2023 marks Lookout Landing’s first post-postseason season. How has making the playoffs changed our perspective on the possibilities? Not much, it turns out. We gathered, as we do every year, to make our picks for 2023, from division winners to World Series champs, the major awards, and a few Mariners-specific prognostications.
The Astros and Yankees clean up, with every member of the Lookout Landing crew picking them to grab a playoff spot. Kate, Lou, and Zach Gottschalk are the only ones to have Seattle sitting out October.
AL West: Astros (11)
Mariners (3), Angels (1), Rangers (1)
Kate: Look, I don’t feel good about picking the Rangers to win the AL West, and I don’t like that I spent a full day wrestling with this question and was between three teams and the Mariners weren’t one of them. The Rangers, beginning a youth movement of their own along with their small country’s GDP worth of investment in proven veteran talent? Feels bad! A rejuvenated Ohtani/Trout tandem that’s learned how much fun it is to play baseball outside of Arte Moreno’s clutches? Also bad, at least in the short term! The Astros, continually profiting off the deal they made with the devil where Jim Crane promised to personally drown every single polar bear by 2035 in exchange for five World Series trophies? Feels terrible! The one thing I’m comforted by is how quickly things could fall apart for all those teams, despite the Angels’ insistence that they’ve focused this off-season on building depth just like they spent the entire 2021 draft focusing on pitchers. I do believe the Mariners, while not the highest ceiling team in the ALW, are the deepest team in the division if things fall apart for those other teams—but there’s a lot of if-then in those hypotheses, and I’ve never been one for science.
Lou: I think the Rangers and the Angels are going to fall apart! I’m just too scared to get my hopes up, okay? I also (in contrast to Kate below) think the East and Central take the Wild Card spots.
Jacob P: I chose the Mariners to win and for the Astros to fall apart because I believe in a just universe, on a long enough timeline.
John: This will be a race again for the first time in several years. I still think Houston pulls it out, but there will be hot breath on their necks at last.
Kate: Ew, John.
AL Central: Twins (8)
Guardians (7), White Sox (1)
Ezra: The White Sox have a good young team, and truly only a few guys I feel underperformed last year. If this team plays up to what it’s capable of, there's no reason they can’t win the division. They will be returning several All-Star hitters and adding Andrew Benintendi and Mike Clevinger; this team could walk the Central this year.
Kate: Bless your heart, Ezra, but I just don’t believe in “the Angels, but make it Midwest.” I think the Guardians are built for baseball’s new smallball-friendly rules and narrowly edge out Minnesota in a surprisingly competitive division (once the balanced schedule kicks in and it can’t just be two top teams while everyone else takes a dirt nap).
John: I voted for Cleveland, but in Minnesota’s defense, this is a roster not unlike Seattle’s, with a lot of competent fillers, a solid rotation, a monster fireman in the bullpen in Jhoan Duran a la Muñoz, and a lineup with a couple stars and a lot of young players who need to stabilize to make this a lastingly competitive next wave.
AL East: Yankees and Blue Jays (7 each)
Kate: I forget who I picked for this, which is how close I see the Yankees and Blue Jays. According to the doc I picked the Blue Jays, but honestly, I might change that now that the Yankees have announced they’re promoting top prospect Anthony Volpe, finally. I still think the AL West is the tightest division in the AL and hogs all the Wild Card spots, though, which makes me a different kind of pessimist from Lou, but not by much.
John: The Yankees are often not overrated. In this case, however, they are on pace to start 2023 much like they concluded 2022: incomplete and over-reliant on Aaron Judge’s greatness to cover up an old and injury-prone roster. Toronto hasn’t quite put it all together yet, but their young core takes a stride this year and the pitching finally stabilizes enough for them to separate from the rest of the division, more threatened by a deep Tampa team than anyone else.
Wild Cards: Mariners (10), Yankees (8), Rays (8)
Blue Jays (7), Astros (5), Angels (3), Orioles (3), Guardians (2), Twins (2)
Over in the Senior Circuit, the LL staff sees the Padres finally besting the Dodgers. But like most of the baseball world, we see the NL as largely a race between seven teams for six spots, with Jacob P. and Evan the only ones making avant garde picks of Chicago and San Francisco.
NL West: Padres (10)
Kate: Maybe it’s just recency bias because we’ve seen them so much this spring but, uh, the Padres are scary. Also when I was down in Arizona the amount of Dodgers fans who felt it necessary to tell me how much they hated the Padres felt excessive, like how much at-Astros wants you to know they don’t think about the Mariners and Julio Rodríguez at all, like ever. They’re skeeered, and with good reason.
