It’s been a while since I’ve dusted off the keyboard for DoubleDay Double Talk. I know that in part because my login email address is from an employer I haven’t worked for 2 years. I’ve also adopted my daughter and finished an MBA, which could have played another part. Giuseppe is in college now at my alma mater UC San Diego – which apparently has a Target on campus now and a Costco Club whose founder recently ate an entire rotisserie chicken. UCSD kids are known to be a wild bunch.
It might be cheating to write my normal predictions article 3 days after the season has started, but I’ll give myself some grace. A year I forgot to write a predictions article the Braves actually did win the World Series, so maybe it’s bad luck? But you know what, I enjoy making jokes and sick burns that only myself and a select few understand, so let’s get this going.
Big changes in the game this year to speed it up and make it more entertaining. Stolen bases we want to see. Fewer strikeouts, more hits, fewer pickoffs. I’m a fan overall but would be okay with some tweaks like turning off the pitch clock in the last couple of innings in a close game. So much of the drama is in that in-between suspension of the action in baseball. The Padres are looking to show that “small market” teams can spend and win, while the Mets are hoping to show they can spend even more than last year and make it count this time.
1.Padres. Big money spent. Blockbuster trade. Dodgers bested in the playoffs. Attendance cracking the Top 5 in MLB. What do you do for an encore? More money spent on even longer contracts and ensuring you’ll keep Manny Machado for a lot longer. The Padres are all in before the flop, and while the offense will be monstrous, the pitching has some room for improvement it appears. That said, I think they’ll beat the Dodgers for their first NL West title since 2006 but this time with a much better record than 82-80.
2. Dodgers. I mean, the Dodgers are still the Dodgers. They have prospects falling off trees, and they might need a few to step up including James Outman who despite the unfortunate last name for a hitter gets quite a few hits. The rotation is solid if not spectacular, and they still have a great lineup and bullpen. They’ll figure out a closer and not try and make Craig Kimbrel hang on to the role with other, better options available.
3. Diamondbacks. Corbin Carroll is a special player, and their pitching is also a lot better than you might think if you still think Madison Bumgarner is the de facto ace based on heroics of almost 10 years ago.
4. Giants. Two years ago they won the NL West over the Dodgers and took them to the absolute end in the Division Series, wearing them out for the Braves to take them out in the NLCS. That feels like forever ago. A disastrous off-season where they “almost” had Arson Judge(spelling intentional) and Carlos Correia and ended up with nothing. They were vindicated when the Mets saw the same thing the Giants did on Correia, but wouldn’t getting Judge have been nice? All due respect to Mitch Haniger as the consolation prize.
5. Rockies. Coors Field is a really fun park to drink beer with a baseball game in the background.
1.Cardinals. Reload, refresh. Adam Wainwright has one more year left, and kicked it off by singing the National Anthem after a fun run in the WBC. Losing Yadi and Pujols who wrote a script last year that wouldn’t have believed in Hollywood is tough, but these Cardinals just keep churning out guys like Lars Nootbar who are solid if not really good baseball players.
2. Brewers: A couple of really good starting pitchers. Continued questions on the offense.
3. Cubs. Some intriguing gambles here on short-term deals and a longer one to Dansby Swanson to hopefully be the anchor or another rebuild and playoff run along with Nico Hoerner. I really like Justin Steele in the rotation, mostly because of an article I wrote in 2015 where I “called” his success. Of course, I also invested a significant amount of bitcoin in Matt Wisler, Tommy Medica, and a slew of other Padres prospects who never quite made it. All to say, I could this team challenging for the division in 2024, but not yet.
4. Pirates. I’d really love to see them higher as well. McCutchen back with the team he grew up with, some great prospects in Oneil Cruz, Ke’bryan Heyes. I love the attitude of Bednar. Alas though, their rotation of JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, Rich Hill and Vince Velazquez isn’t ideal. Or very good.
5. Reds. They signed Wil Myers! They still have Joey Votto who is great even when rehabbing. Hunter Green might harness that fastball this year and when he really does he’ll be must-watch TV. Except that MLB blackouts local games and RSN’s like BallySports are going bankrupt faster than Silicon Valley Bank is getting bailed out of messes. So there’s that. But the losing will be faster this year.
1.Atlanta Braves. The owners of the division until it’s taken from them. Five straight, about 20 of the past 30 NL East pennants by my quick mental math, and this year will be tougher than ever. The Phillies made it to the World Series while finishing third, the Braves needed a sweep of the Mets the final regular season to win it last year, and then they lost Dansby Swanson after losing Freddie the season before. Yet – I predict a 40/40 season for Acuna, Harris II to maybe go 30/20, and Spencer Strider and Max Fried to both finish in the top 5 in Cy Young voting.
2. Phillies. Adding Trea Turner can’t be quantified. Last year we kept waiting for their defense to be their undoing. Sure, there were some ugly moments but in 162 games maybe it doesn’t matter as much as we think? Certainly not in the playoffs when you can destroy baseballs the way Kyle Schwarber did in San Diego. They also still have Bryce Harper, who is still really really good at baseball. Braves get the pitching edge, but watch out for these guys in the playoffs again.
3. Mets. They signed AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Which sounds great – but losing Jacob deGrom and having another year of age on Max Scherzer who isn’t pitching with a new arm and in fact one that wore out on him in the playoffs in 2021 pretty much negates it. For more fun JV started the 2023 season on the IL. They are fearsome, and if Lindor has a season in New York that frankly is expected and that he’s getting paid for, that could change things. I also really don’t like them.
