Ranking The Teams 6-1: My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up

Welcome to the 5th and final part of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Although the season has started, I am still finishing this series.  I will also have my first Red Sox Report article of 2018 coming soon, as well as coverage on NFL free agency and the upcoming Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games.

Last time, I covered the teams that are true contenders but are not quite on the level of the MLB’s best.  That consisted of 5 wild card competitors and the Indians, the lowest ranked of what is known as the MLB Super Seven.  They just missed the Top 6, at #7.  I looked at how they did this off-season, how they’ll do this season, and what’s holding them back.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements.  Today I will do the same for the for the Top 6 teams in the league.  What are their chances of winning it all, and what are their Achilles Heels?  Read below to find out how the best of the best line up.  Every team on this part of the list is part of the Super Seven I have been mentioning.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, April 2: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Thursday, April 5: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*My pre-season Baseball Bits are also up.

6. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-Season Review

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The Red Sox were pretty quiet for much of the off-season despite the rumors that they were the front-runners to sign OF J.D. Martinez, and that it was near inevitable that the Red Sox signed him.  They did bring back 1B Mitch Moreland and 2B Eduardo Nunez.  With that, they had a pretty good roster.  But they had no home run hitter, which was crucial after the Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton and formed what has the potential to be a historic HR duo between Stanton and Aaron Judge.  Eventually, they did sign Martinez despite a lack of a position for him to play.  If there was an open position called “designated home run hitter (DHH)”, it might be fitting, but now he has to split his time between left field and DH, with Moreland, Hanley Ramirez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. losing at-bats to him.

The Case for the Red Sox

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If the Red Sox are meeting their expectations, they will make the playoffs, and they will make it to at least the ALDS.  Red Sox reporter Tony Massarotti thinks we are a good team but can do a lot better, and I agree.  Sure, the Yankees had a great off-season and are now favorites to beat us out in the AL East.  But the Sox are capable of winning the division, and if they cannot win the division, they are definitely capable of making the playoffs.  Hopefully, Chris Sale and David Price will be able to lead the rotation together after Sale’s strong 2017 and Price’s strong Spring Training, and I’m hoping J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts can lead the lineup (with the help of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, who are off to a great start).

But if they cannot, we need someone else to step up their game.  In fact, no matter what, we need someone else to step it up.  Whether Bogey keeps going and breaks out, or Devers builds on his late 2017 success, or Andrew Benintendi has the season he was supposed to have one year ago, I will be satisfied.  They just need one more player to build on the consistency they have had and turn it into dominance.

The Achilles Heel

Like I said, the Red Sox have an ace, and they have a pretty strong lineup. But they just need some of their good players to achieve greatness. It would be nice if they could have the beastly rotation people were expecting of them, and so far, it’s looked pretty good. It would also be nice if the Red Sox had a couple more players who broke through and joined Betts and Martinez as the All-Stars of the lineup. World Series contenders aren’t led by a couple superstars and a bunch of other good, but not great players. They are led by a group of star players that work well and fit well together.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, several players in the lineup breakout and the Red Sox go on to win the World Series, which you will notice is the Best Case Scenario for all 6 of the top teams.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation continues to be inconsistent, the lineup is no more than good, and the Red Sox lose out to other teams like the Twins and Angels in the Wild Card race.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 2nd in AL East

 

5. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-Season Review

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The Cubs lost star pitcher Jake Arrieta, but they made up for it by signing SP Yu Darvish and SP Tyler Chatwood.  They also added Brandon Morrow to a strong bullpen.  The Cubs appear to be pretty confident in their lineup, but does their lineup need an upgrade if the Cubs want to win another World Series ring?

The Case for the Cubs

About a year ago, the Cubs were viewed as the best team in the MLB.  But the competition has caught up with them, and the Cubs experienced a World Series hangover early in 2017.  The Dodgers, Yankees, and Astros have all caught up, and the Indians, Nationals, and Red Sox are close.  They have a nice young roster with a dominant rotation, and their lineup is great but could use a bit of a boost in the power department.

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs have a lot of good, consistent, hitters.  But they were hoping that they could get some power out of guys like Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo that they have signed/kept around.  Bryant and Rizzo have done well at the plate, but are good hitters for average, not good hitters for power.  Heyward was signed to add some power to the lineup, and it would have been nice to see some power out of Ben Zobrist.  Who will emerge as a home run hitter for the Cubs?  If they cannot find one, then that means the league’s elite teams are one step ahead of them.

