The 2023 Major League Baseball season is upon us and there is a brand new schedule this year. Every team will play every other team at least once for the first time in history. It's also Year 2 of the new 12-team postseason format, plus MLB has implemented several rule changes despite to improve the pace of play and create more action on the field. The 2023 season will be a historic one, truly.
To stick with the "23s" theme, here are 23 bold predictions for the 2023 baseball season ahead of Thursday's Opening Day. Come with me, won't you?
1. Time of game will drop to 2:45
The pitch timer era has arrived. MLB has implemented a 15-second clock with the bases empty and a 20-second clock with runners on, and it is needed. Games had become a major drag in recent years, mostly because batters repeatedly stepped out of the box and pitchers took time to center themselves between pitches. The pitch timer creates much better flow.
Cactus League and Grapefruit League games have averaged 2:36 (two hours, 36 minutes) this spring. That's down from 3:01 last spring and the 3:06 nine-inning average last regular season. The 25-minute improvement from last spring is consistent with the 21-minute improvement with the pitch timer in Triple-A last year. There is less time between pitches now and a byproduct is shorter games.
For my first bold prediction, I will say the average time of a nine-inning game will drop to 2:45 this season. That would be an 18-minute improvement from last season and baseball's quickest time of game since 1985. Baseball has not had a time of game under 3:00 since 2011 or under 2:50 since 2005. Thanks to pitch timer, I expect it to drop all the way down to 2:45 this summer.
2. Stolen bases will increase 30%
In addition to the pitch timer, MLB has also limited pitchers to two disengagements (step offs, pickoff throws, etc.) per plate appearance and increased the size of the bases. They're 18 inches by 18 inches now, up from 15 inches by 15 inches. Fewer pickoffs + larger bases = green light for basestealers. The stolen base is coming back with a vengeance in 2023.
This bold prediction calls for stolen bases to increase 30% this season. Last season teams stole 2,486 bases, which was the highest stolen base total since 2017. Tack on an additional 30% and that works out to 3,232 stolen bases in 2023. That would be the most in a season since there were 3,279 steals in 2011. It wasn't that long ago that we saw this many steals.
Players are already calling this the "year of the stolen base," and I did not pull 30% out of thin air. That's actually a bit lower than the stolen base attempt increase this spring:
|Spring SB attempts per game||Spring SB success rate||Reg. season SB attempts per game||Reg. season SB success rate|
Players are attempting more steals and they're stealing successfully more often, which is a) exactly what the rules are designed to do, and b) consistent with what happened in the minors when these rules were tested last year. I'm predicting a 30% increase in stolen bases this season and that number might even be conservative.
3. Judge will hit 'only' 45 home runs
Reigning MVP Aaron Judge is in a weird spot. He could repeat his 2021 season in 2023 -- .287/.373/.544 with 39 home runs and a fourth-place finish in the MVP voting -- and it would be both an incredible season and a huge step down from his .311/.425/.686 line and 62 home runs in 2022. Judge can't possibly do that again, can he? Maybe he can. Who am I to say he can't?
Expecting another 60-plus homers is too bold even for me. I will go with Judge hitting 45 home runs this season as my next bold prediction, however. If that sounds underwhelming, well, that's because Judge has set the bar so very high. But only two players hit 45 homers last year (Judge and Kyle Schwarber) and you have to go back to 2007 for the last time as many as four players did it.
Also, no player has hit 45 homers in back-to-back seasons in over a decade. Here are the last five to do it:
|First year||Second year|
48 HR in 2008
45 HR in 2009
47 HR in 2005
54 HR in 2006
45 HR in 2003
45 HR in 2004
57 HR in 2002
47 HR in 2003
52 HR in 2002
47 HR in 2003
Howard hit 45 homers in four straight seasons -- he went deep 58 times in 2006 and 47 times in 2007 -- but we can only go one year at a time with Judge. This bold prediction calls for the game's best power hitter to hit 45 home runs this season, and become the first player to go deep at least 45 times in back-to-back years since the Big Piece was in his prime.
