On the eve of Opening Day, we take a look at the six teams facing the most pressure to deliver a World Series championship this season.San Diego Padres Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Padres continued an incredible few years of financial commitments with one of the biggest offseason spending sprees in recent memory. Team owner Peter Seidler opened his wallet to land shortstop Xander Bogaerts and also re-signed All-Star third baseman Manny Machado and right-hander Yu Darvish to lucrative, long-term contract extensions.With Fernando Tatis Jr. set to return from injury and suspension, the Padres boast arguably the most impressive collection of talent in the game. Opposing pitchers will have to combat some combination of Bogaerts, Machado, Juan Soto, and Tatis atop manager Bob Melvin's lineup in 2023.The Padres tasted some October success last season after vanquishing the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. San Diego ultimately fell to the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies in six games in the league championship series.Soto is under club control until the conclusion of the 2024 campaign, and you have to wonder if Seidler will reach a limit on how many massive extensions he can carry on the payroll.With the Dodgers tightening the purse strings to an extent this offseason, the Padres enter the season as the favorites to win the division for the first time in quite a while. There will be stiff competition in the National League this year, but San Diego looks poised to reach the World Series for the first time since 1998.New York Yankees New York Yankees / Getty Images Sport / GettyFor most teams, going without a World Series banner since 2009 would be more than acceptable. The Yankees aren't most teams. After a remarkable run in the late 1990s and early 2000s, New York has failed to reach the Fall Classic since winning its last championship.If the Yankees are to put an end to the dry spell, they likely must find a way to vanquish the Houston Astros. New York has seen its season come to an end at the hands of the Astros four times since 2015. The latest defeat was an embarrassing four-game sweep in last year's ALCS.With reigning American League MVP Aaron Judge back in the fold and a deep roster on both sides of the ball, the Yankees enter the season as favorites in the AL East and arguably the second-best team in the Junior Circuit behind the Astros.Manager Aaron Boone has led the club to the postseason in each of his five seasons at the helm but has posted a 14-17 record in the playoffs. Fans are growing impatient at the lack of success in the most important moments of the season.New York Mets Jasen Vinlove/Miami Marlins / Getty Images Sport / GettyWhen Steve Cohen became Mets owner in 2020, he said the club's goal was to win a World Series in three-to-five years. Cohen is entering his third season in control and has taken steps to put together a roster capable of fulfilling his mission statement.The Mets made the ultimate win-now move by signing reigning AL Cy Young winner and World Series champion Justin Verlander to replace Jacob deGrom in the rotation. The club is hoping Verlander and Max Scherzer can continue their respective dominance in the twilight of their careers.The injury to star closer Edwin Diaz illustrates how precious each year is for a team in win-now mode. The Mets must find a way to soften the blow and try to avoid any significant slip in on-field performance.New York will face some stiff competition within its own division in 2023. The Atlanta Braves and Phillies are loaded with talent, and the NL East could easily have three of the five or six best teams in the entire league this season.As long as Cohen is in charge and willing to shell out incredible sums of money, the Mets should be able to remain contenders. However, this iteration might not have that many more kicks at the can. Verlander is 40, Scherzer will be 39 later this year, and the Mets have a number of other players on the wrong side of 30. This season represents a golden opportunity for the Mets to gun for a first championship since their memorable run in 1986.Philadelphia Phillies Mitchell Leff / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Phillies came within two wins of winning it all last season. Philadelphia isn't resting on its laurels after 2022's surprising October run, as the club ponied up to land a game-breaking talent in All-Star shortstop Trea Turner.Turner's skill set is a perfect fit for the Phillies and will help them weather the absence of Bryce Harper until the All-Star break. With some uncertainty around the futures of right-hander Aaron Nola and first baseman Rhys Hoskins beyond 2023, this season could be the last run before this roster undergoes some changes.Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is known to be aggressive when he feels his club is within striking distance of contention. The moves this offseason show that Dombrowski is confident in his team's ability to back up last year's success and make another run in October.Owner John Middleton said in the offseason that he was more focused on establishing a "legacy" than making a profit. The roster is set up for success in 2023. The Phillies are entering the season with arguably their highest expectations since the days of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins.Los Angeles Angels Michael Owens / Getty Images Sport / GettyIt might seem strange to include a team that hasn't made the postseason since 2014. However, with arguably two of this generation's biggest stars on the roster, it's past time for the Angels to start delivering.Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is expected to become perhaps the biggest free agent in the sport's history at the conclusion of the season. Winning a World Series might be the only way to keep Ohtani in the fold beyond 2023. All-Star teammate Mike Trout knows the pressure around the team will be high this season with the uncertainty surrounding Ohtani's future and said he will do whatever it takes to keep his co-star at his side.Angels general manager Perry Minasian approached the offseason with a sense of urgency, adding a slew of veterans to provide Ohtani and Trout with a more capable supporting cast than they've been accustomed to.The Angels are probably a long shot to win their first World Series since 2002. However, they operated like a franchise that knows how important 2023 is. That's something to be admired.Los Angeles Dodgers Harry How / Getty Images Sport / GettyThere's always pressure on the Dodgers to win the World Series. Despite losing some star power this offseason, fans will still expect Los Angeles to remain in contention this season. The Padres might be the team to beat in the NL West in 2023, but it's hard to count out a team built around Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts.The Dodgers slashed payroll this offseason, opting to take fliers on veterans hoping to bounce back like J.D. Martinez and Noah Syndergaard. It's possible those moves pan out, but it was still surprising to see president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman not spend lavishly after several years of doing the opposite.The expectation around the game is that the Dodgers were more conservative this winter as they look to gear up for a run at Ohtani next year. With Betts and Freeman still very much in their primes, L.A. needs to do whatever it can to maximize its opportunities to contend every year.Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Clayton Kershaw respects what the San Diego Padres have done in the offseason, but the longtime Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander isn't ready to crown the NL West rivals as division champions."(I) don't really care who's the favorite or not," Kershaw said when asked about the Padres' rise, according to the Orange County Register's Bill Plunkett. "What they've done is great. They've improved their team. They've gotten big-name guys. They've got good players. They've extended some of their guys. "What they're doing is great. It's great for the game, and it's great for players individually. I still think we can beat them."The Dodgers have won the division nine of the last 10 seasons. However, the Padres beat Los Angeles in four games in the 2022 NLDS.San Diego added Xander Bogaerts and Nelson Cruz to a lineup that features Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Jake Cronenworth. Meanwhile, the pitching staff is headlined by Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell, and Josh Hader.L.A. also lost a ton of talent in the offseason, including Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Heaney, and Tyler Anderson. However, the club still employs stars such as Kershaw, Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, Julio Urias, Will Smith, and Max Muncy.Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
With the regular season beginning this week, we look at the biggest question facing each National League club early on in 2023.The American League list can be read here. Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyArizona Diamondbacks: Can the youth carry them to success?The D-Backs are in an interesting position, playing in a division with powerhouses like the Dodgers and Padres while fielding a mishmash of veterans and youngsters. If Arizona is to stun the baseball world, its youth will be instrumental in its success. Corbin Carroll, Jake McCarthy, Alek Thomas, and Gabriel Moreno will receive plenty of attention, with Carroll being the most notable after inking an eight-year, $111-million deal. If the four play well, the D-Backs could make a surprising run at the postseason. If they disappoint, last season's win total of 74 doesn't seem realistic.Atlanta Braves: Can Acuna return to glory?Ronald Acuna Jr. was one of baseball's best players through the first four years of his career and was having an MVP-caliber season in 2021 before blowing out his knee. There are a lot of eyes on the Braves outfielder following a disappointing 2022 campaign. If he can stay healthy, Acuna is a 40-40 candidate who gives Atlanta its best chance of winning the competitive NL