Best Case Scenario: The Cubs go on to win a World Series after Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward have dominant years at the plate and get help from Chicago’s younger players.  The rotation also continues to dominate.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation underperforms, the lineup cannot find their power hitter, and the Cubs just barely snag a Wild Card after losing their division to the Cardinals or Brewers.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in NL Central\

 

4. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

Off-Season Review

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The Dodgers kept their roster at World Series level.  They did lose some of their starting pitchers, but they had at least eight viable starters on their World Series roster.  They added Tom Koehler to the bullpen, and he could even start in the case of an injury to another starter.  They also brought back Chase Utley and acquired Matt Kemp from the Braves in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez and a couple extra starters they had.  Gonzalez was no longer needed with Cody Bellinger ready to start at first base full time.

The Case for the Dodgers

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The Dodgers could still be a World Series contender, but other teams may beat them out.  The Astros are looking even better this year, the Nats have extra motivation to do well with many star players in contract years, and the Yankees have more power in their lineup than any other team in the league.  Their lineup and rotation still look great.  Clayton Kershaw has continued to dominate the league, and the lineup has done well despite the lack of a true leader.

The Achilles Heel

The Dodgers do not have any major holes.  But they need two smaller things.  The first thing is some bullpen help.  They need to find a reliable set up man for Kenley Jansen, and even Jansen has struggled so far.  They also need a leader for the lineup.  They have a lot of great hitters, but who is their true star?  Kershaw is the rotation leader.  Who will be the Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers lineup?

Best Case Scenario: Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner will lead the Dodgers lineup to dominance, the rotation continues to thrive, and Kenley Jansen gets back on track as the Dodgers win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Kershaw, along with the rest of the rotation regresses, the lack of depth hurts them, and the lineup cannot quite dominate without a leader.  Jansen and the bullpen continue to struggle too, and the Dodgers are left to compete for a Wild Card.

Projected Finish: 95-67, 1st in NL West

 

3. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

Off-Season Review

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The Yankees already had a strong lineup, and they made a splash this off-season by adding to that.  They acquired Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, and with that, they had the top two home run hitters in the league in Stanton and Aaron Judge.  They also added 2B Neil Walker late in the off-season to help out while Gleyber Torres recovers from his injury and continues to develop.  They acquired Brandon Drury to help out Miguel Andujar at third too.

The Case for the Yankees

The Yanks have a lineup that is stacked with home run hitters, but they are lacking depth, especially in the infield.  Judge and Stanton will balance things out though, making the lineup look dominant.  The rotation also looks good but is the one portion of their roster that does not quite match up with the Red Sox, who can rely on the combo of Chris Sale and David Price.  The good thing is, the rotation will be backed up by a strong bullpen, much stronger than the Red Sox bullpen.

The Achilles Heel

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The Yankees do have a bit of an infield depth problem, but their real depth problem is in the rotation.  Jordan Montgomery has been forced into the #5 starter role, while the Sox will have E-Rod and Steven Wright once everyone is healthy.  The Yankees have a nice group of starters, but they lack depth, and they lack a true ace.  Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino are great but are not quite ace material.  The Red Sox have Chris Sale to lead their rotation, so they are ahead of the Yankees in that department.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates the league with multiple #1 level starters, the bullpen backs them up, and the lineup hits the most home runs in the MLB by a long shot as the Yanks win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems come back to bite the Yankees, the Yanks must depend on their bullpen after rotation struggles, and the lineup cannot find much talent around Gary Sanchez, Stanton and Judge.  The Yankees are left with a Wild Card spot and do not make the ALDS.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL East

 

2. houston-astros Houston Astros

Off-Season Review

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After winning the World Series (as I predicted) in 2017, the Astros only got better.  They acquired Gerrit Cole from the Pirates, and now they will have Justin Verlander for a full season.  They arguably have seven viable starters, and their first three starters were all #1 starters on different teams before this season.  They also added Joe Smith to a strong bullpen.

The Case for the Astros

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The Astros are coming off a World Series title, and I do not expect much of a hangover.  They have a dominant rotation, and a strong lineup led by Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and AL MVP Jose Altuve.  I don’t see much of a chance for them to regress.  But will they be beaten out by a motivated contender who was not won in recent years?

The Achilles Heel

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The Astros do not have any major weaknesses, but with DH Carlos Beltran gone, and 1B Yulieski Gurriel suspended, they will have some depth problems in the lineup.  They will have to rely on Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick, Derek Fisher, and J.D. Davis more this season.  Other than that, they do not have any other problems, at least major problems.  That will likely resolve itself as the season progresses.

