The Yearly Reader

Leaders and Honors, 2023

Our list of baseball’s top 10 hitters and pitchers in both the American League and National League for the 2023 baseball season, as well as the awards and honors given to the game’s top achievers of the year.

The National League’s Top 10 Hitters, 2023

Bold type in brick red indicates league leader.

1. Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta

Key Numbers: .337 batting average, 643 at-bats, 149 runs, 217 hits, 35 doubles, 4 triples, 41 home runs, 106 RBIs, 73 stolen bases, 14 caught stealing, 80 walks, .416 on-base percentage, 1.012 OPS, 383 total bases.

Four previous major leaguers had gone 40-40 (40 home runs and 40 stolen bases) in a season—but none of them went 40-50, 40-60, or 40-70, as Acuna did while reaping the NL MVP, unanimously, at age 25. Some say the newly-eased restrictions on stealing bases helped, but it was a remarkable achievement all the same.

2. Matt Olson, Atlanta

Key Numbers: 162 games, .283 batting average, 127 runs, 172 hits, 27 doubles, 54 home runs, 139 RBIs, 104 walks, .389 on-base percentage, .604 slugging percentage.

Having made virtually every Braves fan forget about Freddie Freeman in his second year at Atlanta, Olson led Spring Training with eight home runs, then proved it wasn’t all just kid play by hammering a Braves-record 54 more when the games counted.

3. Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles

Key Numbers: .331 batting average, 637 at-bats, 131 runs, 211 hits, 59 doubles, 29 home runs, 102 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, 1 caught stealing, 72 walks, .410 on-base percentage.

A year after missing out on his first 200-hit year—with 199—Freeman surpassed the barrier and set a Dodgers franchise record with 59 doubles.

4. Mookie Betts, Los Angeles

Key Numbers: .307 batting average, 126 runs, 179 hits, 40 doubles, 39 home runs, 107 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 96 walks, .408 on-base percentage.

Potent as ever, Betts tied an all-time mark with 39 homers from the leadoff spot, while his 107 RBIs batting first established another. During a particularly red-hot month in August, he safely reached base in 15 straight plate appearances.

5. Corbin Carroll, Arizona

Key Numbers: .285 batting average, 116 runs, 30 doubles, 10 triples, 25 home runs, 76 RBIs, 54 stolen bases, 5 caught stealing, 13 hit-by-pitches.

The Diamondbacks obviously knew what they were doing when they gave the talented 22-year-old outfielder, with all of 32 games to vouch for at the major league level, an eight-year, $111 million contract before Opening Day. Carroll thanked them by registering MLB’s first-ever 25-50 rookie performance.

6. Juan Soto, San Diego

Key Numbers: 162 games, .275 batting average, 97 runs, 32 doubles, 35 home runs, 109 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, 132 walks, .410 on-base percentage.

In his one full year at San Diego, Soto’s late-season rise in production wasn’t enough to push the high-priced Padres into the postseason—as many had easily expected them to—and with the team slashing payroll in the wake of free-spending owner Peter Seidler’s passing, he was traded to the Yankees after the season. Soto’s 132 walks tied Jack Clark’s 1989 franchise mark.

7. Cody Bellinger, Chicago

Key Numbers: .307 batting average, 95 runs, 29 doubles, 26 home runs, 97 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, 12 sacrifice flies.

Looking for a reset after three terrible years (batting a collective .203), the 2019 NL MVP found it with the Cubs—just as he entered a well-timed 2023-24 free agency period with slim pickings among fellow position players.

8. Austin Riley, Atlanta

Key Numbers: .281 batting average, 636 at-bats, 117 runs, 179 hits, 32 doubles, 37 home runs, 97 RBIs, 172 strikeouts, 11 sacrifice flies.

After a weak finish to the 2022 season, Riley recharged and joined the Braves’ big hit parade; seldom has anyone with numbers like those above would feel lost in a limelight hogged by the teammate likes of Ronald Acuna Jr. and Matt Olson.

9. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta

Key Numbers: .280 batting average, 96 runs, 30 doubles, 5 triples, 33 home runs, 109 RBIs, 13 stolen bases.

Setting career highs in homers and RBIs, Albies joined three teammates with at least 100 ribbies—only the second time the Braves had done that over the previous 129 years.

10. Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta

Key Numbers: .274 batting average, 84 runs, 29 doubles, 40 home runs, 100 RBIs.

