The quarter mark of the MLB season has just passed, so it’s time to take a look around the league at some of the big storylines, potential award races, and more. Let’s not waste anymore time and dive straight into my quarter season takeaways for the 2023 MLB season, starting with the team that has been the best in the league.


The Best of the Best Deal with The Good and the Bad

So far this season, it is clear that there is one division that is head and shoulders above the rest. The AL East not only is the most competitive division, all five teams have a record over .500. And not only is every team over .500, but the division is also home to the team with the best record in baseball.

When it comes to the Tampa Bay Rays, a lot of people think of their pitching, with their bullpen being super deep and a rotation that is headlined by Shane McClanahan. However, in 2023 the scariest part about the Rays might be their lineup. And the depth they have is crazy.

Yandy Diaz was a force last season, and this year he has continued to absolutely rake. Diaz has the second highest wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) in MLB among qualified hitters at 188. Randy Arozarena has the fourth highest wRC+ in baseball at 171. Wander Franco has a 145 wRC+, putting him in the top 25 hitters in MLB. Out of their non-qualified hitters (not enough plate appearances), Josh Lowe has a 176 wRC+, which would be good enough for third best in the MLB if he had 10 more plate appearances. Harold Ramirez and Luke Raley would both rank inside the top 15, with both having a wRC+ over 150. The Rays currently have 10 hitters with a wRC+ over 100, which is league average, and 12 players with a wRC+ over 95. 

The only thing that might slow the Rays down is the amount of injuries they have on the pitching side. Shane Baz will not play in 2023 due to Tommy John Surgery. Jeffrey Springs started the season strong, but he is hurt and recently got Tommy John surgery as well. Andrew Kittredge is doubtful to play this year due to (you guessed it) having Tommy John surgery last June. Drew Rasmussen, who has already had Tommy John surgery twice, is on the 60-day IL with a strained flexor. Tyler Glasnow hasn’t pitched yet in 2023, and his timetable is somewhat unknown. Both Garrett Cleavinger and Shawn Armstrong are currently on the 60-day IL as well. Plus, you can’t forget about the fact that both Zach Eflin and Yonny Chirinos are not the best bets to stay healthy for the entire season. 

The Rays have definitely been the best team in baseball so far, but with a division that is super competitive and a pitching staff decimated with injuries, it is now up to the Rays’ offense to carry them. If they continue to hit like they have, they might have enough stability on the pitching side to continue playing at a high level. But if the offense starts to come back to Earth, the Rays could find themselves in a very precarious situation, with four teams breathing down their neck in an AL East race that could get very tight.


Big Spending, Small Success

An interesting trend so far this season is that some of the offseason’s biggest spenders haven’t gotten off to the best of starts. The Mets, Phillies, and Padres are three teams with some of the biggest payrolls in the MLB. However, all three teams find themselves under .500 a quarter of the way through the season. Each team has different problems surrounding them, and whether or not those problems can be solved will make or break their seasons.

New York Mets

A big problem for the Mets is that they are paying Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Carrasco a combined $128 million. Scherzer seems to be playing hurt, Verlander has only made two starts, Senga has struggled, Carrasco has only made three starts, and Quintana hasn’t pitched at all. They have been able to manage the loss of Edwin Diaz. However, without the elite rotation many figured they would have, the struggles from Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and Eduardo Escobar have been magnified. Right now, the Mets are paying a lot of money to a lot of guys who aren’t playing like big time contributors.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies reeled from not having Bryce Harper available until recently, but not having Bryce Harper wasn’t their only issue. Trea Turner and Taijuan Walker haven’t had great starts to their Phillies careers, with both struggling out of the gate. Walker has been flat out bad, whereas Turner has been a far cry from the Trea Turner everyone knows he can be. The Phillies are also shorthanded due to the fact that Rhys Hoskins tore his ACL in spring training, and with backup first baseman Darick Hall also on the IL, Alec Bohm has been forced to slide over to first base. The pitching staff has struggled, specifically Walker, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suarez in the rotation. To top it off, Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, and Seranthony Dominguez haven’t been at their best either.

