It's time for the offseason! Which means it's time for our annual way-too-early 2023 power rankings.
The 2022 season came to an end on Saturday night in Houston, as the Astros won their second World Series title since 2017 after defeating the Phillies in Game 6. What do the next few months have in store for the victors of the Fall Classic?
Let's take stock of where all 30 teams stand right now as we head into what should be an exciting and intriguing free agency -- I mean, I hope a dude who hit 62 home runs and is a free agent gets you excited about this offseason.
2022 record: 106-56 (first in the AL West)
2022 final ranking: 2
With nearly the entire roster coming back for 2023, Houston's incredible pitching depth makes the Astros a pretty easy call here. They allowed the fewest runs in a full season in the American League in the DH era (since 1973). Justin Verlander does have a $25 million player option, and even if he opts out and signs elsewhere, the Astros will still have the best pitching depth in the majors -- especially with a full season from Lance McCullers Jr. and Hunter Brown, who copied Verlander's delivery while growing up in Michigan, ready to step into a significant role.
The Astros even have some flexibility in the payroll to make a big addition. Given that Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are free agents after 2024, maybe they'll be looking for a long-term power bat. You know, perhaps even a certain New York Yankees outfielder ...
2022 record: 101-61 (first in the NL East)
2022 final ranking: 4
The Astros weren't quite a slam dunk for the top spot, however, as the Braves dominated the final four months of the regular season to capture their fifth straight division title. The emergence of center fielder Michael Harris II and starters Spencer Strider and Kyle Wright raised this team to another level. Now picture a lineup with Ronald Acuna Jr. completely healthy again if he rediscovers his power stroke -- he hit just 15 home runs in 119 games this season -- after 2021's knee surgery. Shortstop Dansby Swanson heads into free agency after his best season, and if he doesn't return, maybe the Braves turn to Vaughn Grissom, who impressed playing second base down the stretch.
2022 record: 89-73
2022 final ranking: 10
This might be a little ambitious since the Padres have some holes to fill in the rotation and at first base, but consider:
They should have about $20 million to spend to add a starter and/or a first baseman.
Yes, there are concerns: Soto didn't hit for much power after the trade, Tatis' wrist needs to be healthy and the 40-man position player depth is thin. But if Soto and Tatis play to what we've seen in the past? Watch out.
2022 record: 86-76 (third in AL East)
2022 final ranking: 9
They won 86 games (tied for 12th in the majors), they struggled to score runs all season and then scored just one run in 24 innings in the wild-card series loss to Cleveland. So why are they ranked so high here? Yes, pitching, pitching and more pitching ... but also because of this little factoid: According to @ManGamesLostMLB, the Rays had the fourth-most missed games by injured players (behind the Reds, Nationals and Cubs). And many of those were key injuries.
For starters, they'll add Tyler Glasnow, who returned in September from Tommy John surgery, to a rotation of Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs -- and those three quietly combined for a 2.61 ERA (although former top prospect Shane Baz will miss 2023 after his own Tommy John surgery). The offense has to improve and it will, starting with Brandon Lowe and Wander Franco, who combined for just 148 games and 14 home runs.
2022 record: 111-51
2022 final ranking: 1
Most wins in the NL since the 1906 Cubs. Highest run differential since the 1939 Yankees. Led the majors in both runs scored and fewest runs allowed. And then, a brutal four-game loss to the Padres in the division series that left Dodgers fans crying that it was their most painful postseason defeat yet. Of course, you don't go from 111 wins to pumpkins overnight, but the Dodgers do have several key agents to replace or re-sign: Trea Turner, Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney -- and Walker Buehler is out for the season. That's 14.1 combined WAR and 76 starts.
Then there is the question of gearing up and doing it all over again. So far, that hasn't been an issue for this group, but maybe one of these years they'll slog through the first three months. They do have money to spend, with a current estimated payroll about $119 million less than 2022's, according to FanGraphs' Roster Resource (and that includes an estimated $18 million for Cody Bellinger, whom they could non-tender).
