MLB Power Rankings: Royals, Twins continue surprising surge


MLB Power Rankings: Royals, Twins continue surprising surge

Last weekend saw Kansas City take two of three from St. Louis in the I-70 series, so we have a new No. 1: The defending American League champs. It seems like ages ago we were taking a skeptical at the Royals, who came out of the gates strong against the White Sox and haven't slowed down since.

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 3

Kendrys Morales has an .857 OPS and six home runs. Through about two months, he's been the most successful under-the-radar offseason signing.

2   1

Are they starting to fall back to Earth? They've lost two of their last three series and tied in the other.

3 2

Three-game sweep at the hands of Giants in San Fran highlights Dodgers' worrisome 7-11 record on the road.

4   5

Bryce Harper won't turn down for anything, leading the charge for one of the hottest teams in baseball.

5 4

They're cruising for now, but probably will need more pitching than Dallas Keuchel to fend off the rest of the AL West contenders.

6   12

"I don't know where you magic pixies came from, but I like your pixie drink."

7 10

Whaddya know? After an 8-game winning streak, Giants are suddenly lead NL Wild Card and only two games behind Dodgers in the West.

8 6

They really could use a healthy, effective Justin Verlander back as Anibal Sanchez continues to get lit up.

9 7

They're just 3-5 since their 6-game win streak as they search for consistency.

10 8

Got crushed by the Cardinals in back-to-back games this week and then were swept out of Pittsburgh.

11   15

Back at .500 and rolling strong, making a push for contention again right before Memorial Day.

12 11

In a weak AL East, they're sitting pretty thanks to 20 combined strong starts from Chris Archer (2.40 ERA) and Jake Odorizzi (2.31 ERA).

13 22

Surging behind Prince Fielder's renaissance, and hey, maybe Josh Hamilton will help them too.

14 9

Michael Pineda's been excellent, but they'll need Masahiro Tanaka to come back healthy and effective to really mount a playoff run.

15 13

Not exactly playing inspiring ball, but Mike Trout is still doing Mike Trout things, so they're hanging around .500.

16 20

Ubaldo Jimenez -- yep, that Ubaldo Jimenez -- has a 2.82 ERA and a sustainable 3.08 FIP. Nice bounce-back for a guy who's been justifiably written off quite a bit recently.

17 17

They're lurking, but concerning is their bullpen averaging 4.13 walks per nine innings.

18 18

Still hanging around the race, thanks to an easy schedule where they beat up on bad teams (Brewers, Marlins) by winning 6 of 7 in those two series.

19 25

Took three of four from the White Sox and swept the Reds last week. It's a start.

20   24

This is looking more and more like A.J. Pollock's breakout season (.311/.353/.441, 10 SB) if he can stay healthy.

21 19

Their starting rotation ERA is an AL-worst 5.17 and Joe Kelly may be on thin ice. Yikes.

22 14 They have yet to hit a groove and play up to expectations and suddenly people are calling for Bud Black's job.
23 23

Like the Red Sox, pitching is holding them back. Drew Hutchison's shutout of the White Sox Monday, though, was a welcome change north of the border.

24 16

After a rough homestand, an 11-game road trip began Monday night with a listless loss to Toronto.

25 28

After an 11-game losing streak at the end of April/beginning of May, the Rockies have now won 5 of 8 to prove they really are the streakiest team in baseball.

26 26

Marcus Semien's defense hasn't been good, but he has a solid .290/.337/.459 slash line through 47 games.

27 26

After hitting .114 with .398 OPS in April, Chase Utley has a .250 AVG and .728 OPS and has 13 hits in his last 10 games.

28 27

Unreal how much of a mess things are in Miami in what was expected to be a potentially fun season. Even more drama now with coaching staff.

29 21

9-game losing streak sinks them all the way to 29th on this list, though they received good news on Johnny Cueto's elbow.

30 28

Things still aren't going well in Milwaukee, but at least Jonathan Lucroy is due back next week.

No-brainer: The Cubs should absolutely bring back Jesse Chavez in 2019 bullpen

No-brainer: The Cubs should absolutely bring back Jesse Chavez in 2019 bullpen

Should the Cubs bring Jesse Chavez back for the 2019 bullpen?

This question shouldn't have anywhere near the polarizing effect the Daniel Murphy query had earlier this week, and for good reason.

It's hard to find any real downside for the Cubs working Chavez back into the fold next season. 

Sure, he's 35 and he'll turn 36 in August, but Chavez just had far and away the best season of his 11-year career and all signs point to it being legit.

He won't have a 1.15 ERA forever, of course, but he clearly found something with his mechanics that helped lead to the remarkable consistency he showed in a Cubs uniform (4 saves, 4 holds, 1.15 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 42 Ks in 39 IP). 

The Cubs will be looking to add some reinforcements to their bullpen this winter and Chavez fits the bill in many areas.

When asked about how to address the bullpen this winter, Theo Epstein said his front office will be "looking for guys who can throw strikes and execute a gameplan and take the ball and pitch in big spots."

The Cubs have publicly placed an emphasis on "strike-throwers" out of the bullpen over the last two winters now and that is right up Chavez's alley.

He threw 68.5 percent first-pitch strikes while with the Cubs, which would've ranked near the top of the league in 2018, right up there with aces like Miles Mikolas, Clayton Kershaw, Aaron Nola and Justin Verlander. Among all relievers, Chavez ranked 5th in baseball in first-pitch strike percentage in the second half.

