MLB Power Rankings: Week 1
Published on April 12, 2017
We’re only about a week into the 2017 MLB season, but it’s never too early to make some snap judgments. That’s what we’re here for, right? Some teams are overperforming, while others have been slow to get on track. The Cubs remain the favorites to win the whole thing again, but they clearly have their fair share of competition in the National League alone.
It’s only logical to have the defending champs at the top. The Cubs are off to a solid 5-2 start, and got a walk-off win on Monday night to topple the Dodgers in the bottom of the 9th. Joe Maddon made the controversial decision to install slugger Kyle Schwarber as the leadoff man, and so far, so good. While Schwarber’s only hitting .222, he’s getting on base at an elite .382 clip and has already clubbed a pair of homers through seven games.
The Tribe are hungry this season, and they looked the part out of the gates. They promptly swept a fellow American League contender in Texas on the road to start the season, but then were swept themselves over the weekend by Arizona. Newcomer Edwin Encarnacion homered in his Indians debut against the Rangers, but he’s racked up just three hits in the five games since.
Everyone was picking the Red Sox to cruise in the AL East to start the season, but the Orioles are letting everybody know that they’re still here to be reckoned with. Baltimore won each of its first four games, and Tuesday night will start a three-game set with those favored Red Sox.
Closer Zach Britton has picked up right where he left off last season. He’s recorded a save in three of the O’s victories to this point without giving up a run. The left-hander has now recorded 52 consecutive saves.
The Astros loaded up on bats during the offseason, but so far scoring has been a tall task for this team. They’ve scored just 21 runs through their first eight games, which is one of the worst marks in all of baseball to this point. One would imagine they’ll eventually start clicking, but they’ve been rather rough on the eyes in the first week.
That excludes George Springer, who has really been the only source of offense. Springer has already blasted four home runs, three of which have come leading off games. The other homer was a walk-off, three-run shot off of Seattle’s Chase De Jong.
LA’s offense has run incredibly hot and incredibly cold. They’ve already scored 10-plus runs three times this season, but have only been able to muster eight runs in the other five games. The Dodgers’ rotation depth is a strength, and it’s already come in handy. Rich Hill was sent to the disabled list with another blister problem, but the team had a plenty capable fill-in in Alex Wood pitch against the Cubs on Monday night.
Many thought the Nationals gave up way too much to pry Adam Eaton for the White Sox, and that still may be true. Regardless, they sure got themselves an excellent player. Eaton has been Washington’s most consistent bat in the early going, and it seems like he’s in the middle of everything offensively. Spanky is hitting .333/.485/.583 with a homer, four RBI and eight walks already. With Trea Turner on the DL, the Nats have sorely needed Eaton’s spark at the top of the order.
Is this the year the Rockies finally contend? They seem to have the roster to do so, and it’ll really come down to how the pitching fares. The revamped bullpen has been lights-out so far (2.83 ERA), and the starters have looked solid for the most part. The problem with them early in the season has been, strangely enough, the hitting.
Carlos Gonzalez (.179/.200/.250), Trevor Story (.148/.281/.259), Charlie Blackmon (.219/.286/.375) and DJ LeMahieu (.214/.290/.429) have all come out of the gates scuffling at the dish. Once they turn it around, though, look out.
What an unfortunate and strange start to the season for the Red Sox. They had to put two players on the bereavement list (Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts), Jackie Bradley Jr. had to go to the DL with a leg injury and several players (including Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts) have come down with an illness and missed a handful of games. The team even had to fumigate the Fenway Park locker room in an attempt to rid the clubhouse of whatever was floating around.
Newcomer Chris Sale is a hard-luck 0-1, but he’s pitched excellently through two starts. The lanky lefty has allowed just eight hits and two runs in 14.2 innings of work with 17 strikeouts so far.
The D-Backs are more eager than anyone to prove that the disastrous 2016 season was an anomaly. There’s plenty of talent up and down the order, and it’s been delivering in the season’s early stages. They won three-of-four over San Francisco before impressively sweeping the defending AL champs over the weekend.
Second baseman Brandon Drury has been a man possessed at the plate. He’s hitting an absurd .417/.440/.542 through the season’s first seven games. If he can continue to produce at the top of the lineup, this team will be a major threat with the bats all year long.
The Tigers have three excellent arms (Verlander, Zimmermann, Fulmer) atop the rotation, but if the two prospects (Norris, Boyd) at the bottom of the rotation can deliver, they’ll be cooking with gas. Daniel Norris was solid over the weekend against the Red Sox, allowing three runs on seven hits over 6.1 innings. Matt Boyd was even better on Tuesday against the Twins, holding Minnesota scoreless on just one hit in six innings of work.
