MLB Power Rankings Week 25: Who's No. 1 heading into the postseason?

ByESPN via ESPN logo
Thursday, September 29, 2022
ESPN

With the 2022 regular season wrapping up in seven days, for the most part, all eyes are on the playoffs.

The 18 clubs who are done following their final game are looking towards the offseason; however, six wild-card contenders continue to battle for the final five spots, while the top seven teams in the majors have all secured a postseason berth already.

There is still some postseason positioning to be decided for those teams who have clinched, but the question that remains is: Where does your favorite squad stand heading into October?

Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we've seen this year 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.

Week 24 | Second-half preview | Preseason rankings

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record:107-48

Previous ranking:1

The Dodgers are navigating through one of the most impressive runs in baseball history, as the first team to win at least 106 games in three consecutive full seasons. The Dodgers won 106 in 2019, 106 in 2021 anda franchise-record 107 -- and counting -- in 2022. In 2020, which was shortened to 60 games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they navigated a 116-win pace during the regular season and then finally won it all.

Over these last four years, they've won at least 29 more regular-season gamesthan anybody else. Now they need to validate this run with a traditional championship. And in order to do so, they need to get their pitching staff in order. A lot of uncertainties remain there as October approaches. -- Gonzalez

2. Houston Astros

Record:102-54

Previous ranking:2

Barring a severe, late-season slump, Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez is going to join a prestigious club. He is likely to become just the fourth hitter in Houston franchise history to reach a .300 batting average, a .400 on-base percentage and a .600 slugging percentage in the same season. Lance Berkman (2001 and 2006) and Jeff Bagwell (1994 and 2000) both did it twice, while Moises Alou accomplished the feat in 2000.

Alvarez may be as close to a weakness-free hitter as there currently is in baseball, if only because of his remarkable consistency. Four seasons into his career, consider some of Alvarez's splits (through Tuesday): .982 OPS at home .962 on the road; .984 against righties, .954 against lefties; .992 before the All-Star break, .956 after; 1.028 with the bases empty, .920 with runners on base. Simply put, Alvarez is great at pretty much everything when a bat is in his hands. -- Doolittle

3. New York Mets

Record:98-58

Previous ranking:3

Yes, that line you saw from Jacob deGrom against the A's on Saturday was correct: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 1 HR. It was his worst Game Score since May 17, 2019, when the Marlins scored seven runs off him in five innings. OK, it happens to the best of them, but deGrom has now allowed 11 runs over his past three starts -- and the other two games came against the Cubs and Pirates (although he did fan 23 across those two starts). His next start will be in the big showdown series against the Braves on Saturday. Time for the ace to deliver. -- Schoenfield

4. Atlanta Braves

Record:97-59

Previous ranking:4

Spencer Strider's oblique injury is obviously a huge blow, and while the Braves aren't yet ruling him out of the postseason, he's done for the regular season. Finishing 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts in just 131 innings, Strider becomes the first Braves rookie in the modern era to record 200 strikeouts. The Braves still have Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton to headline the playoff rotation, but rookie Bryce Elder may now be the No. 4 starter if Strider can't go. He just tossed a six-hit shutout ... against the Nationals. His excellent start before that one was also against the Nationals. His two starts before those two: against the Marlins. He hasn't exactly been tested. -- Schoenfield

5. New York Yankees

Record:96-59

Previous ranking:5

The Yankees turned things around after their massive struggles during August. Aaron Judge has consistently hit homer after homer in tying Roger Maris' franchise record of 61. The team has also seen a strong performance from Gleyber Torres, who has slashed .333/.404/.598 at the plate this month. On the mound, New York continues to try to figure out its bullpen situation ahead of the postseason with Aroldis Chapman's season-long struggles and the return of Zack Britton from the injured list. -- Lee

6. St. Louis Cardinals

Record:90-66

Previous ranking:6

St. Louis locked up another division title, dominating the NL Central in the second half of the season. Albert Pujols hit his 699th and 700th career home runs last Friday in back-to-back innings, continuing a trend of getting big hits when the Cardinals need them most. In game situations deemed late and close, Pujols has an OPS of over 1.100 this season with a team-leading four home runs while hitting around .321. Compare that to likely NLMVP Paul Goldschmidt, who's hitting .196 in those situations, and it's another reason to marvel at the future Hall of Fame player. -- Rogers

7. Toronto Blue Jays

Record:87-69

Previous ranking:7

The Blue Jays continue their strong month of September, with shortstop Bo Bichette finding his swing and looking once again like the offensive spark plug the Toronto lineup needs. While one of the big questions the team faces in the postseason is pitching, young ace Alek Manoah looks like one of the best starters in the big leagues, with seven straight quality starts. He, along with Kevin Gausman, will be a focal point of the team's pitching attack come October. -- Lee

8. Cleveland Guardians

Record:87-68

Previous ranking:11

You may recall that all season in the power rankings commentary, we lamented how no one in the ALCentral seemed able to take control of a division that was oh-so-winnable. In September, the Guardians silenced that lament. On Sept. 4, Cleveland lost to the Mariners, dropping it into a first-place tie with Minnesota. A week later, the Guardians were up by 2 games. On Sept. 18, the lead was still just 3 games. By Sept. 25, the lead had bulged to 10 games. Talk about getting hot at just the right time. The final margin is as yet unknown, but during the wild-card era, when the Guardians/Indians have won, they have reallywon. This will be the 11th first-place Cleveland team since 1995. The smallest margin of a division win has been six games (1997 and 2001). The average margin has been 13.3 games. -- Doolittle

9. Tampa Bay Rays

Record:85-70

Previous ranking:8

The Rays went 2-5 against the Astros and Blue Jays last week and scored just four runs in five losses while dealing with the loss of third baseman Yandy Diaz, who has battled shoulder soreness. The team did get a big boost from the return of Tyler Glasnow, who missed nearly 14 months after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Glasnow was one of the team's best pitchers in 2021 before he went down with the injury and could be a massive boon for a team that has fought injuries all year, with Brandon Lowe and Shane Baz now out for the season, as well. -- Lee

10. San Diego Padres

Record:86-69

Previous ranking:12

The Padres, hoping to secure one of two wild-card spots still up for grabs in the NL, are playing some of their best baseball of late, having won eight of their last 11. Their starting pitchers hold a major league-best 1.79 ERA during that stretch, which dates back to Sept. 16, and Juan Soto finally looks like himself again, slashing .341/.471/.585. The Padres will happily ride this formula into October, and their remaining schedule is favorable in that pursuit. The Padres only play at home from here on out; their final two regular-season series will come against the White Sox and Giants, two teams that no longer have much to play for. -- Gonzalez

11. Philadelphia Phillies

Record:83-71

Previous ranking:10

The scuffling continues as the Phillies have lost nine of their last 12 games, although they did manage to split a four-game series against the Braves over the weekend. They could use a sweep of the Nationals this weekend (four-game series) to put a little distance between them and the Brewers and secure that last wild-card spot. Fun stat of the season: J.T. Realmuto is 18-for-18 stealing bases, but that's not even a team record for most steals without getting caught. Chase Utley holds the MLB record, going 23-for-23 with Philadelphia in 2009. -- Schoenfield

12. Seattle Mariners

Record:84-70

Previous ranking:9

The Mariners are limping home in their bid to end the majors' longest playoff drought, going 3-7 on a disastrous road trip to Anaheim, Oakland and Kansas City, and then getting shut out by the Rangers in the first game of a season-ending homestand that will also see Oakland and Detroit visit Seattle.

That road trip concluded with a 13-12 loss to the Royals as the Mariners blew an 11-2 lead when the Royals scored 11 runs in the sixth inning. Some called it the worst loss in franchise history, right up there with the infamous 15-14 loss to Cleveland in 2001, when the Mariners blew a 14-2 lead -- the largest lead an MLB team has ever blown and one that cost that club the all-time single-season record for wins (which it shares at 116 with the 1906 Cubs). -- Schoenfield

13. Milwaukee Brewers

Record:83-72

Previous ranking:13

Milwaukee hasn't given in despite the odds against them to make the postseason. The Brewers' biggest hurdle might be not having the tiebreaker against either Philadelphia or San Diego. A series win over Cincinnati over the weekend helped their chances, but their best hope might come in the final days of the season. Milwaukee plays its last two series at home against the Marlins and Diamondbacks, who are both below. 500. The Brewers are 11 games over this season against such teams. A sweep of either one would go a long way towards their playoff hopes. -- Rogers

14. Baltimore Orioles

Record:80-75

Previous ranking:14

The Orioles impressively split a four-game series against the juggernaut Astros with strong starts from Dean Kremer -- who pitched a four-hit complete game with six strikeouts -- and Kyle Bradish -- who went 8 innings, allowing just two hits and striking out 10. Meanwhile, Adley Rutschman ranks among the top 25 players in baseball in bWAR with 5.1 in 106 games despite not playing a full season. The future looks brighter and brighter at Camden Yards by the day. -- Lee

15. San Francisco Giants

Record:77-78

Previous ranking:17

The Giants, on the cusp of elimination, are basically 30 games worse than they were just last season, despite navigating through the offseason in hopes of contending once again. Question is: Why?

