MLB Power Rankings: This Top 5 would’ve been unimaginable last season

MLB

If we had told you last year that in the first two months of the 2023 season, the Rangers and Orioles would be in the top five of our Power Rankings while the Yankees and Astros sat on the outside looking in, would you have believed us? Welcome to Week 8!

Now, New York and Houston have hit their stride as of late and are by no means not top-five teams, but it’s still quite a sight to behold. The question becomes: How long can Baltimore and Texas keep it up? Will they be able to hold their respective divisional positions over the Yankees and Astros?

Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we’ve seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Jesse Rogers, Alden Gonzalez and Joon Lee to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 7 | Preseason rankings

Record: 36-15

Previous ranking: 1

Following their series win against the Brewers, the Rays improved to a ridiculous 21-4 record at home. The group has come back down to earth a bit, but the team still ranks second in all of baseball in run differential at +111, trailing just the Rangers after dropping a 20-1 game to Toronto on Tuesday. Watch out for Yandy Diaz, who’s having the best start to a season of his career with 2.1 Baseball Reference WAR through 42 games, which would be the second-highest bWAR total in his career for a single season. He’s hit .322/.425/.599 with 11 dingers so far. — Joon Lee


Record: 31-20

Previous ranking: 2

Bobby Miller was called up for his major league debut out of necessity on Tuesday, a product of Dustin May (forearm) and Julio Urias (hamstring) residing on the injured list. And he impressed against one of the best teams in the sport, effectively utilizing his secondary pitches to hold the Braves to one run in five innings and outduel Spencer Strider in the process. Miller is one of three Dodgers pitching prospects, along with Ryan Pepiot and Gavin Stone, who entered this season looking to prove he deserves an extended look in the major leagues. Pepiot is currently nursing an oblique strain, but Miller and Stone will continue to get starts while Urias and May recover. Their development will be vital. — Alden Gonzalez


Record: 30-19

Previous ranking: 3

Is it time to start worrying about Michael Harris II? After his stellar rookie season in 2022, he has struggled in 2023. After a sixth consecutive hitless game, the Braves benched Harris on Tuesday with his average sitting at .163 with just one home run in 86 at-bats (he missed 19 games in April with a back strain and two more after jamming his knee upon his return, but says he’s feeling fine now).

The good news: It hasn’t been a contact issue. His strikeout rate is actually lower than last season while his walk rate has ticked up slightly. On the other hand, while he’s not striking out more, his contact rate on pitches in the zone has dropped. He hit .375 and slugged .708 against four-seam fastballs last season but is hitting just .105 against them in 23 PAs. The Braves hope a session with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and team consultant Chipper Jones will get Harris back on track. — David Schoenfield


Record: 31-18

Previous ranking: 4

While the champion Astros are rolling, the Rangers are still hanging on at the top of the American League West. A weekend sweep of the Rockies helped, as Texas and Houston took top offensive honors for the last week (ending on Tuesday). Five players compiled an OPS over 1.000 during that time frame, led by Josh Jung, who produced a 1.447 mark. Corey Seager has also driven in 10 runs in seven games since he returned. Meanwhile, the starting staff has made up for the loss of Jacob deGrom, as Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, Dane Dunning and Jon Gray all spun good outings. It might be late enough in the season to say the Rangers are for real. — Jesse Rogers


Record: 32-17

Previous ranking: 6

Baltimore continues to further legitimize itself week by week. While the rotation remains a point of concern, the Orioles continue to put up strong performances against some of the best teams in baseball, leading to a +43 run differential. While Adley Rutschman gets a lot of the national recognition for the O’s, Cedric Mullins is having a bounce-back season, hitting .275/.359/.505 with eight homers, 13 stolen bases and 1.8 bWAR. Another 30/30 seems plausible for the dynamic outfielder. — Lee


Record: 28-21

Previous ranking: 8

The Astros welcomed franchise face Jose Altuve back to the lineup over the last week, and he hit the ground running, reaching base in his first four games with a robust .438 OBP over those contests. Then he got sick in Milwaukee. He left the game early on Tuesday with the undisclosed illness and was out of the lineup on Wednesday. Still, with Altuve back in action and Houston streaking of late, the champs have been looking a lot more champ-like.

