10 Bold Predictions for Major League Baseball in 2023 | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors
10 Bold Predictions for Major League Baseball in 2023
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We are less than two weeks into the 2023 calendar year, but we’ve got bold predictions of a litany of things that will go down in Major League Baseball over the course of the next 11.5 months.
Most of our predictions are about things that will happen during the 2023 MLB season, of course. A breakout rookie. An unlikely MVP. A surprise AL West champion. A World Series ring three decades in the making. That sort of stuff.
However, as long as it’s something happening during 2023, it’s fair game.
Projecting where one of the top remaining free agents will land in the coming days? Fair game.
A trade that could happen tomorrow, in July or even in December? Fair game.
And a prediction on where Shohei Ohtani will sign when he hits free agency in November? Definitely fair game.
Predictions are listed in no particular order, aside from saving that Ohtani prognostication until the end.
Trey Mancini Returns to Baltimore
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At this point, almost all of the top free agents have signed somewhere. There are a bunch of intriguing names still out there, like Michael Wacha, Andrew Chafin, Aroldis Chapman, Brian Anderson and Jurickson Profar, but the biggest name still at large (aside from the ongoing Carlos Correa saga, which we’ll get to later) is unquestionably Trey Mancini.
The 1B/LF/RF/DH got a World Series ring, but he had a brutal finish to the 2022 campaign, batting .161 (regular season and postseason) after getting traded from Baltimore to Houston.
He’s young enough (turns 31 in March) that he reasonably could have gotten a six-year, $100 million deal if his stint with the Astros hadn’t been such a glaring red flag. But now he’s likely destined for something more along the lines of a one-year, $15 million deal, with hopes of reinflating his stock enough to get a five-year contract next offseason.
And if that’s the case, why not a reunion with the O’s, who clearly need at least one more bat?
We thought Baltimore might spend some money this offseason, at least compared to its usual frugal approach in free agency. But it hasn’t done much, merely adding Kyle Gibson to replace Jordan Lyles while committing a combined total of $12 million to Adam Frazier, Mychal Givens and James McCann.
There should be room in the budget to bring back Mancini, who was a fan favorite over the past half-decade.
If they allow him to instead go to the Cubs or the Nationals on a one-year, $15ish million contract, the Orioles might as well take out a full-page ad in the Baltimore Sun telling their fans that they aren’t actually trying to win this season. Though, they might not be willing to spend the money for that ad.
Corbin Burnes Gets Traded
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It probably won’t happen this offseason. If the Brewers are anywhere close to a playoff spot at the end of July, it wouldn’t happen during the season, either. But before the calendar flips to January 1, 2024, Corbin Burnes will be traded away from Milwaukee.
Without question, Burnes has been one of the best pitchers in the majors over the past three seasons. Among pitchers, FanGraphs credits him with the most wins above replacement since the start of 2020.
Burnes has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before hitting free agency in November 2024. Spotrac projects his 2023 salary at $12.7 million. If he stays healthy, it’ll probably be closer to $18 million in 2024.
And if he continues to deliver at a high level in each of the next two seasons, Burnes could be headed for a contract on par with or even more lucrative than the seven-year, $245 million deal Stephen Strasburg got from the Nationals in 2019—an investment which the small-market Brewers almost certainly could not afford to make.
Maybe they decide to do what the Nationals did with Bryce Harper, what the Rockies did with Trevor Story and what the Cubs did with Willson Contreras by just keeping their multiple-time All-Star for as long as they can.
But considering they’ve traded away impending 2024 free agents Josh Hader, Hunter Renfroe and Kolten Wong in the past seven months, they might/should take a similar approach with Burnes, who would likely yield a greater return for Milwaukee than those other three players combined.
Enmanuel Valdez Emerges as a Breakout Star
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There’s no way for me to prove it, but I want it on record that I wrote this section before news broke that Trevor Story needs to have modified Tommy John surgery and might miss a significant chunk of the season.
Boston’s disappointing offseason has been well-documented, the “lowlight” of which was botching the Xander Bogaerts negotiations and ending up with none of the four marquee shortstops who hit free agency in 2022. (At least they did finally lock up Rafael Devers on a long-term deal, though.)
But for the eternal optimists in the crowd, the silver lining is that Bogaerts’ departure opens the door for Enmanuel Valdez to possibly become an everyday middle infielder.
Along with outfielder Wilyer Abreu, Valdez was one of the two prospects that Boston received from Houston in the trade for Christian Vázquez. The 24-year-old slugged .539 with 54 home runs and 197 RBI over the past two years in the minors, emerging as a top prospect after accomplishing very little from 2016-19.
In all likelihood, Boston will sign a stopgap shortstop. Jose Iglesias and Elvis Andrus are still available and could hold down the fort until Story returns. And the Red Sox will probably enter Opening Day planning to roll with Christian Arroyo as their primary second baseman.
