A Quick Look At... Everything Else in 2023

Saturday, April 15 2023 @ 06:36 AM EDT

Contributed by: Eephus

Gotta hurry it up here, I'm not made of airports...

While this is very much a "oh crud, we're already two weeks into the season I better finally finish this off!" article, I will be giving the remaining NL division the majority of my focus. So first, lets take a look at the National League East! A division featuring three compelling contenders, a fourth headlined by enticing pitchers, and then one sad outfit that will almost certainly be the worst in all the NL (sorry Pittsburgh, I guess?)

The Mets are the flashiest feature here, with their recent inclination towards shiny free agent things... but Atlanta is likewise loaded with talent (more of the homegrown variety) and then those Phillies are the actual reigning National League champs... and have themselves made some notably flashy additions since that flag.

Somebody here has to finish third. But who? Crazy enough... I'd lean into New York finishing there. Or at least... I wouldn't be surprised. That two-headed monster atop the rotation, Future Hall-of-Famers and all, aren't exactly spring roosters anymore (Verlander is 40 and on the Injured List already, while Scherzer will be 39 in July). On the hitting side none of the regulars are younger than 28 (that's Pete Alonso... Lindor is 29 and the rest are over 30). These Mets hit that definition of a team with all the cards forward to "win now" but only if those cards can hold up over the long 162 game season.

Oh right... the format! Here's a pressing question for each NL East team, and then as usual my thoughts on how it could likely play out.

Atlanta Barves (101-61 T-1st, lost NLDS)

Q: With Dansby Swanson departing and Ozzie Albies coming off an ineffective/injury soaked 2022, could the middle infield be a big problem for Atlanta?

A: Two weeks ago I would've said yes, and then Orlando Arcia decided to hit like Trea Turner so... problem solved I guess?

Possibly not. Arcia (who couldn't even get a knock off a beer mug as a Brewer) was a useful utility man for Atlanta in 2022, but repeating that valuable offensive output while being an everyday shortstop is a very different job. As for Albies, he's been rough thus far (a .601 OPS in 55 PAs as of Thursday) which has to be somewhat alarming even with big prospect Vaughn Grissom waiting nearby. 

Regardless of this specific question mark, Atlanta still has all the enviable young talent any fantasy team could dream of. Having Max Fried and strikeout specialist Spencer Strider atop your rotation is a pretty damn fine start, plus another young arm in lefty Jared Shuster (despite his MLB debut going less than exceptional). Charlie Morton and his wily curveball is still around, and the bullpen remains an exceptional weapon (a bullpen which includes Jesse Chavez! Oh, the memories. Why do I still have them???).

Even with Albies not himself, the offensive attack remains as potent as ever. Catcher Sean Murphy continues an Atlanta tradition of "lets steal Oakland's best player) now two years running... first baseman Matt Olson still stands tall as the founder of said-tradition... centerfielder Michael Harris II is the reigning NL Rookie of the Year (though currently injured)... Austin Riley has solidified himself as one of the National League's most feared sluggers... oh and they also have that Ronald Acuna Jr. fella, who like Albies is looking to bounce back from a down year (likewise soaked by injuries). Heck, this team is so deep that infielder Grissom, who had an OPS+ of 121 last season and took further names this spring... is still in the minors. This is a helluva ballclub. About as surefire a playoff team as the National League has (yeah I'm looking at you, Dodgers).

New York Mets (101-61, T-1st, lost NWCS)

Q: For all their might and flare, is this more of a team with terrific depth instead of one loaded with stars?

A: Undoubtedly. The Mets can boast some impressive superstar names, you know the ones... but there are only really four of them. The two legendary aged knights atop the rotation, the shortstop with the bubblegum hair and the slugging first-bagger who never met a home run he didn't like. Superstar-wise? No insult to the now-exceptionally well paid Brandon Nimmo or contact merchant Jeff McNeil, or the diverse toolkit of Starling Marte, or the unique entrance and dominance of Edwin Diaz (what a bummer he's out, that was such a fun schtick) or the curious intrigue of Kodai Senga and his "ghost-fork"... well I think you see what I mean. The Mets have a solid stable of very good, very helpful players beyond those four big names (and one suspects Senga could become that fifth name in quick order).