4. Ramírez will finally win MVP
Inarguably one of the best players in the game, Guardians third baseman José Ramírez is in the MVP discussion every single year, though he has yet to break through and win the award. There always seems to be a player in the American League doing something historic that keeps Ramírez from winning MVP. His MVP finishes over the years:
- 2017: 3rd (behind Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge)
- 2018: 3rd (behind Mookie Betts and Mike Trout)
- 2019: no MVP votes
- 2020: 2nd (behind José Abreu)
- 2021: 6th (Shohei Ohtani won unanimously)
- 2022: 4th (Aaron Judge set a new American League single-season home run record)
Five top-six finishes in the MVP voting in the last six years, including three top-three finishes. I am boldly predicting this is the year Ramírez breaks through and wins an MVP award, somewhat similar to how Miguel Cabrera was in the MVP race every year, but did not win the award until his ninth full season.
What does an MVP season for Ramírez look like? A lot like his last few seasons, but a bit better. Something like a .290/.370/.530 line with 35 homers and 30 stolen bases, strong defense at the hot corner, and clutch hits in spades. Also, the Guardians winning the AL Central. That'll help his MVP case with many voters. After years of finishing high in the MVP voting, Ramírez finally wins it in 2023. I have boldly predicted it.
5. The Mets will extend Alonso
Spring training is the busiest time of year for contract extensions. Teams spend November, December, and January improving their roster before shifting their focus to their own players in February and March. In recent weeks we've seen young players like Cristian Javier, Jeff McNeil, and Keibert Ruiz sign long-term deals that bought out multiple free agent years.
Players often set an Opening Day deadline for contract extensions but not always. Luis Castillo, Michael Harris II, and Joe Musgrove are among the big name players who signed extensions in-season last year. For this bold prediction, I'm saying Pete Alonso joins them and signs a long-term deal with the Mets sometime this summer.
The numbers: eight years and $200 million. Alonso right now is at the same service-time level as Matt Olson when he signed his eight-year, $168 million contract. Factor in contract inflation since Olson signed his deal and Alonso's importance to the Mets (and the Steve Cohen of it all), and yeah, eight years and $200 million is in the ballpark for an Alonso extension.
Alonso is all-in on the Mets and wants to bring a World Series title to Queens. I don't get the sense he will be unwilling to discuss an extension during the season. If the Mets come to him in, say, June with an offer, he'll listen. I predict it happens. Sometime this summer Alonso and the Mets will agree to a contract that essentially makes him a Met for life.
6. Buxton will play more games at DH than in center field
The Twins already plan to use Byron Buxton at DH to begin the season for several reasons, including allowing him to build up slowly following last fall's knee surgery. Buxton's injury issues are well-known. He played 92 games last season, his most since 2017, and he's played only 307 of 708 possible regular season games over the last five years, or 43 percent.
Because of that, I'm boldly predicting the Twins continue to use Buxton at DH just to keep him in the lineup as much as possible. That doesn't mean full-time DH duty, but more DH games than center field games. Minnesota brought in Michael Taylor, himself a top-notch defender, to provide depth in center. That makes forfeiting Buxton's elite glove a little easier to swallow.
No doubt, putting Buxton at DH is suboptimal. His defense is outstanding and there's a lot of value there. But there's also a lot of value in keeping Buxton on the field. Trading some defensive value for more games in general is a worthwhile tradeoff for a player this talented. I'm thinking 75 games at DH and 50 in center field. That sound good?
7. deGrom will make 30 starts
Health has been an issue the last few years, there's no denying that, and that's why predicting Jacob deGrom will make 30 starts qualifies as bold. His spring side tightness doesn't worry me so much. The arm injuries the last two years are the real red flags, and I'm going out on a limb and saying deGrom avoids them in 2023, and doesn't miss a single start.
Normally I would say 30 starts of deGrom equals a Cy Young award, the guy is outrageously good, but I think he'll fall short of Cy Young level during his ag- 35 season. By that I mean deGrom will merely be one of the 5-10 best pitchers in baseball rather than the best. This bold prediction has deGrom making 30 starts but failing to win the Cy Young, which is a difficult needle to thread.
