MLB The Show 23 is now out and it is time for players to begin their franchise playthroughs. However, it can sometimes be hard to decide which of the 30 MLB teams to use for that first playthrough. Today, I am going to walk you through the teams I feel are the most interesting to use to maybe give you some inspiration.
I like to classify teams into one of three categories. The first category is the rebuilding team. These are the teams that haven’t been to the playoffs in a long time. They lack star power but usually have a plethora of exciting prospects that you can develop or trade for more established players. The second category is the contenders. These are the teams who can make the playoffs but are looking for that last piece or two to get over the hump and really compete for a championship. These teams usually have a mix of established players and a handful of decent prospects. The final category are the dynasty teams. These are the teams whose championship window is right now, and your job is to make this window last as long as possible.
The Orioles are one of the most popular franchise team choices in MLB The Show 23. The team is coming off a year where they overperformed to the tune of a 83-79 season. Despite this, they remain in the rebuilding category until they can prove they can make a legitimate playoff push.
The highest rated player on the team is closer Felix Bautista at an 85 OVR. The 6’8” 27-year-old pitcher has 99 velocity to go along with 98 H/9 and 89 K/9. His Outlier I quirk will also have his 4-Seam Fastball consistently hitting triple digits. Other veteran players include 1B Ryan Mountcastle (81 OVR), CF Cedric Mullins (81 OVR) and RF Anthony Santander (79 OVR).
The reason everyone is choosing this team, however, is the trio of young players that has so many fans excited for the future. 25-year-old C Adley Rutschman is already an impressive 84 OVR going into just his second big league season. The switch-hitter has decent stats against right-handed pitching to go along with almost perfect fielding stats. His 5 years of team control will have him as a centerpiece of your rebuild.
To go along with Rutschman are two early contenders for AL Rookie of the Year. Gunnar Henderson can play all over the infield with decent fielding stats and impressive hitting stats. His A potential and 76 OVR starting point has him primed to be a superstar. In my early simulations, he often becomes a perennial MVP candidate. To go along with Henderson is 23-year-old SP Grayson Rodriguez. He also has A potential and starts out as a 77 OVR. This prospect has great velocity, stamina, and break to go along with his five-pitch repertoire. However, he does struggle with control, as well as low /9 stats. These can easily develop as Rodriguez is primed to be a consistent rotation piece. Other prospects include 19-year-old SS Jackson Holiday, as well as outfielders Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad.
When looking at the budget, only one player is on the books after the first year. This gives you plenty of freedom to completely restructure this roster however you see fit. The AL East can be a difficult division with the likes of the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays to compete with. If there is a particular weakness it would be 2B, as well as the bullpen, as Bautista is the only reliever above a 76 OVR.
Los Angeles Angels
Now the Angels’ inclusion in this category might seem strange to you. I mean, they do have the two best players in the entire league on their team in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. However, the Angels also own the longest playoff drought in the league, having not made the postseason since 2015. This shows that baseball truly is a team sport, and you will have to form a great team to get them to the playoffs.
Of course, Trout and Ohtani are the big draws for this team. Trout is coming off a year where he hit 40 HRs despite playing in fewer than 120 games. Ohtani had another great year both on the mound and at the plate as he finished second in MVP voting and top-5 in Cy Young. However, some key free agent acquisitions also bring some value to the team. Hunter Renfroe is on a one-year deal after a couple of good power hitting seasons. All-Star pitcher Tyler Anderson comes over from the other LA team to add to a rotation that was in desperate need of help. Brandon Drury offers an above average bat at multiple positions on a team friendly contract.
This team, however, does not have the best farm system in the league. MLB.com actually rated it as the worst in the league. There are really only two good prospects to get excited about. The first is 23-year-old C Logan O’Hoppe. Nothing about his ratings will jump out at you. He is however under team control for six seasons at a position where good players are hard to come by. The other good prospect is SS Zach Neto. He has great fielding and speed, and his B potential should allow his hitting stats to progress fast enough to make an impact in the first few seasons.
The budget for this team will be difficult to manage. Ohtani and Renfroe are both free agents after season 1. Anthony Rendon’s contract will also need to be addressed. The 3B is only 77 OVR to start, and will make more than $30 million a year as he regresses. The AL West is an incredibly difficult division. You already had the juggernaut that is the Houston Astros. Now the Rangers and Mariners are both making moves to get significantly better over the last few years. Just making the Wild Card in a packed division will be an impressive accomplishment early on.
To round out this category is another very popular team for franchise playthroughs. This team also hasn’t made the playoffs in several years and have a good crop of young players to get fans excited. However, the few established players that are here want out.
The best player on the team is CF Bryan Reynolds (84 OVR). Reynolds is a five-tool player coming off another impressive season. However, Reynolds recently asked for a trade out of Pittsburgh. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to trade him, as Reynolds still has three years of team control remaining. This trade situation could be a fun storyline for your playthrough as you move the All-Star player for even more young pieces to add to your core.
