The Texas Rangers won the 2023 World Series less than a week ago, yet the baseball industry is already looking ahead to 2024.
ESPN released its way-too-early power ranking for the 2024 season, compiled by David Schoenfield, and there may be some surprises at the top of the list. The Philadelphia Phillies, despite an exciting postseason run, came up short in 2023, like 29 other teams, so where do they rank in ESPN's early list?
Phillies fans will hate to see it, but at the top of the rankings sit the Phillies' NL East rival Atlanta Braves. Yes, those Braves. The ones who the Phillies eliminated for the second year in a row in the NLDS. The ones who went into the playoffs with 104 wins and a historically powerful offense but sputtered to a sad end at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies, even though they took care of business again this postseason against Atlanta, rank fourth on ESPN's list. And really, No. 4 is a pretty good spot when you consider how far behind the Braves they were in the standings this season ... and last season.
Despite finishing second in the NL East, the Fightins were a distant 14 games back of a dominant Braves team. In 2022, they were 14 games but third in the division.
So, who's in between the top-ranked Braves and the Phillies at No. 4?
The World Series champion Rangers come in second, which makes sense. They did just win the whole kit and caboodle a mere five days ago.
And third? The Baltimore Orioles, the once-surprising upstarts from Camden Yards, who won't be able to sneak up on anybody next season.
Why are the Phillies No. 4?
Back to the Phillies though. Why does Schoenfield have them fourth?
He references the disappointing end in the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, which exposed a few weaknesses: "The lineup, even with Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper, doesn't draw a lot of walks; they also strike out a lot."
While he points out their lack of a closer, with Craig Kimbrel gone to free agency, he also observes that "... few can match the Phillies' frontline talent, and they return all their key players [in 2024] except longtime starter Aaron Nola ..."
With the Houston Astros (No. 5), Tampa Bay Rays (No. 6), and Los Angeles Dodgers (No. 7) all nipping at their heels, the Phillies will have to work some magic this offseason to fill the holes in the bullpen and starting rotation to remain near the top of the power rankings come 2024 Opening Day.