The Major League Baseball season is around the corner and hope springs eternal. Not all teams set out with the same goal in mind, but there are reasons for every fanbase to be excited. Let's break them down, starting with the National League.The American League can be read here.NL East Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyAtlanta Braves: Spencer Strider unleashedThere are tons of reasons for Braves fans to be excited entering the campaign, but let's hone in on one: a limitless Spencer Strider.The NL Rookie of the Year runner-up opened the 2022 campaign in the Braves' bullpen, not making his first start until the end of May. Despite that, he was still one of 11 pitchers to reach the 200-strikeout plateau last year while throwing only 131 2/3 innings. Even further, his 38.3% K rate is the third-highest by a pitcher in a single season ever (min. 100 IP).So, this year, Strider is starting in the rotation, with seemingly no innings limits or anything. What can the 24-year-old accomplish? Is the sky even the limit?Miami Marlins: A possible step in the right directionFor as long as the Marlins have existed, they've seemed rudderless. Or, even worse, the rudder has been set to full-speed reverse.This time, though, the roster is entering a season with an intriguing face lift, and it will be very intriguing to see if it pays actual dividends on-field. The biggest moves are in the infield, adding Luis Arraez at second base, Jean Segura at third, and shifting Joey Wendle to full-time shortstop after jettisoning Miguel Rojas to the Los Angeles Dodgers.Of course, that leads to the very intriguing position change for budding star Jazz Chisholm Jr., who will move from second to center field and seems confident in his abilities to immediately threaten for Gold Glove awards. This doesn't make the team a contender, but it certainly makes the lineup deeper. Is this a baby step in the right direction or a lunge?New York Mets: Steve Cohen and pretty much everything else as wellEverything is coming up Mets.At this point, it has to be assumed that Cohen - who has a very hands-on role with running the team now that Sandy Alderson is no longer president of the club - will throw a blank check at any problem. And while many want to make that out to be a bad thing for the league (which it isn't, by the way), it's a great thing for Mets fans.Look, it sucks to lose Edwin Diaz to a patellar injury in the World Baseball Classic. But if you think that Cohen, who committed over $800 million in contracts this winter, isn't already giving carte blanche to his baseball executives to make sure this team has the best possible options locking down as many wins as possible, you're delusional. The Reds shopping Edwin's brother Alexis Diaz? Cohen's on the phone. The Pirates make David Bednar available at some point? Incoming call from your buddy Steve. Whatever it takes to get it done, and that's a very new feeling for Mets fans.Philadelphia Phillies: Fully operationally Dave DombrowskiWhile the mightiest owner in baseball might be Cohen, the scariest executive to other teams is a fully operational Dombrowski.The Phillies will have a couple problems to deal with in the regular season, losing Rhys Hoskins likely for the year due to an ACL injury and not getting Bryce Harper back until the second half. Thanks to Dombrowski's ruthless spending, though, they won't be without a superstar on Opening Day, with Trea Turner in the fold. Not to mention, new MLB rules that entice more stolen bases could make him a menace.The Phillies' biggest weakness - and stop me if you've heard this one before, any other fans of Dombrowksi-run teams - was the bullpen. And they did a good job of addressing that as well this winter, adding Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, and Matt Strahm.Due to the injuries, it'll be a struggle to win the most competitive division in the league. But, once again, no one will want to run into Philadelphia in the playoffs.Washington Nationals: MacKenzie GoreGore, a former third-overall pick, is arguably the most interesting part of the package that came over from the Padres in the Juan Soto trade, and Nationals fans will finally get their first look at him this year. The lefty is still figuring out his command issues in spring, allowing 11 runs on 23 hits and seven walks over 20 innings. But, really, this upcoming season for the Nationals is just extended spring training anyways. It'll be good to get him a full season's worth of work against major leaguers with no real consequences.NL Central Chris Coduto / Getty Images Sport / GettyChicago Cubs: The next eraOver the past few seasons, there have been incessant discussions about the dissolution of the 2016 championship team. After Willson Contreras signed with the division-rival Cardinals, Kyle Hendricks is the last remaining member of the World Series team.Now, though, Cubs fans are free from all of that, and looking at a team that at best can contend, and at worst is interesting and a step in the right direction. The likelihood that all new additions - Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger, Trey Mancini, Eric Hosmer, Jameson Taillon, Tucker Barnhart, and others - mesh right away is slim. But that's also part of the fun sometimes. Let's enjoy the ride again at Wrigley.Cincinnati Reds: Hunter Greene and Nick LodoloReds fans won't have a whole lot to get amped about heading into this season, but it could be incredibly captivating to see how the team's budding young aces continue to grow.Greene is more of the marquee guy, getting picked second overall originally as a potential two-way star, before settling in as a righty who can flash 100mph on the mound. His stuff is electric, but command and control issues have gotten in the way, as well as some durability. As a sophomore for a bottom-feeding team, he'll be freed from a lot of those lofty expectations, and that can only work in his favor.Then there's Lodolo, who was the first pitcher off the board in the 2019 class, which was perceived to be weak at the time. While one pitcher can't prove an entire class was strong, the former seventh-overall pick has done his part and more, progressing quickly through the minors and making his debut last year. The lefty will still need to work on curbing his walks, but the strikeout rate certainly plays in the big leagues. The Reds really might have a pair of aces primed to build around ... whenever ownership decides that's worth it.Milwaukee Brewers: The possibility of everything breaking rightThe Brewers find themselves in a precarious position. In fact, if they start cold in the first month, pundits could quickly be calling for the rebuild to begin.But that's not exciting at all! So, what if, the Brewers went full "Major League" and tried to win in spite of some poor decisions from management. Trading away Josh Hader for a worse reliever and a guy who was immediately lost on waivers? That's rough, but what if it just motivated Devin Williams to become even better in the ninth-inning role? Alienating your ace by telling him during his arbitration hearing that he's a big reason the team missed the postseason last year? That's a brutal look, but what if Corbin Burnes used it as motivation to carry the Brewers to the playoffs?We're not saying it's probable. We're just saying it'd be exciting.Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen's milestonesThe prodigal son returns, and he's got some historic milestones to surpass this time around.The last time McCutchen was in a Pirates jersey, he was routinely finishing as an MVP finalist. While that stage of his career is over, he'll still be a captivating reason for Yinzers to show up to PNC Park.At 1,948 career hits, he's 52 shy of reaching the 2,000-hit plateau. He's also 13 homers short of 300 and eight doubles away from 400 in his career and 300 in a Pirates uniform. If he plays well enough this year, too, he might even get a shot at surpassing Roberto Clemente for third all-time in homers for the franchise, currently sitting 37 back of the Hall of Famer.St. Louis Cardinals: The best lineup in team history?It might seem outrageous given the franchise's storied history, but this lineup really might be their best ever. Take in that both Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt were MVP-caliber players last year (with the latter actually winning the award) and then just add Willson Contreras, who has been one of the best offensive catchers in baseball since he first made his debut in 2016.And it's not just top heavy, either. It's deep. Lars Nootbaar is extremely underrated, and Tyler O'Neill shows flashes that make you believe he could hit 40 homers one year. Then there's the possibility of spring sensation Jordan Walker potentially making the team with former top prospects Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman also representing intriguing depth.NL West Stacy Revere / Getty Images Sport / GettyArizona Diamondbacks: A ton of little thingsI know this is supposed to be one thing to be excited about. And, on paper, the Diamondbacks do not seem like a team with a lot of championship or even postseason potential. However, this could be a pivotal season for them as they eye contention as early as 2024.It starts with Zac Gallen, who is a legitimate dark-horse threat for the NL Cy Young. The 27-year-old really turned a corner after the All-Star break last year, posting an incredible 1.49 ERA and 2.07 FIP in 90 1/3 innings over his final 14 starts.Then there's a trio of young budding stars in Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, and Gabriel Moreno, who seem to be the type of players any franchise would love to build around. Carroll is the marquee man, ranked as MLB's No. 1 prospect and the odds-on favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year. Moreno is very interesting as well, coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Daulton Varsho, and he'll be leaned on heavily behind the dish after Carson Kelly's spring injury.There's lots to like about this team as it seems to trend in the right direction. Will all of them take a big enough step forward that it warrants the front office to make some free-agent investments next winter? Let's see.Colorado Rockies: A full season of Kris BryantLet's be honest, there's not a whole lot to love in Denver. Arguably, the team's biggest free-agent addition was Mike Moustakas, who seems to have won a gig on the Opening Day roster thanks to a strong spring, an injury to Brendan Rodgers, and an abysmal showing in camp from Nolan Jones.That being said, Bryant is still pretty exciting. And if the former MVP and four-time All-Star can stay healthy, then watching what he can accomplish at the plate in Coors Field could be very entertaining. Despite being held to 42 games last year, Bryant looked decent, posting an .851 OPS. While the slugging didn't materialize, his keen eye was on display. If fully healthy, a return to 30+ dingers doesn't seem outlandish at all.Los Angeles Dodgers: Slightly less pressure and the target elsewhereIt's been a decade of the Dodgers being treated like the team to beat by the 29 other clubs, going as far back as 2013. There's a slight caveat here, because in order to ditch the target on their backs, the Dodgers cut their payroll by quite a lot and let Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Tyler Anderson, and others leave via free agency, and replaced those stars with less expensive veterans. They might not be threatening the century mark in wins - which they've accomplished four times over the past five full seasons - but they're still an excellent team and title contender. They're just not thee title contender, which is probably at least partly thanks to Steve Cohen throwing around cash like it's confetti. It's somewhat alarming that, over that span, the Dodgers only won one World Series. But, now, they'll get to quietly compete for a second and a chance to become a true dynasty.San Diego Padres: Stars all overThe Dads have arrived.No matter where you look on the diamond, the Padres are just loaded with stars. In fact, for this reason, they should maybe be considered World Series favorites. Some recent postseason woes have prevented everyone from buying in immediately, but the power dynamic in the NL West looks to have finally shifted.There are certainly some question marks about the team's ceiling. Are both Matt Carpenter and Nelson Cruz worth roster spots at this point in their careers as mostly positionless veterans? Is the rotation deep enough to deal with the absence of Joe Musgrove to start the year? But those worries melt away when you are reminded of the fact that it's Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, and (eventually) Fernando Tatis Jr. driving the offense. The expectations should be a championship.San Francisco Giants: The consolation prizesLook, it's probably pretty rough for Giants fans to exit this offseason and be legitimately excited (thanks, Jon Heyman): Not cool man Logan Webb (@LoganWebb1053) December 6, 2022 But, we're here to tell you that the consolation prizes are actually pretty great. And that starts with spring sensation Michael Conforto, who has hit four homers over 13 contests. He's also racked up 13 strikeouts, so, it's not all sunshine and roses, but that's what spring training is for; working out the kinks and, in Conforto's case, getting back to game speed after a year-long layoff due to injury.San Francisco also added Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling to the rotation, and, while those guys have struggled in camp, they're key depth to a team with wild-card aspirations. It's all about the silver linings. And even though they didn't land the reigning AL MVP, the roster is fun and plucky and perhaps good enough.Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
This was a weird way to strike out.