Tripping badly out of the gate—on top of two previous, troubled years in which he ran afoul of the law—Ozuna re-awoke and powered up, contributing to the majors’ fourth-ever trio of players (along with Acuna and Olson) each hitting 40 or more homers.

The American League’s Top 10 Hitters, 2023

1. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles

Key Numbers: 135 games, .304 batting average, 102 runs, 26 doubles, 8 triples, 44 home runs, 95 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, 91 walks, 21 intentional walks, .412 on-base percentage, .654 slugging percentage, 1.066 OPS, 325 total bases.

Pitching feats aside, Ohtani grabbed his second AL MVP in three years—peaking in June with an Angels-record 14 homers including the longest (493 feet) ever hit in Angel Stadium history and three opposite-field shots hit in a road series at Arlington traveling at least 440 feet each. Angels owner Arte Moreno, feeling a playoff run in July, held onto Ohtani rather than trade him for a gold mine of prospects—and the team collapsed. Three months later, Ohtani became a member of the crosstown Dodgers with very little compensation to the Halos.

2. Kyle Tucker, Houston

Key Numbers: .284 batting average, 97 runs, 37 doubles, 5 triples, 29 home runs, 112 RBIs, 30 stolen bases, 80 walks, 10 sacrifice flies.

With lengthy injuries to Astros stars Yordan Alvarez and Jose Altuve, the still-underrated Tucker took center stage and kept the Houston offense glued together; his batting log included a three-homer effort at Oakland on July 21.

3. Corey Seager, Texas

Key Numbers: .327 batting average, 119 games, 88 runs, 42 doubles, 33 home runs, 96 RBIs, .623 slugging percentage, 1.013 OPS.

In his most productive year yet—even as he missed over 40 games to injury—Seager held a slim lead over Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz for the AL batting title going into the regular season’s final day, but lost it after going hitless in four at-bats while Diaz sat.

4. Marcus Semien, Texas

Key Numbers: 162 games, .276 batting average, 670 at-bats, 122 runs, 185 hits, 40 doubles, 29 home runs, 100 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 72 walks.

Playing every game for the third time in five years, the tireless Semien put together the year’s longest hit streak—and the second longest in Rangers history—with a 25-game run in the spring. He placed third in the AL MVP vote, behind Ohtani and Seager.

5. Yordan Alvarez, Houston

Key Numbers: 114 games, .293 batting average, 77 runs, 24 doubles, 31 home runs, 97 RBIs, 69 walks, .407 on-base percentage, .990 OPS.

An oblique injury cost the Houston boomer nearly seven weeks of play—and perhaps a shot at the AL home run title. He added six bombs in just 11 postseason games.

6. Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City

Key Numbers: .276 batting average, 641 at-bats, 97 runs, 177 hits, 28 doubles, 11 triples, 30 home runs, 96 RBIs, 49 stolen bases, 15 caught stealing.

Arguably baseball’s most anonymous star player—an easy circumstance playing for a team losing 106 games—Witt put together the first 30-30 season in Royals history, and finished one stolen base short of being the fourth major leaguer ever to go 30-50.

7. Julio Rodriguez, Seattle

Key Numbers: .275 batting average, 654 at-bats, 102 runs, 180 hits, 37 doubles, 32 home runs, 103 RBIs, 37 stolen bases, 175 strikeouts, 11 hit-by-pitches.

Proving that his bust-out rookie achievement of the year before was no fluke, Rodriguez only got better—becoming the second Mariner after Alex Rodriguez in 1998 to collect at least 30 homers, 30 steals and 100 RBIs.

8. Yandy Diaz, Tampa Bay

Key Numbers: .330 batting average, 95 runs, 173 hits, 35 doubles, 22 home runs, 78 RBIs, 65 walks, .410 on-base percentage.

A very good season for the seventh-year Cuban émigré, with a three-year contract extension, a starting role in the All-Star Game (homering in his first at-bat) and ownership of the first batting crown in Rays history.

9. Aaron Judge, New York

Key Numbers: 106 games, .267 batting average, 79 runs, 37 home runs, 75 RBIs, 88 walks, 1.019 OPS.

Despite missing a third of the season to injury, the newly-reminted (nine years, $360 million) Yankee destroyer still placed second in AL homers, with seven multi-homer games—two of those hat tricks, the first two of his career. Showing also what a good guy he is, Judge won the Roberto Clemente Award for his work within the community.