The young core is extremely impressive for this team. Oneil Cruz is primed to be a must-see player with his hitting power, strong arm, and incredible speed. Ke’Bryan Hayes has rounded into an everyday player at third base. Roansy Contreras and Mitch Keller offer some promise for the future of the pitching rotation. Termarr Johnson at only 18-years-old is already on the track for the big leagues to be an impressive middle infield running mate for Cruz.
The budget here is similar to the Orioles situation. Hayes is locked up through 2030, while Reynolds is the only player under contract past the first season. The NL Central is a completely winnable division, as all the other teams have at least some major weaknesses. One extra piece that could entice you to choose the Pirates is the #1 overall pick in the MLB Draft in the first season. This could allow you to take advantage of the new scouting and drafting system to add another generational talent to your team and expedite this rebuild.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have one of the best cores in all of baseball. Vlad Jr., Manoah, Kirk, Chapman, Bichette, Jansen, Romano, and Varsho are all rated above 80 OVR, all have B or better potential, and are all under the age of 30. On top of this you have veterans like George Springer and Kevin Gausman with tons postseason experience.
There are also a few prospects that offer some life to the farm system. Ricky Tiedemann and Brandon Barriera show plenty of promise for the future of a rotation that needs some help in the back half. Orelvis Martinez and Tucker Toman could develop into serviceable middle infielders.
The clear weakness of this team is its rotation. Alek Manoah is a great young pitcher who could develop into the ace of the rotation after finishing third in the AL Cy Young race last year. Manoah is also under team control for the first five years. This is important because the rest of the rotation is filled with bad contracts. Guasman, Bassitt, Berrios, Kikuchi and Ryu combine to make more than $89 million the first year. Ryu’s $20 million does come off the book as he enters free agency after the first year, but the rest of those contracts will need to be addressed as the pitchers regress. The bullpen also needs help as there are only two relievers above 75 OVR.
Like I mentioned with the Orioles, the AL East is a very tough division to play in. Arbitration will be your best friend as you try to find a way to keep players like Guerrero Jr., Chapman, Bichette, Romano, Kirk, and Varsho on the team long term. You will also need to find eventual replacements for the aging outfield of Springer and Kiermaier.
The Mariners made a surprise playoff run last season for the first time in years. This young team turned a lot of heads in 2022, and they just got better this year.
The team of course is led by 2022 AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez. Rodriguez is only 22-years-old and is already a 89 OVR. The rotation also features some good pieces as Castillo, Kirby, and Gilbert are a formidable top three to face. There’s also plenty of power hitting on the team with France, Pollock, and new addition Teoscar Hernandez.
There are a few prospects that could either be plugged in or move to fill some holes. C Harry Ford could prove a good replacement for Raleigh if he decides to move on at some point. Cole Young could also be a good SS upgrade over J.P. Crawford a few years down the line.
The biggest hole for this team is the infield. Ty France is good at 1B with plenty of power. Eugenio Suarez could be a good third basemen, but he is already 31 and his glove is not as good as I would like. The middle infield is a defensive liability. Crawford and Wong are so slow and have such weak arms. If the ball doesn’t get past them, the throw to first will be so slow that even average speed hitters will be able to beat out the throw.
The budget shouldn’t give you too many problems. There are a couple of contracts I would consider bad but nothing that can’t be taken care of. The main priority is to lock up Hernandez for the few more years he has before he starts to regress. The AL West will basically be a race for second place until the Astros come back down to earth.
St. Louis Cardinals
You can think of the Cardinals as a beefed up version of the Angels. They are headlined by a dynamic duo of MVP front runners. Reigning NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt is arguably the best first baseman in the entire league. Even at 35-years-old, he still is one of the most feared hitters in the league. At the other corner of the infield, Nolan Arenado is still in his prime. He has a monster of a bat and one of the best hot corner gloves you could hope to find.
Where the Cardinals differentiate themselves from the Angels comparison from earlier is in the rest of their lineup. Unlike the Angels, the Cardinals have legitimate pieces in all nine spots. Wilson Contreras replaces future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina behind the plate. Tommy Edman, Tyler O’Neill, and Lars Nootbaar are all above average players who can do a little bit of everything.
The Cardinals also have a couple of the most exciting prospects in the league. LF Jordan Walker (67 OVR) is a top prospect with legitimate 5-tool potential. 2B Nolan Gorman is already a 72 OVR at age 22 with A potential.
The only true weakness of the Cardinals is their pitching. When Jordan Montgomery is your ace, you know something is wrong. There are a couple of good arms in the bullpen, but for the Redbirds to make it back to the World Series, a complete overhaul of the pitching staff will be needed.
