2018 MLB Power Rankings
2018 MLB Power Rankings
The 2018 MLB season is about 10% completed. Let's take a look at which teams have moved up, and down, in our first in-season power rankings of the year.
30. Miami Marlins
Previous ranking: 30
The Marlins haven't really been the worst team in baseball so far, but just two weeks in, we're still going to take into account preseason expectations. Plus, as we've said before, if they aren't going to put any effort into this season, we're not going to put any effort into appropriately covering them.
29. Tampa Bay Rays
Previous ranking: 26
Kevin Kiermaier is out for a few months, Chris Archer has struggled, and the Rays have had one of the ugliest offenses in baseball.
Believe it or not, that's the nice way of saying this team is not very good. They don't have the worst record in baseball (yet), but they've been about as uninspiring to watch as any roster out there. Unless Mallex Smith turns into Carl Crawford somehow, this is going to be a long, long season in Tampa Bay.
28. Kansas City Royals
Previous ranking: 24
We knew the Royals would be bad, but we didn't know they'd be 3-13 bad. By most measurements they've been the 2nd-worst team in baseball this season, and they've given us very little reason to believe it's going to get much better. I think they're probably more like the 7th-worst team in the league (not much consolation, I know) but their ghastly start has left little room for positivity in evaluating them. They are a bad team, and even worse, they'll be irrelevant for years. Thankfully, flags fly forever.
27. Detroit Tigers
Previous ranking: 28
The Tigers are bad. The only reason their record is even as good as 6-9 is their schedule. Unless Miguel Cabrera turns back the clock and goes supernova on pitchers all summer long, this team is still going to be fighting for the top spot in the 2019 draft. The early season terrible weather is probably an accurate omen of the next five months in Detroit.
26. Cincinnati Reds
Previous ranking: 19
No joke, on April 18th, the draft I wrote in the Reds section said "Bryan Price should be on everyone's radar as the first manager to be fired this season. Don't be surprised if it comes sooner rather than later. The Reds are that bad." On the morning of April 19th, he was replaced with former Nats manager Jim Riggleman.
One of the biggest fallers in this round of power rankings, the Reds have the worst record in baseball and have generally been awful. Joey Votto has suddenly forgotten how to get extra-base hits, Luis Castillo has an ERA over 6 despite his nasty stuff, and the rest of the team is almost too irrelevant to mention. The Reds were always going to be one of the two worst teams in the NL Central, but it looks like they're actually going to be in the cellar by several games. It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
25. Pittsburgh Pirates
Previous ranking: 29
If this was just a regurgitation of the standings, they'd be a lot higher. I'll give credit where credit's due, Pittsburgh has played great this season. That said, thye've had a mighty easy schedule, and they just don't have the horses to keep up with the better teams in the National League. Take a picture of the standings with Pirates on top, it's going to last a lot longer.
24. Chicago White Sox
Previous ranking: 25
The White Sox are 4-11, and they have a -31 run differential, and yet this season doesn't feel like a bummer for them and their fans. It's been said many times, but Chicago is very willing to wait out the rebuilding process, and this season is far more about the development of their young pitchers and future stars like Yoan Moncada, moreso than the win-loss record.
23. San Diego Padres
Previous ranking: 27
The Padres are trying, but apparently not hard enough as they sit at the bottom of the NL West. They've had a few key injuries, most notably to Manny Margot, their centerfielder of the future, and to Wil Myers. Joey Lucchesi has been an absolute revelation, however, confounding hitters with his funky offerings instead of velocity and "stuff." They probably should have just embraced a rebuild instead of tying themseves to Eric Hosmer and trying to skip ahead in the process.
22. San Francisco Giants
Previous ranking: 17
The Giants are 6-10, and if it wasn't for the woeful Padres, they would be in last place in their division. I said before the season that this team was primed to tank, but instead they chose to acquire past-their-prime veterans and chase mediocrity. Unfortunately for fans in the bay, they haven't even been able to clear that low bar. Bumgarner's injury obviously didn't help, but this team is going nowhere fast, and the chances that McCutchen and Longoria find their old forms is the only reason this team isn't lower.
21. Baltimore Orioles
Previous ranking: 15
The Orioles have been very, very, very bad this season. With every passing game, it becomes more and more clear they should have embraced a rebuild last season and jettisoned Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and others. Instead they're stuck, likely looking at a much lower haul of prospects than they could have gotten at last year's trade deadline, but not nearly talented enough to make one final postseason run with this core. The ironic thing is for the first time in several seasons, the starting pitching has actually been decent enough to compete, if only it was paired with a quality offense. Instead, in the year Dylan Bundy finally blossoms into an ace, the bats have gone cold, and the bullpen has been consistently poor.
It was always going to be a pipe dream competing with the Yankees and Red Sox this season. Now, it looks like competing for a .500 record might be just as unlikely.
20. Texas Rangers
Previous ranking: 13
Another big faller, the Rangers currently find themselves with the 4th-worst record in the American League, and a run differential that support their spot in the cellar. Elvis Andrus was hitting as well as anyone on the team before his crushing injury, and only two other regulars currently have averages above .224.
