MLB Power Rankings: Blue Jays make postseason push, Top 5 sees some shakeup

Every week,​ we​ ask all​ of our baseball​ writers​ — both the​ local​ scribes​ and the national team,​ more​ than​​ 30 writers in all — to rank the teams from first to worst. Here are the collective results, the TA30.

It seems like every baseball season in recent memory has ended on a Sunday, but not in 2022. Due to the lockout delaying things and everyone’s desire to play a 162-game slate, Major League Baseball’s regular season will end on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

The league will go back to playing its last games on a Sunday next season (Oct. 1, 2023). Here’s a question … Why? Why go up against a full slate of NFL games on what theoretically should be the most important day of regular season baseball? There’s a reason why ESPN went with Giants-Cubs on their Sept. 11 edition of “Sunday Night Baseball.” They effectively punted on ratings, knowing the vast majority of sports fans would watch the NFL season kick off with Bucs-Cowboys.

But MLB went back to its standard final game date, likely for the same reason they decide to do a lot of things — that’s just the way it’s always been done. But for a league that’s been pretty aggressive about changing what the game will look like next season, this seems like a missed opportunity. Go with Wacky Wednesday, one of the rare days of the week during the fall that football doesn’t eclipse everything else.

Speaking of opportunities, this is my last chance for recaps for the American League teams. Fabian Ardaya will handle the National League side.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 101-44
Last Power Ranking: 1

“You won’t remember all my/Champagne problems” — Taylor Swift, “Champagne Problems”

The Dodgers have plenty of them, which they’ll have to figure out now that they’ve clinched the National League West for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons. For one, it took them two tries just to clinch a postseason berth! (You can thank Major League Baseball’s internal accounting on that one.)

All-Star Tony Gonsolin may or may not make it back for full starts. They’ve still only gotten five outings from their top reliever (Blake Treinen) this season. Others have just a few appearances to acclimate themselves after long stints on the injured list. The Dodgers’ pitching plans are going to be unorthodox, even with the time to line things up however they’d like. That alone should give you reasons to watch even if the baseball itself doesn’t bear much on the standings.

2. Houston Astros

Record: 96-51
Last Power Ranking: 2

Friday night encapsulated the Astros’ season. Justin Verlander came back from the injured list and still looked like a Cy Young Award favorite, striking out nine and allowing no hits over five innings, and Yordan Alvarez went 4-for-4 with three homers that each traveled farther than 430 feet. 

The Astros are almost certainly going to end up with the American League’s best record, along with another Cy Young Award for Verlander. No one cares about pitcher wins anymore, but Cristian Javier is one win away from giving the Astros five starters with at least 10, which seems good (along with the entire staff leading the AL in just about every statistical category). They have plenty of offense, but pitching is why they’ll head into the postseason as the favorite to win their fourth AL pennant in six seasons.

3. New York Mets

Record: 93-55
Last Power Ranking: 4

It’s a good thing for the sport that the Mets are good. They’re always interesting, but when they’re good — like, actually good — it makes for a series of tantalizing possibilities. They haven’t quite played to that standard of late against a series of sub-.500 teams, and the NL East has turned into a dogfight, but as of right now they still control whatever fate they wind up in. That’s a sign of progress for this organization.

Of course, Steve Cohen isn’t paying the largest payroll in baseball right now for progress. He wants to win, and winning the division and avoiding the Dodgers’ side of the postseason bracket until the NLCS certainly helps those chances.

4. Atlanta Braves

Record: 91-55
Last Power Ranking: 3

Atlanta has so many promising young players, it’s unclear where the heck they’re going to play them all. Oh, wait…

Sometimes, baseball has a way of sorting those things out. Ozzie Albies was back, only to immediately fracture his finger upon his return.

The Braves are still one of the most complete clubs — except maybe at closer. They will be a grueling matchup for whomever they wind up facing in the postseason. But with the division now within reach, and a chance to properly set up their pitching with the first-round bye that would come with it, now is the time to step on the gas. Major “Dodgers-Giants 2021” potential in this race for the final weeks of the year.

5. New York Yankees

Record: 88-58
Last Power Ranking: 6

Who knows, maybe the Yankees will catch fire in the postseason. But it’s looking more and more like this Yankees’ season might have swung at the deadline, when they missed out on Luis Castillo and had to settle on Frankie Montas.

The A’s were likely popping bottles when that happened because it seemed like they might not be able to trade Montas after he missed a start in July due to shoulder inflammation. But the Yankees had to add a starter, and while they didn’t give up nearly the same caliber of prospects to Oakland that Seattle sent to Cincinnati for Castillo, they had to know that Montas came with some risk. 

