What each team learned in the season's first month

May 1st, 2023

On Opening Day, questions abound. Some clubs have more than others, but each has its own unique set of unknowns entering the new season. Now that we're one month into the 2023 campaign, many of those questions have been, or are well on their way to being answered. With the help of all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a look at one thing each team learned in the first month of the regular season:

American League East

Blue Jays: The rotation is just fine
Entering the year, one of the bigger worries around this Blue Jays roster was how José Berríos and Yusei Kikuchi would hold up on the back end. Not only were both coming off poor seasons, but with Hyun Jin Ryu still months away from returning from Tommy John surgery and No. 1 prospect Ricky Tiedemann still needing more polish in the Minor Leagues, the “next man up” wasn’t exactly knocking on the door. Berríos and Kikuchi have been two of this club’s better stories, though, exceeding all external expectations and solidifying a rotation that is suddenly a clear strength after stumbling early. -- Keegan Matheson

Orioles: The 2022 success wasn’t a fluke
Baltimore outperformed expectations last year when it remained in the postseason chase all September and finished with 83 wins, only three games out of an AL Wild Card spot. After a relatively quiet offseason, the Orioles had skeptics entering 2023, questioning whether they did enough to build on their '22 success. So far, the O’s are proving they’re just as good as they were late last season -- and maybe even better, thanks to the continued development of their young core. Through 28 games, Baltimore is 19-9. The only years in team history in which it started better were 1969 and '70, each of which it began 20-8. -- Jake Rill

Rays: The lineup is just fine
All the alarming trends on display during the Rays’ season-ending slump last year? All the pursuits of a veteran hitter that yielded no results last offseason? All distant memories now. The Rays’ incredible run prevention is no surprise, but here they are a month into the season leading the Majors in runs scored (195), OPS (.879) and home runs (61). Who saw that coming? They’ll need to prove themselves against elite competition -- four of their first five losses were to the Blue Jays and Astros -- but they already look like a playoff lock thanks to the way Yandy Díaz, Wander Franco, Randy Arozarena, Brandon Lowe and Co. are hitting. -- Adam Berry

Red Sox: There is a lot of fight in the lineup
While the Red Sox are still trying to get the starting rotation sorted out, the offense has built an identity as a relentless group that is never out of a game. On Saturday, the Sox pulled out their MLB-leading 10th comeback win of the season, and third of the walk-off variety. Boston ranks third in the Majors in runs (163), is tied for second in doubles (62) and tied for eighth in homers (37). Rafael Devers, Alex Verdugo, Masataka Yoshida and Jarren Duran have been key contributors to a lineup that lost red-hot Adam Duvall on April 9 to a fractured left wrist. -- Ian Browne

Yankees: Left field has been left out
The Yankees’ punchless offense is a concern, especially considering they’re without Giancarlo Stanton and (at least for a little while) Aaron Judge. They’ve been getting little production from the No. 5-No. 9 spots in the order, but let’s zoom in on left field, which general manager Brian Cashman identified as an area of need this past offseason. When Andrew Benintendi came off the board in free agency, the Yanks essentially stood pat and hoped to generate production from within. Oswaldo Cabrera, Aaron Hicks, Willie Calhoun and Franchy Cordero have received opportunities, but thus far none have been the answer. Jake Bauers was swinging a hot bat at Triple-A, but he hurt his knee in his first inning after being called up, and a trade for the Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds is off the table. So … what’s next? -- Bryan Hoch

AL Central

Guardians: It’s time to trust the kids … again
The Guardians have had more hiccups in their rotation than they’ve had to deal with in recent memory, whether it be injuries or hurlers getting off to slow starts. In the last few weeks, the team tried to combat these woes by once again turning to the next generation of talent. Cleveland added Peyton Battenfield into the rotation and he’s gotten off to a relatively strong start to his career. He was key in opening the door to the top prospects who were knocking. The team’s No. 8 prospect, Logan Allen, made his debut last week and became the sixth pitcher in club history to record at least eight strikeouts in a debut. Three days later, No. 5 prospect Tanner Bibee did the same, becoming the seventh pitcher to record at least eight strikeouts in his first career start. And with No. 2 prospect Gavin Williams continuing his dominance in Triple-A Columbus, the rotation could become a whole lot younger -- and more electric -- in the near future. -- Mandy Bell

