2023 Positional Power Rankings: Summary

Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past week and a half, we’ve published our annual season preview, ranking the league’s players by position and team based on a blend of our projections (a 50/50 split between ZiPS and Steamer) and our manually maintained playing time estimates courtesy of Jason Martinez. If you happen to have missed any of those installments, you can use the navigation widget above to catch up.

Today, I’m going to summarize the results. We’ll look at some tables and pick out a few interesting tidbits in a moment, but first, it’s important to remember that this exercise captures a snapshot of how we project teams to perform right now. Teams aren’t static. Since we began publishing our rankings, prospects Anthony Volpe, Jordan Walker, and Brice Turang all made their respective clubs’ Opening Day rosters, and Grayson Rodriguez and Brett Baty learned they will have to wait a little while longer. The Brewers designated Keston Hiura for assignment (he has since cleared waivers and been outrighted to the Brewers’ Triple-A team) and signed non-roster invitee Luke Voit to a one-year big league deal. Rhys Hoskins tore his ACL and will likely miss the season; Triston McKenzie injured his shoulder and could miss up to eight weeks.

This being baseball, players will tweak elbows and hamstrings, lose playing time to underperformance, and get traded. That’s why we maintain a Team WAR Totals page, which lists projected positional WAR by team and updates regularly throughout the season as we learn more about who is likely to take the field every day and what shape they’ll be in when they do. It’s important to note that the WAR numbers you see on that page may differ from those you’ve seen on the positional power rankings, mostly because those figures are aware of the injuries and transactions that have altered our playing time estimates since the rankings went live; the Z-Scores I’ll include later also use the WAR figures that power the Team WAR Totals page.

But before we get to the Z-Scores, let’s take note of some general trends and fun factoids. First, we’ll look at each team’s positional ranks as of Tuesday at 12:30 PM ET. There are 11 positions, with each team’s overall WAR rank in the last column. This table is sortable, so feel free to poke around:

2023 Projected Positional Ranks
Team C 1B 2B 3B SS RF CF LF DH SP RP WAR
Yankees 8 7 6 15 17 1 5 19 5 1 11 1
Padres 24 12 11 4 6 5 13 1 6 7 2 2
Braves 4 4 7 5 26 4 4 30 20 6 1 3
Blue Jays 1 3 18 7 7 6 10 7 4 11 13 4
Dodgers 3 1 13 10 21 3 17 20 11 10 4 5
Mets 14 5 4 17 4 8 3 16 17 2 19 6
Astros 29 10 9 3 20 2 24 2 2 14 6 7
Rays 16 15 3 9 3 18 15 6 8 8 7 8
Cardinals 15 2 15 1 10 9 8 15 18 20 12 9
Twins 11 21 12 12 2 11 6 17 9 16 14 10
Phillies 5 24 22 24 1 24 29 13 3 5 5 11
Rangers 6 8 1 21 5 19 25 29 24 3 22 12
Angels 20 25 23 8 25 10 1 11 1 9 29 13
Guardians 13 17 2 2 14 23 20 4 12 19 3 14
Red Sox 18 18 16 6 13 12 23 3 10 13 10 15
Mariners 7 9 14 19 15 16 2 25 22 17 8 16
Brewers 19 16 25 18 8 22 22 8 15 4 17 17
White Sox 9 11 29 16 16 30 7 5 7 15 9 18
Giants 28 22 17 20 18 13 14 14 14 12 15 19
Marlins 12 19 5 14 24 26 9 22 13 18 20 20
Orioles 2 14 20 11 19 15 11 18 19 28 18 21
Diamondbacks 10 6 8 22 29 17 12 10 23 23 16 22
Cubs 27 27 10 25 9 7 19 9 26 22 24 23
Pirates 23 20 28 13 11 28 16 12 21 24 27 24
Royals 21 13 26 30 12 29 26 26 16 26 21 25
Tigers 25 23 27 29 22 21 18 23 30 25 28 26
Athletics 17 29 19 27 27 14 21 24 29 27 30 27
Reds 22 28 24 26 30 20 30 27 27 21 25 28
Rockies 30 30 21 28 23 25 28 21 28 29 26 29
Nationals 26 26 30 23 28 27 27 28 25 30 23 30

A few things jump out here.

The Braves boast six top-five finishes among the 11 positions; division rivals New York and Philadelphia each have five. The Braves and Blue Jays each have eight top-10 finishes; the Astros, Padres, Rays and Yankees each have seven; the Dodgers and Mets six; and the Angels, Cardinals Phillies, Rangers, and White Sox five.

