With the calendar about to flip to September, the regular-season marathon has become a the sprint to the 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 just keep on rolling, now in a dead heat with the collapsing Rangers for first place in the AL West, while the Phillies are starting to look more and more like the team that won last year’s NL pennant. The Brewers have grabbed control of the NL Central, while the AL Wild Card race is just about anyone’s guess. Who’s put themselves in pole position for the season’s final weeks? Let’s break it down.
2023 MLB power rankings: Week 23
The top tier remains the same, as the Dodgers just keep finding ways to replace one injured starter after another while the Braves and O’s have eased through the past week. Really, all three of these teams could have some pitching questions come October — although Charlie Morton and Bryce Elder’s resurgences have me feeling better about Atlanta of late — but they have the fewest question marks (and the deepest lineups) of any teams in baseball. In the end, I have slightly more faith in Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias at the top of the rotation, so L.A. gets the nod over Baltimore.
If we’re being honest, I gave some real consideration to putting Seattle in the top tier after nine wins in their last 10 games. But this isn’t just a flash in the pan: The Mariners are 35-14 dating back to the start of July, nearly two full months in which they’ve been just about the best team in baseball. No one wants to face Luis Castillo, George Kirby and Logan Gilbert in a short series, and they’re finally hitting the way we thought they might entering the season. With Matt Brash emerging at the back end of the bullpen, I’m not sure where Seattle’s weakness lies — though I want to see just a little more from their lineup, so inconsistent for the first three months, before I fully buy in. (Neither of the other AL West contenders have been too inspiring of late, with the Rangers offense disappearing and the Astros having a real pitching problem with Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier on the fritz.)
Speaking of teams no one wants to see in October: Good luck navigating the Brewers trio of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and the scorching-hot Freddy Peralta. They feel like the best bet outside of the Braves and Dodgers to come out of the NL this year, although the Phillies have woken up at the plate of late. I need to see Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola string together multiple quality starts before committing to the Phils, though.
Ah, the Majors’ middle class: Each of these teams has the potential to not only snag a postseason spot but to make noise once they get there; of course, each of them also has major question marks that could have them playing golf come October. Boston’s bats are heating up, but I still have a lot of questions about their rotation while the reverse is true for the Jays and they’re confoundingly inconsistent offense.
The Cubs look to have a keeper in rookie Jordan Wicks after his sensational debut over the weekend, but there are still a ton of unknowns in the rotation and a tendency to disappear at the plate for days at a time. The D-backs feel a little thing overall, while if we combined the Twins’ starting staff with the Reds’ offense we could really have something.
None of these teams look like they’re anywhere close to making a run at a Wild Card spot, but they’re all ostensibly contending, and so we’re sticking them in a mini-tier of their own. The Giants and Marlins have won a combined five of their last 20 games, with offenses that rank among the worst in baseball and not enough pitching to compensate for it. Speaking of bad offenses: The Padres still, as we near the final month of the season, haven’t found a way to put it together at the plate for any significant stretch of time despite all that firepower. (At this point, Los Angeles is contending only by default, as they play out the string without Shohei Ohtani in the rotation.)
We’ve now cleared even the outer circle of contention to the Land of Looking Ahead to 2024 (even the Yankees have officially announced that they’re no longer “in it to win it” this season, so we can all stop pretending). Both the Nationals and Tigers are still deep in their rebuilds, but they’ve given fans some hope to latch onto of late — with CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz looking like building blocks in D.C. and Parker Meadows joining Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson and Kerry Carpenter to form a feisty middle of the order in Detroit.
As for the last four teams in this tier, well, there’s not much to say as they play out the string. The Mets and Cardinals are in a holding pattern, geared more towards shaking and moving in the offseason rather than letting the kids play. Pittsburgh is very much in the latter camp, with Endy Rodriguez, Liover Peguero and Co. showing flashes of potential that could benefit the next competitive Pirates team (stop laughing).
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 have lost six in a row, so they fall back behind the White Sox, while the Royals have fallen back to Earth (Bobby Witt Jr. and Cole Ragans excepted) after looking surprisingly frisky earlier this month.