A.L. Power Rankings: It's been a surprising season
A.L. Power Rankings
By Jimmy Toscano
It's been two weeks since the last installment of the A.L. Power Rankings, but it feels like an eternity.
I mean, just take a look at the differences from the last one to this one. Actually, don't. It's pretty embarrassing. I'll definitely admit I was way off on a few things.
But for the first month of the season, your preseason expectations weigh heavily on your overall thoughts on a team. Now you start to see some patterns here and there. You say, "Okay, maybe I overrated this team or underrated that one." And adjust accordingly. It's like what John Farrell said about his pitching rotation: He wants to see six to eight turns through before he really gets an idea on what he's working with (or in other words, what he has finally come to terms with).
Of course, some teams are living up to those expectations. The Royals and Tigers continue to play great baseball. And the Angels are starting to turn things around after a slow start to the season.
But after that? AHHHHHHH!
Up is down in the A.L. right now. Heads are spinning. We've got the Yankees and Rays leading the A.L. East, the Twins(?!) just a few games behind the Royals for first place in the A.L. Central, and the Houston Astros still leading the A.L. West.
It's mayhem. Can it last 162 games? Probably not. But the Twins are gonna make me sweat this one out for a bit after I completely wrote them off -- and then doubled down on it.
With that, this installment's (hopefully more accurate) power rankings (records through Thursday afternoon's games).
1. Kansas City Royals (22-13, previous: 1)
The bad boys of baseball have avoided trouble lately . . . thought I don't expect it to last, nor do I want it to. Give me more drama, Royals! Anyway, let's talk about Eric Hosmer for a minute. Why? Because he's on my fantasy teams and I need to drum up some value/interest. But the truth is, Hosmer is doing it on his own. He leads the Royals in batting average (.333), home runs (7), and RBI (29). Four of his home runs have been for over 425 feet, tied for the most in the league with Nelson Cruz. Oh, and he's just 25 years old. I've drafted him for, like, three seasons in a row (admittedly I jumped the gun), so it's good to see him coming around. The Royals are obviously a fun team to watch and they haven't been this popular in, I don't know, a long time. But they play in Missouri. Fly-over state. Not a ton out there. Fans scattered across the state and nearby states. Getting to the games might be hard for some. So what did Royals do? Party bus!! Well, not exactly , , , but it can be. The team has partnered with local Royals Radio Network affiliates and FOX Sports KC to give away free tickets and trips to their games. There are 10 trips planned in all, from Kansas, to Missouri, to Nebraska, to Iowa. Win tickets, hop on. Fun times.
2. Detroit Tigers (21-14, previous: 2)
It was bad news when Alex Avila landed on the DL at the end of last week. It was gross news when it was deemed there is a "loose body" in his knee, What the heck does that mean? However, now they're saying it may not be loose after all, and Avila will avoid surgery. Good news for the Tigers, who have been a .500 team over the last 16 games. What's up with them lately? Well, according to Rant Sport, it's their offense in May. "So far this month, they rank 23rd in BA (.238) and 26th in OPS (.639). Plus, they have only managed a mere four home runs, which ranks dead last among all MLB teams." Well, you can take those stats and shove 'em you know where, because on Thursday they cracked four home runs (two from Miggy) and scored 13 runs.
3. New York Yankees (21-14, previous: 8)
Well, it looks like I was wrong about the Yankees -- at least so far. Still skeptical on their starting pitching, but Michael Pineda is dealing right now. (See, Mike? You didn't need the pine tar!) Their bullpen is lights out. Their offense? Pretty good! The Bronx Bombers have 43 dingers on the year, third in MLB. Give it up for A-Rod, if that's possible. And that's who I want to talk about for a minute. Well, him and Jorge Posada. Okay, to be honest I just want to vent on Posada, because that's one dude I could not stand on the Yankees growing up. Such a hateable player. It didn't surprise me one bit that he was complaining that PED users shouldn't make the HOF, including his former teammates like A-Rod. And now he's backing off, of course. Hey Jorge, we know you're selling a book, and we don't want to read it. So pipe down before Pedro zings one right by your head. He's on a book tour, too, and you're crowding his space once again.
