Every team in Major League Baseball will open the 2023 season with hopes that everything will go just right. Fat chance, right?
Right, but that doesn't mean we can't ponder the best-case scenarios for all 30 teams in the meantime.
We've spotlighted both a player-specific and a team-oriented scenario for each team. The former concerns potential breakouts, rebounds and trades. The latter concerns optimistic, yet generally realistic outcomes. Not everyone can win the World Series, after all.
We'll go one team at a time, proceeding in alphabetical order by city.
2022 Record: 74-88
2023 Over/Under: 74.5 Wins
Player-Specific: They trade Madison Bumgarner
With an extension for speedy rookie Corbin Carroll done, the next bit of business the Diamondbacks would ideally accomplish is a trade of Bumgarner. This will probably only happen if the veteran lefty dramatically improves on the 84 ERA+ he posted in the first three seasons of his five-year, $85 million deal, but, hey, stranger things have happened, right?
Team-Oriented: They achieve a winning record
Perhaps there's an angle from which the Snakes look like a wild-card contender, but it's a long shot. For a team that lost 110 games as recently as 2021, simply achieving a winning record would do for a step forward. And if Carroll lives up to his status as the favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year, the odds of it happening will be that much better.
2022 Record: 101-61
2023 Over/Under: 94.5 Wins
Player-Specific: Ronald Acuña Jr. turns the clock back to 2019
Atlanta was able to win the World Series in 2021 even without Acuña, and then 101 games last season sans a fully functional version of him. But with Dansby Swanson having followed Freddie Freeman out the door, Acuña turning the clock back to 2019—wherein he came three stolen bases short of a 40/40 season—is more necessity than luxury.
Team-Oriented: They win the NL East and the World Series
Even if Acuña isn't the Acuña of four years ago in 2023, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which either of these goals is out of reach for Atlanta. There are surely other projections out there, but the ones at FanGraphs notably tab Atlanta not just as the favorites in the NL East, but the top contender to win it all with a 15.5 percent chance to claim the World Series title.
2022 Record: 83-79
2023 Over/Under: 76.5 Wins
Player-Specific: Adley Rutschman wins the AL MVP
Is this too much pressure to heap on a guy who's played all of 113 games in the majors? Nah. Rutschman was an elite player for most of his rookie year in 2022 and he generally trafficks in Realmuto-ian levels of doing everything well as a catcher. He seems destined to win an MVP sooner or later. Why not sooner?
Team-Oriented: They claim a wild-card berth
No thanks to continued penny pinching on ownership's part, this isn't as likely as it should be following the Orioles' 83-win breakout last season. Another step up is nonetheless possible, particularly if Rutschman does his thing and top prospects Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez do theirs as American League Rookie of the Year contenders.