No use in burying the lede—the champs are on their way down.
After a brutal stretch when they’ve lost 10 out of 14, the previously impervious-seeming Dodgers are suddenly starting to show warts. Is it panic time at Chavez Ravine? Not exactly, but it’s worth commemorating the passing of the torch for the top spot in SI’s esteemed power rankings.
Championships are not handed out in May, however, so fear not, Dodgers fans. At this time last year, we were roughly halfway through the regular season in terms of games played. Now, we’ve only just begun our second month, with plenty of baseball ahead of us. Read on to find out who has assumed the throne, as well as the rest of the goings on throughout the league.
30. Detroit Tigers (Last Week: 30)
It’s only been a month, but the Tigers are settling into the No. 30 spot. Detroit has been outscored by 62 runs this season, more than double any other team. In their current five-game losing streak, the Tigers have been outscored 32–5, and have lost 10 of their last 11. Among the few bright spots has been veteran starter José Ureña. The 29-year-old has allowed two runs or fewer in his last five starts, owning a 3.53 ERA and a nearly 60% ground ball rate in 35.2 innings. He’s making just over $3 million this season and will be a free agent this winter, so he’s a prime candidate to be traded to a contender before the deadline.
29. Colorado Rockies (LW: 28)
Jeff Bridich’s stepping down sure feels like a white flag on this season. Whoever is chosen as interim general manager will likely be left to recoup whatever they can for pending free agents Trevor Story and Jon Gray, who’s the only Colorado starter with an ERA under 4.00. Gray, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft, has pitched well in starts this year against the Dodgers, Astros and Diamondbacks—three of MLB’s top five highest-scoring offenses.
28. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: 25)
A sweep at the hands of St. Louis ended Pittsburgh’s brief foray at .500. Shortstop Kevin Newman, who compiled a respectable .300/.353/.446 slash line in 2019, has experienced giant declines in each of the last two seasons in curious fashion. His 37 wRC+ this year ranks 158th out of 159 qualified hitters, ahead of only fellow banjo hitting shortstop Elvis Andrus of the A’s. But his 8.8% strikeout rate is the second-lowest mark in the league, behind only White Sox contact artist Nick Madrigal. Newman makes a lot of contact, but it’s mostly of the harmless variety on the ground. In 2021, given the advancements in defensive positioning, it’s better to make hard contact some of the time than soft contact most of the time.
27. Texas Rangers (LW: 29)
Isiah Kiner-Falefa has always been a defense-first player. He hit .274/.344/.334 across seven minor league seasons, seeing time at six different positions. When he cracked the majors in 2018, he primarily split time at third base and catcher before focusing on the hot corner almost exclusively in 2020. He won a Gold Glove for his efforts, and this season he’s shifted over to shortstop and hasn’t played anywhere else. He’s been excelling there, too, and now his bat has developed to the point where he’s one of the Rangers’ most important players. He’s batting .277/.317/.454 so far, good for a 119 wRC+ after posting a 77 career mark in that category before this season.
26. Chicago Cubs (LW: 22)
Kris Bryant is one of four players tied with nine home runs atop the league leaderboard and shares the lead for extra-base hits (19). He had two homers and a double on Sunday against the Reds … and Chicago lost, 13–12. On the other end of the 2022 free agent spectrum, Javy Baez’s 39.3% strikeout rate is the worst in the majors. His free-swinging way has become a parody of itself, but he seems to momentarily be back in the good graces of Cubs fans after defending the honor of Anthony Rizzo against Reds reliever Amir Garrett on Saturday.
25. Baltimore Orioles (LW: 27)
We’ll take a break from the John Means hype campaign—a difficult task after his brilliant nine-strikeout performance against Oakland on Friday—to highlight center fielder Cedric Mullins II. Despite an 0-for-5 day on Sunday, Mullins has been a revelation for the Orioles through the first month of the season. He’s batting .321/.380/.514 with 13 extra-base hits and two stolen bases in 121 plate appearances. His .399 wOBA ranks among the top 10% of all qualified hitters, and he has an impressive 41.5% hard-hit rate with a good feel for the strike zone. A 13th-round pick, Mullins was never viewed as a top prospect by major publications, though he’s exactly the type of diamond in the rough the Orioles must unearth to build their next contending team.
