2018 MLB Power Rankings
2018 MLB Power Rankings
It's almost Memorial Day, and that means it's time for another update to our 2018 MLB Power Rankings. Get ready for some major shifts in our second in-season update.
30. Miami Marlins
Previous ranking: 30
We've made it pretty clear that as long as we're not absolutely forced to put a different team at the bottom of these rankings, we will gladly keep the Marlins here all season long. Thankfully for us, they've stunk up the joint and have one of the five worst records in baseball. Congratulations, Miami! You're still in the cellar.
29. Chicago White Sox
Previous ranking: 24
While I've pointed out several times that the White Sox are quite happy to be tanking, it's still a surprise seeing them with a 10-29 record, which is good for dead last in all of Major League Baseball. This team seems too talented for that, but at the same time, it makes sense when they're relying on unproven talent like Reynaldo Lopez and Yoan Moncada. Their -75 run differential is second-worst in baseball, and it likely won't get any better from here.
28. Kansas City Royals
Previous ranking: 28
The Royals are in a race to the bottom with the White Sox who are currently just one game "ahead" in tanking for the top pick in the draft. The Royals also have an abhorrent run differential (-73) and are currently riding a five-game losing streak. That streak includes a sweep at the hands of the quite-bad Rays and doesn't include a recent series loss to the even-worse Orioles. This team started poorly, and is somehow getting worse as the season moves along.
27. Cincinnati Reds
Previous ranking: 26
It's a minor miracle that the Reds are even as high as 27th, as they've already fired their manager midseason and are 14 games blow-.500. Still, the teams at the bottom of the AL Central have been just a tad worse, and the Reds still have some exciting players to watch. Once you get past Luis Castillo and Joey Votto, though, it's tough to find much worth watching in Cincinnati. Maybe Billy Hamilton in a footrace?
26. Baltimore Orioles
Previous ranking: 21
Somehow, I convinced myself the Orioles would be an average-to-above-average team this season, as they slotted in at 15th(!) in our preseason rankings. That looks laughable now, as the O's are competing for the worst record in baseball, though a recent hot streak has put them behind the 8-ball in the race for the top pick in the 2019 draft. What's especially interesting about the Orioles (or damning, depending on your point of view) is that they've managed to stink this badly all while employing one of the five best players in baseball with Manny Machado.
There's no need to re-hash exactly why they should have traded their young superstar by now, but it's still true. The O's are an abysmal 3-16 away from Camden Yards this season, which is so bad it's actually impressive.
25. Texas Rangers
Previous ranking: 20
Another big faller if you look at their record in the preseason rankings, the Rangers haven't had much of anything go right for them. The one exception is Bartolo Colon, who continues to bring joy to baseball fans everywhere, even as he pitches well into his 40's. The Rangers are five games out of fourth place in the AL West, and there are no knights in shining armor coming to save them. This is a bottom-five team in the American League.
24. San Diego Padres
Previous ranking: 23
If it wasn't for the shocking fall of the Dodgers, the futile Padres would be the feel-bad story of the NL West. They sit 10 games below-.500, and have the second-worst run differential in the National League (though it's somehow still 32 runs better than the actual-worst Marlins). They've got plenty of talented young players, but they all feel two years away from being two years away. Which is to say, this team, despite trying to compete right now, still won't be sniffing the postseason until 2020 at the earliest. Which is a shame, as the talent is clearly there.
23. Tampa Bay Rays
Previous ranking: 29
When I pulled up the current MLB standings as a reference point, I expected to see the Rays several games below-.500. I knew they had won a few games in a row against the equally-bad Royals, but this isn't a team you expect to even sniff a .500 record. Somehow, despite being without Kevin Kiermaier, the Rays have a record of 19-22, and they've actually scored more runs this season than the Orioles (by a single run) despite recently losing to Baltimore by a score of 17-1.
22. Detroit Tigers
Previous ranking: 27
The Tigers are bad. Yet, somehow, they seem clearly better than the Royals and White Sox. It's hard to believe a team this nondescript (which is putting it kindly) probably has a floor of third within its division, but woah boy is the AL Central bad. The less time spent thinking about this team, the better.
