By: Chris Larson
What a past week it's been throughout the game of baseball with plenty of excitement. From the Yankees 6th consecutive win yesterday afternoon giving them 15 wins in their last 16 games to Kevin Gausman's complete game to the resurgence of Mookie Betts and the dominating performances by Max Scherzer and Chris Sale yesterday afternoon, there was pretty much something for everyone. Plus, you can't overlook the stretch of quality starts that the Rockies have received from their starters as of late or the fact that the Angels and Braves occupy first place in their respective divisions either.
With that being said, there were also moments this past week where a few teams that ranked high on last week's Power Rankings ended up falling a few spots. Here are this week's rankings:
1. New York Yankees (24-10) [Ranking Last Week: 2] - Since last week's rankings, the Yankees haven't lost any steam. In fact, they have gained steam and continue chugging along the track like a steam engine rolling down the hill. The Yankees have gotten terrific results from their starting pitching as of late, the offense has really stepped up their game and it hasn't just been Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton contributing at the plate, and the bullpen is finally starting to show who they truly are. With how New York has played of late, it's a stretch of 16 games that we haven't seen in two decades and it makes you wonder when that stretch might come to an end and when the momentum of this team will eventually be stopped or if it can even be stopped.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks (23-11) [Ranking Last Week: 1] - Following yesterday's three-game series against the reigning World Series Champions and the aforementioned, Houston Astros, the Diamondbacks continue to be the elite team of the National League. Arizona has dealt with injuries to this point both in the lineup and the starting rotation, but has continued to overcome those injuries and should be able to handle any other obstacles that might pop up along the way. As it stands right now, Arizona still has the best bullpen in the National League and the lineup has shown that it can score runs when needed. The best thing for the Diamondbacks over the past week was the return of Steven Souza Jr. who will help solidify their lineup even more. In addition, the Diamondbacks are still the only team in baseball not to lose a series so far this season.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (20-12) [Ranking Last Week: N/A] - The Cardinals are in one of those stretches again where they are showing how dominant they can be and everything has been clicking for St. Louis as of late. For proof of that, look no further than this past weekend's sweep of the division rival, Chicago Cubs. What's shocking is how little attention Carlos Martinez continues to get on a national level even though he's been extremely dominant so far this season. Through 7 starts, Martinez has put up a 1.40 ERA over 45.0 IP with a strikeouts-per-9 rate of 9.00 and has averaged 97.1 pitches per start thus far. On the offensive side of things, Marcell Ozuna continues to be and has been the Cardinals best hitter all season long, but don't sleep on Paul DeJong, who leads the team in home runs (7) or Jose Martinez, either as both are always capable of providing damage at the plate.
4. Boston Red Sox (25-9) [Ranking Last Week: 4] - With how strong the Yankees have played as of late, it seems like the Boston Red Sox are sort of flying under-the-radar and getting by without much fanfare. However, they're still a scary good team and there's a lot to like within their lineup and their pitching staff. Mookie Betts has been the All-Star of the team the past week and don't overlook Craig Kimbrel's 300th career save that he locked down on Saturday night either. Just goes to prove what a great reliever Kimbrel is and how valuable he is for the Red Sox. In addition, JD Martinez has also been one of the best hitters in all of baseball as of late, yet hardly has been talked about by any media outlet. Boston plays the Yankees once again this coming week and it is poised to be an exciting series between the top two teams in all of baseball right now.
5. Houston Astros (21-15) [Ranking Last Week: 5] - The Astros are currently 1 game back of first place in the American League West behind the Angels and it should be no surprise that's the case. Houston continues to receive outstanding results from it's starting rotation, most notably highlighted by Gerrit Cole's stellar 16-strikeout performance, against the Arizona Diamondbacks this past Friday night. The offense has had periods where they are on and hitting as well as lapses where it struggles as is the case with any team, but if you sleep on their lineup, you're most likely going to pay for it if your the opposing team. Right now, the biggest hole for Houston is in their bullpen, but that should correct itself over time and if it doesn't, the team can always go shopping for a reliever as the deadline approaches.
6. Colorado Rockies (20-15) [Ranking Last Week: 14] - The Rockies have really heated up since last week's Power Rankings report and lead all of baseball in home runs on the road with 33. Simply put, Colorado is on a roll right now and currently occupies second place within the NL West which shows how strong they can be when they receive solid starting rotation. Here's another interesting note on their starting pitching: yesterday afternoon was the 8th consecutive quality start that the Rockies have received from their rotation, for the first time since June 4th-11th, 2009, on the road. Chad Bettis continues to prove that he is one of the top starting pitchers in all of the National League, while both Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon continue to carry the offense, which should be no surprise.
7. Chicago Cubs (16-15) [Ranking Last Week: 3] - The Cubs dipped a bit from where they were last week simply because the bats still haven't shown their full potential to this point, but the starting pitching has been much better as of late. In fact, over the past week, the Cubs pitching staff has combined for a 3.06 ERA over 53.0 IP with 49 strikeouts and a 1.34 WHIP. One guy that should be getting a lot more attention on a national level is Javier Baez, who could easily be the starting second baseman for the All-Star Game. So far this year, Baez leads the team in home runs (8), RBI (28), hits (32), and has a .331 on-base percentage along with a .628 slugging percentage over the span of 113 at bats. The NL Central standings seem to change by the day so who knows where the Cubs will be at this time next week!