Now Montas’ shoulder has Aaron Boone feeling “at least a little bit concerned.” And he’s been one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball since the Yankees acquired him. Clay Holmes’ effectiveness has tanked, too. The Aaron Judge show still goes on, however.

6. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 87-61
Last Power Ranking: 5

If you’re reading this, Albert Pujols just hit another home run. The fact that it’s almost a question of when, not if, he reaches 700 career home runs at this point is bonkers, bananas, any adjective in the book. Having seen much of Pujols’ late career firsthand with the Angels and Dodgers, it’s staggering that he has reached this point. It might be the biggest story in baseball right now, which is saying something considering the Cardinals have other history happening right now as well.

Oh, and they’ve all but wrapped up a division title at this point. Ho hum.

7. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 83-64
Last Power Ranking: 8

The Blue Jays weren’t just a sleeper pick to win the American League pennant. Heading into this season, many thought they were the favorite. When The Athletic’s baseball writers submitted preseason predictions, 48.5 percent picked the Dodgers to win the World Series. In second place — and the only other team to garner more than 10 percent of the vote — was Toronto at 39.4 percent.

Whoever picked the Angels has to be grateful that our picks were made anonymously.

Those who went with the Blue Jays undoubtedly thought Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would contend for the MVP again. Though his numbers have been fine, that hasn’t happened this season. But despite some shaky stretches, look at the Jays now: third-best record in the AL, on top of the wild-card standings. This team may have gone from overrated to underrated over the course of this season.

8. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 82-64
Last Power Ranking: 7

Tampa Bay may be the most resourceful team in the sport. Tyler Glasnow and Shane Baz haven’t pitched this season. Wander Franco has played in fewer than half of the team’s games, although he’s back now and was able to take part in a history-making position player lineup on Roberto Clemente Day. 

The Rays stumbled a bit over the past week after looking like they might sneak up and challenge the Yankees for the division lead, but this is the kind of team that gets overlooked going into the postseason. The offense doesn’t excite you, but the pitching staff is still deep even without Glasnow and Baz, and they don’t walk anyone. That’ll play.

9. Seattle Mariners

Record: 80-65
Last Power Ranking: 9

We’re all tired of hearing about the Mariners’ postseason drought. Jerry Dipoto most of all, which is why he’s probably sleeping about 90 minutes a night as his team tries to make good on a rebuild that started in 2018.  

I expected the Mariners to win 90+ games this season, but not quite like this. I figured Robbie Ray would be outstanding after moving from Toronto to Seattle, and he’s been great at T-Mobile Park (2.73 ERA). But he’s been pretty bad on the road (5.08 ERA). Their big offseason trade was supposed to be about Jesse Winker, but in future years it’ll probably be known as “the Eugenio Suárez trade.”

Suárez is out with an injured finger, which isn’t great. But the finishing schedule is pretty favorable: A’s, Royals, Rangers, A’s, Tigers. No excuses.

10. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 80-66
Last Power Ranking: 10

Yes, you’re reading those FanGraphs playoff odds correctly. The Phillies, barring a disaster, are likely playing October baseball for the first time since 2011. Their bWAR leader, J.T. Realmuto, was 20 years old that year. I was in high school.

Phillies fans can give Rob Thomson at least partial credit for that. You can also look at what would be a difficult postseason rotation to grapple with if you’re an opponent (Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez is a very nice trio) and start to dream a bit.

11. San Diego Padres

Record: 81-66
Last Power Ranking: 11

Sunday wasn’t a milestone Juan Soto was looking for.

Hey, Ted Williams had slumps, too. But the looming drought for Soto was a point of concern — his acquisition was a signal-changer for the Padres, and later on, a way of absorbing the loss of Fernando Tatis Jr. He hasn’t delivered yet (nor has Josh Bell). This still feels like a lineup that has holes and can be pitched to in October. Plenty of Padres are grappling with heightened expectations. They also have to get there for the first time in a full season since 2006, which is part of the reason they hired Bob Melvin in the first place.

12. Cleveland Guardians

Record: 79-67
Last Power Ranking: 12

Someone has to win the AL Central. Why not a team known for screaming triumphantly? The Guardians have one of the league’s top rookies in Steven Kwan. José Ramírez is one of the best all-around players in the game, and Andrés Giménez has arguably been just as good. But the Guardians have the ultimate weapon that could elevate them from an improbable postseason squad to a team that could do damage if/when they get there: Emmanuel Clase, who simply doesn’t give up homers in high-leverage situations. 

13. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 78-68
Last Power Ranking: 13

Are the Brewers stalling out a bit? They seemed quite exciting four years ago when they came within a win of a World Series berth. They’ve been incredibly competitive since then. Their pitching has been wicked, from Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader to Brandon Woodruff and Devin Williams. They might still make the postseason. They can still pitch the heck out of the ball (Hader’s gone, though). But getting better means spending more money and…

…what’s that?

