AJC’s MLB power rankings: Are Braves or Dodgers No. 1?

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker participates in Braves Fest Opening Rally at The Battery Atlanta, Saturday, January 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker participates in Braves Fest Opening Rally at The Battery Atlanta, Saturday, January 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Editor’s note: Welcome to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s new feature, our own MLB power rankings. This feature will run weekly during the season with our ranking of the top 10 teams. We are debuting the list in spring training as pitchers and catchers reported this week. Our power rankings will return March 24, just before the start of the regular season, and appear each week through until the postseason.

Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training in the past week, marking the beginning of baseball season. The Braves are seeking their seventh consecutive National League East title and second World Series championship in four years.

Who are the teams expected to join them in that chase? There will be surprises, but here’s a glance at some of MLB’s presumed contenders entering the season.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s first top-10 power rankings for the 2024 MLB season:

1. Braves

The Braves top our list because of their reliability. The lineup has immense depth, loaded with multi-time All-Stars and – importantly – players who avoid the injured list. Max Fried and Spencer Strider provide an illustrious 1-2 combination atop the rotation. Even factoring newcomer Chris Sale’s recent fragility, the Braves have multiple rotation options behind their two aces.

The Braves might not end up with MLB’s best record again, but on paper, they’re the safest bet to achieve such entering the season. The lineup returns nearly everybody from its record-breaking 2023. The rotation has two Cy Young candidates. The bullpen, as volatile as relievers are, has the potential to be disgustingly good akin to the 2021 championship group. The Phillies are a formidable rival, but the rest of the National League East isn’t imposing.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers had one of the best offseasons in the history of American professional sports, adding Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, James Paxton and Teoscar Hernandez along with additional depth. Ohtani will hit only this year (because of elbow surgery), and he’ll do so alongside former MVPs Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts. The Dodgers will be a popular World Series pick, understandably so, and they should comfortably win the National League West.

They’re below the Braves here because of a few uncertainties. Glasnow is often injured, having never exceeded 120 innings in a season. Paxton likewise spends time on the IL (he hasn’t made 20 starts in a campaign since 2019). Clayton Kershaw won’t be back until later in the year, and second-year starter Bobby Miller logged 124-1/3 innings as a rookie. Shortstop Gavin Lux is returning from a knee injury. The Dodgers should win 100-plus games even if injuries occur, but the variance is why the Braves get the slight nod over them here.

3. Texas Rangers

The defending champs will welcome future Hall of Famers Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer into their rotation during the second half. They’ll be fine in the meantime, returning their monstrous offense that paved the path to their first title. Because of uncertainty regarding their TV deal, it appears the Rangers likely won’t re-sign lefty Jordan Montgomery, who was crucial during their title run, but the team has an excellent foundation with position player and pitching prospects on the way.

Few teams, considering the present, future and resource pool, have better situations than Texas. But repeating is a ridiculously difficult task; no one has done it since the Yankees won three consecutive titles in 1998-2000.

4. Baltimore Orioles

A quick postseason exit didn’t overshadow what the Orioles accomplished in 2023. In the past three seasons, the Orioles leaped from 52 wins to 82 to 101. Their roster mostly is young and in-their-prime players, so the trajectory is trending up. Baltimore acquired ace starter Corbin Burnes from the Brewers, giving them an electric rotation to pair with their lineup of budding stars. Former Braves closer Craig Kimbrel also joined their bullpen. Catcher Adley Rutschman will be a popular preseason MVP choice.

A situation to watch: Starters Kyle Bradish and John Means already are dealing with injuries. The Orioles might need further rotation reinforcements.

5. Houston Astros

While they fell short in a seven-game classic against the Rangers, the Astros were once again in the American League Championship Series. They’re bringing back that group while adding All-Star closer Josh Hader, whose acquisition could really pay dividends in October. Under new manager Joe Espada, the Astros again will be among the AL favorites.

Philadelphia Phillies' Bryce Harper reacts after hitting a three-run home run during the third inning of Game 3 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

6. Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies have eliminated the Braves in consecutive seasons, but they lost in the World Series and NLCS, respectively, so Bryce Harper is still seeking his first ring. The Phillies re-signed starter Aaron Nola, retaining an innings eater and postseason performer, but did little else this winter. The Phillies’ other moves just involved unheralded additions and depth.

They’re bringing back mostly the same team as 2023, which could be good enough for that elusive championship.

7. New York Yankees

The Yankees acquired Juan Soto, bringing the hitting extraordinaire back to the East Coast in his contract year. It’s a much-needed on-base presence for a lineup that too often sputtered. The Yankees also added Marcus Stroman to their rotation and Alex Verdugo and Trent Grisham to their outfield. It’s been a long time since 2009, their last World Series title, and the Yankees aren’t shying away from their championship expectations.

This situation is a pressure cooker, but there’s talent capable of producing a deep postseason run.

8. Seattle Mariners

The Mariners caught fire in the second half last year, though they fell short of a second consecutive postseason berth. Newcomers Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver and (the return of) Mitch Haniger bolster the lineup around MVP candidate Julio Rodriguez. The rotation could be spectacular, headlined by Luis Castillo, George Kirby and Logan Gilbert.

9. Tampa Bay Rays

On paper, the Rays don’t equal the teams surrounding them here. But we’ve learned the Rays are greater than the sum of their parts. Tampa Bay won 99 games a year ago, and while it lacks the star power of most other contenders, the Rays have earned the benefit of the doubt. The rotation will be interesting, given that it lost two ace-level pitchers (Shane McClanahan, who underwent Tommy John surgery, and Glasnow).

10. Arizona Diamondbacks

The unexpected 84-win NL champs strengthened their roster this winter by adding sluggers Eugenio Suarez and (beloved former Brave) Joc Pederson. The D-Backs signed left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to give them another reliable rotation veteran alongside Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. It’s hard to see anyone challenging the Dodgers for the NL West, but Arizona has positioned itself nicely as a potential wild-card team.

And remember, the Snakes swept the Dodgers as a wild-card team in October.