Projecting 10 stats leaders for the 2023 season

January 22nd, 2023

As we get closer and closer to Opening Day, there will be predictions and projections galore for teams and individual players in 2023. One key question when it comes to projections is: Who will be the leaders in the major statistical categories at regular season's end? That’s exactly what we break down here thanks to FanGraphs’ Steamer projections for the upcoming season:

Aaron Judge, Yankees: 44 home runs

If a home run total of 44 for No. 99 seems way too low, don’t worry -- these projections always tend to be on the conservative side. That being said, can you really see anyone having a chance to dethrone the 2022 home run king, who set the all-time AL single-season record with 62 last year?

Juan Soto, Padres: 113 runs, .431 OBP, 172 wRC+, 7.1 WAR

Considered by many to be the best pure hitter in the game, Soto is projected to lead the Majors in several categories, and given the conservative nature of these types of projection systems … wow -- an on-base percentage of .431, a 172 wRC+ and 7.1 WAR? Only five position players had 7.1 or better WAR in 2022, only three qualified hitters had better than 172 wRC+, and none had an OBP higher than .425 (Judge).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays: 111 RBIs

Steamer sees a big season coming from Guerrero after a 2022 campaign in which he took a step back offensively on the heels of a runner-up finish to Shohei Ohtani in the ’21 AL MVP race. And why not? He’s still only 23, and the best years are very likely still ahead for Vlad Jr.

Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves: 35 steals

Acuña has missed significant time due to injury, most notably a right ACL tear in 2021. But the only time he played in more than 150 games in a season (156 in 2019), he swiped an NL-best 37 bases. He also belted 41 homers that year, his second in the Majors, fueling speculation that he may someday become a 40-40 player. If Acuña can stay on the field in 2023, he’s a great candidate to lead the Majors in steals.

Masataka Yoshida, Red Sox/Luis Arraez, Marlins: .298 batting average

Yoshida will try to follow in the footsteps of fellow Orix alum Ichiro Suzuki by making the transition from the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball organization to MLB with a batting title in his rookie season. Ichiro hit .350 for the Mariners to lead the AL in 2001, and Steamer has Yoshida hitting .298 with the Red Sox in ’23. Yoshida was a career .327 hitter in seven NPB seasons, including a .335 clip for Orix in ’22, when he also had a 1.008 OPS with 21 homers.

Arraez, meanwhile, will look to win back-to-back batting titles, but this time in the NL with the Marlins after being dealt to Miami from Minnesota. He hit .316 in a breakout season with the Twins last year, when he was selected as an All-Star for the first time in his career.

Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres: .574 slugging percentage

Will Tatis be the same after missing more than a full season due to injury and suspension? Only time will tell. But Steamer doesn’t see him missing a beat, with a projected .574 slugging percentage to lead baseball in 2023. Given his career slugging percentage of .596, though the sample size is relatively small (273 games), it’s certainly something you can see happening. If it does, he’ll certainly be in the NL Comeback Player of the Year conversation.

Gerrit Cole, Yankees: 14 wins, 249 strikeouts

Cole has had some great seasons in the past, finishing runner-up in AL Cy Young Award voting twice and leading MLB in strikeouts twice (including last year, when he fanned 257 batters over 200 2/3 innings), but we're still anticipating the first truly overpowering season from the workhorse right-hander in Yankees pinstripes. Steamer has him leading MLB with 14 wins and 249 strikeouts, but if he does “break out” and have a huge year for New York, we could see 20 or more wins with 300 or more strikeouts (which is not unprecedented for him -- he struck out 326 in 2019).

Sandy Alcantara, Marlins: 211 innings pitched

No one has thrown more innings than Alcantara’s 673 2/3 over the last four seasons. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner led MLB with a career-high 228 2/3 frames pitched last year, taking a start into the eighth inning or later in exactly half of his starts in 2022 (16). That includes six complete games and a shutout. The 27-year-old right-hander has only gotten better with each passing year, and if that trend continues, his ’23 campaign could be something truly special.

Jacob deGrom, Rangers: 2.65 ERA, 5.5 WAR

New uniform, same deGrom. That’s what Steamer sees ahead for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who will don a uniform other than the Mets’ for the first time in the Majors when he takes the ball on Opening Day for Texas. The only uncertain element here, though, is a big one: health. deGrom has been limited to only 26 starts over the past two seasons due to various injuries, though he’s been his usual tremendous self when on the mound, pitching to a 1.90 ERA over that span.

Emmanuel Clase, Guardians: 35 saves

Clase had a low-key great season in 2021, when he posted a 1.29 ERA over 71 appearances, picking up 24 saves for Cleveland. But it was in ’22 that he truly arrived on the wider baseball world’s radar, saving a Major League-high 42 games with a 1.36 ERA for the AL Central champions. There’s no reason to think that won’t continue into the ’23 campaign for the hard-throwing right-hander, who turns 25 in March.