8. The Padres will trade for Burnes
Let me start by saying this has nothing to with Corbin Burnes saying there is "no denying that the relationship is definitely hurt" following his arbitration hearing with the Brewers a few weeks ago. Arbitration is inherently adversarial and it can be contentious, though people on both sides are pros and understand it's a business. It's not necessarily a relationship killer.
No, this bold prediction has everything to do with where Burnes is in his career, namely two years away from free agency. He is on the short list of the best pitchers in baseball and poised to cash in handsomely after 2024. It is extremely unlikely the small-payroll Brewers will be the team that gives Burnes that massive contract. They so rarely swim in pools that deep.
Milwaukee traded Josh Hader when he was a year-and-a-half away from free agency at last summer's deadline and I have them doing the same with Burnes. That's when his trade value will be at its highest (the other team gets Burnes for two postseasons, not one) and it would allow the Brewers to replenish the pipeline and hopefully remain in contention moving forward.
So where is Burnes going? The Padres, of course. San Diego is extremely motivated and they are in on every big star, even when you think there's no possible way they can make it happen. An NL West title is within reach, World Series contention is expected, and there are enough questions at the back of the rotation to believe the Padres will be in the market for a starter come July.
With Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado locked up on the left side of the infield (not to mention erstwhile infielder Fernando Tatis Jr. as well), I think Padres GM A.J. Preller will part with shortstop and top prospect Jackson Merrill to get Burnes. Merrill plus other stuff, obviously. You'll have to give up multiple top prospects to get a guy like Burnes and we know Preller is willing to do that.
Surrendering Merrill will hurt, but Burnes can swing the balance of power in a division race or postseason series, and would be a two-postseason pickup. Trading Merrill's future impact for Burnes' immediate impact makes sense for the Padres given where they are in their contention window. San Diego gets an ace, the Brewers get another wave of young talent.
9. Cardinals and Marlins will swap Carlson for Rogers
A year ago at this time Dylan Carlson and Trevor Rogers would have been untouchable. Carlson slashed .266/.343/.437 with 3.3 WAR en route to finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2021. Rogers was the Rookie of the Year runner-up that season thanks to 133 innings with a 2.64 ERA and 157 strikeouts. Both were emerging stars.
Then, in 2022, both battled injuries and had underwhelming seasons. Carlson hit .236/.316/.380 and found himself on the bench at times down the stretch. Rogers was limited to 107 ineffective innings. Ineffective as in a 5.47 ERA. Last spring Carlson and Rogers were cornerstone type players. Now they're bounce-back candidates. That's how it goes in this sport sometimes.
For this bold prediction, I'm calling for a Carlson-for-Rogers swap. Maybe it's a larger trade with a few others thrown in, but that's the core trade: Carlson for Rogers. Each player has four years of team control remaining, so that matches up, and each club would deal from an area of depth to address an area of need. A pure baseball trade. Those are my favorite.
The Cardinals would get a young starter with long-term control, something they need with Adam Wainwright retiring and Jack Flaherty and Jordan Montgomery becoming free agents after the season. They'd still have Lars Nootbaar, Tyler O'Neill, Jordan Walker, and also Brendan Donovan and Juan Yepez, as outfield candidates.
The Marlins, meanwhile, get a much-needed outfielder with above-average defense and offensive upside. Even if Carlson ends up in a corner in deference to Jazz Chisholm, he's an upgrade. Miami would still have Sandy Alcantara, Edward Cabrera, and Jesús Luzardo to build the rotation around, with Braxton Garrett and Sixto Sánchez (and, once healthy, Max Meyer) still around as well.
A pure baseball trade. The Cardinals have a lot of controllable outfielders and need a controllable starter, and the Marlins have a lot of controllable starters and need a controllable outfielder. It fits, and I think both teams are eager to make upgrades and improve their clubs. Carlson for Rogers at the deadline, maybe with some secondary pieces added in.
