Three Contenders That Will Look Very Different in 2024

Spring Training begins in only a few short weeks, signaling the beginning of every MLB team’s attempt at a World Series run. Several teams have made significant offseason additions or will see increased playing time from young prospects expected to become part of their next winning roster. Here are three contenders that will field a very different team than they had even halfway through last season. Will it be enough to take home the title?

Three Contenders That Will Look Very Different in 2024

Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s strange to see a team that finished with 100 wins alter their roster so much from one season to the next, yet that’s what happened with the Dodgers. After an incredibly expensive and exciting offseason, the Dodgers will enter the new season with revamped hopes of a title run. From big bats to a rotation overhaul, the team could be markedly improved from 2023.

The headliner, of course, is Shohei Ohtani. Even without having him available as a pitcher, slotting him into a lineup with Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman forms a nasty lineup. Any lineup with three MVP candidates is bound to be a terror, though. But what about when you add in Teoscar Hernández, another player projected to hit 30 home runs?

Another player to focus on is Gavin Lux, who returns after missing the entirety of 2023 due to injury. The last time Lux was on the field, he had a 114 wRC+ across 129 games in 2022. Will he finally establish as a core part of this roster himself with a full season?

The rotation is arguably the most drastically changed unit for the Dodgers. Here’s a comparison between the 2022 Opening Day starters and the projected group, courtesy of RosterResource, for 2023.

2022: Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, Andrew Heaney, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías

2023: Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, Walker Buehler, Bobby Miller, James Paxton

Paxton is the only starter projected to have an ERA over 4.00. There might be some bumps in Yamamoto’s debut season, but he will certainly be one of the most gripping players to watch this year. Miller was excellent in his rookie season, pitching to a 3.76 ERA and showcasing why he might be the Dodgers’ next star pitcher.

Arizona Diamondbacks

After their World Series appearance, the Diamondbacks showed they weren’t content with second place. Revolving around a foundation of young players, the Diamondbacks made multiple additions at key positions to ensure they weren’t a one-hit wonder. With several stars already in place, Arizona brought in veterans to reinforce their weaknesses.

This starts with the rotation and the addition of Eduardo Rodriguez. His presence fortifies a group of starters that only had two above-average starters pitch at least 100 innings in Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. Over the past three seasons, Rodriguez has pitched over 400 innings with a 4.04 ERA, with his most recent season being his most successful. He has been a consistent and valuable pitcher, a needed piece of the puzzle for the Diamondbacks to compete again this season. Elsewhere in the rotation, playoff standout Brandon Pfaadt will have a full season to show his adjustments will carry over into long-term success.

The lineup figures to be reshaped in crucial ways, as well. A trade for Eugenio Suárez reshapes a position that was an active problem for the Diamondbacks last season. The team finished with a 75 wRC+ from third basemen last season, according to FanGraphs. Any improvement here would be an instant upgrade, but Suárez could be a well-above average bat with the chance at 20 or more home runs.

Joc Pederson will come in as an impact bat, primarily as designated hitter, who could see a big uptick in production from last season. He hit .235 with 15 home runs last year after hitting .274 with 23 home runs back in 2023. He still hits the ball incredibly hard and underperformed his expected batting average of .264. The Diamondbacks were 15th in runs scored last season and, more applicably here, 22nd in home runs. Pederson and Suárez will shore up the middle of the order with some serious thump.

New York Yankees

It’s never easy to build a perpetual contender, yet that’s the reputation the Yankees have established for themselves. After missing the playoffs, New York made meaningful alterations in hopes of proving themselves as World Series-caliber once more.

The Yankees offense was a decisive weakness for a roster that shouldn’t be struggling to get runs over the plate. There was a myriad of reasons for this, from injuries to underperformance, but it was doubtless an area that needed an influx of talent. In a trade with the San Diego Padres, they brought in Juan Soto to form one of the scariest duos in the league with Aaron Judge. Despite a relatively slow start, Soto still finished with a 155 wRC+ last season, good for eighth-best in baseball. Any lineup would improve with a bat like that, but it should be a particular difference maker for New York.

The rest of the lineup will see some less star-studded, but still important changes. Other veterans added throughout this offseason include Trent Grisham and Alex Verdugo. Verdugo has been a league-average bat the past three seasons with a 102 wRC+, but has a low strikeout profile with a career batting average of .281. Grisham has been less productive at the plate, but he provides defensive certainty that fills a void in the Yankees’ outfield. With Soto, Grisham and Verdugo all joining Judge out there, it will no longer be a mix-and-match of former infielders and replacement-level players. The Yankees received a 96 wRC+ from their outfielders last season. It’s hard to imagine another poor showing now with a group like this in place.

The young players coming up from the minors in recent seasons will also play pivotal roles. Oswald Peraza only played in 52 games in 2023, but he was disappointing at the plate. Although he is regarded as a good defender, he will likely need to improve at the plate to become a consistent regular. He will still be an important option of the bench. Their catching prospect Austin Wells will have a chance to earn the starting job, yet another player who could blossom into an important figure if he proves he is ready to hit major league pitching.

Finally, it’s important to mention the pitching. Marcus Stroman was the signature starter added this winter, providing yet another player who should offer the consistency the Yankees sorely lacked last season. Since 2021, Stroman has a 3.45 ERA in over 450 innings. Even the bullpen will be reworked some as the front office looks to fill the void left by players such as Wandy Peralta and Lou Trivino.

Even though Stroman was the only flashy signing, the Yankees will need to see a lot more of Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodón if they want to compete again. They were both on the squad last season, but it never felt like they were truly entrenched in the team’s rhythm. Combined, they pitched for only 127 2/3 innings. The only returning starters who pitched more than 70 innings are Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole and Clarke Schmidt. As Rodon and Cortes enter camp fully healthy, it will showcase just how different this team looks compared to when they were futilely hunting a Wild Card spot last year.

Main Image: © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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