Opening day is just a few weeks away, so it’s time to make some predictions. These are my picks — as well as some dark horse candidates — for the 2023 MVP and Cy Young awards in each league.
National League MVP
My pick: Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
Arenado has finished in the top ten in voting for this award six times, including last year. It’s his time in 2023. Defense is a given — he’s won an absurd six consecutive Platinum Gloves as the best fielder in the National League. As for offense, he took a big step forward in his second year in St. Louis, hitting to an .891 OPS. If he can replicate or improve on that number, he has a great shot at MVP.
Dark horse: Michael Harris II, Atlanta Braves
The reigning NL Rookie of the Year generated 5.3 wins above replacement, also known as WAR, in just 441 plate appearances last season. He hit .297 and slugged over .500, and his sprint speed, arm strength and outs above average (a measure of defensive value) were all in the 92nd percentile or higher. Harris does everything well, and he’s just 22 years old, so the sky’s the limit.
American League MVP
My pick: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
I know it’s the easy choice, but Ohtani is far and away the best player in baseball in my eyes. Yes, Judge was better last year, but the two-way superstar still improved on his MVP-winning 2021 campaign, pitching to a 2.33 ERA and hitting to an .875 OPS, fourth and sixth best in the American League, respectively. He’s also the only player to appear in the league-wide top ten for WAR in both 2021 and 2022.
Dark horse: Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays
This is admittedly a big reach, since we haven’t actually seen Franco play a full season. But his potential is off the charts — he was MLB’s top ranked prospect in 2020 and 2021. In 652 career plate appearances, about the equivalent of a full season, he’s racked up a 6.1 WAR and a 122 adjusted OPS (OPS+), where 100 is average. Those aren’t quite MVP-caliber, but they’re still strong, and his best years are ahead of him.
National League Cy Young
My pick: Max Scherzer, New York Mets
Excluding the COVID-19 year, the last time Scherzer had an ERA over 3.00 was 2014. He did miss some time last year, but he still posted a 2.29 ERA and .908 WHIP in the 145.1 innings he pitched. Perhaps most importantly, Scherzer is a fierce competitor, and I’m willing to bet he has a fourth Cy Young in him.
Dark horse: Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies
His odds for this award are currently somewhere between +1200 and +1400, but MLB Network ranking him as only the 79th best player for 2023 qualifies him as a dark horse. Nola had a quietly outstanding season in 2022, posting a 3.25 ERA and 0.961 WHIP, as well as an MLB-best 8.10 strikeout to walk ratio. Bottom line: He has both great stuff and great command, an elusive and lethal combination.
American League Cy Young
My pick: Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox
Jacob deGrom is the clear favorite — if he’s healthy. Since that’s a big if, I’ll take a safer bet and go with Cease. He finished second in AL Cy Young voting last year after posting a 2.20 ERA and 227 strikeouts. He did walk a lot of guys, but his command should improve with experience.
Dark horse: Cristian Javier, Houston Astros
In his age 25 season, Javier was fantastic, pitching to a 2.54 ERA and 0.948 WHIP in just under 150 innings. Walks were a bit of an issue, but he was a strikeout machine, punching out 194 of the 585 batters he faced. The most encouraging signs for Javier are the peripherals. He was in the 95th percentile or above in expected ERA, expected batting average and expected slugging percentage.