2022 record: 87-75 (third in the NL East)
2022 final ranking: 11
Will the playoff run carry over into 2023? Maybe we're giving too much emphasis to what happened in October, but this was certainly a better team under manager Rob Thomson than it was under former skipper Joe Girardi. All the core players return, although we'll have to see if Bryce Harper needs Tommy John surgery to repair the injured elbow that limited him to DH duties.
Look for the Phillies to be aggressive once again in free agency. They could turn down the $17 million club option on Jean Segura, move Bryson Stott to second base and go after one of the big free-agent shortstops: Correa, Turner, Swanson and Xander Bogaerts. I like what Brandon Marsh will give them on defense in center field. And keep an eye on Andrew Painter, the team's first-round pick in 2021 who cruised through three levels of the minors in 2022 and could join the rotation at some point in 2023 as a 20-year-old.
2022 record: 86-76 (second in the NL Central)
2022 final ranking: 13
In the end, the Brewers fell one game short of the Phillies for the final playoff spot, and you can't help but wonder how that script plays out if they don't trade Josh Hader. Still, the Brewers are in a good position, especially with Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff heading the rotation. They hope to get more than 78 innings from Freddy Peralta, and young lefty Aaron Ashby has breakout potential after fanning 126 in 107 1/3 innings.
They also have an influx of young outfielders ready to make an impact in 2023: Garrett Mitchell (who already reached the majors), Joey Wiemer and Sal Frelick. The Brewers were second in the NL in home runs, so they play the modern power game, even though the Christian Yelich contract has turned into a financial drain. A big key for the upcoming season is finding the right bullpen depth behind closer Devin Williams.
2022 record: 92-70
2022 final ranking: 7
The Jays won 92 games, were second in the AL in runs and Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman were a great one-two punch in the rotation, but the season still left an air of "we thought they would be better than this." Maybe that's because they went 16-3 against the Red Sox while struggling to score runs against the Yankees and Rays.
Their biggest obstacle moving forward is they're paying Jose Berrios, Hyun Jin Ryu and Yusei Kikuchi a combined $46 million in 2023. That trio combined for a 5.26 ERA in 2022, with Ryu likely to miss most of next season after Tommy John surgery. Do the Jays count on better seasons from Berrios and Kikuchi or make an addition to the rotation? The offense and Manoah/Gausman might still make them the division favorites, and the payroll already sits at $215 million, but imagine this team with Carlos Rodon as the No. 3 starter.
2022 record: 93-69 (first in the NL Central)
2022 final ranking: 6
With 15 consecutive winning seasons, it's hard to place the Cardinals much lower than this, even with concerns about the starting pitching -- although it helps that Adam Wainwright announced that he will not be joining Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols in retirement.
The Cardinals will likely figure out a way to keep Nolan Arenado from exercising his opt-out clause. They also have a wave of young position players who have reached the majors -- Nolan Gorman, Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, Alec Burleson, Ivan Herrera -- or soon will, especially Jordan Walker, perhaps the best hitting prospect in the minors. Getting a bounce-back season from Tyler O'Neill is key, and Jack Flaherty is a wild card at this point, but adding another starter in free agency -- or using the prospect depth for a trade -- tops the to-do list.
10. Seattle Mariners
2022 record: 90-72
2022 final ranking: 12
The Mariners finally ended their long playoff drought that stretched back to 2001, and Julio Rodriguez emerged as a star at age 21. They beat the Blue Jays in the wild-card series and played the Astros tough in the division series, despite being swept. What's interesting is the perception that the Mariners were all pitching and no hitting, though T-Mobile Park kind of masks some of the team's strengths.
They were eighth in the majors in wRC+ (weighed runs created) and 12th in ERA+, so the offense was arguably on the same level or better than the pitching staff. That said, given the depth in the rotation with full seasons ahead from Luis Castillo and George Kirby, as well as a deep bullpen, the Mariners will still be looking to add offense after watching that 18-inning loss to Houston. If they don't re-sign Mitch Haniger, they'll need an outfielder. They could also sign one of the shortstops and move J.P. Crawford to second base -- although president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said the team intends to keep Crawford at shortstop.
