2023 MLB Power Rankings: Week 26

We rank the 16 teams who are still alive for the playoffs

Every week, the Pitcher List team publishes an update to our power rankings, reviewing the biggest risers and fallers of the past seven days. As always, the full rankings can be found at the bottom of this article … but where’s the fun in that?

With the playoffs only a few days away, we have limited our rankings to only those who remain in contention, even if it is only mathematically. This leaves us with 16 teams, with 7 of them already assured of October play, while the other 9 are still battling out in the season’s final weekend.

In a fun twist to the season, 2022’s World Series participants are heading into the end on opposite sides of the spectrum. The defending-champ Astros find themselves suddenly fighting for their playoff lives, which is quite the contrast compared to their recent run of dominance. The runner-up Phillies are getting hot at the right time, clinching the top wild card spot in the NL and looking like a team nobody will want to face in the playoffs. How did they get to this point?


Movin’ On Up


Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 89-69

Rank change: +3 (10 to 7)

By the end of last season, the general sentiment around the Phillies was that their pennant was kind of a fluke. After all, they had sneaked into the playoffs as a wild card, got hot at the right time, only to be exposed by a superior team when Houston won three straight to take the title. In 2023, staring at a division with the mighty Braves and Mets, Philadelphia’s 25-30 record by the end of May appeared to confirm these doubts, but the Phillies were able to turn it around and become one of the steadiest teams in the league. By clinching a playoff spot again as a wild card, the Phils enter October in kind of a sweet spot: with a roster full of stars but also little pressure, at least compared to other NL juggernauts.

As Philadelphia ends 2023 as a top-10 team in our rankings, it is important to highlight how they got here. Their 7-0 record over the past week serves as a good microcosm of the upside of this team. This streak is the seventh run of at least 4 straight wins the Phillies have posted since June, while two of those wins were of the walk-off variety, adding to their league-leading 13. These traits of constant winning and excitement have added a layer of hopefulness to the usually-anxious Philadelphia fanbase, as most of their star players are performing at a very high level.

The biggest story for Philadelphia’s turn-around has certainly been Trea Turner, even as he took even more time to get going. From April to July, it appeared that Turner was pressing too much following his mega free agent deal, with 10 homers and 34 RBI and a well-below-average batting line. Ever since, the fans famously gave him a standing ovation and he has looked like his old self, with 16 homers, 42 RBI, and a renewed sense of purpose. Being a World Series champion will certainly add an experience factor for a team that expects to again make noise in the postseason.

In similar cases, J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper have also overcome slow starts to put up the numbers expected of them. The star catcher has secured his second consecutive 20-homer season, while his 16 stolen bases as a catcher are 9 above second place in the league. Harper has also reached the 20-dinger mark (for the 9th time in his career) despite not making his season debut until May the 2nd, and will now try to win his first title and solidify his status as one of the best playoff hitters of this era (.963 OPS in 36 games). On the pitching side, results have been inconsistent outside of Zack Wheeler’s ace-level production, but a top 3 that also includes Aaron Nola and Taijuan Walker should match up well in any short series.

Most importantly, Philadelphia now boasts a more balanced roster compared to the 2022 stars-and scrubs version, which may give them an edge in terms of depth and stability. In fact, their season WAR leader in terms of position players is not Harper, Turner, or Realmuto, but rather the unheralded Bryson Stott, whose solid defense and league-average bat give the team a high floor. Just as importantly, players like Brandon Marsh (124 OPS+) and Johan Rojas (.340 OBP, 14 steals) continue to provide competitive at-bats, giving the Phillies a deep 1-to-9 lineup that can score in bunches. All of this and we haven’t even mentioned the confounding Kyle Schwarber, who may be terrible in terms of WAR because of his defense, but still boasts 46 homers and hit six of them during 2022’s playoff run.