The Yankees and Angels are the only teams with multiple first-place finishes (the rotation and right field for the Yankees, center field and DH for the Angels). All three of Toronto’s outfield spots rank in the top 10 (running out three center fielders will do that). The Blue Jays’ infield is nearly as stout: along with the Braves and Rangers, they have top-10 finishes at four of the five infield spots. Five teams (the Braves, Dodgers, Padres, Phillies, and Rays) have both a rotation and a bullpen that project in the top 10.

It’s interesting to look at how the top 10 teams by total WAR have gone about constructing their rosters. The Braves have high highs and a few low lows. As noted above, they have six positions in the top five and eight in the top 10, but then three in the bottom 15, with shortstop (no. 26), DH (no. 20) and left field (no. 30) bringing up the rear. Indeed, they are the only team with both a first- and last-place finish, though the Angels, Phillies and Rangers have first- and 29th-place spots. Speaking of barely avoiding a last-place finish: Astros catchers rank 29th, though second-place finishes in left and right field and at DH and a third-place finish at third base make that easier to live with. True to form, the Rays do well by being at least respectable and not terrible anywhere. The Yankees are a souped-up version of that approach (two first-place finishes, two more in the top five, seven in the top 10, and no position ranked lower than 19th), as are the Mets (five top-five finishes, six in the top 10, and 19th as a ranking floor). Then there are the Blue Jays and Padres, who manage to be pretty excellent pretty much everywhere.

It isn’t all good news. This is an exercise in ranking, which means someone has to be last, and as often happens, a few unfortunate clubs are bringing up the rear at multiple positions. The Nationals, Reds, and Rockies each have 11 bottom-10 finishes (remember, we only rank 11 position groups) and two 30th-place finishes. The Tigers don’t show much better, with 10 bottom-10 finishes and only an 18th-place finish in center field saving them from going 11-for-11. Eight teams (the A’s, Cubs, Nationals, Pirates, Reds, Rockies, Royals, and Tigers) place in the bottom 10 for both their rotation and bullpen, and seven (the A’s Nationals, Pirates, Reds, Rockies, Royals and Tigers) have an average positional ranking of 20th or higher.

Ordinal rankings do have their limitations, as some positions cluster tightly together. At many positions, fractions of wins are all that separate teams from each other. Fourteen teams fall between 2 and 3 WAR in left field; the top six teams at shortstop all project for between 5.0 and 5.9 WAR. As I mentioned in my introduction, it is important to look at the magnitude of the differences between the rankings, as well as the rankings themselves. Thinking about whether a team falls above or below league average, and by how much, might be a more useful way of approaching things than obsessing over where your favorite team ranked. To that end, I calculated the Z-Scores of each team’s projected positional WAR (again, using the figures on Team WAR Totals page) to show you the number of standard deviations away from league average each team is at each spot:

