One bold prediction for each team entering Opening Day

April 5th, 2022

There is no better time for bold predictions than right before Opening Day. So we asked our beat writers to issue one bold prediction for their clubs as the season opener nears. From teams and players setting franchise records to surprise postseason appearances, here are our "out there but not far-fetched" prognostications.

American League East

Blue Jays: Bo Bichette goes 30-30-.300.
This wouldn’t require much of an improvement from Bichette’s 2021, season, when he hit 29 home runs, stole 25 bases and hit .298. Blue Jays coaches have loved what they’ve seen from the young shortstop in camp. With Bichette’s bat speed and ability to make adjustments on the fly, there’s still some room before he hits his ceiling offensively. He’s already among the best young offensive shortstops in the game, but that speed factor is underrated after he went 25-for-26 in stolen-base attempts last season. Bichette is capable of putting up some big counting stats across the board, and if he pairs that with some improved defensive metrics, he’s got a shot to earn some MVP votes. -- Keegan Matheson

Orioles: Adley Rutschman won’t be the most eye-popping callup
It’s no fault of his own. Rutschman is likely going to make his long-awaited debut in the first half of the season, and when it happens it’ll signal the start of young talent finally making its way to Baltimore since Mike Elias took over baseball operations in 2019. But part of Rutschman’s pedigree is his quiet excellence, winning his teams plenty of games but doing so almost expectedly. So it might be his batterymates who steal the show in 2022, most notably Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in baseball, and D.L. Hall, one of the best left-handed prospects. Both are expected to debut in ’22 as well, and Hall, who will be slow-played after an elbow injury in ’21, sat at 99 mph and touched 100 in his only Grapefruit League action. -- Zachary Silver

Rays: Wander Franco becomes the youngest MVP in MLB history
The day after their season ended last October, manager Kevin Cash said this of Franco: “I think you could make the argument that he’s the most impactful player on any team in baseball.” The Rays backed up their belief in him by signing Franco to the biggest contract in franchise history. Maybe he won’t wind up being the youngest MVP in MLB history -- these are bold predictions, after all -- but it’s not really a stretch to assume he’ll emerge as a top candidate for the award by the end of his first full season in the Majors. This might seem conservative in a few months, but we’ll also say Franco will post at least 7 WAR (Baseball Reference), becoming the 13th player to do so at age 21 or younger. The others? Pretty good company: Mike Trout (twice), Rogers Hornsby, Alex Rodriguez, Rickey Henderson, Al Kaline, Eddie Mathews, Cesar Cedeno, Jimmie Foxx, Andruw Jones, Mel Ott, Ken Griffey Jr. and Carlos Correa. -- Adam Berry

Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec is going to hit 35-40 home runs
That would make him the slugging monster that many people felt he would be a year ago. In his rookie year, Dalbec endured his lumps and still went deep 25 times. Now he knows the rhythms and the adjustments it takes to succeed at the highest level. If Dalbec does consistent damage in the seventh spot in the batting order, the Red sox are going to be a team no pitching staff will want to face. -- Ian Browne

Yankees: They'll trade for a frontline starting pitcher before the All-Star break
General manager Brian Cashman said that the team you begin the season with is not necessarily the one you end with -- in fact, most times, it doesn’t work out that way. He also calls pitching “the key to the kingdom,” and this rotation would benefit from an upgrade behind Gerrit Cole. That's why the Yankees were involved in talks for the Athletics’ Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea, among others. Even though those deals seem to have fizzled and Aaron Boone said the Yanks are prepared to go with what they have, look for Cashman to work some midseason magic. -- Bryan Hoch

AL Central

Guardians: Franmil Reyes will hit 40-plus homers
That would make him the eighth player in Cleveland history to join the 40-homer club. Jim Thome (1997, 2001, '02), Albert Belle (’95, '96), Manny Ramirez (’98, '99), Al Rosen (’53), Rocky Colavito (’58, ’59), Travis Hafner (’06) and Hal Trosky (’36) are the only players to have launched at least 40 homers in a season in franchise history. Although Reyes has been streaky in his time with Cleveland, he’s primed for a more consistent (and powerful) year. And with the expectations of the club dropping from the outside, a lower-pressure environment may allow him to settle in and shine, prompting more wins than maybe some are projecting. -- Mandy Bell

