Mid-April MLB Power Rankings
Well this is odd. We are only 10 days into this young season and every single MLB team has at least 2 losses. Usually a team or two goes on a big winning spree to start the season but we don’t have that this year. And when reading these remember how bunched together these top 10 teams are. Not much seperates them. I’m factoring in recently play, injuries and future projections. A couple of teams came close to the top 10, the Mariners and Indians.
1. Detroit Tigers: I think the Tigers are the best team in the American League this season. They have been getting next to nothing as far as infield production in the past years. They finally addressed that issue in trading for Kinsler this off season. The Tigers are playing Alex Gonzalez at SS, he should provide more provide better numbers than SS’s have there in the past. Prince Fielder wasn’t a good fit for the team or the park. Both Rangers and Tigers benefited from the trade. I think there are 2 Tigers that will improve on their down 2013, thats Justin Verlander and Austin Jackson. You only really need 3 good SP’s in the playoffs. The Tigers have a stellar 3 man rotation going right now. Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez are throwing the best they’ve thrown in their career. We know the offense will be there for the Tigers this season, they still have the best hitter in baseball along with Victor Martinez and Tori Hunter. Newly acquired Rajai Davis and Nick Castellanos should help provide offense on the bottom part of the order for the Tigers this season. They just seem like the most heatlhy, stable team in the American League and the sky is the limit for the Tigers this season.
2. St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals have been representing what winning is all about the past decade. In that time span they’ve had 7 playoff apperances and 2 World Series Titles. They were tied for first in the majors in wins with 97 last year. They have a couple reasons why they keep winning there. The Cards love home-cooking, going 54-27 at home in 2013. They have been doing a really great job about replacing he big name players who leave. Cardinals production really hasn’t batted an eye even with guys departing like Carlos Beltran, Albert Pujols and David Freese. The still have a great core of hitters like Holliday-Molina-Craig-Carpenter. They expect big things out of Matt Adams at 1B this season. He has the power for a 35HR 100RBI season if he can stay healthy. Just like the Dodgers, they have an ace they can roll out any given night and dominate. Adam Wainwright has been an innings eater and a marvelous pitcher at times in the playoffs. He’s followed by a solid young pitching staff, Shelby Miller-Joe Kelly-Michael Wacha. They also have a strong rookie of the year canidate in 2B Kolten Wong. I don’t think much will change in the NL Central. I still see St. Louis edging out Pittsburgh to win the division.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers: I’m sure nobody had higher hopes going into the 2013 playoffs like Dodger fans did. They had just won 92 games, and went on a historical 42-8 stretch in the second half of the season. Hanley was on fire, Puig was the talk around the league and most thought Kershaw was a lock for the Cy Young. They went on to handle the Braves 3-1 in the NLDS. Next opponent was the Cardinals in the NLCS. They lost the first 2 games by a one run each. A heart-breaking Game 1 3-2 loss (13 Innings), and Game 2 1-0. You could think of many reasons why the Dodgers lost that series, but I think they were just beat by a team with more playoff experience. The big names that were brought in through free-agency have that much more team chemistry now, and they seem to be healthy heading into this season. Matt Kemp is back, and even though he’s hitting .200 on this short season he’s shown signs of power (2B, 2HR). I don’t see a reason to doubt Kershaws abilities to come back from his injury, MRI didn’t reveal any structural damage. They basically have 4 health risk for batters. Kemp, Crawford, Hanley and Puig. If those hitters can stay healthy for the majority of the season I dont have a reason to think they won’t walk away with the division.
4. Boston Red Sox: Why are the Red Sox this low if the Brewers just finished sweeping them at home? Because the Red Sox are still the champs and the first couple weeks of the season mean next to nothing. If we heavily bought into everything we saw right now, the Marlins, Twins and Rockies would be the best offenses in the majors. They led the majors in the all important run differential stat, a whopping (+197). The Red Sox should have another great season. Even though it’s never comforting to see Victorino and Middlebrooks on the DL this early in the season. But they still have a great core of the lineup, Pedroia-Ortiz-Napoli. They made 2 great acquisitions this offseason in getting A.J. Pierzenski from the Rangers and Grady Sizemore from the Indians. And I believe the hype is real around Xander Bogaerts. The 21-year old has started the season off nicely and looks very comfortable at the plate. Boston’s success relies on the starting rotation if they plan on winning the AL East this season. Lester seems to be like the only steady starter while Peavy and Buchholz always seemed to be surrounded by injury risk. Lackey and Doubront are a bit of a prayer to have great seasons but we’ll see what they can do.
5. Oakland Athletics: The Athletics are a very impressive team. Hitting and pitching wise, I would have to say they are the most balanced team in baseball. They are nearly polar-opposites of the team 370 miles south of them, the Dodgers. Showing you don’t always have to spend gobs of money to build a club. They are the one American League team who can hit with power then play small ball like a National League team. They are better known for letting big name guys walk instead of signing them. The Athletics farm system always seems to replace them, especially in the pitching department. Oakland finished with the 7th best Team ERA last season (3.56). But the A’s just don’t pitcher well, they can hit. They were 4th in the majors in Runs, 4th in Doubles, 3rd in HR’s, 4th in RBI’s, and 4th in Slugging Pct.. They finally recieved a nice healthy year out of Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson. Cespedes and Reddick’s inconsistency and injuries prevented them from more than likely walking away with the AL West last season. I don’t see much changing for the A’s coming into 2014. I see Jesse Chavez replacing the production of what Parker did for them last season. AJ Griffin should be back before no time also. They one problem they need to address is the closer role. Jim Johnson won’t cut it for the whole season. But watch out for the A’s to win the AL West again this season.
