There’s a new top team in our rankings!
After two weeks of baseball, the Rays remain undefeated, their 12-0 start the best since the 1987 Brewers. Will they be able to keep up this dominance? Or will the division rival Yankees catch them soon enough?
As if that wasn’t surprising enough, elsewhere in the league, the Astros sit third in the American League West while the uber competitive National League West is currently led by … the Diamondbacks? What a start to the season!
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, Alden Gonzalez and Joon Lee to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.
Previous ranking: 4
The Rays look like a well-oiled machine primed to make a deep run into October with all cylinders clicking. Shortstop Wander Franco leads the way, having hit three homers in the past week. And while Franco represents the most important player in the lineup, the rotation continues to chug along, with Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen looking like three of the best pitchers in baseball through the first few trips of the rotation. And that’s all without Tyler Glasnow, who’s slowly ramping up his injury rehab for an expected return soon. — Lee
Previous ranking: 1
On the good news side, while Bryce Elder started the season in Triple-A after losing his bid to make the rotation, he replaced the injured Max Fried and responded with two scoreless starts against the Cardinals and Reds covering 12⅓ innings. On Tuesday, Matt Olson slugged one of the most impressive home runs of 2023, a 448-foot blast with a 118.6 mph exit velocity — the hardest-hit home run of the season and just the 10th player to hit a 118 mph home run in the Statcast era (since 2015).
In bad news, Michael Harris II (back) and Travis d’Arnaud (concussion) landed on the injured list, while Ian Anderson will undergo Tommy John surgery after making one start in Triple-A. It has been a tough two years for Anderson after he went 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA across the 2020 and ’21 postseasons. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 3
The best news for New York is that Gerrit Cole is pitching as well as he ever has in pinstripes. Through three starts, the ace looks sharp, posting a 1.40 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 1.0 bWAR. The biggest question mark remains shortstop, where young phenom Anthony Volpe has struggled to start the season. Volpe played a total of 22 games in Triple-A before winning the starting shortstop job out of spring training, so there has been an adjustment period to the tune of a .143/.250/.229 batting line through 12 games. — Lee
Previous ranking: 6
The Padres just concluded a brutal East Coast trip that saw them play back-to-back series against two of the best teams in the NL, winning three of four against the Braves before dropping two of three to the Mets. All but two of those games were decided by three runs or fewer. The Padres are less than halfway through a stretch of 18 games in 18 days, and their upcoming opponents — the Brewers, Braves and Diamondbacks, respectively — won’t get any easier. They won’t have Joe Musgrove for that stretch, either. The Padres’ frontline starter suffered a setback with his right shoulder during a rehab start last week, and his return has been pushed back to the end of the month. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 5
Dustin May wasn’t as sharp in his latest outing, a loss to the rival Giants on Tuesday night. But the Dodgers can’t help but feel encouraged by what they’ve seen from the 25-year-old right-hander, who has allowed just three runs through his first 18⅓ innings while displaying the devastating stuff that captivated so many people throughout the industry early in his career. May has spent most of the past two years recovering from Tommy John surgery. His ulnar collateral ligament tear occurred just as he was establishing himself as a bona fide ace. If he can tap back into that, the Dodgers will be in business. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 2
The Astros signed closer Ryan Pressly to a two-year, $30 million extension about this time last year, one that will take him through the 2024 season and has a mutual option for 2025. Pressly earned that deal by being one of baseball’s most consistent high-leverage relievers, with sub-3.00 FIPS in every season from 2018 to 2022. But he’s still a reliever, and the ugly side of that volatility coin has turned up so far in 2023. Still, as unsightly as Pressly’s 8.44 early ERA might be, Houston fans can take solace in the fact that he has faltered in only two of his outings. Sandwiched between two relief losses were four perfect outings. The stuff has looked fine, and it’s highly likely that the story of Pressly’s season is very much yet to be written. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 12
The Brewers kept up their winning ways last week, sweeping the Mets and then taking a series from the Cardinals. Their NL-leading pitching staff is a run better than the next team — and they’ve done it against good competition. And that includes a bloated 5.19 ERA from Corbin Burnes. Others have more than made up for it — especially out of the bullpen, where Milwaukee’s relievers have compiled an incredible 1.37 ERA through their first 12 games. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 8
In a contract year, Matt Chapman has been on fire. The Toronto third baseman is widely considered one of the best gloves the game has to offer, but he has struggled at the plate in recent years. It has been a different story so far in 2023, as he has hit .489/.538/.851 with three homers and an MLB-leading eight doubles. It’s unreasonable to expect Chapman to keep things up to this level, but if he continues to produce offensively, Toronto will be a scary team at the plate. So far this season, the Blue Jays look loaded offensively, led by Chapman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette and newcomer Daulton Varsho. — Lee
Previous ranking: 7
Max Scherzer bounced back from that three-homers-in-row loss to the Brewers last week to throw five scoreless innings to beat the Padres on Monday, allowing just one hit. Still, it wasn’t exactly prime Scherzer, as he walked three batters and labored through 97 pitches. He did say after the game that his fastball wasn’t as sharp as he wanted, but he viewed the game as a step in the right direction.