Expanding further (since the first pitch isn't the only one that matters): Chavez threw the fourth-most strikes in baseball among all MLB relievers after the All-Star Break. Since the day Chavez put on a Cubs uniform, Philadelphia's Tommy Hunter (70.5 percent) was the only reliever in baseball (minimum 30 innings) to throw a higher percentage of pitches for strikes than Chavez (69.8 percent).

If you want strikes, there's no better reliever on the market right now than Chavez.

He also shouldn't be all that expensive at age 35, even despite the breakout and high level of importance placed upon relievers these days. A similar deal to the one Brian Duensing got last winter - $7 million over 2 years - seems appropriate and would be a steal if Chavez can continue to find even a modicum of the success he had since putting on a Cubs uniform.

Speaking of the Cubs uniform, Chavez reportedly doesn't want to wear another logo in 2019, saying this after the NL Wild-Card Game:

That was an emotional time, but Chavez repeatedly raved about the Cubs clubhouse and culture throughout his time in Chicago and really appreciated the way his teammates made him feel comfortable from Day 1.

When the Cubs first acquired Chavez in that under-the-radar trade, they touted his versatility which has become a valuable asset, especially in today's game where relievers are often asked to pitch multiple innings. If necessary, he could also represent depth for the starting rotation, having made 70 starts over his MLB career. 

Unless there's a surprising market that develops for Chavez, bringing him back to the North Side of Chicago on a 1- or 2-year deal is a no-brainer.

Maybe the early exit was just what the Cubs needed

Maybe the early exit was just what the Cubs needed

A year ago, the Cubs world was in essentially the exact same place — trying to find answers for a season that ended earlier than expected.

There was only one difference: Time.

The 2018 Cubs woke up on the morning of Oct. 22 having been out of action almost three full weeks. That's a long time in terms of decompressing, letting your body heal and evaluating what went wrong.

A year ago today, Ben Zobrist was in the midst of trying to heal his ailing wrist after a third straight trip deep into the postseason.

A year ago today, Theo Epstein was roughly 48 hours removed from his annual end-of-season eulogy.

A year ago today, Kris Bryant was trying to catch his breath after what he called the most draining campaign of his life.

Yet we woke up Monday morning 19 full days removed from the latest iteration of Epstein's end-of-season eulogy, Zobrist is making light-hearted Instagram videos and Bryant is already nearly three weeks into the process of letting his left shoulder heal completely and adding strength.

Of course, that trio of Cubs figures would gladly trade in these extra few weeks of time off for another shot at the NL pennant, even if they fell short in the NLCS again.

Still, there's a lot of value in extra time off, especially after three straight falls where they went deep into October playing high-stress baseball. The Cubs absolutely will go in 2019 much fresher than they went into this year's spring training.

For example, Jon Lester threw 8.1 fewer innings this October than 2017 and 29.2 fewer innings than 2016. Zobrist played 8 fewer games this October than 2018 and 16 fewer than 2016 (he also won the World Series in 2015 as a member of the Kansas City Royals). That matters when players' ages start creeping up into the mid-to-late 30s.

It shouldn't take the sting out of the disappointing end to 2018 for the Cubs or their fans, but extra time off for these guys is certainly not a bad thing. 

The Cubs have already gotten the ball rolling on offseason changes, including replacing Chili Davis at hitting coach with Anthony Iapoce

On top of that, each individual player has now had enough time to evaluate why or how they went wrong offensively down the stretch.

"A full winter — especially this extra month that we unfortunately have — is a luxury in baseball," Epstein said. "There are things that come up all the time during the course of the season with teams and with individual players that you say, 'We'd love to address.' But that's so hard to address during the season because there's always another game tomorrow. 

"Guys are surviving. We have to wait 'til the offseason, then we can get right physically, then we can wade into the mental game, then we can address this swing change, then we can handle this fundamental. Well, we now have that luxury — unfortunately — of a full offseason. How do we take full advantage of this so we're never in this position again?

"We don't want to be a part of an offensive collapse in the second half again. We don't want to be part of losing a division lead late again. We don't want to be part of looking back and recognizing that, gosh, maybe a greater sense of urgency from Game 1 through 162 would've led to one more game and then we're still playing. We don't want to be part of that ever again, so we need to make good use of this time."

The early exit also helps to create a chip on the shoulder for each member of the organization. It's hard to see the Cubs spending much time in 2019 lacking the same "urgency" they had this summer. The painful NL Wild-Card loss will leave a bad taste in their mouths that can carry over all the way until next October. 

Like Lester said, sometimes you "need to get your dick knocked in the dirt in order to appreciate where you're at." 

We saw that play out on the North Side of Chicago from 2015 into 2016 and Cole Hamels has seen this script before with a young core of players in Philadelphia.

In 2007, the Phillies made the playoffs, but were swept out of the NLDS by the Colorado Rockies. They rebounded to win the World Series the next fall over Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays.

"That [2007 sweep] really kind of taught us what the postseason experience was and what it was to not just play to the end of the season and instead to play to the end of the postseason," Hamels said. "This is a tremendous experience for a lot of guys and you have to go through the hardships before you get to enjoy the big moments.

"I know there's a lot of players here that have won a World Series, but there's also a lot that didn't have that sort of participation that you would kind of look towards, so I think this is great for them. 

"It's exciting to see what they're gonna be able to do next year and the year after that because this is a tremendous team here with the talent that they have. It's gonna be a great couple years."