After that World Baseball Classic this might seem like a letdown but here we are just the same. Welcome to a new baseball season! We’re going to use the cheap conceit of superlatives to talk about the off-season and upcoming season. Let’s do it!

Most Uncertainty

That would be this season. And it’s a season unlike one we’ve seen in a while. At least from this vantage point, meaning my couch in March, this season doesn’t project to have any huge mammoth 100-win teams. Sure, one could emerge, that’s always possible, but to look at the rosters, just about every team has more weaknesses than we’ve seen from potential division and league leaders. And that’s not a bad thing! Parity isn’t always desirable but after four 100-win teams last year (plus a 99-win Yankees team) and three the season before, the fact FanGraphs doesn’t project any team to win more than 93 games this season gives every game that much more significance. And combined with the new expanded playoffs, there’s all of a sudden some extra space for some teams that haven’t made noise recently to surprise. 

Best off-season move

It’s hard to say signing a player through their age-39 season is the best signing of the off-season, but I guess that’s what I’m saying. *sigh* In the end, while any specific deal is about the money first and foremost, Aaron Judge re-signing with the Yankees really isn’t about that. It was about the Yankees keeping their best player (and by far!) In New York through the rest of his potentially Hall of Fame career. Sure, these deals often end badly, but if Judge is DHing when 2031 rolls around, that’ll be fine. And, let’s be honest, it’s not like the Yankees were doing anything better with that $40 million each year. New York is supposed to win the World Series every year, so from that standpoint, they really couldn’t afford not to keep Judge.

Worst off-season move

There’s a few that don’t seem likely to age well, and Xander Bogaerts to San Diego isn’t necessarily one of those, but it’s just a bizarre move nonetheless. First of all, there are a number of indicators that Bogaerts six-win 2022 season wasn’t a sustainable one, and in fact many of Bogaerts batted ball and defensive metrics are going the wrong way and have been doing so for a few years. But what makes this so strange is that the Padres already have two other starting-quality shortstops on their roster! And one of those, Fernando Tatis, Jr, is going to make more than Bogaerts! In order to pay Bogaerts $281 million through is age-40 season, the Padres are moving shortstop Tatis to right field, shortstop Ha-Seong Kim to second base, and second baseman Jake Cronenworth to first base. It’s a strange use of resources. On one hand, you have to admire the ‘get every good player’ approach, but also, was this the best or even close to the best use of $281 million? I have a feeling this one is going to look bad pretty quickly.

Most “What-are-they-doing?” signing

The Chicago White Sox are planning to play baseball this year, presumably. I know this because they signed outfielder Andrew Benintendi to a five year, $75 million contract. The deal itself is fine (great if you’re Benintendi!), but it’s a lot of money to spend on a player who doesn’t really offer a lot. He’s a slightly above average hitter, but he’s not fast, he’s got a weak arm, and he doesn’t really hit the ball hard. Yes, the sum of his parts add up to a slightly above average player right now, but will they in five years? Will they in two years? The upside here is pretty low and the downside is pretty high, at least for a team that doesn’t spend much. If the White Sox had $75 million burning a hole in their pocket, I can think of a few better ways to spend it. 

Most exciting rookie

This is an Orioles site, so Gunnar Henderson is who you should expect here. And I’m very excited to see Henderson, but I’m not quite as excited to see Henderson as I am to see Corbin Carroll of the Diamondbacks. With 32 games of MLB experience under his belt, Arizona signed Carroll to an eight year deal with two options on top of that. Why? Carroll can do it all. He’s fast, he can play center field, he can hit for average, and for power. That’s the whole package and I’m excited to see how his first full season goes. 

Biggest Fall in the Standings

This one is kinda easy. The Dodgers won 111 games last season and there’s no way this team is going to approach that number again. In fact, I don’t expect them to win 95 in 2023, but even if they do, that’ll be a drop of 16 games! If they only win 87 like FanGraphs projects, that’s a drop off of 24 games. Which is a lot. Don’t get me wrong, the Dodgers are a good team and still a threat in the National League, but show me someone who looks at their roster and sees a 100 win team and I’ll show you someone who’s had too many Dodger dogs. 

Biggest Rise in the Standings

There’s a few candidates here, but the one that stands out most to me is the Rangers. Admittedly that’s partly because they won just 68 games last season, so there’s some room to go up. But also because if you look at their roster, it’s not that bad. It’s not good! But it’s not bad either. Adding Jacob deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi should give them some above average innings, and the return of prospect Josh Jung from injury combines with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to give them some pretty good hitters at the front of their lineup. Yes, the back of the lineup isn’t awe-inspiring but we’re not projecting them to win the division, just to win a chunk more games than 68. 

Most Under-the-Radar team

It’s hard to say the Orioles on an Orioles site, that seems too on the nose, so I’ll say the Red Sox. Boston lost Xander Bogaerts and replaced him with… their center fielder? They’re going to use a career backup catcher as their starter and a career minor league catcher as their backup. Everyone in their projected starting rotation is A), coming off of a major injury or, B) is Corey Kluber. Their biggest off-season move was not trading Rafael Devers. And yet, I kinda like this team. Bizarrely there is upside. Devers was fantastic last season until an injury ruined his numbers in July. Triston Casas’ combination of power and patience from first base is exactly what this lineup needs, and in fact they’ll get more of that from WBC star Masataka Yoshida in left field. Nobody is picking the Red Sox to do anything in ’23, but maybe they should be. Maybe.

Biggest Bust Potential

The Blue Jays might win the World Series. That’s entirely on the table as far as possibilities go. But, there is a universe, and it’s not necessarily even that remote of a universe, where they miss the playoffs again. The Jays spent their off-season remaking their outfield, removing good hitters (Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel), and replacing them with good fielders (Kevin Kiermaier, Daulton Varsho). Thing about that is neither Varsho or Kiermaier are good hitters. But the biggest bust potential, to me, lies in their rotation. Kevin Gausman is my Cy Young pick, but Yosei Kikuchi and Jose Berrios were both awful last season and both are being depended on to hold down a spot again. If Alek Manoah takes a step back (entirely possible based on his stats last season) or Chris Bassitt’s particular brand of old-pitcher trickery doesn’t work, the team could be in a world of trouble.

MVP

It’s hard to pick against Shohei Ohtani, but I’m going to do that and say the AL MVP will be Mike Trout. Last year Trout had a six-win season in just 119 games. That projects to be a 7.5 win season over 150 games, which would have put Trout third baseball in WAR behind only Aaron Judge and Ohtani. I don’t see Judge pulling a 2022 again, so it’s down to Mike vs. Shohei in the AL, and right now I’ll take Mike.

In the NL, I’m going to guess Mookie Betts. Mookie’s had a fantastic few seasons in Los Angeles but he hasn’t really gone off since his 10.5 win season in 2018 with Boston. It says here he’ll do that again. 

World Series

Give me the Braves over the Mariners in six games, and definitely when October ends, feel free to throw what will then be an extremely silly prediction in my face. Thanks for reading.

Matthew Kory
Matthew Kory

Orioles Analyst

Matthew Kory is a Orioles / MLB Analyst for BSL. He has covered baseball professionally for The Athletic, Vice Sports, Sports On Earth, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, two boys, and his cats, Mini Squeaks and The President. Co-Host of The Warehouse.

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