2023 MLB: Division Winner Predictions

by Sean Murphy

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2023
The 2023 MLB season is upon us as plenty of new faces in new places not to mention a number of new rules draw the attention of even the most casual baseball fans on Opening Day.

Even if you're not interested in betting MLB futures, it's a good time to take stock of each division, even in a year where divisional play will be less of a factor (teams will play fewer games against divisional opponents than in previous years). Here's my take on which team is the best bet (not necessarily the most likely) to win each division crown.

All odds taken from Bet365.

American League East

Tampa Bay Rays +380

I'll skip past the supposed top two A.L. East contenders in the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays as I feel both teams have their flaws, not to mention are overpriced in my opinion. That's not to say the Tampa Bay Rays don't have their own warts, most notably offensively, but I really like the way they're set up from a pitching perspective.  I also favor them at these odds with the new scheduling system that will see them play far fewer games against their own division. Tampa Bay has a number of young players that figure to be entering their prime, most notably Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe. Third baseman Isaac Parades is a less talked about player that will also be one to watch this season. Keep in mind, this is a Rays club that is just one year removed from winning the division in 2021.

American League Central

Chicago White Sox +150

I'm higher on the Chicago White Sox than some as I feel they get an immediate boost with the departure of Tony Larussa. Consider the impact similar to what we saw in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars following the Urban Meyer debacle. There's a potential 'sling-shot' effect that I don't believe is being properly factored into the division odds. The Cleveland Guardians are perennial favorites in the division and they'll be difficult to contend with again this season. However, I think the ceiling is extremely high for the White Sox as they figure to stay healthier than they did during a disastrous 2022 campaign. Like the Rays, the White Sox have significant young talent that projects to hit its stride. Pitching may be a touchy subject but I'm confident the White Sox can slug their way to plenty of victories in games that just didn't go their way a year ago.

American League West

Seattle Mariners +300

While there's no question I'm in the minority, I do think there's a path for the Seattle Mariners to not only win the A.L. West but finish with the best record in the American League and dare I say the entire Majors. Everything is breaking right for the M's as they enter the campaign loaded with optimism but perhaps not the same pressure or expectation level as say the Yankees, Astros or Blue Jays. This is a Mariners club that is built for the ballpark it plays in. Don't sleep on the Seattle pitching staff either, with an underrated starting rotation led by last year's big pre-trade deadline acquisition Luis Castillo and book-ended by a pair of shutdown arms that could arguably hold down the closing job for any team in baseball.

National League East

Atlanta Braves +135

I think the Atlanta Braves are a steal at the price quoted but you'll need to shop around as you can find them as generous as +135 but as unfavorable as -110. Regardless of the price, I think the potential is there for the Braves to run away with the division. All of the pieces are there for the Braves to take another run at a World Series title after ascending to that peak in 2021. Health issues plagued the club last year but that's not something that can be properly projected or assessed moving forward. We can assume we'll get a bounce-back year from Ronald Acuna Jr. among others and we know what we're going to get from a loaded Atlanta pitching staff that will only get stronger as its younger arms come into their own. Neither the Mets or Phillies scare me all that much in this division and certainly won't intimidate the Braves.

National League Central

Milwaukee Brewers +160

I simply feel it's 'one of those years' for the Milwaukee Brewers - in a good way. The Brew Crew have few flaws and should be able to front-run in a ho-hum Central Division where I only consider the St. Louis Cardinals to be a serious threat (sorry Cubs fans). That's not to say I'm all that high on the Brewers - I don't anticipate them going on a deep playoff run, for instance. This prediction has perhaps more to do with my dislike for the Cardinals long-term prospects heading into the campaign. I have them as one of the more overrated and overvalued teams in baseball with a pitching staff that will need additional help as the season progresses. The N.L. Central as a whole doesn't pique much interest for me.

National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks +4000

I know this one sounds crazy but hear me out. The Los Angeles Dodgers aren't going to get any of my money at -120. Nor are the San Diego Padres at +110. I don't think the San Francisco Giants have a high enough ceiling to go in on them with a futures bet while the Colorado Rockies figure to challenge for the worst record in baseball. That leaves the Arizona Diamondbacks, a young club with a ton of upside but very low expectations entering the 2023 campaign. I think folks are going to be surprised by the offense the Snakes are going to put up early in the season. I mentioned the potential 'sling-shot' effect with the White Sox earlier. I think the D'Backs are set up to enjoy the same, albeit for different reasons. They boast a number of young players that are in line for breakout campaigns, with catcher Gabriel Moreno being one of my favorites of the bunch (he's not talked about nearly enough in my opinion). With a Cy Young candidate in Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly at the front of the rotation and what I consider to be an underrated bullpen, the Snakes could surprise and at such a generous price, I'm biting. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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