MLB Preview Quick Hits
- Our model ranks the Astros, Yankees, Dodgers, Braves and Mets as the top five teams in MLB entering the 2023 season.
- According to our roster-adjusted RV rankings, the top five offensive teams heading into the season are the Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Yankees and Dodgers.
- The top pitching staffs entering the new season? The Yankees, Astros, Braves, Dodgers and Rays round out the top five.
- To find out who the team RV leaders are throughout the season, visit our MLB leaderboards.
Major League Baseball feels different heading into the 2023 season than in recent years – and it’s not just because of the rule changes.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who posted 111 wins last year and have averaged nearly 108 in the last three 162-game seasons, appear to be taking a step backward. Is it possible they won’t finish atop of the NL West standings for only the second time since 2012?
The Dodgers enter the MLB season third in our roster-adjusted raw value rankings – still No. 1 in the NL – but down from No. 1 overall following the 2022 regular season. Nipping at their heels are the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and growing nemesis San Diego Padres.
With opening day fast approaching, we’re revealing who all the favorites are in MLB according to our roster-adjusted raw value rankings, which are a single ranking system calculated through a model that combines each player’s 2022 raw value data and is adjusted for 2023 rosters.
As a reminder, raw value+ (RV+) examines how a hitter performs throughout each pitch of an at-bat rather than just the end result, while raw value- (RV-) does the same from a pitcher’s perspective. The league average is 100, with the higher score, the better for hitters and the lower, the better for pitchers.
So these really aren’t projections, but keep in mind that the model ranked the New York Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies and Houston Astros as the top four teams in MLB ahead of last season. The Phillies’ place at No. 3 was certainly pretty eye-opening at the time and proved prophetic. The Padres were ranked lower, but recall that they added a lot during the course of the 2022 campaign.
Of course, the defending champion Astros headline the many storylines in the American League. Though the Astros have dominated the league since 2017, new powerhouses are starting to emerge. The New York Yankees are a perennial threat, and the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Guardians and Seattle Mariners all have high ceilings.
But who are the other teams to watch, according to our model?
Click below to drop to a division:
National League East
As the Atlanta Braves seek to claim a sixth straight division title, manager Brian Snitker could open the season with 11 veterans of the All-Star Game – a list that doesn’t even include key offseason acquisition Sean Murphy behind the plate or last year’s NL Rookie of the Year Michael Harris II and runner-up Spencer Strider. Their lineup led the NL with 243 home runs despite injuries limiting Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies to a combined 183 of 324 possible games. Nonetheless, Acuña (129.7, 30th) gave the Braves a trio in MLB’s top 30 of RV+ along with corner infielders Austin Riley (140.0, 16th) and Matt Olson (131.6, 27th). Max Fried has the third-most wins in the 2020s with 35 and Kyle Wright’s 21 led the league last season, while Strider’s 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings ranked No. 1 for pitchers with 75 or more innings.
The New York Mets spent another offseason reaching into owner Steve Cohen’s deep pockets only to have pitcher Jose Quintana require rib surgery and closer Edwin Diaz suffer a season-ending torn patella tendon while celebrating a World Baseball Classic victory. Answering Jacob deGrom’s departure with the signing of Justin Verlander raised the staff’s Cy Young awards from five to six, as Max Scherzer owns three just like last year’s AL winner. While Verlander (RV- 66.3, third; MLB-low 1.75 ERA) being age 40 is a factor, Japanese righty Kodai Senga and leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo signed contracts in their prime. The Mets again look to lead MLB in batting average (.259) with Francisco Lindor (.270-26-107), Pete Alonso (40 HRs, NL-high 131 RBIs), NL batting champ Jeff McNeil and Starling Marte.
The reigning NL champion Philadelphia Phillies are set back with Bryce Harper (elbow surgery) likely to be sidelined until the All-Star break. His return to the lineup will reunite him with one-time Washington Nationals teammate Trea Turner, who inked an 11-year, $300 million free-agent contract. There’s plenty of power with NL home run champion Kyle Schwarber (46 on an NL-best 178.1 BIP+, which measures damage done upon contact with the league average being 100) and J.T. Realmuto (RV+ 136.5, 22nd), but Rhys Hoskins (RV+ 132.4, 25th) was lost to an ACL tear during a spring training game. A bullpen that had been a liability now has Serathony Domínguez, Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto and Jose Alvarado to save wins for Aaron Nola (NL highs with an 64.3 RV; 117.8 whiff+, which measures a pitcher’s ability to generate swings and misses; and 124.4 command+, which measures a pitcher’s ability to hit his intended target) and Zack Wheeler.