Royals: Edward Olivares is an everyday player
Olivares showed flashes of his hit tool in 2021 and '22 before hamstring issues sidelined him for most of the season. The Royals are committed to seeing how he fits in their lineup for years to come, and so far, he’s shown how important he can be for the future of the club. The 27-year-old outfielder is hitting .289/.344/.482 and frustrated the Twins over the weekend with his ability to hit any pitch in any count in the zone. He’s made strides with his strike zone awareness, and the Royals feel good about his ability at the plate. They’ll keep working with him on his outfield defense and baserunning, with the hope that he can turn into a well-rounded player for them. -- Anne Rogers

Tigers: Jake Rogers is back
Rogers was on his way to becoming the Tigers' next mainstay behind the plate when Tommy John surgery halted his career. After missing a season and a half, Rogers has pretty much picked up where he left off, not just earning high marks for his work behind the plate but also providing some power at the plate. In the process, he has split starts with Eric Haase at catcher, helping to stabilize what has mostly been a weak spot in Detroit over the last few years. -- Jason Beck

Twins: The rotation depth is for real
It’s kind of nice when Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle can go down with injuries and the next two pitchers up are a guy who is already a proven MLB starter with a 3.66 career ERA (Bailey Ober) and the back-to-back organizational Minor League pitcher of the year (Louie Varland). It’s even nicer when the rotation is helmed by Sonny Gray -- the qualified MLB leader in ERA -- flanked by Pablo López and Joe Ryan. That makes for a pitching staff that is tied for first in the Majors in WAR, per FanGraphs (4.8), and the best rotation in baseball by that metric (3.8). -- Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox: Last year’s disappointment has carried over
The team changed managers, with Pedro Grifol taking over for bench coach Miguel Cairo, who replaced Tony La Russa at the end of the 2022 season due to illness for the Hall of Famer. But the White Sox's results actually have grown worse. The '22 squad never fell more than five games below .500, nor rose more than five games above .500, while this current version has lost 10 of 11 and is 8-21 so far this season. They have dealt with injuries to key players such as shortstop Tim Anderson and third baseman Yoán Moncada, while closer Liam Hendriks is working his way back after treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But in this supposed window of contention following the rebuild, the White Sox have just two overall playoff victories and already have dug a deep hole in '23. -- Scott Merkin

AL West

Angels: The added offensive depth has paid off
The Angels bolstered their depth this offseason, trading for veteran outfielder Hunter Renfroe and infielder Gio Urshela, while signing infielder Brandon Drury to a two-year deal. Renfroe has been one of the club’s best hitters, as he’s tied for the team lead in homers with Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout and leads the club in RBIs. Urshela has been consistent all season, hitting for average and playing solid defense all around the diamond. Drury got off to a slow start but has been heating up over the last week and has also brought versatility to the infield. The Angels were hurt by their lack of depth last year and it’s been key for them this season, especially after outrighting veteran David Fletcher off the 40-man roster. -- Rhett Bollinger

Astros: Hunter Brown is the real deal
The Astros’ top prospect coming into the season, Brown has been dazzling in the Houston rotation. The 24-year-old right-hander wasn’t even guaranteed a rotation spot coming into Spring Training, but an injury to Lance McCullers Jr. opened the door. Brown is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his first five starts, including three starts in which he pitched seven innings and didn’t allow an earned run. Brown’s high-90s fastball, hard slider and big curveball generate a lot of swing and miss and soft contact. He’s struck out 32 batters and walked 10 in 30 1/3 innings and has put himself in early contention for the AL Rookie of the Year Award. -- Brian McTaggart

Athletics: Brent Rooker is one of the top hitters in baseball
A former first-round pick by the Twins, Rooker is taking full advantage of his first real opportunity at regular playing time in Oakland. Rooker’s .779 slugging percentage leads all Major League hitters with at least 80 plate appearances, and his nine homers are third-most in the AL and fifth-most in the Majors. For a rebuilding A’s club seeking to identify players who can help them beyond 2023, Rooker is certainly emerging as a long-term middle-of-the-order threat. -- Martín Gallegos

