MLB Power Rankings Week 23: Which red-hot NL team made its top-3 debut?

Thursday, September 15, 2022

There are a little less than three weeks left in the 2022 regular season, meaning things are getting really interesting in certain divisions.

While the Dodgers are by far the best squad in the National League -- becoming the first team to secure a postseason berth on Monday and then clinching the NL West the following day -- the Braves and Mets are in a neck-and-neck battle for not only the No. 2 spot, but the NL East division.

The Rays, Blue Jays and Mariners are also in a tight race as the postseason approaches, as the three teams keep going back and forth in the American League wild-card seeding.

How do all these clubs compare to one another?

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 22 | Second-half preview | Preseason rankings

1. Los Angeles Dodgers


Previous ranking:1

The Dodgers wrapped up the NL West on Tuesday night with 21 regular-season games still in front of them. Had it not been for a miraculous 107-win season from the 2021 Giants, the Dodgers would have 10 consecutive division titles. They'll settle for nine of 10. Tuesday's Clayton Kershaw-led 4-0 victory over the D-backs gave the Dodgers their 918th regular-season victory during that 10-year stretch, dating back to 2013. The second-place Yankees had won only 845 by that point. The Dodgers are navigating through a historic run. It has produced only one championship, at the end of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season -- and many believe they need another one to validate it. -- Gonzalez

2. Houston Astros


Previous ranking:2

If Justin Verlander gets back to game action, ramps back up to his pre-injury workload and shows the same form he did before tweaking his calf, you figure he's a no-brainer to start the Astros' first playoff game in the ALDS. Still, Framber Valdez has pitched so well at this point, you have to figure manager Dusty Baker would be more than comfortable with giving him the nod.

Simply put, Valdez has been dazzling. After a complete-game shutout of Detroit on Monday, Valdez now has thrown an AL-leading 179 2/3 innings and has allowed just nine homers during those frames. His rate of 0.5 homers allowed per nine innings is another league-leading figure. Valdez has allowed more than three earned runs in a start just once this season and that happened way back on April 19. -- Doolittle

3. Atlanta Braves


Previous ranking:4

Michael Harris II doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify for the leaderboards, but if he did, his .900 OPS would rank in the top 10 in the majors. His second half has been absurd:.337.380/.605. On the other hand, it's clear that Kenley Jansen is going to be a huge concern for the stretch run and postseason (Dodgers fans, nod your heads). He allowed two home runs against the Mariners to blow Sunday's lead -- the Braves had rallied for five runs in the top of the ninth for a 7-6 lead -- for a total of eight home runs and seven blown saves on the season. As good as the Braves have been the past three-plus months, Jansen is the biggest question mark. --Schoenfield

4. New York Mets


Previous ranking:3

Tuesday's game looked like a sure win: Jacob deGrom starting against the Cubs. Instead, deGrom allowed three runs in six innings, including a home run, as the Cubs won 4-1. The Mets' ace did manage to strike out 10, giving him 73 in 49 1/3 innings. With Max Scherzer making a rehab start in Syracuse on Wednesday, the Mets will hopefully get their 1-2 punch back together for next week. New York is hoping to turn things around after this current underwhelming stretch in which it has gone 5-6 against the Nationals, Pirates, Marlins and Cubs. If the Mets lose out to the Braves, they're going to regret not playing better against the dregs of the NL. -- Schoenfield

5. New York Yankees


Previous ranking:6

The Yankees lost the series opener on Friday to the Rays, dropping their AL East lead to just 3.5 games, the smallest it had been since May 9, but responded with a 10-3 win on Saturday (scoring six in the first off Corey Kluber) and a 10-4 win on Sunday (scoring 10 in the first two innings). An extra-inning win on Tuesday over the Red Sox increased the lead to a more comfortable six games. Aaron Judge, now hitting leadoff, snapped a five-game homerless drought with two in that Red Sox game, including the game-tying homer in the eighth, giving him 57. -- Schoenfield