Because they're the Mets, I know to expect more sadness than glory. Personally, I'm very neutral about the Mets. Their failures give me no amount of delight, even small, unlike similar misfortunes to the St. Louis Cardinals or any non-Jays team in the AL East would. However, there is something rather sadistically comical about how they continually find ways to maximize the pain of their fans... their high performance department may very well be narrowed entirely on inventing new forms of fandom torture. I would feel sympathy if I actually knew some Mets fans though... not sure I've ever even met one (and I've been to their home park).

All right I'll stop being mean (despite it being so much fun here). More likely than not, the 2023 Mets will again be a terrific team... but not one that sniffs winning even 96 games, forget repeating or surpassing 101. There's a lot of quality depth here, but a lot of it on the pitching side that was so fundamental to the 2022 squad (3rd in team ERA in the NL) has been lost (deGrom, Bassitt, Walker, and Diaz to injury). Justin Verlander and Kodai Senga are some impressive replacements, no doubt... but 100+ win teams are hard to replicate and especially when relying on a rotated cast.

They'll still be fine, I suspect... a safe wildcard team barring some kind of continued run of an embarrassing allergy to winning. It would be very Mets-like, of course. 

Philadelphia Phillies (89-73, 3rd, lost WS)

Q: Flawed team that got hot at the perfect time, or a new unexpected model to achieve MLB success?

A: I surely lean towards the former, but the Phillies have surely made 2023 an important trial run for the latter.

Philadelphia is returning off a magical postseason run, toppling those defending World Series champion Atlantas in the NLDS, then the loaded-til-stuffed Padres in the NLCS en route to falling admirably short against a dominant Houston Astros outfit. Far from content with a fairy tale, Philadelphia made moves to improve their very iffy bullpen (although adding the equally iffy late-career Craig Kimbrel is a volatile wager to say the least).

Biggest of any Phillie moves, of course, was adding one of the game's biggest star shortstops in Trea Turner. As the WBC showed, Turner is a truly dynamic force (his departure a big reason I'm not so skyhigh on the Dodgers): while his league-leading stolen base game has waned since his Washington days, this is still a career .302 hitter, a career OPS+ of 122 with plenty of gap power, speed, and plays a good shortstop to boot. Kind of what we want Bo Bichette to be? (I kid... somewhat... Bo has way more power than Turner and slightly less of the other stuff).

Losing slugger Rhys Hoskins indefinitely is a big wound to this lineup, even with the addition of Turner, and it leaves quite a bit of pressure on somebody like Nick Castellanos to put a very meh 2022 behind him and find the batting stroke he had with the Reds. You've also got a mighty fine catcher in J.T. Realmuto (ejected from a spring training game for possibly the stupidest and funniest reason ever), the enticing long armed swing of Alec Bohm (the glove however possibly more revolting than enticing), two ace-level starters at the top with Wheeler and Nola... throw in some career years from spare parts and a couple of pitchers emerging to provide significant innings... you can see a path, even vague and iffy, where the Phillies leap over New York and Atlanta to steal this thing.

Nah. I think Philadelphia will be fine, maybe quite good, but not nearly good enough for that. Their floor, considering the deeper star power, might exceed even the Mets, but all the issues likely to be significant (pitching depth, defense) can only be masked so much by Turner's explosiveness, Realmuto's ballplayer-ness and Schwarber's dingerness.

Miami Marlins (69-93, 4th)

Q:  How about those Marlins? Ah? Ah? Jorge Soler bounceback? Jazz Chisholm in centerfield making sweet music? (you have to listen to the notes he's not playing). Adding Luis Arraez who won the AL batting title last year? (and tortured the Blue Jays, if I remember correctly). That rotation! Alcantara, Rogers, Luzardo! Ah?

A: Ah... who am I kidding, they're gonna be bad again. Maybe not "69-93" bad, but this is a team that finished 15th of 15 in the National League in scoring runs. Soler launching a bunch of dingers, Yuli Gurriel finding his pre-2022 stroke and Joey Wendle becoming Tampa Bay Wendle again would surely help their bats find respectability... but at their absolute best this looks like a .500 squad to me. They just won't score enough runs... although Luis Arraez is an all sorts of fun unique hitter. Compared to 2022, at least their offense should be somewhat watchable this year.

Washington Nationals (55-107, 5th)

Q: What does the future of this team look like? Because the present.... ewww.

A: This would be an easy pick for "Worst Team In MLB" if Oakland weren't so obsessed with trading away any decent player with a pulse. How about if they traded away those horrible stands above centerfield (Mount Davis as its called) so you can at least see the beautiful hills of the East Bay Area?. The Raiders don't even play there anymore!