21. San Francisco Giants
Previous ranking: 22
The Giants sit at 22-22, and while it isn't that surprising, it is disappointing. When you acquire veteran talent, you generally hope it pushes you towards the playoffs, not just a .500 record. Just about the only real good news for fans in San Francisco is A) Madison Bumgarner is reportedly close to returning from injury, and B) you still get to go to AT&T Park to watch your team play. Beyond that, you're out of luck.
20. Oakland Athletics
Previous ranking: 19
The A's still have a .500 record, and I don't have much to say about them, so I'll take this moment to shout out Stephen Piscotty, who returned to the team this week for the first time since the death of his mom (with whom he was extremely close). She had suffered from ALS, and he wanted to play for the A's to be closer to her. In his VERY FIRST AT-BAT since coming back, he hit a home run, and it's not hard to imagine some divine intervention taking place.
19. Minnesota Twins
Previous ranking: 16
The Twins are three games below-.500 at 18-21, and yet they are essentially locked into second place in their division. They've got a negative run differential (-17), and yet they are essentially locked into second place in their division. They have a losing record both at home and on the road, and yet theya re essentially locked into second place in their division. Have I mentioned how terrible the AL Central is yet?
18. New York Mets
Previous ranking: 10
The Mets started the year at 18th in our rankings, then jumped up to 10th after their hot start, and now have fallen back to 18th. The truth is, they are probably somewhere in between, yet I can't put them any higher. This is a team with a negative run differential, and they've gone 3-7 in their last 10 games. Yes, they started on fire, but since then have been a below-average team. I don't expect them to compete for a Wild Card unless Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom stay healthy and awesome for the next four months, and you couldn't give me good enough odds to bet on that happening (though feel free to try, since sports betting is legal now).
17. Toronto Blue Jays
Previous ranking: 13
The Blue Jays aren't good, but they're not bad either. This is reflected both in their record (22-21) and their ranking in this update. Josh Donaldson hasn't been quite healthy all year, and he's currently hitting just .242. None of their starting pitchers have been especially great, and they just lost their young superstar closer Roberto Osuna after a legal incident, and it's unknown how long he'll be out. That said, I'd be pretty stunned if they finished anywhere other than third-place in the AL East.
16. Pittsburgh Pirates
Previous ranking: 25
I will not overreact to the standings until Memorial Day. I will not overreact to the standings until Memorial Day. I will not overreact to the standings until Memorial Day. I will not overreact to the standings until Memorial Day. I will not overreact to the standings until Memorial Day...
No matter how many times I keep reminding myself that seven weeks into the season is still relatively early, it's hard not to be impressed by the Pirates. This is pretty easily my biggest surprise at this point in the season, as I expected the Pirates to be one of the three worst teams in baseball. Somehow, they find themselves in first(!) place within the NL Central, which has helped solidify it as the most competitive division in baseball. I still don't believe in their long-term talent, and I expect to see them in fourth place by the All-Star break. For now, though, I simply can't ignore their early success.
15. Seattle Mariners
Previous ranking: 15
I considered moving the Mariners up thanks to their strong play to begin 2018, as they sit just two games behind the powerhouse Astros in their division. I considered moving them down after the news of Robinson Cano's injury/PED suspension, which will keep one of their best players off the field until August (and in the postseason, should they make it that far).
I compromised by leaving them right at 15th. They've also had a bit of luck, as their +1 run differential would suggest a record closer to .500 than 24-18.
14. Philadelphia Phillies
Previous ranking: 18
The Phillies, like the Braves, still find themselves ahead of the Nationals in the NL East standings, which is impressive. They've got the third-best run differential in the National League, thanks to their strong pitching performance. The Phillies have allowed the fewest runs in the NL (and the second-fewest in all of baseball), and Rhys Hoskins continues to prove himself a star at the plate. This team has just enough to be a nuisance all season long, though I still expect them to finish on the outside looking in when October arrives.
