MLB power rankings: Defending World Series champion Astros open season ranked No. 1

·3 min read

The Houston Astros have a tall task ahead of them.

No team has won back-to-back World Series titles since the New York Yankees in 1998-2000. Then again, no American League team has reached the League Championship Series six consecutive years like the Astros, either.

So, not surprisingly, the Astros open the 2023 major league season as the preseason No. 1 team in USA TODAY Sports' MLB power rankings.

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The San Diego Padres, who rank No. 3, spent the offseason spending cash. They have an expected payroll near $250 million after extending Manny Machado's contract ($300 million) and signing free agent Xander Bogaerts ($280 million). The expectations are to win in Southern California.

The first pitch is Thursday with a long, grueling season to follow.

Here are USA TODAY Sports' power rankings heading into the season.

Astros first baseman Jose Abreu celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run.
Astros first baseman Jose Abreu celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run.

1. Houston Astros

  • Defending champs dealt "massive blow" as Jose Altuve breaks thumb in WBC.

2. Atlanta Braves

  • Year two for Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider makes club legit World Series contenders.

3. San Diego Padres

  • Team payroll nears $250M — third-largest in fifth-smallest market — thanks to Xander Bogaerts' 11-year, $280M deal.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Miguel Rojas expected to get the bulk of playing time at short after Gavin Lux's torn ACL.

5. New York Yankees

  • Can captain Aaron Judge and his $360M deal deliver the organization its 28th World Series title?

T-6. Philadelphia Phillies

  • Trea Turner returns to the NL East with an 11-year, $300 million contract.

T-6. New York Mets

  • Who's going to close with Edwin Diaz (likely) out for the year?

8. Toronto Blue Jays

  • Toronto expecting more from Matt Chapman, who hit .196 in his final 59 games last season.

9. Tampa Bay Rays

  • Is this the best rotation in baseball? McClanahan, Glasnow, Eflin, Springs and Rasmussen?

10. Seattle Mariners

  • AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez, who signed a $119.3M deal in the offseason, is just getting started.

11. Cleveland Guardians

  • Cleveland hopes new first baseman Josh Bell can add some punch to the lineup.

12. St. Louis Cardinals

  • Willson Contreras replaces Yadier Molina behind the plate.

13. Milwaukee Brewers

  • Corbin Burnes' relationship with club "definitely hurt" after he felt team blamed him for missing playoffs.

14. Minnesota Twins

  • Carlos Correa is back at shortstop in Minnesota after a wacky winter.

15. Baltimore Orioles

  • What will catcher Adley Rutschman do for an encore in his second season?

16. Texas Rangers

  • No player will benefit from the banned shift more than Corey Seager, who was shifted 93% of the time in 2022.

17. San Francisco Giants

  • Free agent signings Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger join the San Francisco outfield.

18. Chicago White Sox

  • Pedro Grifol is the White Sox's new manager after the Tony La Russa experiment went south.

19. Los Angeles Angels

  • Mike Trout plans to spend season persuading free-agent-to-be Shohei Ohtani to stay.

20. Boston Red Sox

  • Life beyond Bogaerts begins at Fenway Park.

T-21. Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Outfielder Corbin Carroll is among the NL Rookie of the Year favorites.

T-21. Chicago Cubs

  • $177 million shortstop Dansby Swanson becomes focal point of Cubs' offense.

23. Miami Marlins

  • Jazz Chisholm Jr. moves to center field for 2023.

24. Detroit Tigers

  • 1B Spencer Torkelson is a good candidate for a post-hype rebound season.

T-25. Colorado Rockies

  • Kris Bryant looking to stay healthy in his second year with the Rockies.

T-25. Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Oneil Cruz has lofty goals for 2023: "I'm looking for 30-30.”

27. Kansas City Royals

  • Bobby Witt Jr. hopes to build on stellar rookie year (20 HR, 30 steals).

28. Cincinnati Reds

  • Hunter Greene gets the nod as Cincinnati's opening day starter.

29. Oakland Athletics

  • Japanese import Shintaro Fujinami getting rave reviews in spring training.

30. Washington Nationals

  • Shocker: Stephen Strasburg, who has been limited to just 31 1/3 innings over the past three seasons, suffers a setback.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB power rankings: Houston Astros open season ranked No. 1