“I’m not broken,” he told reporters. “I wasn’t broken after the Milwaukee start. I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, just had to fine-tune some things. That’s baseball. If you follow the results, you can make yourself go crazy at times. You’ve got to be able to reflect on what’s actually happening and know where you’re getting beat. I thought I identified the right things to be able to do, and I made better pitches because of that.” — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 10
With the rotation already missing Triston McKenzie, who isn’t eligible to return from the 60-day IL until late May, the Guardians lost another starter this week when Aaron Civale went down with an oblique injury. Thus, the defending AL Central champs are seeing their rotation depth tested early. The replacement for McKenzie has been rookie Hunter Gaddis. His early outings have been a mixed bag, with a strong start against lowly Oakland, a short stint against Seattle and a drubbing at the hands of the Yankees. In for Civale will be Peyton Battenfield, making his first MLB appearances. Battenfield was acquired from the Rays in the 2021 trade that sent outfielder Jordan Luplow to Tampa Bay. He had a 3.63 ERA over 153⅔ innings for Columbus last season with 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 9
The good news: For those who thought the Twins might have been right on time with their acquisition of Pablo Lopez, the start of the season has been very encouraging. Lopez has looked very much like the front-of-the-rotation starter Minnesota has desperately needed the past few years. The it’s-early caveat remains, but Lopez has struck out more than a third of the batters he has faced this season and is elite in measures like ERA, expected ERA and expected average allowed. The bad news: Carlos Correa is off to a frigid start. He slugged under .300 over the Twins’ first eight games and ranked last among all position players in win probability added. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 13
Texas shook off a series loss to the Cubs by taking one from the Royals this week as Andrew Heaney — the lesser-known free agent pitching signee by the team — made some history when he struck out nine straight batters on Monday. If Heaney can find his rhythm with his new team, it could go a long way toward the Rangers finding their way back to the postseason. So far, Texas is one of the top strikeout pitching teams in baseball, thanks in part to Jacob deGrom’s 11-whiff performance last week. DeGrom, Heaney and Nathan Eovaldi will all have to perform for the team to have a chance. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 15
Shohei Ohtani has allowed only one run through his first three starts this season, despite walking 12 batters and hitting three others. Ohtani battled shaky command for the second straight time against the Nationals on Tuesday night, but he still completed seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball. The sweeper has become a major weapon, but Ohtani continues to manipulate all of his pitches throughout the course of his outings, making it very difficult for opposing hitters to pick up on any patterns. His evolution as a pitcher continues. Oh, and he boasts a .979 OPS as a hitter. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 20
Few teams are built to take advantage of MLB’s new set of rules better than the D-backs, who have already accumulated 17 stolen bases and have been caught only once. They’ve taken the extra base 61% of the time, tops in the majors. With the likes of Corbin Carroll, Jake McCarthy, Alex Thomas and Josh Rojas outfitting the roster, the D-backs are built to run. But they need to create more opportunities to do so. Their on-base percentage sits at just .311, 13 points below the major league average. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 14
In the midst of the team’s rough start, Jarred Kelenic might finally be figuring things out. He hit three long home runs on consecutive days at Wrigley Field: one off the scoreboard in right field, one into the tunnel in left-center and then a monster 482-foot blast into the upper deck of the center-field bleachers, a place few balls have ever landed. It’s the longest Mariners home run of the Statcast era (since 2015), the longest at Wrigley Field and the 12th longest by any hitter. Before that, he had a three-hit game at Cleveland, and he’s now hitting .351 with a 1.117 OPS. His hard-hit rate is in the 95th percentile and, most importantly, he has cut down on his chase rate and looks more relaxed at the plate. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 11
No one should be panicking just yet, but it’s unusual to see St. Louis with a team ERA over 5.00 — no matter how early in the season it is. Miles Mikolas is mostly responsible for that high number. He has given up a whopping 29 hits in 14⅓ innings. An extremely high .481 batting average on balls in play might be a result of a 45% hard-hit rate against him, so unless that latter number comes down, the former one probably won’t. It’s hard to imagine the Cardinals falling out of the race despite their poor pitching — not with rookie Jordan Walker providing a boost. He has hit in all 12 games he has played, tied for the longest streak by a player age 20 or younger to begin a career since 1900. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 19
