With MLB opening day 2023 just around the corner, it’s time to start taking a serious look at the upcoming season.
The time to look at player rankings is almost over and it’s time to start making opening day predictions. Obviously, fans are hoping for the chance to see one of the best opening day games of all time, but what happens after that?
MLB Opening Day 2023 storylines to look out for
Prior to MLB opening day 2023, let’s look at some of the key storylines to follow on both opening day and throughout the 2023 season.
With all of the rule changes and massive spending during this past offseason, there are a lot of subplots to watch beyond opening day predictions for what teams will be triumphant at the season’s end.
Let’s take a look at the subplots and storylines fans will want to follow while enjoying MLB opening day 2023 and the season ahead.
The pitch clock
Even if it’s been used during spring training so the players can get used to it, MLB opening day 2023 will be the official unveiling of the pitch clock. This figures to be a fascinating subplot to watch all season.
At what point are there almost no violations of the pitch clock or will it be an issue all season? Just how much shorter with the average game time be this season? Perhaps equally important, with pitchers only able to execute two pick-off plays per at-bat, will there be more stolen bases this season? Of course, only time will tell.
No more shifts
The other rule change that we’ll be watching closely is the lack of defensive shifts. Will the rule outlawing three infielders on one side of the field or putting infielders in the outfield have an impact on the game?
Will pull-happy hitters be rewarded with more hits? At the same time, will we see more outstanding defensive plays, especially from shortstops, now that infielders will be forced to cover more ground?
Carlos Correa’s health
After the crazy saga that Carlos Correa went through during the offseason when two teams backed out of contracts after seeing his medical report, it’s hard not to be aware of his health.
In fairness, the concerns with Correa are more about his long-term health. But if he experiences any kind of leg trouble, it will be something to monitor closely.
Aaron Judge’s encore
How is anybody supposed to follow up a season with 62 home runs, 131 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.111? But that’s the challenge that awaits Aaron Judge.
On top of that, he signed a massive contract during the offseason, adding to the pressure on Judge to match or exceed what he did last season. Plus, the Yankees are going to be leaning on him a lot to carry the team while trying to snap a championship drought that’s more than a decade long.
For as long as he’s in the majors, Shohei Ohtani will be a player to watch closely.
There is even more reason to monitor him this season with Ohtani one year away from free agency. If the Angels aren’t in the playoff race, will they consider trading him if they can’t sign him to an extension?
Will Ohtani continue to be an all-star caliber pitcher and hitter at the same time?
At age 28, this has a chance to be one of his best seasons, so he’s worth watching closely.
New faces in new places
There was plenty of player movement in free agency this past winter, so starting on opening day, we’ll be monitoring what teams made positive strides and what teams made mistakes.
Trea Turner is with the Phillies, Xander Bogaerts is with the Padres, Dansby Swanson is with the Cubs, Jacob deGrom is with the Rangers, Justin Verlander is with the Mets, and the list goes on. During the early part of a new season, it’s always curious to watch players with new teams.
Mets and their money
Under new owner Steve Cohen, nobody has spent more money than the Mets.
But will the highest payroll in the majors lead to a championship?
The Mets made some bold moves this winter to sign Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, and others. But will that money be enough, especially after losing Edwin Diaz to a season-ending injury during the World Baseball Classic?
NL West race
Given how much the Dodgers have dominated the NL West over the last decade, this might be the most fascinating division to watch in 2023.
Unlike past seasons, Los Angeles didn’t make a lot of bold moves during the offseason. At the same time, the Padres continued to spend, putting together what could be the most dangerous lineup in baseball. Is San Diego finally ready to take the next step and overtake the Dodgers in the NL West or does Los Angeles still have enough talent to win another division crown?
Last year’s surprises
There are always going to be surprise teams in baseball. Last year, teams like the Orioles and the Mariners were among the teams that nobody expected to be as good as they were.
But now that they won’t be sneaking up on anyone, the Orioles and Mariners are two teams worth monitoring closely in 2023. Can Baltimore’s youth movement take another step forward and reach the playoffs? Will the Mariners prove that last year’s success wasn’t a fluke and prove to be serious contenders in the American League?
This year’s surprises
Finally, who will be this year’s biggest surprise? What team will make that leap from bottom-division team to bonafide playoff contender?
Some teams to keep an eye on include the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Pirates, Marlins, and Royals. But those aren’t the only teams with the ability to surprise us. Starting on opening day, we’ll have a chance to monitor the teams that might surprise us in 2023.