San Diego Padres

The big problem for the Padres has been their lineup. Xander Bogaerts played well in his first 18 games, but has struggled ever since. Manny Machado has also struggled so far this year, whereas Juan Soto only recently started to turn the corner. Plus, the team didn’t have Fernando Tatis Jr. for the first couple weeks of the season. Combine all that with the fact that the Padres lineup in the 6-9 spots has been underwhelming. The Padres have been unable to get production from any mix of guys in the bottom half, even from guys who had good seasons in 2022 such as Ha-Seong Kim, Matt Carpenter, and so on.


Award Predictions

When it comes to the award races, I’ve ranked my expected top three for each league’s MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year races. Let’s start with the biggest of them all, the AL and NL MVP.


  1. Shohei Ohtani (LAA)
  2. Wander Franco (TBR)
  3. Marcus Semien (TEX)

It would be stupid of me to not make Shohei Ohtani my favorite to win the AL MVP. I am not assuming any trades, so for now, he is in the AL power rankings even if some believe he could be traded to an NL team. After Ohtani, my second choice is Wander Franco and my third spot goes to Marcus Semien.


  1. Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL)
  2. Juan Soto (SDP)
  3. Spencer Strider (ATL)

For The NL MVP, my front runner is Ronald Acuna Jr., who currently leads all position players in fWAR, has a 174 wRC+, and has a dynamic combo of both power and speed. My second pick is Juan Soto. Soto started off 2023 slowly, but in his last 15 games he is slashing .382/.507/.709/.1.216 with nine doubles and three homers. My third place spot for the NL MVP goes to Spencer Strider.

NL Cy Young

  1. Spencer Strider (ATL)
  2. Zac Gallen (ARI)
  3. Logan Webb (SFG)

For the NL Cy Young, my pick is obviously Spencer Strider.  Strider has been dominant so far this year, racking up an absurd 15.24 strikeouts per nine innings. He is currently striking out opposing hitters at an unheard of clip of 43%. I believe Strider can continue to dominate over the course of a full season. My second place spot goes to Zac Gallen, and the third spot goes to Logan Webb.

AL Cy Young

  1. Shohei Ohtani (LAA)
  2. Shane McClanahan (TBR)
  3. Luis Castillo (SEA)

Back to the AL for the AL Cy Young, where my prediction is the same one that I made in the preseason. I still believe Shohei Ohtani will win the AL Cy Young. He hasn’t been at his best, yet still has good numbers for the most part. If he gets on a roll on the mound, he can be one of, if not the best pitcher in baseball. With no clear early runaway candidate in the AL, I am falling back to my preseason pick of Ohtani.

AL Rookie Of The Year

  1. Hunter Brown (HOU)
  2. Masataka Yoshida (BOS)
  3. Bryce Miller (SEA)

For the AL Rookie of the Year, my pick is Hunter Brown. I wrote about the Astros righty before the season started, naming him as a breakout candidate for 2023. So far, he has proven me correct. It isn’t common to see pitchers win the rookie of the year, but as of now I think the only person who might get in Brown’s way over the course of the season is my projected second place finisher, Masataka Yoshida.

NL Rookie Of The Year

  1. Corbin Carroll (ARI)
  2. James Outman (LAD)
  3. Miguel Vargaas (LAD)

For the NL Rookie Of The Year, my pick is Corbin Carroll. Although James Outman has started the season off very hot, there is reason to be worried about his 33% K-rate. Carroll is a big piece of a D-Backs team that is better than most expected. I believe that Carroll will continue to get better over the course of this season, whereas with James Outman, who is my second place prediction, could regress along the way.


That wraps up my first quarter check in. It is still early to really draw conclusions for the season, as Memorial Day is the normal time when people first start to judge performances for teams and players. However, I will be checking in again at the halfway point of the MLB season, where I will compare my thoughts then to my thoughts now. So with that, if you have any first quarter takeaways you’d like to share, make sure to tweet them out to me @derrik_maguire and to @BleacherBrawl to let us know your thoughts.

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