Latest posts by Mario Mergola (see all)
- NFL Picks: 2018 Divisional Round Picks Against the Point Spread - Jan 12, 2019
- NFL Picks: 2018 Wild Card Picks Against the Point Spread - Jan 4, 2019
- Week 17 NFL Picks Against the Point Spread - Dec 28, 2018
In the marathon that is a Major League Baseball season, it is incredibly easy to react to any small sample size as an indication to what the entire race will entail. Naturally, this is constantly changing, especially since most teams can change their fates daily.
With that, roughly ten percent of the season’s games are behind us. The results of one or two particular series are now meaningless, as almost the entire month of April can be taken into account as a whole. Some teams — Yankees, Cardinals, and Mets, specifically — have enjoyed the latter part of the opening month, while others — Tigers and Rockies — have cooled off after blistering hot starts.
Either way, the first leg of the race is nearly complete. Now, we can assess the positions of the participants in the first of edition of our MLB Power Rankings:
1. Kansas City Royals (LW: –)
Keep thinking last season was a fluke and the Kansas City Royals will keep proving everyone wrong. Typically, referring to a team’s bullpen as a ‘dangerous weapon’ indicates that other parts of the team are lacking, but this isn’t the case in Kansas City. Solid from top to bottom, the Royals have the talent and depth to win on any given night with any necessary style of play.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: –)
While the spending spree of Dodgers’ ownership in recent seasons has yet to provide a championship, the team consistently performs throughout the regular season. Nothing appears to have changed in Los Angeles, this year, as a combination of veteran — Adrian Gonzalez — and youth — Joc Pederson — talent have pushed the team out of the gate. Considering superstar pitcher Clayton Kershaw has yet to hit his stride, the team may actually be on the rise.
3. Detroit Tigers (LW: –)
As recently as two years ago, who would have thought that a Tigers team without Justin Verlander, but relying heavily on Shane Greene, would be one of the best in the league? Of course, perennial MVP and Cy Young candidates Miguel Cabrera and David Price, respectively, are key contributor’s to the team’s hot start, and the only obstacle that might prevent the Tigers from runaway American League Central winners are their rivals from Kansas City.
4. New York Mets (LW: –)
The fans have believed it for years, and now it is coming to fruition — 2015 is the season the Mets need to make their move. Some may have argued that the Nationals stood in New York’s way, and would have forced the Mets to compete for a Wild Card berth. A slow start by Washington combined with a scorching win-streak in Queens pushes the Mets to the top of the National League East pecking order. It’s early, and their offense remains questionable, but the Mets were poised to explode this year, and may be on the verge in front of our eyes.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: –)
It seems as if anything St. Louis does as an organization always pans out. A prime example would be the team’s ace — Adam Wainwright — undergoing elbow surgery — keep in mind, elbow injuries to pitchers are catastrophic for a team – this past offseason, only to open the year to a sub-2.00 ERA. Matt Carpenter never makes an out at the plate, and is there any reason why Jason Heyward won’t win the Triple Crown this year? Hyperbole aside, the Cardinals should be one of the National League’s best teams all season.
6. Boston Red Sox (LW: –)
Perhaps no team finds success through inconsistency better than the Boston Red Sox. Whether it is pitcher Clay Buchholz alternating between dominant and disastrous, or completely ‘lost’ seasons followed by great ones, the Red Sox have an uncanny knack for always tilting the scales in their favor. This season already looks like it will be towards the ‘positive’ end of the spectrum.
7. San Diego Padres (LW: –)
They bought. They built. And now they are seeing their decisions unfold. Through arguably the busiest offseason of any team, the San Diego Padres retooled almost their entire team. There were legitimate causes for concern with many of the players acquired by San Diego – age and contract burdens being the most obvious – but it looks like the Padres had a successful plan, all along.
8. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: –)
Much like the 2015 Mets and Padres, the 2013 Blue Jays were built to win from the start. Enter disappointment. Two years later, however, Toronto may have quietly remained on the rise in an crowded division. The loss of starting pitcher Marcus Stroman for the year was a big blow for a young staff, and the early struggles of Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez, and Drew Hutchinson were not inspiring, but the team has has hung around despite these setbacks. With their potent offense, the Blue Jays only need a marginally better collective performance from their pitching staff to threaten the Red Sox.
