MLB prediction: 5 longshots who could contend in 2024

The Reds, Royals, Tigers, Nationals and Marlins all could make major gains next season.
Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (7).
Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (7). / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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The Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks both accomplished the seemingly unthinkable this postseason, going from 100 losses just two seasons ago to the World Series. The Rangers, of course, took that improvement all the way to the Commissioner’s Trophy.

The levels of short-term improvement required to accomplish that feat (30 games in two seasons for the Rangers, 32 for the Diamondbacks) are rare in baseball history. Only four times prior to this season has a team improved by 30 games over a short two seasons to win the World Series. The Cubs did it in 2016, but before that you have to reach back to the 1969 Mets, the 1927 Yankees and the 1910 Athletics.

It could. However happen again, and soon. Several teams approach the winter of 2023-24 apparently poised to follow in the Rangers’ lead and make a run at a large-scale turnaround to a World Series title.

Here’s a look at five MLB teams with at least the potential to make that kind of two-season leap.

5. Miami Marlins. The Marlins must compete in the NL East, meaning they have to get past the Braves, Phillies and Mets to have a serious chance at contention.

But coming off only a 69-win season in 2022, they won 84 games this year, put the Mets in their rear-view mirror and qualified for the post-season as the NL’s second wild card. If Miami can add a six or seven-game improvement in 2024 atop their 15-game improvement of this just-concluded season, they could emerge as a legit post-season threat.

The big hurdle, obviously, is the absence of Sandy Alcantara, who underwent Tommy John surgery and will be sidelined for all of 2024. Here’s the upside: When he did pitch in 2023, Alcantara was average at best (7-12, 4.14 in 185 innings) and the Marlins still did what they did. Alcantara’s absence makes the hill higher, but not impossibly high.

A tougher issue may be the lack of leadership. The Marlins front office enters the 2023-24 offseason directionless, having lost GM Kim Ng in an apparent control dispute with ownership. For the immediate future, then, that leaves nobody in position of authority to set a leadership course.

That absence is complicated by the loss to free agency of slugger Jorge Soler, who hits the market coming off a 36-homer season.

What do the Marlins have? They have batting champ Luis Arraez, and they have an outfield of Bryan DeLaCruz, Jazz Chisholm and Jesus Sanchez populated with young star potential.

Eury Perez, a 20-year-old signed out of the Dominican Republic, made 19 starts as a rookie with a 3.15 ERA and showed star potential. Jesus Luzardo, Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera are all mid-20s established starters.