4. Marlins. Some great young pitching and chances for position players like Jazz Chisolm to shine, but not enough to compete with the division three-headed monster. Anyone who thinks that 2020 was a legitimate season should remember both the Reds and Marlins made the playoffs.
5. Nationals. They snuck in their World Series parade just about 4 months before the whole world shut down. Not Covid related, but so did their ability to be good for the next 7 seasons. These kinds of teams can be fun though to watch for glimmers of hope. Maybe Joey Meneses, who had a great WBC as well following a strong rookie season at age 29 after 10 years in the minors. Unfortunately, this isn’t who you build around. Josiah Gray, a centerpiece in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner trade in 2021, hasn’t paid out. I would love to see McKenzie Gore, who came over from the Padres for Juan Soto last season along with CJ Abrams, do well. He could be someone to build around – but his short professional history isn’t very encouraging in that regard.
1.Mariners. Let’s do this, right? I love their GM who will trade anyone, anytime, anywhere(hospital bed?), and when it works. That playoff-clinching homer by Cal Raleigh last year is about as good as it gets in baseball. His nickname is Big Dumper. No explanation needed. They quickly moved away from Jesse Winker who was really bad last year, instead of just waiting for him to regain his form. I like that. They want to win for a fanbase that deserves it.
2. Astros. Defending Champs! Yordan Alvarez is amazing to watch. I can’t believe he doesn’t hit a home run everytime he swings. They have a solid, workmanlike club on both sides of the ball, and Kyle Tucker followed up a good 2021 with a better 2022. Not to mention striking out less than 100 times while hitting 30 home runs. Joey Gallo as an extreme example struck out 211 times in 2021 while hitting 38 home runs. This will be a dogfight to be sure, and I also expect the next team to actually be in the mix until September as well.
3. Angels. Shohei Ohtani might be the greatest overall baseball player in history. Mike Trout could be the greatest player in baseball history. Hunter Renfroe might be the greatest…player in Mississippi State baseball history? The key is always pitching. Shohei is locked in, but his body has to slow down at some point right? How many years will be blessed with peak Ohtani? They did try, snatching a resurgent Tyler Anderson(and University of Oregon alumn) but I’m sold on him. We shall see, and I’m hoping they snag a wild card berth so that like in the WBC we can see Shohei on a national stage.
4. Rangers. They spent a lot of money, and if a lot of things go right they could catapult into the top spot of the whole division. But A LOT of independent things would have to happen: Seager regains his form, deGrom is healthy, Jon Gray and Martin Perez duplicate great 2022’s, Nathan Eovaldi pitches like he did in the Red Sox 2018 World Series run. We can stop there. All of these things don’t happen in baseball, right? Except around July of 2021 when the Braves said, “well IF Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, and Jorge Soler can make up for the loss of Acuna and Ozuna…”.
5. A’s. When do they move?
*Okay, this division I completely whiffed on last year. I’ll try again.
1. White Sox. It can’t happen again, right? With all of this talent? LaRussa is out – let’s get this team to the playoffs and all healthy. Dylan Cease. Giolito. Lancy Lynn is solid in the rotation. Just show us a little more Michael Kopech and a healthy offense and I see the White Sox going all the way to the World Series.
2. Guardians. I completely underestimated this team last season. Extending Ramirez is huge and I like a lot of their other players like Andres Gimenez. They make contact, put the ball in play, and could really benefit from some of the other changes to encourage speed and movement on the bases.
3. Royals. I see a large gap between the second and third spots in the division, so might as well put the Royals in third because of Bobby Witt Jr. Put this team on your back and get it done.
4. Twins. I really would love the Twins to be contending again for division titles like they have in relatively recent history. If Byron Buxton can ever play 130 healthy games, Correia proves all of the physicals wrong, and the pitching comes together as they expect it to, look out! But again, baseball and a season of 162 games separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, all those analogies, quite effectively.
5. Tigers. Some good talent with a chance to practice play against major league talent. Would love to see some building of the young pitching and hitters like Spencer Torkelson take it to the next level and challenge in 2024.
1.Blue Jays. The Jays gave the Yankees a run for their money last year, and I think this year they can take it. Their core of Vlad Jr and Bichette is only getting better, with Alex Manoah on the mound. Make me look smart.
2. Orioles. Why not be a little bold, right? I’ll ignore tonight’s baffling and inexcusable loss and tell you that Adley Rutschman is the absolute real deal in the clubhouse and on the field. Gunnar Henderson is coming next, and guys like Cedric Mullins are exciting. This team got a taste of success last season and they want more.
3. Yankees. Their pitching worries me, but their offense doesn’t. I’m expecting another tight bunch of teams in the AL East.
4. Rays. I know I’ll consistently rate this team lower than I should because I just don’t know enough of their players or what to expect. Plus, I think 2/3/4 will be separated by about 5 games in the final standings so it’s pretty close to coin-flip status at this point.
5. Red Sox. IF Adam Duvall can player center field, IF Chris Sale can regain his Cy Young form, IF Justin Turner can carry this team, IF…you know my thoughts on too many “if’s” at this point, right?
NL Playoff Wild Cards: Dodgers, Phillies, Mets
AL Playoff Wild Cards: Orioles, Astros, Angels
NL Champions: Braves
AL Champions: White Sox
Braves over White Sox