As we close in on Opening Day, it's predictions season, and we asked 87 MLB.com voters to weigh in on which teams they foresee winning the divisions, the Wild Card spots, the league pennants and, ultimately, which club will emerge as the World Series champion in 2023:
AL East: Yankees
Although he’ll start the season on the injured list due to a left elbow strain, the addition of Carlos Rodón to a starting rotation already featuring Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes makes the Yankees even more of a force to be reckoned with in the ultra-competitive AL East. Add to that a lineup anchored by reigning AL MVP Aaron Judge, with pop up and down the batting order, and you have a team that has its eyes on much more than a division crown.
It’s World Series or bust in the Bronx, with the Yanks not having reached the Fall Classic since 2009 -- the 14 years since then is the second-longest period between World Series appearances in franchise history (1981-96 is the longest). They’ll have to weather injuries early, but if they can do that successfully, the Bronx Bombers should be in prime position to hold off several intra-division challengers and make a deep October run.
AL Central: Guardians
The Guardians will look to make it two straight division crowns. Our voters have Cleveland atop the AL Central again behind a strong pitching staff and an offense that won’t slug all that much but will use its high-contact/low-strikeout approach to score enough runs to back its stellar arms.
With Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie (who was shut down from throwing for at least two weeks to start the season) headlining the starting rotation, lockdown closer Emmanuel Clase coming off an MLB-leading 42 saves and a 1.36 ERA at the back of the bullpen, and perennial MVP candidate José Ramírez in the middle of the lineup, Cleveland will be tough to top in the Central.
AL West: Astros
Until they are dethroned, the Astros remain the class of the AL West. There’s no reason to think they won’t be able to make it six division titles in seven years. But, like the Yankees, it’s World Series championship or bust in Houston.
The club’s veteran leader, Jose Altuve, will open the season on the IL after a pitch from Daniel Bard fractured his right thumb during the World Baseball Classic. But the Astros’ lineup has plenty of power to handle his absence, led by 2022 AL MVP finalist Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, Jeremy Peña and newcomer José Abreu.
Along with a pitching staff as deep as they come, both in the rotation and in the ’pen, Houston will make a run at becoming the first back-to-back World Series champion in 23 years.
AL Wild Card: Mariners, Blue Jays and Rays
After finally reaching the postseason for the first time in 21 years, the Mariners will try to make it back-to-back playoff appearances, and our voters certainly think they can do it. Led by reigning AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez, who became the fastest player to reach 25 homers and 25 steals in his career last year, Seattle is hoping not only to qualify for the postseason this fall, but to move beyond the AL Division Series after being swept by the Astros there in 2022.
The starting rotation features All-Star right-hander Luis Castillo and former Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, as well as rising youngsters Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. And with the acquisition of slugging outfielder Teoscar Hernández to complement J-Rod, plus Eugenio Suárez, Ty France and Cal Raleigh in the lineup, the offense has been bolstered in preparation for the 2023 campaign.
The Blue Jays remain one of the most exciting teams in baseball because of their dynamic lineup, which features Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and George Springer, along with recent additions Brandon Belt, Whit Merrifield and Daulton Varsho.
On the pitching side of the ledger, Toronto boasts two of the best starters in the game, with 2022 AL Cy Young Award finalist Alek Manoah and veteran right-hander Kevin Gausman at the top of the rotation, not to mention free-agent addition Chris Bassitt, who is coming off a strong season with the Mets.
The Jays will be looking to avenge their early exit from the postseason last fall, when they were swept by the Mariners in the AL Wild Card Series. This year, like Seattle, Toronto hopes for much more than just a playoff berth, seeking the franchise’s first postseason victory since 2016.
Don't forget about the Rays -- it’s easy for them to get lost in the AL East shuffle, but just because they haven’t reached the World Series since that 2020 run doesn’t mean they’re off the radar. Not with one of the most exciting young players in the game, Wander Franco, looking to play a full season for the first time in the Majors, as well as the club’s uncanny ability to eclipse expectations.
Despite winning 100 games and their second straight division title in 2021, the Rays couldn’t get past the Red Sox in the ALDS, and last fall, Tampa Bay lost to Cleveland in the AL Wild Card Series. But with Franco, Randy Arozarena -- whose electric play in the World Baseball Classic may have given us a prelude of what’s to come -- and breakout left-hander Shane McClanahan leading a pitching staff that has traditionally been a strength for the club, you can’t put a ceiling on what Tampa Bay can accomplish in 2023.
