Getty Images

The 2023 MLB All-Star Game is in the books and the second half of the regular season has arrived. The trade deadline is 20 days away and over the next 12 weeks pennants races and awards races will be decided. Some teams will make a surprise run to the postseason. Others will collapse and have to watch October baseball from home.

A wise man once said you can't predict baseball, but I'm going to try anyway. Here are five bold predictions for the second half of the 2023 regular season.

1. Ohtani will hit 60 home runs

Shohei Ohtani
LAD • DH • #17
View Profile

I came into this exercise planning to predict the Angels will trade Shohei Ohtani at the deadline, but reader, I do not believe it, and I don't want to write up something I don't believe. Even with their recent slide (4-13 in their last 17 games) dropping them to 45-46 and five games out of a wild-card spot, the Angels are close enough to make a run at a postseason berth, and we all know how badly they want to get to the playoffs and convince Ohtani they're a contender and he should stay long-term.

Will the Angels actually make the postseason? Will they actually re-sign Ohtani after the season? Beats me. I'm not here to discuss that. Rather, my first bold prediction calls for Ohtani to reach 60 home runs and challenge Aaron Judge's American League single-season record of 62 dingers. I think Ohtani will fall short because he plays in a home ballpark that isn't quite as friendly as Judge's, and in a division with road ballparks that aren't as friendly to hitters in the AL East. Still, 60 homers is nothing to scoff at.

Ohtani has hit 32 home runs in 91 team games this year. Here's where the last few 60-homer hitters sat after 91 team games:

HR thru 91 G Final HR total

Aaron Judge, 2023 Yankees



Barry Bonds, 2001 Giants



Sammy Sosa, 2001 Cubs



Mark McGwire, 1999 Cardinals



Sammy Sosa, 1999 Cubs



Giancarlo Stanton came close to hitting 60 home runs in 2017. He hit 59 en route to being named NL MVP, and had 29 home runs through 91 team games. Just about all these guys went on a monster home run tear early in the second half as they chased 60 homers. Judge, for example, socked 10 homers in his first 11 games after the All-Star break last season.

To reach 60 homers, Ohtani has to hit 28 home runs in the Angels' final 71 games, or one every 2.53 team games. That's quite a pace to keep up over two months. As good as he's been this year, Ohtani is only -- "only" -- averaging one homer every 2.84 team games. He has to improve on his already excellent pace to reach 60 homers, which is why this prediction qualifies as bold. Sixty homers is a big, big number. There's a reason it's only happened nine times in history.

The Angels are certainly capable of nosediving out of the postseason race these next three weeks, at which point trading Ohtani would have to be on the table, but I don't think it'll happen. I think they'll hang around the race long enough to keep Ohtani. And if they do, that 60-homer chase will be a goldmine for the franchise. He'll put a lot of butts in the seats and provide big value to franchise even if the Angels fall out of the postseason race. Ohtani hits 60. You heard it here first.

2. Stroman will be the biggest name traded

Marcus Stroman
View Profile

All-Star and Cubs ace Marcus Stroman did not rank among our top 20 trade candidates earlier this month. I suppose that's what makes this prediction bold. Chicago is 42-47 and 6.5 games out of a postseason spot, and The Athletic recently reported the Cubs are not inclined to sign Stroman to an extension before the deadline. He can opt out of the final year of his contract this winter ($21 million in 2024) and, given the year he's having, Stroman is expected to do exactly that. A trade makes sense.

For what it's worth, Stroman says he loves Chicago and wants to remain with the Cubs, but the team wasn't interested in an extension when he and his representatives approached them:

There isn't a team in baseball that couldn't use Stroman. Every single contender -- every single one -- needs more pitching. Usually there's one or two contenders each deadline that are set in the rotation and truly don't need another starter, but not this year. There isn't enough pitching to go around right now and the Cubs are poised to get a massive haul for Stroman.