With the exception of Bartolo Colon's exciting near-perfect game, no one has impressed on the mound, either. This Rangers squad was in a position where they needed everything to go right to compete for a postseason spot. So far, almost everything has gone wrong, and their 7-13 record looks indicative of this team's true talent. We're looking at a team that might have no choice but to undergo a massive rebuild in a season or two.
19. Oakland Athletics
Previous ranking: 23
The A's are hovering right around .500, and that's probably where we should expect them to be during the remainder of the season. Sean Manaea has been an absolute monster on the mound, sporting a 1.63 ERA and a 0.72 WHIP, as he's already provided 1.1 Wins Above Replacement through just four starts.
Jed Lowrie is leading everyone in RBI, and Matt Chapman has provided sterling defense at the hot corner to go along with his customary power. This A's team isn't exactly great, but it might be the most fun group to watch in Oakland in the last few seasons.
18. Philadelphia Phillies
Previous ranking: 22
Where the Braves have surprisingly jumped to second in the NL East behind their hitting, the Phillies have done the exact same thing on the backs of their pitching staff. Rhys Hoskins has hit as well as expected, but not many other of their "potential breakout" position players have manifested yet. On the mound, however, we've seen excellent starts from Aaron Nola and Nick Pivetta, plus Vince Velasquez is leading the team in strikeouts. If Jake Arrieta pitches to the level he's proven capable of, this could sneakily end up as one of the six best rotations in the NL.
17. Atlanta Braves
Previous ranking: 21
Believe it or not, the Braves have the best run differential (+27) of any team in the National League so far. Believe it or not, their best hitter so far has been for Orioles utility infielder Ryan Flaherty. Believe or not, their best pitcher (Julio Teheran) has a 5.40 ERA, and believe it or not, they've still managed to climb to second-place in the NL East without the top prospect in baseball, Ronald Acuna.
I'm not sure if I believe it, or not, but through three weeks this team has played like one of the four best teams in the NL, and while they're young, they're also talented enough that maybe it can last.
16. Minnesota Twins
Previous ranking: 20
The Twins are just 8-5, but they remain in a prime spot to compete for an AL Wild Card given their weak division. Byron Buxton went on the DL, robbing the Twins of one of the game's best defenders, but Miguel Sano has hit remarkably well in the early going, and Jose Berrios is turning into a star before our eyes. If Eddie Rosario and Logan Morrison can join Joe Mauer in hitting more consistently, this team could (emphasis on could) push the Indians in for the top of the division well into August and September.
15. Seattle Mariners
Previous ranking: 11
Stop me if you've heard this before, but it feels like the Mariners are just one impact player away from really making some noise. It has to be killing fans in Seattle how close the organization came to adding phenom Shohei Ohtani, only to fall just short and now be staring up at both the best team in baseball and Ohtani's eventual landing spot within their own division. They'll have to stick with what they have, which once again is actually pretty good, but unfortunately just not good enough.
14. St. Louis Cardinals
Previous ranking: 12
At 10-7 with a +20 run differential, the Cardinals are playing just about as well as I expected, currently sitting just behind the NL Central leaders. What I did not expect, was for it to be the Pirates in first at this point. The Cards have been buoyed by the hot hitting opf Jose Martinez and Tommy Pham, though Martinez especially may regress at the plate soon. Carlos Martinez and Luke Weaver have been dynamic, and Greg Holland will round into form soon. I expect them to end up in third or second in the NL Central still, though the teams around them will probably shuffle a bit in the meantime.
13. Toronto Blue Jays
Previous ranking: 16
This might be a spot or two too high, and I don't want to overreact to a 12-5 start in Toronto, but the Blue Jays appear to have som real quality depth. Even with their only true star (Josh Donaldson) playing through injury and eventually landing on the DL, they've still shot out to a terrific start, including having the 3rd-highest run differential in the American League. The ceiling is probably still just third in the division, but the Wild Card looks like less of a pipe dream than it did prior to the start of the season.
12. Colorado Rockies
Previous ranking: 10
The Rockies have been without Nolan Arenado for a handful of games after his involvement in a crazy brawl last week, and while missing a single player doesn't have too much of an impact in baseball, when that player is a star like Arenado, it hurts. Colorado is in second place in the NL West right now, though they actually have a negative run-differential, which I don't expect to last. There's a valid argument to be made that they should be dropped more than just two spots, but as I've emphasized, it's too early to make drastic changes unnecessarily.
11. Milwaukee Brewers
Previous ranking: 14
The top 10 feels pretty straightforward, though you can quibble with the order. Several teams have arguments to be listed 10th, and for now I'm going with the Brewers. They, too, have been snakebitten on the injury front, but Lorenzo Cain has looked like a great addition, and Eric Thames is hitting the crap out of the ball again. The big story, surprisingly, is a middle reliever. Josh Hader, a former Orioles prospect, has redefined what it means to be dominant out of the bullpen. He has 25(!!!) strikeouts in just 11.2 innings, to go against only three walks.
