Zachary D. RymerJanuary 1, 2023
    What kind of encore does Aaron Judge have in store?What kind of encore does Aaron Judge have in store?AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, file

    Happy New Year to everyone, and especially to those who are looking forward to the Major League Baseball season in three years.

    We don't know what the big stories will be this year. We don't There are a dozen predictions for what they could be.

    It is not as if anyone is out there demanding boring predictions only. If one wants to spin a yarn about the future, they should use gaudy thread.

    We tabbed players for various awards and performances, projected big trades and picked teams for disappointing or excellent seasons. We decided to go with an unfolding narrative approach, even though we considered ranking the 12 storylines.

    Let's get rid of it.

    SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 25: A view of the 20-second pitch timer during the spring training game between Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants at HoHoKam Stadium on February 24, 2019 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    There will be a contentious adjustment period when the new rules are put in place.

    There will be a lot of discussion about the new regulations on pitchers and the ban on defensive shifts. One in five hurlers didn't stay within the parameters for the new pitch timer, according to a study by FiveThirtyEight. A lot of players are going to be outside of their comfort zone.

    A new normal will come in eventually. It will be the word of the day if it's anything like the one that took hold as these rules were being tested.

    The pitch timer shortens games in the minor leagues by an average of 26 minutes. The shift ban could cause more balls in play and more hits if the timer is used more.

    The trend of MLB games taking longer to produce more action should be reversed.

    Baseball should be more of an experience of fun things happening in 2023 than it has been in the past due to the larger bases and limits on throws to first base.

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 01: Spencer Strider #65 of the Atlanta Braves reacts as he strikes out Elehuris Montero #44 of the Colorado Rockies in the eighth inning at Truist Park on September 01, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Can we agree that a pitcher who works quickly could have an advantage?

    Are we able? I think it's good. This is all the more reason to believe that Spencer Strider will win the National League Cy Young Award.

    The soon-to-be implemented 15-second limit will place Atlanta's mustachioed right-handed pitcher below average. It was hard for anything to distract from his fast pitch, so this probably wasn't the part of his debut that people noticed.

    Rob Friedman @PitchingNinja

    Spencer Strider, 💯⛽️

    In the 97th percentile, Strider landed in the 76th percentile with his four-seamer. It was one of the most effective four-seamers in the league.

    In the last 20 starts of the year, Strider was as dominant as he was in the first 11. He had a 2.67ERA and 202 strikeouts over 131.2innings. Randy Johnson didn't strike out at that rate.

    In order for Strider to finish with 300 strikeouts, he'd have to hit only 200innings. It's a long shot, but that would be a 70inning leap from last year. It will be difficult to deny the Cy Young if he does so.

Predicting the 12 Biggest MLB Storylines in 2023✨ Watch more top videos, highlights, and B/R original content
    ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 22: Corey Seager #5 of the Texas Rangers hits a two run home run against the Los Angeles Angels during the eighth inning at Globe Life Field on September 22, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won 5-3. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

    It's doubtful that anyone was happier than Seager when the shift was put on hold.

    The first season of his 10-year, $325 million contract with the Texas Rangers was a great one, as he hit an above-average 118 OPS+ with 33 home runs. It could have been a lot better if teams didn't always go against him.

    Seager threw over two thousand pitches. The infield was shifted on him for a high percentage of them. It worked. No left-handed batter had as many turned into outs as no left-handed batter did.

    It should have been a big hit. This one is also. This one is also. This one is also. This one, this one and this one are all done.

    Statcast put Seager's average at.283. It was actually low by his standards, so we're going to dare to think that 2023 will bring a higher average not just by way of fewer shifts but also positive regression.

    We're talking about an everyday infielder with an average of.300 and 30 home runs. It sounds like an award winning athlete. It's possible that could be an award winning person. The American League's Most Valuable Player is going to be.

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 23: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees reacts after striking out to end the sixth inning against the Houston Astros in game four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 23, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)Elsa/Getty Images

    Chances are you are done with that last slide. Maybe if Ohtani and Judge leave the American League.

    We're going to get to Ohtani later.

    It's easy to say that Judge won't match the American League record of 62 home runs he hit for the New York Yankees in 1992. Unless you're Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire at the height of the steroid era, 60- home run seasons are rare.