With the Astros reaffirming their perpetual contender status and the Rangers leading the AL West in the standings and all of baseball in run differential, the division race is taking on a distinctly Texas-centric character. It should be a banner summer in the Lone Star State. — Bradford Doolittle


Record: 30-21

Previous ranking: 7

New York keeps rolling when their best players are at the top of their game. Slugger Aaron Judge is raking when healthy, hitting .353/.493/.882 with eight homers since returning from the IL. The rotation has kept cruising behind Gerrit Cole, who ranks among the best pitchers in baseball so far this season, posting a 2.5 bWAR. Reinforcements appear to be on the way, too, as Carlos Rodon re-joined the team in New York and began a throwing program, a precursor to a rehab assignment. — Lee


Record: 26-24

Previous ranking: 5

Toronto has looked like two different teams this season. At points, the Blue Jays have looked like a legitimate World Series contender, such as when they swept the Braves, while at other times, they’ve looked like a team that could finish in last place in their division, like when they went 1-6 against division rivals New York and Baltimore this last week. Something that could affect Toronto’s season in the second half: Hyun-Jin Ryu is hopeful to return to the mound after the All-Star Break following last year’s Tommy John surgery. Ryu is on the final season of a four-year, $80 million contract and last pitched on June 1 of 2022. — Lee


Record: 29-21

Previous ranking: 11

The Diamondbacks seemed to fall back down to Earth at the start of May but are red-hot once again, winning nine of their last 12 games to somehow put themselves within striking distance of the Dodgers in the National League West. Wednesday’s late loss aside, the best sign from that stretch might be coming from their bullpen. D-backs relievers had the sixth-highest ERA in the majors last year, but they sport a 3.83 ERA over the team’s last dozen games. Andrew Chafin, Miguel Castro and Scott McGough, who make up the back end of the bullpen, have combined to give up only one run in 19⅓ innings during that stretch. Small sample size, sure, but the D-backs will gladly take it. — Gonzalez


Record: 26-24

Previous ranking: 12

Boston strung together series wins against the Mariners and Padres last week while ace Chris Sale strung together four straight quality starts after a rough start to the season. The Red Sox, however, have had to make changes to their rotation, especially following the return of James Paxton from the IL. After moving righty Nick Pivetta to the bullpen last week, Boston did the same with two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber on Wednesday. In nine starts this season, Kluber had a 6.26 ERA. — Lee


Record: 26-24

Previous ranking: 9

The Twins continue to slide toward .500, more or less keeping a division stocked full of sub-.500 teams in the chase as Memorial Day approaches. While their division brethren have earned their poor records with demonstrably poor play, the Twins have been an enigma. Through Tuesday, the Twins were on pace to win 83 games despite a run differential that would translate to a 95-win level of play if we project it out over 162 games. That 12-win gap is the largest in the AL, and it’s prevented Minnesota from gaining a cushion in the division chase. So what gives? Part of it, though not all, is a poor record in one-run games, as the Twins fell to 4-10 in those contests after losing to the Giants on Tuesday. — Doolittle


Record: 25-25

Previous ranking: 17

It’s not exactly accurate to say the Mets saved their season with a five-game winning streak — the final two against the Rays and then a weekend sweep of Cleveland — but it at least temporarily stopped a bad skid that saw the team fall under .500. The most dramatic moment from that span was Pete Alonso‘s three-run 10th-inning walk-off home run to beat a tough reliever in Pete Fairbanks. Then, the Mets beat another tough closer in Emmanuel Clase with another three-run bottom of the 10th, as Francisco Alvarez, Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor all delivered two-out base hits to win it.

