April 14, 2024

We’re down to the final days of the 2023 regular season. Most teams are looking ahead to 2024, while others are focused on October — and the fates of a few squads still hang in the balance.

Despite the Rangers’ cushion atop the American League West, a season-ending series against the Mariners along with the Astros not trailing far behind means those three teams will be duking it out until the very end. Likewise, five teams remain alive in the National League wild-card race, all fighting for the final two spots.

Which teams will get to keep playing into October, and which will see their 2023 playoff aspirations end?

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 25 | Second-half preview | Preseason rankings

Record: 102-56

Previous ranking: 1

As the Braves close in on the single-season team home run record, there’s no doubting their offense as they get ready for the playoffs. The pitching, however, suddenly has some concerns. Max Fried is out with a blister, although he’s expected back for the NLDS. Charlie Morton will definitely miss the NLDS with a finger injury. Bryce Elder‘s ERA has climbed from 2.97 in the first half to 5.11 in the second. The bullpen has struggled in September with an ERA over 5.00. Even Spencer Strider has a 5.72 ERA over his past five starts as the big inning continues to plague him. Looks like they’re going to have to hit a lot of those home runs in October. — Schoenfield

Record: 99-59

Previous ranking: 2

It’s been a bittersweet week in Baltimore baseball. As the Orioles move ever closer to cementing their first AL East title since 2014, the city is mourning the passing of Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. Widely remembered as one of the great defenders in baseball history, Robinson began his big league career in 1955 and ended it as a grizzled veteran at age 40 in 1977 — and he did it all as an Oriole. As for that glove at third base, Robinson’s 16 Gold Gloves are a pretty fair testament to how his prowess was viewed during his career. But it’s worth noting that advanced metrics, calculated long after he retired, love his defense as well. According to the fielding runs metric at baseball-reference.com, Robinson is far and away the all-time leader (293) of any player at any position. — Doolittle

Record: 98-60

Previous ranking: 3

His shoulder is barking and his velocity is dropping, yet Clayton Kershaw continues to find a way. On Saturday night, in what could be the last regular-season start at Dodger Stadium in his career, Kershaw threw five scoreless innings against a Giants team still vying for the playoffs at that point. It dropped his ERA on the season to 2.42. Kershaw, 35, will be limited in October; he hasn’t been allowed to pitch into the sixth inning in seven starts since coming off the injured list and has had at least five days of rest in between each of them. But he continues to be effective. The Dodgers’ shorthanded rotation will desperately need more of that in October. — Gonzalez

Record: 97-62

Previous ranking: 4

The subject of the newest chapter in the epic-length novel “Do Not Trade With the Rays” is Junior Caminero. The 20-year-old third baseman was promoted last week after beginning the season in the High-A South Atlantic League. Caminero, so far, has skipped Triple-A altogether after putting up a .921 OPS in Double-A. Caminero is still listed as the 6-foot-1, 157-pound teenager he used to be, but reports now suggest that he’s more like 6-3, 190 pounds, and that shows up in his power bat. And as for that trade: Caminero was acquired from Cleveland in November 2021 for pitcher Tobias Myers, who has since moved on to the Giants, White Sox and, presently, the Brewers. Don’t trade with the Rays. Caminero is eligible to appear in the postseason if the Rays so desire. — Doolittle

Record: 89-69

Previous ranking: 9

The Rangers reasserted themselves again in the AL West with a dominant weekend performance against division rival Seattle. They outpitched and outhit the Mariners, nearly locking up the division in the process. Sometimes your stars simply have to be your stars, and both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien brought their lumber in Sunday’s 9-8 win. Semien hit his 26th and 27th home runs while Seager went deep for the 33rd time. He produced hits in all six Rangers wins last week after going 0-for-12 in his previous three games. In any other year, Seager would be the clear AL MVP winner considering his OPS is over 1.000, but with Shohei Ohtani around, he’ll have to settle for second or perhaps third place. — Rogers