Even with some bullpen questions, as José Alvarado appears to be the new closer in place of Craig Kimbrel, it all points to the Phillies having all the tools to succeed in the playoffs, as they will finish as a top-10 team in terms of homers, OPS, steals, and runs, while also having a power pitching staff with experience in October. Being stationed as the top wild card ensures that they will likely face Arizona at home for a 3-game series in the first round, unless someone overtakes them for the second wild card spot. Either way, they should be favored to advance and face either Atlanta or Los Angeles in the NLDS. While the Phillies look inferior to those teams on paper, they should be evenly matched and provide a memorable series.



Hittin’ The Skids


Houston Astros

Record: 87-72

Rank change: -3 (5 to 8)

Despite an uneven season, an early-September surge appeared to be enough for the Astros to reach the playoffs in their quest to repeat as champions. As late as September 20, they led the AL West while it appeared that the Mariners and Rangers would fight for the scraps. A week later, things have unraveled in Houston, as the team is at real risk of missing the playoffs. A confounding three-game home sweep at the hands of Kansas City served as a reminder that this version of the Astros may not be as powerful as years past, while the subsequent road series win in Seattle was a testament to Houston’s mettle and experience. As a critical final weekend approaches, will the real Houston Astros please stand up?

On paper, the Astros look as daunting as ever, with 11 hitters reaching double-digit homers, Justin Verlander leading the rotation, and manager Dusty Baker using all his experience to command the roster. Houston’s +120 run differential ranks among the best in the AL, and they even went a commanding 9-4 in the season series against the presumptive AL West-champ Rangers. At the same time, Houston has a losing record at home (39-42), while also being mediocre in one-run games (18-21) and terrible in extra innings (1-8). Just as they dominated Texas, they were handled by the Mariners, losing the season series 9-4, which means that they would be out of the playoffs if they tie Seattle in the final standings.

The weakest link for the team, as evidenced by the disaster series against Kansas City, is certainly the pitching staff. Over the past month, Houston’s 4.34 ERA is middle of the pack, while still underselling some of the issues faced by an inconsistent rotation. Verlander has been more fine than spectacular since arriving at the trade deadline, Framber Valdez has been stellar at times, but still has only gone 7-7 since June, while Cristian Javier has taken a step back following his breakout 2022 season. J.P. France and Hunter Brown have 11 wins apiece, but they look like a weak link should they appear in the playoffs. Even the ever-reliable closer Ryan Pressly has been shaky at times – his 30 saves notwithstanding.

The silver lining for Houston is knowing that they are still in a good spot to make it, and could even have a sneakily favorable slate as the six-seed in the AL. They would have to visit the weakest division champ, Minnesota, and the Astros have been a much better team on the road (48-30). Should they advance, a date with the Orioles would ensue – even with Baltimore’s fantastic season, their playoff pedigree cannot be compared with a team that would be seeking a seventh straight trip to the ALCS. This is probably why most baseball fans that have disdain for Houston are probably rooting for the Mariners and Blue Jays in this final weekend.

A team with stars like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez and solid role players like Mauricio Dubón, Yainer Diaz, and Jeremy Peña probably shouldn’t be in this position, but the Astros can still avoid joining the list of disappointing 2023 teams, which is long and full of schadenfreude. In their final series, the scheduling gods give us an intriguing matchup with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are also clinging to their playoff aspirations. With Seattle also collapsing but holding the tiebreaker, the Astros need to finish one game ahead by Monday. The same thing applies with Toronto, should the Blue Jays fall behind in their last series. Fangraphs is still confident that the Astros will make the playoffs and even gives them the fourth-highest odds to win the World Series, but it all comes down to a nail-biting series in Arizona.


Week 26 Power Rankings


Pablo Figueroa

Pablo Figueroa is a Baseball Writer here at Pitcher List, with experience as a writer since 2013. He lives in Aguascalientes, Mexico - proud home of Los Rieleros. When he´s not thinking about baseball , he's a husband, owns two dogs, watches random episodes of The Sopranos , plays padel, and works on his day job to pay the bills.

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