Opening day of the 2023 Major League Baseball season is less than three weeks away. With regular-season action just around the corner, we'll spend plenty of time in this space previewing what's to come.We'll start by taking a look at the World Series market and a few teams that stand out. TEAM ODDS Houston Astros +550 New York Mets +700 Los Angeles Dodgers +800 New York Yankees +800 San Diego Padres +900 Atlanta Braves +1000 Toronto Blue Jays +1200 Seattle Mariners +1600 Philadelphia Phillies +1800 St. Louis Cardinals +2000 Tampa Bay Rays +2000 Chicago White Sox +2500 Cleveland Guardians +3500 Milwaukee Brewers +4000 Minnesota Twins +4000 Texas Rangers +4000 Boston Red Sox +5000 Los Angeles Angels +5000 San Francisco Giants +5000 Baltimore Orioles +6000 Chicago Cubs +7500 Miami Marlins +7500 Arizona Diamondbacks +10000 Detroit Tigers +10000 Kansas City Royals +10000 Colorado Rockies +15000 Pittsburgh Pirates +15000 Cincinnati Reds +25000 Oakland Athletics +50000 Washington Nationals +50000 Houston Astros (+550)The defending champions are favored to win the World Series again in 2023, and for good reason. Not many teams could lose a top-of-the-rotation arm like Justin Verlander and be expected to win the division, let alone threaten for a title. But this Astros team is a different breed. Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Alvarez headline what will once again be a lethal attack. The addition of Jose Abreu figures to add even more pop to their lineup. I have no doubt the Astros will extract more power from him than he showed a year ago.This is not just a bet on offense, however. Houston's rotation remains very good - and deep - even without Verlander. With a fantastic bullpen, there are no real holes on this roster. I see value on the Astros, even favored at +550.Atlanta Braves (+1000)As a New York Mets fan, it pains me to say this, but I think the Atlanta Braves are a little undervalued right now. Their offense is so, so, good, and the power on this roster might be unmatched.The Braves absolutely mashed baseballs a season ago. They didn't rely on stringing together hits; they lived and died with hard contact and the long ball. I think the shift changes in MLB this year will really benefit them.Obviously, they have power from top to bottom, but they also have the ability to do real damage within the park, especially now. Opponents won't be able to shift into their hot spots, which will make it very difficult for defenses to make up ground and get to all those hard-hit balls.With so much talent in the lineup and a ban on shifts, this team has a real chance to lead the majors in homers and runs scored per game.Given that the rotation features Max Fried, super sophomore Spencer Strider, and savvy veteran Charlie Morton, among others, the sky is the limit for Atlanta. So long as the Braves stay relatively healthy, they'll win a ton of games and be a big threat come October.St. Louis Cardinals (+2000)I also considered the Cleveland Guardians and Tampa Bay Rays for this spot - defense and baserunning will be big this year - but ultimately decided to go with the Cardinals.First and foremost, the Cardinals have a ton of power. Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Tyler O'Neill, and newcomer Willson Contreras offer the ability to go yard in any given at-bat.There is also a lot of speed. O'Neill and Tommy Edman, in particular, can really threaten on the basepaths and help the Cardinals manufacture some extra runs in a season where stolen bases are expected to rise.While I don't love the rotation, a couple of things help mitigate my concerns about its lack of star power. The Cardinals are very good at limiting home runs, which helps prevent clusters of runs being scored. The bullpen is also strong, so it's not as imperative for their starters to work deep into games as it is for other teams.The division is also quite bad. The Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, and even Chicago Cubs should be nonfactors. Outside of a mid-tier Milwaukee Brewers team, the Cardinals don't really have any competition in the NL Central.They're very likely going to be a playoff team and will no doubt try to add a piece or two at the deadline. If they can make the postseason, which is likely, I'll be more than happy to hold a 20-1 ticket given the Cardinals' firepower, baserunning ability, and bullpen.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.