3 MLB teams that will be better than you think in 2024 after spring training

These three teams have shown significant promise through late February and March and will surprise baseball fans in 2024.

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins
Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Heading into the 2024 Major League Baseball season, as the excitement looms large, everyone is finalizing their usual predictions and forecasts, picking their player awards and World Series winners. What the general public is not focusing on, however, is the middle-tier teams that are going to improve ever so slightly this season. 

As expected, the juggernaut teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros and Braves control the majority of the talk around baseball. So much thought and attention is put into just how well those teams will perform. With that being said, these superstar-filled teams have less to prove in spring training, and therefore March baseball has less of an impact on how their success will be measured come October. Luckily for the rest of us baseball fans though, that is not the case with the other major league teams.

This year's spring training was a fun one, filled with several superstars debuting on new teams, many young prospects taking strides forward in their improvement, and the usual drama associated with the playing of baseball at the highest level. After a close observation of teams’s spring training performances, I have found three teams that are primed to exceed their expected win totals for the 2024 season.

All ‘win total’ projections in this article were taken from baseballprospectus.com. All other statistics used in this article were taken from FanGraphs.com

Detriot Tigers 

The Detroit Tigers finished the 2023 season with a 78-84 record and, according to Baseball Prospectus are projected to finish with 75 wins in 2024. This total seems awfully low, as I believe the Tigers are set to improve this year and compete with the Twins for the AL Central title. 

During the offseason, the Tigers added several seasoned major league players to accompany their youthful squad. They secured veteran outfielder Mark Canha through a trade with the New York Mets and bolstered their pitching staff by signing Kenta Maeda and Jack Flaherty to significant contracts. Despite recent injury challenges, the Tigers anticipate that these players will strengthen the rotation, especially in support of Tarik Skubal. Additionally, Detroit added veteran reliever Andrew Chafin on a two-year contract and rounded out their roster enhancements by acquiring versatile infielder Gio Urshela on a one-year agreement.

Both Urshela and Flaherty performed exceptionally well this spring and are showing promise to become key contributors to this team. On top of that, this spring saw the advancement of former top major league prospects Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Riley Greene (all of which also put up good numbers). Former Miluakee Brewer second basement Keston Hiura was also invited to try out for the team this spring, and made a solid case for himself to join the team as a regular contributor.

Due to all of their moves this offseason as well as them showing promise on the field, the Tigers will win more than 75 games in 2024.

Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners finished 2023 with an 88-74 record, and are, similarly to the Tigers, projected to finish with fewer wins in 2024 (84). This projection makes a little bit more sense than that of the Tigers, as the Mariners lost one of their key outfielders TeOscar Hernandez to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Still, after spring training, I can’t help but think that the Mariners will be a better team in 2024, and that improvement will come from within.

The Mariners have emphasized a more strategic approach to in-game adjustments, credited to new offensive coordinator Brant Brown, aiming for a more efficient offensive process.

At the start of Spring Training, manager Scott Servais highlighted the importance of team cohesion and health, with an emphasis on integrating new faces following offseason trades. This approach underlines the Mariners' strategy to foster a team environment conducive to success, emphasizing the importance of players getting comfortable with one another. Early activities, such as photo day and preparatory sessions for the Cactus League games, were geared towards building a solid team spirit and readiness for the competitive season ahead​. 

On top of that, the Mariners concluded their 2024 Spring Training with promising developments, particularly in their batting lineup, which showcased significant improvements and performed impressively across major offensive categories. Their .280 batting average ranked second, with a .358 on-base percentage (tied for fourth), a .467 slugging percentage (second), and an .825 OPS (third). They also hit 34 home runs (sixth) and scored 160 runs (third), indicating a robust offensive showing that could carry into the regular season.

The team’s focus on reducing strikeouts and hitting for power was led by key players like designated hitter Mitch Garver, right fielder Mitch Haniger, and second baseman Jorge Polanco. 

Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals went 71-91 in 2023 and are unanimously figured to be much worse this year as they try to rebuild around their (immensely talented) young core. They are projected to finish with 58 wins, which is much too low. 

The Nationals, led by players who are likely too young and inexperienced to make the Opening Day roster, finished spring training with a 15-12 record. They do however have a list of players who they are hopeful will join the team at some point in 2024, including two of the clubs top prospects James Wood and Mitchell Parker (both of which had excellent springs).

Wood slashed .364/.509/.705 in 22 games, and Parker pitched six scoreless innings, striking out three. Assuming both of these players will be added to the major league roster by the summer, this team could surprise people during the second half of the season. 

The Nationals also have a core of players already on their major league roster that will continue to improve and carry this team well over the 58-win mark. This group includes hitters Lane Thomas, CJ Abrams, and Victor Robles, all of whom showcased their abilities throughout this year's spring training. Patrick Corbin also showed flashes of his old self, pitching to a 3.25 FIP and a 9.92 K/9 through 16.1 spring innings. The team also saw promise from newly acquired reliever Dylan Floro and third basemen Nick Senzel, who will receive regular playing time this upcoming season. 

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