Royals: They'll grab a Wild Card spot
Is this optimistic? Yes. Is it totally out of range? No, not with the expanded 12-team postseason this year, with six teams from each league getting a spot in October. The Royals play in a weak AL Central, which should help, although they can’t overlook the additions that the Twins and Tigers made this offseason. The Royals are fast and play great defense, with Gold Glove-caliber players at almost every position. Speed and defense don’t win alone, but they certainly help. If what we see on paper translates to the regular season, and if the Royals can avoid the long losing streaks (remember the 11-game skid last season?), they have a chance to compete in October. -- Anne Rogers

Tigers: Spencer Torkelson belts 30-plus homers
If he does, he'll become the third player in franchise history to hit 30 home runs as a rookie, joining Rudy York (35 in 1937) and Matt Nokes (32 in 1987). Craig Monroe has the record for a Tigers rookie in the Comerica Park era with 23 homers in 2003. -- Jason Beck

Twins: Byron Buxton joins the 40-40 club
This might seem a bit far-fetched, but it's well within Buxton's skillset to join Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano as the only hitters in MLB history to smash 40 homers and steal 40 bases in a season. Had Buxton stayed healthy last season, he was on pace for 50 homers and 24 steals, and Rocco Baldelli's Twins could be more aggressive on the basepaths this season than they have in years past. If so, Buxton will be right in the middle of it. The only issue: If he posts another .647 slugging percentage, he might not be standing on first base often enough to put up such gaudy steal numbers. -- Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox: They'll win a postseason series
The White Sox haven't won a playoff series since 2005. For the first time since 2005, they'll will win the American League. And for the first time since 2005 … OK, let’s stick with AL champs and see what happens from there. That White Sox-Toronto AL Championship Series should be a memorable one. -- Scott Merkin

AL West

Angels: They finally get back to the postseason
The Halos will end their postseason drought and finally return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon all stay healthy to create one of the best offenses in the AL, while the bullpen also proves to be a major asset. Ohtani repeats as the AL MVP with Trout among the top three leading vote-getters. -- Rhett Bollinger

Astros: They'll win their fourth pennant in six years
Houston will return to the World Series after winning their fifth AL West title in five years. The Astros have lost high-profile free agents in Gerrit Cole following the 2019 season, George Springer after 2020, and Carlos Correa after last year, but they keep on winning. That’s bound to catch up with them at some point, but their lineup remains deep and the rotation is good enough. Plus, if they’re in contention in July, owner Jim Crane will make a move to bolster their chances. This is an experienced club whose window to contend remains wide open. -- Brian McTaggart

Athletics: Sean Murphy becomes an All-Star
Murphy’s frustrations over missing too many pitches down the middle last season led to an adjustment at the plate this offseason to stand more upright and shorten his leg kick. The results have been on display during Spring Training as he appears to be on time in his swing a lot more and routinely crushing pitches with a triple-digit exit velocity. The 2021 Gold Glove Award winner already possesses elite defense behind the plate. Combine that with 30-plus homer potential and plenty of RBIs batting in the middle of Oakland’s order, and Murphy could end the season garnering some MVP attention. -- Martín Gallegos

Mariners: J-Rod wins AL Rookie of the Year Award
This might not be super-bold, given that Julio Rodríguez is MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 overall prospect and that Vegas has him with the fourth-best odds to take home the hardware. He’ll have to stay healthy and play at the elite level he has this spring, but the opportunity should be his for the taking. With exit velocities tracking in the 115-mph-plus range, homers that travel more than 430 feet, sprint speed at an elite level that could lead to stolen bases and an improving approach that could lead to a higher on-base percentage, Rodríguez also will have the chance to put up the numbers needed for consideration. He already has the star power -- and the wow factor -- that’ll sell, too. -- Daniel Kramer

Rangers: They'll finish around .500
Predicting the Rangers to make the playoffs feels too bold, but the Rangers will be miles ahead of where they were last year. The additions of Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Jon Gray no doubt add much-needed star power, but that won’t be enough to overtake the Astros for the AL West or even the Mariners, who won 90 games in 2021. I will predict that Texas will improve by 20 games and finish the season hovering around .500. With consistent production from the top of the lineup and development from the young group of pitchers like Taylor Hearn and Dane Dunning, getting to 80 wins should be an achievable goal. -- Kennedi Landry

National League East

Braves: They'll win 100 games
The Mets made some big offseason moves and the Phillies added even more power to their softball league lineup. But even without Freddie Freeman, the Braves should once again be the class of the NL East. In fact, I’m going to predict the Braves will win a fifth consecutive division crown and enjoy a 100-win season for the first time since 2003. The outfield defense may be a problem without Ronald Acuña Jr. early in the season. But with the Reds, Nationals, Marlins, Cubs and Rangers on the schedule while Acuña remains sidelined, the team should still be in position for a triple-digit win total when the superstar returns. -- Mark Bowman

Marlins: They'll finish ahead of the Phillies
Though I won't predict the Marlins returning to the playoffs, their offseason upgrades should help them finish near .500 and in third -- ahead of the Phillies -- in the highly competitive NL East. They addressed the catching position (Jacob Stallings) and added impact bats (Jorge Soler, Avisaíl García). The acquisitions of Joey Wendle and Louis Head provide more depth to the lineup and bullpen. A lot will have to go right, especially on the injury front, for Miami to improve its win total that much, but I'm not the only one who thinks it's possible. -- Christina De Nicola

Mets: Edwin Díaz will lead the Majors in saves
For as talented as Díaz is, he still seems to be fighting off the reputation of his disappointing Mets debut in 2019, in which he blew seven saves, took seven losses and posted a 5.59 ERA. But Díaz was elite the following summer and solid last season. Now, he’s the unquestioned closer of a team that many expect to fight for the NL East crown. A gaudy saves total should follow. Remember, this is the same pitcher who led the Majors by a wide margin with 57 saves in 2018 with the Mariners. He certainly possesses the skill set to do it again. -- Anthony DiComo

Nationals: Victor Robles wins Gold Glove Award
Manager Dave Martinez has noted a correlation between Robles' performance at the plate and in the field. In just two years, Robles' journey went from being a 2019 Gold Glove Award finalist -- after a season in which he led all outfielders in Outs Above Average -- to finishing '21 in Triple-A. This season, Robles is looking to boost his offensive production with a revamped swing, and Martinez has attested, "I want Victor to be our center fielder." -- Jessica Camerato

Phillies: Corey Knebel has best Phillies season since Brad Lidge in 2008
Knebel signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Phillies in December, as opposed to a multiyear deal, because he is betting on himself to have a monster season, then hit the market again for a bigger payday. Knebel’s bet pays off. He has an All-Star season and helps the Phillies make the postseason for the first time since 2011. -- Todd Zolecki

NL Central

Brewers: They'll set a franchise record for wins
Prince Fielder, Zack Greinke and the 2011 Brewers set the club mark with 96 wins and the '18 club matched it thanks to a win over the Cubs in a Game 163. Fangraphs projects the ’22 Brewers to win 95 games and PECOTA projects 93 wins, putting the record within reach. The Brewers will benefit from a division in flux -- the Cardinals are competitive but may be without ace Jack Flaherty for a time, the Cubs traded a slew of their stars last season and the Reds and Pirates are clearly in a rebuilding phase. With MLB’s schedule heavy on intra-divisional games for one more season, it gives the Brewers a chance to compile victories against their NL Central foes. -- Adam McCalvy

Cardinals: Albert Pujols will prove he’s got plenty of pop left in his bat
No, Albert Pujols won’t be anywhere close to the hitter he was from 2001-11, when he won three MVP Awards and led the Cardinals to two World Series titles. But the Cardinals are realistic about what a 42-year-old Pujols can give them, and they will work to put him in positions to be successful. They will predominantly use Pujols as a DH and a pinch-hitter against left-handers in high-leverage situations. Within that context, no one would be surprised if No. 5 delivers a few more magical moments for fans in St. Louis. A big motivator for Pujols is that he enters the season 21 homers shy of 700 for his career. If he makes a run at that, Busch Stadium will be an electrifying place to watch baseball all summer. -- John Denton

Cubs: Seiya Suzuki wins NL Rookie of the Year Award
There will surely be an adjustment period for the 27-year-old Suzuki, as he not only acclimates to the United States, but gets accustomed to MLB deliveries, velocity and pitch movement. There have been glimpses of Suzuki's potential in the spring, but it is also clear there will be a learning curve involved for the Japanese slugger.