13. Colorado Rockies
Previous ranking: 12
Despite having a pretty unique home-field advantage when it comes to Coors Field and the high altitude, and despite having the reputation of a team that relies on its offensive environment, the Rockies actually have a losing record at home and a winning record on the road. That said, their 23-20 overall record has been a bit of smoke and mirrors, as their run differential is at a very poor -22 on the season. I would expect the offense to pick up in a big way as the weather continues to heat up, but this team isn't very good, and will likely finish closer to the Giants and Padres than they will to the Diamondbacks by season's end.
12. Milwaukee Brewers
Previous ranking: 11
The Brewers are one of the teams in the jumbled mess that is the top of the NL Central, as they currently sit at 25-18 and 0.5 games back of the Pirates. They've also been bitten by the injury bug, as Eric Thames is out for several weeks, interrupting what was another fantastic April for the slugger. Josh Hader continues to be a joy to watch on the mound, and his numbers still look too good even for a video game. I expected the Brewers to compete for the postseason, but not make any real noise if they make it, and that's still the general consensus on the 2018 Brew Crew.
11. St. Louis Cardinals
Previous ranking: 14
The Cardinals are one game back of first place in the NL Central, and they're a half-game up on the Cubs, who are still the favorites. There's not a ton to say about the Cardinals, as they've got a good run differential (+20), good hitting (Tommy Pham has been sensational at the plate), and good young pitching (Jack Flaherty has impressed in limited innings and uber-prospect Alex Reyes is close to returning to the big leagues).
This team shouldn't be considered real contenders, as they just don't have what it takes to compete with the Nationals or Cubs at full strength, but it shouldn't surprise anyone to see St. Louis in the Wild Card Game at the end of the season.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers
Previous ranking: 3
One of the biggest fallers in this rankings update, the Dodgers have struggled mightily in 2018. Not only are they a whopping nine games below-.500, but they're just a half-game ahead of the woeful Padres for last in the NL West. More importantly, while Justin Turner has finally rejoined the lineup, they lost their best position player, shortstop Corey Seager, for the rest of the season. It's a blow that can't be fixed easily, outside of a surprise trade for Manny Machado, but the Dodgers have been hesitant to trade young talent in recent years.
With their injured stars and the hole they've dug themselves, it's time to declare that it would now be far more surprising if the Dodgers do win their division, rather than not winning it. That's not something I expected to say even three weeks ago.
9. Atlanta Braves
Previous ranking: 17
Easily the biggest mover in our power rankings to date, the Braves continue to mash the ball at an incredible rate. Outside of the two monsters at the top of the American League East, the Braves have scored the most runs in baseball this season. Their run differential of +56 is the best in the National League, and they've been buoyed by the best young, long-term core in the sport.
It doesn't get better at the top of the lineup than Acuna, Albies, and Freeman, especially when Albies has a wRC+ of 140 (100 is average) and is already 0.1 away from tying his 2017 Wins Above Replacement according to FanGraphs. That's the statistical way of saying he has been really freaking good, and likely will be for the next decade. The Braves' success may not last all the way through 2018, as young teams often falter in the later months of their breakout season. That said, it's clear this team has arrived.
8. Washington Nationals
Previous ranking: 8
The Nats have been either seventh or eighth in each edition of our power rankings so far, and I still haven't seen a good reason to move them off. When you've dealt with the injury woes that the Nats have, it's hard to overreact to anything we've seen. This team, at full strength, is still really good, as their recent 12 wins in 14 games can attest to. Oh, and Max Scherzer is the best pitcher in baseball now. Just accept it.
The question, though, is how often will they be at full strength? Or, more importantly, will they have their full team in October? If you had Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy, and a couple extra weeks of Anthony Rendon to their current body of work, this team is likely comfortably in first place in the East, even ahead of the surprising Baby Braves. It does feel like they haven't played up to their potential yet, even accounting for the injuries, but winning cures all, and the Nats have done plenty of winning in May. Don't be surprised to see them move up in our next rankings update, but it would be a major surprise if they fell any more than a spot or two the rest of the season.
