Major turnarounds are (probably) coming for these 5 clubs

February 6th, 2023

There were plenty of teams other than the Astros -- who won the World Series, after all -- that were happy with how their 2022 season went. The National League champion Phillies, surely; the Mets and Braves each won 101 games; and the Cardinals had a nostalgia party essentially every night out. All those teams expect more goodness in '23 as well: They think this is just getting started.

There were, however, some teams that had a disappointing season in 2022 but should have just as much optimism for '23 as some of those teams named above. They might not be thought of as immediate World Series contenders, but they are all teams that had a losing record in '22 that have a legitimate chance to get above .500, or even more, this season.

These are the turnaround teams that could make their fans forget 2022 really quickly. (Listed in alphabetical order.)

2022 record: 73-89

Remember early in the 2022 season, when the Angels got off to a hot start and it looked for all the world, particularly with the new playoff format, that we’d finally get Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the postseason? A rough June and July -- they were an avert-your-eyes 16-36 over those two months -- ended those hopes fast, and it ended up looking like just another disappointing season for the Halos.

But if you look closely, you can see plenty of reason for hope. The Angels' pitching was actually a little better in 2022 than it has been in recent years -- there might be five solid starters on this team in '23 for the first time in recent memory -- and you would have to think the injury woes can’t be as awful again, right? And while their offseason moves were not splashy, they seemingly raised their floor with the additions of reliable veterans such as Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Drury and Tyler Anderson, among others. If the Halos can just keep Trout, Ohtani, Anthony Rendon and company on the field most of the time, and everything else is just league average, this team could sail into the playoffs.

2022 record: 74-88

Heading into 2022, the hope was that the Cubs would be good enough to finish in third place in the NL Central, and maybe everything would fall just right so that they could compete for a playoff berth. The first part of that statement was true; the second, quite definitively, was not. You can make whatever argument you want about the long-term outlook for the Cubs, but it’s undeniable that they are trying to be better in '23. The big-ticket item is shortstop Dansby Swanson, but there are new faces everywhere, from Trey Mancini to Tucker Barnhart to Eric Hosmer to Jameson Taillon to the fascinating question mark that is Cody Bellinger. Sure, the general thesis is the same that it was last year: Be the third-best team in the division, and then see if you can make a run to get higher than that. But it sure looks like they’ve got a lot more horses to potentially make that happen this time.

2022 record: 74-88

The D-backs, after three straight losing seasons, have quietly retooled themselves into something intriguing. It all starts with outfielder Corbin Carroll, MLB Pipeline's No. 2 prospect and an early favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. But it’s not just him. Arizona has a whole smattering of exciting players under 30, from Zac Gallen (27) and Jake McCarthy (25) to even Ketel Marte (29) and Carson Kelly (28). And a lot of people probably didn’t even notice that Christian Walker slugged 36 homers last year. The Dodgers and the Padres are the clear juggernauts of the NL West, but the Giants haven’t taken a step forward, and the Rockies seem to be treading water. The D-backs are a stealth playoff pick this year. They should clear 74 wins by a wide margin.

2022 record: 69-93

This is the pick on the board we’re the least certain about. They should be a little better, no question. Luis Arraez and Jean Segura are electric upgrades to the top of the order, and having video game cover athlete Jazz Chisholm Jr. healthy for a full season will make a world of difference (and make the baseball season a lot more fun for everyone, not just Marlins fans). The pitching, even with Pablo López having been traded to Minnesota, should be solid, with returning NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara buffeted by veteran Johnny Cueto and exciting youngsters like Jesús Luzardo, Edward Cabrera and Trevor Rogers. The problem, of course, is the NL East, which has three highly motivated, deeply talented teams above Miami in Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York. Have the Marlins done enough to catch them? Probably not. But they’ll certainly surpass 69 wins, and with a little bit of luck, .500 is certainly not out of the picture.

2022 record: 78-84

Would the Twins have been appreciably better than last year if they hadn’t re-signed Carlos Correa? A lot of people would have still picked them to win more than 78 games, one suspects. But with Correa back? And with López atop that rotation? That’s not to mention Joey Gallo feeling like a perfect fit here and Byron Buxton (fingers crossed!) looking healthy and ready to go. The Guardians look like they’re just as good as they were last year -- no better, no worse -- the White Sox are just trying to recover from last year’s letdown, and the Tigers and Royals -- well, they’ve still got a ways to go. The Twins, by bringing back Correa, have made it clear that they plan on competing for American League Central titles for at least the next half-decade. That might be a big ask. But winning more than 78 games shouldn’t be.