By mid-June, though, Valdez will be a regular in the staring lineup and one of the top candidates for AL Rookie of the Year, jostling with fellow AL East infielders Gunnar Henderson (Baltimore) and Anthony Volpe (New York) for that crown.
Zac Gallen Wins NL Cy Young
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Are the Arizona Diamondbacks going to make the postseason?
They did improve from 52 wins in 2021 to 74 wins in 2022 and could take another step forward to a winning record. But finishing ahead of the Dodgers or Padres in NL West is unlikely, and an eighth-place finish in the National League might be their ceiling.
But here’s a fun fact: Three of the last five NL Cy Young winners came from teams who missed the postseason, including Sandy Alcantara from the 93-loss Marlins this past season.
And during the second half of 2022, no pitcher was more valuable than Arizona’s Zac Gallen.
He made 14 starts with a 1.49 ERA. In three of those starts (including one on the road against the mighty Dodgers), he racked up at least 11 strikeouts without issuing a single free pass. He also had a scoreless streak of 44.1 innings en route to a fifth-place finish for NL Cy Young. Among qualified NL pitchers, his full-season 0.913 WHIP was the lowest.
That dominance didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, either. Between 2019-20, Gallen made 27 starts with a 2.78 ERA and a 10.5 K/9. He placed joint-ninth in the Cy Young vote in 2020.
But in a league where Corbin Burnes, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and reigning Cy Young winner Alcantara are all fantastic candidates, we should be able to get Gallen at semi-sleeper odds to win it.
Carlos Correa Wins AL MVP
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AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
Were it not for all of the Giants-to-Mets-to-Twins drama over the past month or so, this one probably wouldn’t seem like a bold prediction.
Carlos Correa was the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year, a two-time All-Star and a three-time recipient of MVP votes, including a fifth-place finish for AL MVP in 2021. And until the Giants backed out of the deal, the 13-year, $350 million contract they offered Correa was the fourth largest in MLB history.
He’s an excellent shortstop who will be in his age-28 season in 2023, which means he’s just now entering his prime and might be even better than ever.
However, prior to his 12-year, $315 million deal with the New York Mets deal falling apart, Correa was +2800 to win NL MVP, per Vegas Insider, which is roughly the same odds as pulling a red ace from a full deck of cards. (They have not yet posted updated AL MVP odds since he signed his six-year, $200 million deal with Minnesota.)
I will say, I liked his chances better when he was going up against Juan Soto and Mookie Betts as opposed to Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge and Mike Trout. But he might mess around and have one of the most “motivated to prove them wrong” seasons in MLB history, leading the Twins to the AL Central crown en route to an AL MVP trophy.
After a rough 16-game start to last season, he hit .307 and homered at a 162-game pace of 28. If both he and the Twins improve by just a little bit, an MVP campaign is feasible.
St. Louis Cardinals Lead Majors in Wins
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AP Photo/Gregory Bull
Save for winning the Willson Contreras sweepstakes, the St. Louis Cardinals have had an extremely quiet offseason.
And with good reason, as all they really lost from a team that went 43-25 after the All-Star Break were Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina to retirement and José Quintana to free agency.
In Contreras, they have their replacement for Molina. They have enough quality hitters on the roster to be more than fine without Pujols at DH. And with Adam Wainwright coming back for one more year, Jack Flaherty back after missing most of last season and Matthew Liberatore possibly ready to make the leap after half a decade as a highly touted prospect, they shouldn’t miss Quintana, either.
Factor in the presumed continued development of young guys like Nolan Gorman, Lars Nootbaar, Juan Yepez, Dylan Carlson and Andre Pallante and the likelihood that only Milwaukee figures to even remotely challenge them for the NL Central crown and it’s not that far-fetched to see the Cardinals winning more than 100 games for the first time since 2004.
And with the Dodgers not looking as strong as last season, the NL East teams destined to beat each other up a bit and Houston facing more competition in the AL West than usual, 101 wins might be enough to lead the majors in 2023.
That doesn’t mean St. Louis is the pick to win the World Series or even the NL pennant, but it will have home-field advantage for however long it lasts in the postseason.
One of the Three NL East Juggernauts Fails to Make the Postseason
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AP Photo/Adam Hunger
Honestly, this isn’t even a bold prediction.
But it feels bold to say that one of Atlanta, New York or Philadelphia will miss the playoffs, right?
In what will be the second year with the 12-team postseason format, the abundantly clear expectation in the National League for 2023 is that it will be Los Angeles and San Diego out of the West, either St. Louis or Milwaukee out of the Central and Atlanta, New York and Philadelphia in some order representing the East.
Per Spotrac, the Mets have the highest 2023 total payroll in the majors by a landslide, with both Philadelphia and Atlanta also currently in the top six.
They’re all paying for a spot in the postseason, and neither the Marlins nor the Nationals are equipped to offer any real resistance in that division.
