HomeTrending MLB News2024 Positional Power Rankings: Summary

2024 Positional Power Rankings: Summary

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Kim Klement Neitzel-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 RosterResource 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 now. Teams aren’t static. Since we began publishing our rankings, Wyatt Langford, our no. 2 overall prospect, officially made the Rangers’ Opening Day roster, while Jackson Holliday, our no. 1 overall prospect, learned he’d be starting his season at Triple-A Norfolk. Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson suffered a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder during a collision with teammate Jordan Walker. He’ll start the season on the IL, paving the way for speedster (and no. 83 overall prospect) Victor Scott II to debut. And mere hours after our starting pitching rankings went live, Jordan Montgomery signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, pushing them from 13th all the way up to fourth. Heck, while I was writing this summary, news broke that Reds infielder Matt McLain underwent shoulder surgery, putting his season in jeopardy.

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 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 today at 10:15 AM 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:

2024 Projected Positional Ranks

Blue Jays352023761311910145
Red Sox27819415172282020520
White Sox2921301828285242730628

A few things jump out here.

The Braves boast seven top-five finishes among the 11 positions; the Astros have six, while the Phillies and Yankees each have five, and the Dodgers have four. The Braves and Dodgers each have eight top-10 finishes, while the Rangers have seven, and the Astros, Blue Jays, Rays, and Twins each have six. The Astros, Dodgers, and Orioles are the only teams with multiple no. 1 finishes (DH and left field for Houston, starting rotation and first base for Los Angeles, and catcher and shortstop for Baltimore). The Rangers’ and Yankees’ entire outfields land in the top 10, while the Braves and Dodgers boast top-10 finishes at four of the five infield positions. Five teams (the Blue Jays, Braves, Dodgers, Phillies, and Twins) have a rotation and bullpen that project in the top 10.

It’s interesting to look at the ways the top 10 teams by total WAR have gone about constructing their rosters. The teams with the two best projected records in baseball, the Braves with 98 wins and the Dodgers with 94, not only mostly avoid being bad — Atlanta has two bottom-10 finishes (SS, LF), while Los Angeles has one (LF) — but, as noted above, are frequently great. Each team has eight top-10 finishes and strong representation in the top five at several positions (seven for the Braves, four for the Dodgers). The Astros aren’t far behind. In addition to their bevy of top-five and 10 finishes, they only have three positions in the bottom half of the league, and only one in the bottom 10 (we’re not optimistic José Abreu will turn things around, dragging the ‘Stros down to no. 26 at first base).

The Rays don’t have any first-place finishes, but they do have two in the top five, six in the top 10 and seven in the top 15. They have no last-place finishes and only one in the bottom 10, with catcher (no. 21) being their worst position, and even that spot could be looking up after today’s acquisition of Ben Rortvedt from the Yankees. Julio Rodríguez drives the Mariners’ lone first-place finish, with a host of good-but-not-great placements and strong pitching putting them just ahead of the Rangers in terms of projected WAR.

The Phillies have high highs and low lows, with five positions in the top five, including the game’s top-ranked bullpen and second-best rotation, but four spots in the bottom 10, including bottom-five finishes across the outfield (no. 29 in RF, no. 26 in LF and CF) and no. 25 at third base. The Twins and Blue Jays are a version of this same approach, with more muted highs (no first-place finishes) and lows (Minnesota has just one bottom-10 position, Toronto just two) inching them ahead of Philly in terms of projected WAR.

The Rangers’ position players are pretty strong across the board, though their bullpen (no. 23) and rotation (no. 16) are both in the bottom 15; obviously they’re hoping the returns of Max Scherzer, Tyler Mahle, and Jacob deGrom later this summer will shift the rotation balance in their favor. The Yankees might not have any first-place finishes, but they don’t have any in the bottom 10 either, and only two in the bottom 15 (first base and bullpen), though obviously their rotation (no. 13) feels very unsettled. A Yankees team that gets a fully operational Gerrit Cole back in a few months looks very different from one that, Mariano forbid, ends up losing him for the whole season.

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 Rockies have five last-place finishes (catcher, first base, center field, DH, and the rotation), with their bullpen only narrowly avoiding that ignominy by placing 29th. The A’s and Nationals each have 11 bottom-15 finishes (remember, we only rank 11 positions), while the Royals and Rockies have 10 (the Royals escape going 11-for-11 on the strength of a fourth-place finish at shortstop, while the Rockies are 10th in left field). Six teams – the A’s, Nationals, Rockies, Royals, Tigers, and White Sox – have an average positional ranking of 20th or lower. Seven clubs – the A’s, Angels, Red Sox, Rockies, Royals, Tigers, and White Sox – place in the bottom 10 for both their rotation and bullpen.

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. There’s basically a 3-WAR difference between the top and the bottom of the left field rankings, while the top six teams at shortstop all project within half a win of each other. 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, can 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:

2024 Projected Positional Z-Scores

Blue Jays1.411.05-0.39-0.621.020.300.080.510.000.600.640.73
Red Sox-1.120.44-0.251.35-0.12-0.35-0.560.780.42-0.32-0.58-0.17
White Sox-2.18-0.54-1.98-0.39-1.40-1.031.26-0.630.39-1.66-2.39-1.68

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:

  • +3.05 — Astros designated hitter
  • +2.98 — Braves right field
  • +2.95 — Dodgers designated hitter
  • +2.65 — Mariners center field
  • +2.39 — Dodgers first base

As well as the bottom five:

  • -2.57 — Nationals third base
  • -2.39 — White Sox bullpen
  • -2.30 — Rockies catcher
  • -2.18 — White Sox catcher
  • -2.17 — Rockies rotation

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 Cardinals would win the NL Central. They famously did not do that! The Padres were favored in the NL West, and well, whoops. We projected the Orioles to win 76 games, a mark they bested by 25 games. Will they fare as well this year? Our playoff odds think they’ll win 84 games, good for third in the AL East, mostly due to a middling rotation and an underwhelming bullpen, but who knows? Maybe their young hitters will have something to say about that (once they’re all in the majors, that is). Last year, the Diamondbacks had four bottom-10 finishes; now they have just two to go along with five top-10 finishes, not to mention the reigning NL Rookie of the Year and last year’s National League pennant. Only the Braves, Dodgers, and Astros project to win 90 or more games, but with 17 clubs forecast for between 80 and 90 wins, it seems likely that someone will emerge to give the heavy hitters a run for their money. 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’m inclined think that’s a feature, not a bug. The season would be pretty boring if we knew in advance exactly who would win and how. And after an offseason marked by big trades, a sluggish free agent market and a late-breaking, developing scandal involving the sport’s biggest star, 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.


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