2023 MLB Season Preview: go bold or go home

March 21, 2023


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On March 30, America’s favorite pastime returns, and we’re ready for yet another MLB season.

On March 30, America’s favorite pastime returns, and we’re ready for yet another MLB season. As always, we’re looking forward to the emergence of new breakout players and teams, but we’re also interested in how the implementation of the pitch clock and other new rules will affect the game we love.   

In this article, we’ll be looking at some contenders for the upcoming season: those who have a shot at winning the World Series, and those who are great, but probably not good enough to win it all. We’ll also share early predictions for the 2023 season, including our picks for MVP, CY Young and Rookie of the Year.

*In our evaluations, we’ll be using various advanced baseball metrics, such as WAR (wins above replacement), wRC+ (weighted runs created plus), FIP (fielding independent pitching) and OAA (outs above average).

Power Rankings: Top 10 contenders

2022 Offensive and defensive rankings. (Theo Au-Yeung)

1. Houston Astros – Record prediction: 102-60

The defending World Series champs — and, more infamously, known cheaters in the 2017 World Series — will return to the MLB for another year as the league’s presumptive top team. Designated hitter/left fielder Yordan Alvarez is a serious MVP candidate as one of the best hitters in the league. Pair him with outfielder Kyle Tucker, another potential MVP candidate, star veteran second-baseman Jose Altuve, star third-baseman Alex Bregman and newly acquired first-baseman Jose Abreu, and you’re looking at possibly the most dangerous lineup in the league. Losing CY Young winner Justin Verlander in the starting pitching rotation will hurt, but Cristian Javier has emerged as a star and a potential CY Young candidate this season. Framber Valdez and his incredible ability to induce ground balls will prove to be crucial for Houston alongside a top 3 defense in the league [figure 1]. There’s no doubt the Astros will be competing for yet another title. But don’t place your bets yet: The competition has gotten better in the American League, and it won’t be an easy path in the regular season or postseason for Houston.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers – Record prediction: 104-58

Holders of the highest payroll in the league, the Dodgers will look to win their first World Series since 1988 after years of dominance (we’re not counting that Mickey Mouse 2020 season where they won the World Series in a 60-game season). Trea Turner is gone, Cody Bellinger is gone and Justin Turner is gone, three relatively reliable players in the Dodgers lineup that contributed to the best offense in baseball last season (figure 1). Still, let’s not forget that the Dodgers pay a ridiculous amount of money to hold the best roster in the league, stacked with star talent all the way from the heart of their lineup to their bullpen and all the way down to their coaching and front office. Expect them to be in a competitive race for the NL West title alongside the Padres, though we suspect that Los Angeles will edge out San Diego with more than 100 wins as they have done frequently  the past 5-7 years. So expect the regular season kings to work their magic again this year — but don’t be surprised if they choke in the playoffs as usual.

2022 Pitching rankings (ERA and FIP). (Theo Au-Yeung)

3. Atlanta Braves- Record prediction: 95-67

The Braves are a perennially underrated team in the MLB, but these days, most people have realized that Atlanta are among the cream of the crop. Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. has had his last few seasons marred by injury, but if he can stay healthy this year, he’s a very legitimate MVP Candidate. Also in the lineup is star first-baseman Matt Olson, who has done a nice job in Freddie Freeman’s place, newly acquired catcher Sean Murphy, second-baseman Ozzie Albies, third-baseman Austin Riley and center fielder rookie of the year Michael Harris Jr. There’s enough starpower in this lineup to believe they can go far regardless of whether or not their pitching is elite. 

4. San Diego Padres – Record prediction: 91-71

The Padres are looking at possibly the most ferocious lineup in all of baseball. Last season was marred by the season-long suspension of star player Fernando Tatis for hemorrhoid cream — and then Tatis’ string of  motorcycle accidents, but this year promises to be different. Tatis will finally return (hopefully) to take his place in a lineup with young superstar Juan Soto — who has the highest odds to win NL MVP this year — aging star veteran Manny Machado and newly acquired shortstop Xander Bogaerts. A consistent starting pitching rotation will be key, with the likes of Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish. The Padres have all the pieces, it will be just about keeping players healthy. 

5. New York Mets – Record Prediction: 92 – 70

I know the Mets lost Jacob deGrom, probably the best pitcher in the league, but his constant injuries were more of a hindrance for New York anyway. In place of deGrom, they’ve signed star veteran pitcher and reigning CY Young winner Justin Verlander from the Astros to pair with Max Scherzer in the starting rotation. The Mets are a fun team, but could be very boom or bust. They’ll either have a great season, or easily miss the playoffs in a competitive National League.

7 Bold Predictions for the 2023 Season

Javier established himself as a top pitcher last season. (Theo Au-Yeung)

1. Cristian Javier wins CY Young 

Cristian Javier will be looking to build momentum off an amazing postseason performance, in which his stellar outings — including throwing 6 innings in a combined no-hitter against the Phillies — helped the Astros to their second World Series. Even in the 2022 regular season, Javier was amazing, dazzling with a 2.54 ERA, eighth best in the league. Javier will have some stiff competition against some good lineups in the American League, and there will be other fantastic pitchers looking to win that CY Young award. However, Javier has one of the best fastballs in the league: batters have just a 0.183 batting average against that pitch. CY Young or not, Javier will emerge as a star pitcher and make the Astros forget about losing Justin Verlander. 