You can point to the improbability of the 2021 team reeling off 107 wins and consider this merely a regression to the mean, sure, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Former catcher Buster Posey's absence, for one, loomed incredibly large. There were also major steps back from Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, both in their mid-30s. And an underperformance from a bullpen that acted as a major strength last year. And injuries that sapped this team's ability to match up both on the mound and in the batter's box. Now comes an offseason littered with uncertainty about this franchise's path forward. -- Gonzalez

16. Chicago White Sox

Record:76-79

Previous ranking:15

Let's just say that it feels unlikely that Tony La Russa will return as the White Sox manager next season. The team fell far short of expectations this season, he turns 78 years old next week and he didn't finish this season because of health problems. La Russa is under contract for 2023 and he's tight with the person who owns the ballclub, so you can never say never. Let's just agree that it seems unlikely he'll be back.

If that is the case, La Russa will finish his Hall of Fame managerial career with 2,897 career wins, second all-time behind Connie Mack. In terms of White Sox managers, La Russa's 691 wins for the Pale Hose will rank third behind Jimmy Dykes (899) and Al Lopez (840). By coming out of retirement, La Russa passed John McGraw on the all-time wins list and Ozzie Guillen among White Sox managers. -- Doolittle

17. Boston Red Sox

Record:74-81

Previous ranking:18

As the Red Sox finish up their season, they're preparing for an enormous offseason ahead with the contracts of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers likely to take center stage and Nathan Eovaldi, J.D. Martinez, Michael Wacha, Tommy Pham and Rich Hill all headed towards free agency. The Boston front office will need to respond to a deeply unsatisfied fanbase that expected the team to make another playoff run after making it to the ALCS last season. -- Lee

18. Minnesota Twins

Record:76-79

Previous ranking:16

The Twins' biggest offseason question has already been answered: Yes, Minnesota will be updating its uniforms and logos this winter. Let's pack for spring training now! OK, the real No. 1 question is the status of shortstop Carlos Correa, who can opt out of his contract and return to the free-agent market. The Twins' offseason plan will be determined by Correa's decision.

However, the No. 2 question might be just as pertinent to Minnesota's hopes of getting back to the top of the division: Can the Twins get where they want to go when their most talented player, Byron Buxton, can only be counted on for roughly half a season? After undergoing a knee procedure last week, Buxton's season ends with 92 games ... and 28 homers. Over the last two seasons, Buxton has homered at a rate of 50 per 162 games. But he's played in just 76 games. It's a dilemma. -- Doolittle

19. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record:72-84

Previous ranking:19

Madison Bumgarner finished his up-and-down 2022 season on a strong note, firing six innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers last Wednesday. The D-backs decided to shut him down with two weeks remaining in the regular season, partly to give some of their young pitchers an opportunity down the stretch. Bumgarner, 33, finished with a 4.88 ERA and a 16% strikeout rate -- second-lowest of his career -- in 158 innings. The D-backs have received great contributions this year from Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, but they need to figure something out with Bumgarner, who's owed $37 million over the next two years. -- Gonzalez

20. Los Angeles Angels

Record:69-86

Previous ranking:21

Shohei Ohtani might finish second to Judge for the AL MVP, but it's worth noting that Ohtani's 2022 season has somehow been better than his 2021 -- when he won an MVP unanimously and did a multitude of things no man had ever done. With seven games left in the Angels' schedule, Ohtani's 8.8 FanGraphs WAR has already surpassed last year's total of 8.0. His .887 OPS is the eighth-highest in the majors, slightly above Austin Riley, and his 2.47 ERA is the seventh-lowest among those who have accumulated at least 150 innings, slightly above Fried.

The question, of course, is whether the Angels will keep him beyond this season. If not, he'll be the most coveted player on the market this winter -- even with only one season remaining before free agency. -- Gonzalez

21. Texas Rangers

Record:66-88

Previous ranking:20

Like most teams playing the Guardians these days, Texas had a weekend collapse against them which may have solidified a fourth place finish in the AL West. Cleveland scored 20 runs in the three-game sweep, further emphasizing the Rangers' need for pitching in 2023. Texas starters rank 25th in ERA and that's with lefty Martin Perez having a career year. Glenn Otto and Jon Gray have had their moments but it's been a disappointing season on the mound for Texas. It's likely that will be the team's offseason focus. -- Rogers

22. Chicago Cubs

Record:69-86

Previous ranking:23

While pitching continues to be the name of the game for the Cubs in the second half, they'll head into the offseason looking for power to augment a young staff. They may find that power down in the minors -- the organization boasts two of the biggest home run-hitting prospects this season. Lefty first baseman Matt Mervis has come out of nowhere to smash 36 home runs at three different minor-league levels while outfielder Alex Canario -- a more touted player -- has 35, also at three different levels. Mervis is likely to get a shot at first base in 2023; fans are hopeful he'll be the heir apparent to former Cub Anthony Rizzo. -- Rogers