10. The Phillies will trade for Giolito
The White Sox entered 2022 as AL Central favorites, slogged to an 81-81 record, then had an underwhelming offseason that saw them import Andrew Benintendi and Mike Clevinger, and not much else. They also lost heart and soul first baseman José Abreu. Chicago still has the same depth issues that dragged the team down a year ago.
As for the Phillies, they added Trea Turner to a team that went to the World Series last fall, though top pitching prospect Andrew Painter suffered an elbow injury this spring, and stalwart Ranger Suárez has a forearm issue. There are suddenly rotation concerns in Philadelphia. Giolito will be a free agent after the season. It's not hard to connect the dots here.
So, come July, I boldly predict the Phillies will be in the market for a starter, and swing a trade with the White Sox for Giolito. The Phillies are in it to win it and the White Sox are far from a lock to be in the postseason race. Rather than lose Giolito for nothing, they'll put him on the market. A trade sending Giolito back to the NL East is in the cards this summer.
11. The Orioles will win fewer games than 2022
After a deep rebuild that took way too long to bear fruit, the Orioles finally broke through last season and posting a winning record for the first time since 2016. They became the first team to lose 110 games one year and post a winning record the next since the 1899 St. Louis Perfectos. By any measure, 2022 represented a significant step forward for the Baltimore franchise.
Sadly, I'm here to rain on the parade and boldly predict the O's will win fewer games in 2023 than they did in 2022. That means 82 wins max this summer. This is not me being a hater (though I didn't love Baltimore's offseason). It has more to do with the Plexiglass Principle, meaning teams that improve dramatically one season tend to regress a bit the next.
The Astros are a good example. As they were coming out of their rebuild in the mid-2010s, they went from 70 wins in 2014 to 86 wins and a Wild Card Game berth in 2015. They were an emerging powerhouse poised to take another big step forward ... and then they won 84 games in 2016 and missed the postseason. There was a little hiccup before the reign atop the sport.
The O's have a ton of young talent and continuing to trend upward in 2023 would not surprise me in the least. For bold prediction purposes, I say Baltimore takes a slight step back this summer before having a full-fledged breakout in 2024. Don't take my word for it. O's owner Peter Angelos himself said the team "overachieved and overperformed" last season. So, a step back is reasonable.
12. There will be a combined perfect game
It has been more than 10 years since Félix Hernández threw MLB's last perfect game on Aug. 15, 2012. There were three perfect games in 2012 (also Phil Humber and Matt Cain), the most ever in a single season. MLB is now in the middle of its longest perfect game drought since going a touch more than 13 years between Catfish Hunter (May 8, 1968) and Len Barker (May 15, 1981).
It's time for that drought to end. For my next bold prediction, I say there will be a perfect game in 2023, the first since King Félix in 2012. Not only will there be a perfect game in 2023, it will be a combined perfect game, the first in MLB history. The Rays came close to a combined perfect game four years ago. Hanser Alberto broke it up on the first pitch of the ninth inning.
The Rays came close in 2019 and I boldly predict they will finish the job in 2023 and throw baseball's first combined perfect game. The date: Wednesday, April 5, in Washington DC. Second series of the season. Shane McClanahan starts, retires all 18 Nationals he faces, then Garrett Cleavinger, Jason Adam, and Peter Fairbanks close it out. Baseball's first ever combined perfect game.
13. Yoshida will live up to the projections
In one of the most polarizing signings of the winter, the Red Sox gave Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida a five-year contract worth $90 million. Add in the posting fee and the total investment is north of $100 million. MLB executives largely panned the deal. "We thought he was worth less than half of what they paid," one executive told ESPN. Perhaps they're a bit jealous?
Execs may not like the contract but the objective projection systems love Yoshida as a player. Take a gander:
|AVG/OBP/SLG||HR||Strikeout %||Walk %||Better than average hitter|
Yoshida slashed .336/.449/.559 with 21 homers and nearly twice as many walks (82) as strikeouts (42) with the Orix Buffaloes last season, and those numbers are right in line with his 2017-21 output. He's been a dominant hitter in the world's highest non-MLB league for the better part of the decade, and now he'll ply his trade in the big leagues.