9. Baltimore Orioles (LW: –)
Hold on tight, Baltimore. As Toronto passes the Orioles as the ‘Team on the Rise,’ the injury-ridden, ‘Can’t Put it All Together Yet’ franchise is at an early pivot point in the season. At the plate and on the mound, results are too wildly inconsistent to place any amount of trust in the team. By default of manager Buck Showalter seemingly always putting a respectable team on the field, the Orioles avoid further toppling. But their day may be near.
10. Colorado Rockies (LW: –)
It just can’t be that easy. Before the season, the projections about the Colorado Rockies involved only two players – Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. As many tended to believe, “If they two stay healthy, the team wins.” If only sports were so cut-and-dry. Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, indeed, have remained on the field, and the team’s 6-0 start to the year was impressive, but the recent slide is likely more indicative to what the rest of the season should look like.
11. Los Angeles Angels (LW: –)
At what point do we admit that, even though a team is ‘better’ than they are playing, they may not actually win enough? Anchored by the best hitter in baseball, the Angels still can’t find their way to the top of the American League West. All signs indicate that this will change, but it will have to become a concern if their mediocrity continues any longer.
12. Chicago Cubs (LW: –)
There is no team more likely to change positions in the Power Rankings than the 2015 Chicago Cubs. The recent call-ups of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell provide a much needed boost to two positions vastly under-performing – third base and second base, respectively – and the army at bay is still deep and ready to attack at a moment’s notice. The season may be one of transition, but there is no reason why the Cubs can’t make their move this year. If the pitching stabilizes, the team could shoot higher.
13. Oakland Athletics (LW: –)
How? Of all the questions that could be asked of the Oakland Athletics, it’s,”How do they continue to do this?” After trading away top players in Jeff Samardzija and Josh Donaldson, A’s hardly missed a beat. Individually, the argument can be made that the team’s roster is worse than last year, yet their output says otherwise. Maybe they won’t be able to stay afloat if the currently average division improves, but the A’s seem to always defy the odds.
14. Atlanta Braves (LW: –)
Break up the Braves! In reality, it appeared as if ownership had already done so, yet they started the year as one of the league’s hottest teams. It remains to be seen if their early season success was more a function of weak opponents than a Braves franchise on the rise, but they have yet to completely regress.
15. New York Yankees (LW: –)
It was bound to happen eventually, but we might have finally reached the lowest point of the Yankees’ franchise in the past few decades. Arguably the worst team the organization has fielded in years, New York should actually appear lower on the list, but somehow turned a difficult a road trip into a winning record, bumping the Yankees into a winning record.
16. Seattle Mariners (LW: –)
It has to be the expectations that are weighing the Mariners down. Taijuan Walker was expected to take the next step — he is winless with an ERA over 10.00. Hisashi Iwakuma was expected to continue to pitch well — also winless, and allowing nearly two home runs per start. And the entire offense was expected to enter its prime simultaneously – at the time of this writing, the team is scoring less runs per game than the league average. The talent is certainly present in Seattle, but the wins are not.
17. Cleveland Indians (LW: –)
How about a little run support, Cleveland? Entering the season with one of the league’s most underrated pitching staffs, the Indians’ arms have delivered. The bats have not. That was until Cody Allen imploded for a four-run ninth inning against the White Sox, spoiling another fantastic Trevor Bauer outing. If the offense is going to remain dormant, the pitching will have to remain dominant, and, while hiccups are expected, there is little room for error in Cleveland.
18. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: –)
Something’s amiss in Pittsburgh. The pitching staff — currently with four starters enjoying an ERA under 3.50 — has certainly been a non-issue, and the offense features former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen and a bevy of young talent with Gregory Polanco, Josh Harrison, and Starling Marte. Yet, in a division that includes the Reds and Brewers, the Pirates have yet to put it all together. If nothing else, struggling in the National League Central is the biggest cause for concern.
19. Washington Nationals (LW: –)
How can any Nationals’ pitcher feel confident when a ball is put in play? Shortstop Ian Desmond is such a defensive liability that, even if runs allowed on his errors are deemed ‘unearned,’ the team is suffering, regardless. Outside of Desmond, the rest of the team has yet to fire on all cylinders, and looks like the perfect example of ‘What goes wrong when talent is thrown together.’ With the surging Mets not slowing down, the Nationals are digging themselves a deep hole early in the season.
