As we pass the halfway point of the 2023 season and prepare for next week’s All-Star festivities, a big change has come at the top of our power rankings.
After holding the No. 1 spot for 10 consecutive weeks, the Rays’ long-standing reign atop our list has come to an end. Who usurped them? Baseball’s hottest team at the moment — the Braves.
Meanwhile, Miami has cracked the top 10 for the first time this season, and Houston is back in the top five after claiming a series win over division rival Texas.
Where does every other team rank as we enter the All-Star break?
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 Buster Olney, Bradford Doolittle, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with observations for all 30 teams.
Previous ranking: 2
In a 27-game stretch that began June 2, the Braves batted over .300 as a team. They averaged 2.5 homers and seven runs per game. Their team slugging percentage was .577, and to put that staggering number into perspective, think about this: Only three individual players have posted a higher slugging percentage during this season — the two MVP front-runners, Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr., and White Sox All-Star Luis Robert Jr. After the draft, the focus for the Braves’ front office will be identifying the available players who could help what is already a dynamic roster in a postseason appearance that is now inevitable. — Olney
Previous ranking: 1
The Rays limped into their 2008 World Series rematch with the Phillies as cold as they’ve been all season. This can be measured objectively: According to Bill James’ temperature metric, Tampa Bay dropped to 65.2 degrees when it lost the series opener against Philadelphia. That’s the lowest it’s been all season for a club that was at 126.6 degrees when it reached the apex of a 13-0 start.
After the Rays finish with the Phillies, they get the one team that’s been hotter than them this season, the rampaging Braves. In most projection-based simulations, a Rays-Braves matchup has been the most likely 2023 World Series pairing nearly all season. The timing isn’t great for Tampa Bay, as the Braves have been sizzling at more than 100 degrees since the middle of June. However it turns out, by the time that series is over, the All-Star break will be arriving just in time for the Rays. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 3
Texas finally hit a speed bump as it lost three of four to the second-place Astros while taking a few hits on the mound. Rangers pitchers produced a 5.50 ERA for the week as Martin Perez couldn’t get out of the second inning on Monday. He hasn’t been the same pitcher as last season, though others have made up for it, including All-Star Nathan Eovaldi. He leads the league in innings pitched after tossing yet another gem over the weekend. He shut out the Astros over seven innings while giving up just two hits. He has been as good as any free agent signing from last winter. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 8
The Astros are coming off perhaps their biggest week of the season. After falling to just five games over .500 in June and falling 6½ games behind Texas in the American League West, Houston entered a four-game set at Globe Life Field in a precarious spot. But after the champs took three of four, capped by an exhilarating seesaw 12-11 decision July 3, the division remains very much up for grabs.
What’s next for the Astros? Managing injuries and workload between now and the trade deadline would seem to top manager Dusty Baker’s to-do list. Jose Altuve has been dealing with some irksome oblique discomfort, not the kind of thing you can ignore on a 33-year-old. Yordan Alvarez might begin a rehab assignment after the break. On the flip side, Baker has sounded doubtful about Michael Brantley helping any time soon. The outcome of all of this could determine how aggressive the Astros get in the trade market. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 5
A lot of the focus among the National League snubs for the All-Star Game centered on Fernando Tatis Jr., but Ketel Marte also seems plenty deserving. The D-backs’ switch-hitting second baseman has slashed .284/.364/.500 through his first 80 games and has contributed 2.2 FanGraphs WAR even though his defense hasn’t graded out all that great. First baseman Christian Walker and shortstop Geraldo Perdomo also made a case to join Corbin Carroll, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Zac Gallen at the Midsummer Classic. In other words: The D-backs, still in first place in the NL West, are really good and really deep, especially on the position-player side. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 6
This week, the Dodgers received the news they feared: Dustin May will undergo surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right elbow, a procedure that will rule out the possibility of him pitching this season. May’s status was learned a day after Clayton Kershaw landed on the injured list with shoulder inflammation, an ailment that isn’t expected to keep him out much longer than this week but one that resides in a troublesome area nonetheless. Couple that with Tony Gonsolin‘s recent dip in velocity, Julio Urias‘ up-and-down season, Noah Syndergaard‘s maddening struggles and Walker Buehler‘s uncertainty while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and it’s obvious that the Dodgers will be aggressive in their pursuit of starting pitching this month. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 4
Blue Jays (home), Cubs (road), Rays (road), Mariners (home), Reds (home), Twins (home), Yankees (home), Twins (road), Marlins (home), Dodgers (home), Rays (road), Phillies (road), Yankees (home), Blue Jays (home), Mets (home), Astros (home), Mariners (road), Padres (road). That list of Baltimore opponents encompasses an unbroken string of tough series that began in mid-June and runs through mid-August. So perhaps it’s no surprise the Orioles have begun to cede some ground in the playoff races.
