Now that the Major League Baseball season is a quarter of the way in, what better time to give our first power rankings of the year?
|Photo from: mlb.com|
Let's get started.
1. St. Louis Cardinals (28-15) - The Cardinals have been paced by stellar pitching from their starting rotation. They are No. 1 in baseball with a 3.19 ERA. St. Louis leads the league in shutouts with 7, and they have found their closer in Edward Mujica. He already has 12 saves and has yet to blow one. Shelby Miller is a front-runner for NL ROY and NL Cy Young, posting a 5-2 record and a 1.40 ERA. When it counts, the hitting is there; best in the game with RISP. Specifically, Matt Holliday is batting .588 in that category. If the Redbirds continue to get timely hitting and great starting pitching, they will be tough to beat in the National league.
2. Texas Rangers (29-15) - They lost Josh Hamilton to the Angels. Neftali Feliz is out. Alexi Ogando is out. Matt Harrison is out. Yet they currently have the best winning percentage in baseball. Needless to say, that's pretty impressive. They are top-10 in nearly every major offensive category, and have done it against some pretty damn good pitching. They just let Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez have it this weekend, shelling them to the tune of 13 earned runs and giving Verlander the earliest exit of his career in the process. Mitch Moreland started slow but has come on of late, hitting .289 with 10 homers and 22 RBI. The Rangers just keep winning, and will continue to do so the rest of the year.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (25-19) - One name: Paul Goldschmidt. If you don't know who he is, you will by the end of the season. In my book, he's the leading candidate for NL MVP, hitting .333 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI. Another NL ROY candidate comes in the form of crafty left-hander Patrick Corbin. He is 6-0 with a 1.52 ERA. These are two of the main reasons why Arizona is in first place in the National League West. They lost their closer, but they still have a proven one in Heath Bell. Kirk Gibson has the boys in the desert playing some great baseball. Don't expect that to change anytime soon.
4. Cleveland Indians (25-17) - Yes, Cleveland has found their way into the top-5 of our power rankings. The Indians, who on Sunday improved to 17-4 since April 28th, are 7-1 this year against former Cy Young winners. They've knocked off Felix Hernandez, R.A. Dickey, David Price, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Bartolo Colon and Justin Verlander. Simply put, the Tribe has went through the best pitchers the American League has to offer and, continue to smash the ball around the yard. I don't think it's that big of a surprise that they are hitting the ball well with the additions of Mark Reynolds, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to the lineup. However, what is surprising is the type of starts that they are getting from the pitching staff. Masterson, Jimenez and McAllister are all putting together nice seasons. The bats are not going to cool off that much, so as long as they continue to pitch well, the Indians should keep rolling.
5. New York Yankees (27-16) - With half of their payroll on the shelf, New York is leading the AL East. Guys like Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells are thriving in pinstripes. Curtis Granderson just came off of the DL, and is looking to get his season going. Is there a level of expectation, or feeling of producing, if you will, that makes guys turn it around when they wear pinstripes? It certainly seems that way. Doesn't hurt that Robinson Cano has been in the zone as well. One of the AL MVP favorites, Cano is hitting .295 with 12 home runs and 31 RBI. That is a pace for 45 and 117 through 162 games. With Tex coming back soon and old man Pettitte, the Yankees should be able to stay atop the division. A lot of talent in the East, though, so we'll see.
6. Cincinnati Reds (26-18) - This might be the most complete team in baseball, but the reason they are at 6 is because they are having a rough go at winning close games. They are in the top-10 in virtually every single category in baseball, from ERA to runs scored. Shin-Soo Choo in CF has provided something they have not had in a while at the Great American Ball Park -- a leadoff man. His OBP is .463, meaning he gets on base nearly 50% of the time. Amazing. Dusty Baker might finally get his ring this year.
7. Atlanta Braves (25-18) - Justin Upton is tied for the league lead in home runs with 12, but the month of May has been unkind to the Atlanta slugger. He's hitting just .194 with zero home runs so far. Jason Heyward has been out, and Freddie Freeman has missed some time as well. The leadership of catcher Brian McCann has helped out some, but they need to get healthy. Pitching has been stable, but the loss of Jonny Venters to elbow surgery is not going to help an already suspect bullpen. Skipper Fredi Gonzalez has his work cut out for him. Maybe he should call Joe Maddon and ask what he did to get B.J. Upton to produce, seeing as how he's doing a whole lot of nothing right now.