Nick V: ...y'all. It's the Dodgers. I'm as #truetothebrown as anyone on staff besides Gotty, but...did we forget that Freddie Freeman is there now? They're just gonna shit out some random prospects from the 10th-20th spot in their pipeline who'll put up a 125 wRC+ or throw 99 mph and a slider that could break around a dinner table anyways.
John: The Dodgers are doing their equivalent of a step-back to reset their luxury tax penalties for a run at Shohei Ohtani, and after all, why shouldn’t they? Let the baseball gods reward San Diego for deciding to actually try to take on Goliath and ride the thrill of bouncing L.A. from the playoffs last year into snagging the division title.
NL Central: Cardinals (11)
Zach M: The Brewers have the pitching, but the Cardinals have the hitting. Given injury risk, betting on the hitting team is the safer bet. Plus, you know, Devil Magic and all that.
Kate: I love Jordan Walker and he’s my pick to win the NL ROY. Also, Taylor Motter being a Cardinal is just the most Cardinals thing. Devil magic lives, Cardinals to win the WS in five.
John: Gang, it’s infuriating how good St. Louis is going to be this year. I simply must prepare you for another decade of Redbirds shenanigans.
NL East: Mets (10)
Atlanta (5), Phillies (1)
Kate: I might reverse my choices, post-Edwin-Díaz injury, and pick the Phillies over the Mets, but honestly, I should have picked Atlanta in the first place. Why didn’t I pick Atlanta? They have Literally Spencer Strider and some of the most exciting position players in baseball. Is it too late for me to pick Atlanta?
Jacob P: My brother in law is from Atlanta. In order to maintain the proper balance of trash talking, I must chose the Mets to win the East. Also, the Mets just seem really fun. That’s the key to winning in baseball, I think. That’s what my Little League coach said, at least.
Wild Cards: Atlanta (11), Dodgers (11), Phillies (10)
Mets (5), Padres (5), Cardinals (3), Brewers (2), Giants (1)
AL: Angels (5)
Orioles (4), Rangers (4), Guardians (1), Mariners (1), Tigers (1)
Kate: I don’t know if the Orioles count as a sleeper team, or if there are sleeper teams in an era when it’s so laid bare where teams are on the contention cycle. But I think the Orioles will be better than their projections, and that feels like a hotter take than any of these other choices, except for the Tigers, which, I’m sorry Ders, is an insane choice. And I must again remind people the Angels employ two generational talents, they are not eligible to be a sleeper team, they are the opposite of whatever a sleeper team is. [Update: now that the Orioles have essentially negged their best pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez I am down on Baltimore again.]
Jacob P: Much like my freshman roommate before every party, Anaheim threatens a good time every year before eventually passing out about a third of the way through. Maybe this time, with Trout and Ohtani coming off the Good Vibes of the WBC, they’ll be able to muster enough stamina for 86 games of fun.
NL: Marlins (6)
Diamondbacks (3), Giants (3), Brewers (1), Cubs (1), Pirates (1), Reds (1)
Ezra: As opposed to the last three years or so, the Cubs actually look like they have an idea of what they want to do. Marcus Stroman looks good, Bellinger is a big bounce back candidate, and Seiya Suzuki will have a full year of MLB under his belt. This team could make a little noise in the uncompetitive NL Central.
Kate: I would like credit for starting the Marlins wave, as I was the first one to pick them on our staff spreadsheet and I think everyone else copied me. But now I sort of wish I picked the Diamondbacks, because I love their farm system; count me a Tim Tawa believer.
For the first time ever, the plurality of the Lookout Landing staff thinks the Mariners will represent the American League in the October Classic. On the NL side, there’s a clear consensus for the Padres. And for the Commissioner’s Trophy, only Zach Mason has his head screwed on the right way, the sole staff member calling an Astros repeat.
AL Champs: Mariners (5)
Blue Jays (4), Yankees (3), Astros (2), Rangers (1), Rays (1)
Nick : Fine, I'll say it...the Stros are probably gonna do it again. Boo me. Throw tomatoes at me. Tell Kate to fire me. It's probably happening.
Grant: I picked the Yankees, but honestly, I think my take is “whoever wins the AL East.” That division is such a bear and the advantage of winning the division — and getting to avoid a three-game crapshoot — is notable.