The Miami Marlins also have a main cog seeking a healthy return – Jazz Chisholm, who had an All-Star first half (14 HRs, 45 RBIs, 28 extra-base hits, 12 stolen bases) before a back injury ended his season on June 28. He’s transitioning from second base to center field to make room for Luis Arráez, the 2022 AL batting champ who was acquired from the Minnesota Twins. Only one Marlin appeared in at least 120 games, so new manager Skip Schumaker hopes for a steady lineup with slugger Jorge Soler’s return from injury and Jon Berti coming off an MLB-high 41 stolen bases. Speaking of steady, Sandy Alcántara (14-9, 2.28 ERA; RV- 72.4, ninth) overcame MLB’s lowest run support among qualified starters to claim the NL Cy Young.
A youthful transformation is occurring with the Washington Nationals, who while being gutted from their 2019 World Series-winning team have obtained catcher Keibert Ruiz, shortstop CJ Abrams, outfielder Lane Thomas (.241-17-52), and starting pitchers Josiah Gray (154 Ks, but an MLB-high 38 homers allowed in 148 2/3 IP) and MacKenzie Gore in trades. Ironically, an older newcomer made the most waves last year: Right fielder Joey Meneses homered in his MLB debut at age 30 and after 11 years in the minors. He went on to post a .324-13-34 line in 56 games over the season’s final two months.
National League Central
After a handful of players who are projected to be on the St. Louis Cardinals’ season-opening roster participated in the WBC, their attention turns to a repeat division championship, led by NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt RV+ 146.0, 10th; NL-high .981 OPS) and Nolan Arenado (141.4, 13th) – MLB’s only pair of teammates to collect 30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs. The production will remain high with Tommy Edman atop manager Oliver Marmol’s batting order, Tyler O’Neill injury-free again and catcher Willson Contreras signed from the rival Chicago Cubs (but only a career .228 hitter at Busch Stadium). Fronting the rotation for the final time is 41-year-old Adam Wainwright, who needs five wins to reach 200 before retirement. Ryan Helsley (9-1, 19 saves, 0.74 WHIP, 13.1 Ks/9) just may close out that milestone.
The Milwaukee Brewers hope to avoid a second consecutive season with regression, and right-handers Corbin Burnes (12-8, 2.94 ERA, NL-high 243 Ks; RV- 71.2, fifth) and Brandon Woodruff (13-4, 3.05) are capable of preventing it. While the Brewers never were the same after dealing closer Josh Hader at the trade deadline, Devin Williams is highly capable in the role with a career 1.93 ERA and .170 batting average against. A long-ball mindset remains on offense after the Brew Crew finished third in MLB with 219 home runs. Returning sluggers Rowdy Tellez (35 HRs, 89 RBIs), Willy Adames (32, 98) and Christian Yelich were all top-50 in RV+, and they welcome in newcomers William Contreras and Jesse Winker.
The NL Central’s last World Series participant was the 2016 Chicago Cubs. The signing of shortstop Dansby Swanson (seven years, $177M) was their big offseason splash, but the additions of outfielders Clay Bellinger and Trey Mancini, first baseman Eric Hosmer, catcher Tucker Barnhardt and right-hander Jameson Taillon also are impactful. Outfielder Ian Happ (.271-17-72) and second baseman Nico Hoerner (.280-10-55) were sneaky good last year, and Seiya Suzuki is expected to improve in his second season. Taillon (14-5, 3.91 ERA, 151 Ks with the New York Yankees) combines with Marcus Stroman atop an under-the-radar rotation, but the new-look bullpen could be suspect.