Best Case Scenario: The stacked lineup dominates, the rotation is led by three aces, and the Astros dominate the league for the second consecutive year, winning the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation underperforms and struggles, depth and World Series hangover problems affect the lineup, and the Astros fail to make the ALCS after losing the division to the Angels surprisingly.

Projected Finish: 95-67, 1st in AL West

 

1. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-Season Review

The Nats did not make any big moves this off-season besides resigning Howie Kendrick, and I think their roster looks good as it is, although it could have used one more starting pitcher.  They should sign somebody who’s still available if A.J. Cole struggles in the rotation.  But the Nats have many star players, including Bryce Harper in contract years, so the Nationals are in win now mode, and for that reason, they are my favorite to win the World Series.

The Case for the Nationals

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Like I said, the Nats are in win-now mode.  The window is closing for this team to win a World Series with this era of players, but I think this could be the year.  With a great roster flooded with young talent and led by superstars in Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are in good position to take advantage of the fact that they have one more year to win it all before they lose Bryce Harper and other strong players on the roster to free agency.  But will they be motivated enough to lead themselves past other dominant teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees?

The Achilles Heel

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The Nationals have a nice lineup that is still doing well early on, even with Daniel Murphy starting on the DL.  Later in the season, Murphy will help lead them.  But the rotation has a depth problem.  If A.J. Cole struggles, the Nationals have nobody to replace him with Joe Ross injured. There is no guarantee that any free agent pitcher will willingly sign here, but if Cole struggles, they will need to try, or it may hold them back from winning now like they are hoping to.

Best Case Scenario: Motivated to win it all before losing Harper, the Nats lineup dominates, carried by an MVP season by Bryce Harper where he nearly wins the Triple Crown.  The rotation also dominates as A.J. Cole does well and Strasburg and Scherzer dominate all year.  The Nationals win the World Series triumphantly.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems cause rotation struggles and injury problems add to it, Bryce Harper cannot carry the lineup alone in a contract year, and the Nats just edge out a division win and struggle in the NLDS.

Projected Finish: 97-65, 1st in NL East

 

That’s all for my MLB pre-season power rankings.  My next power rankings update will come at the end of April as I begin my Monthly Power Ranking series.  I will also have Red Sox recaps, more Baseball Bits, and my first Red Sox Report of 2018 coming soon (The Red Sox Report article will be up tomorrow and I will try to post them every Friday from here on out.)

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Top 5 MLB Trade Deadline Scenarios

The trade deadline is coming up.  Buyers and sellers have been determined.  Who will make the biggest deals of the weekend?

Well, I made a few trade predictions this week, and here are a few of the most likely trades.  

HM: Yonder Alonso to the Yankees for Chase Headley and a prospect


The A’s and Yankees will both be busy at the deadline.  The A’s will continue to sell while the Yankees try to become the best team in the AL East.  This trade does make sense.  The Yanks get a strong first baseman for veteran infielder Headley and some prospects.  The Yankees won’t need Headley with Frazier at third and Alonso at First.  It would make sense for the Yanks to also get Sonny Gray in this trade, but I can see them going after a different pitcher.  

5. Yu Darvish to the Yankees for 2 pitching prospects


Yup, the Yankees aren’t done after the Frazier and Alonso trades.  Yu Darvish did put ten teams on his no-trade clause, including the Rockies and Red Sox, but the Yankees were not on that list.  The Rangers are done at this point.  Time to sell.  Darvish should give the Yankees rotation a much needed boost.  With Pineda hurt, the rotation needs some more depth.  

4. Sonny Gray to the Rockies for 2 prospects


I would be shocked if Gray is still in Oakland by the end of the day on Monday.  The A’s need to rebuild, and there are other teams that need him more.  The Rockies have a fine young rotation, but a veteran mentor to boost the rotation would be helpful to this contending Rockies club.  The Rockies are likely in contention at this point, I do not see them as pretenders.  The Rockies just acquired reliever Pat Neshek, it’s time to upgrade the rotation next.  

3. Yangervis Solarte to the Cardinals for 3 prospects



The Padres have some young talent that can eventually lead their team.  But first, they have to get rid of the veterans.  It’s good to have veteran mentors, and they should hold on to Wil Myers, but Solarte has value in the market, and they can add to their farm system if they dish him off to teams like St. Louis or Boston.  Sure, the Cardinals are on the buyer/seller line, but they have done well lately and should bolster their team.  

