FOX Sports MLB Analyst
While the Texas Rangers continue to relish in their World Series title and MLB free agency kicks into gear, it’s natural to look ahead and wonder who will hold up the Commissioner’s Trophy next fall.
I’m actually prepared to offer my way-too-early World Series prediction for 2024: I believe the Philadelphia Phillies will square off against the Baltimore Orioles, with the Phillies winning the crown.
I see a lot of similarities in these two playoff teams, starting with powerful lineups littered with current and former All-Stars. The Phillies trot out the likes of Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos and J.T. Realmuto, while the Orioles feature Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Anthony Santander, Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle. Both offenses finished in the top 10 in runs scored this past season.
Moreover, as I noted in the latest episode of “Flippin’ Bats,” I believe both teams will target starting pitching this offseason and bolster their shaky rotations. There are an abundance of options in free agency, including key starters from Philly and Baltimore.
Beyond Shohei Ohtani, who will not pitch next year anyway as he rehabs a second UCL tear, the likes of Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery headline a loaded 2024 class. Nola, of course, has been the longest-tenured member of the Phillies and one of the most durable pitchers in the sport. The 31-year-old right-hander is expected to cash in with a nine-figure deal this offseason despite coming off a shaky 2023 campaign (4.46 ERA) for Philly, which recently bowed out to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Championship Series and is one year removed from winning the NL pennant.
Zach Wheeler led the Phillies’ inconsistent staff with a 3.61 ERA that belied his 3.15 FIP. Taijuan Walker went unused in the postseason after posting a 4.38 ERA in the regular season. Ranger Suárez was decent in the regular season and a playoff star until getting knocked around in an NLCS Game 7 loss. Cristopher Sánchez was a late-season emergence for the Phillies, posting a 3.44 ERA across 19 appearances, 18 of which were starts. Philadelphia’s starting rotation as a whole finished with a 4.30 ERA (15th), 1.24 HR/9 (three-way tie for 12th) and 8.65 K/9 (14th).
The Orioles are coming off a 101-win season and their first postseason appearance since 2016. Despite claiming the No. 1 seed in the American League, they were swept by the Texas Rangers in the ALDS. Baltimore’s season was a huge success, nonetheless, and even more impressive when considering its inexperienced starting staff.
Right-hander Kyle Bradish emerged as the ace, finishing with a 2.83 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 168 strikeouts across 30 starts. Rookie Grayson Rodríguez overcame a rough start to post a 4.35 ERA. Tyler Wells posted a 3.64 ERA and 0.99 WHIP across 25 appearances, while Dean Kremer went 13-5 with a 4.12 ERA. All of them were appearing in their age-28 season or younger. The club will be looking to replace veteran Kyle Gibson, who just turned 36.
Baltimore’s starting rotation finished with a 4.14 ERA (11th in MLB), but the trio of Bradish, Rodríguez and Kremer combined for just 7.2 innings over three postseason losses to the Rangers. Still, that experience should be invaluable for this emerging franchise, which I have previously predicted will eventually win the World Series. Just not in 2024.
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Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.
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