    According to Statcast, Judge hit exactly as many home runs as he should have in 2022, even though he had to contend with the same deadened ball. The rate at which he missed when pitchers made mistakes was more unbelievable. The pitchers missed up.

    If opposing pitchers location patterns against Judge were higher than they had been in the previous two years, that's due for a correction. The way to go this year is down. He hit.865 against pitches above home plate and.170 against pitches below two feet.

    It would be reasonable for Judge to hit 40 home runs. He won't get the 31 he'll need to reach half of last year's total.

    WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 13: Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates a win after a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Parks on September 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    How are you feeling? Was it peeved? You are not going to like this one either.

    The Baltimore Orioles are going to win the American League East even if they aren't favored to do so.

    It doesn't make sense. The Yankees and BlueJays are elite-looking teams with large tax-sized payrolls, while the Rays are a thriftier team. The Orioles are coming off a modest 83-win season and have not had a lot of activity.

    The O's made a jump from 112 losses to 83 wins in two years. They have an exciting core that includes Adley Rutschman and Félix Bautista at the back end of the pen.

    The impact on the Orioles was made by one person. After his debut, he was one of only four hitters in the American League to score 5-plus fWAR. Their schedule was one of the toughest in the American League.

    Imagine what the Orioles could do with a full season of Henderson and contributions from Rodriguez and Cowser. We are imagining 95-plus wins and the franchise's first division title in four years.

    BOSTON, MA - MAY 5: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox sits alone in the dugout during the ninth inning of their 8-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park on May 5, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

    We feel bad for jabbing at the Yankees twice in a row because nobody is owed anything here. We should only extend two olive branches.

    They are going to lose 100 games.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates and other teams are used to losing. The Red Socks are not. Since 1965, they have not lost a game. The price of gas was just $0.31 a gallon back in the day. It would be more specific.

    Let's first remember that the Red Sox were pretty bad in 2022. From May 18 to June 26 they went 28-9, but on either side of that they went 50-75.

    This winter has been a terrible one for the Red Socks. It's hard to hide from scrutiny when you lose three of your best players in a single season.

    As the favorites to finish last in the American League East, the Red Sox are in a good position. As bad as it's going to be at the beginning, it's only going to get worse when Boston cashes in on the trade value of the player.

    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 28: Christopher Morel #5 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates with a teammate after the 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field on September 28, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)Quinn Harris/Getty Images

    The Chicago Cubs have been mentioned as a possible destination for the young infielder if Boston makes him available.

    One of the reasons why we like the Cubs is that it works for us.

    It's possible that you didn't notice the Cubs were playing well in the second half of the year. They won 40 of their last 71 games thanks to their pitching and defense.

    The Cubs have doubled down on run prevention in order to return to the playoffs. Gold Glove Award-winning defenders include Dansby Swanson, Tucker Barnhart, andCody Bellinger.

    Bellinger won the NL Most Valuable Player award for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He's healthy and seemingly out for revenge after his hitting prowess was ruined by injuries and mechanical adjustments.

    Trey Hannam @TJHannam10

    Bellinger hitting at Oklahoma State with Jackson Holliday + Matt Holliday 👀

    Bellinger is from AZ, special trip to get better? Matt Carpenter did the same thing last off-season

If Bellinger can be the Bellinger of old for a team that will be hard to score on, the Cubs may already be in first place in the National League Central. They won't be able to stop them.

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 09: Buck Showalter #11 of the New York Mets talks with Francisco Lindor #12 after a play at the plate against the San Diego Padres during the fourth inning in game three of the National League Wild Card Series at Citi Field on October 09, 2022 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    The New York Mets will not be all they are cracked up to be.

    How can you not crack them up after a long time away? The Mets will have spent close to a billion dollars on free agents if the Carlos Correa deal goes through.

    Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

    Since free agency began, the Mets signed:- Carlos Correa, $315M- Brandon Nimmo, $162M- Edwin Díaz, $102M- Justin Verlander, $86.6M- Kodai Senga, $75M- Jose Quintana, $26M- Omar Narvaez, $15M- Adam Ottavino, $14.5M- David Robertson, $10M

    Total outlay: $806.1 million.

    This is more than enough to make up for the losses of deGrom, Bassitt and Walker. It shows that the Mets will have a better season than the one in which they won 101 games.