2. Edinson Volquez to the Brewers for Jonathan Villar and a prospect


Once again, the Marlins came in with a nice team and ended up failing to push their record over .500 leading up to the deadline.  Time to sell, again.  The last few years, this team has sold at the deadline, but been active in the off-season to improve their roster.  They still haven’t had their breakthrough year.  The Brewers are looking to chase the Cubs in the NL Central. Without a trade, they could fall out of it.  The Marlins will trade at least one pitcher before the deadline, and I think Volquez will fit in in Milwaukee.  

1. Khris Davis to the Nationals for 2 prospects 


The A’s still have more good trade nuggets after these three trades.  The Athletics need to rebuild.  They are out of it.  Gray, Alonso and Davis have a lot of value in the market and should all be traded.  Lowrie may even be dished away.  The Nats need an outfielder with Eaton and Werth on the 60 day DL and Eaton done for the year.  They have some nice young outfielder, but a veteran who can hit for power is needed in Washington.  I actually thought Davis might be a nice trade target for the Red Sox back when JBJ was struggling, but the Nats need an outfielder much more.  
So, the trade deadline is tomorrow.  Which of these deals will be done?  Will there be more than this?  Find out tomorrow.  I will also be updating the Red Sox’s situation at the deadline tomorrow on sportalk.com, where I will start interning tomorrow.  If you are looking for a good experience to start your career in sports, apply to SPORTalk now.  

MLB Monthly Power Rankings: May

MLB Monthly Power Rankings: May

 

Welcome to my first MLB monthly ranks of the year.  I didn’t do these in April because it was too early in the season, but it’s better to start late than never.  My power rankings combine trends, records and predictions to rank all 30 teams.  Hope you enjoy!

 

Note: These power rankings are up to date as of May 31, 2016.

 

  1. Chicago Cubs (35-14)

 

I knew the off season would pay off.  This team has been on fire all season long!  The additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist have made a big impact on an already strong team.  This team broke out last year and just keeps getting better.  Their lineup has become very powerful.  Young driving forces like Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell are joined by powerful veterans like Anthony Rizzo.  But it’s not just the lineup.  The Cubbies pitching staff leads the league in ERA, wins, WHIP and average allowed.  I don’t see any reason why this team shouldn’t be #1.  They have the best record, they have the stats, they’re just having an amazing season.

 

  1. Boston Red Sox (31-20)

 

I’m very impressed by my Red Sox this month.  JBJ and Xander Bogaerts now have the two longest hitting streaks all season.  During those hitting streaks, the Red Sox offense took the league lead in batting average, runs, hits, slugging percentage and OPS.  Xander Bogaerts is batting a whopping .354, Big Papi is hitting .337 with 14 dingers and Jackie Bradley Jr. now has a .331 average.  JBJ barely hit over .200 last year!  In total, nearly half the Red Sox lineup is batting over .300.  Big Papi leads the league in RBI and is tied for 5th in home runs.  This lineup really took off in May, the Sox just need to make sure their rotation can save them when TE lineup has a rough day.  

 

  1. New York Mets (29-21)

 

This is another red hot team of May.  The young rotation have the Mets at a combined 3.19 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.  the lineup has been impressive as well.  Yoenis Cespedes has led the Mets to being tied for the league lead in homers.  Even with Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy (permanently) gone from the lineup, it has still thrived.  The Mets are in a tight race in the division with the Nationals, but no matter what, they look to be headed for the playoffs as this young team is consistently competitive.  

 

  1. Washington Nationals (31-21)

 

The Nats have finally lived up to their expectations this year.  An early tart definitely helps.  The rotation is doing very well.  They lead the league in strikeouts and are in the top 3 for WHIP, BAA and ERA.  Three Nats starters have an under 3.00 ERA.  Daniel Murphy also picked up right where he left off last October and now leads the league in batting average.  Bryce Harper also is in the competition for league leader in home runs, with 13 dingers so far.  They will have competition in the division with the Mets chasing them down every corner, but so far they have proven that they can keep up.  

 

  1. San Francisco Giants (32-21)

 

This is another hot team of late!  This team is led by a trio of amazing starters.  The Giants revamped the rotation in the off season, and it worked all right!  At 6-2, Madison Bumgarner is still leading the rotation well, but they now have extra depth with quality starters Johnny Cueto (8-1) and Jeff Samardzija (7-3).  All three of them have ERAs between 2.10 and 2.90, two of them under 2.50.  The lineup has also thrived, and not just Buster Posey.  Hunter Pence has had a strong year so far, batting .304, and Brandon Belt has also had some good stretches.  If this team can keep things up, they could have their fourth even year World Series in a row.  