6. St. Louis Cardinals


Previous ranking:5

St. Louis is on cruise control after taking command of the division last month. The only remaining two questions is if the Cardinals can catch the No. 2 seed in the NL -- though the Braves and Mets are both hot right now, as well -- and if Albert Pujols can reach 700 before he calls it a career. To fans in St. Louis, the second question might be more important than the first. With a seven-game homestand before a long road trip, Pujols should get a lot of home at-bats to reach that magical number. -- Rogers

7. Tampa Bay Rays


Previous ranking:7

If you're a Rays fan, you probably know this answer. What percentage of mainstream baseball fans would you guess could name the Rays' runs created leader in 2022? We are, after all, talking about a playoff-bound team and perennial contender. Still, you figure it would be a small slice of that fandom that could tell you that Yandy Diaz leads the Rays in runs created this season. Diaz, 30, has the powerful build of a classic slugger but a statline that more resembles that of a classic No. 1 or 2 hitter. Diaz has homered just eight times but has posted a .295/.404/.421 slash line, good for a team-high 79 runs created. Only Judge has posted a better on-base percentage among AL hitters. -- Doolittle

8. Seattle Mariners


Previous ranking:8

The Mariners took two of three at home against the Braves in a series that drew over 130,000 fans to T-Mobile Park. Sunday's 8-7 win was not only the most dramatic of the season for the Mariners but one of the most dramatic in the majors in 2022. The bullpen, so dominant the past few months, blew a 6-2 lead in the top of the ninth, but Julio Rodriguez hit a one-out homer in the bottom of the ninth off Jansen to win it (his second of the game) and Eugenio Suarez walked it off with a two-out homer, his second of the game. The Mariners now hit the easy part of the schedule: Their final 20 games are all against teams with losing records. -- Schoenfield

9. Toronto Blue Jays


Previous ranking:9

As the Blue Jays continue their three-way scrum with the Mariners and Rays for wild-card positioning, one player has emerged as Toronto's most likely candidate to garner widespread support in postseason awards balloting. That would be second-year righty Alek Manoah, who may have separated himself from teammate Kevin Gausman and moved just outside of the upper tier of AL Cy Young candidates. The top tier currently consists of Chicago's Dylan Cease, two-way wonder Shohei Ohtani and soon-to-return Houston ace Verlander. Then Manoah, 14-7 with a 2.43 ERA over 177 2/3 innings, is right there with a cluster of hopefuls who need strong closing kicks and some clunkers out of the top three. -- Doolittle

10. Philadelphia Phillies


Previous ranking:11

Nothing like a bunch of games against the Marlins and Nationals to get things back on a winning track. After six losses in seven games, the Phillies took two of three from the Marlins and swept the Nationals and then beat Sandy Alcantara 2-1 on Tuesday. The series at Atlanta this weekend will be a little tougher test (along with another series against the Braves next week). One key for the stretch: Getting Kyle Schwarber's power going again. Over a 31-game span from Aug. 6 to Sept. 13, he hit just three home runs. Bryce Harper also homered just twice in his first 16 games since returning from the IL. -- Schoenfield

11. San Diego Padres


Previous ranking:10

Perhaps it's time to start worrying about Juan Soto. The Padres' highly touted new right fielder has struggled mightily of late, going 3-for-44 over his last 14 games to drop his OPS to .716 since coming over from the Nationals in a blockbuster trade. With Soto slumping, the Padres are averaging just 3.5 runs per game this month. And despite Yu Darvish's dominant outing against the Mariners on Tuesday, their starting pitchers have combined for a 6.17 ERA in September. The Padres are clearly out of sync. And if they don't collectively step it up, they might lose their grasp on the postseason yet again. -- Gonzalez