11. New York Yankees
2022 record: 99-63
2022 final ranking: 5
Manager Brian Cashman has too much experience to overreact to yet another disappointing trip to the postseason that left the Yankees short of the World Series for the 13th consecutive season. However, this lineup without Judge looks old and potentially mediocre: Josh Donaldson will be 37, DJ LeMahieu 34, Giancarlo Stanton 33, Aaron Hicks 33 and Anthony Rizzo 33 (if he returns). The Yankees have some youth on the way in Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, but on the pitching side, Jameson Taillon is a free agent and Frankie Montas wasn't right after coming over from the A's.
With Hal Steinbrenner refusing to spend at the Dodgers' level, can the Yankees really construct a roster that would pay Judge, Stanton and Gerrit Cole a combined $102 million (with Judge at $34 million)? That's a hefty price for three players. So don't rule out the Yankees going to Plan B in the offseason.
2022 record: 92-70
2022 final ranking: 8
The Guardians brought some 1980s-style baseball to 2022: Slap and dash, with some great defense and a shutdown closer in Emmanuel Clase. It got them one win away from the American League Championship Series. Can they do it again? In the AL Central, absolutely. They have three clear positions where they can add offense:
Catcher, where they ranked 29th in the majors in OPS.
Designated hitter, where they ranked 29th with an unacceptable .587 OPS and just eight home runs.
Center field, where Myles Straw meant the Guardians ranked last in OPS.
Of course, they love Straw's defense and have him signed through 2026, so let's see if they address catcher and DH. The other big offseason question: Will they look to trade Shane Bieber, who will make more than $10 million in arbitration and has two seasons remaining of team control? Let's hope not, but this is also how the Guardians operate.
13. New York Mets
2022 record: 101-61 (second in the NL East)
2022 final ranking: 3
No team will have a busier offseason than the Mets. Check out this list of potential free agents: Diaz, Brandon Nimmo, Jacob deGrom (opt out), Chris Bassitt (mutual option), Taijuan Walker (player option), Carlos Carrasco (team option) ... plus Seth Lugo, Trevor May and Adam Ottavino. Whoa. The Mets basically have to rebuild or re-sign an entire pitching staff. Luckily, they have an owner who is willing to empty the checkbook in Steve Cohen. They do return a strong offensive foundation and they did win 101 games with Max Scherzer and deGrom making just 34 starts. They also have some interesting young position players ready to play: catcher Francisco Alvarez, third baseman Brett Baty and first baseman/third baseman Mark Vientos. But this offseason will be all about free agency and who the Mets get and how much they spend.
2022 record: 74-88 (fourth in the NL West)
2022 final ranking: 19
My sleeper team for 2023: the Diamondbacks, who could be really fun to watch, mostly because of an exciting young outfield. Top prospects Corbin Carroll and Alek Thomas made their debuts and Jake McCarthy had a surprising second half. All three are burners: Carroll ranked in the 100th percentile in speed, McCarthy in the 98th and Thomas in the 95th. Part-time outfielder/part-time catcher Daulton Varsho isn't as fast as those three but has elite defensive metrics. That group is going to chase down everything in the gaps -- and all of them hit left-handed, which is interesting as well. Zac Gallen quietly went 12-4 with a 2.54 ERA -- including six straight scoreless starts -- and matched Verlander for the lowest batting average allowed among starters at .186.
Arizona went 34-36 in the second half and outscored its opponents. I like the direction here, especially if the Diamondbacks can find some pitching depth -- maybe that will be rookie Drey Jameson and Ryne Nelson, who both impressed in September call-ups.
2022 record: 83-79 (fourth in AL East)
2022 final ranking: 14
Baltimore had one of the most surprising, out-of-nowhere seasons in major league history, improving from 52 wins in 2021 to 83 in 2022. You have to love where the Orioles are headed: Adley Rutschman looks like a future MVP candidate, Gunnar Henderson might not be far behind and pitcher Grayson Rodriguez might be ready to help in 2023 -- with 2022 No. 1 overall pick Jackson Holliday now one of the game's top prospects. I do wonder if some of the pitching overachieved this season, especially a bullpen that ranked ninth in ERA but 21st in strikeout rate. The rotation was also just 21st in the majors in ERA with only Jordan Lyles topping 130 innings. Let's hope the Orioles dip into free agency here to help balance out some likely regression.