But you can’t really buy a spot in the postseason, can you?
The Red Sox, White Sox and Angels respectively had the second, third and fourth-highest Opening Day payrolls in the American League last year, and they each finished .500 or worse while missing the playoffs.
In 2021, the Angels (fourth), Phillies (fifth), Padres (sixth), Mets (eighth), Nationals (ninth) and Cubs (10th) each had top 10 Opening Day payrolls. Of the bunch, only the Phillies won at least 80 games, and even they finished 6.5 games out of the playoff picture.
It would be a much bolder prediction if we actually specified which of the three misses the cut, but recent history suggests it’s likely that one of the expensive NL East teams will fail to live up to the hype/payroll.
Texas Rangers Win the AL West
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Dating back to 2017, the Houston Astros have finished a combined total of 168 games ahead of the Texas Rangers. If we take out the abridged 2020 campaign, we’re talking 102.4 wins per season compared to 70.2 wins per season.
The Rangers are, understandably, +850 to win the AL West, given the chasm that has separated those franchises in recent years.
But these are bold predictions, and the Rangers have been quite bold with their spending over the course of the past 14 months.
They signed Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Jon Gray to long-term deals last offseason, as well as Jacob deGrom, Andrew Heaney and Nathan Eovaldi this offseason in an effort to close that gap in a hurry.
Texas also traded for Jake Odorizzi and re-signed Martín Pérez, putting together a six-man starting rotation with a combined payroll salary of $106.15 million in 2023 alone—this on top of the more than $60 million per year they’re paying Semien and Seager.
The Rangers also have a pair of inexpensive stars on their hands in Adolis García and Nathaniel Lowe. The former had 27 home runs, 25 stolen bases and 101 RBI last season. The latter triple-slashed .339/.399/.566 in 72 games played after the All-Star Break. That duo plus Seager and Semien is one heck of a top four in the order.
Factor in a loaded farm system with six of MLB.com’s top 90 prospects, and Texas certainly has the pieces to be the breakthrough team of the 2023 season.
Overtaking Houston won’t be easy, to say the least. But with Justin Verlander gone and neither Jose Altuve nor Michael Brantley getting any younger, maybe the Astros slip just enough to open the door for the high-priced Rangers.
Toronto Blue Jays Win the World Series
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If Texas winning the AL West at +850 isn’t bold enough for you, how about Toronto winning it all at +1300?
The Blue Jays haven’t won a postseason game since 2016, but they have consistently been one of the better teams over the past three years, making the playoffs in both 2020 and 2022 while missing the cut by just one game in 2021.
As far as offseason moves go, they effectively traded Teoscar Hernández, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno for Daulton Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier, Erik Swanson and Adam Macko, improving their defense while also shedding enough payroll to justify paying to replace Ross Stripling with Chris Bassitt in the starting rotation. The net of all those transactions looks like a step in the right direction.
Aside from Stripling, they didn’t really lose anything in free agency, so they should be better in 2023 than they were in 2022—especially if José Berríos is able to bounce back from what was a horrific campaign in which he “led” the AL in both hits and earned runs allowed.
What if the Bo Bichette who hit .394 over the final 33 games of last season shows up for the entirety of 2023? Or what if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gets back to slugging like he did while leading the majors in home runs in 2021?
The Astros and Yankees are understandably the favorites in the AL, but it’s hardly a stretch to see Toronto getting it done for the first time in three decades.
Shohei Ohtani Signs Massive Deal with Los Angeles Dodgers
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The Los Angeles Dodgers have been unusually quiet this offseason.
Despite subtracting Trea Turner, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Chris Martin, Tommy Kahnle, Craig Kimbrel and David Price from their 2022 payroll, all they’ve added to the roster are Noah Syndergaard, J.D. Martinez and Shelby Miller, each on one-year deals in the combined amount of $24.5 million.
But it’s obvious what they’re doing, right?
The Dodgers are both getting below the luxury tax line for 2023 to “reset” that clock—the percent tax increases based on the number of consecutive years exceeding the Competitive Balance Tax threshold—and clearing the books to be able to throw all sorts of money at Shohei Ohtani next offseason.
They might swing a deal for Ohtani ahead of the trade deadline if the Angels fall far enough out of contention in the AL West that they become willing to make that move. At that point in the year, Ohtani’s prorated $30 million salary would only count as about $10 million against the Dodgers. And based on the current projected payroll, they might be able to fit that in and still end the year below the $233 million luxury tax threshold.
But whether they trade for him in-season (and immediately extend him) or wait until November/December to make it happen, Ohtani will be a Dodger in 2024 and he will have the highest salary we’ve ever seen.
It won’t be one of those wild decade-plus contracts that we saw in this year’s free agency cycle, because pitchers simply don’t get decade-long deals. However, it will be a six-year deal in the $270-$300 million ($45-$50 million AAV) range.
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