His obscene numbers have been one of the most fun storylines to follow this April. As a former starter, his future may not be in the bullpen, but for now it's been an absolute joy watching him make professional hitters look like little leaguers on a hightly basis.
10. New York Mets
Previous ranking: 18
For years, the Mets have had plenty of talent, but have been decimated by injuries. This season, they've combined a healthy start with some timely clutch hitting to go 13-4 and hold a five game lead in the East by mid-April. It's gone about as well as it possibly could have in Queens so far, and if this team stays healthy (there does not exist a font big enough for that "if") then they will be a force to be reckoned with all summer long.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks
Previous ranking: 9
The Diamondbacks were a good team last season, they've been a great team in the early going this year. Patrick Corbin has taken the biggest leap this season of any pitcher not named Gerrit Cole, and along with Robbie Ray, Zack Godley, and Zack Greinke, helps make up the best rotation in the division (and maybe in all of baseball). Plus, they've still got a superstar in Paul Goldschmidt.
Going 12-4 through the first 16 games is a terrific building block for the rest of the season, and while I still expect the Dodgers to win the NL West comfortably, the Diamondbacks are confirming their status as a playoff contender.
8. Washington Nationals
Previous ranking: 7
The Nats should still win the NL East, but it may not be as easy as anticipated, given the white-hot start by the Mets. Injuries appear to be the biggest holdup for the Nats, though there also might be some adjustments still being made under Dave Martinez. Bryce Harper has been a monster though, leading the league in home runs during his patented torrid April start. Once Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy are healthy, this will immediately be the second-deepest lineup in the National League. It hasn't been the smoothest start, but it's still too early to panic in D.C.
7. New York Yankees
Previous ranking: 4
Don't get me wrong, I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees take a free fall in these rankings, but the talent is too overwhelming to overreact this early. Didi Gregorius has somehow turned into a top-5 shortstop, Aaron Judge has been better than I expected, and the pitching is fine. The big storyline is Giancarlo Stanton, who appears to have made it his personal mission in life to set a record for most boos heard in Yankee Stadium by a player in pinstripes. He's already set records for his strikeouts, and the season is only a couple weeks old.
He's too good to stay down for long though. Performance has never been a question mark, just health, so assuming he goes injury-free, I'd still have no problem projecting him for 50 home runs this season. He, and the Yankees, are just too good.
6. Los Angeles Angels
Previous ranking: 8
I said before the season started that the Angels are this year’s most intriguing team outside of the true contenders. It appears that statement was wrong. Yes, they are still the most intriguing team around, but I should have included them as contenders. Shohei Ohtani has been the story of the 2018 season so far, and assuming his blister doesn't keep him out too long, he will continue to fascinate fans all season long. Plus, they've still got that Mike Trout guy, who (shocker) is leading the league in Wins Above Replacement already. And, as predicted, their infield defense has been sublime. Their hot start is no fluke. This team will present a legitimate challenge to the Astros, assuming those megastars stay healthy.
5. Chicago Cubs
Previous ranking: 3
Honestly, I wanted to move the Cubs down further, but I just couldn't justify it. The Angels and Mets have been mightily impressive, but the talent level on the Cubs is still staggering. Their pitching has been a major problem in the early going, plus the hitters have been inexplicably strikeout-prone. That said, the NL Central-leading Pirates (???) are certainly not for real, and the Cardinals have struggled too, so Chicago is still sitting pretty in the division. Their stars will continue to be stars, and they'll finish the season with 95-ish wins.
4. Cleveland Indians
Previous ranking: 5
You might be wondering, huh? The Indians have struggled to start 2018, and yet they moved up into the top four teams?
Yes, and I don't feel all that guilty about it. Cleveland had a young, talented core entering the season, and they still have a young, talented core. Plus, they've got the best pitcher in the American League in Corey Kluber. For all their struggles, they're still 9-7 and second in their division. They will continue to feast on the weaker teams in the Central, and hold their own with the other superteams. They are fine.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Previous ranking: 2
They are below-.500, and five games back in the NL West already, so consider this lofty ranking an emphasis on not overreacting to early-season trends. The Dodgers are still the deepest team in the National League, and have the most avenues for improvement. Plus, their stars will play better. If this 7-9 stretch happened in July, no one would bat an eye. Their current 3-game winning streak might already be a sign of things turning around.
2. Boston Red Sox
Previous ranking: 6
The Red Sox and Yankees have already reignite baseball’s best rivalry, and despite New York's early season struggles, this is still shaping up to be the best division race in baseball. Mookie Betts has bounced back dramatically from his "down" 2017, and the Xander Bogaerts looked like a star before his injury. If this team stays healthy (not an unreasonable "if", considering the histories of J.D. Martinez and company), then this team looks like the real deal, sporting a 14-2 record and the best run differential in the league.
1. Houston Astros
Previous ranking: 1
The Astros don't have the league's best record, or the best run-differential, but they should still be considered the team to beat. The hitting will come around as the weather improves, and the pitching has been dynamic, including breakout Gerrit Cole, who may very well be the AL Cy Young at this point in the season. We've been given no reason to re-think their spot atop the rankings so far.