The Rangers clinched their first World Series in franchise history following a 5-0 win over the Diamondbacks in Game 5, but it didn’t take but a couple of hours for ESPN to release their way too early power rankings for the 2024 season.
Typically, the reigning World Series champions get the nod for the top spot, but not this time. It’s the Braves at #1, followed by the Rangers, Orioles, Phillies, and Astros.
2023 record: 104-58
2023 final ranking: 1
After losing to the Phillies in the division series for a second straight season, there was a lot made in Atlanta about the Braves lacking the necessary intestinal fortitude required to win in October. It can’t be a coincidence. Changes need to be made. The one player Braves fans seemed to defend the most was Spencer Strider, even though he’s 0-3 against the Phillies in those two series.
Let’s not forget that many of these same players were part of a World Series roster just two years ago. What, you want to trade Ronald Acuna Jr.? Dump Ozzie Albies and his $7 million-per-year contract? Look, no doubt the rotation was a bit of a mess by the end of the season, with Charlie Morton injured, Max Fried pitching through a blister issue and Bryce Elder struggling. Alex Anthopoulos will no doubt address the bullpen and perhaps add a veteran starter, but the lineup that became the first ever to slug .500 remains intact, and that will make the Braves the team to beat.
The Rangers are a fantastic team that followed a similar model as the Braves, slugging their way to a World Series victory, but the postseason is a crapshoot, and the best team rarely wins. Nobody is truly confused in regards to who the best team is in baseball right now.
The Braves have some questions to answer this offseason, particularly in regards to their pitching staff. They’ve already taken care of some of those issues by re-signing two critical bullpen pieces in Pierce Johnson and Joe Jimenez over the last week. If Tyler Matzek and Dylan Lee can come back healthy in 2024, the foundation is there for the Braves to have a really solid bullpen, but they could still benefit greatly from at least one more high-powered reliever.
The rotation is where the most significant concerns lie. Charlie Morton could be heading towards retirement, and Kyle Wright has already been ruled out for the 2024 season with a shoulder injury. The Braves do still have an elite one-two punch in Spencer Strider and Max Fried, but there are also some concerns about Fried’s health, who spent most of 2023 on the shelf with an elbow injury.
Adding to the rotation is a must this offseason, whether Charlie Morton returns or not. Starting pitching has been a problem in each of the last two postseasons because of injuries, and the Braves cannot afford to waste another prime opportunity to win a World Series in the middle of their championship window.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire