The Circuit’s 2023 MLB 1st Quarter Polls
Memorial Day Weekend is here, and so is the 1st quarter mark of the MLB season (ish)! From things I got very wrong to who will win the World Series, this post covers everything from the first 40 (closer to 50 but who’s counting) games of the season! Circuit Artwork What a year so far! From a historic start down in Florida, to a miserable start in St. Louis, and everything in between, the 2023 season has been an exciting one so far! We have a pitch clock that just… worked? Without much lag time, it seems professional athletes are capable of adapting to new rules fairly quickly! Who knew! But before we dive into the predictions, let’s start with my favorite section: What I got right and what I got very, very wrong… 3 Things I was Big RIGHT about… Getty Images 1- The Atlanta Braves are Awesome… The Braves are absolutely loaded. Acuna is playing out of his mind so far (more on him later), and they have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. This start is not surprising, and I expect them to keep their foot on the gas until late August, when they have nearly everything wrapped up. 2- The Pirates Would Hit on the Over… Granted, I picked the Pirates to finish 4th in the Central. However, I did pick them to hit the over of 67.5, and I felt great about that. It felt like they started to believe in themselves, and this might be just the beginning of some really fun days in Pittsburgh for years to come. 3- The Phillies Would Struggle Without Harper… Bryce Harper is one of my favorite players ever, and I can’t tell you how excited I was when he finally delivered in the playoffs and walked off against the Padres. So despite bringing in Trea Turner, I expected the Phillies to have a World Series hangover and start slow. Can they turn it around? Sure, but it feels like 2023 might be a step back for them, and 2024 might be the year the Commissioner's Trophy comes back to Philadelphia. Now Three Things I was Big WRONG About… Getty Images 1- The White Sox Would Improve by Addition by Subtraction… I didn’t feel great about predicting the AL Central because, well, no one should. Every year that division is a mess, but someone has to win it right? The White Sox have a lot of talent, and I thought LaRussa was so toxic for them that simply not having him around would be enough to get them back on track. Nope. Hope you’ve enjoyed watching Tim Anderson play White Sox fans, because in about two months he’ll be gone! 2- The Cardinals would be… Good?... This team had TWO MVP FINALISTS a year ago. Sure they lost Pujols and Molina, but I thought they still had enough talent to overcome that loss in leadership. Now they have started to turn the corner, so I might not be wrong about this come September, but so far… wow. 3- The Mariners Were Ready to Fly… Last season, I correctly predicted the Phillies would lose in the World Series. They started slow, but came on strong at the end. Could the same happen for the Mariners? I’m not ready to bail yet, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in how they’ve started the season. They’re a young team, so maybe I shouldn’t overreact, but the first time this team has started a season with real expectations, they stumbled out of the gate… concerning! Now Let’s Hand Out Some Hardware! AL MVP: Shohei Ohtani (Los Angeles Angels) Getty Images No one has stood out head and shoulders above the rest in the AL (unlike in the NL), so I’m going with the guy who’s an All-Star hitter AND an All-Star pitcher. I assume Judge, Vladdy, a couple Rays and maybe even an Oriole (insert gasping sounds here) will emerge as the season goes, but for now Ohtani deserves to be the frontrunner. NL MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta Braves) Getty Images The Braves are the best team in the NL, and Acuna has been the best player in the NL. He’s hitting home runs, he’s stealing bases, and he’s setting the tone for the Braves. As of right now, he’s the runaway NL MVP. AL Cy Young: Shane McClanahan (Tampa Bay Rays) Getty Images The Rays have to win some awards, right? McClanahan is balling this season, as he has every season of his career. He leads the league in wins and has a 2.05 ERA. It feels like this kid is going to get at least one of these awards, so why not start this year? NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers) Getty Images What? Kershaw? Isn’t he like 40? He’s 35, thank you very much. Look, I find it hard to believe that he will actually win his 4th Cy Young (and first since 2014), but right now there isn’t a clear favorite. He’s tied for the league lead in wins and is in the top 5 in quality starts and strikeouts. So why not have some fun and give it to the old guy! AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash (Tampa Bay Rays) Getty Images The Rays got off to a historic start and have been kicking everyone’s ass all season long. If this award goes to anyone else, we need to start revoking some votes. NL Manager of the Year: Derek Shelton (Pittsburgh Pirates) Getty Images This feels like Brandon Hyde in Baltimore last year, who almost won AL MoY; a team that isn’t supposed to be good, is good. That’s it! That’s the formula. Do I think the Pirates will stay in it all year? No. But for now, Shelton has done a magnificent job and deserves to be the frontrunner. AL Rookie of the Year: Anthony Volpe (New York Yankees) Getty Images Bryce Miller is coming on strong, and if my Mariners prediction comes true he will probably win this. But for now, I’m going with the rookie who I just think has the most talent and is playing maybe the most high-pressure position in the sport; shortstop for the New York Yankees. This kid is special, he just hit a walk-off the day before typing this (yes it was sac-fly… how many walk-off sac-flies have you hit in the MLB huh? HUH!?), and right now he has my vote. But Miller is coming on strong… NL Rookie of the Year: Kodai Senga (New York Mets) Getty Images Senga had a lot of hype around him when he came over, and so far he’s been pretty good! Is he 2007 Daisuke? No, but in a league with not many strong contenders, for now he gets the win. Now Let’s Make Some Playoff Predictions! AL Wild Card: Getty Images 6 Baltimore Orioles def 3 Minnesota Twins 2-1 4 New York Yankees def 5 Texas Rangers 2-0 The Orioles are going to be a really fun story this year, sneaking into the playoffs and I see them knocking off the Twins, aka obligatory AL Central representative. And while Texas has been way better than I expected this season, and they have the best pitcher in the sport *when healthy* in deGrom, but the Yankees will overpower them and move onto the ALDS. NL Wild Card: Getty Images 3 Milwaukee Brewers def 6 San Diego Padres 2-0 4 New York Mets def 5 Arizona Diamondbacks 2-1 The Padres have been the most disappointing team in baseball this year, sitting in 4th place with the most talented roster in the sport. I still think they sneak in, but it doesn’t feel like this is their year, especially against the Brewers and Corbin Burnes. Arizona has been one of the biggest surprises, but going up against Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in a 3 game series seems difficult.? But what do I know? ALDS: Getty Images 1 Tampa Bay Rays def 4 New York Yankees 3-1 2 Houston Astros def 6 Baltimore Orioles 3-2 I want to believe in this Yankees team. I love Aaron Judge. I think Boone is actually a good manager, he’s just under a white-hot microscope 24-7. Their pitching is better and deeper. And I love Volpe. But the Rays are rolling, and I can’t justify betting against them this early in the playoffs. Like I said, the Orioles are a fun story but ultimately they won’t be able to overcome the dynasty that is the Houston Astros. NLDS: Getty Images 1 Atlanta Braves def 4 New York Mets 3-2 3 Milwaukee Brewers def 2 Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 The Braves are a truly great team, and despite the pitching that the Mets have at the top of the rotation, Atlanta can pitch with them and they run the bases extremely well, which could give the Mets fits. Give me the Braves in 5. The Dodgers have been great for so long, we’re starting to take them for granted, no? But this year just doesn’t feel like their year. I like whatever the Brewers have going this year, and they keep it rolling to the NLCS. ALCS: Getty Images 1 Tampa Bay Rays def 2 Houston Astros 4-3 What a series this will be! These are two great teams, and the only teams that have won the AL pennant since before COVID-19 happened (look it up! Astros in ‘19, ‘21, ‘22 and Rays in ‘20). Two great coaches, great veterans, great young cores, this will be one for the ages. In a back and forth series, give me the Rays in 7. NLCS: Getty Images 1 Atlanta Braves def 3 Milwaukee Brewers 4-0 The Brewers just have to be excited to be here, right? The Braves are in a class of their own in the NL, and I don’t see this series being particularly close. World Series: Getty Images 1 Atlanta Braves def 1 Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 (WS MVP: Spencer Stider ) Tampa Bay will likely have home-field advantage in this series, but that isn’t all that much of an advantage. I like this Rays team, but I love this Braves team. Strider and Fried will dominate the Rays hitters, while Acuna and Harris will dominate Rays pitchers. Time to celebrate again, Atlanta fans! There you have it! Make sure to check back in at the halfway point of the season to see what picks of mine have changed, what has stayed the same, and where the season is going!