I see ownership’s money is going somewhere else.

14. Chicago White Sox

Record: 76-71
Last Power Ranking: 15

The White Sox went from a team that appeared completely stacked and ready to boat-race the rest of the AL Central to a team that needs contributions from a couple of Bay Area castoffs (Johnny Cueto and Elvis Andrus) just to stay within arm’s length of the Guardians. Injuries have been a major culprit in all departments, and Michael Kopech just went on the IL

Here’s how this season has gone for the White Sox. Their manager, who kind of went off the rails with the intentional walks to guys with 1-2 counts but is still thought of as one of the best field generals in the game’s history, was the subject of an open letter from our Ken Rosenthal asking him to step down permanently for the good of the team. Guardians fans hope he’ll ignore that request. 

15. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 78-69
Last Power Ranking: 14

Baltimore’s postseason hopes took a hit when they lost a series over the weekend in Toronto, despite a nice comeback on Sunday. But let’s be realistic. The Orioles sold at the trade deadline, so no one can be too surprised with where they currently sit. They were a game and a half behind the third wild-card team when they traded Trey Mancini and Jorge López, after all. 

The Orioles continue to exercise patience with their rebuild and perhaps this offseason is when they’ll remove the training wheels. The foundation is there to contend in what should be an absolute monster of a division next season, especially with closer Félix Bautista, who has more than one pitch his bullpen mates would like to steal for their own arsenals.

16. Minnesota Twins

Record: 73-73
Last Power Ranking: 16

Saturday night felt like the death blow. The Twins came into their biggest series of the season, in Cleveland, after sweeping the Royals. They lost the first game to the Guardians due to a bullpen implosion, but a Saturday double-header gave them a chance to climb back into the AL Central race. Then Shane Bieber shut them down in the opener and the Twins lost the second game in 15 innings (after taking a one-run lead in the top of the 13th).

17. San Francisco Giants

Record: 69-77
Last Power Ranking: 17

Here’s a headline that would’ve been unimaginable a year ago.

Giants chairman Greg Johnson: ‘We are fully behind Farhan (Zaidi)’

We’re at that point, though. The 2022 dream has long been dead. The 2021 magic feels like a distant memory. Now, the Giants are left to grapple with evaluating how much progress has truly been made under this regime. That means difficult assessments of this veteran-laden roster.

Wilmer Flores, you’re in. Evan Longoria? Probably back. Brandon Belt? Hmmm. LaMonte Wade Jr.? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

18. Boston Red Sox

Record: 71-75
Last Power Ranking: 18

This is not where the Red Sox thought they’d be. The focus is decidedly on the future, and it’s not very Red Soxian to be all that concerned in September with who’s playing in the Arizona Fall League.

Chaim Bloom is about to enter an offseason that’ll make or break his tenure in Boston. What will they do with Xander Bogaerts? How will they make up ground in a division where they’re under .500 against each of the other teams in it (including a combined 7-25 against the Rays and Blue Jays)? The only solace, in what could be the most successful pro sports city of this century, might be that the Patriots are distracting Boston sports fans while dealing with a similar downturn.

19. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 68-78
Last Power Ranking: 19

I’ll say it: the Arizona Diamondbacks are fun. They are a fun ballclub in an interesting time. They’re spitting out pitching prospects who pump 97 mph, have an athletic and powerful young outfield and seem to be on the verge of building something. They’re trying cool stuff like, well, this!

It’s easy to get ahead of oneself in anticipating when clubs can start truly competing, but Arizona is showing all the right signs.

20. Texas Rangers

Record: 63-83
Last Power Ranking: 21

Mark Mathias is the Rangers’ hottest hitter, Josh Jung homered in his first major-league at-bat, and Jonah Heim made this catch. 

Just don’t pay attention to the rest.

21. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 64-82
Last Power Ranking: 20

Everyone brings up the famous “Tungsten Arm” tweet about Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout doing things we’ve never seen before after a bad Angels loss, but even Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig couldn’t have pulled this franchise out of the messes created by ownership and the front office. 

Before the season began, former Angels employee Eric Kay was found guilty of providing drugs that led to the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs. The baseball was surprisingly good at the beginning of the season before it got very, very bad. That resulted in Joe Maddon getting replaced by Phil Nevin, which, sure. Now the Angels face a lawsuit from two young Latin American players who claim the team reneged on verbal agreements to sign them. It has been a heavy year in Anaheim.

The best news of this disastrous season? Owner Arte Moreno seemed to realize he was in over his head and the Angels could get a fresh start relatively soon. 

