Play Ball: Who will make noise in 2023?

Some of the frontrunning teams represented by their hats.

Bryce Wolaver

Some of the frontrunning teams represented by their hats.

Bryce Wolaver, Staff Writer

Batter up! Major League Baseball’s opening day is today, March 30th. This will be the 119th season, as the league was officially founded in 1903. Up until 1961, each team played 154 games. The season expanded from 154 to 162 games after the 1961 season. 

The Houston Astros won their second world series championship in 2022. The Astros took down the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena won World Series MVP after batting .400 in the six game series. In the final victory for Houston, Pena went 2-4 with a run scored to seal a 4-1 victory. 

  Going into the ’23 season, Houston is the favorite to win the world series in November, tied with them are the New York Yankees and New York Mets. 

It’s no surprise that the Astros are the favorite. The biggest piece they lost was aging first baseman Yuli Gurriel. The 38-year-old signed a two-year deal with the Marlins earlier this month. Houston combatted that move by bringing back the three core members of their pitching rotation (Cristian Javier, Framber Valdez, and Jose Urquidy). They also re-signed outfielder Kyle Tucker, who’s known for his power (30 home runs in 2022). The big signing for the Astros was Jose Abreu. They signed the former White Sox first baseman to a 3-year, $58 million deal. 

The two teams from New York (Mets and Yankees) also had the same odds as the Astros. The Yankees made the big splash in free agency by re-signing MVP Aaron Judge to a 9-year, $360 million deal.

Like the Astros, the Yankees also signed a solid arm. They got right-hander Carlos Rodon for 6 years, $162 million. They also brought back reliable first baseman Anthony Rizzo on a team friendly 2-year contract, worth $40 million. The Bronx Bombers (as they like to be called) look poised to make a deep run after suffering an early defeat in the playoffs against a red-hot Cleveland Guardians team last season. 

The Mets on the other hand, lost one of their best starting pitchers. Former Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom abandoned ship to sign with the Texas Rangers. How did NY respond? By signing Justin Verlander, known as one of the best pitchers of our generation. Just like the Yankees, the Mets also had a rough finish to the season. After losing a double-digit game lead to the Atlanta Braves, they lost the division. The Mets were forced to play in the wildcard series where they were upset by the up and coming San Diego Padres.

The Mets do have one of the more intriguing signings of the offseason. They brought right-handed pitcher Kodai Senga over from Japan. Senga was a six-time champion in Japan, and many MLB executives thought he had a chance in the US. He joins Verlander and Jose Quintana in the starting rotation, while they brought back closer Edwin Diaz to seal the deal. 

It’s important to note that the 2022 world series runner-up Philadelphia Phillies have the seventh best odds at winning the ’23 world series. This comes as a surprise to many, as they are returning all of their World Series pieces. Philadelphia also took starting pitcher Taijuan Walker from their rival, the Mets. Walker boasted a 12-5 record with a 3.49 ERA (earned run average). The 3.49 mark is the second best in his career. The Phillies made the second-biggest move in free agency, signing star shortstop Trea Turner to a 11-year, $300 million contract. 

Philly also brought in two quality relief pitchers in Gregory Soto (10th in saves), and Craig Kimbrel (14th in saves). The main concern for them is outfielder Bryce Harper. After suffering an elbow injury in the middle of last season, the former MVP is scheduled to miss the start of the 2023 season. On top of the Harper injury, star first baseman Rhys Hoskins tore his ACL earlier last week. He needs surgery, and most likely will miss the entire season. It will be interesting to see how they can weather the storm, but Trea Turner and catcher J.T. Realmuto should be able to carry the team.