The budget for the Cardinals is in a spot that offers flexibility in the future. While there are a few contracts that have aged poorly, they aren’t for very long. These contracts will come off the books right around the time your younger players start asking for long-term extensions. The NL Central is also the Cardinals to lose for the foreseeable future.
San Diego Padres
Before moving onto the next category, I wanted to talk about this team that I’m not quite sure where to place. Now most of you, like myself, see the Padres as one of the best in the league. The collection of great young hitting and pitching has the team primed for great success both now and into the future.
The reason I put them in their own weird category is that superstar RF Fernando Tatis Jr. is not currently in MLB The Show 23. Since he is still serving his suspension for PEDs, he is completely absent from the team’s roster. Tatis is scheduled to return near the end of April, so if you are willing to wait to start your playthrough, he should be added into the game in a few weeks. However, if you are eager to get going with this team, you can download a roster from the vault with a user-created version of Tatis.
Once Tatis returns, this team will be among the absolute best to use in Franchise. Machado, Soto, Bogaerts, and Cronenworth make up just a part of one the most complete lineups we have ever seen. The pitching is also full of talent, even if some of the contracts for aging starters are a bit questionable.
Most of the farm system has been cleaned out to acquire those big names, so there isn’t much help coming from the young guys. But with the amount of talent on the team, you won’t really need it. You are in a very tough division though as the Dodgers and Giants both have teams that are just as capable of making a championship run.
In the American League, there is the Astros and then there is everybody else. The amount of talent the defending champs return this year is incredible. There is also plenty of young talent that will provide more weapons for this dynasty.
The Astros return established pieces Altuve, Bregman, Alvarez, and Tucker. 2022 World Series MVP Jeremy Pena and Yordan Alvarez are both 25-years-old and ready to pick up any bit of regression the old core might see in the coming years. Jose Abreu comes over from the White Sox to fill in at 1B. The only real hole I see is maybe at catcher. Maldonado’s bat is regressing at 36-years-old, but Korey Lee has decent potential to develop with impressive speed.
The pitching staff remains the same pretty much. This rotation is one of the most complete top to bottom. Valdez (87 OVR) may not be a true ace, but Javier at only 26 has the potential to surpass Valdez and become that for this team. The bullpen also has several quality players, even if acquiring one or two more wouldn’t hurt at all.
Just about all of these pieces are either locked up on reasonable contracts or have years of team control left. With the way these contracts are set up, this team will be able to compete for most of the decade. Your division is getting better, but nothing that should concern you in the first year or so.
If you want to win, and win for a long time, my personal suggestion is to use the Atlanta Braves. This team has only gotten better since their title in 2021. Austin Riley has come into his own as a great power hitter in this league. Ronald Acuna Jr., though having a down year in 2022, is still a 92 OVR on an extremely team-friendly deal. Michael Harris II had an out-of-nowhere rookie season and is already one of the best centerfielders in the league. Add to this d’Arnaud, Murphy, Olson, and Albies and you have the most potent lineup in all of baseball.
The pitching is also something to be feared. Strider, Fried, and Wright is possible the best three-man rotation in the game. The bullpen has veteran arms with loads of postseason experience. There are also several young prospects like Cole Phillips, Owen Murphy, and JR Ritchie that are exciting to see develop to fill out the back of the rotation.
The thing that excites me the most about this team is the budget. Basically all of the young talented players are under long term deals. These players will make less than $20 million most of those years. This leaves plenty of more money on the table to spend to make sure the team stays competitive for years to come. This will be needed, as this team is in probably the toughest division in the game. The Mets and Phillies are also legitimate contenders. The Marlins also have several young pieces that could develop into a bit of a threat.
Los Angeles Dodgers
I couldn’t talk about dynasty teams without talking about the team that has been on the verge of a dynasty for the last decade. The Dodgers have always had great talent, putting up 100 wins consistently for several years. The only problem is they only have one ring to show for it.
The team continues to have plenty of talent in the lineup. Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Will Smith make up just a few of the great bats on this team. The problem is those players are aging and will soon all be on the wrong side of 30. We also are starting to see some holes at key infield positions after the departure of guys like Manny Machado, Corey Seager, and Trea Turner.
The pitching staff is still the strength of this Dodgers team. Clayton Kershaw has not slowed down one bit at 35-years-old. Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Walker Buehler all would be aces if they were on almost any other team in the league. Add on top of those young guys like Dustin May and Bobby Miller, and you won’t need to worry about pitching for a while with this team.
The budget will be your biggest enemy for this playthrough. While you have one of the biggest budgets in the league, much of it is eaten up by guys like Betts and Freeman. On top of that, many of your best players are free agents after the first year. You will need to be smart about who you bring back and who you decide to let walk. Also, with the talented teams in the division, you can’t afford to regress too much or you risk being left in the dust.