2023 Projected Positional Z-Scores
Team C 1B 2B 3B SS RF CF LF DH SP RP WAR
Yankees 0.74 0.55 0.85 -0.14 -0.29 2.74 1.14 -0.38 1.10 1.79 0.59 1.45
Padres -0.76 0.11 0.62 1.34 1.16 1.11 0.04 3.22 0.76 0.85 1.49 1.39
Braves 1.66 1.73 0.85 1.28 -1.02 1.71 1.31 -1.42 -0.49 0.90 2.29 1.34
Blue Jays 1.93 1.77 -0.18 1.08 0.79 0.71 0.28 0.58 1.34 0.49 0.22 1.25
Dodgers 1.81 2.40 0.53 0.27 -0.46 1.96 -0.24 -0.38 0.22 0.60 1.27 1.14
Mets -0.03 1.70 1.09 -0.35 1.55 0.36 1.47 -0.27 -0.13 1.54 -0.48 1.13
Astros -1.75 0.17 0.73 1.86 -0.39 2.11 -0.79 2.18 2.10 0.23 0.89 0.90
Rays -0.20 -0.03 1.28 0.49 1.57 -0.38 -0.04 0.65 0.48 0.72 0.85 0.76
Cardinals -0.15 1.88 0.13 2.00 0.40 0.18 0.67 -0.18 -0.23 -0.54 0.53 0.54
Twins 0.10 -0.53 0.61 0.18 1.84 0.02 0.93 -0.29 0.32 0.00 0.16 0.43
Phillies 1.25 -1.04 -0.86 -0.85 1.88 -0.79 -1.42 0.16 1.42 1.29 0.97 0.43
Rangers 1.19 0.35 1.94 -0.64 1.51 -0.57 -0.99 -1.33 -0.95 1.46 -0.86 0.38
Angels -0.47 -1.04 -0.94 0.61 -0.83 0.05 2.51 0.33 2.60 0.60 -1.59 0.36
Guardians 0.04 -0.21 1.63 1.89 -0.19 -0.72 -0.43 0.68 0.21 -0.33 1.27 0.35
Red Sox -0.36 -0.31 -0.10 1.26 -0.15 0.00 -0.73 1.27 0.31 0.36 0.66 0.32
Mariners 0.79 0.19 0.36 -0.47 -0.21 -0.30 1.93 -0.93 -0.66 -0.06 0.81 0.21
Brewers -0.44 -0.13 -1.11 -0.36 0.71 -0.65 -0.68 0.50 -0.07 1.42 -0.10 0.16
White Sox 0.23 0.11 -1.53 -0.33 -0.23 -1.23 0.71 0.67 0.57 0.09 0.69 -0.01
Giants -1.03 -0.86 -0.11 -0.54 -0.30 -0.05 -0.01 0.13 0.12 0.40 0.08 -0.22
Marlins 0.07 -0.44 0.92 -0.09 -0.80 -0.87 0.55 -0.60 0.13 -0.14 -0.49 -0.29
Orioles 1.83 -0.03 -0.41 0.26 -0.32 -0.17 0.25 -0.36 -0.23 -1.50 -0.40 -0.37
Diamondbacks 0.21 0.59 0.82 -0.76 -1.25 -0.36 0.10 0.39 -0.79 -0.98 0.02 -0.46
Cubs -1.01 -1.09 0.72 -0.88 0.70 0.43 -0.42 0.50 -1.01 -0.78 -0.90 -0.62
Pirates -0.72 -0.47 -1.44 -0.07 0.00 -1.01 -0.07 0.24 -0.53 -1.00 -1.15 -0.93
Royals -0.54 0.03 -1.14 -1.51 -0.04 -1.14 -1.12 -0.96 -0.09 -1.29 -0.67 -1.34
Tigers -0.81 -0.90 -1.42 -1.34 -0.49 -0.63 -0.26 -0.77 -1.61 -1.03 -1.49 -1.48
Athletics -0.21 -1.15 -0.24 -1.10 -1.11 -0.13 -0.59 -0.92 -1.57 -1.35 -1.78 -1.50
Reds -0.57 -1.13 -1.04 -1.05 -2.18 -0.63 -1.68 -1.07 -1.13 -0.61 -0.93 -1.64
Rockies -1.92 -1.17 -0.83 -1.21 -0.64 -0.84 -1.27 -0.47 -1.19 -1.53 -1.05 -1.82
Nationals -0.88 -1.05 -1.71 -0.85 -1.20 -0.90 -1.17 -1.17 -0.98 -1.64 -0.88 -1.85

This table is also sortable, which makes it easy to spot the outliers, good and bad. I won’t narrate the whole thing except to point out the top five positions by Z-Score:

  • +3.22 – Padres left field
  • +2.74 – Yankees right field
  • +2.60 – Angels designated hitter
  • +2.51 – Angels center field
  • +2.40 – Dodgers first base

As well as the bottom five:

  • -2.18 – Reds shortstop
  • -1.92 – Rockies catcher
  • -1.78 – Athletics bullpen
  • -1.71 – Nationals second base
  • -1.68 – Reds center field

This season will no doubt contain surprises. Some teams will disappoint, and others will exceed expectations. Last year, we went into the season thinking the White Sox would win the AL Central. They famously did not do that! We projected the Orioles to win 63 games; they bested that mark by 20 wins. Will they fare as well this year? Our playoff odds think they’ll win 76, but who knows? Maybe their emerging young core will have something to say about that (once they’re all in the majors, that is). Last year, the Diamondbacks had nine bottom-10 finishes; this year, that number has shrunk to four, and they boast standouts at catcher, first and second base, and in left field, with more prospects likely to debut and make their mark. Baseball obviously doesn’t want for powerhouse teams, but some of them look more vulnerable than they have in years past; this is the first time in almost a decade we’ve projected the Dodgers to win fewer than 90 games. A lot can change over the course of a season, with many teams a prospect breakout or a bad injury away from looking very different come October than they do now.

