Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Bold predictions for every MLB team in 2024: Blockbuster trades, strikeout records, breakout seasons and more

The 2024 Major League Baseball regular season is upon us and this is the first time in a long time we’re going to have a normal season in which everyone knows what to expect, relatively speaking. The 2020 and 2021 seasons were impacted by the pandemic, 2022 started late because of the lockout, and 2023 introduced the pitch clock and new rules. This year? Business as usual, in theory.

The regular season is technically already underway — the Dodgers and Padres played the two-game Seoul Series last week — but this Thursday, March 28, is the traditional Opening Day. Every team in the league will start their season that day. In honor of the upcoming baseball holiday, here now is one bold prediction for each team heading in 2024.

Arizona Diamondbacks: .900 OPS from the DH spot

The D-backs cycled through DH options all last season — four players started at least 24 games at DH — and the result was a .678 OPS that was well south of the .756 positional average. The reigning NL champs built a sneaky-great DH platoon over the winter in Joc Pederson (.824 OPS vs. RHP the last two years) and Randal Grichuk (.955 OPS vs. LHP the last two years), and the prediction here calls for Arizona to get a .900 OPS from the DH position in 2024. Only one team, Shohei Ohtani’s 2023 Angels, has gotten a .900 OPS from DH in the two years of the universal DH era. 

Atlanta Braves: 300 strikeouts for Strider

This may not seem bold seeing how Spencer Strider struck out an MLB-best 281 batters last year, but the jump from 281 to 300 is bigger than may appear. It’s a workload thing more than a strikeout ability thing. Strider has struck out 37.4% of the batters he’s faced the last two years, which is as good as it gets for a starter. That’s an elite closer’s strikeout rate, and he’s doing it as a starter. To get to 300 strikeouts, Strider will have to make the jump from 186 2/3 innings last year to about 200 in 2024. Keep in mind the Braves may rest him down the stretch in preparation for a deep postseason run, which could cut into his innings and strikeout totals. We boldly predict Strider will get there though. Baseball hasn’t had a 300-strikeout pitcher since Gerrit Cole (326) and Justin Verlander (300) in 2019.

Baltimore Orioles: 8-WAR season for Rutschman

There has not been an 8-WAR catcher since Jonathan Lucroy put up 8.2 WAR in 2014 thanks to great framing numbers and a career year offensively. A year ago, Adley Rutschman was a 5.1-WAR player and that’s excellent. There were only six 5-WAR seasons by catchers from 2021-23 and Adley has two of them. This year, we’re predicting Rutschman ascends to the 8-WAR level thanks to top-of-the-line defense, elite offense, and a whole lot of playing time. The Orioles tend to DH him on the days he doesn’t catch, hence his 687 plate appearances in 2023. That was the most by a primary catcher since Hall of Famer Johnny Bench in 1974.

Boston Red Sox: Casas wins Home Run Derby

I don’t know what to make of the Red Sox. Ownership is at best complacent and at worst neglectful, their top offseason addition (Lucas Giolito) will miss the season with injury, and their best prospects (Roman Anthony, Marcelo Mayer, Kyle Teel) are probably still a year away, if not more. They do have Triston Casas though, who had nine home runs with a .727 OPS in the first half last year and 15 homers with a 1.034 OPS in the second half. The kid does not hit cheap home runs. This year, Casas will fully break out as one of the game’s top power hitters, and that includes going to Globe Life Field and winning the Home Run Derby in July.

Chicago Cubs: Suzuki will be top-five hitter in NL

Early last August, Seiya Suzuki took a four-game mental health break, and once he returned on Aug. 9, it was an all-out assault on the league’s pitchers: .356/.414/.672 with 15 doubles and 11 homers in his final 47 games. Suzuki has continued to crush the ball this spring too. He’s only 29, so he’s right in the middle of his prime, and he has now has two years of MLB experience under his belt. The stars are aligned for Suzuki to be one of the league’s best hitters in 2024.

Chicago White Sox: Robert Jr. will be traded

Given the state of the roster and the state of the franchise, this prediction may not qualify as bold. Dylan Cease was dealt away earlier this month and Luis Robert Jr. is the only player with significant trade value still on the roster. The White Sox don’t have to trade him — Robert is under contractual control through 2027 — but Chicago may not contend before then and it’s hard to see owner Jerry Reinsdorf ponying up to keep Robert beyond that. Robert will be the No. 1 prize at the trade deadline and GM Chris Getz will bite the bullet and move him.