I'm siding with the projections over the executives and boldly predict Yoshida will indeed be 30% better than the average hitter in 2023. That's a big number. Only 31 qualified hitters were 30% better than average last season. Yoshida is not much of a defender, but the contact ability and plate discipline are real, and I side with the projection systems in believing they'll translate well.
14. Conforto will hit 30 home runs
The Giants made one of my favorite signings of the offseason when they inked Michael Conforto to a two-year, $36 million contract with an opt out after 2023. Conforto missed the entire 2022 season with a shoulder injury, so there's definite risk, but he turned only 30 last month and has been a bona fide middle-of-the-order hitter throughout his career. Nice roll of the dice here.
Conforto wrapped up the Arizona portion of spring training with four home runs in 45 plate appearances, and he went deep in three straight games at one point. He's healthy and there's explosiveness in his swing again.
My next bold prediction calls for Conforto to hit 30 home runs this season. That would be notable for a few reasons. One, he's coming off major shoulder surgery. That's kind of a big deal. Two, he's only hit 30 homers once before, and that was the year of the dinger in 2019. Three, Oracle Park is one of the worst home run parks for lefty hitters, per Statcast.
And four, the Giants have not had a player hit 30 home runs since Barry Bonds. For real. Bonds hit 45 home runs in 2004 and no Giant has hit even 30 homers since. Here are the highest single-season home run totals by Giants players since 2004:
- Brandon Belt, 2021: 29
- Barry Bonds, 2007: 28
- Hunter Pence, 2013: 27
- Several tied with 26
Every other team has had at least one 30-homer player since 2004. The Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, so it's not like the lack of a premium power threat has held them back. I'm not arguing they need one to be a successful team though. I'm just predicting Conforto ends the 30-homer drought this season.
15. Rodríguez will win the Home Run Derby
In T-Mobile Park, of course. Is this a truly bold prediction? Eh, not really. Julio Rodríguez was the Home Run Derby runner-up last season. Is this me pandering to Mariners fans? No comment.
I'm a sucker for the "hometown player wins the Home Run Derby" narrative and it has only happened three times in history: Bryce Harper at Nationals Park in 2018, Todd Frazier at Great American Ball Park in 2015, and Ryne Sandberg at Wrigley Field in 1990. Julio is the perfect player to accomplish the feat. He'll win this year's Home Run Derby in Seattle. I boldly predict it.
16. Assad will emerge as a relief ace
The 2016 Cubs never did develop into a dynasty, and the rebuild arrived sooner than the fan base would have liked. The club is on the rise again though, largely because their pitching development has improved greatly. That 2015-18 era stalled out because the Cubs were unable to supplement their roster with young pitching. They were always short on arms.
Right-hander Javier Assad made his MLB debut last season and was rather ordinary in eight starts (and one relief appearances). The stuff didn't pop and hitters looked comfortable in the box against him. The 25-year-old suited up for Mexico during the World Baseball Classic this spring and was dynamic in a relief role, striking out six in 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
The Cubs took notice and Assad has remained in the bullpen since rejoining the club, and he's poised to assume a larger role out of the bullpen this season. Assad's velocity has jumped into the 95-96 mph range in relief and he pitches with the confidence and moxie that fits well in high-leverage innings. Some guys are just made for the bullpen and it looks like Assad is one of them.
For this bold prediction, I will say Assad emerges as a bona fide relief ace this season, a multi-inning dominator in the late innings along the lines of Yankees righty Michael King and Angels righty Jimmy Herget. Someone who can get his team 5-7 outs in close games every few days. Relievers like that are a major weapon and I expect Assad to emerge as one in 2023.
17. Ashcraft will be an All-Star
Although the Reds project to be one of the worst teams in baseball again in 2023, they have two exciting young starters in righty Hunter Greene and lefty Nick Lodolo. Right-hander Graham Ashcraft does not come with the same prospect pedigree as those two, but he's a promising young pitcher in his own right, and my latest bold prediction has him ascending to All-Star status.
