10 Overreactions From Early in the 2024 MLB Season

These 10 preseason predictions have gained plenty of traction over the first handful of games in 2024.

Mookie Betts #50, Shohei Ohtani #17 and Freddie Freeman #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers look on during the national anthem prior to the 2024 Seoul Series game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres at Gocheok Sky Dome.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 20: Mookie Betts #50, Shohei Ohtani #17 and Freddie Freeman #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers look on during the national anthem prior to the 2024 Seoul Series game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres at Gocheok Sky Dome on Wednesday, March 20, 2024 in Seoul, California. (Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Every year, baseball writers tell themselves they aren’t going to draw any sweeping conclusions based on less than a week of action. But let’s be real, people want instant analysis, and there’s a way to do it without being silly.

None of the overreactions in this article are based solely on the first handful of games each team has played in 2024. Instead, here are 10 preseason predictions that have gained a bit of extra juice based on the start of this season.

1. The Dodgers Could Win 110 Games

There’s a slightly larger sample size to work with here than for most other teams because the Dodgers opened the 2024 season in Seoul, South Korea, splitting a two-game series with the Padres. Then, they returned home to host the Cardinals on opening weekend and took three out of four games from St. Louis.

Mookie Betts is off to a torrid start, which we’ll get into more extensively in a minute. And you don’t need a reminder of the greatness of Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman.

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But here are a few other Dodgers who have had standout performances early on:

  • Bobby Miller: In his first start of the season, Miller struck out 11 batters over six shutout innings, allowing just two hits to the Cardinals. The Dodgers have an entire starting rotation’s worth of pitchers on the injured list right now, including Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. Not only will Miller be at the forefront of tiding the pitching over until reinforcements come, but he could end up being someone that gets the ball early in a postseason series.
  • Teoscar Hernández: Someone smart predicted that Hernández would lead baseball in RBIs in his first season with the Dodgers, given that he’s an excellent run producer and will be hitting behind three future Hall of Famers. On the same night that Miller struck out 11, Hernández clubbed two home runs. Yeah, it looks like taking a one-year, $23.5 million deal to join the Dodgers and compete for a World Series title before returning to free agency next winter will prove to be a wise decision for the two-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
  • Max Muncy: Though he wasn’t in the starting lineup for the series finale against the Cardinals, Muncy ended up stealing the show on Sunday Night Baseball. He entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and immediately cut into a 4-0 St. Louis lead with an RBI single. The cherry on top was his go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, which gave the Dodgers a 5-4 lead they would not relinquish.

There are legitimate questions about whether the Dodgers have enough pitching, particularly in the bullpen, to make a deep playoff run. Still, this lineup is so good that it could allow them to challenge the 110 games they won in 2022.

2. Juan Soto Might Have an All-Time Great Contract Year

Two seasons ago, Aaron Judge had perhaps the greatest contract year in the history of professional sports, setting an American League single-season record with 62 home runs. It will be hard for anyone to top that, but Juan Soto is going to try.

All Soto did during his first weekend as a New York Yankee was record nine hits and a game-saving outfield assist, helping the team to a four-game sweep of their rival Houston Astros.

The Yankees are without reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole indefinitely as he tries the rest-and-rehab approach to treat nerve inflammation and edema in his right elbow. On top of that, there are legitimate questions about how much the Yankees can expect from veterans Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu.

So, it’s anyone’s guess if the first five games are a good indication of what’s to come in terms of team success. But man, watching Soto and Judge in the same lineup is going to be fun.

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3. There’s Still a Big Gap Between the Braves and Phillies

After upsetting the Braves in the NLDS in consecutive years, there was a lot of talk in Phillies camp this spring about trying to compete with Atlanta for the NL East title. Yet, the opening weekend series between the two teams seemed to suggest that little has changed since the Braves took the division by 14 games in 2023.

The Phillies salvaged Sunday’s series finale, but only after being outscored 21-7 over the first two games of the series. Granted, the Phillies bullpen melted down on Opening Day and Aaron Nola had a clunker in the second game, but Atlanta’s lineup is just so deep.

Ronald Acuña Jr. is the best player in baseball not named Ohtani. Matt Olson hit 54 home runs and finished fourth in NL MVP voting last year. And the quartet of Michael Harris II, Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies and Sean Murphy are all top-five players at their respective positions.

The Dodgers adding Ohtani and Hernández to an already-stacked lineup made some people forget that the Braves had a historically productive lineup a year ago. And what’s scary for the rest of the league is that it’s still a young group, with Olson, who turned 30 in March, the elder statesman of the six key pieces mentioned.

After what’s happened the last two years in the postseason, the Braves would probably be a little wary of meeting the Phillies in the playoffs for a third year in a row. But, if the first series of the season was any indication, the Phillies will likely have to get past another Wild Card Series to reach their next October battle with the Braves.

4. Tarik Skubal Is a Legitimate Threat To Win the AL Cy Young Award

The hype train for Tarik Skubal felt like it got out of control at times this spring, but the 27-year-old lefty looked the part of one of the top aces in the sport during his season debut.

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In an Opening Day matchup between the Tigers and White Sox, Skubal struck out six batters and allowed just three hits over six shutout innings. His average fastball velocity during his season debut was 96.2 mph, a tick up from his 95.8 mph average velocity a year ago.

For Skubal, the biggest issue has been staying healthy. Once he returned from flexor tendon surgery last July, though, he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Across 15 starts in 2023, Skubal went 7-3 with a 2.80 ERA, 2.00 FIP and 3.3 fWAR.

