MLB Power Rankings Week 17: A shake-up in the top 5

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Tampa Bay's 113-day reign atop the American League East is over -- there's a new division leader in town.

The Orioles not only jumped the Rays in the division but in our power rankings as well, with Baltimore making its debut at No. 2 -- its highest standing in recent memory. But that was not the only change in our top five this week.

The Dodgers secured the final spot in the top three, the Rays fell to No. 4 -- their lowest standing since they were fourth in our Week 1 power rankings -- and the Rangers rounded out the top five.

What's the biggest need among these top five teams -- and all 30 clubs -- before the Aug. 1 trade deadline?

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 and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 16 | Second-half preview | Preseason rankings

1. Atlanta Braves


Previous ranking:1

After tearing the cover off the old horsehide in June when they hit .306/.371/.569 with 61 home runs in 25 games, the Braves' offense has slowed down a bit in July -- enough that the Dodgers now lead the National League in runs (the Rangers lead the majors). The Braves are still slugging a ton of home runs, so it's not really a cause for concern, and they're averaging 5.57 runs per game overall (through Tuesday), which would be their highest since 2003, when they averaged 5.60 per game (not counting 2020, when they averaged 5.80). The Braves made some minor moves to add pitching depth, claiming Yonny Chirinos off waivers from the Rays and acquiring relievers Pierce Johnson (Rockies) and Taylor Hearn (Rangers). Johnson is the one most likely to make an impact. He had 13 saves with the Rockies, although with a 6.00 ERA. -- Schoenfield

2. Baltimore Orioles


Previous ranking:4

The Orioles' bullpen has been a strength for two years running and in Felix Bautista and Yennier Cano, they've had one of the most devastating one-two high-leverage combos in the majors this season. But with the Orioles angling for a division title and possible No. 1 seed in the American League bracket, they need to add depth to this area of strength. Part of it is because Cano has been on the back-pedal a bit in recent weeks, a slump that perhaps reached its nadir with a blown save loss to the Phillies on Tuesday.

On the other hand, recent pickup Shintaro Fujinami threw two perfect innings with three whiffs in that game. After a brutal start to the season, Fujinami's numbers have been on the upswing and the Orioles just might be able to catch some lightning in a bottle with him. But they'll need more of that with the deadline approaching, in addition to a need for rotation upgrades that has garnered much contention. -- Doolittle

3. Los Angeles Dodgers


Previous ranking:5

A lot could change about the Dodgers over these next five days, but before it does, let's take some time to appreciate the state of their current iteration, which is in first place, once again, despite a litany of issues throughout their roster. Their rotation has been a mess, with Clayton Kershaw and Dustin May hurt, Noah Syndergaard strugglingmightily -- and then being shipped to Cleveland for shortstop Amed Rosario -- and Julio Urias having an up-and-down year. They haven't been strong up the middle, particularly at second base, shortstop and center field. Until recently, the back end of their bullpen had been a problem, too. And yet the Dodgers continue to dominate, at a time when so many high-profile teams are struggling. It's truly remarkable. -- Gonzalez

4. Tampa Bay Rays


Previous ranking:2

The month of July has transmogrified our perceptions about this year's Rays. At the end of June, the Rays were rolling, with a win pace of 109, a runs scored pace of 913 and net-run pace of 311. Those numbers have since dropped to 97, 847 and 229. While much of the trade deadline chatter about the Rays centers on their need for rotation depth, Tampa Bay needs to regain its offensive prowess to get its championship train rolling again. During July, the Rays' offense ranks 29th in both OPS and runs per game and is dead last in on-base percentage. Among the key strugglers: Wander Franco (.511) and Randy Arozarena (.499) have seen their OPSs plummet this month. -- Doolittle

5. Texas Rangers


Previous ranking:3

Texas should be as busy as anyone at the trade deadline, with bullpen help, a starter and perhaps another bat in its sights. It was a rough week for all Rangers pitchers, as they gave up 41 runs in a four-game span. It led to the highest ERA in baseball over a seven-day period ending Tuesday: 8.21. The Rangers had just one starter last six innings, taxing a bullpen that simply kept giving up hit after hit after hit to the Dodgers in a series loss. With Nathan Eovaldi getting a break this week, there's a further emphasis on the need for pitching before Tuesday's trade deadline. -- Rogers

