A lot will be different about Major League Baseball in 2023, but not the divisions. There's still six of them, and the championship for each can still only go to one of five teams.

As for how each race will pan out, well, that depends on how various questions get answered.

We've lined up three for each division—i.e., 18 in total—that get at what could make or break the top contenders' aspirations for first place. These mostly concern the health and/or productivity of individual players. Others address what you might call more conceptual matters.

Let's start in the American League East and end in the National League West.


American League East

For the New York Yankees: Who's Going to Help Aaron Judge Carry the Lineup?

It's fair to have concerns about the Yankees' pitching depth, both in their starting rotation and their bullpen. But lest anyone forget, it wasn't the arms that let the club down amid its second-half slide and meek exit from the playoffs in 2022.

The bill that came due concerned an offense that was way, way too reliant on AL MVP and setter of prestigious records Aaron Judge. There's no better way to get a sense of how much the 6'7", 282-pounder towered over other Yankees hitters (figuratively in this case) than by looking at batting runs:

By this measure, Judge was four times as productive as Matt Carpenter, who's now gone. As the Bronx Bombers otherwise made no new additions to their offense, another 99-win season may only be in the cards if Judge has another monstrous year or if somebody does better than he did last season. Heck, probably multiple somebodies.


For the Toronto Blue Jays: Will the Bullpen Be Less Leaky?

Some numbers mostly say that the Blue Jays bullpen was effective in 2022. It put up a perfectly respectable 3.77 ERA and even landed in the top 10 for wins above replacement.

But then there are the numbers that give validation to the general feeling of unease that set in whenever Toronto went to its pen last season. Its relievers allowed a bunch of contact and blew 27 saves, so it wasn't the biggest surprise when a bullpen meltdown facilitated the end of the club's season in the American League Wild Card Series.

Despite all this, the Blue Jays didn't overhaul their pen during the winter. The hope for better things in 2023 is pretty much all on Erik Swanson, the lone newcomer, and former top prospect Nate Pearson, who's set to be a full-time reliever. No pressure, guys.