Cincinnati Reds: McLain signs long-term deal

Elly De La Cruz get most of the attention and that’s understandable, the kid is electric, but Matt McLain was the better player last season and very well might be the better player this season. For this bold prediction, we’ll say the Reds make sure McLain is around for the long-term (despite his late-spring shoulder injury), and sign him to a contract extension before the end of the season. In-season extensions are rare and I suppose that’s what makes this prediction bold. As for the contract terms, how’s eight years and $80 million sound?

Cleveland Guardians: They will hit 150 home runs

Here’s an absurd stat: Cleveland’s outfielders hit 18 home runs last year. The three outfield positions combined hit 18 home runs in 1,997 plate appearances. How does that happen in the year 2023? Anyway, the Guardians have hit 251 home runs the last two seasons, 24 fewer than the next worst team, and this bold prediction says they’ll climb back over the 150-homer plateau for the first time since 2021. Ramón Laureano and Bo Naylor will spend the full season with the team, top prospects Chase DeLauter and Kyle Manzardo should arrive early in the season, and Estevan Florial should put mistakes in the seats even if his on-base percentage starts with a 2. Cleveland hit 124 homers in 2023 and 127 in 2022. In 2024, they’ll get back to 150.

Colorado Rockies: They will set a record for pitchers used

It’s shaping up to be a very long season in Colorado. The Rockies had a low-key offseason following the franchise’s first-ever 100-loss season, and they’re projected to have one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball. Because of that, we are boldly predicting the Rockies will set a new MLB record for pitchers used in a season. The current record is 42 different pitchers by several teams, most recently the 2022 Cubs. The 2024 Rockies can top that, surely.

Detroit Tigers: Jobe will make more starts than Flaherty

In Jackson Jobe, the Tigers have one of the very best pitching prospect in baseball, and the 21-year-old lit up spring training with 102 mph fastballs earlier this month. He’s likely to begin the season in Double-A and the bet here is Jobe reaches the big leagues at midseason, and replaces Jack Flaherty in the rotation. Flaherty has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness the last few years and this improved Detroit club figures to hang around the AL Central and wild-card races. In that case, they can’t give Flaherty (or anyone) too long a leash, or hold Jobe down too long.

Houston Astros: Pressly will be the closer at the end of 2024 

The Astros invested $95 million in Josh Hader over the winter and Hader is one of the game’s most dominant relievers. So too is Ryan Pressly, the incumbent closer who is shifting into a setup role. And heck, Bryan Abreu might be Houston’s best reliever. Abreu’s that good. For this bold prediction, we’re going to say Pressly wrestles the closer’s role away from Hader at some point this summer, and by the end of the season, he’s again closing games. Hader is obviously so much more than a left-on-left matchup guy, but Pressly in the ninth inning would free up Hader for high-leverage matchup work in the seventh and eighth innings.

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Kansas City Royals: Ragans will start the All-Star Game 

After coming over the trade deadline last year, Cole Ragans was arguably the most dominant pitcher in baseball, and he’s continued to look excellent this spring. The fastball is humming in at close to 100 mph and the slider is wicked. The Royals have not sent a pitcher to the All-Star Game since Jason Vargas in 2017, and Brett Saberhagen in 1987 is the only Royals pitcher to start the All-Star Game. Ragans will join him this year. Remember, Rangers manager Bruce Bochy will manage the AL All-Star Team and the All-Star Game is in Texas. The scales are tipped in favor of a Rangers pitcher starting the All-Star Game, so we’re predicting Ragans — who was traded by the Rangers last year — is so good that he gets the nod anyway.

Los Angeles Angels: They will lose 100 games

The Rockies lost 100 games for the first time last season, leaving the Angels — the Angels! — as the only MLB team without a 100-loss season. The franchise record is 95 losses done twice (1968 and 1980), and the Halos are coming off back-to-back 73-89 seasons. That was with Shohei Ohtani too. We don’t like seeing teams fail and we especially don’t like fans having to sit through terrible seasons, but things are shaping up for 2024 to be the first ever 100-loss season in Angels history.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Betts will play 40 games at three spots

Mookie Betts really is incredible, isn’t he? The Dodgers needed him to play second base last year, so the Gold Glove right fielder moved to second base. He also filled in some at shortstop, and with Gavin Lux having throwing issues, Betts has opened 2024 as the club’s everyday shortstop. The bet here is that doesn’t last the season, and Mookie will wind up play 40 games at short, 40 games at second, and 40 games in the outfield. This has been done before — Tommy Edman played 51 games at second, 48 at short, and 49 in the outfield just last year — but it is very rare, and Betts will join the club in 2024.