2022 record: 81-81 (third in the NL West)
2022 final ranking: 15
Look, the Giants weren't going to win 107 games again. Was regression to .500 predictable? Probably. The offense fell from second in the NL in runs to seventh and the pitching/defense from second in runs allowed to ninth. While the mix-and-match offense didn't repeat the same magic tricks it performed in 2021, the good news is the Giants have cleared a lot of payroll, which will allow them to go after a couple of big pieces -- most notably, Judge, who grew up a couple of hours from San Francisco. More important than geography, the Giants have the money and the need to sign Judge. Of course, Oracle Park isn't the best fit, but if he does leave the Yankees, the Giants might be the leading contender to sign him. Carlos Correa is also a possible fit (Brandon Crawford is signed for one more year), unless they think top prospect Marco Luciano is on track to replace Crawford in 2024. They'll also need to replace Rodon in the rotation and there is a general concern about what was the second-oldest lineup in the majors this season.
2022 record: 81-81 (second in the AL Central)
2022 final ranking: 16
There are excuses to consider -- Luis Robert, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez all missed significant time with injuries -- but the disappointing season was mostly the result of too many subpar performances on a roster that didn't have quality depth to survive a few injuries.
On the bright side, four-fifths of the rotation returns with Dylan Cease perhaps the preseason AL Cy Young favorite after going 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 184 innings. Lucas Giolito (4.90 ERA) needs to figure out what went wrong, and Michael Kopech has to pitch deeper into games after averaging less than five innings per start. The lineup still needs some left-handed balance, and Yoan Moncada needs to bounce back (although his big 2019 season looks more and more like a juiced-ball fluke). The biggest problem, however, might be owner Jerry Reinsdorf and his unwillingness to spend a few extra pennies to, you know, try to win the World Series.
18. Chicago Cubs
2022 record: 74-88 (third in the NL Central)
2022 final ranking: 22
Where are the Cubs right now? Good question. They had a plus-55 run differential against the lowly Reds and Pirates and minus-129 against everyone else, so consider that a point of reference.
Will the Cubs spend money this offseason? Who knows. Are pitchers Justin Steele (3.18 ERA) and Keegan Thompson (3.76 ERA) the real deal? Who knows. Is Christopher Morel the hitter we saw in the first half (.814 OPS) or the second half (.645 OPS)? Who knows. Will the Cubs go after one of the free-agent shortstops or stay with Nico Hoerner, who had excellent defensive metrics? Who knows. With Willson Contreras heading into free agency, who is the catcher for 2023? Who knows.
The Cubs' payroll in 2022 was about $63 million less than in 2019. The estimated payroll heading into the offseason is about $147 million -- about $90 million less (with Jason Heyward's $22 million finally coming off the books after 2023). Let's see how aggressive they get.
2022 record: 65-97 (fifth in AL Central)
2022 final ranking: 25
Yes, there's reason to be optimistic about the Royals, mostly because of the young core of rookie position players that came up in 2022: Bobby Witt Jr., Vinnie Pasquantino, MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto all have 30-homer potential. Drew Waters and Nate Eaton can at least pick it in the outfield.
Dayton Moore -- GM since May of 2006 -- is out and J.J. Picollo, his top lieutenant, takes over. Now it's time to clear out the underachieving veterans such as Hunter Dozier and Ryan O'Hearn to play the kids full-time. I love the potential for this young lineup. The pitching, however, is another matter, since outside of Brady Singer, the young starters struggled. We'll see if Picollo can figure out the pitching side of things.
2022 record: 73-89 (third in AL West)
2022 final ranking: 20
What a weird, wild, sad season -- from Joe Maddon's bases-loaded intentional walk (and eventual firing as manager) to Shohei Ohtani's all-around brilliance to Mike Trout's quiet monster season (40 home runs in 119 games) to owner Arte Moreno's declaration that he will sell the team.
Moreno purchased the team for $180 million in 2003; Forbes valued the franchise at $2.2 billion in March. It's not that he didn't spend money -- although the Angels refused to ever go beyond the luxury tax -- it's just how poorly he spent the money when he did, from Albert Pujols to Josh Hamilton to Justin Upton to Anthony Rendon. Sure, there is some bad luck in there, but the Angels now have the longest playoff drought in the majors -- and face the prospect this offseason of whether to trade Ohtani. That seems unlikely -- but if the Angels are out of it at the trade deadline, they might have to sense that Ohtani would appear guaranteed to bolt elsewhere in 2024.
