By: Chris Larson
It's time again for another Week in Review/Top 15 Power Rankings report. The season keeps plugging away and we are now two months into the season which means we have a pretty good gauge on how certain teams are or aren't doing and starting to get a general idea of who the contenders could be come September and those who could be on the outside looking in.
Week In Review
Top 15 Power Rankings
1. Boston Red Sox (41-19) [Ranking Last Week: 1] - Earlier this week, as mentioned in the Week In Review, the Red Sox became the first team in baseball to record 40 wins. What's ironic is that they currently have 41 yet they are behind the Yankees in the overall standings. Still, a lot of credit has to go to the Boston Red Sox with the roster that they currently have in place and they way they play the game everyday. It's not necessarily the starting rotation or the bullpen that's the strength, but rather the offense which includes juggernauts like Mitch Moreland, Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez who continues to have a stellar season with little notoriety. Heading into play today, Martinez is tied with Mike Trout in home runs (19), Mookie Betts leads the team in batting average (.359) and on-base percentage (.437), and Mitch Moreland has a .631 slugging percentage. As of late, Chris Sale hasn't been his usual self dishing up 6 walks in his last 3 starts, but still has 110 strikeouts on the year and a .197 Opponent Batting Average Against. What would put this team over the top is if they're able to acquire another top of the rotation starter to pair with Chris Sale at the deadline.
2. Houston Astros (37-24) [Ranking Last Week: 2] - Although the Astros are second on the list, do not take offense to that Astros fans. You still have a powerhouse of a team and the BEST starting rotation in baseball right now and maybe over the past 50 years! What the starting rotation does day in and day out this season, has been truly remarkable and a stamp of why the team is in the position that they are today. As everyone has mentioned, the Astros biggest weakness right now is probably in their bullpen, but it's not that big of a concern when you dig a little deeper past the surface. Heading into play today, the Astros bullpen ranks 4th in ERA (3.04), they've allowed the second fewest earned runs (54), and have the fifth lowest Opponent OPS (.643) in baseball over 163.2 innings of work. Houston could always look to upgrade in their bullpen at the trade deadline, but it might not be as big of a priority as some are making it out to be. In the offensive department, the Astros have the second most runs scored (298) and the fifth highest team on-base percentage (.328) so far this season.
3. New York Yankees (37-17) [Ranking Last Week: 2] - The Yankees move to third place on the list this week and not because they have a crummy 25-man roster or a bad organization by any means. In fact, they have won 4 games in a row and have a 6-4 record over their last 10 games which goes to show the strength of their big league club. A lot of the concerns regarding their starting rotation could be put to side, especially with the way that Luis Severino, continues to pitch, but they will likely need to add another starter at the deadline for down the stretch and for October. Not sure who the ideal fit would be, but it would preferably be someone that could pitch in the 3 or 4 hole of their starting rotation and provide some more stability over someone like Sonny Gray. Beyond that, the Yankees bats continue to keep rocking and rolling and are tied with the Boston Red Sox in runs scored (311) over the span of 1,891 at bats, which shouldn't come as a surprise.
4. Atlanta Braves (35-24) [Ranking Last Week: 4] - To date, the Braves continue to show what an impressive team they have and currently sit a top the NL East with a +62 run differential. The best thing about this past weekend for the Braves is the fact that they took 3 out of 4 games from the Washington Nationals which goes to show how legitimate they are and what a strong team they currently have. Mike Foltynewicz continues to have himself a great season (2.22 ERA over 69.0 IP and a .200 Opponent Batting Average Against) and you can't forget about the impressive game he had just this past week. It was mentioned in the Week In Review section of this report, but that was a great showcase of the true potential that Folty presents every time he takes the mound. On the offensive side of things, Freddie Freeman leads the team in batting average (.335), RBI (40), and on-base percentage (.432), which isn't surprising, but where's the love for this guy?!
5. Washington Nationals (33-25) [Ranking Last Week: 7] - The Washington Nationals have been playing completely opposite of the way they started out the season and had themselves quite a month of May especially in the pitching department. For the month of May, the Nationals pitching staff combined for a league best 2.51 ERA over 240.0 IP and came in third in Opponent Batting Average Against (.217), fourth in strikeouts (260), and third in WHIP (1.08). As they say, pitching wins championships, so who knows if this is finally the year when the Nationals break the curse and make it over the hump to a World Series. They are certainly loaded enough to do just that and it would be a great gift in what will likely be Bryce Harper's, last season with the team, as he is set to hit free agency this coming winter. Beyond that, the Nationals have been without second baseman, Daniel Murphy, and he was quite an offensive force last season. Murphy was sent on a Double-A assignment at the end of last month, but if he can return to form, that will make this team even stronger.
6. Seattle Mariners (37-22) [Ranking Last Week: 6] - What a week it has been for the Seattle Mariners who have quietly put up a 8-2 record over their last 10 games and sit a top the AL West. Amazing for a team that some wrote off completely at the time that Robinson Cano got busted for doing PED's and later was handed down an 80 game suspension. To date, the Mariners pitching staff has been very good with a 3.82 ERA over the span of 535.0 IP and rank 9th in baseball with 527 strikeouts in that period. One guy that deserves a huge mention is left-handed starting pitcher, Marco Gonzales. Gonzales finished last month with a 2.30 ERA over 31.1 IP and 22 strikeouts. Impressive for someone that the Mariners picked up from the Cardinals last season and thought he would be just another average middle of the rotation guy. In addition, the offensive heavy weights of Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger, have done more than enough with Cano out of the lineup to keep the team going.
7. Milwaukee Brewers (37-23) [Ranking Last Week: 5] - The Brewers had another phenomenal week, but can't move up in this list because they are basically blocked by the three powerhouses in baseball right now along with the Seattle Mariners who are on an absolute tear right now. Anyhow, the Brewers continue to impress with a 2 game lead in the NL Central and a run differential of +29 to this point of the regular season. Unlike in previous weeks, the Brewers bullpen now ranks as the third best in baseball (2.68 ERA over 225.1 IP), but don't sleep on that core which can shutdown any opposing team's offense in the blink of an eye. Looking back at last month, Christian Yelich finished with a .330 batting average over 109 at bats, while both Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw did the heavy lifting with 8 home runs and 22 RBI each along with a on-base percentage above .340. Impressive how Milwaukee is able to score runs, when they matter the most, and do it with names that aren't the most well-known in baseball.
8. Arizona Diamondbacks (31-27) [Ranking Last Week: 15] - Seems like the Diamondbacks might have turned another corner and are back to playing the way they were at the beginning of the season. Over the past 10 games, Arizona has a 6-4 record and are currently in the midst of a 3-game win streak as they sit atop the NL West. Granted, they just played the Miami Marlins and swept them in the 3 game series, but it's still a huge accomplishment for a team that had a completely different month in May compared to April and has sort of renewed the entire teams spirits. In addition, don't ignore the fact of how good the Diamondbacks starting rotation and bullpen continues to perform (3.30 ERA over 521.2 IP to date) or how potent the offense can be as they showed during this past series against the Marlins. The Dbacks are still tied with the Mets for 26th in runs scored (230) so far this year, but if they can go on a run here for the next couple of weeks, who knows what their true potential is.
9. Chicago Cubs (33-23) [Ranking Last Week: 10] - Once again, we are talking about the Chicago Cubs in a positive light as they have put together a 4-game win streak as of late and are 8-2 over their last 10 games. There seems to be way too much talent on their 25-man roster for them not to go on a run for the next month, but you have to wonder if they will or not because of the way they have played in April and May. Still, there is plenty to like about the Chicago Cubs and they certainly pose the threat of being a team that will make a big splash or two at the deadline to get them back to the World Series once again. This should come as no surprise, but the Cubs best starter for the month of May was Jon Lester who put up a 2.30 ERA over 30.0 IP and recorded a 1.17 WHIP over that period. In addition, Justin Wilson, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, and Justin Hancock all had a very good May out of the bullpen with ERA's under 2 for the month and recorded a combined 47 strikeouts.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers (29-30) [Ranking Last Week: N/A] - The Dodgers, who were once thought to be lost in the dust amid the NL West and the rest of baseball at the beginning of the season, have now become relevant once again. As mentioned in the Week In Review, the Dodgers have been dominant for about two weeks now and there's no telling when that domination could come to an end. Even with Clayton Kershaw on the DL once again, the Dodgers still have a cumulative ERA of 3.69 over 536.1 IP up to this point, which helps to demonstrate the talent within the team's starting rotation and bullpen. Walker Buehler has really done his part and stepped up to the plate so far when he's taken the mound with a 2.74 ERA over 46 innings of work and a strikeouts-per-9 rate of 9.78. On the offensive side of things, the Dodgers have done well as they rank 8th in baseball in runs scored (273) after 59 games. Matt Kemp deserves some sort of award as he leads the team in batting average (.344), home runs (9), RBI (33), hits (62), and on-base percentage (.376).
11. St. Louis Cardinals (32-25) [Ranking Last Week: 8] - To this point, the St. Louis Cardinals continue to be one of those teams that has had trouble trying to get a solid run going and taking off within the division, but as opposed to those seasons when they could dominate the NL Central, they now have both the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs to worry about. Still, the Cardinals have what looks to be a very good, young starting rotation moving forward. Sure, the news about Alex Reyes that happened this past week hurt, but there's still impressive talent with Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver. Weaver has an ERA over 4.5 to date, but you have to think if he's healthy along with Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha, the Red Birds have a starting rotation that can truly compete with the best of the best. If there was one area of improvement that the Cardinals need to work on, it would be their infield defense, but that could be something that they elect to address at the trade deadline and would massively improve if they were able to pull off a trade for a big piece like Manny Machado come that time.