After finishing 30th and last in our overall rankings last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in line for improvement. Andrew McCutchen, a fan favorite in Pittsburgh from 2009-17, is back to bolster the lineup with fellow addition Carlos Santana (RV+ 128.2, 33rd). Left fielder Bryan Reynolds, the team’s best player in each of the last two seasons, is a league-wide trade target, but a potential contract extension would keep him as part of the future with shortstop Oneil Cruz and third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes. Roansy Contreras is coming off a solid debut, but the pitching staff could struggle to get the ball to closer David Bednar.
After ushering in rookie pitchers last season, the Cincinnati Reds await the arrival of the next wave of position players. Hunter Greene (11.8 Ks/9 IP) and Nick Lodolo (11.4 Ks/9 IP) had strong finishes, and closer Alexis Diaz (7-3, 10 saves) became the first pitcher since 1992 to lead his team in wins and saves over a 162-game season. Top prospect Elly De La Cruz and spring training thumper Christian Encarnacion-Strand are due to be in the majors this year to join a core with second baseman Jonathan India and catcher Tyler Stephenson. Joey Votto, 39 and coming off surgery for a torn left rotator cuff and biceps, hopes to regain the magic of his 2021 campaign. Clean-up hitter Will Myers is the team’s top addition.
National League West
While the Los Angeles Dodgers have won nine of the last 10 division titles, it was unusual for their free agent losses (Trea Turner, Justin Turner and Tyler Anderson) to outweigh the additions (DH J.D. Martinez, outfielder David Peralta and right-hander Noah Syndergaard). Still, manager Dave Roberts has a team whose MLB-best +2.06 run differential nearly doubled the NL’s next-best average. The pitchers limited hitters to an MLB-low .209 BAA, and that won’t change much with a rotation that’s led by Julio Urías, whose 37 wins the last two seasons are eight more than anybody else, Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin. The lineup still features Mookie Betts (140.3 RV+, 14th), Freddie Freeman (RV+ 154.7, fourth; NL-high .407 OBP) and Will Smith. The Dodgers have feasted on their NL West matchups – going a combined 107-45 (.704) the last two seasons – so this year’s more balanced schedule could work against them.
Of course, the Dodgers’ bigger concern is the San Diego Padres, whose dispatching of their rival in the NL Division Series last fall hinted at a changing of the guard. The Padres signed shortstop Xander Bogaerts (11 years, $280M) to form a ridiculous offensive quintet with Manny Machado (RV+ 129.3, 31st), Juan Soto (RV+ 159.8, third; MLB-best discipline+ 133.8 for how he handles the strike zone) and Fernando Tatís Jr., who may shift to the outfield after serving the final 20 games of a PED suspension. The Padres were MLB’s worst in inherited runners scored percentage (39.8), but a full season with closer Josh Hader (career 15.3 Ks/9 IP) will solve some issues. A rotation that already had Yu Darvish (RV- 76.1, 12th), Joe Musgrove (RV- 75.2, 11th) and Blake Snell landed a nice addition in Michael Wacha.
The San Francisco Giants dropped to 81-81 after claiming the NL West with 107 wins in 2021. They lost lefty Carlos Rodón in free agency, but still have a solid, unsung rotation that includes Logan Webb (15-9, 2.90 ERA; RV- 93.2, 25th), Alex Cobb, and newcomers Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling. As consistent run producers, Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto are welcome additions to a lineup that hit only .234. It’s probably surprising Wilmer Flores (71) and Thairo Estrada (62) ranked first and third on the team in RBIs, respectively, so the Giants need more production from clean-up hitter Joc Pederson (.270-23-70 in 380 at-bats, but a liability against lefty pitchers) and Mike Yastrzemski (.214-17-57).
The Arizona Diamondbacks figure to take another key step after they improved by 22 wins to 74 last year. While Ketel Marte and Christian Walker (.242-36-94) are mainstays in the lineup, it’s being turned over to the youngsters. Corbin Carroll, whose eight-year, $111 million contract is the largest for a player with under 100 days of major league service, Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas comprise an outfield that’s 25 years or younger. Catcher Gabriel Moreno, only 23, and designated hitter Lourdes Gurriel Jr. were obtained from the Toronto Blue Jays. Right-handers Zac Gallen (RV- 81.3, 14th; 0.91 WHIP) and Merrill Kelly (RV- 87.3, 22nd) will try to eat up innings given the team’s shaky bullpen.
