By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The Major League Baseball season is 20-plus games deep, and already, there has been plenty of excitement this year. At the beginning of the year, every team starts fresh, with new acquisitions and a zero in both the win and loss columns. Now, almost a full month later, is it becoming a bit more clear who the contenders are and who the pretenders are.
The month of April can be seen as a second spring training to many teams, but a game in April means just as much standings-wise as a game in late September. There is a long season ahead, and the standings will remain fluid. Let’s take a look where each team falls as of April 24.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks
2023 Record: 12-11
The D-Backs are a very young team – with the exception of 37-year-old Evan Longoria. It would be hard to not mention starting pitcher Zac Gallen, who looks like he’ll be a Cy Young contender once again in 2023. They will look to make up ground in a tough NL West division, and have two three-game sets coming up against the Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies.
14. San Diego Padres
2023 Record: 12-12
Fernando Tatis Jr. is officially back with the Major League ballclub, after slugging seven home runs in just 39 plate appearances with Triple-A El Paso while prepping to return from an 80-game performance enhancing drug suspension. San Diego has looked sluggish out of the gate, but the potential of this starting lineup could change that, and fast. Surprisingly, Seth Lugo has been their best starting pitcher so far, and Juan Soto has struck out more than he has drawn walks.
13. Cleveland Guardians
2023 Record: 11-11
Unless Shane Bieber started the game, Cleveland generally itches to hand the ball to their dominant bullpen. Eli Morgan has not allowed a run in 10.1 innings pitched, and Trevor Stephan has maintained an underrated status amongst MLB relievers. As of Sunday, the offense ranked dead last in the American League in home runs, with just 10.
12. Minnesota Twins
2023 Record: 12-10
Minnesota split their most recent four-game series with the Yankees, but showed their offense can put up big numbers. They scored nine runs in the first inning off of rookie Jhony Brito at Yankee Stadium. Pablo Lopez has been dominant, striking out 39 in 30 innings pitched. Byron Buxton has stayed healthy, but has yet to steal a base – certainly a surprise considering the pitch clock and disengagement rules.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates
2023 Record: 16-7
Nobody, and I mean nobody, expected the Buccos to be in first place in the NL Central at any point this year. Whether or not they can maintain this level of play is highly questionable. For now, Bryan Reynolds and company will keep looking to raise the jolly roger and keep their winning ways alive.
10. Baltimore Orioles
2023 Record: 14-7
After overachieving last season with a 83-79 record, the O’s have carried that momentum into 2023. Adley Rutschman might be the best catcher in the MLB at just 25 years old. Jorge Mateo might be the most underrated shortstop in the American League. What is certain is these aren’t the same Orioles from the past five years. They are for real.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
2023 Record: 15-7
Even with the early struggles of Corbin Burnes, the Milwaukee pitching staff remains one of the best in the game when healthy. Speaking of, Brandon Woodruff has been diagnosed with a sub-scapular strain in his right shoulder, manager Craig Counsell announced. The offense is around the middle of the pack, ranking seventh in hits and home runs in the National League.
8. Texas Rangers
2023 Record: 14-7
Texas cracks the top 10 for multiple reasons. They are in first place in the AL West, and their offense has been booming. Adolis Garcia is off to a blistering start, and hit three home runs in his first three at-bats this past Saturday against Oakland. Jacob deGrom has fared well, striking out 32 in 20.2 innings alongside a 3.48 ERA. They will start their next series on Tuesday against the Reds, another series they should take two out of three, or sweep.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
2023 Record: 12-11
Although Los Angeles has not gotten off to a hot start, there is no denying this is a dangerous team. The bullpen is a cause of concern, which as of April 23, opponents were hitting just .289. Outfielder James Outman is making a strong early case for NL Rookie of the Year for his stellar defense and power.
6. Toronto Blue Jays
2023 Record: 13-9
Toronto just took two of three from the Yankees over the weekend in New York, and will start a three-game set with the struggling White Sox on April 24. Third baseman Matt Chapman has seemed to find a better balance of contact and power at the plate, leading the team with a .367 batting average. Alek Manoah settled himself down versus New York, as he threw seven scoreless innings, but the rotation may need reinforcements for a struggling Jose Berrios.
5. New York Mets
2023 Record: 14-9
After a 3-4 start to the season, the Mets are firing on all cylinders. They have shown their resilience, winning ball games without an injured Justin Verlander and a suspended Max Scherzer. Pete Alonso looks determined to put his rough World Baseball Classic behind him, and currently is second amongst all hitters with 10 home runs.
4. New York Yankees
2023 Record: 13-9
The Bronx Bombers are not a perfect team by any stretch of imagination, but they are better than they have been playing. Gerrit Cole has a ton of pressure weighing on him to be outstanding with the absence of Carlos Rodon and Frankie Montas, but he has shown he’s up for the challenge. Anthony Rizzo has been the best hitter in the lineup so far, but the bench combination of Aaron Hicks, Willie Calhoun, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa is a huge issue that needs to be addressed at the trade deadline.
3. Houston Astros
2023 Record: 12-10
Houston is starting to pick up steam after an unordinary slow stretch. The real test will come this week at Tropicana Field, where they will take on the Tampa Bay Rays for the first time this season. Besides Aaron Judge, Yordan Alvarez might be the most feared slugger in the MLB. The designated hitter is leading the 2022 champs in both home runs and runs batted in.
2. Atlanta Braves
2023 Record: 14-8
The only thin parts of Atlanta’s lineup are Marcell Ozuna, who is batting below .100, and Eddie Rosario, who has five hits in 55 plate appearances. Otherwise, the lineup has no other holes. Ronald Acuna Jr. has recorded a hit in five of his last six games, including a three-hit performance on April 17 against San Diego. The marquee matchup of the MLB week will be the Braves against the Mets from Friday through Sunday at Citi Field.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
2023 Record: 19-3
Unstoppable. That’s what the Rays have been since the very first pitch on Opening Day. While it cannot be expected that this winning pace will continue, Tampa Bay has solidified themselves as contenders right away. The rotation has been the best in baseball thus far, with Shane McClanahan leading the way. The only bad news coming out of Tampa Bay is an injury to Jeffrey Springs, who was placed on the 60-day IL and is expected to undergo Tommy John Surgery.