21. Minnesota Twins
2022 record: 78-84 record (third in the AL Central)
2022 final ranking: 18
They went 33-24 against the Royals, Tigers and White Sox -- and 45-60 against everybody else. It was an especially disappointing season because the weak AL Central was there for the taking. The team that set a major league record with 307 home runs in 2019 was just seventh in the AL in 2022. The rotation was just 27th in innings pitched, and the bullpen wasn't dominant enough (15th in ERA) to pick up the slack. Carlos Correa will leave after his one year in Minnesota, so now the Twins need a shortstop. Some of the top prospects haven't taken off, whether due to injury (Royce Lewis) or performance (Austin Martin), Byron Buxton isn't on the field often enough to be the team's best player, and they could use a staff ace. It would be nice if the Pohlad brothers would pump the payroll a little higher considering the Twins haven't been in the top half of payroll at any point in the past decade.
22. Texas Rangers
2022 record: 68-94 (fourth in the AL West)
2022 final ranking: 21
Ownership is growing impatient, given the firing in August of longtime executive Jon Daniels (with GM and former pitcher Chris Young taking over the top role). To be fair, a 15-35 record in one-run games means the team underperformed its Pythagorean record (77-85).
Texas hired Bruce Bochy with the expectation to win now. We'll see about that. Corey Seager and Marcus Semien were more good than great in their first seasons, although I guess you can't complain about 59 home runs from your middle infield (especially since Semien didn't hit his first until the team's 45th game). This team still needs starting pitching -- and that's with Martin Perez, the team's best starter, heading to free agency -- so that could make the Rangers one of the favorites to land deGrom.
23. Boston Red Sox
2022 record: 78-84 (fifth in the AL East)
2022 final ranking: 17
It's hard to know what to make of the Red Sox right now with two last-place finishes sandwiched around a playoff trip in 2021. Xander Bogaerts was their best player in 2022, and he's expected to opt out of his player option and head into free agency. Boston can slide Trevor Story over to shortstop, although his arm strength is an issue, so maybe the Red Sox will sign another of the free-agent shortstops (or a stopgap until top prospect Marcelo Mayer is ready).
Their top two pitchers via WAR were Michael Wacha and John Schreiber, which is not a path to success, as the Red Sox finished 22nd in the majors in rotation ERA and 26th in bullpen ERA. Wacha, Nathan Eovaldi and Rich Hill are all free agents, which is 69 starts to figure out. The hope is 30 of those will come from Chris Sale, who made just two starts in 2022 after suffering a stress fracture in his rib cage, a broken pinkie and then a fractured wrist in a bicycle accident.
24. Miami Marlins
2022 record: 69-93 (fourth in the NL East)
2022 final ranking: 23
The Marlins' last winning record in a full season came back in 2009. Since 2010, they have the worst record in the majors. Where are the signs of improvement? Not counting the pandemic-shortened season when Miami did make the playoffs, the Marlins have averaged a 64-98 record since 2018. Nothing sums up the plight of this franchise more than the offseason signings of Avisail Garcia and Jorge Soler for a combined $89 million (and the fourth- and sixth-largest free-agent contracts in franchise history). The two veterans combined for minus-0.7 WAR. And then you have Trevor Rogers, who had a great rookie season in 2021 and regressed to a 5.47 ERA. Outfielder JJ Bleday came up and hit .167. One step forward, two steps backward. Hey, at least Sandy Alcantara is awesome.
2022 record: 60-102 (fifth in the AL West)
2022 final ranking: 29
Billy Beane has been through rebuilds, but never before had the A's lost 102 games under him. It was the worst season in Oakland since the infamous 1979 club lost 108 and averaged less than 4,000 fans per game. This team wasn't much more watchable -- at least the 1979 A's had rookie Rickey Henderson. Like a lot of clubs, the A's struggled big-time on offense: They had six players with at least 100 at-bats who hit under .200 and 13 under .225. Yuck. The starting rotation led the AL in home runs allowed, despite playing in a pitchers' park. Lefties Ken Waldichuk and JP Sears, acquired from the Yankees in the Frankie Montas trade, dominated the minors and will be given shots in the rotation. The A's need them to develop into quality starters, but the franchise's inability or unwillingness to spend money means the offense will probably struggle once again.