It will be surprising if the Colorado Rockies avoid a fifth straight losing season. Injuries limited Kris Bryant to 42 games last year, and a full season out of him will create a damaging duo with first baseman C.J. Cron (57 HRs, 194 RBIs in two seasons in Colorado). Second baseman Ryan McMahon has 20+ homers in each of the last three 162-game seasons, and his double-play partner, Ezequiel Tovar, is being counted on for a breakout season. The German Marquez-led rotation hasn’t quite figured out pitching at Coors Field, but closer Daniel Bard did last year with a 6-4 record, 36 saves and 1.79 ERA.
– NL written by Craig Haley
American League East
Judging by our rankings, the New York Yankees enter the season as the favorites in the AL East and one of the very best teams in baseball. They added Carlos Rodón (72 RV-, 137 whiff+) to a rock-solid rotation that already had Gerrit Cole (82 RV-), Nestor Cortes Jr. (68 RV-), Luis Severino and Frankie Montas. Despite Montas being out for months and Rodón for weeks, the unit still ranks first in RV-. The offense has a few question marks – Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson were both well below-average offensively last season – but having Aaron Judge (202 RV+, 62 home runs) helps make it elite. Re-signing Anthony Rizzo (127 RV+) also helps.
The Toronto Blue Jays traded Teoscar Hernández, but added Daulton Varsho (53 extra-base hits) and Brandon Belt to an already incredible lineup. No wonder their offense ranks second in MLB. On the pitching side of things, they brought in Chris Bassitt and have exciting rookie Ricky Tiedemann waiting in the wings, while Erik Swanson (64 RV-) fortifies the bullpen. Toronto is loaded with offense (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and George Springer represent a nice start), but our model doesn’t like the rotation (20th) and bullpen (17th). The names are there to outperform those rankings, though.
The only major addition the Tampa Bay Rays made was bringing in starting pitcher Zach Eflin. Still, they are hard to project because their performance largely depends on internal player development. Still, it’s important to note that Wander Franco (116 RV+, 111 contact+) is back to full health after being limited to just 83 games last year.
Their offense ranks 22nd, but if Brandon Lowe, Yandy Díaz, and Randy Arozarena have their usual seasons and young guys like Isaac Paredes, Josh Lowe, Jonathan Aranda and Kyle Manzardo hit their ceilings, watch out. Still, this is a team built on pitching, led by Shane McClanahan (72 RV-) in the rotation and the phenomenal Pete Fairbanks and Jason Adam in the bullpen.
The Boston Red Sox brought in lots of potentially impactful players such as Japanese strike-zone master Masataka Yoshida, Corey Kluber, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Adam Duvall and Chris Martin. But they also lost Nate Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, JD Martinez and one of the best players in recent franchise history: Xander Bogaerts (113 RV+). Boston did extend Rafael Devers (150 RV+, 162 BIP+) and will rely on talented young players like Triston Casas and Brayan Bello, but its 14th overall ranking is probably an average of the wide range of potential outcomes the team is facing. The Red Sox could return to the postseason, or they could crash and burn.
The Baltimore Orioles are on the verge of being a perennial playoff team, as hard to believe as that sounds. Adley Rutschman (135 RV+) helped change their culture, and young guns like Gunnar Henderson, Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and Félix Bautista (73 RV-, 140 whiff+) should all help a squad that ranks 21st overall – but with a lot of room to grow. Baltimore ranks 25th in pitching, but should be able to outperform that when Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, and John Means – currently rehabbing from a long-term injury – join the rotation.
American League Central
At 15th overall, the Minnesota Twins are the highest-ranked team in the AL Central. They made contender moves, bringing back Carlos Correa (137 RV+), signing quality players like Christian Vásquez, and trading for starter Pablo López and Gold Glove outfielder Michael A. Taylor. They also have difference-makers like Byron Buxton (188 BIP+) in the lineup and Jhoan Duran in the bullpen. It’s fun to think about the aforementioned core plus players eventually returning from injury – Royce Lewis, Kenta Maeda – or to form – Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach. Minnesota could shock a few analysts and make a deep playoffs run if things go right.
