In just a few days, Major League Baseball's exhibition season will officially get underway. That means we're nearing the point of the spring when prognosticators attempt to fill the void inside by making predictions about any and everything the sport has to offer. This week, we're attempting to figure out which teams will experience change-of-fortunes with respect to the playoffs.
While the new playoff format is too nascent to draw conclusions about the average year-to-year turnover rate, we know from the past that it was common to see at least three and on average five teams fall from the bracket. There's no guarantee that will remain the case heading forward, but until we have more evidence we're going to continue to use that as our guideline.
So, with that in mind, below you'll find our ranking of the five non-playoff teams from last season who we believe have the best chance at cracking the field this October. These teams are ranked in order of perceived likelihood, and we've included a brief summary of what happened last year; why this year could be different; and what top projection systems (Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA, FanGraphs' ZiPS and SportsLine) say of their chances.
1. Minnesota Twins
What happened in 2022: The Twins owned a share of first place in the AL Central for more than 100 days, including a night in September. They finished 2-8 in their last 10 series en route to 78 wins and a third-place finish.
Reason for optimism in 2023: Carlos Correa is unexpectedly back after an outstanding initial year in Minnesota that saw him lead the Twins in OPS+. A rotation that ranked 19th in ERA last season should benefit from adding Pablo López, as well as getting full years from Tyler Mahle (trade deadline acquisition) and Kenta Maeda (Tommy John surgery). Speaking of injuries, it's generally safe to assume teams who were extremely lucky (or unlucky) in the health department will regress toward the mean in that respect. You can argue the Twins will prove to be an exception — they employ Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis, both prone to missing time; plus, after this winter, it's hard to ignore the possibility of Correa's ankle giving him trouble — but there's plenty of fairway between a pristine injury log and what they did last season, when they lost the second most days to the IL of any club.
What projection systems say: The AL Central has crowned a different champion in each of the past three years. PECOTA (88 wins, first place) and ZiPS (83, tied for first) give the Twins a good chance of extending that streak. SportsLine gives Minnesota a 20.7% chance of making the postseason.
2. Milwaukee Brewers
What happened in 2022: The Brewers won the most games (86) of any NL team who failed to make the postseason. That inconvenient truth snapped their streak of consecutive playoff berths at four, the longest in franchise history. Top executive David Stearns stepped down from his position after the season, though his decision to do so was supposedly unrelated.