12. Cleveland Guardians


Previous ranking:13

We've written plenty about Andres Gimenez's tremendous 2022 season in this space, but apparently not nearly enough. One check of the betting markets tells you this, because Gimenez's name is nowhere to be found among MVP candidates. That's a shame, because while Gimenez -- nor anyone else in the junior circuit -- isn't going to intrude upon the Ohtani-Judge race for AL MVP honors, he's arguably in position to be a worthy No. 3. Through Tuesday, Gimenez ranked second in AL bWAR among position players behind Judge, he's sixth in the Fangraphs version, fourth in wins probability added and third in championship probability added. Too bad more people apparently have not taken notice. -- Doolittle

13. Milwaukee Brewers


Previous ranking:12

Milwaukee's season feels like it's on life support even though it's only a few games out of the final wild-card spot. The Brewers' schedule is the issue as much as anything. They play the Cardinals a couple of times, the Mets, the Yankees and a tougher-than-ever Diamondbacks team before the regular season ends. And they've already lost the season series to the Padres and Phillies, so they'll need to beat one of those teams by at least a game to make it to the playoffs. They lose all tiebreakers. Tyrone Taylor had a good week for Milwaukee, hitting close to .300 with an OPS around 1.500 in his past four games. They'll need more of that kind of production to overtake one of the teams ahead of them. -- Rogers

14. Chicago White Sox


Previous ranking:16

If the White Sox's late charge at the AL Central title falls short, their biggest "what if" question in a season full of them might be: What if Eloy Jimenez had not missed two-plus months? Jimenez has been blistering hot in September but has really been mashing longer than that. After an initial cold stretch upon returning from his early season hamstring injury, Jimenez started hitting in late July and has never stopped. Since the All-Star break, Jimenez's 1.034 OPS ranks near the top in the AL among qualifiers behind the otherworldly figure put up by Judge. He's hit.363/.432/.601 over 49 games during that span. -- Doolittle

15. Baltimore Orioles


Previous ranking:14

Things were going OK for Baltimore until it ran out of steam in a weekend series loss to the Red Sox, which included a 1-0 shutout. In its past five games, Baltimore had an OPS of .665 and hit just .230 as a team. As a result, the wild-card hopes for the upstart Orioles took a dive, as they fell as many as 5.5 games behind the third berth in the AL. No matter what, it's going to be considered a successful season. If it doesn't make the playoffs, the bigger question might be if Baltimore finishes the season above .500 for the first time since 2016. Odds say the Orioles will. -- Rogers

16. Minnesota Twins


Previous ranking:15

Well, that went south fast. The Twins entered play on Labor Day still tied with the Guardians atop the AL Central. It's been an up-and-down season to say the least for Minnesota, but everything it aspired to was still in play, especially with a number of head-to-head encounters against Cleveland remaining on the schedule.

Alas, the Twins proceeded to lose six of seven and by the time Joe Ryan and Jovani Moran nearly combined to no-hit Kansas City on Tuesday, Minnesota had fallen five games off the pace and into third place in the division. Even the near no-hitter was kind of a bummer: Ryan was pulled after seven no-hit innings and 106 pitches. Moran got four outs before the Royals' Bobby Witt Jr. singled for the first hit and then labored to close out the game. A smattering of boos rained down from disgruntled fans at Target Field, who would just as soon like to see Ryan get a chance to make history. -- Doolittle

17. Boston Red Sox


Previous ranking:19

If these are the final weeks of Xander Bogaerts in a Red Sox uniform, the soon-to-be free agent -- if he opts out after this season -- is making the most of it. Bogaerts is hitting .419 with a 1.097 OPS so far in September. Boston is far from a wild-card berth but Bogaerts hasn't let up. He's been a model of consistency, with his OPS slipping slightly under .800 for just one month this season -- August. He's followed that up with a torrid stretch that has included six multihit games already this month. -- Rogers

