Potential MLB Sleeper Teams to Watch for In 2023 Season

Brandon ScottSeptember 28, 2022

Potential MLB Sleeper Teams to Watch for In 2023 Season

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    HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 27: Geraldo Perdomo #2 of the Arizona Diamondbacks high fives Daulton Varsho #12 after hitting a solo home run during the third inning off of Luis Garcia #77 of the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 27, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    With focus shifting to the MLB postseason in less than 10 days, the majority of fanbases are looking ahead to 2023 with hopes they can be in this position next year.

    This season was full of surprises, from the Baltimore Orioles emerging from worst in the AL to above .500 playoff contenders, to the Cleveland Guardians emerging as the AL Central's best.

    There will be more surprises next year or, at the very least, different teams factoring into the playoff picture.

    So with that in mind, let's take a look at some sleeper teams to watch in 2023.

San Francisco Giants

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    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 09:  Joc Pederson #23 of the San Francisco Giants high fives teammates after scoring a run against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inningat Wrigley Field on September 09, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    How exactly the San Francisco Giants remake their outfield this offseason will be key in whether they get closer to the 2021 version than 2022.

    It was just one season ago when San Francisco made an improbable run with a franchise-record 107 wins, before losing in the division series to the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Now, it's a team right around .500, eliminated from the postseason and about league-average in most relevant offensive categories.

    Giants outfielders rank 18th in WAR, and this is arguably where they can get most creative with their spending.

    They have to decide whether to bring back Joc Pederson, an All-Star and back-to-back World Series champion who is having a feast-or-famine type of season. His defensive limitations are well-known, but will his power and ability to reach base make him worth retaining?

    There are also some intriguing free-agent options who could help the Giants improve, including Aaron Judge, Michael Brantley and Andrew Benintendi.

    With a credible starting rotation mostly set, it's really about figuring out roles for position players who may have underperformed this year but could still contribute to winning in some capacity next year.

Miami Marlins

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 22: Jorge Soler #12 of the Miami Marlins celebrates with teammates in the dugout after coming around to score on a two run RBI double by Nick Fortes #54 in the sixth inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on July 22, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
    Justin Berl/Getty Images

    This is a disappointing season for the Miami Marlins after a couple of major signings in Avisaíl García and Jorge Soler, last year's World Series MVP.

    Their record does not exactly reflect the talent on this team, something general manager Kim Ng noted when it was revealed earlier this week Don Mattingly would be out as manager after this year.

    Miami has enough of a starting pitching surplus that someone is going to be on the trade block this offseason. But it's been one of the worst offenses in baseball for a second consecutive season.

    Even in 2020, the pandemic-shortened season when the Marlins made the playoffs, they didn't hit the ball particularly well.

    So a clear and obvious part of the introspection Ng speaks of should be finding players who can drive in runs. The Marlins ranked next-to-last in runs scored last year and are currently 28th in 2022.

    This will be Ng's third offseason since being hired as GM in 2020, and the impact of a new skipper is an intriguing concept. Mattingly mentioned Sunday that Ng deserves a chance to pick a manager to further her vision for the team, rather than stick with the inherited manager.

    Miami's farm system fell toward the middle of the pack since before the season, but the Marlins still have intriguing prospects like right-handed pitchers Eury Pérez, Max Meyer and third baseman/outfielder Jacob Berry.

    With the young talent and an offseason as aggressive as last year's, the Marlins are another bottom feeder to watch.

Texas Rangers

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    ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 24: Corey Seager #5 of the Texas Rangers greets Marcus Semien #2 of the Texas Rangers after a solo home run in the third inning at Globe Life Field on September 24, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
    Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

    The Texas Rangers clearly aren’t there yet, but they’re serious about taking major swings along the way.

    That’s the only way to explain the money they spent this past offseason on Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. How aggressive the Rangers are this time around will tell us a lot about how close they think they are to competing.

    To do so, the Rangers have to improve their starting pitching. They entered Tuesday's action with the ninth-highest ERA, tied for the seventh-highest WHIP and the 17th-highest opponents' batting average.

    Do the Rangers make a play for the hometown product Clayton Kershaw, as they had been loosely linked the prior offseason?

    Also, is it reasonable to expect the Rangers won't have the worst record in one-run games or the worst overall luck in baseball?

    In that regard, we're just talking about a regression to the mean for an organization that's already shown its willingness to spend.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 11:  Starting pitcher Zac Gallen #23 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers to home plate in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 11, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. Gallen set a team record for consecutive scoreless innings at 42.1. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    The Arizona Diamondbacks won 52 games in 2021 with the worst NL record and tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball.

    A year later, they improved to 71 wins with eight games left to spare. There is good reason for Diamondbacks fans to be excited about their future.

    Since the All-Star break, right-hander Zac Gallen has the lowest ERA and WHIP in baseball and is tied with the fifth-most strikeouts. All of this after a disappointing start to the season, by his own measure.

    Slugger Christian Walker cooled down a bit from August to September, but he's still hitting homers.

    Daulton Varsho, having the best of his first three big league seasons this year, has transitioned from full-time catcher to outfielder.

    The Diamondbacks are also rewarding manager Torey Lovullo by exercising his option for 2023, and they get at least one more year with Brent Strom, the best pitching coach in baseball.

    They have shown a clear commitment to player development, and it is working. Don't be surprised if Arizona is sneaky-good next year.

Detroit Tigers

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    DETROIT, MI -  AUGUST 21:  Manager A.J. Hinch #14 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates with Akil Baddoo #60 after a win over the Los Angeles Angels at Comerica Park on August 21, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
    Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    Year three under A.J. Hinch and more experience for their younger players should do the Detroit Tigers some good.

    It will also be their first year under new president of baseball operations Scott Harris, who comes with glowing reviews.

    Detroit's bad luck was not as tangible as the Rangers' this year. But there was the sudden departure of free-agent signing Eduardo Rodríguez, which kept him away from the big league club for three months between starts.

    Then earlier this month, outfielder Austin Meadows left the team to tend to his mental and physical health.

    But honestly, take a look around the AL Central. It belongs to no one.

    The Cleveland Guardians didn’t even appear to be trying to win with the amount of youth on their roster. But they were good enough to win the AL Central as a fundamentally sound team.

    The Chicago White Sox have some introspection ahead, with Tony La Russa out of the managerial picture and roster holes that need addressing.

    The Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals have been disappointments, but either could be competitive in this wide-open division.

    This is the best division to be young and unproven, because no squad is truly reliable.

Boston Red Sox

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    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates with teammate Rafael Devers #11 after the victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on September 27, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
    Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

    It comes as a surprise to see the Boston Red Sox at the bottom of the AL East after playing in the ALCS just a year ago, though it is the second time in three years this will happen.

    Don’t expect Boston to live there for a significant stretch with the resources the team has.

    If you’re sleeping on the 2023 Red Sox right now, it’s justified. They have a lot to sort through before they can get out of this funk.

    The top priorities should be pitching, signing superstar third baseman Rafael Devers to a massive extension, then figuring out whether they can find common ground with Xander Bogaerts or implement a contingency plan.

    But they also need help in the outfield aside from Alex Verdugo and must find a designated hitter replacement for the declining but still productive free agent-to be J.D. Martinez.

Chicago Cubs

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    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 30: Kyle Hendricks #28 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the first inning in the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field on June 30, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
    Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    The Chicago Cubs have their deepest farm system since bringing together the talent that won the 2016 World Series.

    Between the young crop of players and the financial wherewithal to spend, it's not difficult to see a path back to relevance for the Cubs.

    They still have Marcus Stroman and Kyle Hendricks locked in for 2023, before either or both could become free agents the following offseason. If they can keep those two and Justin Steele healthy, then get in the market for one of the big-time free-agent pitchers this offseason, things could look a lot different in Chicago.

    The Cubs have played in 50 one-run games, going 24-26 as of Tuesday. Their relievers have pitched the second-most innings in baseball, behind only the Tampa Bay Rays, who purposely operate in such a way.

    One has to wonder how much a stronger rotation would help Chicago in these situations or help the team to avoid them altogether.

    With a free-agent market expected to consist of Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Rodón, Martín Pérez, Clayton Kershaw and Luis Severino, the Cubs have to be in the mix.

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