6. Houston Astros


Previous ranking:6

Most metrics-based projection models likely still favor the Rangers in the AL West race because of their overwhelming edge over the Astros in run differential. But let's face it: With Houston closing in on the division leaders, the West once again seems like the Astros' race to lose. That means first-year GM Dana Brown can make targeted additions at the deadline, as the Astros very much remain who we thought they were. Brown told reporters that the club will likely target rotation depth, bullpen help and a left-handed bat. On the latter front, Houston ranks last -- by far -- in plate appearances from lefty batters this season. They also rank first in OPS from that group and by a good margin, so perhaps Brown should be careful to not impact the quality of his lefty at-bats in pursuit of quantity. -- Doolittle

7. Toronto Blue Jays


Previous ranking:7

As with pretty much every other contender, much of the Blue Jays' deadline-related chatter has revolved around the possibility of adding to the rotation. One quick survey of the trade terrain and the long list of teams with remaining playoff aspirations tells you that there will be some disappointed general managers a week from now. But, of course, trading for a starting pitcher isn't the only way to improve a club on the fly.

In the Blue Jays' case, one area that might have an outsized impact down the stretch would be the acquisition of a good old fashioned take-and-rake slugger. While the Jays rank near the top of MLB in categories like batting average, OBP and lowest strikeout rate, they are in the middle of the pack in runs, which, let's face it, is the category that matters most. While the question of where a three-true-outcomes slugger would play is a fair one, someone with the profile of Pirates veteran Carlos Santana (who just might be available) would be a nice complementary fit. -- Doolittle

8. Philadelphia Phillies


Previous ranking:9

The early returns on Bryce Harper's move to first base have been positive with Harper saying, "I feel very comfortable there." That continues to lead to speculation that the Phillies will look to add a corner bat at the trade deadline, allowing them to move Kyle Schwarber to DH on a regular basis. It certainly makes sense, as Schwarber's defensive metrics put his outfielder jump rating and outs above average rating both at a bottom-of-the-barrel first percentile in the majors. Jake Cave is hitting .231/.291/.333, so he's not really the solution to take over in left field. Maybe somebody like the Rockies' Randal Grichuk fits the bill or, knowing president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski's penchant for thinking big, perhaps one of the outfielders from the Cardinals -- or Cody Bellinger, if the Cubs decide to trade him. -- Schoenfield

9. Milwaukee Brewers


Previous ranking:12

The overwhelming favorite to win the division, Milwaukee is likely to be active at the trade deadline. Annually, the Brewers need help at the plate, and this July is no different. They rank in the bottom third of the majors in OPS in three of the four infield positions. The latest injury to Rowdy Tellez -- he injured his finger shagging fly balls -- should make GM Matt Arnold's job easier: There's no doubting what the team needs. The Brewers could also probably use help on the mound if they're thinking of winning in October, not just getting there. -- Rogers

10. Boston Red Sox


Previous ranking:11

With the trade deadline almost here, the Red Sox have a chance to make as big of an in-season upgrade as any other contender -- and it's not because of a splashy acquisition. Indeed, they started off the deadline period by trading away their most oft-used shortstop this season, Enrique Hernandez, to the Dodgers. While the struggling Hernandez had not been used there much recently, the timing of the deal coincided with some happy news for the BoSox: the impending return of Trevor Story.

Story, who has missed the entire season because of an elbow injury, has been playing in rehab outings in the minors and after the Hernandez trade was announced, manager Alex Cora said Story could return to the majors as soon as the coming weekend. Early on it was far from certain that he'd return in 2023 at all, so getting the two-time All-Star back before the start of August is a best-case scenario.

The lack of year-to-date production from Boston's shortstops represents one of the bigger holes on any postseason contender. If Story can return at anything close to his normal production, that's a huge upgrade at a crucial position, arguably better than anything the Red Sox might have gotten from the trade market. -- Doolittle

11. New York Yankees


Previous ranking:14

Depending on where you look, the Yankees' chances to reach the postseason have sunk to somewhere between about 1-in-5 to 2-in-5. When you look at payroll and the career profiles of this roster, you can't help but feel that something here just isn't right. And whatever it is, it goes well beyond the soon-to-end absence of Aaron Judge. During Judge's absence (since June 3), the Yankees have ranked near the bottom of the majors in OPS and runs.