The Cleveland Guardians made it all the way to the ALDS last year, with pitching and contact as their main strengths (along with José Ramirez). They tried to supply some power in Josh Bell and Mike Zunino, but pitching is still their forte: they rank second in relief pitching and 13th when it comes to starters. Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie are a formidable 1-2 punch, and the bullpen is deep and nasty with Emmanuel Clase (41 RV-), Trevor Stephan, James Karinchak, Nick Sandlin, Eli Morgan, Cody Morris, and more.
With a new manager and renewed hopes, the Chicago White Sox enter the season with lots of questions. Did they do enough in the offseason? Can Mike Clevinger return to pre-surgery form? Will Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert Jr. stay healthy? How about Andrew Vaughn’s development? At least their rotation, ranked 12th, has a couple of workhorses to rely on in Dylan Cease (68 RV-) and Lance Lynn.
The Detroit Tigers were an unmitigated disaster last season. Nothing went right for them, with injuries to most of their talented rotation members and promising outfielder Riley Greene. Spencer Torkelson was mediocre, and star signing Javier Baez was even worse. But Torkelson looks much better in the early going and pitchers are starting to get healthy. It will be another year of development in Detroit, but a crucial one to know where the team stands heading into 2024.
The Kansas City Royals are starting to get interesting, with Bobby Witt Jr. (20 homers, 30 steals) developing into a power-speed asset and Vinnie Pasquantino (147 RV+) blossoming into the team’s best hitter. Salvador Pérez, MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto (if he develops into the hitter he was in the minors) could make the offense interesting. The problem here is pitching. The starters are ranked 28th, and both the bullpen ranks as the worst in baseball. The most frustrating thing is that they have promising, talented young hurlers like Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic, but player development is a big problem. Zack Greinke is not going to pitch forever.
American League West
The Houston Astros lost Justin Verlander (1.75 ERA) to free agency and Lance McCullers Jr. to a muscle strain in his right elbow. Still, they have Hunter Brown, José Urquidy, Luis Garcia, Cristian Javier and the great Framber Valdez (83 RV-) sending the rotation to a solid sixth in our adjusted rankings. The elite bullpen takes this pitching staff to second overall. Of course, if you consider that the offense is also first, well, you would think the Astros have a fair shot to repeat as champions. Yordan Álvarez’s hand is worrisome, but his floor and upside are both lofty. José Altuve will miss the start of the season after suffering a broken thumb that required surgery in the World Baseball Classic. Still, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, José Abreu, Jeremy Peña, Chas McCormick, and the returning Michael Brantley form an imposing lineup.
If anybody can challenge the Astros in the West, it’s the Seattle Mariners. They added some thump to the lineup with Teoscar Hernández and AJ Pollock, plus some great infield defense in Kolten Wong. The Mariners have the best-ranked bullpen, led by flamethrowing righty Andrés Muñoz (32 RV-, 156 whiff+), Paul Sewald, Diego Castillo, Matt Brash, Penn Murfee, and many more. Their rotation is young and talented, and their ranking tells the story of a playoff contender.
The Los Angeles Angels are determined to contend in what could be Shohei Ohtani’s (71.6 total RV, second in MLB) last season with the team. They added a good starter in Tyler Anderson and solidified the lineup around Ohtani and Mike Trout with some thump: Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Drury. If they don’t work to address their 21st-ranked bullpen, they probably won’t get as far as they’d like to, though.
The Texas Rangers are trying to build a contending team and have made some impressive additions: Jacob deGrom (57 RV-), Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney, and Will Smith just to name a few. Still, the rankings don’t think much of them, as they are 24th overall. Corey Seager (career-high 33 homers) and Marcus Semien will be the stars of the lineup, but unless Josh Jung, Ezequiel Durán and other young hitters make the leap, their 26th offensive rank will look painfully accurate.
As expected, there is not much to see in the Oakland Athletics. They are ranked 29th in pitching, 30th on offense and 30th overall (out of 30 teams), so the numbers paint a bleak scenario. The aim should be on how young players like Shea Langeliers, Ken Waldichuk, Luis Medina, Cristian Pache, Tyler Soderstrom, JJ Bleday develop.
– AL written by Andrés Chávez