Throughout the 2014 MLB Season, Greg Kaplan and Alex Herd will brainstorm the MLB Power Rankings, stacking each team from 1-30.
This week’s rankings (cannot stress enough that this is only after two weeks of baseball, so everything will continue to change) feature movement from every team in the league. No team holds the same ranking as last week, with one team falling backwards more than 10 places.
The Dodgers take the top spot this week mostly because they’re playing hot baseball, all without their best player (Clayton Kershaw). Zack Greinke and Adrian Gonzalez have been doing their part putting the team on their backs, with Gonzalez hitting a small-sample size .280/.339/.680 with five homers. Greinke, meanwhile, has won all three of his starts and has struck out 21 in 16.1 innings pitched.
2. Milwaukee Brewers (+7, 10-2)
When I say everything is going perfectly right for the Brewers through two weeks, I mean literally everything is going perfectly right for the Brewers. Their bullpen has given up one run in 27.0 innings, Aramis Ramirez is partying like it’s 2003, Carlos Gomez is doing his best to prove 2013 was no fluke and every starting pitcher is on fire. Think about it: the team leads the league in ERA and WHIP, and are second in quality starts and batting average against. How long will this last? There’s no way to know, but it has to be fun for Brewers fans for now.
3. San Francisco Giants (-1, 8-5)
You know things are solid for the Giants when they’re getting grand slams from the likes of Madison Bumgarner. Michael Morse seems to be primed for a resurgent campaign, and Brandon Belt already has five home runs to his credit as well. The Giants have won eight of 13 games with very little help from their starting pitching, which actually is an encouraging sign for how strong this team will be when the starters click. They have a second series with the Dodgers coming up this week to battle for early bragging rights, though it’s still too early in the season to put extreme importance on a three-game set. Interesting side note: the Giants won’t play an out-of-division opponent this season until April 25th. I can’t remember the last time that has happened.
4. Oakland A’s (+9, 8-4)
Our first American League team in the rankings, not sure a lot of people would’ve pegged the A’s to be that squad. Sonny Gray has been nearly flawless to begin the season, humming along with a 0.95 ERA, 19 strikeouts and an impressive 82.6% strand rate. His numbers will come back to Earth eventually, but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t involved in the Cy Young voting come October.
St. Louis has been average across the board to begin the season, and yet they sit at 7-5 and in prime position for when the Brewers decide to come down off their high (if they ever come off that high). Yadier Molina and Michael Wacha have probably been the two best Cardinals through the first 12 games, but if you think Matt Holliday is going to slug just .341 for the whole season, you’re crazy. Once he and Allen Craig (.122/.178/.122) snap out of their early-season funks, the middle of this line-up will become much more forceful, and the Cardinals won’t be even in run differential.
6. Tampa Bay Rays (-1, 7-6)
It’s hard for any team to lose 40% of their starting rotation to injury in one week. It’s even harder when those starters are Matt Moore and Alex Cobb. It helps that both Chris Archer and David Price have been strong through their first pair of starts, but the Rays are going to be relying more on the likes of Erik Bedard, Cesar Ramos and Jake Odorizzi than they were expecting to this year. I’d be more concerned about the Rays losing Matt Moore potentially for the entire season if every other team wasn’t having the exact same problems.
7. Atlanta Braves (-3, 8-4)
As someone who saw Aaron Harang pitch at the end of 2013 first hand, let me be the first (or second, or third) to tell you that his current 0.96 ERA will not last. Still, it’s a very impressive figure through his first three starts. And the Braves rotation is starting to get healthy around him, with Ervin Santana in the fold after signing late in Spring Training and Mike Minor just a few more weeks away. If this team could get literally anything from Dan Uggla (.195/.227/.244) and B.J. Upton (.191/.208/.319), this team starts to get scary good on both sides of the ball.
8. Detroit Tigers (-7, 6-4)
Considering the Tigers have won 60% of their games so far in the early season and haven’t had much help from Miguel Cabrera along the way (.225/.279/.375), I’d say things are going pretty damn well. Detroit has only had to use four starting pitchers so far this season, and both Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have continued to be dominant. The bullpen, however, is another story. Small samples and all, Joe Nathan’s 9.64 ERA and four walks in 4.2 innings are worrisome.
9. Washington Nationals (-3, 7-5)
Injuries are hitting the Nationals hard. First, they lost third baseman Ryan Zimmerman for the next four to six weeks thanks to a broken thumb. Then, center fielder Denard Span suffered a concussion that forced him to the 7-day DL. Doug Fister is yet to make his first Nationals appearance as well. Despite the offense churning right along, the starting pitching hasn’t been what many expected their first couple trips through the rotation, especially Jordan Zimermann. Again, it’s early, and it’s not like the panic button needs to be hit. It’s just something worth watching.
I now know what it’s like to be a Rangers, A’s, Mariners or Astros fan when it comes to facing Mike Trout. I’ve seen him play plenty of times, but never against the team I root for (Mets). He’s terrifying, both in the field and at the plate. I just assume everything hit to center is going to be caught, and that he’s finding his way on base every time he comes to the plate. So, the fact that he’s already racked up a 1.1 fWAR (through 12 games!!!!) while hitting .320/.382/.640 doesn’t surprise me. Or that his current 1.1 fWAR puts him on pace for a 14.9 fWAR for the entire season. The Angels aren’t paying him enough money.