24. Miami Marlins (LW: 23)
The Marlins are in the basement of the wildly disappointing NL East despite being the division’s only team with a positive run differential. Miami is 2–7 in one-run games after going 11–8 in those affairs to nab their first playoff appearance in 17 years. The Fish could yet have another run in them if the division continues to wallow in mediocrity; the young rotation’s 3.28 ERA ranks seventh in MLB despite getting practically nothing from the injured pair of Elieser Hernández and Sixto Sánchez.
23. Washington Nationals (LW: 26)
The Nationals rode a 4–1 week, highlighted by a sweep over Miami, into a tie for first in the NL East despite being just 11–11 and enduring a COVID-19 outbreak early on. Such is the state of the division right now. Jon Lester (making his season debut), the previously struggling Patrick Corbin and Erick Fedde all were excellent in their starts last week, keying a run of just 28 runs allowed in the Nationals’ last 10 games. We’ll need to see more of that from the back end of the rotation before we allow ourselves to believe in D.C. again.
22. Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 24)
Arizona hasn’t lost a series over the past two weeks as MLB’s second-highest scoring offense hasn’t shown any signs of slowing despite the continued absences of Ketel Marte and Christian Walker. Catcher Carson Kelly, the primary return in the Paul Goldschmidt trade, has helped cover for them by compiling a 1.184 OPS, which would rank third behind Mike Trout and Byron Buxton if he had enough at bats to qualify. Manager Torey Louvullo even experimented with Kelly in the leadoff spot once last week, a rare place for a backstop that speaks to his on-base skills (.487 OBP).
21. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 17)
Last Sunday, Luis Patiño—the crown jewel of the return package in the Blake Snell trade—made his much-anticipated Tampa Bay debut. He threw 42 pitches in a 2.2 inning start, allowing no hits with one walk and three strikeouts. He pitched against the A’s in relief on Thursday, tossing two scoreless innings with two more punch-outs. It’s early, but Patiño has shown enough flashes in two outings to show why the Rays were keen on including him in the much-maligned trade. Patiño likely isn’t stretched out to throw typical starters’ innings yet, but he could be an effective multi-innings arm out of the bullpen for the time being. His slider has the makings of an elite finishing pitch, already generating a 37.5% whiff rate.
20. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 19)
Thank goodness Bryce Harper avoided serious injury after being struck in the face with a fastball on Friday. Striking out with the tying run at third to end Philadelphia’s frustrating loss to the Mets on Sunday night shouldn’t overshadow what’s been a tremendous campaign for the 28-year-old slugger. He ranks first in hard-hit percentage (55.9%), third in on-base percentage (.446), 10th in OPS (1.043) and 13th in win probability added (1.12).
19. Minnesota Twins (LW: 14)
In taking two out of three games against the Royals this weekend, the Twins won their first series since winning two of three against the Tigers in the first week of the season. While Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz continue to lead the charge on offense, help is starting to emerge in the form of rookie Alex Kirilloff. The 23-year-old debuted in the playoffs last year and got off to a slow start in 2021, but has come alive in recent games. He had four home runs in three games against Kansas City and has hit safely in each of his last six games. Kirilloff hit .317/.365/.498 in the minors and has been a consensus top-100 prospect in each of the last three years. His development into an everyday big leaguer would make an already-strong Twins lineup even better.
18. Cleveland (LW: 21)
For somebody with three top-three MVP finishes, José Ramírez still somehow feels underrated. In an era when strikeout rates continue to soar league-wide, the 28-year-old has mastered command of the strike zone, walking at a higher clip (11.9%) than he strikes out (9.2%). His strikeout rate is the third-lowest among qualified hitters, he’s a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts and he’s batting .280/.367/.602 after homering and reaching base in all five plate appearances on Sunday. He’s single-handedly carrying the Cleveland offense most days, as all other hitters on the team are batting a combined .198/.271/.357.
17. Atlanta Braves (LW: 10)
The Braves suffer this week’s biggest drop after enduring a gut punch of a sweep to the Blue Jays over the weekend in which they lost catcher Travis d’Arnaud to the 60-day injured list (thumb). Atlanta’s greatest weakness from last season, a shallow rotation, has worsened into a full-on Achilles heel (MLB-worst 5.06 ERA) despite a concerted effort in the offseason to add depth. Veteran starters Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly have been hit hard, especially Smyly, whose $11 million contract was a head-scratcher when it was signed in November and looks even worse now. Max Fried (11.45 ERA in three starts) will be under pressure to regain his 2020 form when he returns from the injured list Wednesday.
16. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 20)
The Reds reclaimed the title of baseball’s highest-scoring offense (5.6 runs/game) by beating up on the Cubs’ league-worst pitching staff for 13 runs on Sunday. Jesse Winker (1.078 OPS, seventh in MLB) is out to prove last year’s breakout was no fluke. Eugenio Suarez, on the other hand, seems intent on proving last year’s decline was just the beginning. His 39.4% strikeout rate is the second-worst in the sport, and his 42 wRC+ is the fourth-worst among 159 qualified hitters.
15. Los Angeles Angels (LW: 11)
After years of failing to find consistent success in Baltimore, Dylan Bundy was a revelation for the pitching-starved Angels last season when he went 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA and finished ninth in Cy Young Award voting. He’s pitched well to start 2021 but is still looking for his first win, mostly due to a lack of run support. Bundy has gone at least six innings with three runs or fewer in five of his six starts so far, yet the Angels have scored an average of 2.7 runs per game when he’s on the hill.
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14. Seattle Mariners (LW: 13)
Last week, we highlighted Kendall Graveman as a breakout arm that’s helped lead a strong performance from Seattle’s bullpen thus far. This time it’s Drew Steckenrider’s turn in the spotlight. Steckenrider signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners this offseason after an up-and-down stint in Miami. Through nine appearances, the 30-year-old has struck out 28% of the batters he’s faced, has not allowed a home run yet and is inducing ground balls at a 62.1% clip. He’s been a key cog in a Mariners bullpen that has the lowest ERA (2.30) in the majors.
13. Kansas City Royals (LW: 12)
The Royals lost to the Pirates, 2–1, on Tuesday, dropping a one-run game for the first time all season. Kansas City is 6–1 in one-run games on the year, a curious trend considering the team’s bullpen has the second-highest ERA (4.84) in the American League. The Danny Duffy resurgence remains strong, though, as the left-hander won again on Saturday against the Twins. Duffy has allowed two runs—each on solo homers—in 30 innings this season, with 34 strikeouts and nine walks allowed.
12. New York Mets (LW: 7)
New York scored more runs (six) in the eighth inning of Sunday night’s matchup against the Phillies (and new enemy Jose Alvarado) than they had in all but two whole games this season. Even still, the Mets are averaging fewer than three runs per game, by far the worst mark in baseball. Francisco Lindor and his .508 OPS have fairly attracted most of the criticism so far, but he’s far from the only Metropolitan struggling at the plate, as Dominic Smith, James McCann, Jeff McNeil and Jonathan Villar also have OPS marks below .700.
11. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 18)
The Cardinals have given up just 30 runs over their past 12 games, as the rotation has hit its collective stride after a bumpy start. Adam Wainwright will return from the injured list on Monday against the Mets and try to keep the good times rolling. Gold Glove outfielder Tyler O’Neill has provided a welcome boost to the outfield’s offensive output since returning from a strained groin on April 23, slashing .355/.375/.742 with four home runs and two stolen bases in 32 plate appearances.
10. San Francisco Giants (LW: 16)
Perhaps some extra rest is just what Buster Posey needed in the back nine of his career. Following his first subpar offensive year by OPS+ in 2019, the 34-year-old opted out of last season and is taking more days off this year, having played in 18 of 28 games. Or maybe it’s the adjusted batting stance. Whatever it is, he’s performing even better at the plate than he did as the 2012 NL MVP. With a robust .359/.423/.688 slash line, including a league-best .588 batting average over the last week, Posey has helped the oldest lineup in the league support San Francisco’s surprisingly great rotation en route to an early NL West lead.
9. Oakland Athletics (LW: 8)
The eighth inning of Sunday’s win against the Orioles was the perfect 10-minute encapsulation of what makes A’s center fielder Ramón Laureano so special. With two outs and a runner on second in a tie game, Laureano made a leaping grab up against the wall on a dead sprint to keep the game tied.
It wouldn’t stay tied for long, as Laureano hit what ended up being the game-winning two-run homer to right-center field. The 26-year-old has always been a highlight factory on defense, and he’s doing more damage from the batter’s box so far. Laureano has put up career bests in barrel rate (12.9%) and hard-hit rate (44.3%) this season, a promising development for one of the game’s most exciting players.