The remedy thus far has been to keep getting younger. And when you’ve got talent from Kiley McDaniel’s top-ranked system, why not? After introducing infielder Jordan Westburg (McDaniel’s No. 7 O’s prospect) recently, Baltimore has now summoned outfielder Colton Cowser (No. 4) for his debut this week. Cowser was hitting .330/.459/.537 in Triple-A. As the Orioles press for the present, their future keeps taking shape before our eyes. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 9
New York might currently be playing its best baseball in games where Aaron Judge isn’t available. It has been a struggle in that department over the past couple of years, but there’s always Oakland to fix what ails you. The Yankees outscored the A’s 22-6 in a series win last week, and then followed that up with two wins to begin this week over the team right in front of them, the Orioles. The best news is it wasn’t just one person carrying the Yankees on offense. Eight different players hit at least one home run last week, while five others had an OPS over .990. That balance is what they’ve missed without Judge. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 10
Toronto may not have a legitimate shot at the AL East, but it is firmly in the wild-card race and should be adding at the trade deadline. The Blue Jays will probably need to be better in the division at some point, though, as they’re just 7-20 against those opponents and are battling the Yankees and Orioles for a wild-card spot. Will the return of Alek Manoah on Friday be a boost? It’s hard to know whether the righty fixed what ailed him until he does it on a major league mound again. Manoah restarts his MLB season after compiling a 6.36 ERA in 13 starts before being sent down early last month. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 11
The success of the Marlins is almost incomprehensible with Sandy Alcantara going through such struggles this season. The guy who won the NL Cy Young Award last season now ranks 57th out of 63 qualifying MLB pitchers in ERA, and in his 17 starts, the Marlins are 7-10. There really is no end in sight: He has allowed four or five earned runs in five of his past seven starts. Manager Skip Schumaker speculated out loud on the “Baseball Tonight” podcast recently, saying what a lot of his peers have mentioned — that a lot of the pitchers who participated in the WBC have struggled this year, after going through an unusual schedule in their preparation. — Olney
Previous ranking: 7
The absence of Buster Posey left a massive hole both behind the plate and in the lineup last season and was one of the primary reasons for the Giants’ seismic drop-off. Patrick Bailey — and, notably, not Joey Bart — has filled it. The 2020 first-round pick has batted .302/.336/.512 through his first 37 games, while throwing out 39% of would-be base-stealers and ranking among the best pitch framers in the game. The Giants were 20-23 when Bailey made his major league debut on May 19 and are 27-17 ever since, despite losing six of their past eight games. It’s not an Adley Rutschman-style turnaround, but the Giants will surely take it. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 13
Winning the division is probably out of the question now for the Phillies because of how the Braves have boat-raced away from their NL East rivals. But the Phillies learned last fall how dangerous a team can be even if it gets into the playoffs as the lowest seed — and all things considered, Philadelphia continues to trend upward, with 21 wins in their past 28 games. Aaron Nola is pitching well, Nick Castellanos is having one of his best seasons, and given owner John Middleton’s commitment to winning, it figures the Phillies will add help before the trade deadline. What they really need now is for Bryce Harper to fully regain his power. He’s having a good season, with an OPS+ of 123, but he has three homers in 235 plate appearances. — Olney
Previous ranking: 14
Arguably the most entertaining team in MLB since the promotion of Elly De La Cruz, the Reds haven’t stopped hitting. Cruz is a human highlight reel, becoming the first player in the history of the game to compile 10 extra base hits, 10 stolen bases and 20 runs scored in his first 25 career games. Cruz, along with fellow rookies Matt McLain and Spencer Steer, led the Reds to a wild 7-5 win over the Padres on Friday as all three drove in runs in extra innings to secure the win. Cincinnati simply needs to add some pitching at the deadline to really become formidable. Easier said than done, but with its dynamic offense, an innings-eater or two may be all it needs. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 15
Christian Yelich is starting to heat up. He compiled an OPS over 1.100 last week to go along with a couple of stolen bases. It gave him 20 on the season and put him on pace to break his career mark of 30, set in 2019. He helped propel the Brewers to series wins over the Mets and Pirates as FanGraphs still gives Milwaukee the best odds to win the division — over 50%. That’s a huge number considering it has been neck-and-neck with the Reds in the standings lately, but the Brewers have an edge in a major area of the game: pitching. That should only get better as they get healthy. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 17
The onus on the front office to upgrade the offense continues to intensify as the weeks go by, and Minnesota’s ongoing sparring session with the .500 level remains just enough, most days, to stay in first place. The Twins’ pitching, both rotation and bullpen, has arguably been baseball’s best over the first half. The offense has remained firmly fixed in the bottom 10. The construction of the lineup is simple and unsubtle: hit the ball in the air as far as you can. The Twins don’t hit for average, strike out way too much and don’t do anything on balls in play. The bar to win the AL Central is low, but when your pitching is this good, your sights ought to be set a little higher than that. On the bright side, at least gains from the right acquisitions figure to be more than marginal. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 12
July was looking like a critical month for the Angels’ chances of being adders before the trade deadline and competing down the stretch — at least six of their eight series would come against legitimate contenders — and it could not have gotten off to a worse start.