    The Amazins roster is quite volatile. Both of them have six Cy Young Awards, but also 77 years of life. After the Mets hit only 171 home runs last season, they might not have enough over-the- fence power.

    The state of the league is frightening. The Atlanta Braves were a better team in '22 than the New York Mets were.

    Much could go wrong for the Mets this year. We are going to pencil them in for less than 90 wins and a wild-card spot because of Murphy's Law.

    Seattle Mariners' Julio Rodriguez (44) is greeted at the dugout by Ty France, center, as Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado waits, after Rodriguez hit a home run that scored France during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, May 27, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

    The Houston Astros shouldn't be a problem. After a 106-win season and a World Series championship, it's not as bad to lose a player.

    If "fine" isn't good enough to get the Astros another 100 win season, what's the point?

    The Astros have been collecting such things for a long time, but last year the SeattleMariners emerged as a serious contender in the division. They made the playoffs for the first time in 21 years after a 61-33 race to the finish, despite being 10 games under.500.

    It's not out of the question that Seattle will stay on top of their game.

    It will need Luis Castillo and George Kirby from the beginning, as well as Teoscar Hernndez's power. There's a chance that Jarred Kelenic will finally break out and form a dynamic outfield duo with reigning American League rookies of the year.

    Houson won 15 of the 22 games between the teams in 2022, which will be difficult for the Mariners to overcome. We feel obligated to point out that the SeattleMariners aren't a dragon slayer despite their third best record against winning clubs last year.

    ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 02: t at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on October 02, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    If the American League West race comes down to Houston and Seattle, we should start thinking about Shohei Ohtani.

    The Los Angeles Angels were rumored to trade their only two-way star last summer and again this winter. Ohtani doesn't seem thrilled about the situation in Anaheim and is heading for his last season under club control before he becomes a free agent.

    This is to say that if the Angels fall out of the race, Ohtani will be just as good as gone.

    If the Angels put Ohtani out there, it should be no surprise that every contender would grab a spot in line. They are acting like Ohtani is available.

    Would the Angels allow such a prized asset to go to a team that they don't like? It's probably not. If he follows through on his desire to sell the team sooner rather than later it will be a good thing for the Dodgers.

    We did not make the easy call on Ohtani as the favorite for the award. He will end the season with the Dodgers. It's a good idea to book it.

    SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Fernando Tatis Jr. #23 of the San Diego Padres hits a solo home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park on September 22, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    When the San Diego Padres get a boost from a player who didn't suit up for them, the Dodgers will have another reason to pursue Shohei Ohtani.

    It's not Drew Pomeranz. The other person. Fernando Tatis Jr. is the son of Fernando Tatis.

    It's going to take a lot to get back from. He went under the knife on three separate occasions after his performance enhancing drug suspension. He had two operations on his wrist.

    In his first three seasons with San Diego, Tatis was something other than what he is today.

    He was the fastest to 50 home runs and 50 stolen bases and led the National League with 42 long balls despite missing 32 games. One reason to believe that he can make a smooth transition to the outfielder is that he has one of the strongest arms in baseball.

    He won't be able to return from his suspension until April 20, but that should give him plenty of time to reestablish himself as a force on the field. We're thinking about his first season, but it's almost certain that it won't last. His speed and arm strength make him a perfect fit for right field.

    SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 15: Manny Machado #13, Josh Hader #71 and Juan Soto #22 of the San Diego Padres celebrate after the Padres defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park on Saturday, October 15, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    Yes, and the Padres. They're going to win the whole dang thing in 2023, which is the first time they've ever done that.

    This is the most cautious take we've given so far. The Padres made it to the Fall Classic in 2022, after all, and in impressive fashion, as they dispatched the Mets and Dodgers en route to the NLCS.

    San Diego has positioned itself to get even better, even though there is a chance that Tatis will come back. It began the process in earnest by acquiring Juan Soto and Josh Hader at the trade deadline last summer and has built on it through deals with Matt Carpenter and XanderBogaerts.

    It's difficult to find flaws with the Padres roster.

    The center fielder in their lineup is as good as any in the game. It's the same for the front three of the rotation as it is for the back one. By the end of the year, Hader was the best relief pitcher in baseball, even though he had had issues in the past.

    That team is a good one. Scratch that. The team has a good chance of winning the title.

    Baseball reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant provide the statistics.