The Adley Rutschman MVP campaign begins! The Orioles star catcher looks like one of the best players in baseball, hitting .391/.491/.609 with three homers in 12 games. But beyond Rutschman, Baltimore has gotten big production to start the season from first baseman Ryan Mountcastle and shortstop Jorge Mateo. Top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez has two starts under his belt now, giving up five runs in 4⅓ innings to the Athletics in his most recent outing. — Lee
Previous ranking: 22
The Cubs had a solid week, taking home series from both the Rangers and Mariners. Chicago’s contact-oriented offense has created havoc for opposing pitching staffs as the fourth-hardest team to whiff so far. Dansby Swanson and Ian Happ have led the way, with the latter player signing a three-year extension on Wednesday. The Cubs are off to a good start but have played nine of 11 games at home. An early West Coast trip will be a test and so will welcoming the Padres and Dodgers to Wrigley Field before the end of the month. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 16
Aaron Nola is 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA through three starts, losing to the Marlins on Tuesday when he allowed four runs, three of those coming in the sixth inning, which he failed to complete. “I’ve had two really bad innings, first game and this game,” Nola said after the loss. As good as Nola has been in his career, the “big inning” remains his one consistent problem — think of the big inning the Padres had against him in last year’s NLDS or the Astros in the World Series. Last year, Nola held batters to a .199 average and .543 OPS with the bases empty, but it soared to .287 and .852 with runners in scoring position. So far in 2023, batters are 8-for-18 (.444) against him with runners in scoring position. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 17
The White Sox’s up-and-down start continued this week, and it was peppered with a stark mix of good news and bad news. The good news is that some of the veteran bounceback candidates the White Sox are relying on are off to good starts, a group that includes Yasmani Grandal, Yoan Moncada and Mike Clevinger. Luis Robert has been one of the top players in the AL in the early going, mashing five quick homers and putting up elite baserunning and fielding numbers. He still never walks, but it’s hard to argue with the bottom.
But the bad news is pretty bad. Tim Anderson, off to a strong start, hit the IL with a knee sprain and could miss a month. The White Sox are now down two regulars, with Anderson joining Eloy Jimenez on the IL. Still, Anderson’s misfortune is an opportunity for prospect Lenyn Sosa, who, in 36 Triple-A plate appearances to start the season, had amassed five doubles, two homers, eight RBIs, seven walks and a 1.383 OPS. Now is his chance to translate some of those Ruthian numbers to the bigs. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 18
The injury to Adam Duvall — Boston’s hottest hitter through the first two weeks of the season — exposed the fragile standing of the Red Sox roster. Boston did not have a natural replacement to sub in for Duvall in the outfield, calling up Bobby Dalbec, who has mostly played first base in the major leagues but could be called upon to man third and shortstop. The thing to watch with the Red Sox will be the rotation. They need Chris Sale, Garrett Whitlock and Corey Kluber to be better to have any shot of making the postseason in a deep AL East. — Lee
Previous ranking: 21
“I really think we’re going to hit a lot,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said of his team’s home run output leading up to the season. So far, that has certainly been the case. The Giants have accumulated 21 home runs through the first two weeks of the season, third most in the majors. Just as encouraging: Eleven of their players have hit at least one. The Giants haven’t had a singular 30-home-run hitter since Barry Bonds in 2004 — but if they can assemble a lineup full of guys who can contribute at least half that amount, they might just be able to make a playoff run. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 25
The loss of Oneil Cruz for up to four months because of an ankle injury simply can’t be made up. His awkward slide at home in a game against the White Sox might have torpedoed any chance the Pirates had at a decent season. Still, the Pirates have held their own after sweeping the Red Sox last week. They took two of three from the White Sox before beating the World Series champions on Tuesday. Cruz’s loss will catch up to them, though, as the offense was in the bottom third of the league even with him. It’ll take a hit without him — though one of his replacements, rookie Ji Hwan Bae, hit a three-run walk-off home run for the win over Houston. It was a lift the Pirates needed. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 23
Luiz Arraez has started the season looking like he wants to add an NL batting title to the AL one he won last year with the Twins — something only DJ LeMahieu has done (and his AL title with the Yankees came in the shortened season of 2020). Arraez hit .500 through his first 13 games, going 23-for-46 with more walks (six) than strikeouts (four). On Tuesday, he became the first Marlins player in their 31 seasons to hit for the cycle. He had already doubled, tripled and homered when he came to the plate in the eighth inning and lined a single to left field.
