Previewing the 2023 MLB Season 

Jake Ruderman ‘26

Sports Editor

Yankee Stadium Courtesy of USA Today

By the time you’re reading this, Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is going to be less than a week away, with the first games kicking off on Thursday, March 30th. By that time, the World Baseball Classic will be wrapped up (with either a USA repeat victory or a Japan win) and Spring Training will have come to an end. As we get closer to this upcoming MLB season, it’s worth taking a look at some of the possible storylines that will dictate this season and what to expect. 

Let’s start off with the most important question about the whole season: Who is going to win the World Series? 

While it’s quite early to answer this question, we can put together a group of contenders that will be vying for the Fall Classic come October. The most obvious teams are last year’s World Series competitors, the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies. The Astros have been a juggernaut for a few years now and were utterly dominant last year, winning 106 games, then going 11-2 in the playoffs, and ultimately winning the World Series. As for this year, not a lot has changed; the Astros retained virtually all their players except for reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Without Verlander, their rotation is weaker, but will be able to withstand his loss since Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, and Christian Javier all have shown ace potential. As for their lineup, it’s still stacked from top to bottom, loaded with premier hitting talent at all the key positions. With the addition of 2020 MVP Jose Abreu, the Astros will be one of the league’s best offensive teams yet again, and their 1-5 hitters will be terrifying to opposing pitchers.

The Phillies are returning this season hungry, after coming close to stealing a World Series last year and significantly improving their team this offseason. Their main addition is all-star shortstop Trea Turner, one of the premier shortstops in the league, and a guaranteed .300 average / .850+ OPS hitter. Turner is exactly what this Phillies team needed, and will bring consistent hitting, speed on the basepaths, and strong defense at the most important position. The Phillies also cleaned things up around the edges, signing reliever Craig Kimbrel and starter Taijuan Walker, and trading for reliever Gregory Soto, a two time all-star and a sneaky good pickup. Philly addressed their biggest needs this offseason through strengthening their bullpen and defense, and should look to seriously challenge the Mets and Braves for the NL East crown.

Other than the two reigning Pennant winners, it’s also important to consider the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres,  Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Yankees. The Mets lost 2-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, but replaced him with Justin Verlander. In fact, they lost multiple starting pitchers, opting to replace them with Kodai Senga, a high-risk, high-reward pitcher out of Japan, and veteran Jose Quintana. They also re-signed their key players; reigning NL batting champion Jeff McNeil, outfielder Brandon Nimmo, and closer Edwin Díaz all signed for four or more years. The Mets are hoping that with a season of experience under their belt, and a hopefully less injury-plagued season, they can repeat as 100-game winners and be ready come playoff time. 

The Braves did much of the same as the Mets, shoring up the holes in their team and resigning key players. Their biggest move was trading for veteran catcher Sean Murphy and immediately locking him up on a team friendly deal, a move that should be a no-doubt win for the Braves. Other than some smaller moves, the Braves’ biggest offseason change was the loss of their premier shortstop Dansby Swanson. In the last two years, the Braves have lost two of the key players from their World Series win, with Freddie Freeman now in another uniform as well. Despite these losses, their young guys have stepped up and filled in, keeping the Braves as one of the league’s top contenders. 

The Padres had one of the more interesting offseasons, as they signed elite shortstop Xander Bogaerts to a massive eleven-year deal, extended all-star Manny Machado for another eleven years, and locked up Yu Darvish for another six years. The Padres are certainly following in the Mets’ footsteps of spending big in the short term in an attempt to win a ring in the next 3-5 years, while footing the bill way down the road with massive contracts for aging stars. The Padres also nearly snagged reigning AL MVP Aaron Judge from the Yankees, and reportedly offered him $400 million to try and pry him away from the Bronx. Even though they ultimately didn’t land Judge, the Padres clearly aren’t playing around and are willing to spend in a massive way to bring their first title to San Diego. 

As for the other contenders, the Dodgers lost Trea Turner which should be a massive blow to their team. They also lost veterans Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner. Ultimately, the Dodgers’ roster is still loaded top to bottom, but they should have a harder time competing with the NL West this season than in the past. The Yankees re-signed Aaron Judge to a massive deal, keeping him in pinstripes for the rest of his career. They also brought in ace Carlos Rodon to help out their already solid rotation. They will look to finally get over the hump and beat their arch nemesis, the Houston Astros. 

Possible award winners?

There hasn’t been a back-to-back AL Cy Young winner since 2001, and that trend will continue this year since Verlander’s move to the NL. Christian Javier, Dylan Cease, and Shoehi Ohtani should all contend for Cy Young, as well as possible sleepers Jacob deGrom (if he stays healthy) and Carlos Rodon. As for the NL, it’s anyone’s race, ranging from veteran all-stars Sandy Alcantara and Corbin Burnes, to newcomers Spencer Strider and Zac Gallen. MVP wise, this could be Vlad Guerrero Jr. ‘s year if the Blue Jays can finally get it together, or Julio Rodriguez’s year, if he continues to impress and the Mariners stay relevant. But it all could be for not if Shohei Ohtani has another outstanding season. For the NL, look for elite veterans that could have a big impact on new teams like Trea Turner or Juan Soto, or players keeping their teams alive amidst injury, like Francisco Lindor or Mookie Betts. In terms of AL Rookie of the Year, it seems like Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson is going to run away with it, although ROY is always up in the air. For the NL, I’d point to whichever of the Mets’ young guys breaks through in a big way, either Francisco Alvarez or Brett Baty, or potentially Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll. 

The other massive storyline is the pending success of all of this offseason’s mega-deals. Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Carlos Rodon, Masataka Yoshida, and Kodai Senga all signed huge deals with new teams. MLB owners had a spending spree this past offseason, perhaps spurred by owners like Steve Cohen’s recent dramatic increase in spending, but it remains to be seen whether these deals will come back to haunt them. Almost all of these teams chose to ignore their financial situations down the road in order to strengthen their teams now, especially in regards to aging veterans who will be making boatloads of money in their less productive years ahead. Will these contracts be worth it in the short term? How high will salaries continue to rise? It all remains to be seen with this season and beyond. 

All things considered, it’s looking like it’s going to be another fun, ultra-competitive MLB season that should keep baseball fans well-entertained for the next seven months.

Categories: Sports

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