20. Houston Astros (LW: –)
It shouldn’t be all that surprising that the Astros have yet to crumble — they have incredible talent in the forms of Jose Altuve and George Springer, to name a few. What is surprising is that the team is winning games despite Springer, Chris Carter, and Evan Gattis providing absolutely nothing. The pitching staff is the the biggest reason for early-season success, and it’s not impossible to believe that a better offensive output could push the Astros higher.
21. Cincinnati Reds (LW: –)
A few Cincinnati players – Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto, Anthony DeSclafani, Todd Frazier – are performing so well that it almost masks the collective issues. A good example of this is Frazier and Hamilton, when they are not hitting home runs and stealing bases, respectively. Each one is dominating in his field, but they are also giving away outs like candy on Halloween. The performances of almost everyone on Cincinnati appears unsustainable, and a drop-off should be imminent.
22. Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: –)
The start of the season was a pleasant surprise for the Arizona Diamondbacks — including the outburst of prospect Jake Lamb with regular playing time — but even then, Arizona was little more than average. The Diamondbacks still have one of the game’s premier hitters in Paul Goldschmidt and what looks like a potential ace in Archie Bradley, but there’s little to suggest that the rest of the team will carry their end of the burden.
23. Chicago White Sox (LW: –)
Try as they might, the White Sox just can’t seem to get it all together. Jose Abreu and Chris Sale are two of the best in the game at their respective positions, and players like Adam Eaton and Jeff Samardzija are the perfect compliments to their superstar teammates. Yet still, they lose. Perhaps the recent call-up of pitching prospect Carlos Rodon can provide a much-needed spark to a franchise about to fall victim of its cross-town rival’s success, but the excuses have worn thin. It’s time for the White Sox to perform or disappear in the shadow of the Cubs.
24. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: –)
For years, the Rays received the benefit of all doubts by continuing to prove the baseball world wrong with wins despite a low-budget. The departure of Joe Maddon has essential sparked a rebirth of the franchise, but likely one that won’t happen this year. So far, their early-season play has done little to counter this belief.
25. San Francisco Giants (LW: –)
It’s an odd-numbered year; do the 2015 San Francisco Giants need any more explanation than that? In reality, the Giants’ ‘Every other year’ mentality is not as off-base as jokes tend to imply. The team is not a fantastic regular season franchise, but has the arms to dominate in short series. Any slippage in that regard during the regular season costs the team greatly, and we are likely witnessing the phenomenon yet again.
26. Miami Marlins (LW: –)
A popular preseason ‘sleeper team,’ the Miami Marlins quickly rewarded their supporters with a 4-11 start to the season. Newly acquired Mat Latos gave his contribution to the cause in the form of a seven-run, two-out first inning performance, and slugger Giancarlo Stanton kindly waited until the tenth game of the season to put a ball over the fence. Worry not, as Miami still managed to lose that game as well. All told, the Marlins have the talent to make some noise, but they’ve started the year with a whimper.
27. Texas Rangers (LW: –)
Things had already looked bleak in Texas entering Spring Training, but the eventual announcement that ace Yu Darvish would need to undergo Tommy John surgery put the final nail in the coffin of the 2015 season before it even began. A healthy Darvish would have done little to reverse the team’s fortune, but at least they could have stayed afloat in the American League West at its current state. However, once the teams start winning, the Rangers will be formally buried.
28. Minnesota Twins (LW: –)
Minnesota is strikingly similar to the Cubs and Astros of recent years, hoarding enough talent in their minor league system that it could be argued that the Major League club would struggle in a seven-game series against their farm team. The future is bright, but the present is bleak. For now, just let us know when we can expect Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton to join the fight.
29. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: –)
In defense of the Phillies, they aren’t last on the list. While that typically isn’t cause for celebration, their expected output for the year basically guaranteed a permanent home in the last spot on all Power Rankings. Through nothing more than a handful of wins – really, not more than that – where other teams – read, team from Milwaukee – have failed – Philadelphia ‘earned’ it’s 29th overall ranking.
30. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: –)
Things are bad in Milwaukee. Easily the worst team in the league, the hardest pill to swallow regarding the already dismal season is that the Brewers are coming off a year in which they vastly over-performed. While it was unrealistic to think that Milwaukee would cruise to another winning season, this type of catastrophe negates any good will earned during last year’s run.