While the Mets are unbeaten in games they lead heading into the ninth, the pitching has otherwise remained problematic, with the Mets ranking in the bottom third of the majors in ERA. If that doesn’t improve, it’s going to be a .500 season. — Schoenfield


Record: 27-22

Previous ranking: 10

Milwaukee is in the midst of a brutal stretch of its schedule, winning just enough games to stay on pace with Pittsburgh at the top of the division. Series losses to St. Louis and Tampa Bay were mostly close games — besides an 18-1 drubbing to the Cardinals early last week. The Brewers’ offense continues to be its Achilles’ heel — and is especially awful against left-handed pitching. Rowdy Tellez is about the only reliable threat, as he belted two home runs while compiling an OPS over 1.200 over the last week. He needs some help. — Rogers


Record: 28-23

Previous ranking: 15

For a while, the Angels struggled to get much value from young, affordable players. This year, though, has shown that the organization continues to take positive steps in that department.

Logan O’Hoppe, acquired from the Phillies in exchange for Brandon Marsh last August, was looking like a cornerstone catcher before suffering a torn labrum. Zach Neto, a first-round draft pick just last year, is playing shortstop on an everyday basis. And Mickey Moniak, the left-handed-hitting outfielder who came over in another August trade with the Phillies (this one for Noah Syndergaard), has been red-hot since rejoining the majors. Moniak, 25, is slashing .419/.438/.935 through his first 10 games, providing a major lift for an offense that is still waiting on some veteran players to produce. — Gonzalez


Record: 25-24

Previous ranking: 13

The Mariners appeared to avoid a big injury when Ty France left Tuesday’s game after getting hit on the wrist with a pitch (after earlier hitting the go-ahead home run). They’re hoping he’ll just miss a game or two, as they don’t have another good first-base option on the roster. Utility man Sam Haggerty isn’t hitting well, so if France needs an IL stint, they might need to make a move (Mike Ford is raking at Triple-A Tacoma, but he’s not on the 40-man roster — plus he’s mostly just a DH).

Meanwhile, second baseman Jose Caballero continues to play well and earn more playing time over the struggling Kolten Wong. He’s hit a couple home runs, drawn some walks and is 6-for-6 stealing bases. Wong has been a complete non-factor — par for the course for the Mariners, who last year brought in Adam Frazier to play second base only to see him hit poorly. Seattle understandably doesn’t want to give up on Wong, but he’s looking more and more like dead weight. — Schoenfield


Record: 22-27

Previous ranking: 14

The Padres began this week’s three-city road trip with nine losses in their previous 11 games and somehow possessed the seventh-lowest OPS in the major leagues. They are underperforming throughout their lineup, but nowhere more so than at catcher, where Aaron Nola, Luis Campusano and Brett Sullivan have combined to slash just .169/.248/.270 entering the road trip. The Padres’ OPS from behind the plate ranks higher than only that of the Marlins and Guardians. This is a position the team will desperately need to address before the trade deadline, but it’s hard to figure out where to turn. — Gonzalez


Record: 22-29

Previous ranking: 20

It’s not too early to declare that the Cardinals are back — and are once again major players in the division. St. Louis hasn’t lost a series since the beginning of the month, as the team bounced back from a 5-0 loss to the Dodgers last Friday to outscore them 16-10 over the next two games. Paul DeJong has gone off, hitting four home runs last week, while Nolan Gorman took home player of the week honors. Miles Mikolas has looked better on the mound, providing hope that there will be some stability near the top of the Cards rotation. — Rogers


Record: 23-26

Previous ranking: 16

Bryce Harper‘s return was supposed to spark the lineup, and while he’s hit well since he returned (albeit with just two home runs), the Phillies continue to scuffle on offense. In Harper’s first 19 games since he came back on May 2, the Phillies went 8-11. Brandon Marsh and Bryson Stott have cooled off after their hot starts (at least Marsh has maintained a high walk rate), and Trea Turner, in his own words, has “sucked.” He’s hitting .250/.295/.392 with five home runs — including a homer in the ninth inning to tie the game in Philly’s walk-off win on Wednesday night — for an 89 OPS+, well below a league average hitter. With six steals, he’s hardly on pace to steal 50, let alone the 70 that some predicted. It’s a mess. And this week’s series against the Braves is the first of the season (Philly hasn’t played the Mets yet, either). — Schoenfield