 

  1. Seattle Mariners (30-21)

 

After all these years in the shadows, the Mariners have finally proven to be a playoff competitor.  King Felix and a young, revamped rotation with intriguing guys like Taijuan Walker have finally taken the leap.  The Mariners have a combined 3.36 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with a .232 BAA.  Robinson Cano has also been a deciding factor, and leads the league in homers (tied with 3 others) at 15.  He is behind only David Ortiz in RBI.  Cano is even batting .293/.345/.585, and average is not his specialty.  Nelson Cruz has also stayed strong and relevant.  The Mariners are finally in the competition this year as I predicted.  They have a young, balanced roster that can do great things.

 

  1. Baltimore Orioles (28-21)

 

This team had such a strong start, and even though they have tapered off a bit in May, you still can’t count them out.  In the Orioles unexpected strong start, Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado got started on amazing seasons, and they have thrived in May as well.  Surprise playmaker Joey Rickard has built off an amazing spring training.  Even with Trumbo and Rickard hot, Machado still leads the team in hitting, batting .311/.387/.611.  Machado has 13 dingers and Trumbo has 15, tied for the league lead.  Their rotation has been the issue in May.  Key starter Yovani Gallardo, added this off-season is hurt, making the rotation once again unstable.  Chris Tillman has bounced back well, but they have struggled otherwise.  However, in the end they have stayed competitive throughout the season and I believe they will continue to do that.  

 

  1. Texas Rangers (30-21)

 

Injuries and all, this team has still been able to keep things up.  Shin-Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton are still out, but young outfielders Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo have taken their places, and Mazara is hitting .309!  Yu Darvish just returned, and he looks good as ever.  Wins have been tough in Texas but as a team, they have been able to stay strong, keep up with the AL West and thrive. Usually, the Rangers have either a cold start or collapse late.  Right now, it looks like neither will happen as long as they continue getting healthier.  

 

  1. Chicago White Sox (28-25)

 

The White Sox have definitely been on a downtrend, but after such a good start, you can’t underestimate them.  The rotation is still strong, young Jose Quintana is in her prime and Chris Sale is still pitching at Cy Young level.  Todd Frazier is tied for league lead in homers at 15.  However, the rest of the lineup has began to slump this month.  They had a really good run in April, but now, their strength is starting to taper off.  Sure, Adam Eaton has kept a decent average, but nobody has hit well in this month particularly.  Still, you can’t count strong April teams out, even teams like the White Sox and Reds.  

 

  1. Cleveland Indians (26-24)

 

The Indians started slow, but have really kept up with the division this month.  Young hitters Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have heated up.  Veterans like Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and even Mike Napoli have had strong months. Each of them have a low average, but a good amount of dingers and RBIs, resulting in a decent slugging percentage.  Their rotation has also had a good month, even without Carlos Carrasco.  Danny Salazar has been pitching well consistently and Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin have also contributed.  In the end, the Indians could be playoff-worthy if they keep up this level of play.  

 

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates (29-22)

 

This team has been surging forward lately after a rough start.  The lineup has been on fire.  Josh Harrison, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are all hitting .310 or higher.  Polanco has 36 RBI, Andrew McCutchen has 9 dingers and Marte has a whopping 17 stolen bases!  Despite rotation struggles, this team has functioned due to a powerful lineup consisting of Josh Harrison and a great outfield in Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.  

 

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (28-25)

 

The Dodgers aren’t as sharp as usual, but they’re still doing alright.  The rotation is successful as ever.  Clayton Kershaw, tied with Jake Arrieta, leads the league in ERA.  He also leads in strikeouts, WHIP and innings pitched alone.  He is in a 4-way tie for most complete games.  Kenta Maeda as also been serviceable.  Between many ups and downs, Maeda has exactly a 3.00 ERA.  However, the bullpen has struggled, and besides Adrian Gonzalez and Corey Seager (neither has a .300 BA or 10 homers), they aren’t hitting.  

 

  1. Kansas City Royals (28-22)

 

The Royals aren’t in great shape.  Mike Moustakas is out for the season, Alex Gordon is hurt (again!) and the lineup has had a lot of general road blocks.  However, young risers Cheslor Cuthbert, Whit Merrifield, Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson have stepped up, and the Royals still have Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain.  In fact, Hosmer has a .328 AVG, chasing the league best.  He also has 10 dingers and 35 RBIs.  Lorenzo Cain has stayed hot from the postseason as well, similarly to Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals. However, pitching has once again been a major problem.  The Royals have again struggled to find an ace with Johnny Cueto gone.  Yes, Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez have still shown the qualities, but are too inconsistent.  Right now, them along with Ian Kennedy and the rest of the rotation have seriously slumped, and we haven’t seen anything from Volquez or Ventura.  Ventura even has a whopping 5.17 ERA!  The Royals are lucky the bullpen has stayed strong and found a new dependable closer.  

