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Predicting MLB’s biggest turnarounds in 2024: Yankees, Cardinals playoff bound?
Major League Baseball

Predicting MLB’s biggest turnarounds in 2024: Yankees, Cardinals playoff bound?

Updated Mar. 27, 2024 10:17 p.m. ET

Last year, our predictions for the biggest team turnarounds ended with the Texas Rangers winning the World Series, the Miami Marlins making the playoffs for the first time in a full season since 2003, the Minnesota Twins capturing a division title, the Chicago Cubs coming within a game of the playoffs and the Los Angeles Angels … well, we don't have to talk about the Angels. 

It was mostly a success! 

We're continuing this year with the four teams who look best positioned to put 2023 behind and make the biggest leap forward in 2024. To qualify, the teams listed below had to have missed the playoffs last season. (You've got to start from a low point, after all, to get to a higher one.)

1. Kansas City Royals


2023 Record: 56-106
2024 Projection: 77-85 

The … *double checks notes* … Kansas City Royals spent the sixth-most money on free agents this offseason and secured their most talented player for the next 11 years with a $288.8 million mega-extension for Bobby Witt Jr. Those are good things. Whether they used the free-agent funds in the most prudent fashion — spreading out the help on mid-tier additions rather than zeroing in on one or two more prominent targets — is up for debate, but give them credit for trying. 

The pitching additions were more noteworthy than the offensive adds. Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo provide more depth behind 2023 breakout star Cole Ragans, but the Royals will need more from 27-year-old Brady Singer, who took a step back last year after an intriguing 2022 season. I'm still skeptical there's enough pop in the new-look lineup to compete for the division title — the biggest add was Hunter Renfroe, whose 20 dingers last year were not enough for him to be even a league-average hitter — considering this offense had the third-worst on-base percentage in baseball last year. But the team has an MVP candidate in Witt, a dark-horse Cy Young candidate in Ragans and potentially a 20-win turnaround coming in 2024. If there's one team that looks poised for the biggest jump in wins from last year — which really says something about how dreadful their 2023 season was — it's the Royals. 

2. St. Louis Cardinals 

2023 Record: 71-91
2024 Prediction: 84-78

Coming off their first last-place finish since 1990 and their first losing season since 2007, it stood to reason that the Cardinals would overhaul their rotation. And they did — albeit in a bit of an underwhelming, unconventional fashion. They immediately went after 36-year-olds Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson, who sported ERAs of 5.73 and 4.73 last year, respectively, before eventually making their big free-agent splash, signing one of the most coveted starters on the market in Sonny Gray. 

After all that, it is … Miles Mikolas who will be taking the mound on Opening Day. Gray will start the season on the injured list, along with outfielders Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar and Tommy Edman, in a bit of an inauspicious start to the 2024 season. 

If most of this sounds bad, allow me to paint a path toward a 2024 turnaround. To their credit, Lynn and Gibson both post — they each made more than 30 starts last year — and that was something Cardinals pitchers didn't do last year. Mikolas threw 201.1 innings; the next-most innings from a Cardinals starter was Steven Matz at 105. More importantly, Gray's hamstring injury isn't expected to keep him out much more than a couple of weeks to start the year. That group, which could at some point include top prospects Tink Hence and/or Tekoah Roby, should be an upgrade on a 2023 Cardinals rotation that ranked in the bottom five in baseball in ERA, strikeouts WHIP and opponents' batting average. Meanwhile, when healthy late last year, Ryan Helsley demonstrated again that he's still one of the top closers in the sport. 

On the offensive side, consider that the Cardinals were still a middle-of-the-pack group last year despite being one of the most unlucky offenses in the sport based on expected statistics and that the vast majority of the group is under the age of 26. As disappointing as all the outfield injuries are, there are few teams more well-equipped to handle them. Jordan Walker, one of the top prospects in baseball last season, probably isn't getting enough attention after hitting 14% better than league average as a 21-year-old last year. And the Carlson injury opens the door for Victor Scott, who stole 94 bases in the minors last year. He can change games with his speed and defense. Both PECOTA and FanGraphs project the Cardinals to win the division. At the very least, a .500 season should be within reach.  

RELATED: MLB Young Core Rankings: Nos. 30-21 | Nos. 20-11 | Nos. 10-1

3. New York Yankees 

2023 Record: 82-80
2024 Prediction: 91-71  

Let's start here: The offense now has both Aaron Judge and Juan Soto. Through all the questions about the aging position player group and a banged-up rotation, that duo alone should bring reason for optimism coming off an abysmal offensive season. 

To reach their potential, this group still could use rebound seasons from veterans Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton and a jump forward from Anthony Volpe, but the additions of Alex Verdugo and Trent Grisham provide more outfield depth, top catching prospect Austin Wells adds more upside behind the plate, and top prospects Jasson Domínguez, who's on the Tommy John comeback trail, and Spencer Jones could both be ready to step in and help at some point this year. 

