Will Garofalo’s Bold Predictions for 2023

Let's take a trip to Bold City.

Bold predictions are an interesting concept. You don’t want to suggest events that have too high of a probability of occurring. There’s not much boldness in that, but there also has to be at least some reason behind the estimation, otherwise who wants to read extremely outlandish claims such as Luis Arraez is going to hit 35 home runs? There are way too many other things to read on the internet for that. The question it boils down to is: how bold is bold enough?

In this article, I toss out 10 bold predictions, for both team and individual players, for the 2023 season. Pitcher List himself, Nick Pollack, suggests you should be shooting about 20% on your bold predictions. While 20% makes me cringe, I tried to add some caveats that would increase the difficulty. This being my first iteration at the site, we’ll check back in 6+ months to see if these bold predictions were bold enough.


2023 Bold Predictions


1. Spencer Strider is the #1 SP Going into 2024


Maybe this isn’t that bold of a claim after we consider the season Spencer Strider put up in 2022. He was truly dominant with 202 strikeouts (38% K%), a 2.67 ERA, 0.99 WHIP in 132 innings, and in my opinion, should have won NL Rookie of the Year.

Some think he will struggle due to size/durability or because he really only used two pitches last year, but the fastball-slider combination is so elite (extremely high Stuff+ grades) that he might not even need a third pitch. He reshaped his slider going into the 2022 season, so I wouldn’t put further pitch development past him.

Strider is already considered a top-5 SP by some, but once we get to this elite tier of talent it’s not as easy to jump multiple spots. If he can replicate a sub-3 ERA with a 35%+ K% over 160+ innings, he’s a strong contender for the NL CY Young title. That title wouldn’t be without its competition though, as Corbin Burnes, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola, and Sandy Alcantara are all rather feasible options.

Then to be able to jump into the #1 spot he’d have to surpass Gerrit Cole and Corbin Burnes, both of whom have their naysayers. Some think Cole’s home run issues won’t go away and another year of those headaches could push people to look for a new #1. Burnes has been in the news as not happy with the Brewers and the arbitration process, and has been shaky this spring. Maybe a change of scenario would rejuvenate Burnes, but a new contract should be enough motivation for him to try to put his best foot forward this season.

And of course, there’s Jacob deGrom who would look like the #1 if he stayed healthy for 2022. Certainly possible, but Texas could also try to protect him and limit his innings. Regardless of what happens with the other aces, I think Strider puts up a big year in 2023 and claims the title as the best pitcher in baseball.


2. The Mariners Win 100+ Games and Make the ALCS


The Seattle Mariners won 90 games in 2022 and made it to the ALDS only to get swept by the Houston Astros. So maybe on the surface this doesn’t look like I’m going out on a ledge, but here’s why I think it’s pretty bold.

The division got better, specifically with the Rangers and Angels bolstering their squads. The schedule is more balanced now, so in theory the AL East teams won’t be beating up on each other as much which should lead to better records for them. That would create more pressure on the 3 Wild Card spots, as unfortunately for the Mariners they are in the same division as the vaunted Astros. So they have their work cut out for them, but I think they have the talent to pull it off.

The Mariners’ strength is their elite pitching headlined by four quality starting pitchers: Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert, Robbie Ray, and George Kirby. That’s as good of a quartet as you’ll find these days. They also have a bevy of electric relievers such as AndrĂ©s Muñoz, Paul Sewald, and Matt Brash to name a few. And there’s more pitching on the way with Bryce Miller, Emerson Hancock, Prelander Berroa, and Taylor Dollard all in the upper levels of the system. That pitching should go a long way toward winning games during the season.

Anything can happen in the playoffs. And if you have multiple quality pitchers starting and in the bullpen, it can be quite a tall task for the opponent in a short series. The offense will likely be the key to whether the Mariners can eclipse the 100-win threshold and make a deep run in the postseason. Whether that’s Teoscar Hernández assuming the role of Robin to Julio RodrĂ­guez’s Batman, Jarred Kelenic carrying over his spring success into a regular season breakout, or someone else. They will have to beat some stiff competition to make this one come to fruition.


3. Two Dbacks Finish in the Top-3 in ROY


I really wanted to say the Top-3 Rookie of the Year finalists are all Diamondbacks, but Gabriel Moreno technically doesn’t qualify as a rookie. The skills and opportunities seem to be lining up for him, but for this prediction we will go with two instead.

The first is the obvious choice of Corbin Carroll having a big season and winning the award. While he may be one of the favorites, Carroll isn’t a lock to win ROY given some still question whether Carroll can handle big league pitching (decently high K rate), especially against lefties. I even heard some wondering if he’d hit lower in the lineup. And now he seems to have direct competition with elite talent Jordan Walker starting with the Cardinals.

The second portion is definitely where the spice kicks in more as it would require Brandon Pfaadt to be called up relatively soon so he can make an impact over a long enough period to be strongly considered. Pfaadt is probably the second-best pitcher in the Dbacks system so it should be only a matter of time until he’s up in the big leagues for good.

The pathway for Pfaadt to be a strong ROY candidate is to be called up in April, pitch a ton of innings as he did in 2022 (167 IP, 212 K), and let his arsenal that is growing in stuff and plays up due to plus control rack up the strikeouts. The Dbacks have two future All-Stars in these two. (Pan to Gabriel Moreno saying “Me too!”)


4. The New York Yankees Miss the Playoffs


I know, I know. These are on the verge of fighting words to Yankees fans. If it’s too difficult to consider and you want to skip this one, I completely understand, but allow me to explain.

The Bronx Bombers won 99 games in 2022, and whether we want to admit it or not, a lot of the heavy lifting was done by great pitching in the early portion of the season and Aaron Judge hitting a whole lot of home runs. Could Judge hit 70 home runs this year and help the Yankees win 105 wins? Absolutely. But there’s also a chance he hits less than his 2022 AL HR record-breaking total. And about that pitching now? I don’t know what the Yankees did this off-season, but their rotation is taking it on the shins.

Imagine me telling a Yankee fan in November that Clarke Schmidt was going to start the second game of the season. Then me dropping that Jhony Brito was going to start the third game of the season. They might pass out, and that would be after they called me a liar.

But here we are. Likely no Frankie Montas for the season. Carlos RodĂłn has a forearm strain but is trying to work his way back. I wouldn’t expect to see him until sometime in May. Then Luis Severino went down with the same lat strain that sidelined him last season. Not good. Honestly, I’m surprised they haven’t traded a hitter like Oswald Peraza to the Dodgers for pitching reinforcements. Maybe Anthony Volpe is the answer and serves as another buoy for the team all season.

The Yankees are likely to battle at least the Rays and Jays in the division, and that’s if the Orioles or Red Sox don’t take steps toward competing. The AL West has four teams with playoff aspirations, and I think at least two teams from that division grab playoff spots. It might be assumed that the AL Central will only have one playoff team, but the White Sox, Twins, and Guardians all have the talent to threaten a wild card spot. The AL might be tough this year. This could be a year that New York is on the outside looking in come October.

Realistically, this one should be a miss, but oh my if it ends up coming through. I will be feeling for you, Yankees fans. I’m not in the Yankees hater camp though so I won’t rub it in.


5. Lars Nootbaar is a Top-20 OFer


Is it even a bold predictions list if Lars Nootbaar isn’t on it? Who doesn’t love this guy? And you know what, I can’t blame you one bit if you do. There is a lot to like in Nootbaar’s profile. He hits the ball with authority (80th percentile HH%, 90th percentile Avg. Exit Velocity, 89th percentile Max Exit Velocity, 85th percentile Barrel %), and doesn’t often expand the zone (92nd percentile Chase Rate, 98th percentile BB%). That’s a recipe for forcing the pitcher to come into the strike zone where Noot can do damage.

It does sound like he might hit lower in the order if Donovan and Walker are going to hit up top, but I think his talent will still shine through this season. A .260 BA with 25+ HR and 10+ SB season in a great lineup is in the realm of possibilities. That’s pretty much what you get from Bryan Reynolds.


6. Brendan Donovan Finishes as a Top-5 2B


Two Cardinals on one bold predictions list! I couldn’t let that be the reason to leave off Brendan Donovan having a monster season this year though. Coming into this spring we thought of Donovan as a plus-contact hitter with elite plate discipline, but with little pop. That may not be the case anymore. As many were quick to point out in early spring games, Donovan made some adjustments this off-season in an effort to hit the ball with more impact and pull-side power.

It appears to have paid off as he had a huge spring and played himself into the primary leadoff man against right-handed pitchers, a spot that I thought almost surely would go to Lars Nootbaar or Tommy Edman. They could shuffle things around, but if the power stays for Donovan we might have a full breakout on our hands. Hitting at the top of that lineup would accumulate a ton of counting stats, and second base isn’t loaded with a ton of elite options.

With Jose Altuve sidelined for two months, Donovan would need to likely crack into the top-5 of Semien, Chisholm, Albies, Gimenez, and Torres. It wouldn’t be an easy feat as those are very quality players, but Donovan has the potential to do it if the adjustments stick.