Record: 89-69

Previous ranking: 7

The Phillies clinched a wild-card berth and the No. 4 seed on Johan Rojas’ walk-off single in the 10th inning Tuesday. While it’s been a mixed bag from the Phillies’ stars in 2023, Rojas is one of several secondary players who has come up big. He has hit well in his rookie season while starting against right-handed pitchers, but most importantly, he has been so good in center field that he pushed Brandon Marsh to left field (and Kyle Schwarber to DH), drastically improving the Phillies’ defense. Marsh and Bryson Stott have had solid years at the plate, although Stott has slumped in September. Jeff Hoffman has been huge out of the pen, and rookie call-up Orion Kerkering was so impressive in his debut that he may end up playing a key role out of the bullpen in the postseason. “I hope we can win this thing this year,” Zack Wheeler said in the clinching celebration. — Schoenfield

Record: 89-69

Previous ranking: 6

Mark Canha has been a great addition at the plate for Milwaukee, compiling a lofty OBP since coming over from the Mets. He’s helped the Brewers to yet another division title and playoff appearance under manager Craig Counsell. This year, they have some rare balance in their lineup to go along with their big three on the mound, giving prognosticators something to think about for next month. Can they upset L.A. and/or Atlanta? It’s a longshot, but Milwaukee has as good a chance as ever considering it’s the best equipped to keep its opponent in the ballpark — a trademark of the Braves and Dodgers. — Rogers

Record: 87-71

Previous ranking: 8

Big-money free agent deals generally carry a lot more downside than upside. That’s especially true of pitchers. Nevertheless, two years into the five-year pact the Blue Jays gave Kevin Gausman, the deal looks like a winner. After a successful 2022 season that saw Gausman lead the AL in FIP and finish ninth in Cy Young balloting, he’s been even better in 2023, his age-32 campaign. Gausman, who leads the AL in strikeout rate and strikeouts alike, is likely to top 190 innings and should easily land in the top five of Cy Young balloting. Over the last two years, the only AL pitcher with more strikeouts than Gausman’s 442 is Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. — Doolittle

Record: 87-72

Previous ranking: 5

If you set aside the 2020 shortened season during which it was also dealing with fallout from the sign-stealing scandal, this has arguably been the most trying season for Houston since it emerged from its rebuild in 2015. The next few days will determine just how trying it has been, as the Astros continue to teeter on the precipice of falling out of the postseason altogether. The pitching staff is running on fumes, which is the case even after Justin Verlander‘s eight-inning gem in Seattle on Monday. During September, the staff ERA is middle of the pack, but the rotation is in the bottom third of MLB. The rookie back of the rotation (J.P. France and Hunter Brown) have fallen off, combining for a 7.50 ERA over nine September starts. — Doolittle

Record: 85-73

Previous ranking: 11

While the Twins wait out decisions on the postseason statuses of ailing position players like Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis, the pitching depth chart is rounding into as good a shape as it’s been in some time. Speaking to reporters this week, manager Rocco Baldelli said that his playoff rotation will be led by Pablo Lopez and Sonny Gray, as expected. Joe Ryan figures to be the third guy. Meanwhile, an already solid bullpen will be bolstered by two fresh injury returnees: Chris Paddack and Brock Stewart. Paddack tossed his first big league pitches since May 8 of last season on Tuesday, throwing two innings against Oakland. The best sign: Paddack’s stuff played up in his relief role, as his four-seamer touched a career-best 99 mph, per TruMedia. — Doolittle

Record: 85-73

Previous ranking: 10

It all comes down to the final four-game series against the Rangers — a team that has owned the Mariners with an 8-1 record, including last weekend’s three-game sweep in Texas. In some ways, it’s been a frustrating season: The Mariners are 16 games over .500 against the A’s and Royals and under .500 against everyone else. On the other hand, they’ve had to make some in-season adjustments as Robbie Ray and Marco Gonzales combined for just 53 innings and minus-0.5 WAR (and Chris Flexen went 0-4 as the initial replacement for Ray). The bullpen had to replace three key relievers from last season — Diego Castillo was released in April, Erik Swanson was traded and Penn Murfee got hurt. The offseason pickups on offense (AJ Pollock, Kolten Wong, Cooper Hummel and Tommy La Stella) combined for minus-2.3 WAR, certainly a big strike against president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto. So the Mariners are probably right where they should be: fighting to get to October. — Schoenfield