10. Josh Lowe, Tampa Bay

Key Numbers: .292 batting average, 33 doubles, 20 home runs, 83 RBIs, 32 stolen bases.

The Rays continued to be high on guys named Lowe—Brandon and Nathaniel, e.g.—and were rewarded with the latest iteration in Josh, seven years after they made him their #1 pick in the amateur draft.

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The National League’s Top 10 Pitchers, 2023

1. Justin Steele, Chicago

Key Numbers: 3.06 ERA, 16 wins, 5 losses, .762 win percentage, 30 starts, 173.1 innings, 36 walks, 176 strikeouts.

The third-year right-hander earned ace status possessing a fastball lacking elite velocity but full of mind-bending movement. No NL pitcher allowed fewer home runs (0.7) per nine innings.

2. Blake Snell, San Diego

Key Numbers: 2.25 ERA, 14 wins, 9 losses, 180 innings, 32 starts, 99 walks, 234 strikeouts, 13 wild pitches, .181 batting average against.

In winning his second Cy Young Award, Snell was as confounding as he was efficient—becoming the first pitcher since Amos Rusie in 1894 to lead a league both in ERA and walks. Snell’s bloated pitch counts led to him facing only 11 batters after the sixth inning all season long.

3. Logan Webb, San Francisco

Key Numbers: 3.25 ERA, 11 wins, 13 losses, 33 starts, 2 complete games, 1 shutout, 216 innings, 31 walks, 194 strikeouts, 1.07 WHIP, 30 grounded into double plays.

Poor run support saddled the young right-hander with an undeserving record; it didn’t help that he was often yanked from the mound when he appeared to have plenty of gas left in the tank, even as he led the majors in innings pitched.

4. Devin Williams, Milwaukee

Key Numbers: 1.53 ERA, 8 wins, 3 losses, 61 appearances, 36 saves, 58.2 innings, 28 walks, 87 strikeouts, 0.92 WHIP, .129 batting average against.

The few remaining Brewers fans still trying to understand why the team shipped Josh Hader a year earlier likely figured it out as Williams emerged as, arguably, the game’s most stifling closer.

5. Zac Gallen, Arizona

Key Numbers: 3.47 ERA, 17 wins, 9 losses, .654 win percentage, 210 innings, 34 starts, 1 shutout, 47 walks, 220 strikeouts, 5 stolen bases allowed, 6 caught stealing.

Firmly established as the Arizona ace, Gallen threw his first nine-inning shutout and, even though his overall K/BB rate was his best yet, saw the end of a record streak of 90 games to begin a career in which he struck out more batters than walked.

6. Spencer Strider, Atlanta

Key Numbers: 3.86 ERA, 20 wins, 5 losses, .800 win percentage, 186.2 innings, 32 starts, 281 strikeouts, .210 batting average against.

For the second straight season, the Braves claimed the majors’ lone 20-game winner—and for the second straight year, Strider set an MLB mark for the fewest innings (123.1) needed to reach 200 Ks. Three other pitchers in Braves history struck out more than the 281 ultimately collected by Strider—but they each threw over 500 innings doing so.

7. Alexis Diaz, Cincinnati

Key Numbers: 3.07 ERA, 9 wins, 6 losses, 71 appearances, 37 saves, 3 blown saves, 67.1 innings, 36 walks, 86 strikeouts, .186 batting average against.

No one cleaned up the mess left behind by ineffective starters more than the second-year closer from Puerto Rico; perhaps not surprisingly, he even led the Reds in wins.

8. David Bednar, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: 2.00 ERA, 3 wins, 3 losses, 66 appearances, 39 saves, 3 blown saves, 67.1 innings, 80 strikeouts.

Part of the reason for the Pirates’ return to respectability was the presence of Bednar, who saved just over half of the Pirates’ 76 wins.

9. Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee

Key Numbers: 3.39 ERA, 10 wins, 8 losses, 193.1 innings, 32 starts, 200 strikeouts, 1.07 WHIP, .200 batting average against, 10 wild pitches.

A solid but bittersweet season, to say the least, for the Milwaukee ace; he was angered by Brewers management reps bad-mouthing him during an arbitration hearing—all to save $750,000 in salary—and for the second time in his career was removed after eight no-hit innings at New York against the Yankees on September 10. (No other MLB pitcher had ever once been removed after eight such frames.)

10. Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia

Key Numbers: 3.61 ERA, 13 wins, 6 losses, .684 win percentage, 192 innings, 32 starts, 39 walks, 212 strikeouts, 1.08 WHIP, three stolen bases allowed, 4 caught stealing.

Reliable more than ever, Wheeler (3-0, 1.95 in five postseason appearances) couldn’t be blamed for the Phillies’ failure to return to the World Series.

The American League’s Top 10 Pitchers, 2023

1. Gerrit Cole, New York

Key Numbers: 2.63 ERA, 15 wins, 4 losses, .789 win percentage, 33 starts, 2 shutouts, 209 innings, 48 walks, 222 strikeouts, 0.98 WHIP, .206 batting average against.

Without the first-time Cy Young Award recipient, the Yankees—whose rotation minus Cole posted a 5.06 ERA—might have finished with their first losing record since 1992.

2. Zach Eflin, Tampa Bay

Key Numbers: 3.50 ERA, 16 wins, 8 losses, .667 win percentage, 31 starts, 177.2 innings. 24 walks, 186 strikeouts, 1.02 WHIP.

After seven frustrating seasons in Philadelphia, Eflin returned to near his hometown of Orlando and found piece of mind, respect—and some luck—on his way to co-leading the AL with 16 wins, tied for the lowest total ever by a league leader.

3. Kyle Bradish, Baltimore

Key Numbers: 2.83 ERA, 12 wins, 7 losses, 30 starts, 168.2 innings, 1.04 WHIP, .215 batting average against.

Kyle Gibson and Dean Kremer notched more wins for the Orioles, but they also had superior run support over Bradish, whose posted a far superior ERA.

4. Felix Bautista, Baltimore

Key Numbers: 1.48 ERA, 8 wins, 2 losses, 56 appearances, 33 saves, 61 innings, 110 strikeouts, 7 wild pitches, .144 batting average against.

Until he succumbed to a season-ending injury that led to Tommy John surgery, the 6’8”, 285-pound Bautista—who averaged 16.2 strikeouts per nine innings—likely struck more fear in opponents than any other major league reliever.

5. Sonny Gray, Minnesota

Key Numbers: 2.79 ERA, 8 wins, 8 losses, 32 starts, 184 innings, 8 home runs allowed, 3 pickoffs.

It seemed odd that the pitcher with the AL’s second-best ERA and lowest home run rate (eight allowed over 184 innings) would finish with a blasé record. Gray hoped for better luck after 2023 as the St. Louis Cardinals inked him to a three-year, $75 million deal.

6. George Kirby, Seattle

Key Numbers: 3.35 ERA, 13 wins 10 losses, 31 starts, 190.2 innings, 19 walks, 172 strikeouts, 1.04 WHIP.

The young right-hander’s anathema for walking opponents only strengthened; his 0.9 walks per nine innings were the lowest by an AL pitcher in nine seasons, and in one stretch threw 33.1 straight innings without allowing one.

7. Jordan Romano, Toronto

Key Numbers: 2.90 ERA, 5 wins, 7 losses, 59 appearances, 36 saves, 59 innings, 72 strikeouts.

It was a virtual repeat of 2022 for the Blue Jays’ closer, who had the same number of saves, wins, strikeouts (well, one less) and All-Star appearances (one).

8. Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland

Key Numbers: 3.22 ERA, 3 wins, 9 losses, 75 appearances, 44 saves, 12 blown saves, 72.2 innings.

The Guardians’ closer was in high demand, being given 16 more save opportunities than any other AL reliever; it’s thus not terribly surprising that he led the majors in both saves and blown saves.

9. Eduardo Rodriguez, Detroit

Key Numbers: 3.30 ERA, 13 wins, 9 losses, 152.2 innings, 26 starts.

The Venezuelan southpaw had a much better result in his second year with the Tigers than his first—when he mysteriously vanished for three months to deal what was later revealed to be a family issue.

10. Framber Valdez, Houston

Key Numbers: 3.45 ERA, 12 wins, 11 losses, 198 innings, 31 starts, 2 shutouts, 200 strikeouts, 22 grounded into double plays.

Cast as the team ace with Justin Verlander moving onto New York, it seems ironic that Valdez saved his best start of the year—an August 1 no-hitter against Cleveland—just hours after the Astros reacquired Verlander from the Mets.