As we near the halfway point of the 2023 MLB season, it feels like down is up and up is down — making it increasingly challenging to sort through things for our weekly power rankings of all 30 teams. The Cincinnati Reds finally saw their winning streak snapped at 12 ... and still climbed up into the top 10 after giving the Atlanta Braves all they could handle this weekend. The Los Angeles Angels hung 25 runs on the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night ... and still manage to drop a spot after losing two of three. The NL Central has multiple teams above .500 now! (The less said about the AL Central, the better.)
It was a rough week for both New York teams, as the Yankees remain baseball’s worst offense without Aaron Judge (though they did manage to steal a series win from the Rangers) while the Mets capped a nightmare road trip by somehow managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in a historic late-game collapse on Sunday. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers are slumping. The Miami Marlins are on a roll. You get the point.
So how do we make sense of it all? Who’s for real, and who’s pretending? Here’s our attempt at sifting through the chaos.
The Braves went on the road and went 4-1 against the Phillies and Reds this week, and we’re nearing the point at which we have to have a talk about Tampa’s place atop these rankings. The Rays have been parked at No. 1 ever since their historic start, but nearly dropping a four-game set to the Royals is cause for concern. Injuries have taken their toll to both the lineup and the rotation. The O’s, meanwhile, leapfrog Texas due to both their recent play and also top prospect Jordan Westburg’s pending promotion from Triple-A. Middle infield was just about Baltimore’s only weakness at the plate, while Texas’ starting pitching has begun to regress a bit.
The D-backs fought back to salvage the final game of their three-game set in San Francisco, and Ryne Nelson’s performance was encouraging — Arizona will need someone to step up behind Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly if it hopes to take home the NL West crown. With the Giants’ rotation slowly getting healthier the bullpen continuing to thrive, you can certainly make the case that San Fran deserves to be ranked ahead of the Snakes right now — especially after going 5-2 in a homestand against the D-backs and Padres.
I’ve been pumping the brakes on the Marlins for a while now, largely because they’ve struggled at the plate and have had inordinate success in one-run games so far this season. But Miami just keeps winning, and no one else behind them seems to want to announce themselves as contenders. If Sandy Alcantara gets back on track and the team successfully manages Eury Perez’s innings, the Marlins have enough pitching to compete with anyone.
Yes, the Reds are still missing like 60 percent of a quality starting rotation. But they looked like they belonged against a hot Braves team this weekend, and these two tiers are littered with would-be contenders that have yet to actually start playing like one (Toronto, Houston, L.A., Philly, New York). At a certain point you have to reward teams for what they do on the field. Cincy’s lineup is October good, while the Angels and Phillies have rotation depth questions and New York’s offense is in freefall. Why not the Reds, or the Marlins for that matter?
Ah, there’s the AL Central. The Twins just cannot score runs right now — they had to escape with a series win in Detroit this weekend by the skin of their teeth — and it feels like only a matter of time before Cleveland overtakes them atop the division. Boston and Chicago feel like the most exciting teams in this tier: They both boast surprisingly quality trios atop the rotation (James Paxton/Garrett Whitlock/Brayan Bello and Marcus Stroman/Justin Steele/Drew Smyly, respectively) and offenses that went hot then cold and now seem to be hot again. Milwaukee, Minnesota and Cleveland’s upsides are capped by mediocre offenses. The Cubs and Red Sox could vault up this list if they put it all together.
Call this tier the very fringe of contention. We’re back to wondering when the Padres are going to turn it on this year — if they ever will — while the Mariners don’t have enough offense to string together wins at the rate they’ll need to catch the other AL contenders. New York, meanwhile ... well, yikes. The Mets’ pitching situation is a mess right now, with the team resigned to cycling through Tylor Megill, David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi as back-end options. It’s not where you’d like to be with a record payroll, and Buck Showalter may not be long for the managerial job. (As for the Cardinals: They salvaged a split of the London Series, but there’s no sign that this team has enough offense to overcome their mediocre rotation.)
Detroit is nearing returns for Alex Faedo, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal, at which point we might finally get to see what the team’s rotation of the future could look like. The offense without Riley Greene, on the other hand, is a trainwreck, but hey — Kerry Carpenter and Spencer Torkelson are doing their damnedest to make the Tigers a tough out. (Speaking of tough outs: Good on Colorado for bouncing back from Saturday’s historic 25-1 loss, although injuries have left a smoking crater where this team’s rotation once was.)
Well, A’s, it was fun while it lasted. Oakland has dropped nine of 10 after their brief winning streak, and the Royals’ pesky performance in Tampa this weekend gets them out of the cellar — if only for this week.