A few days ago, we highlighted five teams who missed the 2022 postseason who we believe are now better positioned to be part of this year's tournament. With an introduction like that, you can only guess that this is a companion piece, focusing instead on the five playoff teams who could be left behind.
For the sake of working smarter, not harder, let's recall what we wrote in that first article that explains the premise in fine detail:
While the new playoff format is too nascent to draw conclusions about the average year-to-year turnover rate, we know from the past that it was common to see at least three and on average five teams fall from the bracket. There's no guarantee that will remain the case heading forward, but until we have more evidence we're going to continue to use that as our guideline.
Got it? Good. Now, you can continue on down the page to find our ranking of those five playoff teams who could be in danger. The teams are presented in order of perceived likelihood, along with a brief summary of what happened last year; why this year might deviate; and what the top projection systems (Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA, FanGraphs' ZiPS and SportsLine) say of them.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
What happened in 2022: The Rays reached their fourth consecutive postseason, the longest streak in franchise history, by winning 86 games and claiming the final playoff spot in the American League.
Reason for pessimism in 2023: The Rays finished bottom-10 in runs scored and middle-of-the-pack in wRC+ (a park-adjusted catch-all offensive measure) last season, leading their front office to state a desire to add hitting talent over the offseason. They then failed to bring in a single batter from outside of the organization -- they actually subtracted a few, in Kevin Kiermaier and Ji-Man Choi -- meaning any improvements will have to be of the internal nature. Ace Tyler Glasnow is already injured, and some of their other key players -- Wander Franco and Zach Eflin included -- have dealt with durability problems of their own. Tampa Bay does have a few promising youngsters on the way, specifically infielder Curtis Mead and righty Taj Bradley, but runs could be tough to come by once again in St. Petersburg.
What projection systems say: Prepare for déjà vu, at least if PECOTA's forecast -- 87 wins and the final playoff spot in the AL -- comes to fruition. ZiPS has the Rays winning 88 games and SportsLine says 91. Each projection has them finishing third in the AL East, putting them in close quarters with the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, should either overperform expectations.