We ended the 2022 season by nailing the Astros as World Series winners and will look to pick up where we left off with our 2023 MLB futures picks.
Below are our 2023 MLB Division Winner picks, predictions and best bets for the American League. We’ll highlight where we see the most betting value division-by-division.
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Let’s get after it.
2023 AL East Prediction: Two-Team Race Between Toronto & New York
Toronto swapped a small amount of slug for a sizable slice of pitching and a significant step up in fielding. It might just be enough to put them over the top as the 2023 AL East Division Champions.
In 2022, the Blue Jays defense posted the second-worst UZR (-33.4) in all of baseball. This offseason, they added two of the best defensive outfielders in the game in Kevin Kiermeier and Daulton Varsho. Kiermeier is a three-time Gold Glove winner, while Varsho led all outfielders with an 18.8 UZR in 2022.
Brandon Belt will be the left-handed bopper the Blue Jays lacked last season, Chris Bassitt bolsters an already great starting rotation and the bullpen banks a significant boost with the additions of Erik Swanson and Chad Green.
All of these additions supplement an already impressive core on both sides of the ball. Along with Bassitt, the five-man rotation of Alex Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi will give Toronto arguably the deepest rotation in the game. George Springer, Bo Bichette, Alejandro Kirk and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. remain one of the most explosive sets of 1-4 hitters in the American League.
The Yankees are rightful betting favorites to win the division. I don’t think they will, though. That’s far more of a testament to how much I believe in Toronto than it is any slight against New York.
The Bronx Bombers will make the postseason and be a tough out in the playoffs, but injuries will once again cost them a handful of regular-season wins. (Case in point: starters Carlos Rodon, Frankie Montas and Luis Severino all will begin the 2023 campaign on the injured list.) The margin of error to keep pace with the Blue Jays will simply be too slim.
2023 AL East Winner Best Bet: Blue Jays (+200)
Also Consider: Yankees (+130)
2023 AL Central Prediction: Can Minnesota Catch Cleveland?
The 2023 AL Central strikes me as being eerily similar to the 2022 version.
Cleveland – the defending AL Central Champions – is essentially fielding the exact same team as they did in 2022. And that’s just fine.
The Guardians added switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell. They didn’t do much else this offseason, but nonetheless have a deep and balanced roster, one of the best bullpens in all of baseball, and are anchored by one of the biggest offensive threats in the game in third baseman Jose Ramirez. As a team, they strikeout at the lowest rate in MLB (18.3% K%) and have a Top 5 defense in the Majors by every significant statistic. The Guardians are categorically good.
The White Sox lost Jose Abreu, but added Andrew Benintendi and Mike Clevinger. However, Clevinger has red flags both on and off the field, and might not play at all this season. I’m hard-pressed to see how this team is markedly better than last year’s perfectly average, 81-game winning squad. What’s worse is that last year’s average, 81-game winning squad was indeed by all counts average and undeserving of much more than the .500 record they scratched out.
The last contender for the 2023 AL Central Division Winner is Minnesota. The Twins made the most surprising offseason splash by re-signing Carlos Correa on a $200 million contract. They also traded contact king Luis Arraez for a legitimate Opening Day starter in Pablo Lopez.
While Minnesota’s lineup projects to once again be perfectly middle-of-the-road, their rotation of Lopez, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda is the best 1-5 in the Central. They have Bailey Ober waiting in AAA too, giving them outstanding depth for the long, grueling 162-game regular season.
Last year, the Guardians won the AL Central by a comfortable 11-game margin. Minnesota has considerably narrowed that gap. While they don’t project to have closed it, the likelihood of the Twins taking down the AL Central is better than the 31% chance their +215 line implies. This division remains Cleveland’s to lose, but I see big betting value on backing the Twins.
2023 AL Central Winner Pick: Guardians (+130)
2023 AL Central Winner Best Bet: Twins (+215) [best betting value]
2023 AL West Prediction: Is This The Year The Astros Finally Fall?
The 2022 World Series Champion Houston Astros have won 5 of the last 6 AL West Division Championships. The only exception was the COVID-affected 2020 season. They also appeared in the Fall Classic four times during this period and won it twice. Whether you like it or not, Houston has reached dynasty status.
The Astros obviously can’t and won’t keep winning the AL West forever. But can anyone catch them in 2023?
I think the Mariners can.
There was nothing flukey about Seattle’s 90-win season last year. While they didn’t field the most flattering team on paper, their expected win-loss record was 89-73. Mind you, the Mariners still finished a whopping 16 games games back of the 106-56 Astros, but I think that gap closes from both ends in 2023.
The Mariners noticeably upgraded their roster with trades for Teoscar Hernandez and Kolten Wong. Any amount of continued development from Julio Rodriguez, Logan Gilbert or George Kirby will translate to additional wins. Luis Castillo and Robbie Ray form a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. This simply is a good team that got even better.
Houston lost their ageless ace Justin Verlander, but netted a huge upgrade at first base with the free agent signing of Jose Abreu. They otherwise return an above-average offense and – by ERA and WAR – the absolute best pitching staff in baseball.
Make no mistake, the Astros again are the team to beat in the AL West. However, they’ll begin the season significantly handicapped with All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve out until the middle of the season.
More importantly, the rest of the division has improved considerably. The Rangers are going to ride their top-dollar rotation to what oddsmakers currently think will be a 15-win improvement over their disappointing 68-94 record from 2022. It’s hard to argue with that when you see Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney joining Martin Perez and Jon Gray to form an outstanding starting staff.
If – and this is a big if – the Angels stay healthy, they’ll have one of the bigger net improvements in wins compared to 2022, too. I project their current betting line of 82 wins as being a tad high, but nonetheless, the Angels are extremely likely to add to their 73-win total from last year. Those wins have to come from somewhere – and that somewhere is within their division, thanks to MLB’s unbalanced scheduling.
Let’s be clear here. Neither the Rangers nor the Angels are anything close to resembling threats to replace the reigning division champs. But Houston isn’t going to coast to 100 wins again, and Seattle has a much better shot at finishing ahead of the Astros than their 23.8% implied odds suggest.
At some point, you simply have to take a stand. I’m planting my flag on the Mariners to win 0+ games more than the Astros and win the franchise’s first AL West Division crown since 2001.
2023 AL Central Winner Best Bet: Mariners (+325)
Also Consider: Astros (-175) [no betting value]