Here are 12 stunning projections for 2023
The big baseball projection systems are already looking ahead to the 2023 season. Let's look for the players whose stat lines jump out.
If you go through the Steamer projections for this year on FanGraphs, for example, you'll find noteworthy predictions for every kind of player, from top prospects to rising stars to international imports to dark-horse breakout candidates to the game's biggest names.
Here are 12 of the most interesting player projections for the 2023 season.
1. Julio Rodríguez, CF, Mariners
Projection: 5.9 WAR, 142 wRC+, 32 HR, 25 SB
At 22 years old and after just one big league season, Rodríguez is projected to be a top-three player in all of baseball in 2023. The only hitters with a higher projected Wins Above Replacement are Juan Soto and Aaron Judge. Then comes J-Rod, tied with Mookie Betts. Steamer loves Rodríguez's combination of power, speed and defense in center field.
2. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
Projection: 5.6 WAR, 130 wRC+
The Steamer projections are almost as high on Rutschman as they are on Rodríguez as the 24-year-old catcher enters his sophomore season. Rutschman, the runner-up to Rodríguez for AL Rookie of the Year in 2022, is projected to be a top-five position player at 5.6 WAR -- the same as Mike Trout. Rutschman's plus defense at a premium position is a big factor, but he's also projected to be the second-best hitting catcher behind Alejandro Kirk.
3. Corbin Burnes, SP, Brewers
Projection: 13 W, 3.16 ERA, 239 K
What's interesting about Burnes is he's projected to win the Triple Crown in the NL. The right-hander is projected to lead the league in strikeouts outright, ahead of Max Scherzer. He's tied for the most projected wins, 13, with several other aces. And he's projected to lead all qualified NL starters in ERA at 3.16 (the Braves' Spencer Strider is projected at 3.10 but below the minimum-innings threshold). The last pitching Triple Crown winner in the NL was Clayton Kershaw in 2011.
4. Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, SP, Reds
Projections: Greene -- 212 K, Lodolo -- 207 K
The Reds' two top pitching prospects had up-and-down rookie seasons in 2022, but the projections are very high on the talented duo this year. The 23-year-old righty Greene and the 24-year-old lefty Lodolo are projected to be top-25 pitchers by WAR and are both projected for 200-plus strikeouts. The only other teammates projected for 200-K seasons in 2023 are the Yankees' Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón, the Mets' Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, the Mariners' Robbie Ray and Luis Castillo and the Rays' Shane McClanahan and Tyler Glasnow.
5. Masataka Yoshida, OF, Red Sox
Projections: 140 wRC+, .298 AVG, .388 OBP, .867 OPS
The Red Sox shelled out $90 million to bring Yoshida to the Major Leagues, and the Steamer projections are high on the 29-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder as he makes the jump from Nippon Professional Baseball, even with no big league track record. Steamer has Yoshida batting .298, the second-best batting average projection behind only Luis Arraez, with a .388 projected on-base percentage that's second only to Juan Soto. His projected OPS, .867, is top 10 among all MLB hitters. The 140 wRC+ Yoshida is projected for is the same as Bryce Harper's and Paul Goldschmidt's. Yoshida did just bat .335 with a .447 on-base percentage and 1.008 OPS in his last season in Japan, but those are still eye-opening projections for 2023.
6. Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Braves
Projection: 31 HR, 35 SB
Steamer sees Acuña having another season like he did in 2019, when he pushed for the 40-40 club and was a top-five MVP finisher. Acuña finished with 41 home runs and a National League-leading 37 stolen bases in '19. The projections have him with 31 homers and a Major League-leading 35 stolen bases in '23. He's the only player projected for a 30-30 season. And if he hits his projections, he'd be the first player with both more than 30 homers and more than 30 steals since … himself.
7. Tyler Glasnow, SP, Rays
Projection: 204 K, 11.47 K/9, 31.4% K%
Speaking of Glasnow -- he's projected to have a monster year in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. The Rays right-hander only pitched three games in 2022 -- two at the very end of the regular season and one more in the playoffs -- but he looked as electric as ever, allowing just one run in 11 2/3 innings with 15 strikeouts. Glasnow has never pitched a full season aside from the shortened 2020 campaign, but if the 29-year-old stays healthy in 2023, Steamer thinks he'll post his first 200-K season as one of baseball's premier strikeout artists.
8. Gunnar Henderson, SS/3B, Orioles
Projection: 4.1 WAR, 126 wRC+, 21 HR, 53 XBH
MLB's No. 2 overall prospect has the best projections of any rookie for 2023. The 21-year-old infielder, who posted a 126 wRC+ down the stretch last year in a 34-game callup, is projected to be just as good of a hitter in 2023 -- but over a full season. Henderson is projected for 4.1 WAR, the same as players like Luis Robert Jr. and Sean Murphy and ahead of other rising stars like Bobby Witt Jr. and Oneil Cruz.
9. Aaron Ashby, LHP, Brewers
Projection: 8-6, 3.29 ERA, 134 K, 10.11 K/9
Aaron Ashby is a young lefty with a big arm -- he'll still be 24 on Opening Day and his fastball sits around 96 mph -- which is why the Brewers locked him up with a five-year contract last July. But you wouldn't expect these projections if you just looked at his stat sheet. Ashby is projected for a winning record and a top-10 ERA among all pitchers projected to throw 100-plus innings … after he went 2-10 last season with a 4.44 ERA in 27 games (19 starts). Steamer sees a big turnaround in Ashby's numbers in 2023, probably thanks to his high strikeout rates. Ashby has a 10.7 K/9 in the big leagues, and he's projected in double digits again this season.
10. Hunter Brown, RHP, Astros
Projection: 100 IP, 3.41 ERA, 108 K
The Astros' No. 1 prospect was an instant pitcher to watch when he got called up last September, featuring an upper-90s fastball and a delivery mirroring that of his idol, Justin Verlander. Brown posted a 0.89 ERA down the stretch and made three scoreless appearances in the postseason. If the 24-year-old can carve out a role on the Astros' pitching staff in 2023, Steamer likes what he can do, projecting Brown to reach 100 innings pitched with a top-15 ERA for pitchers in that category.
11. Juan Soto, RF, Padres
Projection: 7.1 WAR, 172 wRC+, 137 BB, .431 OBP
It's not surprising that Soto is projected to be the best hitter in baseball in 2023. But some of the numbers Steamer is predicting for him are wild. He's projected for 137 walks -- 42 more than the next-closest hitter, Judge, who's projected for 95. And he's projected to lead the Majors in on-base percentage by 43 points, at .431. Of course, those marks are well within Soto's range: He's averaged 133 walks per 162 games in his career with a .424 OBP.
12. Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Angels
Projection: 35 HR, 16 SB, 96 RBIs / 12 W, 3.15 ERA, 217 K
It took a 62-home-run season from Judge to stop Ohtani from taking home back-to-back MVP Awards. If he hits these projections, it would take another historic effort to stop him from winning in 2023, too. Ohtani is projected for the seventh-most home runs as a hitter and the fifth-best ERA and eighth-most strikeouts as a starting pitcher. If you add up Ohtani's projected 3.1 WAR as a hitter and 4.4 WAR as a pitcher, the two-way superstar would rank No. 1 in total WAR ahead of Soto.