With the new MLB season underway, Sports Illustrated is asking its baseball experts to weigh in on a set of questions that have been on our minds, as well as readers’.
First up …
Which drought is most likely to end in 2023?
⚾️ The Padres winning their first World Series?
⚾️ The Mariners reaching their first World Series?
⚾️ The Guardians winning it all for the first time since 1948?
⚾️ The Yankees ending their 13-year World Series drought?
Juan Soto is part of the Padres’ deep rotation of talent looking to make a long playoff run.
Orlando Ramirez/USA Today Sports
Stephanie Apstein: I will take the Padres, perhaps a bit aspirationally, because I think it’s fun when teams go all in. But I can also see a pathway: This is the worst Dodgers team in a decade, the Giants’ lineup does not inspire much fear, the Diamondbacks are a year away and the Rockies will have to fight to finish .500. So it’s not much of a stretch to get San Diego into the playoffs.
Once there, the Padres are equipped to terrorize even elite arms and do a fair amount of run prevention on their own, especially if Josh Hader can be the pitcher he was in 2021 (1.23 ERA) rather than in ’22 (5.22). And honestly, with Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts and Fernando Tatis Jr. making up the middle of the order, the pitching might not matter much.
Emma Baccellieri: I’m tempted to give this to the Padres, but for the sake of variety, I’ll go with the Mariners. They’re coming off back-to-back 90-win seasons. There is clearly talent here: Reigning Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez is the most notable piece, and he’s joined by well-rounded catcher Cal Raleigh and solid first baseman Ty France, among others. (And, yes, spring training is just spring training … but I’ve been impressed by the improved approach from outfielder Jarred Kelenic.) The rotation also has a high ceiling, led by 2021 Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, steady contributor Luis Castillo and erstwhile first-round draft pick Logan Gilbert. Do I think Seattle can top Houston to win the AL West? Not particularly. (The Astros are simply too deep.) But do I still think this is a very good team that can potentially make a deep run through the randomness of October? Yes.
Tom Verducci: I’m all in on the Padres. This is a team that came within two wins of the World Series last season and is adding one of the five best players in the game, Tatis. Find me another team with four players capable of winning the MVP this season. I look for teams loaded with a preponderance of players in the sweet spot of their career: ages 24 to 31. They tend to be healthier and more reliable. And in the postseason, I look for starting pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff. The Padres have that in Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove.