We're at the quarter mark of the 2023 season in Major League Baseball, and there have been plenty of surprises. The Tampa Bay Rays have been the best team from the start, while the Texas Rangers and new manager Bruce Bochy are showing they are a force to be reckoned with.
It’s time to hand out grades as we approach the end of May and teams begin to figure out exactly who they are. We'll start with the American League. National League grades will be revealed next week.
Note: Records are through May 23.
American League East
Tampa Bays Rays (35-15) | Grade: A
It's really hard to be the best at everything, but during the first quarter of the season, they’ve done just that. Tampa Bay's offense and starting pitching have led the way. Yandy Díaz, Randy Arozarena and Josh Lowe have been standouts at the plate, while left-handed ace Shane McClanahan continues to be one of the game’s best starters.
Injuries have started to hamper the Rays, namely with their starting rotation. They’ll need some of their depth to make up for the absences of Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen.
All in all, it's hard to be any better than what Tampa has been.
Baltimore Orioles (31-17) | Grade: A-
The Orioles are showing all of baseball that their magical 2022 season was no fluke. They’re young and athletic, and they're ready to show the division that the days of getting bullied are over.
What stands out about the O's start is that they have taken advantage of the larger bases as much as any team. They lead MLB in steals, and both Cedric Mullins and Jorge Mateo are on pace to swipe over 40 bases this year.
Baltimore is back.
New York Yankees (30-20) | Grade: C
It’s been an up-and-down season so far for the Bronx Bombers, who have had a hard time finding their footing. Just when you think they’re out of a funk, something happens. Since Aaron Judge has come off the injured list, though, they have looked more like the playoff contender many expected.
Injuries are always something to watch with the Yankees. They're still without free-agent acquisition Carlos Rodón and slugger Giancarlo Stanton. They don't have enough depth to sustain more absences, but what really matters is No. 99 staying healthy.
Boston Red Sox (26-23) | Grade: C+
Well, well, well. Look who got things together after a slow start. Yes, the sky was falling for many Bostonians after the first two weeks of the season, but after some stabilization, the Red Sox have actually played solid baseball.
Free-agent outfielder Masataka Yoshida has been a great addition to Rafael Devers in the middle of the lineup, and Alex Verdugo and Jarren Duran have been catalysts at the top of the order. What has really made a difference is the rejuvenation of Chris Sale, who has a 2.57 ERA in May. Sale's continued success would make a world of difference for Boston in a tough AL East.
Toronto Blue Jays (26-23) | Grade: C-
The Blue Jays might be the division's most talented team, but you are what your record says.
They're among the game's best offenses with a lineup featuring Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Matt Chapman and George Springer. However, their starting pitching, which was considered a strength coming into the season, hasn't quite found its stride. The biggest concern is ace Alek Manoah, who has a 5.15 ERA in his first 10 starts.
There is plenty of time for a turnaround, but Toronto needs Manoah at his best.
American League Central
Minnesota Twins (25-24) | Grade: B-
Minnesota's starting pitching has been strong, and the rotation is led by Sonny Gray, who has turned back the clock with an MLB-best 1.82 ERA after 10 starts. Gray, along with Pablo Lopez and Joe Ryan, have set the tone for the first-place Twins.
They're still in search of a consistent offense. As the weather warms up, so should the duo of Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton.
Detroit Tigers (21-25) | Grade: D+
The Tigers have been looking for an identity in what seems to be a never-ending rebuild. Injuries have been a big part of their inability to find their footing, but they also have been unable to locate consistent production from anywhere.
Detroit has benefitted from the strong start of left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (2.19 ERA after 10 starts), who has put himself in position to be moved at the trade deadline. The Tigers are second in the AL Central, but their record is also below .500.
Cleveland Guardians (21-27) | Grade: D
Cleveland surprised with its dominance of the AL Central last season with 92 wins. This year, things haven't gone quite as well.
Several impact players — namely Steven Kwan, Andres Gimenez, Josh Bell and Josh Naylor — have had slow starts. The starting pitching has kept the team afloat, with Shane Bieber and rookie Tanner Bibee leading the way.
Because the AL Central is so bad, the Guardians are nowhere near out of it, but at some point, they'll need to find better offensive production.
Chicago White Sox (20-30) | Grade: F
The White Sox are easily the most disappointing team in baseball. After years of believing their window to contend was open, the reality is that it has slammed shut.
They continue to not stay healthy, and it's costing them production from their key players.
Kansas City Royals (15-35) | Grade: D
The Royals' rebuild has continued this year, but after seeing Bobby Witt Jr. get to the big leagues and make an impact last season, they’ve struggled to build on that. Vinnie Pasquantino and Salvador Perez have been strong offensively, but Witt's slow start does come as a small surprise.
Starting pitching remains a struggle. And without consistent offense, it will be hard for Kansas City to outscore opponents.
American League West
Texas Rangers (30-18) | Grade: A
The Rangers decided to spend big two offseasons ago by signing shortstop Corey Seager and second baseman Marcus Semien. Last winter, they spent big again, this time on starting pitching. They re-signed Martin Perez, added right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and landed the market’s best starter in Jacob deGrom.
DeGrom has been on the injured list for most of the season, but it hasn’t stopped Texas from putting together an impressive start to the season. Eovaldi has been as good as any starter in MLB, and Jon Gray has returned to his All-Star form to give the Rangers one of the best rotations in baseball.
Offense, however, has been key to the Rangers’ success. Semien has performed like the $175 million man that president Chris Young had hoped, leading MLB in WAR as the catalyst of the lineup. Contributions from Adolis Garcia, Nathaniel Lowe, Jonah Heim and rookie Josh Jung have made Texas a top-two offense.
Texas looks primed to make a run under first-year manager Bruce Bochy.
Houston Astros (28-20) | Grade: C-
The first quarter of the season was not kind to the defending World Series champions. Jose Altuve missed the first 43 games after breaking his thumb at the World Baseball Classic, and injuries to Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia put a strain on Houston's starting pitching depth.
The Astros have started to come back to life this month. Yordan Alvarez has continued to hit the ball out of the ballpark, and at some point, Jose Abreu isn't going to be ice cold. The Rangers are hot, but Houston won't give up its AL West crown quietly.
Los Angeles Angels (27-23) | Grade: C-
The entire season for the Angels hovers around the future of Shohei Ohtani. While the trade deadline is two months away, they will have to do better than third place in the division if they hope to hold on to the modern Babe Ruth.
If they can't make a push over the next six weeks, the phone is going to be ringing off the hook for Ohtani's services. And this time, the Angels may have to answer.
Seattle Mariners (24-24) | Grade: D+
After breaking a 21-year playoff drought, the Mariners entered the season with hopes of building on their 2022 success. That hasn't happened so far.
Reigning AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez has struggled in his sophomore campaign, and his quiet bat has affected Seattle's offense. One pleasant surprise has been longtime top prospect Jarred Kelenic, who leads the team in home runs.
Oakland Athletics (10-40) | Grade: F
The A's may end up having the worst 162-game season ever. While outfielder Brent Rooker has been a nice surprise, the rest of the story has been sad for Oakland.
I'd say it can't get worse, but it can. And it will.