Our second bold prediction calls for Stroman to be traded ... to the Rays. The Cubs will probably have to eat a little money to make it work, but they have shown a willingness to do that to maximize the return (they did it with the Anthony Rizzo trade, most notably), and the Rays certainly need another starter. Their rotation currently looks like this:

  1. LHP Shane McClanahan (on the injured list with back tightness)
  2. RHP Tyler Glasnow (exited last Friday's start with cramping in his left hand)
  3. RHP Zach Eflin
  4. RHP Drew Rasmussen (out for the season with elbow surgery)
  5. LHP Jeffrey Springs (out for the season with Tommy John surgery)
  6. RHP Shane Baz (likely out for the season with Tommy John surgery)
  7. LHP Josh Fleming (on the injured list with elbow inflammation)
  8. RHP Taj Bradley
  9. RHP Yonny Chirinos

McClanahan is expected to return after the All-Star break, but even then the Rays will still be down a lot of arms, and they'll have to watch Bradley's workload down the stretch too. Recent seven-game losing streak aside, Tampa is having a special season and the Rays shouldn't hesitate to get the help they need at the deadline. At some point the Smartest Team in Baseball™ has to validate the moniker with a championship, you know? This year is as good as any to do it.

In recent years, the Cubs have shown they prefer quality over quantity. They'd rather receive one great prospect (like Pete Crow-Armstrong in the Javier Báez trade) than three or four good prospects. The Rays have a highly regarded farm system and could tempt the Cubs with, say, infielder Curtis Mead or first baseman Kyle Manzardo, both of whom are near MLB-ready in Triple-A and considered top-100 prospects. I seriously doubt Tampa would trade both for a rental. But one? They'd have to consider it.

The big picture bold prediction is Stroman will be traded, and he'll be the biggest name traded at the Aug. 1 deadline. The sub-bold prediction is he'll wind up with the AL East-leading Rays. Stroman figures to be one of the very few difference-makers available at the trade deadline this season. He is the kind of player who could swing a postseason race or a playoff series. If they're not going to extend him, the Cubs have little choice but to trade Stroman, and they'll get a big return when they do.

3. The Marlins will have the best record in franchise history

At 53-39 (.576), the Marlins have the second-best first-half winning percentage in franchise history, just behind the 1997 team's 50-36 (.581) record. The Marlins have been around for three decades and they have never once won their division. On only two occasions did they win 90 games. Here are the winningest seasons in Marlins history:

  1. 1997: 92-70 (.568) (won World Series)
  2. 2003: 91-71 (.562) (won World Series)
  3. 2009: 87-75 (.537)
  4. 2008: 84-77 (.522)
  5. 2004 and 2005: 83-79 (.512)

Prior to the 2020 pandemic season, the Marlins had never lost a postseason series. They qualified for the postseason as the wild-card team in 1997 and 2003, and they turned both wild-card berths into a World Series championship. The Marlins didn't go to the postseason often, but when they did, they brought home the trophy.

The Marlins need to go 37-33 in their final 70 games to win 90 games, and they'd have to go 40-30 to win a franchise record 93 games. That's doable. That's a .571 second half winning percentage, or just a touch worse than what they've done so far this season. It'll be difficult with Eury Pérez being quasi-shut down, no doubt, but I believe in the Fish.

(It won't happen for a million reasons, but gosh, wouldn't an Ohtani to the Marlins trade be fun? He fits their needs very well. I mean, he fits every team's needs well, but especially Miami's. They could use a starter with Pérez having already set a new career high in innings, and they could use another middle-of-the-order bat. Maybe Ohtani to the Marlins should've been my bold prediction.) 