Mariners: Their one-run magic hasn’t been there
After leading the Majors in one-run victories in both 2021 (33) and '22 (34), they’ve fallen to 3-9 in such contests in 2023, by far the most such losses in the category in baseball this year. A regression here was probably always destined, but it’s been eye-opening to see it this stark. The Mariners still have an elite bullpen for those high-stakes moments late in games, but they sorely need more consistent run production to back it. -- Daniel Kramer

Rangers: Josh Jung is the real deal
The rookie third baseman slashed .204/.235/.418 in 26 big league games at the end of last season, but he’s more than looked the part this year, filling a void the club has had at the hot corner since Adrián Beltré's retirement. Jung has reached base in 20 of the 26 games he’s played in this season and ranks in the top three among qualified AL rookies in home runs (6), slugging (.500), hits (27), extra-base hits (11), total bases (44), batting average (.270) and OPS (.824). -- Kennedi Landry

National League East

Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr. is back
No longer restricted by the lingering effects of ACL surgery, Acuña is again one of the most dynamic players the game has ever seen. His MLB-leading 13 steals create reason to believe he’ll make another strong run at the 40-homer/40-steal club he finished three stolen bases shy of joining in 2019. His .986 OPS through 27 games also confirms he has again become one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters. If he remains healthy, he should be a top MVP candidate. -- Mark Bowman

Marlins: Luis Arraez can hit
Sure, Arraez won the 2022 AL batting title, but there hasn't been a learning curve moving over to the NL. He leads the Majors in average (.438) and on-base percentage (.500) among qualified hitters. Arraez has at least one hit in all but three of his 23 starts and 12 multi-hit games. The only things that slowed him down -- by his standards -- were a laceration on his left index finger and a bruised left knee. -- Christina De Nicola

Mets: The lineup needs more thump
Over time, the pitching staff figures to steady itself as players return from injury. But power production figures to be a lingering issue for the Mets, who have a 7-2 record when Pete Alonso homers, and an 8-10 mark when he does not. Alonso has accounted for 10 of the Mets’ 27 homers, the largest percentage of any team’s long ball production. If that trend continues, the Mets may need to look hard at a DH acquisition before the Trade Deadline. -- Anthony DiComo

Nationals: MacKenzie Gore looks like a future ace
Gore was on the injured list when the Nationals acquired him from the Padres in the Juan Soto trade last August. The left-hander did not make his Nats debut until this season, and the 2017 third overall Draft pick has performed as advertised. He is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 35 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .200 batting average in his first five starts. Gore tied his career high with 10 strikeouts on Wednesday against the Mets. -- Jessica Camerato

Phillies: José Alvarado is an elite reliever
It was a toss-up between this or “Kevin Long is the best hitting coach in baseball,” given what he’s done with Bryson Stott, Brandon Marsh and Cristian Pache (before his injury). But it has to be Alvarado. Keep in mind, this is the same left-hander who was demoted to the Minors in May last season with a 7.62 ERA. But since returning three weeks later, Alvarado has a 1.43 ERA while racking up 88 strikeouts to just 14 walks over 50 1/3 innings. As for this year specifically, he's allowed just one run over 12 1/3 innings (0.73 ERA), all while striking out 24 of the 43 batters he's faced -- and walking zero. -- Todd Zolecki

NL Central

Brewers: Defense wins games
The Brewers had a hunch they’d be improved defensively with free agent pickup Brian Anderson playing third base and right field, and rookies Garrett Mitchell, Brice Turang and Joey Wiemer using their speed. But they didn’t necessarily expect to be the No. 1 defense in baseball by defensive runs saved, even after losing Mitchell to a season-ending shoulder injury. Anderson has been terrific at two positions, and Turang’s range has made a big difference with teams no longer able to load up infielders on one side of the field. The dramatic improvement made by first-year catcher William Contreras has also helped Milwaukee make the jump. -- Adam McCalvy

Cardinals: The pitching depth isn’t quite what they had hoped
For a team that entered the season with World Series hopes, the first month of the season has been a rather jarring kick in the gut. A rotation that is still awaiting Adam Wainwright’s return has been underwhelming. The starters have combined for just four quality starts and are among the worst staffs in the league in putting hitters away with two strikes. Things haven’t settled in the bullpen, either. There has been a run of blown saves, seemingly a byproduct of the team’s late-inning relievers not getting consistent work. -- John Denton

