2023 MLB Power Rankings: Week 8

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?

As every team approaches the 50-game mark, the narrative of the season continues to provide a steady dose of really strong teams, while others appear to be only waiting for the season to end (or at least the trade deadline to offload some contracts). To wit, the average last-place team in each division is 10.5 games out of first place, which is quite an accomplishment less than two months into the season. However, this at least gives us a healthy middle class, which is bound to battle for fringe playoff spots deep into September.

Among those middling teams, we will showcase a couple in Week 8: the Giants, as they are slowly climbing into respectability and even playoff contention, and the Red Sox, who are fresh off a frustrating week and now near the bottom of the AL East.

 

Movin’ On Up

 

San Francisco Giants

Record: 25-25

Rank change: +4 (22 to 18)

 

By the end of April, the Giants were a mediocre 11-16 team with several injuries and no clear path to contention. As May is coming to a close, it appears as if the trajectory of the team has been reversed, even as there is still a long road ahead. The past week provided a blueprint of how San Francisco can become a dark horse threat in the NL West, going 5-2 and climbing back to the .500 mark.

At its core, the team was built to be deep and solid at every position, despite not having clear superstars. The additions of free agents like Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto appeared reasonable but not that exciting, and the start of the season proved many doubters right. Despite being near the top of the team homerun leaderboards, the Giants struggled to score in other ways, while their bullpen was outright awful en route to a 17-23 record on May 14. However, at that point, the seeds of a turnaround were already being planted, especially with the promotion of some of San Francisco’s top prospects.

Casey Schmitt made his debut on May 9, has played all over the infield while slugging .500, and appears to be the heir apparent to Brandon Crawford (even as his complete lack of walks indicates that he needs to make some adjustments). Patrick Bailey followed suit on May 20, and though he is supposed to be a defense-first catcher, he hit his first career homer in only his second game.

The early success of these promotions may motivate the front office to go all-in and give the nod to lefty Kyle Harrison, who, at age 21, has struck out 56 batters in only 30.2 innings in AAA. The last time the Giants had such a sudden infusion of homegrown talent calls back to the dynasty years of the early 2010s.

Focusing on this season, San Francisco still boasts plenty of upside, even as most of their team stats gravitate towards the middle of the pack. On the offensive side, they are 17th on OBP, 14th in OPS, and 20th on runs per game. Those numbers have not changed much over the past month, even with LaMonte Wade Jr. leading the NL in OBP.

The pitching paints a similar story. Overall, the Giants stand at 15th with a 4.17 ERA, are 12th in K rate, and 18th in WHIP. Those numbers include the stellar seasons of Logan Webb and Alex Cobb (both with a sub-3 ERA), but also the disappointment of free agents Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling, who have combined for an unsightly 7.06 ERA over 63.2 innings. The bullpen has a clear standout in closer Camilo Doval (1.99 ERA, 13 saves), and has seen clear improvement of Taylor Rogers, John Brebbia and Scott Alexander, but it appears that the Giants are still a couple of arms short of boasting a top-10 staff.

With the Giants now only a half-game back of the last wild card spot, they need to avoid the volatility that has been evident for many parts of the season. They have won series against quality teams, such as Houston, Milwaukee, and Minnesota, while also looking helpless at home against the likes of Kansas City and Washington. With Michael Conforto on a tear, Mitch Haniger slowly recouping his form and most of the rotation looking well, San Francisco will be an interesting team to watch in June. Even as the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are already pulling away in the NL West, the Giants can take advantage of San Diego’s dysfunction and sneak into the wild card chase.

 

 

Hittin’ The Skids

 

Boston Red Sox

Record: 26-24

Rank change: -7 (6 to 13)

 

The 2023 Red Sox are certainly a fascinating team for many reasons. Following the 2020 trade of Mookie Betts, the fanbase has been reluctant to trust the front office, even with a surprise run to the ALCS in 2021. After 2022 produced a mediocre 78-84 record, the departure of Xander Bogaerts pointed to a soft rebuild in 2023. But when the team came out strong to a 21-14 record on the strength of a potent offense, it appeared as if Boston had the talent to fight for the playoffs. The past 15 games have started to prove otherwise, punctuated by a dreadful sweep by the Angels, in which the Red Sox scored 4 runs over 3 games.

The recent scoring drought should be the main concern, as the Red Sox are a top-10 team in the league in several offensive categories, including OBP, slugging, and runs per game. Even after cooling off after his massive hitting streak, Masataka Yoshida is still sporting a nice .299/.373/.482 slash line, while Rafael Devers is second in the AL with 13 home runs. Even as Boston has not relied on homers as much as other squads, they have put a premium on putting the ball in play, as their AL-leading 108 doubles can attest. Despite the offensive exploits and highlights, the pitching staff is almost giving it all back.

The Red Sox are one of only five teams that have yet to pitch a shutout (the Yankees are one of them, as well!), but that tidbit is nothing compared to the constant struggles of their pitchers, especially the rotation. Boston’s top five starters have made 42 starts, going 15-16 with a concerning 5.55 ERA. The worst of the bunch has been former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who will actually move to the bullpen to try to fix some mechanical issues.

Chris Sale has shown flashes of his former dominance, including 27 strikeouts over his past 21 innings, but can he really be trusted to handle a full season’s workload? James Paxton’s return from injury provides some hope, but even he has been ineffective over his first three starts. Even with Kenley Jansen’s renaissance as a lockdown closer, it is hard to trust Boston’s chances if they are not scoring over 5 runs per game.

If Boston is to right the ship and have any chance in the unforgiving AL East, they need to take advantage of the softer parts of their schedule, hoping that their offense can mash as it did in April. June includes 14 games against the Rays, Yankees, and Twins, but also home series versus the Rockies and Reds. With current playoff odds below 15%, the following month will be critical in deciding if the Red Sox will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.

 

Week 8 Power Rankings

 

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