4. The AL Central winner will have a losing record

Never before in baseball history has a team won its division with a sub-.500 record. The 1981 Royals kinda sorta came close. The 1981 season was split into two halves -- before the players went on strike for two months and after -- and the teams with the best record in each division in the first and second halves went to the postseason. Here are the 1981 AL West standings:

First halfSecond half

1. Athletics: 37-23

1. Royals: 30-23

2. Rangers: 33-22 (1.5 GB)

2. Athletics: 27-22 (1 GB)

3. White Sox: 31-22 (2.5 GB)

3. Rangers: 24-26 (4.5 GB)

4. Angels: 31-29 (6 GB)

4. Twins: 24-29 (6 GB)

5. Royals: 20-30 (12 GB)

5. Mariners: 23-29 (6.5 GB)

6. Mariners: 21-36 (14.5 GB)

6. White Sox: 23-30 (7 GB)

7. Twins: 17-39 (18 GB)

7. Angels: 20-30 (8.5 GB)

The Royals won the second half division title and qualified for the postseason, but their full season record was 50-55, so they technically finished under .500 while winning the division. That's the closest we can say a team came to winning its division with a losing record, and even then we have to fudge a bit.

Point is, the AL Central is incredibly weak. It's the weakest division we've seen in years, and maybe ever. The five AL Central teams have a combined minus-288 run differential this season and they are 110-191 when not playing each other. That's horrid. Here are the AL Central standings at the break. There is not one winning team:

  1. Guardians: 45-45
  2. Twins: 45-46 (0.5 GB)
  3. Tigers: 39-50 (5.5 GB)
  4. White Sox: 38-54 (8.0 GB)
  5. Royals: 26-65 (19.5 GB)

Congrats to the Guards and Twins for separating themselves from the pack a bit, but the Tigers and even the White Sox are one good week away from being right back in the race. The AL Central is wide open and not in an "every team in the AL East might have a winning record" way. Quite the opposite, in fact.

For this bold prediction, I'm going to say the AL Central winner will have a losing record. Nothing crazy like 75 wins. I'm thinking 80-82 will be good enough to clinch the division. Remember, the new more balanced schedule means AL Central teams won't get to beat up on each other down the stretch. They have a lot more games against the rest of the league remaining.

And, because baseball can be weird like that, I'll throw in a sub-bold prediction: the AL Central winner will win the Wild Card Series and advance to the ALDS. Imagine, say, the 80-82 Twins knocking out the 91-71 Yankees? That would be something.

5. Acuña will go 40/70

Ronald Acuña
ATL • RF • #13
View Profile

NL MVP frontrunner Ronald Acuña Jr. entered the All-Star break with 21 home runs and 41 stolen bases. He's the first player in history with 20 homers and 35 steals in the first half, and it sure feels like there is a lot more to come. Acuña is currently on pace to hit 36 home runs and steal 75 bases. For my final bold prediction, I'll say he goes 40/70 this season.

That, obviously, would be historic. It would be the greatest power/speed season ever. Here are baseball's four 40/40 seasons:


Jose Canseco, 1988 Athletics



Barry Bonds, 1996 Giants



Alex Rodriguez, 1998 Mariners



Alfonso Soriano, 2006 Nationals



Acuña going 40/40 would be an incredible accomplishment. Going 40/70 would be otherworldly, and I am boldly predicting it will happen. If -- when! -- it does, we'll have to start discussing where Acuña's 2023 ranks among the best seasons in baseball history. 

As noted, Acuña is on pace for 36 home runs, so I see him picking up the pace in the second half (home run rates typically peak in July and August, the hot summer months). He's also on pace for 75 steals. I see that slowing ever so slightly for two reasons. One: fatigue. It's a long and difficult grind of season, and the legs get heavy in August and September, even at Acuña's age. Reining things in on the bases is one way to combat fatigue.

And two: self-preservation. The Braves are the best team in baseball and Acuña is their best player. They don't need him breaking a finger sliding into a base (like Ozzie Albies last year) or pulling a hamstring ahead of the postseason. The Braves have designs on winning the World Series and keeping Acuña healthy and fresh down the stretch will be a priority, so he'll get the red light more often in the second half, cutting into his stolen base total.

That said, Acuña has such a huge head start that I expect him to get to 70 steals anyway, a total no player has reached since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2009. Heck, no player has stolen even 50 bases since Billy Hamilton (59) and Dee Strange-Gordon (60) in 2017. Acuña will get there and then some. The first 40/70 season in baseball history is coming up.