That always makes the positional power rankings something of a strange exercise, because for as precise as we try to make them, we’re always at least a little bit wrong. But I think that’s a feature rather than a bug. It would be awfully boring to know exactly who will win and how. And after a busy winter full of big free-agent deals and a spring dominated by talk of the pitch clock and bigger bases and thrilling WBC action, tomorrow is Opening Day. We get to spend the next seven months figuring out who is good and just how wrong we were here. The FanGraphs staff will be there for the whole thing, and I hope you’ll join us. I can’t wait.





Meg is the managing editor of FanGraphs and the co-host of Effectively Wild. Prior to joining FanGraphs, her work appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Lookout Landing, and Just A Bit Outside. You can follow her on twitter @megrowler.

19 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
misterjohnnymember
1 year ago

Left fielders will have a bidding war at the trading deadline. Braves, Yankees, Dodgers and Mets can all use improvement there.

sandwiches4evermember
1 year ago
Reply to  misterjohnny

A bidding war implies that there is something to bid on. Maybe Ian Happ? One of those teams gets truly desperate and meets the Pirates price on Brian Reynolds?

There’s always the chance of a pop-up guy (think Brandon Drury last year) who suddenly makes themselves worth a midseason deal, but I just don’t see that there’s a lot of options that are significantly better than what those teams have at hand.

sandwiches4evermember
1 year ago

It’s telling that none of those teams brought in Profar, who only cost money.

sadtrombonemember
1 year ago

I’m not so convinced that the Yankees or Mets are better off with Profar than what they have currently.

The Braves and Dodgers, however, are a different story. I can’t believe that they’re rolling with that LF situation.

cartermember
1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Ehhh I mean both Outman and Peralta are projected exactly the same as Profar more or less if you avg out the projections. Outman is an unknown commodity, I would venture they feel much more comfortable rolling with Peralta and an unknown commodity then paying money for Profar who isn’t much if any better than either.

Braves are a tad surprising, though.

TKDCmember
1 year ago
Reply to  carter

The Braves have been so good at locking up young, good players, that maybe it obscures that they provide a longer leash to vets they sign to multi year deals than maybe they should. They stuck with Will Smith (which actually worked out), and they still haven’t cut Ozuna. You can add Rosario’s second year to this mix, too.

I think the philosophy is that they can’t afford that much dead weight so you’re hoping the value you anticipated comes back. In a classic economic model, this would be a textbook case of sunk costs, right? But of course these are humans with complex value tied to them. You could roll with Rosario and Ozuna and maybe they rediscover a little magic. You could also sign Profar and he could also suck and you have three pumpkins instead of two. Taking your chances with what you have, and you did sign these guys so you had and presumably have some belief in them, can feel like it’s the safe move.

CousinNicky
1 year ago

joc pederson, jorge soler, ian happ, arozarena(if the price is right), reynolds, and maybe someone like a jake fraley with the reds(he hit 121 wRC+ last season).

kick me in the GO NATSmember
1 year ago
Reply to  CousinNicky

don’t forget Corey Dickerson. The Nats signed him to trade him! If he hits, your team can have him for very cheap. If he doesn’t, then he will be wandering aimlessly on a street somewhere in June, trying to get work, and you will only have to ask him how he feels before he begs to play for your team.

Last edited 1 year ago by kick me in the GO NATS
Mac Quinnmember
1 year ago

Guys I think teams would keep tabs on are rebound signings on 1- or 2-year deals with teams that could be stuck in the middle or out of it. Conforto, Pederson, Bellinger, Gallo, Profar, that type. Bargain bin would be Dom Smith or AJ Pollock. More traditional trade candidates with a year or two before free agency would be yeah, Reynolds and Happ, Laureano, then others less likely such as Kepler, Meadows, Verdugo, Renfroe, that type.
Other possibility is someone deciding they’re willing to take on a big scary contract for a former MVP. If you want to give up assets to be in the Christian Yelich or Kris Bryant business for the next half-decade, I’m sure their teams will take your calls.

Last edited 1 year ago by wheelhouse
kick me in the GO NATSmember
1 year ago
Reply to  Mac Quinn

Corey Dickerson, the professional hitter, will be available at any time. Nats will trade him cheap.

MikeSmember
1 year ago

LF is low on the defensive spectrum. There are plenty of RF and CF who can play left and probably some infielders. It doesn’t have to be someone who spent the first three months playing left field every day.

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
1 year ago
Reply to  misterjohnny

That’s just hitting. Everyone needs more hitting.

cowdisciplemember
1 year ago

Pitching, too!