12. Cleveland Indians (30-28) [Ranking Last Week: 11] - Even though they lost 3 of 4 games to the division rival, Minnesota Twins, the Cleveland Indians are still a team that is almost like a sleeping giant especially when they are clicking on all cylinders. Yes, their bullpen still is having problems, but that will be corrected by the team sooner than later as teams begin to make their relievers available on the trade market. The best thing about the Cleveland Indians remains their deep starting rotation and what a MLB debut, Shane Beiber, had on Thursday night. Bieber is one of those guys that could play a significant role in the Tribe's success these next few months and could be a pivotal piece come the postseason. If the Indians continue to have bullpen struggles and can't find help from outside the organization, Bieber could always be an option for them especially late in ballgames. Would be a wicked guy to have on the mound against opposing teams as he looks to shut down the offense and provide the bridge that has been missing to Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.
13. Los Angeles Angels (32-28) [Ranking Last Week: 12] - Over the last 10 games, the Angels haven't performed that well (4-6 record), but still have a +30 run differential and are still in the mix for a postseason berth. While that isn't impressive, what's really impressive is how well the starting rotation did for the month of May despite not having the full staff healthy and facing questions about how effective the group could be. When you combine the bullpen with the starting rotation's numbers for May, it comes out to a 3.48 ERA over 258.1 innings of work, which is good enough for 8th place, and recorded the 6th most strikeouts in the league over that span (253). The best, and probably most talked about player of the Angels, continues to be Mike Trout and rightfully so. So far this season through 211 at bats, Trout is batting: .308/.443/.678 and already has a 4.5 WAR on the year. That just goes to show how valuable he is and how committed the Angels need to be to making the postseason. By far, the biggest thing to address at the trade deadline for the Angels would be in their bullpen, particularly at the back end. The Halos need someone reliable that can close out games on a consistent basis.
14. Philadelphia Phillies (31-26) [Ranking Last Week: 9] - Compared to how they started out the season, excluding the first week, the Phillies have really cooled off and have almost hit a tail spin point in their season. As of right now, the Phillies sit in third place in the NL East, three games back from first place with a 3-7 record over their last 10 games, but they still have a positive run differential of +26, which is a good sign. After being swept by the San Francisco Giants this past weekend, Jake Arrieta went off on a rant to reporters following yesterday afternoon's game which will hopefully energize the team and get them back on the right track again because it would be severely disappointing to see them play the rest of the season completely opposite from how they played in April and May. One good thing is that you could make the argument that the Phillies have the best 1-2 punch in baseball right now with Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola. Arrieta finished the month of May with a 0.90 ERA over 30 innings of work, while Nola finished the month with a 10.35 strikeouts-per-9 rate and averaged 103 pitches during each of his 6 starts.
15. Oakland Athletics (31-29) [Ranking Last Week: 14] - You could basically take either the Oakland A's or the Colorado Rockies for this spot, but with the way the Rockies bullpen performed this past weekend against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland A's would likely receive more votes at the moment. The youth movement seems to continue to be paying off big dividends for Oakland in the form of young starters, such as Daniel Mengden, and offensive weapons like, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, along with veterans, Khris Davis, Jed Lowrie, and Marcus Semien. Jed Lowrie is a guy that Oakland could elect to ship off at the trade deadline because he is having a very good season and currently leads the team in batting average (.296), RBI (42), and on-base percentage (.362). It's definitely a delicate line between keeping Lowrie for his bat and doing what's best for the organization, but I don't think many would fault Oakland if they decided to sell high on a guy like him. Still, you have to think if the A's are relevant come the trade deadline, Billy Beane will add and add enough to try to get them into the postseason.
MVPs of the Week
1. Edwin Encarnacion (Indians): 11-for-27 with 2 doubles, 5 home runs, 13 RBI, 2 walks, a .407 batting average, and a .448 on-base percentage
2. Eddie Rosario (Twins): 13-for-30 with 1 double, 4 home runs, 11 RBI, 6 walks, a .433 batting average, and a .528 on-base percentage
3. Marco Gonzales (Mariners): 0.68 ERA over 13.1 IP with 10 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP
1. Michael Wacha (Cardinals): 0.61 ERA over 14.2 IP with 11 strikeouts and a 0.61 WHIP
2. Matt Kemp (Dodgers): 9-for-21 with 2 doubles, 3 home runs, 8 RBI, 1 walk, a .429 batting average and a .458 on-base percentage
3. Mike Montgomery (Cubs): 0.77 ERA over 11.2 IP with 9 strikeouts and a 0.43 WHIP