18. San Francisco Giants


Previous ranking:17

If you're a Giants fan suddenly feeling helpless about your team, here's something that might make you feel better: The Giants have some really solid payroll flexibility. Assuming Carlos Rodon opts out, they have less than $70 million committed to six players next year. Only two players (Anthony DeSclafani and nowWilmer Flores) are signed through 2024 and both could come off the books thereafter. Now here's the problem: The Giants have holes everywhere, namely in the outfield (both corner-outfield spots), in their bullpen and, potentially, in their rotation. They also need to improve their farm system. And get Joey Bart right. President of baseball ops Farhan Zaidi has a lot of work ahead of him. -- Gonzalez

19. Arizona Diamondbacks


Previous ranking:18

Zac Gallen pitched six innings of three-run ball on Sunday, striking out 11 batters without issuing a single walk in a victory over the Rockies -- and it was a letdown. The outing snapped Gallen's remarkable streak. The 27-year-old right-hander entered the game riding a string of six consecutive scoreless starts and ultimately set a new D-backs record with 44 consecutive scoreless innings, surpassing a mark previously held by Brandon Webb. Gallen's ERA now sits at 2.50. The only qualified starters with a lower mark: Verlander, Cease, Shane McClanahan, Julio Urias, Alcantara, Manoah. -- Gonzalez

20. Texas Rangers


Previous ranking:20

Not much has gone right for Texas this season, but at least Adolis Garcia followed up his rookie campaign with a decent sophomore season -- and he has more room to grow. He needs to increase his on-base percentage in order to be considered a premier dangerous hitter, but he's already earned more walks this season in fewer games played than he did all of last year. If he can hit a few more home runs and reach 29 on the season, he'll have a two-year total of 60. He's a good foundational piece for a team needing to rebound in 2023, but the 29-year-old will need to work on managing his strikeouts. -- Rogers

21. Los Angeles Angels


Previous ranking:21

In case you forgot, Mike Trout is probably still the best hitter on the planet. Trout recently went seven consecutive games with a home run, one shy of the major league record. Since returning from a back injury that robbed him of five weeks, Trout is slashing .311/.367/.711 with 11 home runs in 23 games. Entering play on Wednesday, Trout held a 176 weighted runs created plus that would trail only Judge, Paul Goldschmidt and Yordan Alvarez if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. At full health, you can still make a very strong case that the Angels employ the two greatest players in the sport in Trout andShohei Ohtani.And yet the team securedits seventh consecutive losing season on Wednesday. -- Gonzalez

22. Colorado Rockies


Previous ranking:24

It was a mere footnote by the end of a thrilling come-from-behind walk-off victory by the Rockies, but German Marquez was charged with nine earned runs in four innings against the division-rival D-backs on Friday. It shot his ERA up to 5.25, the highest among qualified starters in the major leagues this season. Not surprisingly, Marquez's home-road splits are pretty drastic (6.78 ERA at Coors Field, 3.58 ERA away from high altitude). But the 27-year-old right-hander is going to have to figure this out. He's signed through the 2023 season, and the Rockies hold a $16 million club option for him in 2024. -- Gonzalez

23. Chicago Cubs


Previous ranking:22

The Cubs produced one of their better wins of the season on Monday when they shut down the Mets 5-2 after playing the Sunday night game and not arriving in New York until the wee hours on game day. Righty Javier Assad has come out of nowhere, producing a 2.53 ERA over his first four career starts. He was great at keeping the Mets off balance while newcomer Hayden Wesneski, acquired from the Yankees, has been impressive in relief as well. The Cubs have finally produced and developed some pitchers. -- Rogers

24. Miami Marlins


Previous ranking:23

Despite the disappointing season -- including a major fade in August and September -- the Marlins plan on retaining GM Kim Ng for 2023, according to the Miami Herald, who reported that Ng and owner Bruce Sherman met last week to set up plans for the upcoming offseason. Former CEO Derek Jeter and former VP Gary Denbo, both Ng supporters from their Yankees' days, have left the Marlins, but Sherman apparently intends to stay the course. Goal No. 1: Find some hitters. The Marlins are averaging just 3.55 runs per game, in a neck-and-neck battle with the Pirates for worst in the NL. -- Schoenfield