4. Houston Astros (21-13, previous: 11)
And here's one of the major surprises of the season so far, though I'm not sure how long they'll last. I mean, how many teams win their division with the worst batting average in the Majors? Currently that's what the Astros have -- a .225 team batting average, ranking them 30th. It's not Jose Altuve's fault, as he's hitting a team-leading .326 with 21 RBI. But you could point the finger at youngsters George Springer (.196) and Chris Carter (.153). Pitching has been great (3.43 team ERA, second in A.L. behind Yankees), but I think realistic Astros fans consider the team another year or two away from seriously contending. But . . . there's this kid in the minors, shortstop Carlos Correa, who's coming up fast. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal says the Astros should call him up now. But he just got to Triple-A. If he really is legit, maybe they do call him up and try to get the offense going a bit more. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks.
5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (17-17, previous: 5)
The Angels offense in a word? Missing. It's been u-g-l-y at the plate over on the left coast. Mike Trout is doing his thing (9 homers, 19 RBI) and Kole Calhoun is chipping in (.314 avg, 18 RBI), but they're not getting much from anybody else. According to teamrankings.com, the Angels are 29th in slugging percentage (.348), 28th in on-base percentage (.290), and 29th in OPS (.637). The balls they make contact on aren't falling, as they're 28th in BABIP (batting average on balls in play: .268). For those reasons, let the trade rumors begin! But unlike the Red Sox, who are also struggling on offense, the Angels can pitch. They're ranked eighth in ERA (3.51) and fifth in WHIP (1.18). Garrett Richards is on a roll.
6. Minnesota Twins (19-16, previous: 14)
They got spanked on Thursday against the Tigers, which probably falls more in line with their standing among the A.L.'s best, but the Twins deserve credit where it's due. Never did I think the Twins would be three games above .500 this year. Prior to losing three of their last four, the Twins had won 12 of 15. Why? Because it's fun to win. Really. That's kind of it. This article from the Star Tribune highlights the fun the Twins have after they win games. Smoke machines. Laser beams. Party music. Yes, yes, and yes please. And who's idea is all this partying and dancing? Torii Hunter. The veteran was brought back to the Twins to provide some leadership -- and dance moves -- and that's what he's doing. I love this whole thing. Clubhouse chemistry is important, regardless of what you hear elsewhere. Winning obviously improves chemistry, but you can say the same the other way around. Anyways, doing a 180 on the Twins. Fun group.
7. Toronto Blue Jays (17-18 previous: 6)
What's new with our good friends north of the border? Well, Jose Reyes is on the mend. He was pain-free after BP on Wednesday and will keep taking steps to return. Perhaps late next week? We'll see. But there's still a big issue in Toronto. Jose Bautista is currently DHing. He's not a DH. The reason is because he has a shoulder injury that prevents him from throwing the ball without pain. There are no signs it's affecting him at the plate yet, but I think everybody knows a DL stint is probably the smartest decision to make sure that shoulder heals fully. Long season, ya know.
8. Tampa Bay Rays (19-16, previous: 10)
The Rays are winning the way everybody assumed they'd have to: On the mound. They're second in the A.L. in runs allowed (126), just two behind the Angels. But they're just a plus-seven in run differential, because their offense is so weak. Their "power hitter" is Steven Souza Jr., who leads the team with 6 home runs and 15 RBI. He also leads all of MLB with 52 strikeouts, soooo yeah -- good luck to the pitchers. Anyways, cool story: At a Rays game this week, an EMT proposed to a domestic-violence survivor he helped save over three years ago.
9. Seattle Mariners (15-18, previous: 9)
The Mariners had won four in a row before Wednesday's loss to the Padres, yet they still went from being one game under .500 the last time we checked in to three games under now. I may have been completely off with the Twins (though I don't think I am), but so far the Mariners are who I thought they were: Overrated. Thank goodness for Nelson Cruz, because if not for him who knows where the Mariners would be? The dude has 15 homers and 29 RBI. That's 14 more homers than Robinson Cano. The M's aren't getting much offense from anybody not named Nelson. Luckily for them, the Red Sox pitching staff comes to town this weekend.