The one player who has been solid at the plate all season, including during the current downturn, has been Gleyber Torres. Torres has been picking up momentum of late, with a .318/.355/.506 slash line in July. That leads us to the upcoming deadline. Torres has occasionally come up in the trade rumor mill. On one hand, it makes sense, as the Yankees have a number of young infielders at or near the majors. On the other hand, none of those players, other than Torres, have hit this season. So if you trade Torres, where does that leave this moribund attack? -- Doolittle

12. Minnesota Twins


Previous ranking:16

When the Twins beat the Mariners 4-3 on Monday, their team temperature (a Bill James-derived measure for which 72 degrees is average) rose to 103 degrees. That marked the first time all season that the Twins' temp reached triple digits and proved this enigmatic club is actually capable of getting hot. The 14-8 spree that began June 30 improved the chances that the eventual AL Central champion will finish with a better record than at least one team from the AL East. It might also have clarified matters for the deadline approach of a Minnesota team that will have to confront underdog status no matter who they play if and when they reach the playoffs. While every team could use more pitching, the Twins' staff is good enough that they can put their trade resources toward much-needed offensive help. -- Doolittle

13. San Francisco Giants


Previous ranking:8

The Giants have aggressively promoted the likes of Patrick Bailey, Casey Schmitt and Luis Matos this season -- and now they're doing the same with Marco Luciano. Luciano, the team's top hitting prospect, was called up Wednesday morning after just a six-game Triple-A stint and will take over as the everyday shortstop, at least for the foreseeable future. Leading up to that point, the Giants had scored only 11 runs in their previous seven games (six of them losses) and were in need of a spark, particularly from their middle infield. Luciano, 21, missed the first month of the season because of a back injury but had been slashing .262/.370/.490 in the minor leagues since the start of June. Brandon Crawford is nearing his way back from the injured list, but the Giants will probably find room for Luciano if he's hitting. -- Gonzalez

14. Arizona Diamondbacks


Previous ranking:10

The month of July has been especially unkind to the D-backs. They've dropped 14 of 20 games, going from a three-game cushion to a four-game deficit in the NL West while getting swept by the Mets, Blue Jays and Reds. Their dynamic offense is slashing only .239/.317/.410 this month, but their rotation has pitched to a 5.20 ERA and their bullpen has put up a 1.60 WHIP. So, it has all been bad. And their next five series -- against the Mariners, Giants, Twins, Dodgers and Padres, respectively -- won't make things any easier. The D-backs could desperately use a boost, particularly with a pitching acquisition or two. Merrill Kelly is back, at least, and he provided six innings of one-run ball against the Cardinals on Tuesday. -- Gonzalez

15. Cincinnati Reds


Previous ranking:15

Cincinnati is scouring the pitching market. A veteran arm could solidify a staff that should be stronger down the stretch as its own pitchers get healthy. The Reds are in a tight division battle with the Brewers, who have the pitching but not the hitting. Cincinnati is the opposite. While Elly De La Cruz had a rare tough week, going 3-for-19 over a six-game span, Will Benson and Matt McClain picked him up -- both OPS'd over 1.000 in the same time frame. Cincinnati is in that fun "different hero every night" stage of its rebuild. If it gets a starter with experience at the deadline, an earlier-than-expected appearance in the postseason is still possible. -- Rogers

16. Miami Marlins


Previous ranking:13

Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Rays dropped the Marlins to 3-11 in their past 14 games -- before Miami's win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday -- as both the offense and pitching have scuffled since returning from the All-Star break (they lost eight in a row coming out of the break to the Orioles, Cardinals and Rockies). The Marlins hit .244 with just four home runs over a 10-game stretch and even Luis Arraez hit a mere .310 over that period, although he did deliver the walk-off base hit to beat the Rockies on Sunday. Johnny Cueto made his first start since April 3 on Saturday and allowed just one run in six innings with eight strikeouts, so that's a good sign as Eury Perez remains in the minors to help conserve his innings (he hasn't pitched since being sent down). -- Schoenfield

17. Los Angeles Angels


Previous ranking:19

The Angels have been doing their part on the field to try to ensure that Shohei Ohtaniwould not be traded before the deadline. A 13-game stretch that saw them lose 11 times has been followed with six wins in seven games, allowing them to remain within striking distance of the final wild-card spot with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon out. The franchise appeared to go all-in on seeing how this plays out for the rest of the season on Wednesday night by first pulling Ohtani's name off the trade market and then making a deal to acquire Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez from the White Sox.-- Gonzalez

