Spring training is nearly here — workouts at Camelback Ranch start in ten days! — and the time for outrageous levels of optimism is now. Health concerns are for the most part just that, and a wide range of outcomes still has best-case scenario as a possibility.
In this particular article, we’ll switch things up a bit, and look at one player in each of the Dodgers’ National League West rivals, who maybe didn’t have the best 2022 campaign, and is either poised or at the very least has a likely path to a bounce-back season in 2023.
Ketel Marte, second base
Between 2019 and 2021, Marte was one of the better second basemen in all of baseball, hitting .318/.374/.543 with a 139 OPS+, and even saw time in center field and the occasional shortstop.
The former Mariner took his hitting ability to another level after joining the D-Backs, and became a staple of this roster, even signing a five-year, $76-million extension ahead of the 2022 season.
However, after a decent first half last season, Marte’s numbers plummeted with a .602 OPS after the All-Star break. Removing the shortened 2020 season from the equation, he ended with his worst year since 2018.
While it is doubtful that Marte gets back to his 2019 fourth-place-MVP-finish levels, he is expected to put up a significantly better year than he did in 2022, and be an anchor for Arizona.
Kris Bryant, outfielder
This one is strictly about health. Bryant dealt with recurring back issues that limited him to just 181 plate appearances in his first year with the Rockies.
The former NL MVP had a 125 wRC+ in the little time he was out there, and although his power numbers were a little down, his 14.9-percent strikeout rate was also well below his career norm of 23.3 percent.
Overall, we shouldn’t read too much into Bryant’s hitting line in his first season at Coors Field, as the sample size of a 42-game season is small. As long as those back problems don’t creep their ugly head, 2023 should be the true debut season of Bryant as Colorado’s newest left-fielder.
San Francisco Giants
Alex Cobb, starting pitcher
Cobb has a 2.85 FIP in 243 innings over the past two seasons. The right-hander enjoyed some tough luck last season and deserved a better outcome than his 3.73 ERA.
In his first year with the Giants, Cobb was throwing 95 consistently, but a .338 BABIP was a career-high mark for him outside of a five-start 2016 season with Tampa Bay. If he can get that down, Cobb should find more success.
San Diego Padres
Josh Hader, closer
Here is a take — Josh Hader is fine. The former Brewer ended his second-half tenure with the Padres with a 7.31 ERA in 16 innings, but as Dodgers fans witnessed in the NLDS as he shut the door in Game 4 against the heart of the order, that certainly isn’t a pitcher you want to mess with.
During the middle of the season, and through the bulk of his struggles, Hader dealt with major personal problems, as his wife had complications in her pregnancy. He also struggled with his release point, and overall it was just a very difficult stretch for the left-hander.
The long track record of success, and the improvement late in the year entering the playoffs, indicate that we should expect peak Hader form in 2023, as one of the premier closers in the sport, and the projections — 2.76 ERA, 2.67 FIP, 40-percent strikeout rate per ZiPS; 2.90 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 36-percent Ks per Steamer — reflect that.