8. New York Yankees (LW: 9)
Rejoice, Yankees fans: for the first time in three weeks, your team is back to .500. A big reason why is the warming bat of Giancarlo Stanton. The slugger has hit the ball hard all year, but has gone through long stretches where he struggles to make contact. In his last nine games, Stanton is batting .436/.450/.718 with three home runs and just seven strikeouts in 40 plate appearances. If he can avoid prolonged slumps, he and Aaron Judge will return to being the most feared duo in the game.
7. Boston Red Sox (LW: 5)
Rafael Devers looked like a superstar in the making after a breakout 2019 season in which he hit .311/.361/.555 with 32 home runs at age 22. Like the rest of the Red Sox, he regressed a bit in 2020, but looks back on track to start this year. He ranks in the 98th percentile or better in expected batting average (.354), barrel rate (21.9%) and expected slugging percentage (.750). Devers has also matured his approach a bit, at least with regard to strike zone control: he’s walking at a career-best clip of 11.4% and cut down his chase rate from a season ago.
6. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 15)
At long last, George Springer has made his Blue Jays debut. Toronto’s star outfielder missed most of April with a strained right quad, then promptly hit two homers on Saturday in his third game back. He was pulled on Sunday with what manager Charlie Montoyo is calling fatigue, though it’s certainly a situation worth keeping tabs on for the banged-up Blue Jays. Toronto has won seven of its last nine games and is averaging 5.8 runs per game during that span.
5. Chicago White Sox (LW: 3)
He might not have had his best stuff, but it was great to see Lance Lynn back in action this week. The veteran right-hander surrendered three runs in five innings with two walks and two strikeouts, but did enough to pick up his second win of the season after being activated from the injured list with a strained right trapezius. Lynn, Carlos Rodón, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Dallas Keuchel form an imposing rotation that makes the White Sox tough to win a series against. Chicago even has a future ace waiting in the wings in Michael Kopech, who’s currently relegated to mostly bullpen work. The flame-throwing righty has struck out 30 of the 68 batters he’s faced this season with only four walks and one home run allowed.
4. Houston Astros (LW: 6)
Houston’s season can be essentially divided into three phases: a hot 6-1 start out of the gates, followed by a miserable 1-9 stretch in mid-April, and now to their current run of good form in which they’ve won eight of their last 11 games. Pitching has been the key to this current hot streak, as the Astros have allowed just 2.5 runs per game during this 8-3 run. Houston’s rotation ranks third in the AL with a 3.54 ERA. The Astros have the second-highest run differential (+32) in baseball and are the only team in the AL West out of the red. They haven’t surpassed the A’s or Mariners in the standings yet, but it feels like it’s just a matter of time.
3. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 4)
The Brewers continued their pattern of impressive highs (winning three out of four against Dodgers) and confusing lows (series loss to Miami) last week, and are now 6–1 against the two teams above them in our rankings (and Christian Yelich missed all those games). Milwaukee’s pitching has very little margin for error, reflected in their -1 run differential, given the offense’s low ceiling. But the Crew has been more than up to the task so far.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 1)
Los Angeles has lost three consecutive series—to the Brewers, Reds and Padres—for the first time since Sept. 2017. The loss of Dustin May to an arm injury is the latest piece of bad news for the Dodgers, whose depth has been tested in the last few weeks with injuries to Cody Bellinger, David Price, Tony Gonsolin, Brusdar Graterol, Zach McKinstry and Corey Knebel. The Dodgers still boast the best run differential (+45) in the majors, but they’ve looked vulnerable enough recently to move them out of the top spot of our power rankings for the first time since 2019.
1. San Diego Padres (LW: 2)
One week after taking three of four from the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine, the Padres won two of three against the Giants to dethrone their SoCal rivals from the top spot in our rankings. San Diego seems to be rounding into form after struggling for consistency early on, following the lead of Fernando Tatis Jr., who became the first player in MLB history to record 40 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the first 162 games of his career. All of the top offseason pitching acquisitions, from Yu Darvish to Joe Musgrove to Mark Melancon, have worked out swimmingly, resulting in MLB’s best ERA (2.91). The Friars also lead the majors in stolen bases. This is a deep, dynamic squad worthy of the No. 1 spot, even if they’re still slightly behind the Giants and Dodgers in the NL West—for now.
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