With the dust fully settled from the 2023 trade deadline, we’re getting a sense of the new landscape around the league as the we hit the sprint to the regular-season finish. Preseason expectations are out the window; gone are the days where teams and fans can preach patience over a long season. It’s now or never, and as the playoff picture seemingly shifts every hour, which makes this is a great opportunity to take stock of where things stand with a fresh batch of our MLB power rankings.
The Mariners are looking like world-beaters after just sweeping the Astros in Houston, while the Dodgers have won nine of 10 and are challenging the Braves’ reign atop the NL. The Brewers had an impressive Texas sweep of their own against the Rangers, while seemingly no one else in the NL Wild Card race wants to actually make the postseason. The Rays and Red Sox have started righting the ship, while the Yankees ... well, they have not. Who’s put themselves in pole position as September looms? Let’s break it down.
2023 MLB power rankings: Week 22
1. Atlanta Braves
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Baltimore Orioles
L.A. suffered yet another blow to their starting rotation with Tony Gonsolin’s likely season-ending injury, but this is the Dodgers we’re talking about: There are always options waiting in the waitings. With Ryan Pepiot now back healthy and Emmet Sheehan shoving in Triple-A — plus a healthy Clayton Kershaw, red-hot Julio Urias, Lance Lynn and Bobby Miller at the top — we’re betting that this team will find enough pitching to support its dynamite lineup. We’re not quite sure the same can be said about the Braves, although we’ll have to wait until October to find out if Atlanta’s decision not to add starting pitching at the deadline will come back to haunt it. As it stands, though, these three teams are by far the most complete rosters in the Majors, especially if the O’s keep getting great performances from Kyle Bradish.
4. Texas Rangers
5. Seattle Mariners
6. Tampa Bay Rays
7. Milwaukee Brewers
8. Houston Astros
We now enter the second circle of contenders, teams that wouldn’t surprise you at all if they wound up winning a pennant but who all have real reasons for concern. (Although at this point, we’re not even sure if that caveat applies to the Mariners, who have a dynamite trio in Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby, the bullpen to make a lead stand up and finally a little bit of run support thanks to Julio Rodriguez’s all-time heater.)
Yes, the Brewers just swept the Rangers in Texas, and Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta will be an awfully tough out come October. But I still believe that Max Scherzer will figure it out, Nathan Eovaldi is almost back and this Rangers lineup can bang with anyone. At this point, Tampa Bay is occupying this spot more on wins they’ve banked earlier this season than ability to make a deep postseason run, which feels unlikely given all the pitching injuries they’ve suffered and the Wander Franco situation. (Also: Will the real Astros please stand up?)
We decided to break baseball’s middle class up into two smaller tiers, the first of which represents teams that have been maddeningly inconsistent this season but have as high a ceiling as anyone in the tier above them. Yes, Boston just fattened up on the Yankees, who barely qualify as a Major League team at this point, but if Rafael Devers, Masataka Yoshida, Justin Turner, Trevor Story, Alex Verdugo and Triston Casas can get going at the same time — and if Chris Sale shakes off the rust — Boston has the goods to beat anyone in a very crowded AL.
Every time the Phillies look like they’re about to make a 2022-esque run up the standings, they shoot themselves in the foot and/or drop two of three to the Nationals; we need to see more from Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler before we really start to believe in this team’s championship potential. (The same goes for Toronto’s allegedly star-studded offense.) The Cubs continue to stay afloat despite a very sketchy back end of the rotation, and we can’t totally discount how deep and dangerous this lineup is when it gets rolling.
The second mini-tier can best be described as the Major League median: Teams that certainly can’t be described as bad, and could very well find themselves in the postseason, but whose recent form and fatal flaws mean that it’s hard to take them too seriously. The Twins take the top spot by default, and because there remains a small chance that their rotation could just carry them for a postseason series or two. The Giants don’t have the offense to withstand this many pitching injuries, while the Marlins and D-backs are just a bit thin and the Reds are watching their very, very talented young core go through their big-league learning curves in real time.
Is it a bit silly to have a tier that consists of only three teams? Maybe, but it was just too thematically satisfying to resist: The Angels, Padres and Yankees are all hell-bent on snagging a playoff spot, so they don’t belong in the tier below this; but they’re all mired in mediocrity, and so they don’t belong in the tier above this. At this point it’s hard to see any of them making a Wild Card push, although the Padres — stop us if you’ve heard this before — have the goods to make a run if they can get their act together. The Yankees are simply not a good collection of baseball players, while the Angels have been rendered unrecognizable by injuries. (Lucas Giolito turning into a pumpkin certainly hasn’t helped.)
We’ve now officially reached the teams who’ve consigned themselves to looking ahead to 2024. The Nationals really might avoid the NL East cellar this year — and CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray and the rest of their big trade returns have shown some very positive signs — although Buck Showalter does deserve some credit for the Mets not just packing it in entirely over these last few weeks. The Tigers also have young pieces to build around in Tarik Skubal, Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson and Kerry Carpenter, while St. Louis and Cleveland have lineups and rotations, respectively, ready to contend next season if they can figure out the other side of the ball.
Records aside, I’m not sure there’s enough of a gap in quality to separate these four teams — though the A’s certainly test that theory with each successive loss. The Rockies just took two of three from Chicago, so they get the nod here, while the Royals have been surprisingly frisky of late.