Miami Marlins: They will be a busy deadline seller

A year ago, the Marlins won 84 games and snuck into the postseason, and that was with Jorge Soler hitting 36 home runs and Sandy Alcantara making 28 starts. Now Soler is gone and Alcantara will miss the season with Tommy John surgery, plus Edward Cabrera (shoulder), Braxton Garrett (shoulder), and Eury Pérez (elbow) will all begin 2024 on the injured list. All signs point to a significant step back this summer. As a result, this prediction says Josh Bell and Tanner Scott (both free agents after 2024), Luis Arraez (free agent after 2025), and Jesús Luzardo and AJ Puk (both free agents after 2026) will be wearing new uniforms after the trade deadline.

Milwaukee Brewers: Misiorowski will have 75 MLB strikeouts

Jacob Misiorowski, 6-foot-7 drink of water with a 100 mph fastball and a herky-jerky delivery, is one of the top strikeout artists in the minors. He fanned 110 batters in 71 1/3 innings at three levels last year and reached Double-A. The Brewers are willing to break their most live-armed pitching prospects into the big leagues as relievers (see: Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader), and this prediction says Misiorowski will spend a significant chunk of the season in Milwaukee’s bullpen. Significant enough to get to 75 strikeouts. He might be able to do that in 45 innings. A 15 K/9 is within reach for this kid.

Minnesota Twins: Buxton will be a Gold Glove finalist

This bold prediction is not about Byron Buxton‘s defensive skill. He is a superlative defender. This bold prediction is about his health. Buxton has not played even 100 games since 2017, and last year he was limited to 85 games by a knee injury that required offseason surgery. And he didn’t even play the field last season! He was limited to DH duty only. Buxton is healthy now though, and he played center field and played it well in spring training. Healthy Buxton is one of the most exciting players in the game and we’re hoping he stays healthy enough to be a Gold Glove finalist more than we’re predicting it.

New York Mets: Alonso will be traded at the deadline

A Pete Alonso extension is very unlikely and new president of baseball operations David Stearns is not one to invest heavily in first base. I don’t think owner Steve Cohen waited so patiently to land Stearns only to overrule him on such a major issue in Year 1 either. Letting Alonso leave as a free agent and receiving only one dinky draft pick as compensation would be a mistake and Stearns knows that. Trading Alonso at the deadline is the best way to maximize his value in his final year of team control, and we’re predicting it happens.

New York Yankees: Rizzo will lead the AL in GIDP 

Double plays are as much about opportunity as hitter skill, and Anthony Rizzo figures to hit with a lot — A LOT — of runners on base while batting cleanup behind Juan Soto and Aaron Judge. Rizzo has grounded into a double play in 10.9% of his opportunities the last five seasons, which is almost exactly the league average (10.5%), but Soto and Judge will get on base a ton, giving Rizzo chances to bang into twin killings. This bold prediction says Rizzo will lead the league in double plays while still having a very productive season overall.

Oakland Athletics: Miller will be an All-Star

Mason Miller, the hard-throwing rookie who flashed a 100 mph fastball and struck out 38 batters in 33 1/3 innings around an elbow injury last year, is slated to spend 2024 in the bullpen. That’s best for his health (in theory), and Miller has a chance to be a multi-inning high-leverage monster. It’s not easy for a non-closer reliever to make the All-Star Game, but someone has to represent the Athletics and Miller could be overwhelming out of the bullpen.

Philadelphia Phillies: Turner will get caught on his first steal 

Last season, Trea Turner went a perfect 30 for 30 stealing bases during the regular season. He went 4 for 5 in the postseason, and the one caught stealing was a pickoff, not a traditional caught stealing. Here’s the video if you don’t believe me. For this bold prediction, we’re going to get oddly specific and say Turner will get thrown out on his very first steal attempt of 2024 after going a perfect 30 for 30 in 2023. And it’ll be an honest-to-goodness caught stealing. The catcher will throw him out. It has been foretold.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Hayes will get MVP votes 

The Pirates weren’t worth paying attention to much of last season, so you are forgiven if you did not know Ke’Bryan Hayes hit .299/.335/.539 with 15 doubles and 10 home runs in his final 49 games after returning from a back issue. Hayes has always posted impressive exit velocities and now he’s learning how to elevate the ball. He’s entering his prime at age 27 and he’s maybe the best defensive third baseman on the planet. Hayes is a 7-WAR season waiting to happen, and those typically get you MVP votes.

