Written by: Ray Butler
Follow me on Twitter! @RayButler365
I’ve never been more excited for a baseball season than I am the 2023 MLB season.
Not only will the newly-implemented pitch clock speed up games, but it’s already incredibly obvious that the clock and bigger bases will lead to the most stolen base attempts than we’ve seen in recent memory. The shift ban will–at least minimally–increase offensive production moving forward. More action means a more exciting product, and I’m ready to watch it all unfold beginning in 2023.
Bold predictions have become such a cliché topic for baseball writers to tackle, but I’d also be lying if I said this wasn’t one of my favorite articles to publish each season. Each season is a blank canvas; anything can happen!
For the record, I would like all of the credit if any of these are right without any of the blame for the wrong ones. Thanks ahead of time.
Without further ado, my bold predictions for the 2023 MLB season:
Clarke Schmidt is a top-100 fantasy player
Getting this one out of the way early. I wrote about Schmidt’s impending breakout here.
J.D. Martinez is, too
From an ADP standpoint, J.D. Martinez being a top-100 player this season is even more bold than predicting Clarke Schmidt is a top-100 player this season. If you ask Baseball Twitter, Martinez was absolutely awful last season; he was actually a top-170 player in 15-team leagues according to Razzball’s Player Rater. This season, he gets to hit in the middle of a better lineup that plays at a home park that better suits Martinez’s strengths. A reunion with hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc doesn’t hurt either. Thankfully, if Martinez remains a UT-only player, we’ll likely be able to draft him somewhere around 200th again next season. And so it begins…
J.D. Martinez officially taking the reins from Nelson Cruz as the next UT-only player to out-earn their ADP for like five straight seasons. #ItIsTime pic.twitter.com/G91Q2oxh0c
— Ray Butler (@RayButler365) March 3, 2023
Luke Raley is this season’s cog in the Rays’ death machine
Look. The Rays just made Zach Eflin their highest paid pitcher in the history of the organization. I think he’s going to be great this season. So for all intents and purposes, Eflin will likely be viewed as the latest cog in what feels like a never-ending cycle of churning out great players from seemingly nowhere. But don’t sleep on Luke Raley in deep leagues. This offseason, Raley worked to lessen his leg-kick while compacting his stance and movement towards the ball. The early returns have been phenomenal, as the 28-year-old slashed .326/.396/.721 with 5 home runs and a stolen base in 48 plate appearances this spring. He’ll likely do most of his damage versus right-handed pitching, but something like .250/18 HR/5 SB isn’t out of the question while Raley sees time in the outfield, at first base and at designated hitter for a Rays lineup that boasts its fluidity. That’s a hell of a campaign for a player who’s largely gone undrafted even in the deepest of leagues this offseason. Shout out to my pal Bailey Srebnik for raising my Raley awareness during Spring Training.
Kenta Maeda and Spencer Turnbull are both key rotation pieces in 12-team leagues
Maeda and Turnbull are a convenient pairing here as both pitchers return from Tommy John surgery to open the 2023 season. Last year, I correctly predicted both Merrill Kelly and Kyle Wright would become universally started in 12-team leagues throughout the fantasy baseball world. Maeda and Turnbull are those pitchers for me this season. It’s hard to pinpoint where each will rank on player raters at the end of the season because both pitchers will likely have their workloads limited at various times throughout the campaign, but both Maeda and Turnbull will be started in even the most generic fantasy leagues throughout 2023. Bonus bold prediction: The same will be said for Aaron Civale.
Jose Miranda and Andrew Vaughn both hit 25 home runs
By the end of the season, both Miranda and Vaughn will be considered two of the “new” and “young” faces of baseball. Miranda showed up at Twins camp leaner and stronger this spring, and he hit five Spring Training home runs in just 45 plate appearances. For what it’s worth, I’ll also predict Miranda exceeds 100 runs batted in this season, especially if he hits directly behind Byron Buxton and Trevor Larnach versus right-handed pitching. And I know this isn’t an original thought, but I feel strongly that Vaughn going back to his native first base defensively will help unlock him offensively. I’m a bit worried Vaughn’s propensity to hit the ball on the ground will lead to his side of this prediction falling a bit short, but there are worse things in the world than .270/20 HR with a ton of run production. The 24-year-old was never going to hit towards the bottom of the lineup versus lefties, but I think Vaughn becomes a staple hitting 3rd or 4th against all pitchers in a White Sox lineup that is a bit worse than most people are advertising. Bonus bold prediction: The aforementioned, healthy Trevor Larnach hits .250 with 20 home runs and becomes one of the more underrated FAAB acquisitions in fantasy this season.
Reid Detmers and Jeffrey Springs are both top-50 fantasy players
Two pitchers receiving as much hype as anyone in the homestretch of draft season. Detmers’ velocity has been way up this spring, and the 23-year-old is slated to crush the 22.6% K he posted in 2022. The Angels will continue to utilize a 6-man rotation in hopes of optimizing Shohei Ohtani’s usage, but I think Detmers receives just enough of a workload to slide into the top-50 on player raters at the end of the season. It’s unlikely he out-earns Ohtani as a complete player, but I do believe the southpaw will out-perform Ohtani the pitcher in 2023. And… I’m even higher on Springs. The 30-year-old added a sweeper this offseason to better combat left-handed hitters, and the changeup remained absolutely elite during Spring Training (0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 24 strikeouts in 14.0 IP… LOL). I tweeted a bit of a teaser to this, but I’ll make it official now: Springs out-earns Shane McClanahan this season.
Team Predictions/Player Awards
Division Winners/Wild Cards
AL Central: Minnesota Twins
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays
AL West: Houston Astros
AL Wild Card: New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
NL East: Atlanta Braves
NL West: San Diego Padres
NL Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies
World Series Matchup: Atlanta Braves vs. Seattle Mariners
World Series Winner: Atlanta Braves
AL MVP: Corey Seager
NL MVP: Ronald Acuña Jr.
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole
NL Cy Young: Julio Urías
AL Rookie of the Year: Masataka Yoshida
NL Rookie of the Year: Corbin Carroll
Follow me on Twitter! @RayButler365
Featured image courtesy of photographer Julio Cortez and the Associated Press