Spring Training games are only 30 days away, meaning baseball will be upon us soon. As the offseason dwindles down, heads are starting to turn to the season ahead, and many are trying to predict what will happen. With that, here are my five bold predictions for the 2023 season.
Ke’Bryan Hayes Breaks Arenado’s Gold Glove Streak
Nolan Arenado has played in the MLB for 10 seasons, and in those ten seasons he has won 10 gold gloves. And since 2008 (five years before Arenado’s career began) he has the most DRS (defensive runs saved) by a third baseman with 155 career DRS (33 more than anyone else since 2008). Arenado also has the most OAA (outs above average) since 2008 with 92 career OAA (43 more than anyone else).
However, Ke’Bryan Hayes not only has more total DRS and OAA than Arenado in 800 fewer innings since Hayes’ MLB debut in 2020, he also has more DRS and OAA in each of the last two individual seasons. Heading into 2023, it is a two-man race for the Gold Glove at 3B. Whoever wins that award will also likely be in line for the Platinum Glove.
In 2021, Ke’Bryan Hayes had 16 DRS and 13 OAA compared to Arenado’s 6 DRS and 10 OAA. Keep in mind that Hayes did that in 2021 with over 500 less innings played than Arenado. In 2022, Hayes put up 24 DRS and 18 OAA compared to Arenado’s 19 DRS and 15 OAA. If Hayes outperforms Arenado again in 2023, it could be his time to take home a gold glove.
Shohei Ohtani Wins The 2023 AL Cy Young
In 2022, there was an argument to be made that Shohei Ohtani could’ve been the third finalist for the AL Cy Young. He ended up finishing in fourth place in Cy Young voting, 5 points behind third place finisher Alek Manoah. Heading into 2023, there is reason to believe Ohtani could actually win the Cy Young. Among all qualified starters in 2022, Ohtani finished 4th in the AL in ERA (6th in the MLB) and 2nd in the AL in FIP (3rd in MLB). Ohtani was also 1st in the AL in K/9 (2nd in MLB) while also seeing his BB/9 decrease by 0.65.
Another thing to point out about Ohtani is that he only seems to get better, especially on the mound. You could see the improvements he made throughout the season. One of those improvements was adding a sinker to his pitch arsenal mid-season. He has only gotten better each year. If he improves again heading into 2023, it could be a season to remember for Ohtani, who should easily clinch the MVP if he takes home a Cy Young.
Emmanuel Clase Has An ERA Under 1.00
In my opinion, Emmanuel Clase is the best relief pitcher in the game, putting up a 1.29 ERA in 69.2 innings in 2021 and a 1.36 ERA in 72.2 innings in 2022. That is a combined ERA between 2021 and 2022 of 1.33 over 142.1 innings. However, there is reason to believe Clase can get even better this season.
First, Clase should naturally get better, as 2023 will be just his age-25 season. In 2022, Clase’s ERA of 1.36 doesn’t show the full story of how good he was. Clase had a couple struggles in his first six appearances, but from April 27th on, he was lights out. From April 27th to the end of the season, Clase pitched 68 innings in 71 games. In those 71 appearances, Clase had a miniscule ERA of just 0.93. The most recent relievers to have an ERA under 1.00 in a season where they threw 50 or more innings was Blake Treinen in 2018 (0.78 ERA) and Zack Britton in 2016 (0.54 ERA). So although it is rare, it can happen. Clase likely has the best shot at pulling it off.
Juan Soto Flirts With A .500 OBP
When he is on, Juan Soto is one of the best hitters in baseball, if not the best. 2022 didn’t fully showcase his abilities, but when he gets going, good luck to opposing pitchers. If you combine Juan Soto’s 2020 with his second half of 2021, he would have a .512 OBP in 518 plate appearances. If you include his first half of 2021, which were dismal according to Soto’s standards, he had a .471 OBP in 850 plate appearances between 2020 and 2021.
If there is anyone in baseball that could ever accomplish a .500 OBP, it is clearly Juan Soto. He led all qualified hitters with a 20.3% BB rate, almost 5% more than the next closest walk rate (Aaron Judge at a 15.9%). Another stat that supports a Juan Soto resurgence is his BABIP (batting average on balls in play). Heading into 2023, Soto had never had a BABIP under .300. However, Soto’s 2022 BABIP was just .249, a massive drop from his .332 BABIP in 2021. If Soto gets hot early and stays that way throughout the year, a .500 OBP may not be out of reach.
The Dodgers Miss The Postseason
The last time the Dodgers missed out on the playoffs was 2012, but I have a feeling that this Dodgers team isn’t as deep as they have been in recent years. Part of the reason the 2023 Dodgers seemingly have less depth in 2023 is because they are committed to staying under the CBT threshold to reset their luxury tax penalties. If the Dodgers were to go over, they would receive increased taxes due to it being their third consecutive year going over the CBT.
The Dodgers could be vulnerable to a rough season if they don’t have some injury luck. If one of Mookie Betts or Freddie Freeman go down for a sizable period of time, the Dodgers could be in real trouble. The Dodgers are losing players like Trea Turner, Joey Gallo, Chris Martin, Craig Kimbrel, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, and more. Not everyone in that group are great players, but they are all definitely MLB pieces. The only players they have brought in on MLB deals this offseason are J.D. Martinez (who had a rough 2022), Noah Syndergaard (who has had injury problems), and Shelby Miller (who has only pitched more than 22 innings in a season once in the last 5 years).
Combine an apparently regressing Dodgers team with a Padres team that is going all in, and it isn’t a lock that the Dodgers win the division. With most people penciling three NL East teams into the playoffs, that means that the Dodgers could potentially fall short if any other NL team has an unexpectedly great year.
That wraps up my bold predictions for the 2023 MLB season. It’s time to go bold or go home. What are your bold predictions? Tweet us @BleacherBrawl and let us know.