On the morning of July 4, the Angels announced that Mike Trout fractured the hamate bone in his left hand, an injury that could cost him eight weeks. Later that afternoon, Anthony Rendon fouled a ball off his shin and exited the game, and Ohtani walked off the mound with a trainer by his side. Rendon only suffered a contusion but might land on the IL; Ohtani is dealing with a blister, but he probably won’t pitch in the All-Star Game and might have to deal with it for the foreseeable future. The Angels later suffered their sixth loss in a span of seven games. They’re in trouble. Again. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 16
Team president Sam Kennedy recently affirmed out loud that Chaim Bloom, the team’s head of baseball operations, has the backing of the team’s ownership to continue to make decisions — and there are a lot to be made over the next four weeks. After Bloom oversees the draft, he’ll lead the Red Sox through a period when they’ll have to add or subtract, and if you look to the 2022 precedent, Boston is very likely to subtract. They were 3½ games behind in the wild-card race at the time the Red Sox swapped starting catcher Christian Vazquez; on Wednesday morning, they were already five games behind in the wild-card race. That could mean Enrique Hernandez, Kenley Jansen and potentially others are in their last month with Boston. — Olney
Previous ranking: 19
Like the Phillies, the Mariners know firsthand that it’s possible to find fixes in the second half of the season. At the All-Star break last year, Seattle was 45-42, 12 games behind the Astros for the AL West and tied for the final wild-card spot with the Blue Jays. This year, the Mariners aren’t that far off from that 2022 performance: They’re currently 42-43. But the AL playoff race is more competitive this year, with the emergence of the Rangers and Orioles, so Seattle will be under some pressure right after the All-Star break to start gaining ground. It’ll have the opportunity to do just that — after playing a series in Detroit, it has seven games at home against the Twins and Blue Jays. — Olney
Previous ranking: 18
Nelson Cruz, one of the sport’s most beloved players, was designated for assignment by the Padres on Tuesday, a notable, somewhat surprising move that was made in an effort to provide more position-player flexibility. If the Padres don’t get on a nice run here over the next three weeks, Cruz might be far from the only notable veteran to go elsewhere.
Rival executives throughout the league are beginning to wonder if the Padres might get to a point when they consider dealing the likes of Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Josh Hader and Ha-Seong Kim in an effort to capitalize on what is expected to be a weak trade market and bring back some young, controllable players, which they desperately need. They won’t rebuild, of course, but going this route could set them up nicely for 2024 if they decide contending in 2023 is simply not feasible. The big question, of course, is Juan Soto, a free agent at the end of next season. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 21
Things have been on the upswing in Cleveland. The Guardians still haven’t been at .500 since they moved to 13-13 on April 28 — though they’ve slipped into first place a couple of times anyway — but lately they’ve looked a lot more like the defending AL Central champions. Beginning with a blowout win at Arizona on June 18, Cleveland has averaged over five runs per game, a marked uptick from the sleepy attack we’ve seen most of the campaign. Leading the charge has been the rampaging Josh Naylor, who has continued a spree that began the day after Memorial Day. From May 30 through July 3, Naylor hit .393/.416/.581 with 28 RBIs in 28 games. Alas, Naylor had to leave the July 3 contest early because of some soreness in his right wrist, and his near-term status has yet to be clarified. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 22
Pete Alonso‘s game-clinching home run against the Giants on Sunday seemed to ease the pressure on the Mets’ players and staff. It helped the Mets win their first series in a month — against a good team playing well, no less. Now the challenge for manager Buck Showalter & Co. is to build on that momentum, immediately. Given the massive financial investment owner Steve Cohen has made in this year’s team, it made sense for the front office to add a little more payroll with the Trevor Gott deal, plugging a hole in the struggling bullpen. — Olney
Previous ranking: 20
Clutch hitting and pitching from opponents continues to plague the Cubs, who should be better than their record indicates. That notion will give President Jed Hoyer some sleepless nights as we head towards the trade deadline. Should an underachieving team add on the edges at the deadline, hoping some stats reverse themselves? Or is this who they are, and it’s better to retool for next season? That’s the dilemma the front office faces. The Cubs could desperately use an experienced left-hander in the bullpen, as Anthony Kay isn’t going to cut it. On Monday, he gave up a three-run double to Jahmai Jones, who was taking his first MLB at-bat in two years. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 23
Adam Wainwright‘s final season has been one to forget. Since June 1, he has compiled a 9.24 ERA, including almost as many walks (11) as strikeouts (12). Last week, he pitched five innings over two starts, giving up 10 earned runs. Sometimes stats lie, but these don’t. Wainwright has nothing working for him, and neither do the Cardinals. Losing 15-2 to the light-hitting Marlins on July 4 was the latest nail in the coffin of an abysmal season in St. Louis. The defending champs of the NL Central are probably going to trade away rather than add before the deadline, a rarity for a historically good franchise. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 24