East.Chicago Cubs: Will a change of scenery benefit Bellinger?Cody Bellinger's fall from grace landed him in the Windy City, which might be exactly what the former NL MVP needs after back-to-back disastrous seasons with the Dodgers. The 27-year-old battled through numerous injuries over the past couple of years, which seemed to drain his power and cause his swing to fall apart. Bellinger claims to be healthy after taking a new approach to the offseason and has shown some pop in spring camp (3 HR, .467 SLG). His lefty swing is also suited well to Wrigley Field, where he owns a career .964 OPS. Bellinger could be the steal of the offseason for the Cubs if he rediscovers his old form, but he's definitely a wild card.Cincinnati Reds: Is this Votto's last hurrah?Joey Votto's tremendous career is winding down, but will 2023 be the last we see of the former NL MVP? The 39-year-old recently said he would retire if he doesn't play up to standards, and he's in the final year of his contract - unless the Reds exercise a $20-million option for next season. The six-time All-Star is also coming off a down year where he posted a career-worst .689 OPS and had offseason shoulder surgery, which could hinder him moving forward. If this is it for Votto, he'll retire as one of the best players in Reds history and is a serious contender for the Hall of Fame.Colorado Rockies: What direction is this team going in?The waters are muddied in Colorado, where the Rockies lack a clear direction. The club hasn't finished better than fourth since 2018 and traded away franchise cornerstone Nolan Arenado in 2021, only to turn around and give a long-term deal to Kris Bryant, who hasn't panned out early on. The Opening Day roster is composed of past-their-prime veterans and a pedestrian rotation that was one of the league's worst last year, yet owner Dick Monfort thinks this team is on the right track and capable of playing .500 ball. Instead of blowing things up and focusing on building a core around prospects like Ezequiel Tovar and Zac Veen, the Rockies continue to aimlessly throw deals at players like Jurickson Profar after handing 37-year-old Daniel Bard a contract extension last July. This organization just doesn't make sense.Los Angeles Dodgers: Is the grip on division finally loosening?The Dodgers have owned the NL West for the past decade, winning the division nine times. However, L.A. finally looks vulnerable despite employing former MVPs Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Clayton Kershaw. The team lost a ton of talent in the offseason, including Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Heaney, and Tyler Anderson. The additions of J.D. Martinez, David Peralta, and Noah Syndergaard might not be enough to fend off the loaded Padres. Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / GettyMiami Marlins: Is there enough offense to contend?The rotation was solid last year, posting the 12th-best fWAR in baseball. Reigning NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara leads a talented group that also features Edward Cabrera, Jesus Luzardo, and Trevor Rogers. However, how are the Marlins going to score runs? Miami desperately needed to improve its dreadful offense but failed to bring in any middle-of-the-order bats. Luis Arraez, Jean Segura, and Yuli Gurriel are nice pieces but likely won't move the needle in the very tough NL East. FanGraphs currently projects the team to have just two players hit at least 20 homers.Milwaukee Brewers: Will Burnes be traded if they fall out of contention?The relationship between the Brewers and ace Corbin Burnes doesn't appear to be great. The right-hander was upset about his treatment during the arbitration process. He also reportedly hired Scott Boras as his agent, which could mean he has his sights set on free agency after the 2024 campaign. Milwaukee showed last season with Josh Hader that it's not afraid to trade stars with years left of team control. Dealing Burnes might be necessary if the club is out of contention, especially if its chances of re-signing him are low.New York Mets: Will they need to acquire a closer?Edwin Diaz's devastating knee injury at the World Baseball Classic left the Mets with a massive hole in their bullpen. David Robertson, who's turning 38 in early April, owns 157 career saves but will likely have a short leash in such a competitive division that could come down to a game or two. Adam Ottavino, 37, is another option but is better suited as a setup man. It's likely only a matter of time before the club is forced to find an external ninth-inning option to stabilize the bullpen.Philadelphia Phillies: Who will step up with Harper, Hoskins injured?The Phillies' mighty offense looks less intimidating with Bryce Harper out for the first few months of the season following elbow surgery and Rhys Hoskins sidelined for the entire year with an ACL injury. The addition of Trea Turner will certainly help fill the void, but the star shortstop's bat may not be enough. A return to form for Nick Castellanos would be huge. The 2021 All-Star went deep 13 times with a .694 OPS last season after