Cubs: Offense is better than expected
Manager David Ross has been able to roll out a consistent front four of Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki, while mixing and matching the rest of the way. Hoerner has been a tone-setter with his elite contact ability, while fully embracing the speed element when on base. The likes of Cody Bellinger and Patrick Wisdom have provided much-needed power for a lineup that was expected to be mostly a gap-to-gap group. Altogether, the Cubs’ offense boasts a 117 wRC+ as a unit, ranking first in the NL and third in MLB behind the Rangers (120) and the Rays (150). -- Jordan Bastian

Pirates: This team is fun
Few people outside the Pirates' clubhouse would’ve envisioned this team being among baseball’s best, but over the first month of the season, the Bucs stand as the best team in the NL. The rotation is racking up quality starts, the position players are racking up steals, the bats are racking up blasts and the team is racking up wins. Between their pitcher of the game Pikachu, home run sword, home run jacket and postgame win celebration, they’re having no shortage of fun, too. -- Justice delos Santos

Reds: The team’s defense isn’t up to par
According to Statcast, the club ranks at the bottom of MLB in their percentage of turning groundballs into outs and near the bottom in Outs Above Average. Shortstop Jose Barrero has regressed in 2023. Second baseman Jonathan India can make the routine plays but lacks range. The team has mixed and matched at first base without Joey Votto, but their best infielder might be Wil Myers, who played about half his games as an outfielder this month. Reds pitchers could use more help behind them to avoid giving opponents extra outs. -- Mark Sheldon

NL West

D-backs: Zac Gallen may be even better than he was last season
Gallen is riding a 28-inning scoreless streak, which is still a ways away from the 44 1/3-inning streak he put together last year. But D-backs manager Torey Lovullo thinks Gallen has been more dominant during this one. A perfectionist, Gallen is constantly looking to get better and somehow after last year’s outstanding season, he seems to be doing just that. -- Steve Gilbert

Dodgers: James Outman is a legit NL Rookie of the Year candidate
Outman was the last position player to make the roster out of Spring Training, but the 25-year-old rookie has been one of the most consistent hitters in an otherwise inconsistent Dodgers lineup. Outman needs to cut down on his strikeouts in order to maintain this level of production, but his seven homers in March/April are the most by a Dodgers rookie to start a season. -- Juan Toribio

Giants: J.D. Davis deserves to play every day
Davis didn’t appear to have a clear path to playing regularly at the beginning of the season, but he’s entrenched himself as the Giants’ starting third baseman after batting .289 with an .885 OPS and six homers over his first 24 games. Perhaps more surprising has been his much-improved defense at third, where he’s currently tied for second in the Majors with 4 Outs Above Average this year. -- Maria Guardado

Padres: Juan Soto’s swing is not yet fixed
Soto torched opposing pitchers this spring during Cactus League play and in the World Baseball Classic. But his early struggles in the regular season have him searching for answers again, as he tries to recover his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field with authority. Before going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles against the Giants on Sunday, Soto was hitting .219/.378/.385 since joining the Padres – decent numbers for anyone else, but well below his career marks. Then again, this is Juan Soto. He’s still taking his walks and reaching base. When he gets that swing ironed out -- opposing pitchers beware. -- AJ Cassavell

Rockies: Key guys not producing leads to a messy situation
C.J. Cron was the first 2023 NL Player of the Week, but he has cratered since and entered Sunday with a .681 OPS -- though in a hopeful sign for the Rockies, he went 3-for-5 with a double and a homer against the D-backs to end the month of April. Charlie Blackmon and Ryan McMahon, who have had thunder in the past, have not been much better. Kris Bryant is hitting a respectable .297 with a .360 on-base percentage, but a .426 slugging percentage has not been nearly enough to lift this offense. The Rockies have never lost (or won) 100 games in a season, but negating their natural home-field advantage with a .745 home OPS -- to their opponents’ .900 at Coors Field -- is a recipe for the wrong kind of triple figures. -- Thomas Harding