This 2023 MLB season has been filled with some insane moments. We're witnessing a historic season in Shohei Ohtani's remarkable campaign on the mound and at the plate, saw Domingo German throw a perfect game for the Yankees, and teams like the Diamondbacks and Marlins have caught everyone by surprise. The newly added pitch clock has sped up games tremendously, and it seems like baseball is finally back on the rise. With the 1st half of the season in the books, let's look towards the latter half of the regular season and make some crazy (but sensible) predictions that will make me look like a genius… or an idiot.
@San Diego Padres
Padres Make Wild Card After Disappointing 1st Half
The San Diego Padres have been one of the most disappointing franchises of the season so far, currently standing 8.5 games behind the 1st place Diamondbacks in a year they were supposed to contend for the NL West title. However, despite their mediocre season thus far, there are signs of life. We’ve seen the Friars play their best baseball against World Series contenders, taking regular season series from the Rays and Braves. The potential of an offense with Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. and more has flourished in those 10 run blowout games. The issue with San Diego to this point has been consistency. They fail to consistently score runs each game, instead exploding for an offensive outburst every 2 or 3 games. They’ve starting pitching has rounded into form especially over the last month, with starters Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell locking in during the month of June, and Michael Wacha’s consistency throughout the 1st half. The bullpen has been frustrating, and is a shell of its former dominance we saw last year. But things are looking up. Get the bullpen some lockdown setup guys for a lights out Josh Hader, and the win total will skyrocket. After wrapping up a sweep of the Angels, the Padres seem to be making a step in the right direction as they should play some great baseball over the next two months to sneak into the Postseason in October.
Joe Ryan will win the AL Cy Young
With plenty of aces currently in front of him as favorites for the Cy Young in the American League, names like frontrunner Framber Valdez, lights out Gerrit Cole, and young sensation Shane McClanahan, Joe Ryan is my sleeper candidate to take home the hardware. In just his 3rd season in the majors, Ryan has established himself as the sole ace in Minnesota and top pitchers in the league. His control is elite, ranking in the 96th percentile in walk rate per statcast. His tools are pure wizardry, holding an insane 98th percentile ranking in chase rate, and he induces lots of weak contact with a measly .351 expected opposing slugging percentage. Ryan has got the weapons for double digit strikeout games, and minimizes hard contact to keep the ball in the yard. His expected ERA is an insane 2.74, 0.68 less than his actual 3.42 number. He sports an excellent 0.98 WHIP. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him named this year’s best American League pitcher.
Shohei Ohtani will Stay on the Angels
Everyone is saying it’s doom and gloom for the Halos in Anaheim. After losing Mike Trout for at least 6 weeks to a hamate fracture, as well as multiple key position players on the shelf after the series with the Padres, it feels like the apocalypse has rained down on the Angels. All the analysts are preaching it’s the only option to try and get a decent return for Shohei at the deadline, rather than get nothing for him at the end of the season after losing him to free agency. It seems like the only “right” thing to do. Expect when it’s not. It isn’t a time for panic selling in Anaheim, but a severe realignment in the clubhouse. Manager Phil Nevin has got to rally his guys around a team, not an individual. With Trout out for the long-term, the Halos need to emphasize getting on base and playing a little pepper on the diamond. Take your walks, bloop some singles, don’t swing for the fences. This offense needs to adapt to a Trout-less lineup, and if they can revive old school team baseball, this is still a team that can sneak into the playoffs. Despite being in a rough patch right now, they’re only 3.5 games out of the last Wild Card spot. The bullpen has not been as rough as it has been in years past, and they do have a pretty secure closer in Carlos Estevez. It’s not a time for panic in the Angels clubhouse, it’s a time to adjust and improve. The front office has been adamant in stating they will be keeping Ohtani, and I have no reason to believe their stance has changed despite the unfortunate events that occurred over the last 72 hours.