7. Hayden Wesneski Finishes Top-5 in ROY and Becomes the Cubs SP #1


A New York Yankees development system product, Hayden Wesneski, looks like an absolute dude. Despite just the other day being named the fifth rotation member for the Cubs, in twelve months I think he’ll be the Opening Day starter. Wesneski balled out last year in 33 innings posting a 2.18 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and a 25% K%. Yet, people were saying Adrian Sampson was competing with him for a spot. C’mon. But just in case it was really a competition, Wesneski pitched great this spring and earned the spot.

To finish top-5 in the ROY race he’d have to get comfy with likely candidates Corbin Carroll, Jordan Walker, Miguel Vargas, and Ezequiel Tovar. If Brandon Pfaadt comes up soon he could threaten, and there’s always a couple that play their way into the conversation. Wesneski can hang though. Don’t take my word for it, check out the video evidence:

Sign me up for a full season of that. I can see a full breakout for Wesneski this season which could vault him past Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon, and Justin Steele in the hierarchy. Wesneski’s ability to limit hard contact and miss bats should help him to continue to have success getting hitters out. Big season incoming.


8. Reynaldo LĂłpez Saves 30 Games


This one is pretty straightforward as the risk comes from there being an unclear timeline for their star closer, Liam Hendriks. If Hendriks makes a comeback quicker than people anticipate, this likely gets blown out of the water. There are also other closing options such as Kendall Graveman and Aaron Bummer, which could allow the team to mix and match, and would spread out the saves.

To me, Reynaldo LĂłpez is the clear best option to close for a team that should be serious about winning every game possible in hopes of making it to the playoffs. He was dominant last year to the tune of 2.76 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 63 K in 65 innings. More positive trends in 2022 included cutting his walk rate to 4% (historically 8% to 12%), posting his career-best K% (25%), and increasing his fastball velocity from 95.8 in 2021 to 97.1 in 22.

There’s a lot working in Lopez’s favor here. Whether the team gives him a fair shot is a completely different story, especially with some teams now preferring their best pitcher to serve a fireman role.


9. Rowdy Tellez Finishes as a Top-5 1B


I could have made this one simply ‘Tellez will outscore Matt Olson” but that can be over quickly if there’s an injury to Olson. So we will attempt to go more bold, with Tellez finding his way inside the top-5 first basemen at the end of the season. First base is stacked with Guerrero Jr., Freeman, Alonso, Goldschmidt, and Olson, plus about 11 others that are pretty quality so Tellez would need to put up a big season to make good on this bold prediction.

He crushed 35 HR in 2022, but the batting average (.219 BA) dragged down the counting stats and overall production. His .259 xBA indicates maybe some of that was bad luck, and with the shift changes maybe there’s even a little more positive regression coming his way. Pairing .250 BA with 40+ HR would go a long way to getting into the top-5, but he may need a little luck to pull it off. I’m a big fan regardless.


10. Elehuris Montero Finishes as a Top-10 3B


When the Rockies brought in Mike Moustakas I immediately thought of one thing: Are the Rockies really going to continue to Rockie, and block Montero? Well whether it was a competition or not, Montero didn’t really give them a choice by absolutely raking this spring piling up a team-high 12 RBI, 5 HR, and being named camp MVP.

They say he’s won the third base job, but I’m even still slightly scared they won’t let him play every day. If they do, he could be a .260+ BA 25+ HR bat with some chip-in steals. He’ll need to cut down on the strikeouts some, but there’s time for that, and his recent 428 ft HR is a nice reminder of his power potential.

The top-7 at the position is pretty set with Ramirez, Witt, Machado, Riley, Devers, Arenado, and Bregman. Gunnar Henderson probably factors in the top-1o. That leaves players like Max Muncy, Matt Chapman, Jordan Walker, and Alec Bohm in the way of a Montero top-10 finish. It does seem like a stretch, but crazier things have happened. He’s being viewed as around the 37th-best option at the position so even if he finishes within the top 15-20 that would be a win.

Will Garofalo

Will Garofalo is a Fantasy Analyst here at Pitcher List and has an ever-growing passion for the beautiful game of Baseball. A University of Oregon graduate, he has attended MLB Scout School, and worked for various organizations such as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Hillsboro Hops, Portland Trail Blazers, STATS Perform, Nike, and FanDuel. He also enjoys spending time with family, cooking, playing basketball, and staying active in the gym. Follow him on Twitter at @Wgarofalo2.

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