a career-high 34 round-trippers and a .309/.362/.576 slash line two years ago. Alec Bohm will also be counted on more. The 26-year-old is a solid contact hitter but needs to improve his slugging to be impactful.Pittsburgh Pirates: Will Cruz break out? Oneil Cruz is one of the most unique players in baseball. The shortstop has a cannon for an arm and hit the hardest ball in the Statcast era at 122.4 mph last year. But there are holes in Cruz's game, as he struck out in nearly 35% of his 361 plate appearances last season. Despite some inconsistency at the plate, Cruz closed 2022 on a tear, posting an OPS near .900 with six home runs over the final month and change. If Cruz can build on his late-season run, he'll announce his arrival as one of the game's bright stars in 2023. Daniel Shirey / Major League Baseball / GettySan Diego Padres: Will Soto return to form? Juan Soto's talent is so immense that a season with an .853 OPS and 145 wRC+ was disappointing. The 24-year-old admitted he battled some mechanical issues with his swing in 2022, leading to the most uneven offensive year of his brilliant young career. Soto raked at the WBC, indicating he could be primed for a massive 2023. After turning down a $440-million extension offer from the Nationals last spring, Soto will be motivated to produce over the next two years to set himself up for a monstrous payday in free agency at the conclusion of the 2024 campaign.San Francisco Giants: What does Conforto have left?The Giants tried to land a superstar to build around in the offseason but came up short in pursuit of Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi pivoted to a handful of veteran acquisitions, hoping to boost his club's floor in 2023. Michael Conforto is the most intriguing pickup. The 30-year-old missed the entirety of the 2022 campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery. After raking to the tune of a 158 wRC+ in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Conforto regressed to a 106 wRC+ in 2021. If he can perform closer to his career 124 wRC+ mark, Conforto could help anchor a lineup sorely in need of an impact bat.St. Louis Cardinals: Is the rotation good enough?The Cardinals enter the season as favorites to repeat as NL Central champions. However, the pitching staff is an area of some concern for president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. Cardinals starters finished the 2022 campaign 16th in ERA (3.92) and 26th in K/9 (6.98). With veteran Adam Wainwright already on the shelf with a groin injury, Cardinals manager Oli Marmol will need the likes of Jack Flaherty and Steven Matz to stay healthy and productive. Mozeliak didn't make any additions to bolster the rotation in the offseason, indicating he's confident the current group can perform better than it did last year. That decision could go a long way in determining what type of year the Cardinals put together.Washington Nationals: Is Meneses for real?Joey Meneses was one of baseball's great stories during the second half of 2022. The slugger finally made his MLB debut after years of bouncing around the minors as well as a stint in Japan. Meneses made the most of his opportunity, hitting .324 with 13 home runs and 34 RBIs over just 56 games. The 30-year-old also had a strong performance for Mexico at the WBC. Meneses is unlikely to post a 156 wRC+ again, but if he can settle in as an above-average offensive performer, he will give the Nationals a valued contributor in 2023.Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Ahead of Opening Day, we rank the top 20 players in MLB this season. Just missed: Ronald Acuna Jr., Jose Altuve*, Xander Bogaerts, Corbin Burnes, Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper*, Austin Riley, Fernando Tatis Jr.**Player is injured/suspended to start the season20. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 160 32 97 .818 2.8 It speaks to Guerrero's prodigious pedigree and talent that a season in which he hit more than 30 home runs and posted an OPS above .800 is considered somewhat of a disappointment. However, after a transcendent 48-home run performance in 2021, Guerrero struggled to find the same level of consistency last campaign. The 24-year-old had a hard time getting the ball in the air as he had a ground ball rate of 52.1%, up from 44.8% in 2021. Guerrero said earlier in the offseason that he put too much pressure on himself at times last season and is entering the 2023 campaign with a renewed focus and approach. Betting on a big bounce-back season from Guerrero is probably a wise decision.19. J.T. Realmuto, Phillies Mitchell Leff / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 139 22 84 .820 6.5 A true force on both sides of the ball, Realmuto's coming off a 2022 campaign in which he threw out a league-best 44% of would-be base-stealers. He also became the second catcher ever with a 20-homer, 20-steal season en route to winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. The 32-year-old is incredibly durable for a catcher, appearing in over 130 games for the second straight season in 2022. When it comes to catchers, Realmuto is in a class unto himself as the best in the business.18. Rafael Devers, Red Sox Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 141 27 88 .879 4.9 It's easy to forget that Devers is just 26 years old and still at the beginning of his prime. That's a scary thought when you consider he already owns a World Series ring, two All-Star berths, a 50-double season, and a Silver Slugger. Devers is arguably the best third baseman in the AL and one of the Junior Circuit's best lefty sluggers. The Red Sox made him the face of their franchise over the winter with a $313.5-million extension, and it's easy to see why. He should have no trouble continuing his ascent in 2023.17. Justin Verlander, Mets Jasen Vinlove/Miami Marlins / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP fWAR 175 1.75 2.49 6.1 Age is but a number for the 40-year-old Verlander, who remains firmly in the conversation for the title of baseball's best pitcher. Fresh off winning his third Cy Young Award during a historic comeback season with the Astros, Verlander is now the co-ace of a Mets squad with legitimate World Series aspirations. MLB's active strikeouts leader should still be good for 170-200 innings and around 200 strikeouts a season while limiting the long ball in a homer-heavy environment. Verlander's more than just an ace: he's an all-time great.16. Yordan Alvarez, Astros Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 135 37 97 1.019 6.6 Since landing Alvarez in a lopsided trade with the Dodgers in 2016, the Astros have seen him develop into one of baseball's most fearsome power hitters. Alvarez trails only Mike Trout and Aaron Judge in wRC+ (164) and OPS (.973) since debuting in 2019. The 25-year-old signed a long-term extension last year, keeping him in Houston into his prime years. With the Astros firmly in a win-now mode, Alvarez has plenty of opportunity to author more memorable moments and climb the franchise's all-time leaderboard in a number of offensive categories.15. Max Scherzer, Mets Newsday LLC / Newsday / Getty IP ERA FIP fWAR 145.1 2.29 2.62 4.4 Scherzer was as exceptional last year as he's ever been. However, his 2022 was treated as a disappointment because he didn't throw 170-plus innings for what would've been the 13th consecutive full-length season (omitting the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign). He's getting older, there's no avoiding that. But among pitchers with at least 140 innings thrown, the righty still ranked sixth by ERA, sixth by strikeout rate, sixth by FIP, and second by K-BB%. It seems like Scherzer will be the elite of the elite until he literally can't throw anymore. And with the pitch clock as an added weapon? Look out.14. Francisco Lindor, Mets Sarah Stier / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 161 26 107 .788 6.8 After struggling in his first season with the Mets, Lindor rebounded in 2022. The star shortstop set a new career high with 107 RBIs and was extremely durable, appearing in 161 games. Lindor is a magnetic personality and has taken to the bright lights of New York City seamlessly. The Mets enter 2023 with high expectations and a lot of pressure to win the franchise's first championship since 1986. Lindor will be counted on to lead the charge as one of the league's best shortstops. 13. Sandy Alcantara, Marlins Eric Espada / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP fWAR 228.2 2.28 2.99 5.7 Alcantara was a workhorse en route to winning his first career Cy Young last season. The big right-hander led the league in innings pitched and complete games, emerging as a throwback type of pitcher in an era where hurlers aren't pitching as deep into games. Alcantara's durability and ability to pile up quality starts should allow him to contend for another Cy Young in 2023.12. Freddie Freeman, Dodgers Denis Poroy / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 159 21 100 .918 7.1 Freeman is quietly one of baseball's most consistent, durable and productive players. The 2020 NL MVP could have easily been a finalist for, or even won, last year's honor after leading his league in a slew of offensive categories. He should be in that conversation again in 2023 as the Dodgers' offensive anchor. Barring injury, Freeman will cross several important career milestones this summer. It's a bit strange he often gets overlooked, but that might just be the result of a glut of talented first basemen in the NL. Few in the majors are better or have a sweeter swing.11. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals Rob Tringali / MLB / Getty Images GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 151 35 115 .981 7.1 It always felt like a tragedy that Goldschmidt hadn't added an MVP award to his mantle, but last season finally put that to bed. The seven-time All-Star had previously been runner-up twice and finished as a finalist one other time. This past year, he led the Senior Circuit in slugging percentage and OPS with a career-best 180 OPS+. Still, somehow, the five-time Silver Slugger feels underappreciated even though he could easily threaten back-to-back MVPs in an incredibly deep Cardinals lineup.10. Trea Turner, Phillies Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 160 21 100 .809 6.3 Turner showed off at the World Baseball Classic, crushing five homers for Team USA and boasting a 1.483 OPS over six games. It was a great reminder heading into the upcoming campaign that Turner is so much more than just speed. His aggressiveness on the bases should obviously be noted entering a season in which MLB added rules to try to entice more base-stealing. But Turner is also an all-fields hitter with elite pop and the ability to play a demanding defensive position. He's the entire package.9. Julio Rodriguez, Mariners Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 132 28 75 .853 5.3 It only took one year for J-Rod to crack the top 10. Rodriguez announced his presence in the majors with a historic rookie season that rocketed him to superstardom and helped end the Mariners' long playoff drought. What can he do for an encore in his age-22 season? How about a 30-30 campaign? A Gold Glove? A .900 OPS? Nothing seems out of bounds for Rodriguez - and the scary thing is, he's yet to enter his prime. This might be the last year that J-Rod sits outside the top five players for a long time.8. Juan Soto, Padres Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 153 27 62 .853 3.8 It's a testament to how good Soto is that a season with an .853 OPS and a 145 wRC+ is considered disappointing. The slugger acknowledged that he battled some mechanical issues with his swing in 2022 and feels much more locked in heading into the new season. Soto's performance at the World Baseball Classic could be an indicator of what's in store for 2023. He's still only 24 years old and looks poised to return to the form he showcased in 2021 with the Nationals when he posted a staggering 7.0 fWAR with a .999 OPS. It wouldn't be shocking if Soto moves up into the top five on the list at this time next year.7. Nolan Arenado, Cardinals Dustin Bradford / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 148 30 103 .891 7.3 Arenado can stake a claim to being the greatest defensive third baseman of all time. The 31-year-old added a staggering 10th Gold Glove and sixth consecutive Platinum Glove last season. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Arenado has shown no signs of slowing down, ranking in the 99th percentile in Baseball Savant's outs above average in 2022. He also put together his best offensive season since 2019, posting an .891 OPS with 30 home runs and finishing third in NL MVP voting. It's fair to expect another strong year in 2023 from one of the game's most complete players.6. Jose Ramirez, Guardians Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 157 29 126 .869 6.2 Ramirez remains one of baseball's most underrated and underappreciated stars. The 30-year-old is fourth behind Judge, Betts, and Trout in FanGraphs' WAR since the 2017 season. Ramirez's ability to hit for power, use his legs, and play solid defense at a premium position allows him to provide tremendous value for the Guardians. He took a below-market extension to remain in Cleveland for the long haul and could end up as the greatest player in franchise history whenever he finishes his career.5. Manny Machado, Padres Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 150 32 102 .898 7.4 Machado is the only third baseman who can keep Arenado from claiming the title of best at the hot corner, and it's easy to see why. The 30-year-old is a perennial MVP candidate with light-tower power, a solid glove, and consistency that rivals any of the best hitters in the sport. When it's all said and done, Machado has a good chance to go down as one of the greatest all-around players of his generation - and he's not even close to being done. That's a treat for baseball fans everywhere.4. Mookie Betts, Dodgers Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 142 35 82 .873 6.6 As if Betts wasn't satisfied with being the best right fielder in baseball, he's now adding the infield to his repertoire. Betts will play games at second base on a semi-regular basis this season, a level of versatility that makes him even more dangerous. Even if he stayed in right all year, we're still talking about a generational talent who covers right field with the effortless grace of a dancer and owns a cannon for an arm that baserunners would be fools to test. Oh, and lest we forget, Betts remains one of the most dangerous hitters in the sport and a virtual lock for an annual top-five MVP finish. It's hard to imagine how a player gets better than him.3. Aaron Judge, Yankees Julio Aguilar / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 157 62 131 1.111 11.4 We might never see a season as special as Judge's 2022 again. With 62 homers, the Yankees' newest captain set the AL record for dingers in a single season, and he's the first player in any league to reach the 60-dinger plateau since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in 2001. If we omit players implicated with steroid use, he really is the home run king, surpassing Roger Maris (61 in 1961) and Babe