The Marlins have had two batting champs in franchise history: Hanley Ramirez in 2009 (.342) and Dee Strange-Gordon in 2015 (.333). Ramirez’s .342 average that year is the highest single-season mark in Marlins history. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 24
Cincinnati could be starting an early decline after losing two consecutive series following two rainouts in a row. The Reds are not expected to be players in the NL Central, and they’re beginning to live up to that billing — though they rank middle of the pack in both offense and pitching. At least lefty Nick Lodolo is off to a good start. He has given up just two runs over 12 innings. His sweeping curveball is turning heads and striking out batters — he has 21 K’s. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 26
The Rockies breathed a huge sigh of relief Wednesday, when an MRI revealed no structural damage on German Marquez’s sore right forearm. Marquez isn’t expected to miss much longer than what his stint on the IL calls for, which means he’ll soon rejoin the top of the Rockies’ rotation alongside Kyle Freeland, who has allowed only two runs through his first 18⅔ innings this season. Freeland left his start against the Cardinals on Tuesday with a 6-2 lead, but the bullpen allowed seven runs over the final third of the game in an eventual loss. The Rockies’ bullpen has a 5.48 ERA thus far — even though three of Tuesday’s runs were unearned. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 27
The Royals have ranked last in team batting average for pretty much the entirety of this season so far. That’s unusual for an organization that has always tended to feature batting-average/gap-hitting/speed-based offenses when at its best. The Royals might finish last in team average, or they might not; it’s far too early to say. But what is really strange about it at the moment is that, as a club, they’ve actually hit the ball consistently hard. According to Statcast, the Royals have ranked in the top five by average exit velocity all season, sitting right there on the leaderboard with the likes of the Dodgers, Giants, Braves and Yankees. Only the Dodgers have a larger gap between their expected average, based on quality of contact, and actual average. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 30
One of the most interesting players to watch in 2023 is Washington center fielder Victor Robles. A key member of the 2019 World Series champions, especially on defense, Robles struggled mightily at the plate the past three seasons, hitting just .216/.291/.306 — and his defense hadn’t been quite as spectacular either. He turns 26 in May, and most teams would have run out of patience by now, but the Nationals don’t really have any other options, so Robles has one last chance to prove himself a major league regular.
So far, he has been better. His exit velocity is up, he’s walking some and his strikeout rate is way down. There still isn’t much power here — his 17 home runs in 2019 look like a stone-cold fluke, reflective of the extra-juiced ball that season — but if he can put the ball in play and hold down center, he can be a useful player again. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 28
There hasn’t been much that has been encouraging in the Tigers’ start. The team defense has been solid, at least by the metrics, with Javier Baez ranking among the early elite with his glove. Alas, when the Tigers signed Baez it wasn’t for him to be the new Ed Brinkman. (Brinkman, the Tigers’ regular at shortstop during the early 1970s, is an avatar for that era’s glut of all-field, no-hit shortstops.) It’s obviously very, very early, but Baez’s early showing at the plate has looked like a continuation of his not-too-good Detroit debut season. Through his first 40 plate appearances, Baez managed just four hits, all of them singles. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 29
Oakland could be one of the worst regular-season teams in recent memory, with no starting players hitting more than .270 through the early part of the season. Even the team’s flashier additions have not looked good so far. Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami has been a mess through two starts, allowing 13 runs in 6⅔ innings pitched. With attendance numbers routinely clocking in at fewer than 10,000 fans per game, the Athletics are looking like a real-life approximation of “Major League” as a potential move to Las Vegas looms over the season. — Lee