 

  1. Houston Astros (23-29)

 

Sure, the Astros have been pretty sloppy this season, but they are a good team.  I’m sure they can come back, and they’ve already shown signs of surging forward.  Jose Altuve has been on fire, batting .329 and stealing 15 bases while scoring 42 runs.  George Springer also has 13 dingers, 34 RBI and a .290 average. Even Colby Rasmus has had some hot stretches, with 8 homers and 31 RBI. The lineup is still in shape, but the rotation has been a mess!  The lowest ERA in the rotation belongs to Doug Fister at 3.86, and nobody has more than 5 wins.  Despite 64 strikeouts, Dallas Keuchel has been terrible following a Cy Young award, the second straight Cy Young surprise to do so.  If this rotation doesn’t step it up, this team won’t be able to surge any further.  But if they pull it together, the ‘Stros could make a comeback.  

 

  1. Toronto Blue Jays (27-26)

 

At the start of the season, it was looking to be like last year.  Minimal pitching, strong hitting.  But analysts were wrong.  The rotation has been solid, while the lineup has been good, but inconsistent.  The best guys like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion are still playing decent baseball, and Michael Saunders is warming up, but nobody is at their normal level of play.  The rotation on the other hand, has been surprisingly strong.  Marco Estrada (2.43 ERA) and Aaron Sanchez (2.99 ERA) have been spot-on, with ERAs under 3.00, and even with top guys Marcus Stroman and R.A. Dickey struggling, once borderline starter J.A. Happ has put up a whopping 3.06 ERA.  The Blue Jays could start to catch up with the top of the AL East, but they need their best lineup weapons back on track.  

 

  1. Detroit Tigers (24-26)

 

This team may be struggling, but they do have some impactful players.  Victor Martinez is on fire, batting .347/.390/.551.  Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera also have above .300 batting averages and J.D. Martinez and Miggy have 12 dingers apiece.  Plus, Jordan Zimmermann still has a 2.58 ERA after starting the year with an impressive stretch where he had a 0.00 ERA.  However, the rest of the rotation has also been in decline, for them more serious than J-Zimm.  Justin Verlander may have 77 strikeouts, but besides him and Zimmermann, the rotation has really fallen asleep this month.  Even the lineup saw more of its production in April.  Are this team’s best players only going to get less productive as the months go by?

 

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (27-25)

 

For so many seasons, the Cardinals were in playoff contention.  What happened this year?  Well, for starters, the rotation is a man down with Lance Lynn out for the season while recovering from off season Tommy John surgery.  Jaime Garcia wasn’t even expected to be at regular starter level.  But really, even though Garcia has a 3.48 ERA, the rest of the rotation was worse!  The rotation is worsening significantly!  The lineup is also led by surprising players.  Only Aledmys Diaz and Stephen Piscotty have averages over .300!  The reason that the Cards are struggling is that the only players are still performing are the unexpectedly good players, and they’ve only been slightly above replacement level!  They’re missing production from their best stars, and that’s making a huge impact, causing St. Louis to go from playoff contender to .500 team.  

 

  1. Miami Marlins (26-25)

 

The Marlins may have improved overall, but now they’re stuck in mediocrity.  Who has impacted the improvement?  For one thing, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna have hit as well as if not better than fellow outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.  Stanton still has 12 home runs, but Yelich is batting .328 with 5 dingers and Ozuna is batting .314 with 11 dingers.  Stanton has an average of just .202!  Even if the rest of the rotation has struggled, Jose Fernandez is right on his game!  Fernandez is 9-2 with a 2.29 ERA, 110 K, 74.2 IP and a 1.06 WHIP.  Those are some under the radar numbers.  However, nobody else in the rotation has an ERA below 3.50 or even 5 wins!  The rest of the rotation is doing even poorly than last year.  That never helps in a resurgence.  

 

  1. Colorado Rockies (23-27)

 

How is this team performing?  The rotation clearly isn’t doing anything to help.  Most likely, it’s a boost from the lineup.  After an unbelievable April, Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado are still on their game.  Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon have upped their averages as additional help.  Even DJ LeMahieu and Mark Reynolds have boosted their power.  All of that plus 18 dingers from Arenado and 15 from Story.  What will even happen to Jose Reyes when he returns?  Story pretty much locked up the job for the season.  Arenado is tied for the best in the league in homers.  Arenado has 47 RBI and 42 runs to add to it.  Tyler Chatwood even has an under 3.00 ERA right now, even with the rest of the pitching staff doing foolishly bad.  