Ruth (60 in 1927). Expecting the four-time All-Star to repeat would be ridiculous, but he's also more than just a slugger. Judge ranked in the 85th percentile in outs above average and 93rd percentile in arm strength, and he obviously possesses an incredibly keen eye with a walk rate in the 96th percentile.2. Mike Trout, Angels Brace Hemmelgarn / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 119 40 80 .999 6.0 Trout's bona fides are unimpeachable. As a three-time MVP, 10-time All-Star, nine-time Silver Slugger, and two-time All-Star Game MVP, Trout would go down as one of the best to ever play if he retired today. And while he was held to 119 games last year, he still hit 40 homers and finished eighth in AL MVP voting ahead of Xander Bogaerts, Verlander, and Bo Bichette, to name a few. He took a step back defensively in center field and isn't trying to steal many bases anymore, but this next version of Trout seems to be a truly prolific slugger, boasting a .630 SLG. Pro-rated over a full season, his homer pace last year would equate to roughly 54 dingers. He's still the hitter everyone envies.1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images Sport / Getty GP HR RBI OPS fWAR 157 34 95 .875 3.8 IP ERA FIP fWAR 166 2.33 2.40 5.6 The fact Ohtani needs two different charts illustrates the entire point. The two-way phenom followed up his 2021 AL MVP season by getting even better and was only deprived of back-to-back honors because of a different historic achievement from Judge. So, the two-time All-Star had to settle for finishing runner-up in MVP voting and fourth in Cy Young voting. If Ohtani decided to only hit or pitch, it seems quite clear he'd be top of the league in whichever he chose. Instead, he's, at worst, the fourth best at both. Ohtani is beyond comprehension. It seems like his health is the only thing that could prevent him from winning his next MVP.Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Last week, we took a closer look at the AL MVP market, highlighting some players who stood out as values.We're going to do the same this time around, instead focusing on the National League. Let's get right to it.Note: Only listed players 50:1 or shorter PLAYER ODDS Juan Soto +550 Mookie Betts +800 Fernando Tatis Jr. +1000 Pete Alonso +1200 Paul Goldschmidt +1200 Ronald Acuna Jr. +1200 Trea Turner +1200 Freddie Freeman +1400 Austin Riley +1500 Manny Machado +1500 Nolan Arenado +1500 Francisco Lindor +1800 Matt Olson +2000 Kyle Schwarber +2500 Bryce Harper +3000 Xander Bogaerts +3000 Dansby Swanson +4000 Michael Harris II +4000 Jazz Chisholm Jr. +5000 Ronald Acuna Jr. (+1200)Those of you who read my World Series best bets know I'm sky-high on the Atlanta Braves this year. I think it's possible - perhaps even likely - they lead the majors in many of the league's offensive categories. Assuming that's the case, Acuna will be at the forefront of it all.He was very effective for the Braves a season ago, piling up 124 hits and 29 stolen bases in 119 games while being treated with baby gloves following ACL surgery. We didn't see Acuna's lethal power, but, after posting ISOs of .313 or higher the previous two years, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt in trying to get up to speed after a major injury.Acuna is one of the league's most dangerous players with the bat in his hands, and he can also kill you on the base paths. Hitting at the top of the lineup for a lethal Braves offense, I think Acuna will put up monster numbers and show that his injury is well behind him.Trea Turner (+1200)Turner provided a very fresh reminder at the World Baseball Classic that he's one of the sport's elite hitters. I expect he'll pick up where he left off in his debut season with the Philadelphia Phillies.While there are some strong pitching staffs in the division to worry about, Turner is capable of getting on base against anybody. It's also worth noting he'll be playing in a more hitter-friendly ballpark this year, which should result in a bit of a power spike.Although the Phillies aren't as deep offensively as the Dodgers, Turner will have a couple of top-tier batters supporting him in Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper. If Turner gets on base as consistently as he's shown year after year, those two will bring him home.If all goes well, Turner could flirt with a 30/30 season while producing a ton of runs for a playoff-caliber team.Pete Alonso (+1200)The pitching injuries are starting to pile up for the New York Mets. Thankfully, Mr. Reliable is still healthy.Pete Alonso possesses as much raw power as anybody in the sport. Even playing in more of a pitcher-friendly park, he has the ability and consistency to lead the majors in homers.Alonso is hitting in the heart of the order for a very good Mets team, which should lead to another massive year in terms of run production.There's a good chance Alonso hits 40-plus homers and is in the top five, if not top three, in RBIs. Those kinds of numbers - and around 95 wins - could lead to a lot of attention from voters.Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.