NL Champs: Padres (9)
Mets (3), Atlanta (1), Brewers (1), Cardinals (1), Dodgers (1)
Kate: The echo of “too big to fail” is a little chilling after Soto and Team Dominican Republic exited the WBC early, but a 162-game season is a different animal from tournament play, and the Rad Dads will have enough time to set themselves up nicely for postseason action. The Padres were the most electric team to watch in the postseason last year, in my opinion, and I’m excited to see what Soto does in his second year.
Jacob P: As we all know, the Brewers used to be the Seattle Pilots, before absconding after their first year in town. I chose them to make it to the World Series, not because I have some abstract belief that a team headlined by Brandon Woodruff, Christian Yelich, and Abraham Toro, my beloved, is the best team in the NL, but because I think that the universe has a fun time when determining the fate of the Mariners, and if the M’s are going to make it to the height of heights, it only makes sense that they should find there no one except themselves.
World Champions: Padres (6)
Mariners (5), Mets (3), Astros (1), Blue Jays (1)
Zach M: Seriously? Just me? I feel like a guy on a street corner yelling about the End Times, but you guys, come on. The Astros are inevitable.
Grant: I simply choose to ignore the Astros’ existence. Much better this way.
Kate: I’ve learned this over my years on this planet: there is no joy that is not shot through with a thread of sorrow, and vice-versa. The Mariners beating the Astros in the playoffs is a beautiful dream, the impossibly happy ending that would take this season out of Oscar contention; I will grudgingly accept the Rangers knocking them out instead en route to a Padres World Series, with Austin Nola knocking in the game-winner in Game 7 against Jacob DeGrom.
Nick T: I have no issue whatsoever with how Steve Cohen has chosen to ignore the existence of the payroll tax specifically created to stop him from dropping half a billion on a single season payroll, but what I am terrified of is what happens if it doesn’t work. The league should just collectively come together and let him win one so he doesn’t feel compelled to do something really drastic.
If we’re to be believed, last year’s rookie phenoms will win this years Cy Young Awards. Grant has Ohtani winning both Cy Young and MVP, which, if the former is right, seems like the latter will certainly be right too. And the staff believes in Lakeside’s own Corbin Carroll to win the NL Rookie of the Year award.
AL MVP: Ohtani (9)
Julio (4), Franco (1), Guerrero (1), Rutschman (1)
Jacob P: While Adley winning would certainly be great for my fantasy team, I’m all on board the Julio train. Plus, I think voters are just tired of Ohtani, anyway. You do not have my permission to screenshot that and tweet it at me in October when Shohei wins anyway.
Nick V: This has been sooooo screenshotted, Jakey Boo. This is absurd. Did you watch the WBC? I cried for the first time watching baseball since Ichiro's retirement. Does this have to do with anything in particular with regards to voting? No. Then fine - he's one of the best hitters and one of the best pitchers in the game, at once. It's his award forever, and especially when he signs an 11-year, $521mm contract with Seattle this winter.
NL MVP: Soto (7)
Acuña (2), Betts (2), Lindor (2), Machado (1), Harper (1)
Ezra: Bryce Harper played most of last year, all of the playoffs and the World Series with one arm and still dominated at the plate. Two arms is gonna make him the best player in the NL.
Jacob P: Soto is the Julio of the NL.
AL Cy Young: Kirby (5)
Castillo (2), McClanahan (2), Cortes (1), deGrom (1), Manoah (1), McKenzie (1), Ohtani (1), Ray (1), Valdez (1)
Kate: I may not believe the Astros are inevitable, but I do believe some aspects of the Astros are inevitable, and if not Framber Valdéz, I guess like Luis García or screw it, I don’t know, Hunter Brown.
Anders: Robbie Ray comeback, anyone? Maybe if he keeps throwing his fastball in the high-90s. He’s already done it once, after all!
Jacob P: Jacobs gotta stick together, and I believe in deGrom’s ability to strike out roughly 732 batters this year.
Nick V: Kirby will be a top-10 pitcher by 2024. But this season, he will be the best pitcher in the American League.
NL Cy Young: Strider (3)
Alcantara (2), Burnes (2), Nola (2), Urías (2), Gallen (1), Musgrove (1), Verlander (1), Webb (1)
Zach M: I wrote an article about how George Kirby’s rookie year put him in elite company. The gist is that his FIP- of 77 over 130 innings as a rookie is something only 30ish guys have done in the past half century, and roughly a third of those guys went on to win a Cy Young Award. Spencer Strider’s FIP- was 47.
