A new year is a new opportunity to be wrong.
When it comes to forecasting in baseball, we tend to get a lot wrong. If you knew a year ago that Justin Verlander would win his third Cy Young Award after not pitching in 2021 or that Aaron Judge would hit 62 home runs en route to being AL MVP, congratulations.
Most of us are just trying to guess. And since 2023 is just around the corner, let’s start at once to make forecasts for the coming season.
Here are my predictions for the 2023 awards.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP: José Ramírez, Guardians
Maybe Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani or Mike Trout are safer picks in the AL. Or maybe Julio Rodríguez breaks loose even more in his sophomore year.
But I have a special affinity for little guys doing big things, and that’s Ramirez. The Dominican has finished in the Top 6 in AL MVP voting five of the past six years. It’s just a matter of him having a truly transcendental campaign in which his arguments are indisputable.
No one was going to take the award from Judge in 2022. But earlier in the year, Ramirez seemed to have a chance to try, as he had 28 extra-base hits and 51 RBIs in April and May while striking out just 15 times. (Read that again. It’s pretty remarkable.) Then, in June, he suffered a right thumb injury that required surgery after the season ended. That makes his bottom line of .280/.355/.514 look all the more impressive.
There is no reason to think that Ramirez, who will be fully recovered by Opening Day and will have more protection in the lineup with the acquisition of Josh Bell, will not return to performing as an MVP on a Guardians team that has the talent to stay on top of the American League Central.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
In 2023, we are going to see the real Acuña.
We didn’t get to enjoy that in 2022, as the Venezuelan was recovering from major surgery on his right knee and had a hard time getting into a rhythm. By many standards, his line of .266/.351/.413 with 15 homers and 24 doubles was solid, but not for Acuña. He was even caught 11 times — the most in the National League — on base.
But amid that disappointment, Acuña ranked in the 92nd percentile in hard-hit percentage and expected slugging percentage. Therefore, it is obvious that the talent is still there. And since he’ll be playing on a Braves team well positioned to defend its division crown — in what could be the best division in the majors — we have to trust we’ll see him.
I’ll go with Acuña or Juan Soto for National League MVP every year until it happens. Soto is surrounded by an incredibly strong cast in San Diego. That might help him in terms of numbers, but it might make things difficult for him in MVP voting. It’s hard to tell.
AL CY YOUNG: Cristian Javier, Astros
With Verlander now in the Old Circuit, there’s no clear favorite for the American League Cy Young Award (unless you think Jacob deGrom will stay healthy, which I sadly don’t). Anyone who finished behind Verlander in the 2022 vote (Dylan Cease, Alek Manoah, Ohtani, Framber Valdez, etc.) could grow. For my part, I’m going with one who wasn’t a factor in the vote but will play a more prominent role in Houston after Verlander’s departure.
Javier pitched six innings for the first combined no-hitter in World Series history is a fact that makes me lean toward him. But in 2022, the Dominican also ranked in the 82nd percentile or higher in hard-hit percentage, expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, strikeout percentage and scoreless swings. With his so-called “invisible fastball,” he’s held opposing hitters to a .181 average and is getting better at using his secondary pitches with that weapon.
Javier will be 26 years old and will be in his fourth major league season in 2023. He is ready. Or at least he gave the impression of being in the World Series.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG: Zac Gallen, D-backs
gallen? Above Verlander, Max Scherzer, Corbin Burnes, Sandy Alcántara and others?
Yes. This is baseball. We must expect the unexpected.
Gallen finished fifth in voting for the 2022 National League Cy Young Award and was the ace of the “Zero Prizes Team.” I predict that he will take the award in 2023.
Few talked about the great season Gallen had, who finished with a 12-4 record and a 2.54 earned run average, a 158 ERA+ and a 0.91 WHIP – the best in the National League. In his last 15 starts, he posted a 1.58 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .466 OPS. At the same time, he was above average with his strikeout and walk rates, and with his curveball he held opponents to a .174 average and .271 slugging percentage. According to Statcast, he was the best curveball in MLB, worth -13 runs. He also had the seventh-longest scoreless inning streak (44.1) in the live-ball era.
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Alex Cora, Red Sox
My confidence in this election is approximately zero percent. But voting for Manager of the Year operates entirely around preseason assumptions made by the masses. If you meet expectations, you will have no chance of earning this recognition. If you pass them, you will have a chance.
Unless something extraordinary happens between now and Opening Day, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which much is expected of the Puerto Rican manager’s Red Sox. They finished bottom of the AL East last year. They’ve lost Xander Bogaerts, invested in older players like closer Kenley Jansen (35) and third baseman Justin Turner (38). They took a calculated risk on Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida and may have to consider trading Rafael Devers (who will be a free agent next winter) if they can’t reach a contract extension.
Cora is one of the brightest minds in the game, and most people have moved on from the sign-stealing scandal in which the Puerto Rican starred as the Astros’ bench coach. If the Red Sox can get from the basement of the hotly contested AL East to somehow sneak into the postseason, Cora would be an obvious Manager of the Year candidate.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Torey Lovullo, D-backs
The National League is even more complicated, because all the teams that made the playoffs in 2022 (Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals, Mets, Padres and Phillies) seem safe bets to repeat their trip to October in 2023, which would eliminate all that “wow” factor that Manager of the Year Award voters gravitate toward.
But it could be that not all of that group advances to the postseason, right? Therefore… who could surprise?
Well, we’ve picked Gallen as our Cy Young bantamweight, so why not go for Lovullo’s D-backs? The Snakes played ball over .500 in the second half this past season, they have a group of talented young pitchers who could make an impact next year, top prospect Corbin Carroll (who debuted in 2022) looks like he’s here to stay, They have a more balanced lineup after trading for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno, and their biggest Achilles heel — the bullpen — is an area that, with just a few tweaks, can change dramatically from year to year. .
AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Gunnar Henderson, Orioles
Not that there aren’t other strong candidates in what should be another crop of fascinating rookies, but I’ll go with this hunch here.
Henderson debuted in 2022 and promised a lot with four home runs, seven doubles and a triple in 34 games. He possesses great physical condition and above-average power and plate discipline. It’s one of the main reasons why the Orioles team will be ready to contend in 2023 after surprising everyone last year.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Jordan Walker, Cardinals
Venezuelan Mets forward Francisco Álvarez (MLB’s No. 1 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s list) and the aforementioned Carroll (No. 3) are among the young prospects who debuted in 2022 and retain their eligibility. to qualify as a novice, so they are safe picks. And we still don’t know if Walker, the Cardinals’ top prospect, will make his Opening Day debut (although the new Collective Bargaining Agreement rules add an incentive for St. Louis to recruit him from spring training).
In any case, Walker could be the 2023 version of Julio Rodríguez – making it to the majors at the age of 21 with (possibly) zero Triple-A experience and shining in the Big Top thanks to his raw skills and quick adaptation. . It’s been a seamless transition to pro ball for Walker over the past two years. At Double-A Springfield in 2022, the third baseman/outfielder hit .306/.388/.510 with 19 home runs and 31 doubles, and followed that up with a solid run in the Arizona Fall League.
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Who will win the 2023 awards? Here, the forecasts