11. Texas Rangers (+3, 6-6)
Awfully nice to have a healthy Yu Darvish back in the mix, isn’t it? He became the fastest pitcher to 500 strikeouts in baseball history, and hasn’t given up an earned run in his first two starts while only walking two batters and holding opponents to a .211 batting average against. Colby Lewis is back from injury, which will help add depth to the starting rotation. Once Prince Fielder starts hitting (.149/.245/.191), this team will be a hard beat for the A’s and Angels.
12. Pittsburgh Pirates (-4, 6-6)
Again, it’s not often you’re encouraged by being .500, but the Pirates fall into that early-season category. No Pittsburgh regular is hitting better than Travis Snider’s .289. Andrew McCutchen only has three extra-base hits and no home runs. Pedro Alvarez, despite his five home runs, is only hitting .178. The Pirates offense is better than how they’re performing now, though they still really need a first baseman (Travis Ishikawa is hitting .226/.265/.419). Offer up any half-decent pitching prospect to the Mets for Ike Davis, and he’s yours.
13. Boston Red Sox (-3, 5-8)
The only thing about the Red Sox 5-8 start that would have me worried is if Koji Uehara’s shoulder injury is more serious than the team believes right now. Otherwise, they’re going to be fine. Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop aren’t going to be this bad in the ‘pen all season long. Same goes for Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz in the starting rotation. You’re not supposed to take the standings seriously until Memorial Day, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do with the defending champions.
14. Seattle Mariners (-3, 6-5)
Felix Hernandez really is the King. He’s won all three of his starts this season, and has done so while striking out 35.7% of the batters he’s faced and walking just 2.4% of the batters he’s faced. Losing James Paxton to the DL is a blow, considering Taijuan Walker is working his way back from injury as well. However, the Mariners are only going to be as good as their offense, and they’ll need more from everyone in the line-up not named Cano or Ackley (though, they need more from Cano as well, who can’t be slugging .381 all season long).
15. New York Yankees (+5, 7-6)
The Yankees used Carlos Beltran at first base on Sunday night. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. All things considered, the Yankees are – so far, at least – surviving their injuries, especially with cult hero Yangervis Solarte chugging along at .357/.413/.500. However, if you expect Yangervis Solarte to continue hitting at that rate, you’re as stupid as you are naive. And it’s great that C.C. Sabathia lost a lot of weight in the off-season, but he’s still not pitching like C.C. Sabathia. The Yankees need Sabathia and Ivan Nova to be much better if they want to be contenders this season. Otherwise, they’ll be middle-of-the-pack.
Jose Abreu is becoming must-watch baseball. Every scout is calling him the best hitter to come out of Cuba in a generation (seemingly forgetting the hot start Yasiel Puig had last year, or at least willfully ignoring it), and his early control of the strike zone is impressive. Considering his BABIP is sitting at .243 early on, there’s plenty of room for more improvement from his current .255/.361/.588 line. That has to make Vinny Ginardi incredibly excited.
17. Toronto Blue Jays (+4, 7-6)
Everybody was worried the Blue Jays wouldn’t have the pitching to compete in the AL East this year, and everybody should still be worried. Yes, Mark Buehrle is off the a hot start, pumping out a 0.86 ERA in his first three starts. However, behind him, there are more question marks than we can count. R.A. Dickey isn’t the 2012 Dickey, and may never be (it really does pain me to say that). Brandon Morrow has been up and down, which is in line with his career track record. There needs to be more from the rotation, and I’m not suggesting for them to only be more consistent. They have to outperform their standards for this team to even be a threat.
18. Cleveland Indians (+1, 6-7)
There isn’t one Cleveland starting pitcher outside of Zach McAllister that is performing up to their potential right now. It’s fun to see that 10 of the 11 outs Danny Salazar recorded in a start last week were by strikeout, but it’s equally important to remember that he gave up five runs along the way. And also that he didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. The good news for the Indians is that their pitching is not going to be this bad all season, and they’re only a game below .500 at this point.
19. Baltimore Orioles (-3, 5-7)
Which do Orioles fans think is less likely to continue: Chris Davis slugging .419 through two weeks, or Ubaldo Jimenez walking 12.8% of the batters he’s faced to this point? Chris Davis has been fine outside of his power drought (just one home run thus far), but Jimenez has been downright terrible. Hitters have a .380 BABIP against him thus far, and he has struggled to keep pitches in the strike zone all together. Jimenez isn’t the only Orioles pitcher struggling early on this year, but he may be the most important piece that needs to rebound, and quickly.
I was pretty high on the Royals coming in to the 2014 season, and I’m not ready to panic just yet. Every starter not named Bruce Chen has been very good to begin the season, and the offense is not going to hit .239 as a team the entire season. Billy Butler is much better than his early .154/.244/.154 line. Same goes for Eric Hosmer’s .244/.311/.317. However, how long is the leash on Mike Moustakas? He was an out machine in 2013, and has started 2014 off at .111/.220/.167. How long do the Royals go before they look for other options at third, especially if they have their eyes on competing for a playoff spot this year?