The fact that LeMahieu is already sidelined and, most frighteningly, that the rotation will be without ace Gerrit Cole for an extended period of time isn't ideal. Signing Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery certainly would have eased the nerves of Yankees fans quite a bit more, but the addition of Marcus Stroman provides more stability to the starting pitching group, and a bounce-back year from Nestor Cortes or Carlos Rodón isn't out of the question. This spring has already demonstrated it won't all be smooth sailing in the Bronx, but there's a reason PECOTA projects for a 92-win season and an AL East title. 

4. New York Mets  

2023 Record: 75-87
2024 Prediction: 82-80 

The news isn't great for the top of the rotation anywhere in New York right now. Senga will miss the start of the year with a right shoulder issue, and while it isn't expected to cost him more than a month or two, this is not a rotation with a ton of reliable arms behind him. At least the Mets can look forward to the return of Edwin Díaz, whose presence should help stabilize a Mets bullpen that struggled without him last year. 

The Mets seem to be treating the 2024 season as more of a transitional year, and while they're unlikely to compete with the Braves and Phillies at the top of the division, the lineup alone should have the firepower to help them contend for a wild-card spot. Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Álvarez, a healthy Starling Marte and now J.D. Martinez should be able to do some real damage. 

There are a lot of ifs — if Luis Severino can have a bounce-back year, if Brett Baty can take a step forward, if one of the pitching prospects (maybe Christian Scott or Mike Vasil) can help the rotation, if prospects Luisangel Acuña or Drew Gilbert are ready to provide more depth to the lineup, if Díaz can return looking like the best closer in baseball — but if any combination of those ifs come true, a winning season should be within reach. At the least, it should be an improvement on last year's calamity that resulted in the sell-off of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Robertson and Mark Canha amid a flurry of moves that restocked the farm system and set the Amazins' attention on the future rather than the present. 

Honorable mentions

Beyond the aforementioned group of four, there's another four teams that could easily see a 4-6 win increase in 2024. Here's a brief synopsis on each.

Cincinnati Reds 

2023 Record: 82-80
2024 Prediction: 87-75

It's been a foreboding start to the year with Noelvi Marte getting popped for a PED suspension, TJ Friedl fracturing his wrist and Matt McLain needing shoulder surgery. Still, the offensive upside is plentiful, especially if Elly De La Cruz can turn his otherworldly tools into consistent success. The giant X-factor here is the Reds' rotation, which has a chance to be the best in the division if everything goes right. There is such a deep collection of young talent on this roster — which had three players finish in the top eight of NL Rookie of the Year voting last year — that if only a smattering of those players take another leap forward, it might be enough for the Reds to challenge for their first division title since 2012. 

Cleveland Guardians 

2023 Record: 76-86
2024 Prediction: 82-80

It's frustrating that the Guardians did nothing this offseason to add more pop to the lineup after last year's putrid offensive showing, but the talent on the pitching staff alone should have them in the mix in the AL Central, particularly if Shane Bieber can recapture his form and if Triston McKenzie can stay healthy. 

San Francisco Giants 

2023 Record: 79-83
2024 Prediction: 84-78

This offseason was all about the NL West, and while the Dodgers' $1.2 billion offseason rightfully received most of the attention, the Giants shouldn't be overlooked for the plethora of moves that could have them back competing for a playoff spot. Jung Hoo Lee and Jorge Soler will help lift a lineup that had the lowest OPS in the National League last year. Matt Chapman stabilizes the defense at the hot corner for a Giants team that committed more errors than any team in baseball. And after a barrage of openers last season led to the Giants starting pitchers throwing fewer innings than any club, NL Cy Young runner-up Logan Webb is now joined by NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell in addition to Jordan Hicks and top prospect Kyle Harrison

Detroit Tigers

2023 Record: 78-84
2024 Prediction: 82-80

The Tigers haven't had a winning record since 2016. There's a decent chance that changes this year, and if it does, that should be enough to make the AL Central race interesting. Their hopes this year depend on how big a step their collection of young talent takes. Can Riley Greene stay healthy? Can Spencer Torkelson become a more complete hitter? Is Tarik Skubal ready to be a Cy Young contender? Is prospect Colt Keith ready to be the Tigers' next offensive force? And when might other top prospects, from Jace Jung to Jackson Jobe, make their mark? While veteran additions such as Canha and Kenta Maeda help fill out the roster, the success of the youth movement will determine the Tigers' ceiling. 

- MLB young talent rankings: Top 20 position players, pitchers
- MLB 2024 season preview: Staff predictions on MVP, Cy Young, ROY, World Series 
- MLB's best lineup? Pitching staff? 5 burning questions before the 2024 season 
- One MLB player to watch from every team: Juan Soto one-and-done with Yankees?
- 2024 MLB predictions by Ben Verlander: Standings, playoffs, World Series
- Predicting MLB’s biggest turnarounds in 2024: Yankees, Cardinals playoff bound?
- MLB's 10 riskiest contracts from 2024 offseason

Rowan Kavner is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the L.A. Dodgers, LA Clippers and Dallas Cowboys. An LSU grad, Rowan was born in California, grew up in Texas, then moved back to the West Coast in 2014. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.


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