10. Boston Red Sox (16-18, previous: 3)
Well, folks, we have an all-out crisis on our hands. Forget that the Sox have won three of their last four games. Right now, there's little to hang on to. For one, the team's offense has gone very silent. These days, if there's a lefty on the mound, forget about it. According to Sean McAdam, they went into Wednesday's game hitting just .188 against lefties. And yes, teams are stacking lefties against them (like the Mariners, who'll pitch three this weekend). Unfortunately, when there's no offense, the pitching can't bail them out. This is the real problem. The offense will come. (Right? . . . ) But the pitching? Yeesh. Last week it was the pitching coach Juan Nieves who was axed. This week it was Justin Masterson removed from the rotation. Wade Miley somehow avoided like five disasters on Wednesday to hold on for now. But the staff as a whole is in trouble. Joe Kelly is probably making the most important start of his career Thursday night. The Sox are better than their record shows, but only they can prove it.
11. Baltimore Orioles (15-17, Previous: 4)
Like the Red Sox, many pegged the Orioles as the best team in the A.L. East. And like the Red Sox, they sit 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Yankees. On Monday, the Orioles got to play in front of their fans for the first time since April 26, partially due to riots in Baltimore. They took the series against the Jays, two games to one, and have series against the Angels and Mariners before they hit the road again. And here's a cool thing: The Orioles will still pay all their stadium employees that missed out on work due to the O's playing one game in an empty Camden Yards and moving three home games to Tampa Bay. Nice gesture. I still can't stand Buck Showalter, though.
12. Chicago White Sox (14-17, previous: 12)
Just a week or so ago, things were getting so bad in Chicago that they couldn't even listen to music right. According to the Chicago Tribune, an explicit hip-hop song in the clubhouse ruffled a few feathers, including those of executive vice-president Ken Williams. Long story short, whatever song it was won't be played anymore with reporters around. But this week? The White Sox are alive and well! They've won four of their last five (so what if two were against the Brewers?) and got four strong pitching performances in those wins. There's even better news: The Carlos Rodon Era is underway on the South Side! The young lefty is making the transition to the rotation, starting on Friday. Worth a pick-up in fantasy leagues? Absolutely -- though it sounds like they're gonna be careful with his starts/innings. Probably the best news is that Chris Sale looked like Chris Sale on Tuesday, allowing two runs in eight innings while striking out 11.
13. Oakland Athletics (13-23, previous: 7)
Another disappointing team out of the gates is the Oakland Athletics. You could say this is the most disappointing team in the A.L., actually, as they're dead last in the Western Division, nine games out of first place. So, why? The offense has been solid -- they're fifth in the Majors in runs scored (164) and rank above average in plenty of hitting categories. You want to blame some of the struggles on injuries? Okay. You want to blame some on pitching? Fine. How about the defense? Ding ding ding! The A's are dead last in the Majors with 36 errors. That's one per game. And their shortstop Marcus Semien has 11 of them. Clean it up, fellas. There's a division to compete for.
14. Cleveland Indians (12-21, previous: 13)
It's looking like it might be a long season for the Indians. They're in the best division in the A.L., and playing the worst baseball. But there was at least a glimmer of hope Wednesday as Corey Kluber spun eight shutout innings with 18 strikeouts. Some are saying it was one of the best-pitched games in history. So hey, something to build on. Now for some very sad news. The team announced that Mike Aviles' 4-year-old daughter is being treated for leukemia. So we will keep his family in our thoughts and prayers. I met Aviles my very first time covering a baseball game, and he was extremely nice and a great guy. I think most people around the league would say the same about him.
15. Texas Rangers (15-20, previous: 15)
It's good to see Prince Fielder is back doing Prince Fielder things after neck surgery ended his 2014 season early. Now healthy, he's batting .346 with 4 home runs and 19 RBI. He's also able to bust out dance moves like this one. Not bad, Prince. In other news, Josh Hamilton is getting closer to a return. He's playing in some minor-league games over the weekend and into next week, but could be ready to join the Rangers by the middle or end of next week. It'll be a good story if he comes back and plays well, but they need a lot more than Hamilton to fix their problems.