It’s incredibly hard to believe, but we’re just about a month into the 2013 MLB season. We’re still a solid three weeks away from the “Danger Zone” (teams really shouldn’t worry about the standings until Memorial Day, at the earliest), but that hasn’t stopped some fan bases from starting to freak out even the slightest.
So, who are this week’s biggest climbers? Which teams took a tumble out of the Top 10? Is it time to believe in the Colorado Rockies? Greg Kaplan shares with us the dirty details..
**NOTE: RECORDS ARE FINAL AS OF 4/28**
1. Texas Rangers (+1, 16-9)
Pitching has long been viewed as the hurdle that could keep the Rangers from being the strong, top-of-the-division team they have been the last few years. Additional injuries to Matt Harrison, coupled with the injuries to Feliz and Colby Lewis only reinforced that worry. However, Yu Darvish has been nothing short of magical, Justin Grimm has stepped up in his first three starts since his promotion, while Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando continue to be more than just rotational fillers. Right now, it seems as though the Rangers are primed, when everyone is healthy, to have a deep, loaded rotation for a run in October.
2. Boston Red Sox (+4, 18-7)
Alex Herd wrote for us last week that Yu Darvish has made his claim to the Cy Young in the month of April, but I think he forgot about Clay Buchholz, who may have a better case. Five starts, all quality, 5-0, 1.19 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. It’s hard to pitch better than that in your first month of the season. While it’s hard to imagine Buchholz continuing this kind of domination the rest of the way, his remarkable improvement, Jon Lester’s return to form and their shutdown bullpen (save Alfredo Aceves, who has been demoted), this Boston pitching staff is absolutely for real.
3. New York Yankees (+4, 15-9)
We can keep telling ourselves that it’s only a matter of time until all of their injuries catch up to them, but what’s to say that they actually will? Add Francisco Cervelli and Ivan Nova to the list of injured Yanks. However, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner have combined to hit 12 home runs (what), Brett Gardner has tallied 12 RBI to go with his three home runs (he had 15 entering this season, and averaged about 30 RBI a year) and Robinson Cano continues to be Robinson Cano. Maybe, just maybe, as the Yankees start to get healthy, they keep this type of success up throughout the rest of the season.
4. Atlanta Braves (-3, 15-9)
The hard truth is, the Braves weren’t going to win games at the pace they were to begin their season. The real question for Atlanta has to be their offense. Yes, Justin Upton has hit home runs at a near-historic pace. However, considering he has 12 home runs, you’d think he’d have more than just 19 RBI. Jason Heyward is out until the end of May (and was slumping before his injury), the team has had zero production from both B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla (or, as my buddy Jim O’Donnell, resident Braves fan, refers to him as, Struggla) and their no better than middle-of-the-pack in just about every offensive category. Not to mention, they were struck out 17 times in eight innings by Anibal Sanchez. Not Justin Verlander, or even Max Scherzer. Anibal Sanchez. Red flag raised.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (+11, 15-10)
Amazing what a team can do when they start hitting as a unit. It’s not like the Pirates had an easy road of it, either, sweeping three straight from Atlanta, taking three of four from the Phillies and then taking two over the weekend from the Cardinals as well. Hence the jump in 11 spots in the Power Rankings, the largest gain of any individual team this week. The road isn’t getting easier, however, as they play three against Milwaukee and Washington. This is the part of the schedule insiders would expect them to struggle, so brownie points are being earned for their impressive showing.
6. Baltimore Orioles (+4, 15-10)
While pitching is still a concern in Baltimore (more so than ever with the elbow injury to super-prospect Dylan Bundy), the line-up has had no problem picking up the slack early on. Chris Davis (.352) and Adam Jones (.339) have combined for 48 RBI, Manny Machado has been on fire over the last couple of weeks and even Nate McLouth (yes, that Nate McLouth) is off to a .351/.455/.486 early season line.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (+2, 14-10)
It’s a Jekyll and Hyde situation in St. Louis right now. The starting rotation is out of their mind. Jake Westbrook is dreaming, so make sure nobody wakes him up from his 0.98 slumber. You come to expect greatness from Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller is living up to his expectations, and even Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn have been good, if not great. However, that bullpen. That bullpen is the only reason they’re not on top of the NL Central right now. They’re going to need more than Edward Mujica and Randy Choate to win the division. Hell, if you’re relying on Mujica and Choate period, you’re in some trouble.