 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays (22-27)

 

They may be nearing the Yankees and Jays, but recovery from their slump will be tougher for them than the Blue Jays and Yankees.  With 14 homers and a .281 average, Evan Longoria is the only major power source in this lineup.  Like the rest of the division, even the once all-powerful league leading rotation is struggling!  Nobody has an ERA lower than 3.33, and only Drew Smyly has 70+ Ks.  So, between injuries, slumping players, an underperforming rotation and holes in the lineup, the Rays are stuck in a pretty ugly position.  

 

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (26-25)

 

I don’t know how the Phillies have kept up with the MLB this well, but what matters is they have.  This team is above .500 for the first time in 3-4 years!  Aaron Nola is suddenly a rotation leader.  He has a 2.65 ERA, 85 strikeouts and an 0.99 WHIP!  Some other pitchers have been on top of things as well.  Vincent Velasquez has been a quality starter even though he just transferred to the starter position, and Jeanmar Gomez has 18 saves as the new closer.  Even some hitters have performed, at least serviceably.  Odubel Herrera is hitting .317/.426/.436, and Maikel Franco has 10 dingers and 31 RBI.  

 

  1. Milwaukee Brewers (23-28)

 

The Brewers definitely look better this season.  For one thing, unexpected lineup sources have made the leap this season.  Jonathan Villar is hitting .307 with a league leading 21 stolen bases and 31 runs.  Chris Carter has bounced back with 14 dingers and 34 RBI.  Some lineup vets have also stayed on track.  Ryan Braun is hitting .337/.406/.552 with 9 homers and a .959 OPS.  Jonathan Lucroy is hitting just above .300.  However, the rotation is business as usual.  Only Jimmy Nelson has an ERA even below 4.00!  Nobody has 70 strikeouts, a 1.10 WHIP or more than 5 wins either.  This lineup may be turning it around, but the rotation’s bad reputation is holding this team back.  

 

  1. San Diego Padres (20-30)

 

Better roster, not going to cut it.  Better stats, not going to cut it.  What will at this point?  Some better overall team effort.  Matt Kemp may have his 14 homers and 41 RBI, Jon Jay and Wil Myers may be able to hit for average, but as a team, the Padres aren’t functioning.  Although the best Padres players are thriving, the rest of the team has failed to produce.  Piling  up on prospects after trading James Shields and James Loney may help for the future, but for now, the Padres need to find a different solution.  Everyone on the roster needs to find a way to contribute.  

 

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks (23-30)

 

It seems as if the Diamondbacks have bounced back.  Their stats are up, their young players are contributing as expected, and things look to be going as planned for the most part.  Then I saw their record and had no idea how they let that happen.  You might be wondering too after all that.  Well, I have answers.  Jean Segura may have been hot in May, but right now, it seems to be a quick moving fad, as he has seriously declined late in the month.  Robbie Ray may have 72 K and Zack Greinke may be 7-3 with 71 K, but otherwise, the rotation has severely struggled.  Again, it seems as if they’re fine, but really, they’re not producing consistently enough.  Also, A.J. Pollock is hurt, and besides well known veteran Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb, the lineup has only been mediocre.  In fact, everyone on the team has an average between .200 and .300.  Now that really shows that when it comes to mediocrity, this  lineup is at rock bottom.  

 

  1. New York Yankees (25-26)

 

This team’s record is decent, but they aren’t in the best shape.  Carlos Beltran may have 14 home runs and 36 RBI, but nobody has a .300+ average and nobody else has more than 8 homers or 24 RBI.  This team hasn’t hit for power or average.  The rotation?  They’ve been alright, but inconsistent.  Some pitchers are by far more dependable than others.  Masahiro Tanaka and Nathan Eovaldi have stayed strong, but TE remainder of the rotation has not been good news.  This team has been decent has a team, but needs some players to make the leap or return to the star form they once held, or this team is going to fall apart.  

