It’s still early, but three weeks into April is usually the time when some of the first-week mirages start to show themselves.
That’s reflected in this week’s power rankings, where change is finally afoot.
A new team has finally found its way into the No. 2 slot to push the scuffling AL champion Indians back a bit, with another pitching-rich club in the Mets making a large jump up to the top 10. But the biggest change comes from north of the border, where the Blue Jays’ prolonged April slump has sent a former top-10 staple to uncharted territory in the form of the bottom six.
After a wild Easter weekend of baseball, here’s how things stand around the league in Week 3 of theScore’s power rankings.
1. Chicago Cubs
On Saturday, a caller to a Chicago-area sports radio station suggested that the defending World Series champions’ 6-5 start to that point (they fell to 6-6 on Sunday) should cost Joe Maddon his job. We’d put even money on both Maddon and his Cubs players surviving this season-opening skid.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
After dropping a series at Wrigley, it turned out that the rival D-Backs were just the thing for the Dodgers to get rolling again. Now, thanks to a solid week of play that included yet another gem from Clayton Kershaw (against old friend Zack Greinke no less), dem Bums are breathing down the Rockies’ back.
3. Cleveland Indians
Did Edwin Encarnacion bring the Blue Jay flu to Ohio? He’s hitting just .205/.327/.295 with one home run in an Indians jersey, while the team around him has struggled to a sub-.500 start out of the gate and their vaunted starting staff has allowed the most runs in baseball. Still, it’s only April – things should change in a hurry.
4. Houston Astros
They’re breathing easy in Houston after X-rays on Carlos Correa’s hand came back negative – and also because their starting pitching is defying many expectations to boost their 8-4 start. Dallas Keuchel (0.86 ERA, 6.4 K/9) looks more like his Cy Young self, and the unit’s ground-ball rate of 55.5 percent is second-best in the majors.
5. Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale is already proving his worth in Beantown, and even set a strikeout record over the weekend. The rest of the Red Sox are starting to roll a bit, too: Mookie Betts hasn’t struck out yet, and Boston took two of three from Tampa Bay headed into Patriot’s Day. Look out, folks.
6. Baltimore Orioles
Although these birds got to feast on the sinking Blue Jays over the weekend, not all is well in Baltimore, as Zach Britton landed on the DL. For a team whose pitching basically relies on the success of its bullpen, losing the untouchable Britton for even the 10-day minimum is a big problem.
7. New York Mets
Before the season started, experts pinned all of the Mets’ hope on the health of their starting rotation. Fast forward two weeks, and the Mets bats rank among the best in the league by ISO. Carried by hot starts from Yoenis Cespedes, Travis d’Arnaud, and, yes, even Jay Bruce, the Mets are certainly counting on their pitching, but have shown they aren’t just their rotation.
8. Washington Nationals
As Bryce Harper goes, so do the Nationals – and right now he’s going. Harper’s mad dash scored the game-winning run in the 10th inning on Friday, and he capped off a fantastic week by walking off the Phillies on Sunday afternoon. Yes, his 2016 season may have been an anomaly.
9. Colorado Rockies
Jon Gray’s foot injury put a damper on the week, but Tyler Chatwood’s flirtation with perfection helped soften the blow for the Rockies, who are still sitting pretty atop the NL West after splitting in San Francisco.
10. Detroit Tigers
Break up the Tigers? Not so fast. Detroit took two of three in Cleveland over the weekend to extend its lead atop the AL Central, and the veteran team has yet to lose a series this season.
11. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks had a tough schedule to start the year but have held their own, not only serving the Indians their first loss of the season, but sweeping them. Mid-way through a 10-game road trip against division rivals, the team looks like it is getting the Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke that they were looking for last season; at least according to the peripherals.
12. New York Yankees
The loss of a starting catcher is always a hefty one, but especially so when your starter was Gary Sanchez and your replacements are Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka. Regardless, the Yankees are still riding a seven-game win streak heading into a week against the White Sox and Pirates.
13. Miami Marlins
Everything seems to be clicking for Miami at the right time; the bullpen is carrying an average rotation, while Giancarlo Stanton’s slumbering bat seems to have finally awoken with three home runs this past week.
14. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are currently riding a five-game losing streak at the hands of the Rangers and Royals – not particularly great teams. Compounding matters, their starting rotation is the worst in all of baseball by WAR. But employing Mike Trout is always worth something.
15. San Francisco Giants
The long answer: The Giants opted not to re-sign Angel Pagan and now have the fourth-worst outfield in the majors by WAR, relying on Chris Marrero and something called a Gorkys Hernandez. The short answer: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
16. Tampa Bay Rays
When half of your wins have come against the hapless Blue Jays, it’s tough to know what to make of your team. However, thanks to hot starts from Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson, along with an outfield rounded out by Kevin Kiermaier, Mallex Smith, and Peter Bourjos, the Rays look poised to definitely not finish last.
17. Texas Rangers
If baseball games ended after six innings, the Rangers would be 8-4 right now. But bullpens do actually have to play and the Rangers aren’t 8-4; they’re 4-8 – and four full wins were lost thanks to atrocious pitching from Sam Dyson. Other than that, Texas looks passably like an AL wild-card contender with a plus-2 run differential.
18. St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis is singing the blues these days, and not just because the Blues are in the NHL playoffs. These Cardinals lost five of seven to the Nats and Yankees this week, dropping them to dead last in the NL Central – and when you’re stuck chasing the Cubs all year, these kinds of bad weeks can pile up quickly.
19. Minnesota Twins
Nobody expected the Twins to be this good – not even the Twins. Yet here we are, two weeks into the season, and Paul Molitor’s men look pretty comfortable high up in the AL Central. Though we expect that to eventually change (what with the Indians and all), give Minnesota the credit it’s due.
20. Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati has completely shattered any expectations people may have had for them early, somehow jumping out to a slim lead in the division. That may not last long, though, considering they have series this week against the red-hot Orioles and the Cubs, who probably won’t be chasing them much longer.
21. Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee made a rare interleague trip to Toronto on Tuesday, so it was fine if you didn’t expect much. You’d also be wrong, though, considering they swept the Blue Jays in their own home-opening series, then proceeded to take three of four from the Reds. They should fall back to earth this week, however, with tilts against the Cubs and Cardinals back to back.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates
Let’s break down recency bias. How good is the team that just got swept by the Reds? Now, how good is the team that just swept the Cubs? Well, meet the 2017 Pirates. If Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell can turn around their early rookie season struggles, they’ll certainly disprove their doubters.
23. Oakland Athletics
The A’s haven’t been great lately, though they haven’t been entirely awful either. Someone who has been fantastic, however, is potential ROY candidate Jharel Cotton, who dazzled in seven shutout innings Monday against the Royals, asserting the club of his ability to be a front-line starter in the future.
24. Seattle Mariners
The early highlights of the Mariners season have easily been the dominance of James Paxton and the breakout of Taylor Motter. Motter is off to an incredibly hot start and was acquired this past offseason in one of Dipoto’s 728 trades involving, essentially, nobodies.
25. Toronto Blue Jays
Through just 12 games, Blue Jays batters have been worth -0.9 WAR – or, put more bluntly, Jays hitters have cost their team a full win below replacement. Add the fact that Aaron Sanchez hit the DL and J.A. Happ looks like he might be joining him there, and the 2017 season appears to be slipping away quickly.
26. Kansas City Royals
After being outscored 10-3 over two games against the A’s midweek, the Royals appear to have figured out exactly what wasn’t working, bouncing back with a four game sweep of the Los Angeles Mike Trouts.
27. Chicago White Sox
The “ugly little duckling” in Chicago now, thanks to the curse-breakers on the North Side, we knew what to expect from the White Sox this season. Though taking two of three games from the Indians on the road is a good sign, Avisail Garcia and James Shields will only carry the offense and rotation, respectively, for so long, though.
28. Philadelphia Phillies
Much like every single other division, the NL East is still a breeding ground for entropy, meaning there’s still plenty that can change. The Phillies sitting last in the division, however, may be par for the course.
29. Atlanta Braves
The Braves had one goal this season: Get fans to the new SunTrust Park. Thankfully for them, Ender Inciarte provided those in attendance with a memorable showing, recording plenty of the park’s firsts. The same can’t be said of their road performances, though, where they’re just 2-6 so far.
30. San Diego Padres
The good news? Trevor Cahill is finally back. The bad news? They are still the San Diego Padres.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)