8. Los Angeles Angels (20-13) [Ranking Last Week: 10] - With the amount of injuries the Angels have experienced in their starting rotation, almost no one would guess that they would be in first place in the AL West, but here they are. While the pitching hasn't been the greatest once again this season for the Halos, the offense continues to be pretty forceful. Of course, Mike Trout, easily the greatest player in baseball is leading the pack in many offensive categories as is shortstop, Andrelton Simmons, who continues to not only provide gold glove defense, but also knows how to hit the ball when it matters the most. As a whole, the Angels are tied, with the Boston Red Sox, for the fourth best defensive team in all of baseball. Billy Eppler has always been a proponent of having a defensive sound team and it seems like his efforts continue to pay off.
9. San Francisco Giants (19-15) [Ranking Last Week: 15] - It's amazing to look up in the standings and see the San Francisco Giants in third place and only 4 games out of first place, but that's exactly where they're at. The Giants dealt with injuries very early on to Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner and have found ways to overcome those injuries, but right when Samardzija returned from the DL, Johnny Cueto was added to the DL. Hopefully Cueto's DL stint is short because he was absolutely on fire and could have easily finished the season in the conversation for the NL Cy Young Award. The Evan Longoria trade from this past offseason continues to look like a good one as Longo has 7 home runs, 19 RBI, and a .500 slugging percentage, in 118 at bats thus far.
10. Atlanta Braves (19-14) [Ranking Last Week: 9] - The Braves were a super hot team heading into this weekend's series against the San Francisco Giants, but ended up getting swept which cooled them off a bit, but don't sleep on these youngsters. The Braves now have three players all under the age of 21 on their 25-man roster and the talent doesn't stop at the major league level as it just flows throughout the entire minor league system. In addition, who would have thought the Braves would have the fourth best starting rotation (3.64 ERA over 173.0 IP) at this point in the season? Granted, it is still early May and there's a long ways to go until the conclusion of the regular season, but the Braves have been a pleasant surprise thus far and likely won't be going away anytime soon.
11. Seattle Mariners (19-13) [Ranking Last Week: 7] - The Seattle Mariners have a starting rotation ERA over 5 yet continue to hang around in the discussion in the AL West as they still have their eyes set on making the postseason. Mitch Haniger, who was featured on here in an article early last week, continues to be a threat at the plate and you can never sleep on a lineup that includes other big names in it such as Dee Gordon, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, or Mike Zunino either. Another amazing stat, which really shouldn't be that shocking, is that James Paxton, aka Big Maple, already has 60 strikeouts in 38.2 innings of work. Granted, his ERA is 4.19 over that span, but nonetheless Paxton continues to get outs when they are needed the most when he steps on the mound.
12. Cleveland Indians (17-17) [Ranking Last Week: N/A] - Cleveland still has yet to show it's true potential, but the Tribe has continued to stay afloat recently, thanks to playing in a weak AL Central club in which no team is over 500 record wise. Probably the best moment of the past week for the Tribe was Mike Clevinger's superb outing yesterday against the tough, New York Yankees. Clevinger went 7 and 1/3 innings, while striking out 10 batters, which was a career start for him and something the Indians needed, given that their bullpen has had an ERA over 8 the past week with the absence of Andrew Miller. As was the case last year, Jose Ramirez is once again quietly making a case to end the season in the discussion for the AL MVP Award as he now leads the team in home runs (9), RBI (21), and on-base percentage (.376) so far this season over the span of 130 at bats.
13. Milwaukee Brewers (19-16) [Ranking Last Week: N/A] - The Brewers still haven't shown enough to cut the Top 10 in the Power Rankings, but given that they are currently 1 game out of first place in the NL Central, Milwaukee deserves more love than they have been given to this point in the season. The Brew Crew did face a massive 9-0 loss to the division rival, Pittsburgh Pirates, yesterday afternoon, but possess two strong pitchers on their 25-man roster in Chase Anderson and Josh Hader. Josh Hader keeps showing more and more why so many believe he is the next best pitcher in the game and to have that weapon at the backend of the bullpen is something every team wishes for. The one thing that continues to hold the Brewers back is their horrendous defense, as illustrated by the 26 errors the team has already accumulated, which is the second most in baseball.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates (19-16) [Ranking Last Week: 6] - Just like the Milwaukee Brewers, the Pirates keep staying afloat in the NL Central and have yet to be buried which is a good thing with all things considered after their selloff of Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, this past offseason. Pittsburgh received an outstanding start by Chad Kuhl yesterday afternoon, against the aforementioned Milwaukee Brewers, and Trevor Williams has done quite well to this point as he currently leads the team with a 2.93 ERA over 41 innings of work. From the offensive side of things, Corey Dickerson is proving what a great acquisition he was off of waivers this winter and Francisco Cervelli along with Gregory Polanco, have also done their fair share of work with the bat as well.
15. Toronto Blue Jays (19-16) [Ranking Last Week: 13] - Times have certainly changed for the Toronto Blue Jays now compared to a month ago, when they were one of the best teams in all of baseball, but Toronto cracks the list because they are still in the mix for a postseason spot (6.5 games back from first in the AL East). With a positive run differential of +16, the Blue Jays are in good territory because that indicates that their pitching can be sustainable, but they certainly need a lot more from their starting rotation if they wish to make the postseason. To this point, the bullpen for the Blue Jays has logged 117.2 innings, which makes you wonder if their success is sustainable, given that they currently have the 4th best bullpen in the league from an ERA standpoint. Regardless, the offense and defense is certainly there with guys like Kevin Pillar and Yangervis Solarte.