Spring training games are just about ready to get going, which also means that the 2023 regular season is not all that far off. As such, it is time to get a little bit boldwhen it comes to fantasy baseball!
Boldpredictions, by their occasional wild nature, are not likely to hit, but they can be fun and there usually is some foundation for the logic. Perhaps it would have seemed ridiculous a season ago to project 62 home runs for Yankees OF Aaron Judge or a 1.75 ERA for Astros RHP Justin Verlander, but both of these things really happened, and we certainly had clues these players were skilled enough to make history.
Who will it be this season? Let's get boldfor 2023 in fantasy baseball, starting with the National League. (We previously voiced our American League opinions here.) Again, to be clear, most, if not all, of these predictions are not going to happen. Still, perhaps I'm on the right track with some of them -- and that might be just as important as we get ready for our fantasy baseball drafts.
Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr., now healthy after offseason wrist surgery, smacks a career-high 25 home runs, leading the club. Gurriel continues to make strides in both strikeout and contact rates. ... Three Diamondbacks steal 30 bases, led by rookie OF Corbin Carroll and followed by OF Jake McCarthy and 2B/3B Josh Rojas. The team steals a league-leading 160 bases, most since the 2016 Brewers stole 181.
Atlanta Braves: 2B Vaughn Grissom ends up as both a top-10 2B and SS, with 20 home runs, 24 stolen bases. He finishes higher on the ESPN Player Rater than former teammate Dansby Swanson. Grissom has more speed and plate discipline. ... Remember RHP Mike Soroka? He makes 29 starts and wins 14 with a 3.25 ERA. Soroka last pitched in the majors in 2020 before injuries sidelined him. We can't hope or expect a big strikeout rate, but we can hope for health.
Chicago Cubs: OF Cody Bellinger bounces back to hit .250 with 30 home runs and a career-best 19 steals. Bellinger enjoys baseball's banning of the shift to help his batting average, but also his fresh start away from Los Angeles. ... RHP Hayden Wesneski earns a rotation spot in March and leads the team with a 3.50 ERA in his 28 starts. He's not a big strikeout option, but he'll be good enough. Wesneski came over from the Yankees and, ironically, this summer RHP Kyle Hendricks gets traded to the Yankees.
Cincinnati Reds: Four Reds OF-eligible players reach 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases, led by (finally) Nick Senzel, who earns a career-best 500 PA. The others are Wil Myers, Jake Fraley and TJ Friedl. ... LHP Nick Lodolo outpaces the more heralded RHP Hunter Greene in wins, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. He also makes the All-Star team as the team's representative. Lodolo whiffs 200 hitters.
Colorado Rockies: OF Kris Bryant, after hitting nary a home run at Coors Field in 2022, leads the NL with 26 home blasts this season. Bryant hits 39 home runs overall. ... SS Ezequiel Tovar not only wins the starting job, but he becomes the leadoff hitter in April. He steals 29 bases and scores 87 runs. Tovar ends up as a top-10 fantasy shortstop.
Los Angeles Dodgers: OF James Outman wins the starting CF job out of spring training. He and 1B Miguel Vargas (the team's regular second baseman) each hit 25 home runs. The Dodgers lead the league in runs again. ... More rookies! RHPs Gavin Stone and Bobby Millerforce their way into the injury-riddled rotation and combine for 160 excellent innings and 167 strikeouts.
Miami Marlins: OF Bryan De La Cruz pops 27 home runs to lead the club. De La Cruz, a right-handed hitter, posted an .805 OPS against right-handers last season and had a big September. He's a top-50 outfielder in NFBC ADP for a reason. ... LHP Jesus Luzardo leads the Marlins in strikeouts. Don't worry, Sandy Alcantara investors, as the defending NL Cy Young winner will thrive again, but Luzardo will pitch a career-best 170 innings and soar past 200 whiffs.
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Milwaukee Brewers: OF Joey Wiemerearns a promotion in June and produces 24 home runs and 12 stolen bases in four months. Wiemer is a power hitter with speed, and the Brewers lack outfield power, especially versus left-handers. ... RHP Freddy Peralta joins Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff with 200 strikeouts and a sub-1.00 WHIP. Peralta's problem has been durability, but he throws a career-best 160 IP in 2023.
New York Mets: OF Tommy Pham returns to a 15-HR/15-SB season for the first time since 2019. Pham may not look like he has a path to playing time, but Starling Marte, who missed more than 40 games in both of the past two seasons and had offseason groin surgery, is a clear health risk. Pham will produce dividends for deep leaguers. ... RHP Justin Verlanderbecomes the seventh hurler to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues. His teammate Max Scherzer has done it. Verlander spins another sub-2.00 ERA, too.
Philadelphia Phillies: OF Bryce Harper is one of six Phillies to reach 25 home runs. Harper hits .299 with 26 HR in 101 games after returning from Tommy John surgery. Revitalized OF Nick Castellanos also hits 26 home runs. ... RHP Andrew Painterwins 10 of 15 starts, posts a 2.66 ERA and an 0.96 WHIP. Painter becomes the first teenager to start since the Dodgers' Julio Urias in 2016. Mark Davis did it for the Phillies in 1980. Painter thrives.
Pittsburgh Pirates: SS Oneil Cruz delivers a 30/30 season, even while striking out 200 times -- a first in MLB history. Cruz may never contend for a batting title, but he will be fun to watch. ... OF Ji Hwan Bae makes the roster out of spring training, primarily handles second base and steals 30 bases. Bae reached base at a strong clip in the minors, and his skills will translate.
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San Diego Padres: DHs Nelson Cruz and Matt Carpenter (who will end up handling plenty of 1B duty) combine for 50 home runs as well! Some teams rely on prospects. Then there are the Padres. Cruz is not done yet. ... Three Padres whiff 200 hitters, led by LHP Blake Snell, who proves his strong second half to 2022 was no fluke. Snell paces the rotation with a 2.90 ERA.
San Francisco Giants: A year after only one Giant (Joc Pederson) hit 20 home runs, seven do so in 2023, led by OF Mitch Haniger with 29. 3B David Villar hits 21. OF Michael Conforto hits 26. ... RHP Alex Cobb, unlucky with a .336 BABIP last season (fifth highest among SP with 140 IP), gets lucky in 2023 and lowers his ERA to 2.95. He wins a career-high 14 games.
St. Louis Cardinals: OF Lars Nootbaar bashes 30 home runs. Four Cardinals reach that mark (Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Tyler O'Neill), but Nootbaar -- never a top prospect -- is the surprise. He ends up being more valuable than O'Neill in points formats. ... RHP Adam Wainwright wins 20 games for the third time, then calls it a career. Wainwright pitched well until a rough September last year. He will top 200 innings and flash 2021 numbers.
Washington Nationals: 1B Joey Meneses hits .275 with 30 home runs. The longtime minor leaguer emerged from obscurity in his age-30 season with big numbers in 240 PA, and he now elicits the dreaded Frank Schwindel(now in Japan) comparisons. Nope. ... LHP MacKenzie Gore leads the Nationals with nine wins and a 4.20 ERA. OK, so it's not a lot, but work with me. This is not a good pitching staff. At least Gore gets a regular rotation turn for four months.
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