Ashcraft, 25, pitched to an unsightly 4.89 ERA in 105 innings last season, though the under-the-hood numbers were promising if not outright stellar. He pairs upper-90s cutters and sinkers with a big breaking, high spin slider. Some numbers:
|Strikeout %||Swinging strike %||Walk %||Ground ball %||Average exit velocity||Barrel %|
Ashcraft doesn't walk many and he gets a lot -- A LOT -- of weak contact on the ground, a skill that will take you far in this game. The strikeout rate and swinging strike rate are lacking, however, and adding whiffs is how Ashcraft can get to that next level. And so far this spring, he's added strikeouts: 25 strikeouts in only 17 1/3 innings. With only two walks, no less.
The tools are there to miss more bats without sacrificing all that weak contact on the ground. I'm boldly predicting Ashcraft marries strikeouts with weak contact this year, posts a mid-3.00 ERA, and represents Cincinnati at the All-Star Game in Seattle.
18. Lawlar finishes the year as the No. 1 prospect in baseball
Very quietly, the Diamondbacks improved by 22 wins last season, and they're poised to take another step forward in 2023 thanks to a bevy of young talent. Corbin Carroll is locked up and ready to assume a full-time role, and don't be surprised if righty Brandon Pfaadt is the team's third best starter come September. Arizona's farm system is loaded with high-end talent.
Case in point: R.J. Anderson ranked shortstop Jordan Lawlar the No. 18 prospect in baseball but only the third-best prospect in the D-Backs' system this spring. For this bold prediction, I'm calling for Lawlar to emerge as the game's No. 1 prospect come season's end. Here's what R.J. wrote about Lawlar last month:
Lawlar, the sixth pick in the 2021 draft, has elicited comparisons to Royals infielder Bobby Witt Jr. based on their shared Texas heritage and skill sets. He performed well in his first full professional season, posting a .910 OPS in 100 games across four levels (including 20 at Double-A). Unfortunately, Lawlar's year again ended prematurely because of a shoulder injury; whereas in 2021 he tore his labrum, this time around a pitch hit him there and fractured his scapula during the Arizona Fall League. (The injury shouldn't impact his future, or even his 2023 season for that matter.) Lawlar has a chance to remain at shortstop and boast five above-average or better tools at maturation, giving him an All-Star-caliber ceiling should he develop as planned.
Lawlar will play most of this season as a 20-year-old and he managed a .401 on-base percentage with 16 homers and 39 steals in 459 plate appearances while climbing three levels in 2022. The offensive foundation is excellent and Lawlar has given the D-Backs no reason to move him off shortstop yet. The all-around skill set is dynamic and No. 1 prospect in baseball worthy.
Many of the game's best prospects are poised to graduate to the big leagues this summer (Carroll, Francisco Álvarez, Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez, Anthony Volpe, Jordan Walker, etc.). Those graduations combined with Lawlar's continued development will earn him the distinction of being the game's No. 1 prospect by the end of the season.
19. The Athletics will move to Las Vegas
Or, rather, they'll announce they're moving to Las Vegas. They're not moving just yet. I hope I'm wrong, baseball belongs in Oakland, but it's not hard to read the tea leaves at this point. The Howard Terminal project isn't moving forward at a rapid enough pace and time is ticking. The A's lease at RingCentral Coliseum expires after 2024. They need a ballpark deal in place soon so construction can begin and the stadium can be ready for Opening Day 2025. Las Vegas seems ready and willing to accommodate the Athletics. This bold prediction calls for the A's to announce they are moving to Las Vegas at some point in 2023, and I sincerely hope I'm wrong.
20. The Dodgers will have their worst record since 2012
Granted, a bad season for the Dodgers is a good season for many teams, and in this case they can win 90 games and still have their fewest wins since 2012 (not counting the 2020 pandemic season). They've gone to the postseason each of the last 10 years and have won at least 104 games in four of the last five 162-game seasons. The Dodgers have been a juggernaut.
Now though, Los Angeles looks more vulnerable than they have at any point in the last decade. Trea Turner is gone, Gavin Lux will miss the season with a knee injury, and Tony Gonsolin will miss the start of the season with an ankle issue. They're counting on Trayce Thompson and Miguel Rojas at up the middle positions and the depth behind them isn't great (Jason Heyward?).