AL Rookie of the Year: Gunnar Henderson (8)
Grayson Rodriguez (2), Masataka Yoshida (2), Hunter Brown (1), Oscar Colas (1), Curtis Mead (1), Bryce Miller (1)
Kate: I am changing my vote to Anthony Volpe. Stupid, non-deadline-respecting, Yankees. Prepare to see that picture of Anthony Volpe as a kid with Derek Jeter literally every day.
Connor: Okay, this is almost certainly Gunnar’s award to lose, but I’ve long loved Curtis Mead since I saw him hold his own in the Australian Baseball League as a 16-year-old back in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A a couple weeks ago, but I bet he forces his way onto the Rays’ roster by Memorial Day and doesn’t look back.
NL Rookie of the Year: Corbin Carroll (9)
Kodai Senga (4), Francisco Álvarez (1), Christian Encarnacion-Strand (1), Jordan Walker (1)
Kate: I’ve been obsessed with Jordan Walker’s game since he was a prep and he’s done nothing in the minors to suggest he’s not the next face of baseball. Happy days.
Anders: From The Guy Who Brought You Jeremy Peña As AL ROY When Everyone Else Said Julio: Keep an eye on Christian Encarnacion-Strand, the first in a long line of top prospects we will see bubbling up to the majors in Cincy. The Reds are, well, terrible, and there’s been a ton of positive buzz around Encarnacion-Strand’s bat. The ROY is frequently not a top 10 prospect, but just someone who is getting a crap ton of playing time on a mediocre squad (Jonathan India, Kyle Lewis, etc.)
Around the Mariners
Mariner wins: mean, median, and mode of 90
High: 95 (Ezra), Low: 85 (Lou & Zach G)
Julio fWAR: mean 6.5, median 6.4, mode 6.9
High: 8.2 (Anders), Low: 5.0 (Lou)
Jarred fWAR: mean 3.1, median 2.9, mode 2.8
High: 4.5 (Nick T), Low: 2.0 (Jake M)
Nick T: Call it homerism, call it recency bias, I don’t care. I expect Jarred to have a big year because Jarred expects Jarred to have a big year. There’s plenty of precedent set that if it doesn’t work out for him in his third season, it will probably never work out, and I refuse to believe that will be the case for him. He has to breakout eventually and there’s no time like the present.
Zach M: Jarred Kelenic is going to be great. Please believe. If you believe, wherever you are, clap your hands, and he will hear you. Clap. Clap!
Pitching fWAR leader: Kirby (8)
Castillo (5), Gilbert (1), Ray (1)
Jacob P: People sleep on LoGi and it makes me unhappy. If that splitter turns out, I could even see him picking up Cy Young votes.
Ty France HBP: mean and median 17, mode 18
High: 22 (Eric & Jake M), Low: 12 (Jacob P)
Beef Boy Bombs: mean and median 28, mode 30
High: 35 (Ezra), Low: 23 (Evan)
Times Mike Ford put on waivers: mean and median 2, mode 1
High: 3 (Ezra, John, Kate, & Zach M), Low: 0 (Jacob P & Matthew)
All-Star Game ceremonial first pitch thrower: Edgar (4), Griffey (4), Ichiro (4)
Griffey & Ichiro (1), Griffey & Félix (1), Griffey & all 2001 All-Stars (1), Macklemore (1 (Grant))
Kate: Grant is fired.
Grant: I didn’t say I want this to happen! I’m just saying, it would be phenomenally on brand.
All-Star Game ceremonial first pitch catcher: Julio (5)
Griffey (4), Ichiro (3), Wilson (2), Cameron & Edgar (1), Boone (simultaneously catching and being one of the 2001 All-Stars to throw) (1 (John))
More fWAR, Marlowe or Trammell: Trammell (11), Marlowe (5)
Kate: The timing of Marlowe’s oblique injury made what was a close call less close, but I think both will contribute this season.
More stolen bases per game played Haggerty or Moore: Swaggerty (12), DMo (4)
Zach M: The case for Haggerty is that with DMo actually in the lineup regularly, the situations that call for a pinch-runner to steal a base are more likely to go to Swags. The case for DMo is that since his debut, he’s 13th in MLB in stolen bases, a fact that I think would surprise a lot of people outside the Northwest. Ultimately, DMo led Haggerty by this metric last year, so I’m betting on him again.