6. Atlanta Braves: Atlanta is coming off a nice season, winning 96 games the division by 10 games. They were ranked 2nd in the National League in run differential (+140). Atlanta was the best at home last year posting a 56-25 record. The Braves are built off pitching. They led the majors in team ERA (3.18), and the national league in quality starts with 102. Atlanta doesn’t just depend on the starters to finish off games, the bullpen plays a key role in their success. They were tied for the lowest number of complete games (1). Showing they don’t need their pitchers to go the distance to close out games. Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball hands down. When it comes to hitting I automatically think of Freddie Freeman. He’s a huge part in helping the Braves clinch another division title. He’s collected 203 RBI’s the past 2 seasons. As long as Jason Heyward can stay healthy, he should provide the spark they need at lead-off. Two other key pieces the Braves need to stay healthy and productive this season are Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons. The one thing I didn’t like to see for the Braves was Tim Hudson going to the Giants. With Medlen, Beachy and Minor living on the DL that could make winning that much harder for the Braves this year. David Hale, Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana play a huge role in Atlanta’s success this season.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates: It looks like all those years in the basement are finally over. The Pirates are by far the most improved team compared to 5 years ago. Their pitching staff helped them to a stellar 94 win season in 2013. They only allowed a (.238) Avg. to hitters in 2013 which is good for the 2nd lowest mark in the league. They ranked 3rd in majors in team ERA (3.26). The bullpen played a major role in that stat though. Justin Wilson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli had career years for what looked like one of the best bullpen’s in the majors. Andrew McCutchen was a top 5 pick in fantasy. But McCutchen wasn’t in the top 5 in any major batting category in 2013. He in a weird way resembles the team as a whole. They don’t have overwhelming numbers but they have guys that can produce from top to bottom. Starling Marte is a young leadoff-hitter who should help provide speed and runs again. Pedro Alvarez had a solid 36HR 100RBI last year and still doesn’t seem like he has the attention of many. Russell Martin and Neil Walker won’t hit for average but they can knock in RBI’s from the bottom of the order. Francisco Liriano needs to stay healthy for them to have a shot at a playoff run. Edinson Volquez had a really nice first start and I think he might suprise some people this year. If Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole can keep their head above water by the time Jeff Locke comes back the Pirates rotation should have no problem.
8. Tampa Bay Rays: Ron Washington is awesome, but if I could pick any manager to run my team it would be Joe Maddon. The well-traveled soft spoken Maddon gets the most out of his players. Year in and year out, the Rays are one of the best team’s in the American League. They remind me of just a different version of the Athletics. They don’t neccesarily need big names to fill the stat sheet. The pitching staff is about as solid as you can get. David Price will have another great season. Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer could be the deciding factor in whether or not they clinch the AL East. I think Archer is the real deal. They allowed the second lowest batting average to hitters in the majors last season (.240). When it comes to hitting they basically have no holes in their lineup. They have 4 solid OF’s in Joyce-DeJesus-Myers-Jennings. They also locked up Escobar at shortstop for another 2 years. They can be a pain for opposing pitchers, leading the majors in walks last season (589). The Rays will have another great year but we probably won’t know who will win the AL East until the last week of the season.
9. Washington Nationals: The Nationals are a tricky team. When looking at them on paper, one would think they could be just as good as anyone else. But as we all know player personel and stats don’t always accumulate into victories. They are one of the few teams, if not the only one’s who basically changed nothing in the offseason. Their lineup is basically stacked from top to bottom. Span-Harper-Werth-Zimmerman-LaRoche-Espinosa-Desmond-Rendon. Nate McLouth and Wilson Ramos aren’t bad for the bottom of the lineup either. The pitching staff was solid last year ranking 8th in team ERA in the majors (3.59). Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan will help provide support at the back end of the rotation. They have the right players for a great season if they can avoid the big injuries and bullpen hick-ups.
10. San Francisco Giants: The Giants have looked like a different team so far this season. Especially the offense. They lead the majors with 11 HR’s on this young season. I think it all lies with Angel Pagan at the leadoff-spot. He only played 71 games last season due to an elboy injury. Pagan hasn’t gone hitless in one game yet. If you think about him, along with a healthy Sandoval, Posey, Belt and Pence that’s a very strong lineup for an NL team. Acquiring Tim Hudson and Michael Morse were two very smart moves by the club. Morse is on fire and Hudson has already thrown 2 quality starts. San Francisco wants to erase going 10 games under .500, and a (-62) run differential in 2013. Their pitching is what got them to the world series, they hope to improve on that 22nd ranked (4.00) team ERA from last year.