21. Minnesota Twins (+8, 6-6)
The most incredible stat I’ve seen to begin this season is that Mike Pelfrey has thrown his fastball 94% of the time in his first couple starts. Even Bartolo Colon is embarrassed by that many fastballs. Also doesn’t help Big Pelf that he’s working with a 7.84 ERA and 9.04 FIP to begin his season. Pelfrey’s struggles seem to be contagious at this point in the rotation as well, with Kevin Correia, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes also sporting ERAs over 5.00.
22. Philadelphia Phillies (+6, 6-6)
Cliff Lee’s 15 strikeouts to one walk ratio is awfully nice. His 29 hits allowed in 18.0 innings pitched, however, is jarring. The Phillies got the benefit of facing the ice-cold Marlins last week, and Chase Utley cruising right along at a .500/.565/.875 through his first 40 at bats is awfully nice. Sustainable? No, but very, very nice. Also, if the key to getting Jimmy Rollins to do anything is to heckle him endlessly, Phillies fans should do that more often (and Mets fans, heed this warning).
23. Cincinnati Reds (-8, 4-8)
It has been a struggle early on for the Reds, and it’s only going to get harder with the setback Mat Latos suffered over the weekend. Jay Bruce (.179/.353/.410) and Billy Hamilton (.154/.195/.231 and only two stolen bases) have been the main culprits offensively. The question surrounding Hamilton heading into this season was would he be able to get on base enough to be a difference. Through two weeks, that clearly hasn’t been the case. It’s still early, but it’s going to be the main story line for the Reds entire season (that is, if injuries don’t become the main story line for every team this year).
24. Colorado Rockies (-1, 6-7)
Speaking of injuries, who had Brett Anderson hitting the DL by April 13th in your office pool? It’s really such a shame. Anderson has all the talent in the world to be a special pitcher, but injuries have been derailing his career left and right. Staying on the pitching front, considering Franklin Morales and Jorge De La Rosa both have ERAs over 6.00, I’d say Rockies fans are quite happy they sit only one game below .500 at this point in the season.
25. New York Mets (-1, 5-7)
As someone who watches the Mets on a daily basis, this team should be thrilled they even have five wins to this point. Nobody is hitting outside of Juan Lagares and the bullpen is a ticking time bomb. The offense is better than the .207/.283/.328 line they’re producing right now (at least, I think they are), so there is significant progression towards the mean in the Mets future. The starting pitching, outside of Bartolo Colon’s disaster yesterday in LA, has been what should be expected. I still believe this is a .500 team. It just may not be pretty getting there.
26. San Diego Padres (+1, 5-7)
Padres fans may understand what Mets fans are going through in terms of poor offensive starts, hitting .228/.272/.343 collectively. Chase Headley has fallen out of the gates face first, hitting .186/.222/.302. Put that with the likes of Will Venable and Jedd Gyorko who are both hitting .163 and you have yourself an inability to score runs consistently. The pitching has been impressive, with Andrew Cashner opening eyes through his first three starts. But, it’s awfully hard to win games consistently when your team isn’t hitting.
27. Chicago Cubs (+3, 4-8)
EMILIO! Whatever your feelings are personally towards Bonafacio, coming out of the gates hitting .392/.436/.451 with seven stolen bases is really impressive (and what Reds fans were hoping to get from Billy Hamilton at this same point). Jeff Samardzija, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have been off to hot starts as well, which is usually enough to get a team out of the blocks well. Not the case here, as the team collective continues to struggle behind them.
28. Miami Marlins (-13, 5-8)
Remember that time the Marlins were 12th in the Power Rankings? Seems like a long time ago already, doesn’t it? Well, free falling 13 spots is kind of what happens when a team drops seven-straight games. Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton are still putting on shows for baseball fans across the country, and the team as a whole still has middle-of-the-pack numbers, at worst. Could it be just a cold week, or is it a sign of more things to come for the Marlins in this variety?
29. Arizona Diamondbacks (-4, 4-11)
I didn’t think the Diamondbacks were ready to compete for a playoff spot like others did in Spring Training, but I also didn’t think they’d be this bad this early. The pitching has been downright ugly, sporting a team ERA of 5.95. Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill both have ERAs north of 7.00 (yikes), and Wade Miley is north of 5.00. In fact, Bronson Arroyo is the only pitcher to have started a game this year with an ERA below 5.00, and even then, he sits at 4.82. You don’t have to be a huge believer in advanced stats, or any stats, to know that continuing at that clip will not win you any games.
30. Houston Astros (-4, 5-8)
I’m sorry, Astros fans. Even with the Diamondbacks free-falling, I still couldn’t put them below Houston. At least, not yet. The team is hitting .189/.262/.354 as a unit, and don’t have a single batter hitting over .290. There are still young, exciting pieces on the horizon, so when I say there’s nowhere to go but up, I mean it.