8. Cincinnati Reds (-3, 14-12)
You get the feeling that the Reds are just lying in the weeds. Tony Cingrani has been better than advertised in his first three starts, striking out 28 batters in his first 18 innings while compiling a o.89 WHIP. The question is, does Cingrani stay in the rotation when Johnny Cueto comes off the DL? He has to, right? Also, can the Reds make a case for one of the best post-season 1-2-3′s with Latos/Cueto/Cingrani, then Chapman closing? Uh, yeah, they can.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks (+3, 15-10)
Considering Brandon McCarthy has been awful and Ian Kennedy has been underwhelming, Patrick Corbin has not only needed to step up, but has done so in impressive fashion. Every start has been quality, he leads the staff with his three wins and, teamed with Wade Miley, have truly buoyed the D’Backs to the top of the NL West.
10. Colorado Rockies (+1, 15-10)
Speaking of the top of the NL West, while the Rockies pitching still scares me, their offense has been arguably the best in baseball. The likes of Wilin Rosario, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler have been better than you could’ve asked for. However, the amount of heavy lifting they’re already doing will be required for the entirety of the regular season unless they make a move to shore up their rotational needs.
11. Detroit Tigers (+2, 13-10)
Miguel Cabrera has to be the best hitter in the game today. After a slow first week or so, Cabrera is back up to .363/.436/.559 with four HRs and 28 RBI. Between Cabrera and Prince Fielder, who is off to a blazing start of his own, the two have piled up 55 RBI in the first month of the season. Oh, and Anibal Sanchez struck out 17 Braves over the weekend. This team is going to be fine.
12. Oakland Athletics (-9, 14-12)
Just when the A’s were starting to hit a bit of a skid, Yoenis Cespedes came back from injury and immediately made an impact. The pitching has gone a little cold, but the rotation is both too talented and too deep to struggle for an extended period of time. I’m willing to chalk it up as a bad week and see what the A’s do on the rebound heading out of it.
13. Washington Nationals (-5, 13-12)
Jordan Zimmermann has to be the most underrated player in all of baseball. Period. End of discussion. Zimmermann rolls out of bed and puts up a quality start. Not just a three runs in six innings quality start, either. He’s already 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. Yes, other parts of the Nationals rotation have unexpectedly struggled to start the year, specifically Gio Gonzalez. As long as Jordan Zimmermann is healthy, everything will eventually be OK.
14. Kansas City Royals (+0, 13-9)
So far, so good on the Ervin Santana and James Shields fronts. Which brings us to Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Part of the reasoning behind moving Wil Myers in the first place to get Shields was the belief that Kansas City already had stars in their line-up playing their two corner infield positions. However, Hosmer is off to a slow start after a really poor sophomore season, ending the month of April without a home run and a .250/.337/.306 line, while Moustakas has fallen to .195/.276/.295. Again, it’s still relatively early and the Royals are winning despite their poor performances. Just something to keep your eye on a little longer.
15. San Francisco Giants (-11, 13-12)
This is the worst I’ve ever seen Matt Cain start a season. Before he became the star, front-line starter he is now, he was still the guy that would go seven innings, surrender two or fewer runs and not get run support (think Jordan Zimmermann). Now, however, he’s just all sorts of out of sync. I don’t think there is the fear of him becoming the next Tim Lincecum or anything like that as far as losing his touch, but it’s brow-raising for now.
16. Tampa Bay Rays (+4, 12-13)
At what point is it enough for the Rays to promote Wil Myers? Sure, he’s not exactly destroying the ball in AAA right now, but outside of Evan Longoria and James Loney (who knew?), nobody in Tampa Bay is hitting on a daily basis. Even BEN Zobrist (last week, I called him Evan. Apologies, Rays fans) has cooled off. If the Rays want to keep pace with the Red Sox, Orioles and Yankees, they’ll need to find offense. It would seem that some serious offense is sitting and waiting in AAA.
17. Los Angeles Dodgers (+0, 12-12)
It’s a good thing the Dodgers signed every and any starting pitcher this off-season, because they’re quickly running out of options for their starting rotation. Greinke, Capuano, Billingsley and even Stephen Fife have been lost to various injuries. The good news is of the pitchers that have been left standing, both Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been very impressive. When/if the offense gets going, the Dodgers should be able to remain near the top of the division and Wild Card races.
