This edition of my MLB Power Rankings is up to date through games played Sunday, May 6th.
1. Texas Rangers
This is simple: at 18-10, what’s impressed the most so far is the pitching, which is always the biggest question mark at the Ballpark in Arlington. Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis, and Netfali Feliz are all off to good starts, with southpaws Derek Holland and Matt Harrison not too far behind. It’s a rotation that is deep and reliably consistent, which is usually plenty for the Texas lineup to put in a position to win any given ball game.
If the pitching continues to impress, the Rangers will remain as a favorite to defend their two-year streak of winning the AL Pennant.
2. Washington Nationals
Last time, I listed off each of the Nationals ERA’s, and this time I’ll do the same. Stephen Strasburg (1.66 ERA), Gio Gonzalez (1.72 ERA), Jordan Zimmerman (2.29 ERA), and Ross Detwiler (1.59 ERA) are all dazzling to this point…obviously. And veteran Edwin Jackson (3.69 ERA) is doing quite well, too. When you have five guys that can be dominant on any given night and consistent on most others, you are in very good shape.
Not to mention, 19 year-old phenom Bryce Harper has come up and been an instant spark. Once the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Drew Storen, and Michael Morse return from the DL (among others), I look for Washington to firmly establish their spot in the top 5 teams in the MLB for the length of the regular season. You heard that here first.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
Remember how the Rays have been good year after year, despite usually not garnering much preseason praise from the media? Well, it looks like the stingers of Tampa Bay are doing the same yet again down in St. Petersburg yet again.
Off to a 19-10 start and only 1/2 game back in the AL East Division, the Rays look like an elite squad. While team leader Evan Longoria is out for about one to two months, all this team has to do is continue to play solid, fundamentally sound baseball, and they’ll remain in contention and in good position once their captain returns.
They get quality pitching and consistent hitting. They have a complete rotation, and while not many players do not stand out in their lineup, some veterans have stepped up to pick up the slack, specifically Carlos Pena and Matt Joyce.
If the power continues to come from these guys among a couple others, wins will continue to pile up.
4. St. Louis Cardinals
If the main thumpers in their order – Rafael Furcal, Carlos Beltran, David Freese, and Matt Holliday – continue to produce, they will score enough runs for their solid pitching staff.
And with Adam Wainwright looking good in his last few starts, it appears that the most important piece to their staff has turned the corner.
Once Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter return from the disabled list, this strong team will only get stronger.
5. Baltimore Orioles
Remember, this is baseball we’re talking about. Any team can get hot at any given time. The O’s are merely going through a hot streak, there’s no reason to believe it can be much more than that. Why? Look at their starting pitching.
You can’t be a good team without good starters, and Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen don’t cut it as top-of-the-rotation guys. These two have been their best pitchers so far this year, and while their numbers are impressive, there’s no concrete reason to believe that they’ll be top of the rotation guys throughout an entire year.
With Chen, I think hitters will figure him out and catch up to him, as it’s the first time major leaguers have seen him. And Hammel has a very good arm, but has a lifetime 4.85 ERA. I think he has the potential to prove me wrong, and I think he’ll have a solid season, but he’s no where close to a number 1 guy for an AL East team.
This team has some pesky hitters, but in the long haul I think that’s all they have going for them. I can’t believe I’m putting them this high on my list, but at least from the early goings, they deserve it.
6. Atlanta Braves
They have some very good hitters, and their rotation is starting to take shape. I expect very solid years from top guns Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, and Brandon Beachy. I don’t know a ton about their other two guys, Mike Minor and Randall Delgado. But what I do know about them is that they have very good arms, so if they can even put up okay numbers, the team will be fine.
Possessing the dominant bullpen that they have, the team’s pitching is in good shape as a whole. These guys will probably stick around in the NL East, and could win the division if my prediction about Washington is wrong and the Nationals fall off.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
As I said in my last list, I’ve recognized that I overlooked the Dodgers before the season started. They really do have a solid ball club. They’ve got very good speed, defense, and depth, a few aspects of teams that are often overlooked.
I expect Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp to continue to roll, so their offense should be fine. It’s hard to say whether or not their pitching staff will hold up, but they’ve been good to this point, so they deserve this solid ranking. Not to mention, they play in the very weak NL West.
8. New York Yankees
Last time, I had the Yankees at number 2 on my list despite them not getting off to a great start. They’ve continued to be mediocre, so I’m coming to my senses and putting them low on my list…..for now.
I still think all of their All Star hitters will come through and their deep starting rotation will have a very good year, but they just haven’t been able to fully break through yet. Also, Mariano Rivera just tore his ACL, so they have some shuffling to do in their bullpen.
I view the bullpen as the only question mark for the Bronx Bombers, so I think they’ll quickly start to climb back toward the top of my list.
9. Cleveland Indians
I pay tons and tons of attention to the American League Central Division. I know all of their teams inside and out. And I just do not see a division winner in Cleveland. But they’ve been very good, as they continue to stay ahead of the Tigers and put distance between themselves and my lowly Chicago White Sox.
The Indians have gotten good pitching, which needs to continue for this team to stay relevant. They just don’t have enough game-changing hitters in their lineup. I think Justin Masterson is a viable number 1 option, I view Josh Tomlin as a very good middle of the rotation guy, and Ubaldo Jimenez as ultimately the decider for this team. I think a lot rides on the former NL All Star’s shoulders, so I’m curious to see how his year pans out.
Still, I don’t see them as a playoff team. But who knows, maybe they make a big deal that impacts their lineup and changes my mind. We’ll see.
10. Detroit Tigers
As anyone who has read a lot of my pieces knows, I’m not as high on Detroit as everybody else is. I think they are the likely winner of the AL Central, but I think they’ll be able to fall into that spot instead of being a dominant team like most think they will be.
I know Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder are as good as players get, but what else can you point to? Sure, they’ve got guys with potential like Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson, but do they really have much more that stands out? I don’t think so.
I don’t view the likes of Don Kelly, Ryan Raburn, and Rick Porcello as very good players. They’re all just serviceable guys. But luckily for them, I think the AL Central will be the worst division in the MLB this season, so they won’t have to be too great of a team to make the playoffs.
The Tigers haven’t lived up to the hype so far this season, as I expected, which is why they’re at the tail end of my rankings.
Notable mention to the Toronto Blue Jays, who were the first team off of my list.
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