5 Surprising MLB Teams: Predictions, Best Bets

Every year there are shockers when it comes to team results early in the season. In 2023, we have had several surprises so far and the season isn’t even half over yet.

These five squads lead the league in surprises, but the fact is many MLB teams are challenging pre-season expectations, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, and more.

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Arizona Diamondbacks Leading NL West

It may not last long but Los Serpentes, otherwise known as the Arizona Diamondbacks, have turned the powerful National League West upside down. They finished in fourth place with only 74 wins last year, but at the pace their going this season, they could win 74 games by mid-August. In mid-June they were up by two games in the division.

Now some of that may be the lackluster play of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have been seriously bit by the injury bug. After a hot start that seemed to indicate they would threaten the team record 111 wins of a year ago, the bug landed particularly hard on their starting pitchers, along with a bullpen that seems to throw gasoline on the fire.

But you have to give the DBacks credit. Outfielder Corbin Carroll signed a huge contract in spring training, and is hitting over .300 with 14 home runs, leading the team offensively, along with Ketel Marte. But it’s the pitching that has been so impressive. Even after releasing Madison Baumgartner, the staff has been impressive, especially Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.

But can they keep it up? It seems that Tory Lovullo is doing it with smoke and mirrors, and maybe he is. With the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres starting to heat up, and the Dodgers are still the Dodgers, Arizona will have a tough road to the playoffs. Let’s be realistic and bet against them as we move forward.

New York Mets Living Up to Lower Expectations

This isn’t really a surprise. It seems to happen every year. The New York Mets sign a few good players who flop early and the pre-season expectations sink along with them.

But this year it was different. New owner, billionaire Steve Cohen, promised it would be different because he would open his deep pockets. And he certainly did that. Mets fans were as excited as they’ve ever been.

But the one-two punch of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander has been disappointing. Both have been hit with injuries and Scherzer has had a difficult time adjusting to the new pitch count rule and the substance check at the end of each inning.

And in June, their most prolific player, Pete Alonzo went on the injured list. Highly paid shortstop Francisco Lindor has not lived up to expectations.

So will the Mets rally in the second half of the season and contend in the NL East? Don’t count on it. Why? Because the Atlanta Braves continue to be the powerhouse in the division and both teams have shown their true colors. Continue to bet against the Mets to make money.

Baltimore Orioles Doing More with Less

The Baltimore Orioles are one of those small market teams that must keep their payroll low in order to be profitable. But of course this means that the O’s are perennial losers. But look again. Last year, Baltimore finished with a winning record for the first time since 2016, 83-79. In the powerful American League East, that only earned them a fourth place finish, beating out the cellar-dwelling Boston Red Sox.

Normally, a small market team will revert to form and the losses will pile up, but not for the Orioles this year. The team has become a contender and by late June have a strong grasp on second place, just six games behind the juggernaut that is the Tampa Bay Rays.

We could list who was leading the success this year but you probably wouldn’t recognize the names, as the O’s haven’t strayed from their low payroll formula and most of the players are relatively unknown.

So how should you handle betting on Baltimore the rest of the year? Let’s jump on the bandwagon. Two consecutive productive seasons with a team that is comfortably ahead of AL East rivals, the supposedly powerful Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. They’ve proven it. Now we need to put our money where their mouth is.

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High Draft Picks Paying Off for Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates are another small market team that follows a similar pattern as Baltimore—low payroll, low rewards. But one of the things we failed to mention in this formula is the high draft picks that these small market teams get, therefore giving them a strong minor league system. The Orioles and the Pirates are now capitalizing on these draft picks.

Jack Suwinski and Connor Joe have led the offense, but the presence of veteran Andrew McCutcheon, who is back where he started 15 years ago, seems to have ignited the club.

In Pittsburgh, the Pirates got off to a quick start and in the weak National League Central quickly became the story. Since then the Bucs have faded and in June had only a .500 record. But the Pirates are still only one-half game out of first place.

So how do we evaluate the 2023 season for Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, unlike the Orioles who have proven that they can be a winner, the Bucs seem to be reverting to form, so it’s time to bet the “don’t” in 2023.

Fans Staying Loyal to Last-Place Cardinals

St. Louis is one of the best baseball towns in America. With an average attendance of more than 40,000, you’d think fans would turn on the St. Louis Cardinals, but that’s not the case.

St. Louis is buried in last place in the NL Central, 5.5 games behind their hated rival Chicago Cubs. But with the leaders in the Central playing only .500 ball, can the Cards make up the difference in the second half of the season?

After all, the Cardinals still have some brand name players in Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Wilson Contreras. While these players can all get hot at the same time, St. Louis is in a place they haven’t been in many years.

So now, let’s go with the flow. The Cardinals are playing some of the worst ball in the majors. Let them be and bet against them.

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On This Day In Sports History

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