Oh right, the Nationals. Well... like I said they're going to be horrific! They lost 107 games last season, had Juan Soto and the good version of Josh Bell for over half of that year, and continue to give the decayed corpse of Patrick Corbin regular turns in the rotation (he'll make 35 million next season! Seriously). Washington is the easy choice for the worst squad in the National League... they could lose 115 games.

Youngsters like Mackenzie Gore, shortstop C.J. Abrams and super-prospect James Wood (all added in the Soto trade) give diehard Nats some hope for a distant but brighter future, as perhaps do recent first round picks Brady House and Elijah Green. Regardless, all signs suggest this will not be a speedy turnaround, and so the days of "First in war, first in peace, last in the NL East" are upon us again. 


ATL 97-65
NYM 93-69
PHI 90-72
MIA 75-87
WSH 49-113

I know I mused about them possibly finishing third, but on paper the Mets look totally stacked. This time last year they also looked stacked and well... eventually you gotta wager on what your eyes tell you, not ink on a sheet. Talent-wise, Atlanta is in a class of their own and division crown or no, are a legit World Series threat. I'm still not in love with Philadelphia's formula: defense does matter! And having both Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos in your outfield has to bite you hard eventually. They could still score their way into the playoffs of course, and having Nola and Wheeler atop your rotation definitely gives you a shot once there. Miami is a weird team to predict... if they fluke their way into an average offense they could be dangerous... I'm just predicting that won't happen. The current Nationals are barely worth discussing. 

Since that wraps up the NL... lets see how my playoff picture shakes out:

NL West: SD
NL Central: MIL
NL East: ATL
WC: LAD, NYM, SF/PHI (tie)

No St. Louis? Yeah that one is probably gonna burn me. If the Cardinals pitching actually ends up being good... wouldn't surprise me if they win more games than any other NL team. Oh well... like I said it'll be more fun if I'm right.

---- The American League! ----

Since the 2023 season is currently well under way... it has reminded me that I really don't like any American League team that aren't the Blue Jays! Okay, there are a few squads I can somewhat tolerate (the Twins, Tigers, the Angels)... but the rest? Boooo! Booooo I say! So, seeing as my biases are now completely exposed... I'm going to touch on a question for each AL division very briefly instead of a team-by-team rundown. Lets roll.

AL West (2022 Winner: Houston, other playoff teams: Seattle)

Q: Can any of the other teams overthrow the Astros dynasty? Houston now has five straight (non-shortened season) division titles.

A: Oakland obviously! 2023 is the year of the green and gold!

In seriousness, I doubt anyone takes down the Astros quite yet. Even after losing Justin Verlander, this starting rotation is still excellent and they've added an elite bat in Jose Abreu.

I will say though, that three of those four other teams are interesting in their own right. It takes a runaway imagination to see Texas adding roughly the 20-25 wins they'd need to be a true playoff contender, but they continue to add some big pieces via free agency after splurging last winter on Semien, Seager and Jon Gray. With a full season of a healthy Jacob deGrom (there's that runaway imagination again) and a couple of offensive breakouts (like a Josh Jung), it isn't wild to forecast the Rangers being at .500 or just slightly below come September.

The Mariners. I used to think they were aight. Now I do not. They should be good again in 2023. I hope they are not.

Of course, the Los Angeles Angels have to be the biggest wildcard team in all of baseball. As even micro-organisms who reside beneath rocks know, the Angels have two of the greatest baseball players of all-time, at the same time! And yet, somehow the Trout-Ohtani Angels haven't been able to even catch a whiff of postseason baseball in nearly a decade (well before Shohei changed the baseball world). I do think the Angels have improved for 2023: Hunter Renfroe is a good complimentary bat, Gio Urshela an annoyingly useful utility piece, but most importantly a healthy Anthony Rendon for an entire season could really, really help. Not that I believe they'll finally be a force, but it would be damn cool to see Shohei Ohtani finally play in a playoff game in Los Angeles (before he trades the red for blue, I mean).

Then there's Oakland. Yep. At this point, considering how terrible their trades have looked during this fire sale... I'm wondering if Tobias Funke is running the team. Or somebody taking "fire" sale literally and just burning it down for the insurance money. If they win even 50 games I'd be shocked and slightly impressed.

AL West Predictions!

HOU 101-61
SEA 91-71
LAA 80-82
TEX 76-86
OAK 44-118   

I want to pick the Angels to be in the race, I really do... but they've burned me so many years in a row I just can't do it anymore. Naturally, this will be the year they do it.

AL Central (2022 Winner: Cleveland)

Q: Who wants it less?

A: This division is depressing, man. You've got two teams almost certainly destined to be terrible, and remember just this time last year I thought the Tigers were on a big upswing ready to be dangerous... that take sure aged well. The White Sox are like the Mets in that they're a team that dazzle in ink-form, but the Pale Hose are impressively even worse at putting all of it together when it counts.

That leaves Cleveland (blech) and Minnesota (meh?). The Twins are a sneaky club with some terrific talent, somehow ended up bringing back free agent superstar shortstop Carlos Correa (who saw that one coming) and have quietly built an impressive starting rotation. Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez (picked up from Miami for Luis Arraez), Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda and 2022 breakout Joe Ryan might not have the glitter of a big uptown marquee, but those are all good-to-very good MLB starting pitchers. It's a heck of a floor to build from, that's for sure. Losing Arraez puts some pressure on the remaining hitters to produce (and Byron Buxton to stay healthy) so that will be something to watch.

I don't feel like talking about the Guardians at all, and less so the Royals... so lets move on!

AL Central Predictions!

MIN 90-72
CLE 88-74
CWS 83-79
DET 67-95
KC 64-98

AL East (2022 Winner: New York Yankees, other playoff teams: Toronto, Tampa Bay)

Q: Will we again see three playoff teams from the AL East, and will it be these same three?

A: Yes, and also yes. The Rays 13-0 start almost sealios the dealio for me. Sure, Tampa Bay could revert to a moldy pumpkin for the remaining 150ish games (oh please please please), or the Yankees starting pitching injuries could derail that Bronx subway train (not to mention Toronto's particular concerns in that area)... but at the end of the day these are probably three of the four best teams in the American League and it's likely whoever ends up finishing third could've won the Central division in either league easily. Yet again.

Now, not to completely write-off the Orioles or the (stupid) Red Sox. Baltimore made some huge strides in 2022 with some of their impressive young talent wasting no time in having a big league impact. Adley Rutschmann is already a top-3 catcher in baseball and Gunnar Henderson scares the daylights out of me (once he adjusts to the league... hoo boy look out). Still, I think the Orioles take a minor step back. This isn't quite their time yet (especially with a rotation made up of glue, duct tape and paper clips).

The Red Sox worry me more, but that worry is completely irrational. Starting in 2012, Boston has finished either first or last in the division nine times in those eleven seasons. Considering their injuries and general lack of stars, it pleases me greatly to envision 2023 being another "last place year" on that Red Sox spectrum... but man I'm just not ready to foolishly expect such a thing. Ridiculously good things happen these days in Boston sports it seems... didn't the Bruins just win like 60/82 games in a league that accepts ties? Never bet against the markings of good fortune. Raimel Tapia hits .339 in full-time ABs? Chris Sale emerges from the grave? Reese McGuire, all-star? I'm not discounting any of it* until the possibility is buried deep in the cold ground.     

*all that being said, I suspect the Red Sox will not be very good in 2023.

AL East Predictions!

I already told you which three teams here will make the playoffs. Win totals Swin totals.

Anyhow, I guess the American League playoff picture would shake out like this:

AL West: HOU
AL Central: MIN
AL East: pick 1/3
Wildcards: SEA, whichever 2 AL East teams don't win the division

Beyond swapping the Twins in for the Guardians, this is the exact same playoff bracket we had last season. Here's hoping the Blue Jays avoid Seattle this time (or get sweet, sweet vengeance in the Mariners ballpark).

As for a World Series prediction... that's the one I'm guaranteed to get totally wrong. Yankees/Cardinals or Yankees/Atlanta would probably result in me barely watching any of it (good thing I have St. Louis not even making the playoffs), Astros/Dodgers would be "must-watch" for obvious reasons, Rays/Phillies would be a neat sort-of-contrast in front office philosophies (not to mention a rematch of a fairly forgotten recent World Series) and another Yankees/Mets subway series would probably give me serious stomach pain.

The most fun matchup though, with their enigmatic young stars and veteran starting pitchers still looking for that elusive ring... has to be Blue Jays/Padres. Tatis versus Guerrero, Chapman versus Machado, Bichette versus Bogaerts, Darvish versus Gausman, Soto versus the outfield grass... sign me up for that.

That's all! Hope you enjoyed these (very) late season previews. Even two weeks in, it's still delightful to have baseball back all day, everyday.