5 Bold Predictions For The 2023 Major League Baseball Season

The 2023 season marks a lot of rule changes for Major League Baseball. The bases are bigger, the pick-off attempts will be limited to three, the shift is gone, and a pitch clock has been implemented. These new rules changes have worked themselves out in the minors, leading to a faster pace of play and higher runs scored. While some argue that the moves are tarnishing the sport, these moves will spur change in how we evaluate players from here on out. Keeping these changes in mind, let’s review five predations for the 2023 season.

40/40 Player in 2023

Steals have gone down once Rickey Henderson left the league. The 41 stolen bases by league leader Jon Berti was the lowest since 1963 when Orioles shortstop Luis Aparicio had the most in the league at 40. On the opposite side, home runs have increased, thanks to the launch angle revolution. We have hitters in this league who adjusted their swings to hit the ball out, beating the now-defunct shift that also possesses excellent sprint speed. As a result, we’ll see another 40 home runs and 40 stolen base player this year. The last time we saw this feat was when Washington Nationals outfielder (and the only Cubs player I like) Alfonso Soriano hit 46 home runs and stole 41 bases. Before that, it only happened three times (Jose Canseco, Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds).

So, who will be the player to break that barrier this year? Look no further than Julio Rodriguez. Last year, the rookie posted 28 home runs and 25 stolen bases. Unfortunately, he missed some time last year with an injury and wasn’t called up immediately, leading to missing some at-bats. His 162-game average is 34 home runs and 31 stolen bases; adding the additional stolen bases with the new rules and base size should not be an issue for Julio.

Increased batting average

As I previously mentioned, the shift is gone. The new rules state you must have no more than two infielders on either side of second base. So while teams are shifting (see Joey Gallo during Spring Training), it’s without that additional infielder. Now teams would have to bring in an outfielder, leaving an immense gap in the outfield. Because of the rule change, I anticipate a rough increase in batting average by about 30 points. It may not seem like much on the face of it, but in our eyes, a .280 hitter looks better than a .250 hitter. 

Breakout Player – Ryan Mountcastle

As you know, I use Statcast and Baseball Reference as my go-to for anything baseball related. I’ll let you in on a big secret that has secured my championships in fantasy baseball and netted me stubs in MLB The Show. Check out a player’s xSLG and xBA from the year before. If the player is in the top five for the most significant disparity between their BA and SLG compared to their xBA and xSLG, they’re due for a breakout year. Enter Ryan Mountcastle. Last year, Mountcastle finished with 22 home runs and 85 RBIs. However, if you dig deeper into the numbers, you will find Mountcastle was a top-10 hitter last year. Mountcastle finished 6th in Barrel %, 14th xwOBA, and had the biggest disparity of his SLG to his xSLG in the league. His xSLG (.509) would have him 11th in the league around Bryce Harper and Byron Buxton, while his SLG (.423) had him around Randal Grichuck and Patrick Wisdom. Take Mountcastle as early as possible, and your fantasy team will thank me.

Breakout Team – Miami Marlins

It was a busy offseason for the Miami Marlins. They added or traded for the following players: JT Chargois, Jean Segura, Luis Arraez, Matt Barnes, AJ Puk, Yuli Guerril, and Johnny Cueto. On the pitching side, they sure up the rotation after Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara and will lean on the young arms of Jesus Luzardo, Edward Cabrera, and Trevor Rogers. While risky, this could be a high-ceiling rotation and a top-five rotation in the league. In the bullpen, they made that trade for Puk and Barnes and signed Chargois, essentially suring up their 7th-9th innings. Luis Arraez will undoubtedly add a punch for the batters, thanks to his high batting average, while also adding spark plug Jean Segura. Look out for outfielder Bryan De La Cruz this year, as he’s also one of the candidates for my super secret evaluation of players I covered above. Oh, and a full year of Jazz Chisholm should help as well.

Bold Take – The Toronto Blue Jays win the AL East

Most pundits guarantee a New York Yankees outright win of the AL East, thanks to their addition of Carlos Rodon and prospect Anthony Volpe making the Opening Day roster. However, the Blue Jays grabbed perhaps the most underrated player out of all the transactions this offseason, Daulton Varsho. Although the price tag was high (Lourdes Gurriel Jr and high-end catching prospect Gabriel Moreno), Varsho will be worth it. He’s one of the best defenders in the league (99th percentile in Outs Above Average) and hit 27 home runs last year, landing in the top 50 for barrel percentage. Varsho’s acquisition, plus the signing of Kevin Kiermaier, Chris Bassitt, Brandon Belt, and Chad Greene, show me that this team is deep. If the Yankees end up with two significant injuries, say to the AL MVP from last year, you will quickly see the Blue Jays take home the AL East pennant.