Record: 84-74

Previous ranking: 12

The D-backs recently offered a convenient snapshot of how wacky the wild-card races have been this year. They were swept by the lowly Mets but have followed that up by winning eight times in a stretch of 10 games, with five of those wins coming against the Cubs and Giants. Only 3½ games separate the D-backs, Cubs, Marlins and Reds for the second and third NL wild-card spots, but the D-backs lead that group, two games ahead of the Marlins and Cubs for the No. 2 spot with four games remaining. Arizona’s last three games will come against an Astros team fighting for its own playoff spot, but it looks as if Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly will start two of them. It’s going to be a fight until the very end. — Gonzalez

Record: 82-76

Previous ranking: 13

A critical week for the Cubs began in Atlanta after a much-needed weekend sweep of the Rockies at home, making up for Chicago losing two of three in Denver earlier this month. First baseman Jared Young hit a home run in Friday’s win while third baseman Miles Mastrobuoni — arguably fourth on the depth chart — had two hits in Saturday’s victory. Having said that, Jeimer Candelario‘s return from a back injury will be a key addition while closer Adbert Alzolay may not be far behind. The Cubs need all hands on deck in the bullpen this week as they attempt to secure a playoff spot. — Rogers

Record: 82-76

Previous ranking: 14

Hey, with one game against the Mets on Thursday and three in Pittsburgh, the Marlins are still in it. Tuesday’s cancellation in New York due to field conditions that forced Wednesday’s doubleheader was a tough blow, however, as Braxton Garrett was scheduled to start that game and then the season finale on Sunday — a game that will likely have wild-card implications. Now, Garrett would have to start on short rest if he pitches. One big key: The Marlins hold the tiebreaker over the Diamondbacks, Cubs and Reds, so all they have to do is tie one of those three teams for the final spot and they’re in. — Schoenfield

Record: 81-78

Previous ranking: 15

The loss to the Pirates after leading 9-0 on Saturday may have been the last straw for the Reds’ playoff hopes. They simply couldn’t afford a loss like that as they’re looking up at three teams in the wild-card race. Though they have a good, young rotation, they haven’t produced in 2023, ranking near the bottom of the majors in ERA. The bullpen hasn’t been much better as three different relievers gave up at least three runs in Saturday’s collapse. The chances remain slim that the Reds make the postseason, but it’s been a good year for Cincinnati, nonetheless, as it debuted a bunch of talented players. Now comes the hard part: All of them taking the next big step. — Rogers

Record: 81-77

Previous ranking: 16

What a year it’s been for New York baseball. The Yankees are on target to suffer one of the steepest declines in their record from 2022 to 2023 of any team in baseball. One of the few teams to have fallen off farther are their Big Apple counterparts, the Mets. Whether or not the Yankees manage to remain over .500 and keep their streak of non-losing seasons alive, this has been a startling plunge in the Bronx. If the Yankees finish, say, 82-80, that would be a 17-win decline over 2022. If that happens, it would be New York’s largest year-over-year drop since 1965 (based on 162 games, prorating for shortened seasons). And those 1965 Yanks, managed by Johnny Keane, are largely remembered as the club that represents the collapse of baseball’s most historic dynasty. What a year indeed. — Doolittle

Record: 79-80

Previous ranking: 19

Monday’s eighth inning screamed for Josh Hader, with Robert Suarez tiring, the Padres clinging to a one-run lead, a left-handed hitter due up and four outs remaining. But Hader isn’t available for four-out saves, a reality the team understood when it acquired him at midseason in 2022, and the Padres ultimately lost, moving to the brink of elimination. Later, manager Bob Melvin sounded perturbed by the reality of not being able to use his lights-out closer in a critical spot. Hader’s reasoning, on the verge of free agency, was deeply unsatisfying. It underscored some of the potential clubhouse issues rival coaches have pointed to as a reason the Padres have been so deeply disappointing this season. — Gonzalez