22. Chicago Cubs

Record: 62-84
Last Power Ranking: 24

The Cubs swept the pizza series in New York against the Mets. There are some small signs of competitiveness starting to emerge from this group, which isn’t to say they’re close, but they’re closer. There’s some value in that. Now add some real pieces (pizzes?) this winter, and we’re cooking. Honestly, an extension with Willson Contreras would be a great starting point.

Last time I did these power rankings, I was asked to show Justin Steele some love. This is fair. He allowed six runs (five earned) in a start against the Pirates on June 24. In his next 10 starts, the left-hander threw 54 1/3 innings with a 1.49 ERA, 2.76 FIP and more than a strikeout per inning. That’s a heck of a run and he’s shown himself to be a building block.

23. Colorado Rockies

Record: 64-82
Last Power Ranking: 23

Nick Groke took to the stands to ask a question I’ve wondered aloud for years — why the heck does anyone go to Rockies games? Yes, Coors Field is a beautiful ballpark and elicits a brand of baseball that seems like it’s being played on a different plane of gravity. Their fan base is robust and regularly fills the place up. There are compelling stories – Wynton Bernard is the type of tale that inspires others to dream. And yet, they seem utterly rudderless while siloing themselves from how the rest of the sport conducts business.

This is a club that released the man who has the second-best ERA the franchise has ever produced this week. Jhoulys Chacín has had a fine career but isn’t getting his number retired at Coors anytime soon. That near-franchise record ERA? 4.05.

24. Miami Marlins

Record: 60-87
Last Power Ranking: 22

If only this club spent more money. Even the free-agent additions they did sign to bolster their offense this winter (Jorge Soler, Avisaíl García) haven’t quite panned out, but such is life when shopping in that part of the market. You either pay a premium for the certainty, or you develop better position player talent to take advantage of this promising pitching corps.

At some point, they have to show the next steps in the way of winning consistently. Will it be next year? Who knows.

25. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 58-89
Last Power Ranking: 25

C. Trent Rosecrans has taken on an admirable and difficult job — finding something compelling and interesting about the September 2022 edition of the Cincinnati Reds. There are few tougher tasks in beat writing than finding interesting angles on a nondescript club whose ownership hasn’t shown much interest in winning lately. But that doesn’t mean great stories, like Fernando Cruz, aren’t out there.

Side note: let’s get Joey Votto a running guest column on The Athletic, maybe? At least while he rehabs?

26. Kansas City Royals

Record: 58-89
Last Power Ranking: 26

The Royals selected four pitchers in the first 40 picks of the 2018 draft. Only Brady Singer has been anything better than serviceable, and even that may be overstating it. It’s enough to give a Royals fan heartburn, so why not grab some Alka Seltzer and read up on the legend of Country Breakfast? 

27. Detroit Tigers

Record: 55-91
Last Power Ranking: 27

The Tigers tied a record this week, and it was not one they’ll highlight in their next media guide. Their 7-0 loss to the Astros on Monday was the 21st time they’ve been shut out this season, tying the 1973 Yankees and 1976 White Sox for the most shutouts absorbed by an American League team in the DH era. Kind of comes with the territory when you rank at the bottom of the league in runs, homers and walks.

28. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 55-92
Last Power Ranking: 28

I don’t care what OPS, OPS+ or wRC+ says. These laser beams from Oneil Cruz should count double. His home runs just sound and look different. They should build the entire Pirates ship out of Oneil Cruz.

Anything he does is far more relevant to the current and future state of the Pirates than a third baseman munching on seeds mid-play.

29. Oakland Athletics

Record: 53-94
Last Power Ranking: 29

Unless something ridiculous happens, the A’s are going to lose 100 games this season. They expected this, so it’s not such a huge deal. OK, maybe they didn’t expect to finish with a record this pathetic, but they were prepared to deal with a season that didn’t look like any other since Billy Beane joined the front office. 

So what happens next season? The last time the A’s were this bad in terms of win/loss percentage, they followed a 108-loss season in 1979 with 83 wins the following year. Then they made the ALCS in 1981. They also hired Billy Martin after the really bad year, and he flamed out in 1982. The A’s aren’t going to replace Mark Kotsay with someone like Martin, mostly because Kotsay deserves at least another season and no one like Martin exists anymore. Really it’s all about some of the top prospects graduating to the majors, including Zack “DUDE” Gelof. 

30. Washington Nationals

Record: 51-95
Last Power Ranking: 30

Here are some player numbers entering Friday:

PLAYER A: 161 PAs, .324/.348/.546, 8 HR, 154 OPS+
PLAYER B: 153 PAs, .202/.375/.319, 3 HR, 105 OPS+

The first player is Joey Meneses. The second is Juan Soto since being traded to San Diego. No, Meneses is not a better player or hitter than Soto. But he’s at least one bright spot for a club that doesn’t have many.

(Top photo: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

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