Welcome to the beginning of the middle of the 2023 MLB season. Much has changed since we first tried to slot teams into their expected destinies before the season. That's been great for some teams (Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks) and not so great for others (St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox).
Now comes what is, in many ways, the most fascinating part of the season, when teams look to overcome slow starts, maintain hot ones or, for the majority, simply try to figure out how good their rosters really are. It's this last area that most concerns us today as we begin to glance ahead at the end of next month and an Aug. 1 trade deadline that has just emerged over the season's horizon.
As has become a quasi-tradition in our June editions of Stock Watch, we're going to take our initial peek at the looming deadline. Teams have been placed in tiers according to the level of aggressiveness they figure to display when it comes to positioning for a playoff run this season. At this point, more than a few teams don't fit easy classification and this picture can — and almost certainly will — evolve over the weeks to come.
Note: Teams are ranked by their current chances to make the postseason, odds that are impacted by a team's power ranking, remaining schedule and the strength of division. The power rankings are based on a formula that considers record, run differential, roster strength, schedule, trajectory and other factors. The ratings serve as the basis for 10,000 simulations of the remaining schedule, which gives us projected win totals and postseason probabilities.
AGGRESSION TIER I: Full speed ahead
These clubs have playoff probabilities high enough at this point to all but ensure an aggressive deadline approach.
Tampa Bay Rays
Playoff chances: 100% (92% division | 21% title)
Sim wins: 105.7 (1st) | Last watch: 107.5 (1st)
Why they will add: The Rays have cooled some after a historically blistering start. How could they not? Still, Tampa Bay has maintained a 111-to-113 win pace that is completely undergirded by their run differential. They've battled injuries, as have most teams, though the losses in the rotation of Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen were particularly brutal. The schedule over the past month was one of the Rays' tougher stretches of the campaign, which hasn't helped. When the dust settles, the Rays will still be jostling for the best record in baseball and by the end of July should be able to make targeted additions to the pitching staff, depending how their health outlook evolves. It's not a splashy idea but this is not a club that needs to be splashy to remain well-positioned for a deep October run.