Detroit has managed to start the season hot despite a weak start from Miguel Cabrera. The former MVP is hitting just .125/.240/.095 and hasn’t homered or driven in a run yet.
The Halos opened the season by splitting with the A’s before sweeping the Mariners at home over the weekend. The series’ final game was a thriller that saw the Angels erase a 9-3 deficit in the ninth to win, 10-9. Mike Trout has been doing Mike Trout things, as he’s already clubbed a pair of dongs and driven in seven runs through the season’s first week.
Can they really keep up with the contenders in the AL West? We’ll see, but it’s been a lively start for Anaheim.
The Mets clearly have the rotation with the most upside of any team in baseball, and they appear primed to contend once again in the NL East. Matt Harvey seems primed to round back into ace form after a terrible 2016, while Jacob deGrom’s velocity is back up to where it was in 2015.
Let’s not forget Jay Bruce, who’s gotten off to a blazing start with the bat. The former Red is hitting .304 with four homers and six knocked in through the first seven games of 2017.
They were beaten by Boyd and the Tigers on Tuesday, but Minnesota has quietly hit the ground running to start ‘17. They’ve won five of their first seven games and don’t at all resemble the team that finished with the worst record in the AL last year. Perhaps most impressive about their start is that Brian Dozier hasn’t even really started hitting yet. After slugging 42 homers last season, the Mississippi native is hitting just .214 and hasn’t donged yet this season.
Tyler Glasnow dominated the minors, but his start on Monday goes to show that the major leagues are a whole different animal altogether. The top-rated prospect couldn’t find the strike zone against the Reds, as he lasted just 1.2 innings while giving up five walks, four hits and five earned runs while striking out one.
The Pirates still have high hopes for the 23-year-old, but we can’t expect him to be an ace just yet.
The Rays are expected by many to finish in last place in the AL East this season, but they’ve started the season by doing some damage to division rivals. They took two-of-three from the Yankees to start the campaign and subsequently won three-of-four over Toronto.
This team doesn’t have a ton of name recognition, but there are some bats in the lineup capable of doing major damage. Steven Souza (.370 average), Logan Morrison (.333), Corey Dickerson (.310) and Kevin Kiermaier (.267) have all come out swinging hot sticks.
The Marlins have a slew of All-Star caliber players in the lineup (Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich), but their standout performer at the plate to start 2017 has been…JT Realmuto? Yes, no player in baseball had a better opening week at the dish than the Marlins’ catcher, who is currently boasting a slash line of .500/.542/.909 with a pair of homers and six runs batted in.
That’s quite obviously not sustainable in the least, but he’s the rare catcher that consistently hits in one of the two first spots in the order on a nightly basis. Realmuto is emerging as an interesting weapon ahead of the big boppers in the middle of the Miami lineup.
Cincinnati is expected to sink to the bottom of the division by year’s end, but they have surprised some people by starting the year 5-2. They were able to capitalize on Tyler Glasnow’s lack of command and beat the Pirates on Monday night, and the pitching has been surprisingly formidable, especially in the bullpen.
We’ve seen a slew of big names come out of the gates cold, and Joey Votto is no exception. The lefty, considered by some to be the best overall hitter in the game, is hitting .192/.250/.500 through his first seven games. Something tells me we’re about to see some massive positive regression coming his way.
The Rangers seem to have some issues with the pitching staff. Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels form a formidable duo at the top, but there aren’t many other arms on the staff that scare anybody. The rotation currently consists of AJ Griffin and Martin Perez at the bottom, which could prove problematic for Texas’s chances at defending their AL West crown.
Nomar Mazara doesn’t get a whole lot of national pub, but he’s one of the game’s elite young talents. After a solid rookie season, the 21-year-old has hit .417 through the first six games of the season with a pair of home runs and nine driven in. Did I mention that he’s 21?
The Cards have quickly sunk to the bottom of the NL Central, having picked up just two wins through the first seven outings in 2017. They dropped two of three against Cincinnati over the weekend before getting clubbed by the Nationals 14-6 on Monday night. Newcomer Dexter Fowler has been slow to adapt to his new surroundings, as he’s picked up just four hits through his first 27 at-bats as a Cardinal.
The top-four teams in the league in runs scored to this point are the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Nationals and…Phillies? Yes, the Phillies have cranked out 38 runs in seven games. That’s a bit skewed, of course, considering 17 of those tallies came in one game against since-DFA’d Nationals starter Jeremy Guthrie over the weekend.
Many in and around the organization are excited about first base prospect Brock Stassi, who recorded his first major league hit on Monday night against the Mets. Stassi drilled a 410-foot home run to right-center field off of Addison Reed, and he adds some potential thunder to a lineup without a ton of pop.
Khris Davis is quickly becoming the most underrated player in baseball. Sure, he strikes out a ton and there are holes in his game, but there may not be a more powerful bat in the entire league. Davis has already hit four homers on the season after quietly crushing 42 a season ago. The fact that he’s able to hit so many homers in one of the worst hitter’s parks in baseball is a true testament to his insane strength.
The season hasn’t gotten off to the start the Yankees would’ve liked, and now they’ll be without star catcher Gary Sanchez for the next several weeks thanks to a biceps injury. After getting shelled in his first start by Tampa, starter Michael Pineda exacted some serious revenge against the Rays in the Yanks’ home opener on Monday. Pineda took a perfect game into the seventh inning and finished having allowed just one run while striking out 11.
He’s perhaps the most volatile starter in baseball, but if Pineda can actually start showing some consistency, he’s fully capable of being a top-of-the-rotation guy.
The Jays have won just one of their first five games in 2017, and now they’ll be without third baseman Josh Donaldson. Donaldson was forced to leave Sunday’s game in Tampa with calf tightness, and he won’t play in Tuesday’s home opener against the Brewers.
This team lost some noteworthy bats during the offseason, but they should still have enough firepower in the lineup to overcome those losses. The Jays have hit only four home runs as a team to this point, two of which have come off the bat of Donaldson.
After getting swept in embarrassing fashion by the Twins to start the year, the Royals bounced back by taking two-of-three from the Astros over the weekend. The bats fell quiet again in their home opener on Monday, though, as they struggled mightily against A’s prospect Jharel Cotton.
This will be an interesting season in KC. They have a slew of veterans set to get paid in the near future, and there’s no way the Royals can afford to pay them all. If they fall out of contention fairly quickly, we could see some big names hit the trade market later in the summer.
The Brewers acquired Travis Shaw from the Red Sox during the offseason, and so far it’s looking like a prudent pick-up. He’s hitting a solid .280/.379/.600 so far with a home run and 6 RBI. Five of his seven hits have been doubles, and he’s also walked another four times.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t helped translate into wins. The Brew Crew have started the season just 2-5, and it’s hard to imagine them mounting a surprise run to a Wild Card spot out of the NL Central.
It’s been tough sledding for the Giants thus far, but they’ve played just one home game to this point. They dropped three of their four games in Arizona to begin the season before embarrassingly losing two-of-three in San Diego against a punchless Padres team. Madison Bumgarner has pitched excellently through two starts, yet he has an o-1 record to show for it.
San Francisco got a scare on Monday when Buster Posey was hit in the head by a pitch from Taijuan Walker that forced him to leave the game in the first inning. He said after the game that he’s OK, but we’ll see if he’s ready to play again on Tuesday.
The White Sox have had to deal with some rough weather to start the season, as they’ve already had two games postponed. It’ll be interesting to see what James Shields can give them this season after being an unmitigated disaster for the most part after coming over from San Diego last year. If he can show signs of rounding back into form, he’ll be an interesting trade candidate for the rebuilding White Sox.
The Padres are still expected by many (yours truly included) to be the worst team in the NL West this season, but they’ve shown some good fight in the season’s early stages. They were blasted by the Dodgers in three of four games to start the year, but came back home and promptly took two-of-three from San Francisco before winning in Colorado Monday night.
WilMyers looks every bit the player the Padres hope to build around. The first baseman became the second player in franchise history to hit for the cycle on Monday, and he’s currently hitting .382 with three homers through eight games.
The Braves’ lineup is really just Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp and a bunch of dudes. Those two have combined to hit four of the team’s five home runs to this point, and Kemp in particular is off to a blazing start. The veteran outfielder is boasting a hefty .500 average through 16 at-bats and has collected a team-leading 18 total bases.
This was supposed to be the year Seattle finally edged toward the top of the division again, but the season has gotten off to quite the inauspicious start. They lost six of their first seven games to start 2017, including the aforementioned ninth inning meltdown on Sunday against the Angels.
They earned a win in their home opener against the Astros on Monday, and they’re hopeful a little home cooking can help them right the ship.