23. Miami Marlins

Record:64-91

Previous ranking:24

As expected, the Marlins announced they will part ways with long-time manager Don Mattingly after the season. Hired in 2016, the only managers still with their respective teams from that season are Terry Francona in Cleveland, Scott Servais in Seattle and Brian Snitker in Atlanta. The Marlins went 79-82 that season, which would prove to be the team's best in a full season under Mattingly. In the end, the organization's inability to develop young hitters did him in. He had one final moment of glory Tuesday, however, getting ejected after reliever Richard Bleier was called for three balks in one plate appearance. -- Schoenfield

24. Colorado Rockies

Record:65-90

Previous ranking:22

The Rockies will miss the playoffs and finish with a losing record for the fourth straight year, but if you think they're going to embark on some prolonged rebuild, think again. The Rockies, manager Bud Black told reporters recently, will try to supplement their roster in hopes of competing in the NL West -- even though the Dodgers are a juggernaut, the Padres are legitimate contenders, the Giants have more resources and the Diamondbacks seem better-equipped moving forward.

"We'll try to do things for sure," Black said, according to The Athletic's Nick Groke. "There's a desire from our front office, from our owner, to acquire some players, whatever it might be, to get some pieces in here." -- Gonzalez

25. Kansas City Royals

Record:63-92

Previous ranking:25

After being promoted last week to the head of the Royals' baseball operation department, J.J. Picollo said the team is "in the very infantile stages'' of talking about an extension with prized rookie shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. Witt looks like he'll be a fixture in the Royals' infield for a long time to come, so an early extension would make a lot of sense, especially when such arrangements are becoming increasingly common with baseball's younger stars. Still, Witt has ample room for development as a big leaguer.

The areas he should target jump out of his Statcast profile: Witt ranks in the 9th percentile by walk rate, 16th percentile in chase rate and 2nd percentile in defensive outs above average. By contrast, the raw tools are equally apparent: 92nd percentile in average exit velocity and 100th percentile in speed score. -- Doolittle

26. Cincinnati Reds

Record:60-96

Previous ranking:26

Once again, rookie starter Nick Lodolo was impressive last week, giving up just one run on six hits in a 2-1 win over Milwaukee on Sunday. That outing continued a great finish to his first season, as he's given up no more than three runs in any start in September. Lodolo has given up just 20 hits in 31 innings this month while compiling a 2.59 ERA. His 1.24 WHIP on the season is third among qualified rookie starters in the NL. The Reds may have a solid starter in Lodolo for 2023. -- Rogers

27. Detroit Tigers

Record:62-92

Previous ranking:27

After possibly hinting that his 2023 status was uncertain, Miguel Cabrera quickly backtracked and told reporters that he would be back. Cabrera hit just four homers in 2022 but if he returns and enjoys a Pujols-like rejuvenation, he could move into the all-time top 20 in homers. With another 100 hits (he had 95 this season), Cabrera could move up as high as No. 16 on the hits list, passing Cal Ripken Jr.

One possible milestone that Cabrera's four-homer season seems to remove from the table is that as the Tigers' all-time home run king. Cabrera has homered 368 times since moving over from the Florida Marlins before the 2008 season. The Detroit franchise mark is 399, set by Hall of Famer Al Kaline, so Cabrera needs another 32. More realistic at this point is the second slot: longtime first baseman Norm Cash hit 373 homers for the Tigers. -- Doolittle

28. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record:59-97

Previous ranking:28

After some early season promise of avoiding a last place finish yet again, the Pirates have reverted to the mean. Despite those team woes, outfielder Bryan Reynolds continues to produce. He had an OPS over 1.100 last week, which included a couple of home runs. For the season, Reynolds has 26 long balls, pushing his OPS over .800. It's been a solid campaign, leading to the question: How long will he be a Pirate? Reynolds still has two more years until free agency but trade talk is bound to heat up for a switch-hitting, solid outfield defender. -- Rogers

29. Oakland Athletics

Record:56-99

Previous ranking:29

Oakland may have taken two of three games against Seattle last week, but the team is on its way to the first 100-loss season since 1979. Outfielder Conner Capel has been a bright spot since being claimed off of waivers from the Cardinals a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for the city of Oakland and the Athletics to come to a deal on a new ballpark in the city, as the franchise continues to explore options outside of the Bay Area. -- Lee

30. Washington Nationals

Record:54-101

Previous ranking:30

The Nationals lost their first three games of 2022 and the season only went downhill from there. The closest they got to .500 was at 0-1, 2-3, 3-4 and 6-7, but an eight-game losing streak in late April sealed their fate and set in motion what will likely end up as the second-worst season in franchise history, after the expansion Expos lost 110 games in 1969. The team MVP? Soto and Josh Bell, traded at the deadline, will end up 1-2 in WAR. Ouch. -- Schoenfield

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