Record: 25-42

Previous ranking: 19

Pittsburgh wasn’t remarkable over the last week — it was mid-pack in offense and defense — but it has stayed afloat in the division simply playing solid baseball. The Pirates have kept losing streaks, besides a longer one earlier this month, to a minimum as they work through a tough schedule. Baltimore, Arizona and Texas weren’t considered hugely dominant teams back in January, but they’re as good as anyone these days. Pittsburgh went 3-5 over the span of eight games against them — an OK record considering the NL Central has been brutal this year. Shortstop Rodolfo Castro had a good week, producing the Pirates’ lone OPS over 1.000 for a seven-day span ending Tuesday. — Rogers


Record: 24-25

Previous ranking: 23

The Giants reached .500 for the first time since the first week of the season on Tuesday, riding a dominant start from Alex Cobb and a big home run from Michael Conforto to defeat the first-place Twins in Minneapolis. The victory marked the Giants’ seventh in a span of eight games and improved their record to 13-8 in May, a month that has seen them struggle offensively but pitch well enough to consistently win games. Cobb and Logan Webb, their top two starters, have combined for a 1.38 ERA in 32⅔ innings in May. — Gonzalez


Record: 21-28

Previous ranking: 18

After winning four of their first five to start the season, the Guardians haven’t been able to string together more than two straight wins at any point this season. Thus it’s been a campaign of two steps forward and, let’s say, two-and-half steps back, with Cleveland slipping gradually below the break-even line. After a rough recent road trip, manager Terry Francona reportedly called a team meeting to reassure his clubhouse. That may or may not help, but Francona, by now, certainly has a feel for when these things are needed.

What the Guardians really need though are home runs from their home run hitters — they’re barely on pace to clear the 100-homer barrier this year. By contrast, and this is an extreme example because Tampa Bay is on a historic pace, the Rays are on pace to pass 300 dingers. — Doolittle


Record: 22-26

Previous ranking: 21

Chicago ranks so poorly in clutch ratings — worst on offense and third worst in pitching — that positive regression is bound to happen. But will it before the season slips away? A weak NL Central has provided the Cubs some room, while the team rides the hot bat of Christopher Morel. He hit eight home runs in his first 11 games, providing some energy while the team lost seven of nine on the road. Right fielder Seiya Suzuki is also quietly heating up. He hit over .400 with an OPS hovering around 1.500 OPS — second only to Morel — during a seven-day span ending Tuesday. — Rogers


Record: 25-25

Previous ranking: 22

Look, we know why the Marlins are hanging around .500: They’re still 15-3 in one-run games. Maybe they’ll keep that up, maybe they won’t, but the bigger issue is this team has to start winning more of the other games. They’re in the bottom third of the majors in ERA and dead last in runs per game on offense, so while there’s still hope the pitching will come around, it’s difficult to envision this suddenly turning into a playoff-caliber lineup.

While they’re middle of the pack in batting average (thank you, Luis Arraez), they’re next to last in walk rate, so they simply don’t get on base enough and don’t hit enough home runs. And it’s not even a young lineup: Only the Mets and Dodgers have an older group of position players. Old and unproductive is a bad combination. — Schoenfield


Record: 22-25

Previous ranking: 25

The Tigers’ flirtation with not-terribleness has been bolstered by a solid bullpen performance. It’s not a new story: For all their struggles the last couple of years, they have gotten quality work from a number of firemen. Leading the charge from the relief staff is closer Alex Lange. If you don’t play fantasy baseball or follow the Tigers you might not have noticed this, but Lange has emerged as one of baseball’s best relievers. Lange was a solid set-up reliever last season, but he has earned nine of his ten career saves during the opening weeks of the 2023 campaign. And he’s done it with dominance, posting a 1.27 ERA over his first 21 appearances with a sub-1.00 WHIP and a strikeout rate of 11.8 per nine innings. — Doolittle


Record: 21-30

Previous ranking: 28

Strange as it may be to say this about a team that’s been on a 55-to-65 win pace for most of the season, the White Sox could crawl back into contention for the division title. The White Sox are playing better, winning eight of their last 11 games, results that qualify them as the AL Central’s “hottest” team. The Twins have a strong run differential, yet they haven’t been able to separate themselves from the division, which is a boost to the underachieving ChiSox.