18. San Diego Padres


Previous ranking:18

Blake Snell started against the Pirates on Tuesday, pitching six innings of one-run ball to lower his ERA to 2.61 and continue his run as one of the sport's most dominant pitchers since the start of May. The question, of course, is whether that will ultimately be his last start in a Padres uniform. The Padres won that night's game, but by that point they had split their first dozen games since the All-Star break and thus remained below .500. They still believe they have the makings of a championship-contending team if moves are made on the margins of the roster, but they're running out of time. And others will undoubtedly present some intriguing trade packages for Snell and closer Josh Hader, both of whom will be free agents at season's end. It remains to be seen whether they'll be traded. -- Gonzalez

19. Seattle Mariners


Previous ranking:17

What a wild two games against the Twins. On Monday, Kolten Wong hit a shocking two-run, two-out go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth -- only to see Andres Munoz blow the save and the Mariners lose in the 10th. On Tuesday, they were down four runs in the eighth before rallying for seven runs over the final two frames -- the first time since 1991 they rallied from that far down on the road in the eighth inning. Julio Rodriguez had his second career two-homer game in the win, including a tying blast in the eighth -- on the day he was dropped from second to fifth in the batting order. It was rare high-leverage production from Rodriguez, who was so good in the clutch last season but entered Tuesday's game hitting just .183 in high-leverage situations. -- Schoenfield

20. Cleveland Guardians


Previous ranking:20

The Guardians are close enough to the Twins that they probably won't be looking to make any big deals (meaning trading players away, because we know they are unlikely to make any big deals to bring players in), although there certainly will be a lot of interest in some of their bullpen arms.

In the meantime, with Xzavion Curry now in the rotation, the Guardians have four rookie starters in him, Tanner Bibee, Logan Allen and Gavin Williams. Curry's first two starts have each been three innings, so we'll see if he remains more of an opener or whether they'll look to stretch him out. Williams, the first-round pick in 2021, is seen as having the highest ceiling. He has been solid, if unspectacular, so far -- he hasn't generated a ton of swing-and-misses (except one start against the Royals) and the command is a little shaky -- but he owns a nice four-pitch arsenal, with his four-seamer averaging 95 mph. -- Schoenfield

21. Chicago Cubs


Previous ranking:22

While the Cubs were almost a sure team to deal a few weeks ago, they are clawing their way back to .500. The odds say it's still a long shot for Chicago to make the playoffs but with an easy schedule this week -- combined with tougher ones for rivals in Milwaukee and Cincinnati -- the momentum in the division might favor the Cubs as the trade deadline approaches. It's not so much what they'll add but what they won't give up: Bellinger. He has been on fire since returning from an injury in May. Since the All-Star break, alone, he has an OPS over 1.300. If the Cubs do add, it'll be in the bullpen, where they desperately need a veteran lefty and another right-hander. -- Rogers

22. New York Mets


Previous ranking:21

The Mets remain one of the most intriguing teams to watch at the trade deadline, especially in regard to what they'll do with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Both have no-trade clauses and big salaries for 2024, so trading them won't be easy.

But interest certainly has to be increasing on Verlander after he had another excellent outing Tuesday against the Yankees with six scoreless innings. He has a 1.98 ERA over his past eight starts while limiting batters to a .184 average. It's not a completely rosy picture -- he did walk four against the Yankees and had a six-walk game against the Dodgers on July 14, plus his strikeout rate isn't overly impressive in that span. But it's Verlander, and he's pitching well. Factor in that the Mets' next seven games are against the Nationals and Royals and they might just decide to let things play out. -- Schoenfield

23. St. Louis Cardinals


Previous ranking:23

Retool, retool, retool. It's not a concept the Cardinals are used to, but they have no choice after a losing weekend in Chicago in which they won Game 1 of the series only to drop the next three. Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty are likely moving on, but how far will St. Louis go? Most think not that far as the division is no juggernaut, and as long as the Cardinals find some pitching for next season, they could be right back near the top of the division. Montgomery's streak of giving up one or fewer runs came to an end at five games after he gave up five to the Cubs on Sunday. He still managed to get through six innings, though, so his stock should not have fallen much after one mediocre start. -- Rogers

24. Detroit Tigers


Previous ranking:24

The Tigers' postseason chances remain small, as does the likelihood of them making a splashy acquisition before the deadline. Still, the narrative of the Tigers' season has shifted in recent weeks for the better. For a while, it seemed like the building-block young players on the roster were all either injured or struggling, but the trend has reversed in recent games.

