NEW YORK — The start of the MLB season is almost here, and it’s time for division predictions, wild card teams, and though it may seem too early, playoff and World Series predictions.
And just a reminder, in case you forgot about everything that happened in 2022, your AL division winners were the New York Yankees in the East, the Cleveland Guardians in the Central, and the Houston Astros in the West. Your AL Wild Cards were the Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays.
In National League, the Atlanta Braves won the East, St. Louis Cardinals won the Central, and the Los Angeles Dodgers won the West. The NL Wild Cards were the New York Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the San Diego Padres.
After an exciting and surprising bunch of playoff games and series where two heavily favored teams, the Mets, and Dodgers were both knocked out by the Padres in the Wild Card round and Division Series, respectively, and the wild-card Phillies won the National League Championship Series over their fellow wild-card Padres, and the Astros won their second World Series title since 2017 in six games over the Phillies.
So what will happen this year? Locked On Diamondbacks podcast host Millard Thomas and Locked On MLB podcast host Paul Francis Sullivan went through their predictions for 2023 on the latest edition of the Locked On Diamondbacks podcast. Spoiler alert: We're giving you all of them.
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AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
The AL East is always one of the toughest divisions in baseball, and 2023 will be no different, according to Thomas and Sullivan. Thomas picked the Blue Jays and cited new additions to the roster like Chris Bassitt, Dalton Varsho, and a candidate for a bounce-back season, starter Jose Berrios who had a rough 2022.
Sullivan picked the Yankees, but he thinks it will be a three-team race and that any of the top three teams—the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays— can win. He’s even envisioning a separation of only three or four games between all three teams on the last day of the regular season. Still, he’s picking the Yankees because he’s a Red Sox fan and believes in reverse psychology.
Thomas: Toronto Blue Jays
Sullivan: New York Yankees
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
The AL Central is not always easy to pick, but one thing is certain. There aren’t too many options because the Royals and Tigers are out of the running before the start of the season with no chance of doing anything significant. That leaves the White Sox, who were a disappointment in 2022, the Twins, also a disappointment in 2022, and the Guardians, who made it to the Division Series and took the Yankees to five games.
Thomas is picking the Guardians to repeat their feat from 2022, and he thinks they’ll win the division over the White Sox and Twins. He noted their exciting young players as the reason why.
Sullivan thinks the Twins can return to glory and win the division over the Guardians. He said it’s possible the young players Thomas cited as his reason for the Guardians winning the division could be their downfall if they take a step back in 2023.
Thomas: Cleveland Guardians
Sullivan: Minnesota Twins
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
This is a no-brainer. No one in their right mind will ever pick against the Astros. The team's stranglehold on the AL West for the past six years shows no signs of letting up.
Both hosts picked the Astros, but Thomas thinks the Mariners could win the division if things go well overall. Sullivan agreed with the Astros’ pick and said picking anyone other than the Astros would be silly.
He added that the Mariners are a good team, and if they were in the AL Central, they’d probably win that division by at least three games, but because they’re stuck with the Astros, they’ll find themselves at least 10 games behind.
Thomas and Sullivan: Houston Astros
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Of all the divisions in Major League Baseball, Sullivan believes the NL East is the most difficult to pick. As he said on the podcast, “You have four legitimate teams trying to win, and you have the Washington Nationals.” That’s fair, and Nationals fans would agree.
Both hosts picked the Braves to win the division, but Sullivan used a coin toss to determine his winner. It’s important to note the Braves and Mets finished with the same record in 2022, but the Braves owned the tiebreaker, so they won the division, and the Mets had to play in the Wild Card round, where they lost in shocking fashion to the 89-win Padres.
Thomas and Sullivan: Atlanta Braves
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
This division is the opposite of the NL East because it’s the easiest division to predict. Both Thomas and Sullivan picked the Cardinals to win the division because, as Sullivan pointed out.
The Cards are the only team in the division not rebuilding. Some of the teams (the Cubs and Brewers) may be competitive, but the Reds and Pirates will not be, and that’s not a surprise.
Thomas and Sullivan: St. Louis Cardinals
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
The Los Angeles Dodgers have finished at the top of the NL West in nine of the last 11 seasons. They’re the Astros of the National League but have been better for longer. Sullivan thinks this may be the season the Padres finish the NL West on top.
He said, “I don’t think it’s a runaway. I think San Diego is going to be a high 90-win team, I think Los Angeles is going to be a high 90-win team. I think three or four games will separate them, but I think the Padres will finish ahead.”
Thomas agreed with Sullivan. He thinks the Padres will win the division, but he was careful to point out that you can never count out the Dodgers. Ever.
Thomas and Sullivan: San Diego Padres
WILD CARD TEAMS
Thomas’ three AL Wild Card picks are the Yankees, Mariners, and Rays. He toyed with the idea of maybe picking the Texas Rangers or Los Angeles Angels for the last one, but he ultimately chose the Rays because of their place in the AL East and how they’ll likely finish with a bunch more wins than Texas and Los Angeles.
Sullivan’s three AL Wild Card picks are the Blue Jays, Mariners, and Rays. As he stated earlier in the episode, he thinks the Twins will win the AL Central, and he believes the Guardians will take a couple of steps back, so he picked the Rays for the final wild-card spot.
Sullivan’s three NL Wild Card picks are the Dodgers, Mets, and Marlins. That’s right. The Miami Marlins. Sullivan joked about the other teams he didn’t pick but also said he thinks the Marlins will make it but get kicked out early.
Thomas’ three NL Wild Card picks are the Dodgers, Mets, and Phillies. Thomas stated that he thinks his Diamondbacks could sneak in there if they could pull off winning 87 games, but he thinks they’re more of an 80-81 win team so he picked the reigning National League Champion Phillies to finish in the third Wild Card spot.
A RIDICULOUSLY EARLY WORLD SERIES PREDICTION:
Sullivan and Thomas think it will be Astros vs. Padres in the World Series, with the Padres ultimately winning. Sullivan joked about it being a reunion for the 1987 Giants as managers Dusty Baker and Bob Melvin were part of that squad.