AL champion: Astros
If there’s one thing we know about the Astros, it’s that their roster is deep, talented and experienced. Houston has won the AL West in five of the last six years, and it’s been in the World Series in four of those years, winning twice -- in 2017, and again last year.
Teams that win it all often have a mix of battle-tested veterans and young players who aren’t afraid of the big stage -- the Astros have those ingredients in abundance, with the old guard of Altuve and Bregman teaming up with fearless young stars Alvarez, Tucker and Peña.
Will Houston make it five AL pennants in seven years? Our voters certainly think so.
NL East: Braves
The Braves are looking to extend their dominance over the NL East with a sixth straight division crown this year, and on paper, they look even better than they did a season ago.
This offseason, Atlanta traded for A’s catcher Sean Murphy, who, along with Travis d’Arnaud, will form perhaps the best backstop tandem in all of baseball.
The Braves are hoping to get more from superstar outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., after his production took a step back last season while he worked his way back from a torn ACL. If he can round back into his pre-2022 form, Acuña, Matt Olson and Austin Riley give the Braves three legitimate MVP candidates heading into the season.
The Mets and Phillies have closed the gap with the Braves in the extremely competitive NL East, but it’s still Atlanta’s division to win.
NL Central: Cardinals
After winning the NL Central last season, the Cardinals went out and got even better by bringing in Willson Contreras, one of the best hitting catchers in baseball.
Contreras will join Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in the heart of St. Louis’ lineup, which figures to be one of the scariest in the Senior Circuit. The Cardinals also gave their top prospect, Jordan Walker, an Opening Day roster spot after a dominant spring showing.
The Cardinals’ offense should score plenty of runs, but there are questions about their starting pitching. Adam Wainwright will turn 42 on Aug. 30 and is starting the season on the injured list. Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery and Steven Matz have all dealt with injuries in recent years. But if they can get good health from their starters, St. Louis should be able to hold off the rest of the Central.
NL West: Padres
The Padres had perhaps the best offseason in the league, and our experts are predicting that it’ll help them nudge past the Dodgers in the NL West.
San Diego signed Xander Bogaerts away from the Red Sox, adding to their collection of superstar position players that includes Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Manny Machado, who signed an 11-year, $350M extension in late February.
Despite starting the season with Joe Musgrove (foot) on the IL, San Diego’s starting rotation is much deeper than it was in 2022 after adding Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo and Nick Martinez this offseason.
With the Dodgers electing to stay out of the top of the free-agent market this past winter, the Padres have become the favorites to come out of the NL West for the first time in years.
NL Wild Cards: Dodgers, Phillies, Mets
Our experts are expecting the same six teams to make the postseason in the National League this season.
Despite winning a franchise-record 111 games last season, the Dodgers are taking a slight step back this year in the eyes of our panel after losing Trea Turner, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger. The injury bug hasn’t been kind to Los Angeles either – Gavin Lux will be out for the season after tearing his ACL in the spring and Tony Gonsolin is expected to miss some time early on with an ankle sprain.
Still, the Dodgers' track record and remaining pieces will likely keep them in the playoff hunt.
After a World Series run, the Phillies made a huge splash by bringing in Trea Turner this winter. Philadelphia is returning much of its 2022 roster, but injuries have also set them back as the 2023 season gets going. Bryce Harper had Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected back until midseason, while Rhys Hoskins' 2023 season likely ended when he tore his left ACL in a Spring Training game. They still have the pieces to make the postseason, but a division title will be an uphill battle.
Speaking of injuries, the Mets have suffered their fair share as well. Edwin Díaz is expected to miss the season after tearing his patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico's victory against the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. José Quintana (rib) won’t return until at least July. But the additions of Justin Verlander and Kodai Senga, among others, will keep them in the Wild Card hunt – even if the division looks a bit tougher than it did a couple of months ago.
NL champion: Padres
San Diego hasn’t been to the Fall Classic since 1998. This year’s team has arguably as good of a chance as any since then to win the National League crown.
WS champion: Padres
Our experts expect San Diego’s big moves to pay off – big time. The Padres’ front office has proven it will do whatever it takes to put a winning product on the field. Petco Park will be rocking this season with all the star power on the roster.