From breakout stars looking to prove their play during the 2022 MLB season was the real deal to players nearing the end of their careers and everything in between, we've identified the one player on each MLB team with the most potential to be a bust in 2023.
When we nominate a player as a possible "bust," we're not necessarily saying we think that player will have a bad season. In most cases, we anticipate some regression from where they finished 2022 because of age, injury history or because the predictive metrics suggest last season was fluky.
But some players on this list were major offseason acquisitions and might be considered busts if they fall short of the hype in their new threads and miss the postseason.
Teams have been split up by division and listed alphabetically within each division, beginning with the AL East and ending in the NL West.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: LHP Cionel Pérez
After posting a 6.04 ERA from 2018 to 2021, Pérez had an incredible 2022 campaign out of nowhere. He made 66 appearances with a 1.40 ERA and led the O's with 25 holds. As closer Félix Bautista works his way back from both a left knee injury and a right shoulder issue, Pérez might be the de facto closer to start the season. But given he had both an xERA (3.62) and xFIP (3.56) more than two runs higher than his ERA and struggled in prior seasons, that might end poorly for the O's.
Boston Red Sox: 3B/DH Justin Turner
In a trade that wasn't actually a trade, the Red Sox allowed J.D. Martinez to leave for the Dodgers on a one-year, $10 million deal, replacing him at DH with former Dodger Justin Turner on a two-year, $21.7 million deal*. Turner has had a solid career, but if Boston was worried about Martinez being past his prime after turning 35 in August, signing up for two seasons of 38-year-old Turner was certainly a decision. His OPS has been steadily decreasing, from .945 in 2017 to .788 last year.
New York Yankees: OF Aaron Judge
Don't misinterpret this as some sort of bold prediction that Judge will have a disastrous 2023 campaign, but after posting one of the best hitting seasons of all time and then signing a $360 million contract, the potential for a bust year is off the charts. Judge could have a well-above-average season on par with what he accomplished in 2021 (.287/.373/.544 with 39 home runs), and it would still feel like a letdown after he mashed 62 home runs in six months.
Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Zach Eflin
The Rays historically don't make big splashes in free agency. Giving Eflin a three-year, $40 million deal this offseason was the second-biggest signing (in terms of average annual value) in franchise history, behind only the two-year, $30 million contract they gave Charlie Morton after 2018. Morton delivered with a third-place finish for the 2019 AL Cy Young. Can Eflin do the same? And could the Rays still contend in the AL East if they don't get an All-Star-worthy season from the pitcher who makes up more than one-sixth of their 2023 payroll?
Toronto Blue Jays: OF Daulton Varsho
The Blue Jays traded from their depth at catcher when they sent catcher Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Varsho. Still, trading two starter-caliber players to get one back puts a lot of pressure on that one starter to succeed. While Varsho had a solid 2022 campaign with 27 home runs and 16 stolen bases, his career .306 on-base percentage isn't promising. Hopefully he at least fortifies Toronto's poor outfield defense from last season.
*Turner's contract with Boston is technically a one-year, $8.3 million contract with a player option for $13.4 million in 2024. If he opts not to return to Boston next season, the Red Sox would still owe him a $6.7 million buyout. So, it's either a one-year, $15 million deal or a two-year, $21.7 million deal.