reckoning for MVP for 2023, running the likes of Judge and Ohtani close!
Davis Byrd: My maybe-not-so-bold prediction for the upcoming season is that the Dodgers will end up having to scrap for a playoff spot through the Wild Card. The Dodgers standards of acquiring high end talent for pennies on the dollar has mostly dried up this offseason. They have to deal with the free spending Padres who have only gotten better with the Bogaerts addition, who also will be returning Tatis Jr. The Dodgers’ biggest addition to their roster has been J.D. Martinez, who, while good, doesn’t quite move the needle enough for me to think they’ll run off with another division crown so easily. They’ll be a team dogfighting for a Wild Card spot.
Isaiah Hansen: This wouldn’t have been a bold prediction a few years ago, but it is now. I expect Cody Bellinger to return to form in some capacity in 2023. I don’t believe his form is what he has shown the past few years. Bellinger will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself with the Cubs. He should at least reach that 30-homer plateau while still being one of the better defensive outfielders in the league.