Pittsburgh’s playoff odds dropped all the way down to 3%, worst in the NL central — even worse than the last-place Cardinals. The Pirates ranked 25th in ERA last week, continuing a trend that began in June. Here’s a snapshot of their week on the mound: Three of their starters totaled 16⅓ innings while giving up 22 runs on 28 hits. Luis Ortiz gave up five home runs in just two outings. Even All-Star Mitch Keller wasn’t immune. He produced a 7.20 ERA — and he wasn’t even one of the above mentioned starters. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 25
After an epic June, Luis Robert Jr. began July in grand fashion when he was selected as the White Sox’s lone representative for the All-Star Game. In a different universe, one in which Chicago hasn’t floundered all season, Robert would be an MVP candidate. Instead, his breakout season was so overlooked that not only did he land outside of the top 20 in the fan voting part of the selection process, but the players didn’t vote him in either. It was left to the MLB office to anoint Roberts for his first All-Star appearance. Robert posted a 1.040 OPS in June. His 24 homers by the end of the month were the fourth-most pre-July dingers in White Sox history. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 26
OK, let’s dream a little bit. The Tigers are not a good team. They weren’t projected to be good either by objective forecasts or the oddsmakers before the season. They haven’t played very well since then, either, with park-adjusted run-scoring and run-prevention figures that both rank near the bottom of the AL, ahead of the lowly Royals and Athletics. And yet … and yet … Detroit is only 6½ games out of first place in the putrid AL Central.
What’s more, the Tigers are getting healthier. Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and Eduardo Rodriguez are all back in the rotation, and outfielder Riley Greene, the Tigers’ top position player before he was injured, is starting a rehab stint in the minors. We have just under a month until the trade deadline. Is there a hot streak in these Tigers between now and then? The next-30 slate is tough, but what if Detroit does catch fire? — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 27
As front office executives speculate about the upcoming trade deadline, a name frequently mentioned is that of Nationals third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who is in his eighth year in the big leagues. He’s not a star player, nor is he someone who hits a lot of home runs or for high average. But talent evaluators note there is a steadiness to what he does, an equilibrium, which is what contenders often look for this time of year. Two years after leading the majors in doubles, the switch-hitter has 27 doubles, two triples and 12 homers, with an OPS+ of 125; he has an .882 OPS as a righty hitter batting against left-handed pitchers. — Olney
Previous ranking: 28
The Rockies have lost 10 consecutive games on the road, during which they have been outscored by 44 runs, slashed .223/.298/.385 and pitched to an 8.10 ERA. But their struggles have come at home, too. The Rockies have won just nine of 31 games overall since the start of June, while trending toward the first 100-loss season in franchise history. Their starting pitchers have combined for a 6.60 ERA, on track to be the second highest since 1990, topped only by a 1996 Tigers team that lost 109 games. I’m sorry we don’t have better news to share. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 29
At this point of the Royals’ miserable season, there’s not much left to do but try to win little battles here and there. Not games so much — we’re talking more about answering as many questions for the future construction of the club as you can. In that vein, the Royals might have stumbled across a pretty good answer for their bullpen in Jonathan Heasley.
Heasley, 26, worked as a starter during his first 24 appearances as a big leaguer, including 21 games last season. He didn’t show much to be excited about, with a 5-11 mark, 79 ERA+ and a strikeout rate of 5.8 per nine innings. He joined the Royals’ big league bullpen this week and made two appearances. One result was bad and one was perfect, but more important was the stuff: Heasley has topped out at 98-plus mph with his four-seamer, a marked increase from his work out of the rotation. All of this is based on a tiny sample, and he actually has to convert the velocity into outs on a consistent basis. Still, it’s an example of the kind of thing the Royals can experiment with in an effort to salvage something of this lost season. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 30
Remember that magical six-game winning streak that culminated in the “reverse boycott” in front of nearly 30,000 people on June 13? Well, since then the A’s are 6-13 with an OPS of just .614 and and an ERA of 4.87. One bright spot: JP Sears pitched 7⅓ scoreless innings against the Tigers on Tuesday, not relying so heavily on his fastball and allowing only five singles in a start that saw him pitch into the eighth inning for the first time in his career. The A’s will have to ride little victories like that for what remains of their season. — Gonzalez
MLB Power Rankings: A new No. 1 heading into All-Star break?!