11 bold predictions for second half of 2023 MLB season

Shohei Ohtani, Pete Alonso, Ronald Acuna Jr.

We have a first half’s worth of intel on the 2023 MLB season to inform our 11 bold predictions for the second half. That, of course, means we’ll be right on. Like usual.

Seriously, though, there are 70-ish games left and lots of storylines to follow. Maybe even some of the ones below.

Neither New York team holds a playoff spot coming out of the All-Star break, though that is going to change. They might need to invent more awards to properly put into context what the great Shohei Ohtani is doing. There will be trades, a run at .400 and the magic of Ronald Acuña Jr.

Want to know what happens? Read on. By our unofficial tally, we’ve never missed on a prediction yet.

Sho darn historic

Ohtani can pretty much do anything, right? So here’s a bold one for ya: Ohtani clubs 62 home runs to match the American League record set last season by Aaron Judge but, of course, adds the sweetener of ace-level pitching every fifth day, too. That might make 2023 the greatest individual season in baseball history leading into what is likely going to be an off-the-charts free agency for Ohtani this winter. Oh, and he won’t be traded, either. Yes, Mike Trout is down, but the Angels are too close to contention even with a bad finish to the first half. And isn’t trading Ohtani now basically giving up on re-signing him? Who wants to be known as the owner who got rid of the most amazing player in baseball?

The Mets will make the playoffs

At the beginning of the season, this didn’t qualify as “bold,” right? After watching them for three months, however, maybe the idea has turned toward “nuts.” Still, even as they are a huge disappointment so far, they can be part of MLB’s expanded postseason. During that recent six-game winning streak, they reminded us that they’ve mostly been a team with good players who have played poorly. They’re on the fringes now at 42-48, seven games out of a playoff spot, and if they play to their potential for a month, they’re in it. They’re getting José Quintana healthy, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander can’t be as inconsistent as they have been all year and they’ll trade Mark Vientos for bullpen help. Francisco Álvarez is about five minutes away from being their best player and Jeff McNeil won’t be as frustratingly bland every game. As Tug McGraw once put it… well, you know.

The Yankees will make the playoffs by winning differently

The Bronx Bombers are dead. Long live the Bronx Bombers. In the second half, the Yanks will do the majority of their winning thanks to pitching, not power. Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón form a stingy 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation and they add a premium starter by the deadline – Shane Bieber? Lucas Giolito? Uh, Jordan Montgomery? They straighten out Luis Severino, who still has plenty of talent and does not seem injured, and get Nestor Cortes back. And they can lean on that bullpen, too, which went into the break ranked second in relief ERA. Do they have enough offense without Judge to pull this off? That’s a definite maybe, but perhaps our next prediction will help.

Belli up to the Bronx

Brian Cashman and the big brains in the front office did not add the bat they needed after Andrew Benintendi signed with the Chicago White Sox, so the deadline is a chance for a make-up. And so the Yankees deal for Cody Bellinger of the Chicago Cubs. He’s got a nice lefty swing and they should’ve just signed him last winter. Bellinger has rebounded with Chicago this year after a stark drop-off from his 2019 NL MVP campaign, so it’s worth a shot. Nifty narrative alert: Cody’s dad, Clay, won rings as a bench player with the 1999-2000 Yanks. We all love a good story, don’t we?

Happy 50th!

Here’s part of the reason the Mets can make it – Pete Alonso is headed toward another 50-homer season and he’ll get there. He has 26 at the break, so he needs to go on a 54-homer pace over the next 72 games. While Judge’s injury has robbed us of the Gotham Home Run Derby that we dreamed of this summer, Alonso racking up his second season of 50 is a decent consolation prize. He’ll even pass Atlanta’s Matt Olson to win the NL homer crown.

Someone from New York wins a Rookie of the Year

With two productive, touted rookies in town – Anthony Volpe and Álvarez – this might not seem bold. But it is when you consider this is a monster year for rookies in both leagues. Josh Jung of the Texas Rangers (19 homers, .835 OPS) is a big candidate; so is on-base machine Masataka Yoshida of the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore’s Gunnar Henderson. But if Volpe finishes with, say, 25 homers while playing shortstop all year at Yankee Stadium, that might be too much for voters to overlook. Álvarez has a tougher road, even though he’s having a better year. Arizona’s Corbin Carroll and Cincinnati phenom Elly De La Cruz are probably blocking him. Still, if Álvarez gets to 30 homers or so, he’ll have a nice claim. And Kodai Senga is a rookie, too. How will his season and the experience he had in Japan resonate with voters?

Ronald invents a new stat-osphere

30-30? Pshaw. 40-40? Eh. Acuña Jr., the Braves superstar, is about to take things way past that. He had 21 homers and 41 steals at the break and he’s on pace for 38 long balls and 74 swipes, so we’re thinking he creates the “40-80 Club” this season, an amazing power-speed combo. Only four players – Álex Rodríguez, José Canseco, Alfonso Soriano and Barry Bonds – have had even 40 homers and 40 steals in the same season. Acuña Jr. missed that by three steals in 2019 and now he’s going to make 40-40 seem quaint.

Luis on the rise

OK, maybe we’re trying to write this one into existence, since his chase was one of the most entertaining storylines of the first half, but here goes: Luis Arraez of the Miami Marlins does indeed become the first player to bat .400 in a season since Ted Williams in 1941. Arraez went into the break at .383 and then went 2-for-2 in the MLB All-Star Game (can those count?). In this age of launch angle/exit velo/barrel rate – all stuff we’re fascinated by – it’s also fun to watch a guy who isn’t trying to pulverize every ball and strikes out only once every 17.3 at-bats.

The 1962 Mets are safe

Neither the Oakland A’s nor Kansas City Royals out-do the 40-120 expansion Mets. They were both ahead of the ‘62 Mets’ pace going into the break and it stays that way. This isn’t a fun story. It’s not cute or cuddly in any way and no one should root for either team to supplant those Mets, some of whom have embraced their place in history. They should keep it.

White sale

The disappointing White Sox, who had lofty hopes, flood the trade market heading into the deadline. There’s plenty of talent on this team, despite a brutal 38-54 record, and they’re only eight games off the pace in the simply ordinary AL Central. But something isn’t clicking on the South Side and a reboot is probably necessary. That might change several club’s fortunes and the Chisox future, but things obviously aren’t working in the Midwest. While ace Dylan Cease and Luis Robert Jr. are unlikely to be available in any circumstance, start picturing how starting pitchers Giolito and Lance Lynn and a host of relievers, including Joe Kelly, might look in your favorite team’s uniform.

Blue by you

Call us stubborn, but we’re sticking with our pre-season prediction: The Toronto Blue Jays will win the World Series. It’s just a tad more bold now than it was then. Yes, Toronto holds the final AL playoff spot, but things haven’t gone great for them – ace Alek Manoah (my preseason AL Cy Young pick, cringe) spent a month in the minors and there’s been some underperformance by key position players. But, we’re banking on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s Home Run Derby win to be a springboard for him to return to being a beast and they’ve got the talent to navigate the pitfalls of a long postseason.

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