8. San Francisco Giants (24-20) - This club just knows how to win. Barry Zito is coming off his first bad outing of the season, but has still been working the corners and keeping the hitters off balance fairly consistently. It's his contract year. Don't know if that has anything to do with it, but I'm sure Bruce Bochy doesn't mind at all. Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong continue to struggle, but I refuse to count out the defending champions. Buster Posey is still Buster Posey, and as long as he stays healthy, the Giants will have a chance in the NL West.
9. Boston Red Sox (27-17) - They started out wicked good, but since May rolled around, they have regressed some. Big Papi has hit the most home runs on the team since coming off the DL a few weeks ago, and is the main reason why they have not fell off anymore than they have. Lester and Buchholz look like the days of old when fried chicken and beer frequented the clubhouse. Dustin Pedroia has been going off here lately as well, hitting .343 on the season, good for top-5 in the American League. Hitting will not be a problem in Boston. What was once a strong bullpen, however, is becoming one. Joel Hanrahan is out for the year and Andrew Bailey is still on the shelf, so that takes their usual eighth and ninth inning guys out the immediate equation. Should be an interesting team to watch moving forward.
10. Baltimore Orioles (23-20) - They just finished a home-stand which saw them drop 5 out of 6 to Tampa Bay and San Diego, so they could be on their way to a free fall. Manny Machado is one of the young phenoms in the league, hitting .328 with 5 dingers and 26 RBI. He's just fun to watch. Wei-Yin Chen is now on the DL, but was pitching well before that. Hopefully he comes back strong for them. Quite a few positives in Baltimore, just pay close attention to the negatives, as pitching is at a premium in Oriole country.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates (26-18) - The Pirates are playing well for now, but how long can they sustain it? Are they going to hit a wall again like last season? Starling Marte has been doing his thing from the leadoff spot. He is hitting .305 with 5 homers and 17 RBI. Throw in his 10 stolen bases and .372 OBP, and you have a nice start to your lineup. Here is my issue -- he has struck out 45 times already, and is on pace for 166 for the season. His contact ratio is high, but he has to become more selective. Pitching has been a plus and A.J. Burnett is having a good year so far, but like I said, can they sustain it? Time will tell.
12. Detroit Tigers (23-19) - Not too long ago Detroit looked unstoppable, then they proceeded to drop 6 of their last 10, and came very close to getting swept by the Rangers this weekend. Offensively, Prince and Miguel are getting a break from having to carry this team on their backs. You can't stay away from those monsters as an opposing pitcher because the rest of the order is hitting also. Jhonny Peralta is leading all AL shortstops with an .848 OPS, and as a team, the Tigers lead the league in batting average and OBP. Their pitching will come back, but for now, they're just outside the top-10.
13. Washington Nationals (23-21) - This is a team that has all the makings and potential to be a World Series participant. The problem is, they are underachieving badly. They came very close to getting swept by the Padres in San Diego this weekend. Bryce Harper is injured, and Stephen Strasburg has not been his normal dominant self. They have the talent to figure it out, but Davey Johnson has to get these guys more focused.
14. Tampa Bay (23-20) - Matt Moore has not lost this season, as he beat Baltimore on Sunday to improve his record to 8-0. It was Tampa Bay's 9th victory in 11 games, which put them at a season-high 3-games over .500 and lifted them into a third-place tie with the skidding Orioles in the AL East. The Rays have plenty of talent, I'm just not sure they can score enough runs to keep pace in a deep division.
15. Colorado Rockies (24-20) - The Rockies started off hot. Extremely hot. As of late, they have fallen off a bit. The offensive production has slowed considerably, including a 28-inning scoreless streak earlier this month. They still rank near the top in many offensive categories, but they're just not getting consistent pitching out of their starters. Give it a few more weeks, and they will be where everyone expected them to be.
16. Oakland Athletics (23-22) - The bats have gone quiet in Oakland, but they still found a way to sweep the Kansas City Royals this weekend. Josh Donaldson is having a great season, and they are now getting everyone back healthy to make a push to take the AL West pennant again. I'm just not sure they will be able to catch the Rangers this time around.
17. Kansas City Royals (20-20) - The pitching is there. The hitting is not. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are not doing what they are supposed to do, which is hit home runs and drive in runs. Hosmer is batting over .300, but he is dead last in slugging for starting first basemen in the American League. Moose would be happy if he could just reach the Mendoza line, as he is hitting just .178 and 1 for his last 29. On the bright side, they're set to begin a series with the Astros.
18. Philadelphia Phillies (21-23) - The Fightin Phils look to be headed in the right direction, and Cliff Lee is looking like what they paid for, dominating San Francisco and Arizona in his last 2 starts. Chase Utley is back to his old self as well. Still not enough to keep them out of the bottom 15, though.
19. San Diego Padres (20-23) - The nation's capital and surrounding areas want no part of the Friars, as they took 4 of 6 from the Nationals and Orioles this month. The bats are coming around, and since Chase Headley came off the DL, San Diego is 16-14 and playing good baseball for Buddy Black. Andrew Cashner has come out of the bullpen and pitched well. They need to keep him in the rotation, because he has all the makings to be a solid No. 2 starter. The Cardinals are coming to town this week, so we should get a better feel for what this club is made of from that series.
20. Seattle Mariners (20-24) - I am a firm believer that if the Mariners hadn't run into the buzz saw that is the fighting men of the Cuyahoga, they would be a lot higher on this list. However, Seattle has much to be excited about. Hisashi Iwakuma is putting together a Cy Young-type of season, and their hitting is coming around as well. If you don't know who Kyle Seager is, you need to check him out. Mark my words, the Mariners will cause many a team problems this year.
21. Chicago White Sox (19-23) - Jake Peavy had a chance to pull them within 2 games of .500, but instead got lit up in Anaheim on Sunday. This is one of the oldest lineups in baseball, so that doesn't help matters. Dayan Viciedo is off the DL and has made an instant impact. For their sake, Paul Konerko needs to follow suit. It's looking like the Windy City is going to have a terrible season of baseball. Hope the weather is nice for the lake.
22. Chicago Cubs (18-25) - One of the best sites in America to catch a game, Wrigley Field, is producing some awful baseball. This is a travesty, but hey, they are the Cubs. They did manage to lockup Anthony Rizzo to a long-term deal, so the future looks a little bit brighter in Chicago. The problem is, Doc and Marty McFly aren't there in the DeLorean to get them to that point any faster.
23. Minnesota Twins (18-22) - The Twins were supposed to be one of those bottom-feeding teams this season, right? Well they've played .500 ball in May, but don't get your hopes up just yet Minnesota fans. The pitching staff is full of no-names, and Brad Radke isn't coming back anytime soon. They do have several young, talented hitters, though. Aaron Hicks is slowly coming around. Will Joe Mauer be traded? Possibly.
24. Milwaukee Brewers (17-25) - Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura and Ryan Braun are a solid nucleus to build around. All are hitting over .300 and producing runs. The problem is the rest of the lineup. Lucroy and Weeks are having subpar years. Alex Gonzalez is playing first base, and that tells you all you need to know about the Brew Crew. Pitching needs to step up to help out the offense, or it's going to be a long season in Milwaukee.
25. Toronto Blue Jays (17-26) - I told everyone the Jays would be awful, and I was right. Injuries or not, this team was put together on the fly, and not many organizations can pull that off. They are hanging around, and their bats are getting hot, but the pitching is mediocre at best. Getting the best players isn't always the answer. In this case, keeping John Farrell would have been.
26. Los Angeles Dodgers (17-25) - They have a 200 million dollar payroll and are in last place in their division. What more needs to be said? Pathetic.
27. Los Angeles Angels (17-27) - See above. Also, now it's allergies that are causing Josh Hamilton not to hit the ball? Really? Gimme a break.
28. New York Mets (17-24) - To me, they have the best pitcher under 25 in the game today in Matt Harvey. The problem is that it's Harvey and pray for rain at this point. I still don't get the David Wright contract. Oh well.
29. Houston Astros (12-32) - At least they're not last on the list.
30. Miami Marlins (12-32) - Giancarlo Stanton is out. Other than that, who cares?
That concludes our first power rankings for the 2013 season. Hope you enjoyed it. Our next rankings will go up sometime around the All-Star break. Stay tuned.