18. Milwaukee Brewers (+0, 12-11)
Carlos Gomez has caught fire. He already has 12 extra base hits this season as part of his .360/.415/.616 early season line. Paired with Jean Segura and his .367/.418/.567 start, Ryan Braun and Yuniesky Betancourt (wait, what?) have had a field day hitting behind them in the Brewers line-up.
19. Philadelphia Phillies (+4, 12-14)
Look, I’m just going to say it. Ryan Howard looks like a shadow of the player he used to be. It is painful to see him try to run or stretch for a ball in the dirt at first base. I don’t know if he’s playing injured, or if he’s never fully healed from his Achilles injury, but he is permanently hobbled. At least there’s not a ton of money and years left on his contract…
20. Minnesota Twins (+2, 11-10)
The best story out of Minnesota so far this season has to be the performances of Kevin Correia. Through his first five starts, he’s put together a 3-1 record with a 2.23 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. The remarkable part of it all is Correia has done all this while striking out 3.72 batters per nine innings. He’s playing to contact, and balls are just finding gloves right now. How long that lasts, well, we’ll see.
21. Los Angeles Angels (-2, 9-15)
The lesson we’ve learned so far this season? It doesn’t matter how many weapons you have in your line-up when nobody is going to pitch for you. The starting rotation has combined for only 11 quality starts in their first 26 games, and no starter has an ERA better than Tommy Hanson’s 3.91. Of course, it also doesn’t help when your star pick-up last offseason is only hitting .204/.252/.296.
22. New York Mets (-7, 10-13)
-___- I still don’t know entirely what this face even means, but I feel it accurately describes where this Mets season is, and where it is likely to go.
23. Seattle Mariners (+3, 11-16)
Leave it to the Mariners to have two starting pitchers compile ERAs below 2.00, combine to throw 10 quality starts, strike out 91 batters in a total of 80+ innings, and yet post a combine record of 5-3. Moving in the fences can help your team only so much when the product on the field is inadequate to compete. Just ask the Mets.
24. Chicago White Sox (+1, 10-14)
Not much is going right for the ChiSox right now. Adam Dunn has his strikeout percentage at 36.4%, Chris Sale has cooled off considerably, and no everyday player not named Conor Gillaspie is hitting over .300. A lot of things need to start going right for the White Sox to get back on track.
25. Cleveland Indians (-1, 9-13)
Somewhere lost in the Indians start to the season has been the play of Carlos Santana. Outside of Indians fans and his fantasy owners, nobody is truly taking notice to his .389/.476/.722 start to the season. Almost half his hits have either been home runs or doubles (13 of 28), and he’s had Mark Reynolds and his 1.019 OPS right behind him as well.
26. Toronto Blue Jays (-5, 9-17)
Of the batters that qualify for the batting average race, J.P. Arencibia leads the way at .253. Of the starting pitchers that have had at least four starts, J.A. Happ is the only one with an ERA under 4. That, my friends, is why the Blue Jays have been off to such an incredibly poor start. Also, who had John Buck as the best player to come out of the seven-player Mets/Blue Jays trade that involved R.A. Dickey and Travis d’Arnaud?
27. Chicago Cubs (+0, 9-15)
It was a questionable move, at best, when the Cubs locked up pitcher Edwin Jackson to a five-year deal in the off-season. He’s done nothing to silence the critics thus far, coming out of the gates with a 6.27 ERA and a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (34 to 17).
28. San Diego Padres (+0, 9-15)
Eric Stults, Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard have combined to make 16 starts so far this year. None has an ERA below 5.50. Need I say more.
29. Houston Astros (+0, 7-18)
Normally this is the time where we talk about how Jose Altuve is a near lock to get into his second consecutive All-Star game. Instead, I’d like to focus on Lucas Harrell a little. If there’s any reason to believe in a light at the end of the tunnel, Astros fans have to like what they’ve seen from Harrell, who leads the team in wins, ERA and strikeouts out of the gates. His last two starts have been his best, so how he develops throughout the rest of the season is a story line to watch.
30. Miami Marlins (+0, 6-19)
Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs hit third and fourth for the Marlins with Giancarlo Stanton now on the DL.