The AL Cy Young Award race was already less competitive than the NL race. With Cole injured and Dylan Cease traded to the Padres, who are we to believe that a healthy Skubal couldn’t make a serious run at the honor?

5. The 2024 Diamondbacks Are Better Than the Pennant-Winning 2023 Team

The Snakes are very much alive. Perhaps even more so than when they won the NL pennant a year ago.

Last year’s postseason trio of Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt all looked excellent in their first starts of 2024, and offseason additions Jordan Montgomery and Eduardo Rodriguez will be joining the rotation in relatively short order. While the Mariners are certainly in this discussion, the Diamondbacks might end up with the best rotation in baseball once they have all five of their starters together.

Offensively, the D-Backs have scored 34 runs in five games, with veterans Eugenio Suárez and Joc Pederson immediately paying dividends after being acquired in the offseason. Christian Walker, Ketel Marte and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are all off to hot starts as well. The best player on the team, Corbin Carroll, hasn’t even gotten going yet, which is scary considering how well the Diamondbacks have hit so far.

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Perhaps Arizona’s run to the World Series last year was a bit fluky, but they appear to be significantly better in 2024. They may have a hard time edging out the Dodgers to win the NL West, but Torey Lovullo’s squad is going to be playing in October, and they are set up even better for a deep postseason run this time around.

6. This Might Be the Year Mike Trout’s Patience Finally Runs Out

Was there any more appropriate start to the season than Mike Trout hitting a first-inning home run off former NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes, only for the Angels to lose the game 11-3?

To their credit, the Angels have won two consecutive games since starting 0-2 — one against the Orioles and the second against the Marlins. Still, it’s hard to feel too excited about Ron Washington’s squad. Anthony Rendon has zero hits in his first 15 at-bats. Reid Detmers is an intriguing arm, but overall, this is one of the most poorly-assembled starting pitching staffs in baseball. Why are we to believe, post-Shohei Ohtani, they will even be a .500 team in 2024?

Even more noteworthy is that Trout is off to a scalding-hot start. He has three home runs already, including a pair of bombs in Monday evening’s win in Miami.

Trout seemed earnest this spring in talking about loyalty and wanting to win with the Angels. But if he’s able to stay healthy for the first time in close to five years and the Angels aren’t contending, his willingness to stay on a team with no path to winning in the short or long term will be tested.

7. Mookie Betts Is Going To Make History in 2024

You could probably put Mookie Betts on the mound, and he’d find a way to be an elite pitcher.

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Granted, defensive metrics this early in the season should be taken with the largest grain of salt possible. But we would be remiss not to point out that Betts is currently tied with Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals for the league lead in defensive runs saved at shortstop with three. Mind you, this is someone who had played all of 98 MLB innings total at the position prior to the 2024 season.

Oh, he’s also hitting .520 with four home runs and a 1.2 fWAR through just a week’s worth of games. It’s just staggering production from one of the greatest players the modern game has to offer.

Frank Robinson is the only player in MLB history to win an MVP in both leagues. Betts won the AL MVP as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 2018. He’s twice finished runner-up in the NL MVP voting (2020 and 2023) since joining the Dodgers. You get the feeling this might be the year he joins Robinson in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

8. Christopher Morel Is Going To Explode in 2024

If you were on the Christopher Morel hype train going into the season, nothing that’s happened so far should dissuade you.

Across the first four Cubs games this season, Morel has seven hits. He has already hit one home run, and he narrowly missed hitting a grand slam off of former teammate David Robertson on Opening Day.

Exactly where Morel fits defensively long-term is unclear. Judging by the fact that he already has -2 defensive runs saved this year, it probably won’t be at third base. But if he continues to hit how he has since the start of the 2022 season, the Cubs will make it work, even if it means that Mr. Morel has to be primarily a DH.

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9. Raise the Jolly Roger

Who is having more fun right now than the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Oneil Cruz’s red-hot spring has carried over into the early days of the regular season, as he’s hitting .316 for a Pirates team that’s off to their first 5-0 start since 1983. Offseason additions Michael A. Taylor, Martín Pérez, Aroldis Chapman and Rowdy Tellez are also off to strong starts.

However, the best production for the Buccos has probably come from Ke’Bryan Hayes and Connor Joe, who have combined for 17 hits in just five games.

Former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen is off to his typical slow start. Still, he is sitting on 299 career home runs, so another incredible moment is looming for the Pirates, particularly if the five-time All-Star is able to reach the milestone at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh jumped out to a hot start a year ago, only to fizzle out and finish 76-86. We’ll see whether this year’s early success proves to be sustainable. So far, at least it’s been fun to watch.

10. Frankie Montas Might Be a Steal for the Reds

Just two seasons ago, Frankie Montas got the ball on Opening Day for the Oakland Athletics and looked like one of the most coveted trade candidates in the sport. However, the Yankees dealt for Montas in the summer of 2022 and got disastrous results, as shoulder surgery limited him to just one start the following season.

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The Reds took a flier on Montas this offseason, hoping he would join the Sonny Gray/A.J. Burnett/Carl Pavano group of pitchers who just seem to perform better in small markets than they did with the Yankees. Montas signed for one year and $14 million, with a $20 million mutual option (that includes a $2 million buyout if not exercised) for 2025.

So far, so good.

Montas allowed just four hits over six shutout innings at Great American Ball Park on Opening Day, as the Reds defeated the Washington Nationals 8-2.

Cincinnati’s starting rotation includes quite a few boom-or-bust guys, like Montas, Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo. If Montas ends up becoming the anchor for a strong rotation in 2024, the Reds have a very good chance to win the wide-open NL Central.