The Dodgers have certainly earned the benefit of the doubt and I'm not picking them to have a disaster season or anything like that. This bold prediction has the Dodgers winning 90 games and going to the postseason as a wild-card team, but yeah, that would be their worst record since 2012. These doesn't look like the same powerhouse Dodgers we've seen the last decade.
21. The Angels will end their postseason drought
It's a bit sad "end their postseason drought" qualifies as a bold prediction when there are six postseason spots per league and the team in question rosters two of the very best players in the world. But, these are the Angels, and they have baseball's longest postseason drought despite having Mike Trout and the singular Shohei Ohtani under their employ.
I'm prepared to go against my better judgment and give the Angels the benefit of the doubt, and boldly predict they will reach the postseason for the first time since 2014. And, because I expect them to reach the postseason, that means they'll keep Ohtani at the trade deadline. Ohtani is an Angel in 2023. In 2024? Who knows, but he'll remain an Angels for the entire 2023 season.
So what needs to happen for the Angels to return to October? Trout and Ohtani must be great, obviously. There's no path to contention with them being less than elite. I expect a Comeback Player of the Year season from Anthony Rendon, Reid Detmers to take the next step and become a solid No. 3 type starter, and Logan O'Hoppe to quickly emerge as an above-average catcher.
The Angels did not have a flashy offseason but guys like Brandon Drury, Hunter Renfroe, and Gio Urshela are a big upgrade over the guys they're replacing (Matt Duffy, Brandon Marsh, Andrew Velazquez), and it adds up. With the Halos desperate to convince Ohtani to stay and in the race in July, they'll be aggressive at the deadline as well. Postseason baseball in Anaheim in 2023.
22. The Blue Jays will win the AL pennant
The Blue Jays have been both a very good team the last two years but also a bit disappointing, and less than the sum of the parts. They won 91 games and missed the postseason by one game in 2021, then won 92 games and got swept in the Wild Card Series. They didn't just get swept either. They blew an 8-1 lead in the season-ending defeat. Ouch.
This isn't just the year the Blue Jays break through and win a postseason round for the first time since 2016. I'm boldly predicting Toronto levels up and wins the AL pennant for the first time since 1993. They'll beat (who else?) the Astros in the ALCS -- the sub-bold prediction here is Houston goes to the ALCS for the seventh straight year -- and head to the World Series.
I love Toronto's 1-2-3 rotation punch (Chris Bassitt, Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah) and the Jays smartly added some much-needed lefty bats (Brandon Belt, Daulton Varsho) to balance out their righty-heavy lineup. The Blue Jays are a much more complete team now, and I think they're uniquely built to pound the ball and smother opponents with quality starters in a short series.
It is not at all uncommon for talented clubs to experience postseason failure before finally breaking through. The Braves, Dodgers, and Nationals have all done it recent years. After back-to-back 90-win seasons and a disappointing if not embarrassing postseason exit in 2022, it's time for the Blue Jays to take that next step. This is the year it comes together and they make a deep run.
23. The Braves will win the World Series
Is there a team in baseball better set up for the next 4-5 years than the Braves? Sure, it would be nice to still have Dansby Swanson at shortstop, but that didn't work out. The rest of the core is so young and so talented though, and locked up so affordably long-term. There isn't another team in baseball that combines youth and upside with championship mettle like Atlanta.
As such, my final bold prediction calls for the Braves to win the 2023 World Series, their second in three years and third since the franchise relocated to Atlanta in 1966. The lineup is power-laden with multiple MVP candidates (Ronald Acuña Jr., Austin Riley) and the rotation features two bona fide ace-caliber pitchers (Max Fried and Spencer Strider) and depth. The Braves have it all.
For my money, the Braves have best and most well-rounded roster in the game, and their depth extends to the minors as well. Guys like Ian Anderson and Vaughn Grissom did not make the Opening Day roster after being key contributors in past years. The Braves are set up well for the future. They're also set up well for 2023, and I boldly predict they'll be the last team standing.