For Suzuki to climb into that NL Rookie of the Year conversation, the adjustment will need to be swift. There have been comparisons to when Hideki Matsui joined the Yankees as a 29-year-old in 2003. That year, Matsui had a .698 OPS in his first 60 games in the Majors. Then, he took off, hitting .307/.379/.468 the rest of the way that season. -- Jordan Bastian

Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes wins Platinum Glove Award
In his first two seasons, Hayes flashed what he can do defensively, but this is the season where he takes home the hardware. Not only can Hayes break Nolan Arenado’s nine-year streak of Gold Glove Awards at third base, he could very well win a Platinum Glove Award. In 96 games last season, Hayes totaled 16 defensive runs saved, leading all third basemen and ranking fourth among all position players. If Hayes plays the majority of this season and maintains his production, he stands to not just make a run at the title of best defensive third baseman, but best defender, period. -- Justice delos Santos

Reds: Jonathan India will be a 30-30 player in 2022
India has the power and demonstrated after moving to the leadoff spot on June 5 of last season that he can get on base from the leadoff spot. With a full year now behind him, he could really take flight as a player and become the first Reds player since Brandon Phillips in 2007 to have 30 homers and 30 steals in a season. -- Mark Sheldon

NL West

D-backs: They'll finish 82-80
It's Opening Day, a time for optimism, so here it goes: The D-backs stay healthy, Zac Gallen dominates on the mound, the rest of the rotation holds its own and Ketel Marte stays healthy and has a similar season to 2019, while their young players continue to progress. Most importantly, they avoid major injuries. All of that happens and the D-backs surprise people by being competitive and finish the year with an 82-80 record and some momentum heading into 2023. -- Steve Gilbert

Dodgers: They'll have four players finish in the top-10 of MVP voting
To get more specific, let’s go with Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith. Somehow, this feels way too bold but also not bold enough. Says a lot about the level of talent on this Dodgers roster. -- Juan Toribio

Giants: Thairo Estrada breaks out
Acquired from the Yankees in exchange for cash considerations last year, Estrada impressed in limited time with the Giants in 2021, batting .273 with an .813 OPS and seven home runs over 52 games. He didn’t end up cracking the playoff roster, but he figures to play a more prominent role in the Giants' infield following the injury to Evan Longoria and the departure of Donovan Solano. Estrada, who is out of options, certainly looks ready to seize the opportunity, as he entered Monday 9-for-22 with two home runs and four stolen bases over eight Cactus League games. -- Maria Guardado

Padres: They'll win a playoff series
Which version of the Padres is this? Are they the World Series favorites they appeared to be last June? Or are they the team that posted the worst record in baseball from mid-August onward? Perhaps optimistically, let’s err on the side of the former. They have a new, highly touted manager in Bob Melvin. Their pitching staff brings in Sean Manaea and Nick Martinez, brings back Mike Clevinger and might finally get a breakthrough from top pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore. Sure, it’ll be tough to contend for a division title in the loaded NL West. But Fernando Tatis Jr. will return for the second half, and there’s an extra playoff spot available this year. In Melvin’s eyes, the Padres “have a lot of the weapons to get better as the season goes along.” -- AJ Cassavell

Rockies: They'll finish near .500
The expanded postseason field gives many lower-division teams a right to dream. And they have a player in Kris Bryant who has ended up in the postseason in six of his seven years. Not predicting the postseason, but near .500 is easily possible. Even at 74 wins last year, respected projections missed by 14 games. This year’s latest projection is around 70 wins. -- Thomas Harding