Perhaps most importantly, the White Sox are on the verge of being as close to whole in terms of health as they have been all season. This should be most apparent in the bullpen, where Liam Hendriks is close to returning, Garrett Crochet just made his return from Tommy John surgery and Joe Kelly has re-emerged as a high-leverage option. With a soft upcoming schedule, the time for Chicago to make something of a depressing campaign is now. — Doolittle


Record: 21-28

Previous ranking: 24

Not surprisingly, the Reds are playing their way into the NL Central cellar. A sweep at the hands of the Yankees over the weekend didn’t help matters, as Cincinnati had awful outings from Hunter Greene and Graham Ashcraft. Ashcraft gave up a whopping 20 hits over the course of two starts while pitching only 10 innings total. Luke Weaver wasn’t much better. As a team, the Reds ranked close to dead last in the majors in ERA over the past week. That tells their whole story right now. — Rogers


Record: 21-28

Previous ranking: 26

One of the bigger surprises of the season is that the Nationals’ rotation has actually been respectable, with their ERA ranking middle-of-the-pack in the majors. That won’t win any awards, but that’s a lower ERA than rotations of several hopeful playoff contenders, including the Orioles, Phillies, Cardinals and Mets. Whether even that moderate success is sustainable is another question, however. The rotation is near the bottom in strikeout rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio. Patrick Corbin has actually reeled off six straight starts allowing three runs or fewer despite modest strikeout totals and Josiah Gray continues to limit runs despite giving up too many walks. Take his last start: six walks in five innings against Detroit, but only one run. — Schoenfield


Record: 21-29

Previous ranking: 27

Let’s focus this week on one of few Rockies bright sides this week: Elias Diaz, the 32-year-old catcher who was signed to a three-year, $14.5 million extension at the end of the 2021 season. Diaz is slashing a remarkable .343/.396/.517 for the season, providing production at a premium position for a team that is underperforming practically everywhere else in the lineup. Only Sean Murphy, Jonah Heim and Will Smith have produced more FanGraphs WAR (fWAR) than Diaz as catchers this season. The Rockies have mostly struck out while trying to build a core around extensions for C.J. Cron, Ryan McMahon, Kris Bryant, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Daniel Bard. But Diaz, at least, looks like a bargain. — Gonzalez


Record: 15-36

Previous ranking: 29

Even in a division as bad as the AL Central — in which the Royals, Tigers and White Sox are a combined 6-30 against the AL East this season — eyes in KC ought to be fixed on the seasons to come. This makes the Royals’ center field situation hard to understand. Since Kyle Isbel was injured, the Royals have given the bulk of the playing time in center to veteran Jackie Bradley Jr., who has a .437 OPS. In fact, the Royals’ overall OPS from centerfielders (Bradley, Isbel and Nate Eaton) is easily the worst in baseball.

Meanwhile, Drew Waters has been mashing for Triple-A Omaha since he returned to action on May 9, after he went down with an oblique injury late in spring training. Since he was the Royals’ projected starter at the position in the first place, it seems like putting him in center sooner rather than later would be the right play — not for this season, but for those to come. — Doolittle


Record: 10-41

Previous ranking: 30

On Tuesday, the Athletics dropped to 10-40, the worst start to a season for a team since the 1932 Red Sox. That figure puts them on pace for a 32-130 record, which would be the most losses for a team in a season since the 1899 Cleveland Spiders went 20-134. Meanwhile, the A’s reached a tentative agreement with Nevada state and local officials on a stadium funding plan, with a funding bill to be introduced in the coming weeks to see how much public funding will be provided to build the new home of the team. — Lee

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