2022 record: 62-100 (tied for fourth in the NL Central)
2022 final ranking: 28
The Pirates followed up a 101-loss season with 100 losses, so you can say they improved -- or you can point out it was their first back-to-back 100-loss seasons since 1954, which is saying something considering the Pirates have had just four winning seasons out of the past 30. A lot of the hope in Pittsburgh rests on the mercurial talents of Oneil Cruz, who displayed dazzling raw power, arm strength and speed, but also a terrifying strikeout rate and questionable range at shortstop. The biggest offseason question is whether the Pirates will trade away center fielder Bryan Reynolds.
27. Colorado Rockies
2022 record: 68-94 (fifth in the NL West)
2022 final ranking: 24
Hey, let's just let owner Dick Monfort speak for the 2022 season: "Our road record was abysmal, our defense was not what we are accustomed to, our situational hitting was disappointing, and our pitching was inconsistent," he wrote in a letter to fans. "Excuses serve no purpose, and we are committed to devoting all our efforts this offseason to improving this team for 2023." The problem is the Rockies don't seem to realize they're not good and are happy enough signing Kris Bryant and thinking that's all they need to do. Imagine if they did something creative: Sign Aaron Judge! Let him hit 72 home runs at Coors Field! Instead, it will be more of the same, followed by another inevitable Monfort letter apologizing for another bad season.
28. Cincinnati Reds
2022 record: 62-100 (tied for fourth in the NL Central)
2022 final ranking: 26
They started out 3-22, tied for the worst 25-game start in the wild-card era (since 1995). They finished 59-78 ... and, well, that's still bad. There were a lot of bad teams in 2022. Too many. That's for another discussion. As for the Reds, they're in the early stages of a teardown and rebuild -- not that they're tearing down from much success, the high point being a playoff berth during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. I like Hunter Greene's potential -- he had a 1.02 ERA over his final six starts, although those were sandwiched around a shoulder injury. Nick Lodolo also has top-end potential in the rotation. But the team's best position player in 2022 was Triple-A vagabond Brandon Drury, who ended the season with the Padres. Really, it seems like owner Bob Castellini is just counting down the days until after the 2023 season when he can buy out Joey Votto's last season (sorry, Joey!) and Mike Moustakas -- and be in position to run perhaps the lowest payroll in the league. Enjoy, Reds fans!
29. Detroit Tigers
2022 record: 66-96 (fourth in the AL Central)
2022 final ranking: 27
Well, that was ugly. Javier Baez led the team with just 17 home runs. The offense posted the worst wRC+ in the majors and scored the fewest runs. Tarik Skubal led the Tigers with just 21 starts and closer Gregory Soto lost 11 games. Preseason Rookie of the Year candidate Spencer Torkelson hit his way back to Triple-A and finished with minus-1.3 WAR. Casey Mize underwent Tommy John surgery. Owner Chris Ilitch fired general manager Al Avila in August. I'm trying to find something positive to say here, but it's hard. Good luck to Scott Harris, who comes over from the Giants to run baseball operations.
2022 record: 55-107 (fifth in the NL East)
2022 final ranking: 30
This is the easiest call on the board. The Nationals had the majors' worst record, the worst run differential and are also in the process of being sold. The big league roster is devoid of frontline talent and depth and there is no reason to spend in free agency. Oh, and they play in a loaded division. Even the young players who are supposed to be the foundation for the future struggled: Starter Josiah Gray allowed both the most home runs and walks in the NL, and shortstop CJ Abrams had a .276 OBP with no home runs in 163 plate appearances with Nationals (drawing just one walk). The Juan Soto trade added a couple of intriguing outfield prospects in James Wood and Robert Hassell III, who perhaps gets a look in 2023. The Nats are a good bet to lose 100 again -- and, remember, the top six choices in the draft are now done via lottery, so they're not even guaranteed the top overall pick in 2023 (or 2024).