St. Louis Cardinals: Gorman and Walker will both be All-Stars

The smart money is on Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt being the two position players the Cardinals send to the All-Star Game. We’re not about the smart money though. We’ll say Nolan Gorman, who has 40-homer potential, and Jordan Walker represent St. Louis at the Midsummer Classic this year. Walker improved quite a bit as last season went on, including defensively, where he went from atrocious in right field to almost average. Still, the bat is his calling card. Same with Gorman. These two will hit their way to the All-Star Game.

San Diego Padres: Salas will make his MLB debut

Not since Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez in 1991 has a teenager caught a big-league game. He was 19. The last 18-year-old catcher was Brian Milner in 1978, and the last 18-year-old big leaguer at any position was Alex Rodriguez in 1994. Ethan Salas, the No. 8 prospect in baseball, rocketed to Double-A as a 17-year-old last season and no team pushes their prospects more aggressively than the Padres. The Luis Campusano/Kyle Higashioka catching tandem is sturdy but hardly a roadblock. We’re predicting Salas, who turns 18 in June, will make his MLB debut in the second half this season.

San Francisco Giants: Soler will not hit 30 home runs

The Giants have not had a player hit 30 home runs since Barry Bonds in 2004. That stat was widely circulated after San Francisco signed Jorge Soler, who slugged 36 homers in 2023, has a 48-homer season under his belt, and has averaged 32 homers per 162 games in his career. For this bold prediction though, we’re going to say Soler will not hit 30 homers this season, and the streak will live on. It feels like everyone else is going to predict Soler will be the first Giant to hit 30 homers since Bonds, so we’re going to zig while others zag. Sorry, Jorge.

Seattle Mariners: They will have three starters reach 200 IP

Those starters: Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby. They all threw 190-197 innings last season, so saying they’ll each make the jump to 200 innings isn’t that bold, but 200 innings is a big number these days. Only five pitchers threw 200 innings in 2023. Go back 10 years to 2013 and 36 pitchers threw 200 innings. It’s a much different game now. The Mariners have three bona fide workhorses though, and all three will get to 200 innings in 2024. The last team with three 200-inning pitchers was the 2018 Astros (Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander).

Tampa Bay Rays: They’ll score a second run in the playoffs

Low blow? Maybe, but the Rays don’t have to do much more than show up and spell their name correctly to earn effusive praise. They’ll survive one negative bold prediction. Tampa scored one run in two games in the 2022 Wild Card Series and one run in two games in the 2023 Wild Card Series. Add it all up and they’ve scored two runs in their last 43 postseason innings dating back to the 2021 ALDS. This year they’ll break through and score a second run, and they’ll score both runs on one swing: Josh Lowe will slug a two-run homer in their very first inning this October.

Texas Rangers: Carter and Langford will both be ROY finalists

In Evan Carter, a postseason hero, and Wyatt Langford, the No. 4 pick in last summer’s draft, the Rangers have two of the four best prospects in baseball. Carter is still rookie-eligible and Langford is poised to play a full-time role this year. Texas has not had a player finish in the top three of the Rookie of the Year voting since Yu Darvish finished third in 2012 — Josh Jung (2023) and Adolis García (2021) have both finished fourth in recent years — and they’ll end that drought emphatically this year. Carter and Langford will both be Rookie of the Year finalists and thus finish top three in the voting.

Toronto Blue Jays: Varsho will start a game at catcher

During his three years with the Diamondbacks, Daulton Varsho caught 82 games (61 starts), and he came up through the minors as a catcher. He’s also an outfielder, and a very good one. Varsho was a Gold Glove finalist last season. The Blue Jays have used him strictly as an outfielder, though they say he’s their emergency third catcher. For this bold prediction, we’re going to say Varsho starts a game behind the plate this year. Danny Jansen has a wrist injury and the depth behind Alejandro Kirk isn’t great. You needn’t try hard to see a scenario in which Kirk gets banged up (it’s an occupational hazard) and Jansen is sidelined, and the Blue Jays opt to put Varsho behind the plate rather than, say, Brian Serven or Payton Henry.

Washington Nationals: Abrams will lead MLB in steals

A year ago, CJ Abrams stole 47 bases, good for fifth in the league despite being 26 (!) steals behind leader Ronald Acuña Jr. The distribution of those 47 stolen bases was interesting though. In his first 77 games, Abrams stole only nine bases. In his final 74 games, he stolen 38 bases. The uptick in steals coincides perfectly with his move into the leadoff spot in early July. It’s almost like the light bulb went on: “I’m a leadoff guy now. I have to steal bases.” Abrams began to break out the plate in the second half last season, so being on base often more helped, but he was certainly running with increased frequency as well. This prediction says Abrams will continue running like he did after moving into the leadoff spot last year, and he finishes 2024 with an MLB-leading stolen base total north of 70.

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