Record: 78-81

Previous ranking: 17

The Giants were officially eliminated from postseason contention on Tuesday, but their ace, Logan Webb, looked ahead a day earlier. After twirling a complete game in a win over the Padres on Monday night, Webb alluded to internal issues that might have prevented the Giants from seriously contending in 2023, telling reporters: “I’m tired of losing. It’s not fun. We’ve got to make some big changes in here to create that winning culture. We want to show up every single year and try to win the whole thing. I mean, I think we’re there. I don’t know what it is.” The Giants are three years removed from a shocking 107-win season, but they’ve missed the playoffs six out of the last seven years. They’ll probably chase a superstar again this offseason. — Gonzalez

Record: 76-82

Previous ranking: 18

The Red Sox’s season will be remembered as a disappointment. Still, you can argue that based on preseason projections, Boston more or less met expectations. That expectations had fallen so low, is why the Chaim Bloom tenure is over. As Boston reconfigures its leadership structure and the injury-battered team limps to the finish line, the marquee franchise finds itself at an inflection point. The news isn’t all bad though, as the number of successful prospect graduations over the last couple of years hints at a stronger foundation going forward. — Doolittle

Record: 75-84

Previous ranking: 20

Final thoughts on the 2023 Guardians: First, not the best of sendoffs for Terry Francona, but with two World Series titles with the Red Sox, one pennant in Cleveland and ranking 13th all time in wins, he’ll be headed to Cooperstown, and baseball will miss his presence. Now to the players. Triston McKenzie returned from his long IL stint but walked six batters in 1⅔ innings. Let’s hope he’s healthy and right for next season to join the impressive rookie starters who debuted this season, including Tanner Bibee, who might finish second to Gunnar Henderson for Rookie of the Year. Emmanuel Clase lost nine games and blew 12 saves — it might have been a different season if he had been as lights out as last year. Most importantly: The Guardians have to find some power in the outfield. — Schoenfield

Record: 74-83

Previous ranking: 21

Miguel Cabrera‘s final season could be remembered as a transitional season, one that bridged the Miggy era and the one that comes next. For that perception to take hold, the Tigers will have to keep getting better, but this has been a season of progress. That will be the case whether or not they manage to nudge out the Guardians for second place in the AL Central, which would be Detroit’s best finish since 2016. The Tigers have a lot of work left to do to rediscover the heights of Cabrera’s best teams, but they are one of the few clubs in the majors who can point to this season as one of steady, consistent and persistent improvement. We’ve been here before with the Tigers — the franchise seemed to be at a turning point after a 77-85 finish in 2021 — but Cabrera appears to be leaving a club on the ascension. — Doolittle

Record: 72-86

Previous ranking: 22

Let’s take a final report on the Mets rookies. Francisco Alvarez was both a pleasant surprise (excellent pitch framing metrics) and a disappointment (low average and OBP). His chase rate was better than average, but the swing-and-miss rate was too high, and he had a very low BABIP — although not due to bad luck. He just didn’t square up enough balls. It seems like a pitch selection issue that should improve with experience. Brett Baty hardly solidified himself as the third baseman of the future. He has decent raw power but too much swing-and-miss, below-average defense, and he hits the ball on the ground too much. Ronny Mauricio probably gets a chance at the second base job next year and showed good exit velocities, but he needs to tighten up the strike zone for the offense to develop. I’m not sure these three will be a strong foundation, although Alvarez has a chance to turn into a star. — Schoenfield

Record: 74-84

Previous ranking: 24

The spoiler role has suited the Pirates well lately as they took road series from both the Cubs and Reds last week. Pittsburgh’s win on Saturday in Cincinnati was historic. The Pirates were 0-819 all-time when trailing by at least nine runs in a game, as they got down 9-0 before winning 13-12. Jared Triolo’s MLB career is off to a decent start. The 2019 second-round pick had four hits in Saturday’s win, raising his batting average to nearly .300. He could be an intriguing player moving forward as the Pirates have several talented infielders on their roster, including the injured Oneil Cruz. — Rogers