25. Cincinnati Reds


Previous ranking:26

After winning three of its four games last week, Cincinnati has lost its past six and is in the hunt with a handful of teams for the best lottery position for the amateur draft next season. If the season had ended on Tuesday, the Reds would have a 10% chance at the No.1 pick. That percentage can go as high as 16.5 if Cincinnati has one of the three worst records in baseball. One bright spot over the past week was Aristides Aquino, who earned seven extra base hits, including three home runs and four doubles while hitting above .300 over the past eight days. Is this when he finally finds consistency? We'll probably have to wait until next year to know for sure. -- Rogers

26. Kansas City Royals


Previous ranking:25

With a lineup that consists of seven or so rookies on a nightly basis, it's no surprise that the Royals have ranked in the top five or 10 of the majors in rookie WAR from hitters for much of the season. Their overall ranking in rookie WAR was hampered by a lack of comparable production from young hurlers. That's changed in recent weeks, with reliever Dylan Coleman emerging as the standout hurler among the Royals' rookie class. Coleman has a 2.45 ERA in 58-plus innings this season and has allowed just two earned runs and put up a 1.08 ERA over 16 appearances since the beginning of August. Coleman mixes a high-spin four-seamer that averages 98 miles per hour and tops out in triple digits with a low-velocity slider that keeps hitters off the heater. -- Doolittle

27. Detroit Tigers


Previous ranking:27

Good news! OK, it's only of the small sample variety, but Detroit fans will take anything they can get at this point. Spencer Torkelson has hit well since returning from the minors. The prized rookie was hitting just .197/.282/.295 when he was sent down to figure things out in Triple-A around the All-Star break. He didn't return until rosters expanded for September. But since Torkelson rejoined the big league lineup on Sept. 2, he's hit .265/.375/.471 over 10 games, a stretch that included a career-high six-game hitting streak. It's too soon to say if it'll stick just yet, but the improvements under the hood have come in needed categories. Torkelson has been swinging less frequently, chasing less often and making a little more contact when he does swing. It's a start. -- Doolittle

28. Pittsburgh Pirates


Previous ranking:29

Righty Roansy Contreras continues to impress during his rookie campaign. He pitched well against the Cardinals on Friday, limiting them to one run over 5 1/3 innings. In his past 3 starts, he's given up just two earned runs over 16 1/3. For the season, Contreras has a 3.29 ERA in 14 starts while giving up just 68 hits in 79 1/3 innings. He's proven himself to be a starter every five days, a huge need for the Pirates as they continue through a very slow moving rebuild. -- Rogers

29. Oakland Athletics


Previous ranking:28

The A's miserable season has taken them from an industrywide laughingstock to the team others beat up on in their quest to either reach the playoffs or add some respectability onto their respective seasons. Oakland has lost 9 of 12 games this month and has been outscored by a combined 27 runs in the process, losing series to the Orioles, Braves and White Sox. Its next three series will come against the Astros, Mariners and Mets. Despite their scant resources, the A's haven't lost 100 games since 1979. That will probably change this year. -- Gonzalez

30. Washington Nationals


Previous ranking:30

A few bright spots in a miserable season: One,Lane Thomas has had a solid year, with an OPS+ over 100. He's not a future star or anything, but at least he looks like a competent major league outfielder. Two,CJ Abrams' defense at shortstop. Coming up through the Padres system, he wasn't necessarily a lock to stick at shortstop, with some scouts believing his speed would be best used in center field, but he's played solid at short with the Nationals, including several spectacular plays. Three,Joey Meneses, cult hero. The 30-year-old has hit well and become a fan favorite. The strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests this is all a little fluky, but he's earned a chance to compete for playing time in 2023. -- Schoenfield

Related Video