Muñoz four-seamer average velocity: mean 100.2, median and mode 100
High: 101.0 (Ezra & Jacob P), Low: 99.4 (Anders)
Jacob P: What I’m really predicting is that he relies on his slider way more, meaning that his FB sample size is smaller, causing it to average as faster.
Most pitch-clock violations: Diego Castillo (6)
Muñoz (4), Sewald (3), Pollock (1), Ray (1)
Kate: This is just factually incorrect. Sewald was the slowest one on the team to the plate. To be clear I think this won’t be a big deal at all but I do think Sewald gets charged the most.
Anders: Everyone wants to pick a pitcher, but maybe it’s a hitter! I went with the veteran AJ Pollock, because I think those with the most experience in the bigs will have the most trouble adjusting.
MLB innings for Bryce Miller: mean 45.1, median 40, mode 32
High: 90 (Connor), Low: 5 (Zach G)
Biggest prospect success: Home Run Hero Harry Ford (5)
Bryce Miller (3), Prelander Berroa (2), Walter Ford (1), Emerson Hancock (1), Cade Marlowe (1), Bryan Woo (1), Cole Young (1)
Biggest prospect disappointment: Emerson Hancock (6)
Taylor Dollard (2), Walter Ford (2), Cade Marlowe (2), Zach DeLoach (1), Kaden Polcovich (1), Cole Young (1)
Anders: I take issue with my co-workers here: the vast majority of these votes were spent on players who are already disappointments or for whom a step back would not be a major blow to the organization. I love Cole Young and think he will be great, but he’s very young and we ought to expect, or at least be open to accepting him experiencing growing pains.
Jacob P: I spent very little effort thinking of my answer here because (1) I don’t like to think about prospects being bad, and (2) I feel like Walter Ford’s insane delivery isn’t going to play at the professional level, and twitter will be very disappointment.
Some of our bold Mariners predictions:
- Four SP >3.4 fWAR (Nick V), Three 15-game winners (Eric), LoGi 2nd in CY voting (Jacob P), Marco 5 holds (Zach G)
Nick V: Kirby, Robbie, Gilbert, Luis have all looked so freaking good this spring. I'm standing by this.
- Julio 50/50 (Zach M), Julio 40/40 (Jake M), Julio 35 SB (Grant)
- Jarred starting All-Star (Kate), Robbie Ray All-Star (Matthew)
Some of our bold MLB predictions:
- Shohei traded at deadline (Jake M), Dodgers sell at deadline (Anders), Padres find someone new to spend $200m+ on (Grant)
- Angels collapse (Evan), Mets hold it together (Ezra), Mets pitching staff bottom 10 (Kate)
- Nats set all-time loss record (Zach M), A’s set all-time loss record (Matthew), A’s announce relocation (Connor)
Most/Least popular promotional item
Jacob P: Toss up for least popular between the camo waterbottle and the electric factory sunglasses, but I think the bottle will be too big to carry subconsciously, so a few more sunglasses will leave the park than bottles.
Kate: I want one of the Geno Grigio tumblers so bad and I don’t care how basic it makes me. The only thing that could improve a glass of white wine on a warm summer day is getting to drink it alongside Eugenio.
Random in-season trade acquisition
Jacob P: I chose Isiah Kiner-Falefa because I think he’s Jerry’s ideal bench guy. He doesn’t do much of anything very well, but he doesn’t strikeout, he’s got a decent xBA, and he runs pretty fast. Come to think of it, his Baseball Savant page looks a lot like Toro’s.
Nick V: Same, bestie.
Connor: Terrin Vavra, as a 25-year-old lefty swinger who put up solid K/BB marks in his first 103 big league plate appearances with the Orioles last year, is a good guy to have on the bench or as Triple-A depth. Plus, he has a very fun name to say. What’s not to love?
Kate: The Diamondbacks have two Triple-A outfielders with the first name Dominic and I feel like it’s inevitable one of them becomes our Dominic before the end of the season.
Does Cal do a Beacon Plumbing commercial featuring a Big Dumper joke?
Nick T: Possibly, but in the alternate reality that exists in my brain, Vern Fonk comes out of advertising retirement to swoop in and make Cal their new spokesman, introducing him as Vern Honk, and they unleash unto the earth a series of “insurance” commercials featuring very tasteless fart jokes and closeups of the Dumper. They exist positively in the collective Seattle area conscience until the heat death of the universe.