 

  1. Cincinnati Reds (17-34)

 

Not bad considering the Reds finished last year with most of their stars on the DL and as the 2nd worst team by record.  However, almost none of their new and improved performance took place in May.  One reason for that is injuries striking back.  The Reds lost Homer Bailey long term, and Raisel Iglesias got hurt.  The rotation is desperate for depth, there’s not many people left to replace who’s injured.  Nobody has an ERA under 3.00.  Nobody even had 60 strikeouts or 5 wins!  The lineup is gaining form at least.  Jay Bruce has 40 RBI and 35 runs and is hitting .279 with 13 dingers, Zack Cozart is hitting .301 with 8 dingers and Eugenio Suarez (13) and Joey Votto (11) each have piled up a good number of home runs.  Adam Duvall is chasing the top of the league in homers with 17 of them and 38 RBI. Joey Votto also has 34 RBI and Eugenio Suarez has 33.   Billy Hamilton even has 15 stolen bases.  So the lineup may be taking shape, but in order for this team to get back on track, the rotation needs to get healthy and get in shape!

 

  1. Atlanta Braves (15-35)

 

This team may have an ugly record, but  they aren’t as cold as some other teams, giving them a higher rank.  However, besides some good run totals, it seems as if the Braves lineup  has fallen asleep.  The highest average is Freddie Freeman’s measly .248.  In the rotation, nobody even has 3 wins and only Julio Teheran (2.92) has an under 3.00 ERA.  This team is still one of, if not the worst team in the league normally.  But believe it or not, there are teams that were cooler, have a worse record or put even less effort in this month.

 

  1. Oakland Athletics (23-29)

 

Okay, Khris Davis may have 14 dingers, but this team has sucked in May.  They started off alright in April, but have seriously flopped since.  Injuries are one problem.  Eric Sogard, Liam Hendriks, Sonny Gray, Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick and Josh Phegley were hurt for a large portion of the month.  Chris Bassitt is out for the season in an already weak rotation and Rich Hill is the only pitcher with more than 3 wins and has a 2.25 ERA.  Currently, the A’s are down to just a 4 man rotation that looks like this:

 

  1. Sonny Gray
  2. Kendall Graveman
  3. Sean Manaea
  4. Jesse Hahn

 

Even with Sonny Gray back, Rich Hill now could be hurt.  Down goes the most valuable A’s pitcher too!  The A’s are down to the last straw.  If things don’t change fast, they’re done for.  

 

  1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (23-28)

 

Yes, I was expecting the Angels to go far downhill, but this is getting absolutely pathetic.  Mike Trout is still doing pretty well, hitting .309 with 13 homers and 43 RBI.  Yunel Escobar and Kole Calhoun have contributed too.  But I can’t bare watching the rotation!  Jered Weaver is a complete bust, and so is Hector Santiago.  With C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards (out for Tommy John surgery) and Andrew Heaney hurt, the Angels are left with just Matt Shoemaker, Nick Tropeano (even he’s hurt now!) and Jhoulys Chacin behind them.  When they were at rock bottom, David Huff tried to step in.  That hasn’t worked either.  So the lineup is still in mediocrity but the rotation doesn’t have anything left to work with as of right now.  

 

  1. Minnesota Twins (15-35)

 

Alright, this team’s pitching staff still has most of its members healthy, but it’s still pathetic.  Nobody has even an ERA under 4.50 or 3 wins!  With Kyle Gibson only coming back in time to start June.  In May they were left with Ervin Santana, Tyler Duffey and Ricky Nolasco to create a 4-man rotation with one prospect.  The Twins had to rush their prospects up to MLB level to maintain a sustainable rotation.  The lineup is the only sign of slim hope for the Twins.  Eduardo Nunez is batting .332 with 30 RBI, and if Eduardo Escobar were healthy, he wouldn’t even be a starter most likely!  Miguel Sano and Byung-Ho Park may have low averages, however, they have 11 dingers apiece, and Sano has 27 RBI. Joe Mauer is hitting .281 with 7 dingers as well.  Those are respectable numbers, but compared to the rest of the MLB, come on!  Compared to MLB leaders, the Twins lineup is also a big disappointment.  If the lineup doesn’t take it up a notch or the rotation doesn’t recover, the Twins aren’t going anywhere.  They’ll be 30th best for the rest of the season, no higher, no lower.  

 

That wraps up May’s rankings.  Be on the lookout for June rankings later this month.  

MLB Preseason Power Rankings

The Nationals have bounced back with the Royals as 2014 begins

1 Nationals
2 Rangers
3 Dodgers
4 Red Sox
5 Tigers
6 Cardinals
7 Royals
8 Yankees
9 Reds
10 Giants
11 Rays
12 Athletics
13 Braves
14 Angels
15 Indians
16 Phillies
17 Pirates
18 D-Backs
19 Orioles
20 Blue Jays
21 Brewers
22 Mariners
23 Cubs
24 Mets
25 Rockies
26 Padres
27 White Sox
28 Marlins
29 Twins
30 Astros