Record: 71-88

Previous ranking: 23

Mike Trout was uncharacteristically emotional while discussing his recent string of ailments earlier this week. The frustration of a season in which his body felt good but a fractured hamate bone on a swing limited him to 82 games, was too strong to keep from spilling out. There are major questions surrounding each of the Angels’ three superstars going into this offseason, with Shohei Ohtani set for free agency, Anthony Rendon being a non-factor these last three years and rumors swirling about a potential Trout trade. Trout kept his answers relatively vague when talking about his Angels future, but the reality is that his contract (nearly $250 million remaining over the next seven years) and recent injuries (he will have played in just 237 of a possible 486 games since 2021) make a trade seem unlikely. Trout needs to get healthy. And his Angels need a long-term plan. — Gonzalez

Record: 69-89

Previous ranking: 25

The misery comes to an end this week for St. Louis fans who never really saw their team go on a run. Even the A’s and Royals have provided some excitement with a few big series wins, but not the Cardinals. If their pitching issues weren’t enough, they just completed one of their worst weeks at the plate, hitting .189 over a six-game span ending on Tuesday. While the Rangers hit 16 home runs over the past seven days, St. Louis hit just two, leading to a measly .549 overall OPS for the week. The Cardinals need a reset. They’ll get a long one soon enough. — Rogers

Record: 69-90

Previous ranking: 26

It’s been a rough September as the Nationals have won just one series (against the White Sox). They have a ton of rebuilding to do. They’ve allowed the most home runs and second-most runs in the NL, while hitting the fewest home runs themselves. Another area of focus will be improving the team defense, which ranks in the bottom five in the majors in defensive runs saved. Catcher Keibert Ruiz is the biggest problem there, ranking in the bottom 10% in Statcast metrics for pitch blocking, caught stealing rate, pitch framing and pop time. He’s a great contact hitter but the defense will have to improve. — Schoenfield

Record: 60-98

Previous ranking: 27

Luis Robert Jr.’s season is over after he injured his knee sliding into second base in Boston over the weekend. It means he won’t reach 40 home runs, falling two short. He was clearly the team’s best player this year, and it wasn’t even close. Robert hit 25 more home runs than his previous high while driving in 24 more runs than he ever has. He played great defense, too, but he also struck out more, whiffing 172 times while taking just 30 walks. That’s the next level for him to achieve: a more disciplined approach at the plate while keeping his power intact. — Rogers

Record: 57-101

Previous ranking: 28

The Rockies have lost 100 games for the first time in franchise history, and they got there in fitting fashion — in a blowout loss against the Dodgers, the division rivals who have dominated them in recent years. Their starting rotation — decimated by the loss of German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela, among others — has the worst ERA in the majors. And their most expensive player, Kris Bryant, has been a below-average hitter while missing lots of time due to injuries over these last two years. The Rockies, in short, are a mess. And they could be for a while. — Gonzalez

Record: 54-103

Previous ranking: 29

For the third time since 2018, the Royals lost 100-plus games. The organization remains directionless and shows no signs that improvement is coming. Bobby Witt Jr. was fun and is one home run away from joining the 30/30 club while Cole Ragans was a steal coming over from the Rangers, but some of the young hitters failed to improve (MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto, Kyle Isbel) and Brady Singer regressed. Needless to say, Zack Greinke and Jordan Lyles didn’t help as veteran stopgaps, and it’s sad to see that 1-15 record next to Greinke’s name. The rotation and bullpen have ERAs over 5.00. On the bright side, they did just win 10 out of 11, including playing spoiler with a three-game sweep of the Astros. Maybe some momentum for 2024! — Schoenfield

Record: 48-110

Previous ranking: 30

You have to go all the way back to 1916, when the franchise was located in Philadelphia, to find an A’s team that lost more games than the current group. A 26-year-old outfielder named Wally Schang led that Philadelphia A’s team in home runs with seven; 22-year-old right-hander Elmer Myers led them in innings with 315. It was a different game then, long before the term “war” could be applied as a measurement of baseball acumen. Speaking of WAR — Zack Gelof leads the current A’s in FanGraphs’ version of that stat, by a healthy margin, even though he has only been a major league player since the middle of July. It’s his Roaring Twenties, one might say. — Gonzalez

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