2. Adley Rutchsman’s MVP season carries Orioles to playoff berth

Despite having played just one professional season, Rutchsman might just be the best catcher, both offensively or defensively, in the league. He posted a five- win season in 2022 (5.3 WAR), top 20 of all players in the league last season. Joining him is rookie third-baseman Gunnar Henderson, who will look to take advantage of his first season in the MLB as Baltimore’s top prospect, and expect outfielder Cedric Mullins to stay hot after two solid seasons. The worry for the Orioles will be maintaining consistency in their pitching line-up.

As shown in figure 1, the Orioles are an above average defensive team and have a lot of potential offensively. There’s a lot of hope for Baltimore this season. If they live up to their potential, they may go far. 

3. Shohei Ohtani gets traded at the deadline 

Baseball is probably the only sport in the world where you can have two top-five players in the league (Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout) and still be one of the worst teams in the league year after year. The Los Angeles Angels need money. They can’t really afford to pay two big-time contracts to two big-time players, especially when both are undoubtedly frustrated with year after year of poor seasons with the Angels. If the trajectory of the Angels season is trending towards another disappointment, I think that Los Angeles will lose Ohtani at the trade deadline. Wherever he goes, it is certain that Ohtani will succeed and continue to be the MVP-level player he’s always been.

Kwan was one of the most unique hitters in the league last season. (Theo Au-Yeung)

4. Steven Kwan emerges as a superstar player 

The 2000-2010 MLB era had Ichiro. The 2022 and beyond era will have Steven Kwan. Kwan is what we call a contact merchant. Kwan has the second lowest strikeout percentage in the league, and the second highest contact percentage. He isn’t just a contact hitter though — he has amazing plate discipline as well, sporting a .373 on base percentage, 13th best in the league. Kwan’s play style has truly been a breath of fresh air for a league that has predominantly consisted of high power, high strikeout types of players. His rookie season was very solid, but I think he will make a huge jump this year. 

5. Two Japanese players win Rookie of the Year

Two Japanese phenoms — outfielder Masataka Yoshida of the Boston Red Sox, and pitcher Kodai Senga of the New York Mets — have made their way to the MLB after being simply too good for the Japanese baseball league. Both are beasts — Yoshida had a .335 batting average last season in Japan, and Senga had a 1.89 ERA. Both are also very nice people, which will make it very fun and easy to root for them. 

Nola has been consistently one of the best pitchers in the league, including an unlucky, outlier 2022 season. (Theo Au-Yeung)

6. Aaron Nola wins CY Young in a massive breakout year

Nola’s 3.25 ERA last year might not jump out as amazing, but keep in mind that he is pitching with the second worst defense in baseball behind him (the Phillies, Figure 2), which has contributed to his higher ERA. In fact his FIP, a ERA metric of sorts that accounts for poor defense, is just 2.58, fifth best in the league. Additionally, Nola sported a WAR of 6.3, highest among all pitchers. Nola hasn’t quite gotten the recognition he deserves, and with Trea Turner joining the Phillies to hopefully add a boost to their defense, that will likely change. 

The A’s continue to be one of the lowest spenders in the league. (Theo Au-Yeung)

7. A’s win less than 50 games

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it: The A’s are awful. This might be the worst roster in all of American sports and the worst franchise/company in the sports industry. Here’s a look at how much the A’s have paid in total in terms of player contracts. They refuse to splash money on star players, and even when they do get capable players on their roster, they trade them away immediately before having to pay them. Five years ago, they created a core of elite level players with the likes of Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Marcus Semien and Liam Hendricks, all who were on cheap or rookie contracts. But the A’s got rid of them as fast as they could, trading them away or letting them sign elsewhere. If you take a look at their roster now, it’s just a bunch of no names. The A’s are going to lose the most games this year in the MLB, and it shouldn’t be close.

Awards predictions: MVP, CY Young, Rookie of the Year

AL MVP: Adley Rutschman – Catcher (Baltimore Orioles)

NL MVP: Juan Soto – Rightfielder (San Diego Padres) 

NL CY Young: Aaron Nola – Philadelphia Phillies 

AL CY Young: Cristian Javier – Houston Astros 

AL ROY: Masataka Yoshida – Outfielder (Boston Red Sox)

NL ROY: Kodai Senga – Starting pitcher (New York Mets)

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Photo of Theo Au-Yeung
Theo Au-Yeung, Staff Reporter

Theo Au-Yeung is a senior at Burlingame and this is his first year in Journalism. Theo also plays baseball for Burlingame, and in his free time, he enjoys...

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Danny Conway, Staff Reporter

Danny is a Senior at Burlingame High School and a first year journalism student. President of his class, Danny is excited to learn and report on the interworking...

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