7. Cleveland Indians
Previous ranking: 4
If you haven't noticed, I still find myself favoring the teams I thought were most talented prior to Opening Day. Sure, there are times you have to realize some teams have just taken the next step (the Braves come to mind), but you can't convince me just yet that a team with Kluber, Ramirez, and Lindor is too much worse than seventh in the league. The Indians are the only team in the AL Central with a positive run differential, and should still be considered heavy favorites in that division. There's a gap between the top five teams in the American League and the other 10 teams, and the Indians are clearly on the right side of that line.
6. Chicago Cubs
Previous ranking: 5
I just can't quit the Cubs. Every time I look at their roster I'm floored by how much young, superstar talent they have. And yet, they're still just in fourth place in the National League Central. So, why are they 6th in our rankings?
Well, first off, the Central is really good this season outside of the Reds. There are four teams within a game and a half of each other, so I'm going to separate them by talent instead of current record. I still believe this is one of the four best teams in the National League, and with the Dodgers losing Seager, their A game is better than any other team's in the NL (besides maybe Washington).
What I'm saying is this team is still stacked, and even despite their "struggles" they've got a 22-17 record and plenty of room for positive regression. If it's July and they're still in fourth, we can talk some more. For now, moving them much farther down than this would feel premature.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
Previous ranking: 9
The Diamondbacks have given themselves a comfortable lead over the struggling Dodgers (who are still their biggest competition in the division, despite sitting in fourth place). This has happened with their most talented pitcher, Robbie Ray, on the Disabled List, Zack Godley regressing after his breakout season, and Paul Goldschmidt struggling to adjust to the Chase Field humidor. Now Pollock is out for several weeks as well, but Arizona just keeps chugging along.
This is a team that didn't even lose a series until May, a remarkable feat of consistency. Eventually, we have to recognize them as not just an upstart team, but a legitimate contender in the National League.
4. Los Angeles Angels
Previous ranking: 6
The Angels are keeping pace with the top-ranked Astros in the American League West, and surprise, surprise, Shohei Ohtani has been leading the charge (with an assist from the always MVP-level play of Mike Trout).
Even when dealing with an injury, Ohtani has dominated headlines across the sport as he puts everyone else in baseball to shame with his dynamic play both on the mound and at the plate. His opening salvo in America has proven quite clearly that he is talented enough to continue to play both ways, and it's confirmed the idea that the Angels have themselves the financial steal of the century.
3. Boston Red Sox
Previous ranking: 2
Just a single game behind the Yankees in the race for the best record in baseball, the first six weeks of the season have been an emphatic reminder that this is the ultimate rivalry in the sport. Even in mid-May, fans can see this is shaping up to be a division race for the ages. It was the Sox who started off hot before the Yankees caught fire at the end of April.
Their run differential is +64 (the Yankees are at +65) and they've been terrific away from Fenway Park (17-8 on the road this season). Mookie Betts is rising to the annual challenge of "Who can compete with Mike Trout in WAR this year?" quite admirably, as he's on pace to hit .350 with nearly 50 home runs and 30 steals atop one of the best lineups in recent years.
2. New York Yankees
Previous ranking: 7
I tried to avoid it as long as I could, but the Yankees belong in the top three. Entering the season, this was the most fearsome lineup in baseball, coupled with potentially the greatest bullpen ever assembled. The rotation doesn't need to be anything better than average.
They "struggled" a bit to start the season, relatively speaking, but recently rattled off 17 wins in 18 games. Their recent hot streak has come while their best position player so far this season (Didi Gregorious) has been in a slump for the ages. Don't expect to see the Evil Empire fall out of the top five again in 2018.
1. Houston Astros
Previous ranking: 1
They still don't have the best record in the league, but third-best isn't too shabby, and I just can't shake them as the best team. The Yankees and Red Sox have been better so far, but it's still early enough in the season to stick by your stronger convictions. I feel quite strongly that Houston is the most talented team in baseball, from their young stars at the plate to their historically great pitching staff. Don't jump off the bandwagon just yet.