Riley Greene has returned to the lineup and resumed his sharp upward trajectory. Spencer Torkelson isn't there yet in terms of consistency but his numbers have been on the climb. Most importantly, the Tigers have pitched their tails off of late with young hurlers Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and Reese Olson all playing a part in that. Their continued progress from here to the end of the season would give Tigers fans ample reason to enter the offseason with a lot more optimism than you would have thought possible two months ago. -- Doolittle

25. Pittsburgh Pirates


Previous ranking:25

It has been a while since the Pirates won a series as they've methodically moved down the standings and into last place in the NL Central. They ranked 26th in ERA over the past month and 28th over the past two weeks as no regular starter has an ERA under 4.00. All-Star Mitch Keller's ERA in July is over 7.00, and that's with a seven-inning shutout included. Teams are simply squaring him up more, unlike earlier in the year when he was inducing soft contact. He'll set a career high in innings pitched as long as he's healthy. That's the good news. There isn't much of that these days in Pittsburgh. -- Rogers

26. Chicago White Sox


Previous ranking:26

Falling to 20 games below .500 as we near the trade deadline is the exclamation mark on a horrendous season that should result in a front office shakeup. But this is the White Sox, so it's anyone's guess what owner Jerry Reinsdorf will do after the team's rebuild fell flat on its face. First up, the team moved pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez in a trade with the Angels. Next to go could be Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly. Statistically, there haven't been many worse position players than Tim Anderson, but he has gotten hot at the right time if the White Sox are thinking of trading him. He hit .378 in the first nine games after the All-Star break, driving the ball to right field like he usually does when things are going well for him. Little has this season, though. -- Rogers

27. Washington Nationals


Previous ranking:27

Here's a goal: Pass the Mets and finish in fourth place! Who was taking bets before the season that the Nationals would finish with a better record than the Mets? Washington heads to Citi Field for four games this weekend, so if it takes three of four or even sweeps New York that would put pressure on that "race." One way to catch the Mets is for MacKenzie Gore to get on a roll -- or at least show some consistency. He has had a weird every-other-start-is-a-good-one thing going. Look at his runs allowed since June 10: 5, 0, 5, 1, 7, 0 (lifted early because of a rain delay), 5, 0. Overall, his whiff (74th percentile) and strikeout rates (79th percentile) are strong indicators, while his control continues to be his biggest problem. It's a learning curve, but there is still No. 2 starter potential here. -- Schoenfield

28. Colorado Rockies


Previous ranking:28

The Rockies' jarring pitching issues clearly extend beyond the major leagues. Three of their top four pitching prospects, as ranked by, were scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery this week, right around the same time as Antonio Senzatela. The three prospects: Gabriel Hughes, the 10th overall pick in 2022; Jackson Cox, a second-round selection in that same draft; and Jordy Vargas, an international signing in 2021. Hughes, Vargas and Cox were ranked sixth, 11th and 12th, respectively, in the Rockies' system by Now they might not pitch until 2025. The Rockies have already started selling off major league players, with veteran reliever Pierce Johnson dealt to the Braves on Monday. More will follow. -- Gonzalez

29. Kansas City Royals


Previous ranking:29

This is hard to believe, but it is the Royals we're talking about here: Cleveland beat Kansas City on Tuesday to hand Zack Greinke his 16th consecutive road loss. His last road win came on Aug. 21, 2021, when he was with the Astros. In 27 road starts since -- 24 of them with the Royals -- he has gone 0-16 with a 6.43 ERA. Of course, he also has just one win at home this season and is now 1-11 with a 5.49 ERA. And get this: In his career, Greinke is 65-87 in his two stints with the Royals and 159-65 with the Brewers, Angels, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Astros. He's still a future Hall of Famer, but this is not exactly the way you want to go out if it's your final season. -- Schoenfield

30. Oakland Athletics


Previous ranking:30

"Sell the team!" chants filled the air at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Tuesday night, followed by pleas of "Stay in Oakland!" It was a rare moment in time when A's and Giants fans came together to protest the A's impending move to Las Vegas, making up a sellout crowd of more than 40,000. These are clearly tough times for A's fans in Oakland.

"Totally understand the sentiment in the bay and totally understand the sentiment in the ballpark tonight," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. -- Gonzalez

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