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MLB Power Rankings: Week 1

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There will be no overreacting in the Rotoworld MLB Power Rankings. That’s a pledge I can’t actually keep, but I’ll try to use it as a mantra and avoid putting the Orioles and Mariners in my top-five this week.

The nature of power rankings is overreaction — drawing conclusions from what we see in a given week. That, of course, is not how baseball should work. It’s a marathon schedule, meant to test teams over the long haul. Analysts of the sport best not dabble in small sample size theatre. Again, working on my mantras.

Let’s get to the very calm and reasoned team assessments after less than one week of play …

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Record: 
3-2
Last Week: 
The reigning National League champions ripped through the Diamondbacks’ pitching staff on opening weekend, taking three of four games with a combined run total of 42. Los Angeles is tops among all major league teams in run differential at +18. Cody Bellinger has led the way so far with a .458 batting average and 1.438 OPS in 25 plate appearances. His four home runs are tied with Paul Goldschmidt and Christian Yelich for the National League lead. And maybe the best news of all right now is that Clayton Kershaw (shoulder) was just cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment.

2. Houston Astros
Record:
2-3
Last Week:
Since beating the Rays by a score of 5-1 on Opening Day, the Astros have managed just six runs in four games. They have the fifth-lowest run total among major league teams, and two of the teams below them on that leaderboard have played fewer games. It doesn’t make sense with a lineup this deep and this talented. But, again, the sample size is incredibly small here on April 2. Call ‘em due. A positive: Brad Peacock (Yahoo ADP: 221.9) was brilliant Monday in his first start of the season, allowing just two hits and issuing zero walks over 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Rangers.

3. Philadelphia Phillies
Record:
3-0
Last Week:
It was a celebratory opening weekend for the Phillies, as they drew massive crowds at Citizens Bank Park for a three-game set against the division-rival Braves and swept the whole thing. Bryce Harper homered on both Saturday and Sunday. His first one sailed 465 feet, the second-longest Phillies home run in the Statcast era and also the second-longest home run of Harper’s career. The 26-year-old outfielder signed a 13-year, $330 million free agent contract with Philadelphia exactly one month ago. His jersey is the highest-selling item available on MLB.com.

4. Boston Red Sox
Record:
1-4
Last Week:
The reigning World Series champions lost 7-0 to the Athletics on Monday night and are off to a 1-4 start for the first time since Bobby Valentine managed the club for one tumultuous year in 2012. That seems like a lifetime ago. The most concerning thing from opening weekend was staff ace Chris Sale getting rocked for seven earned runs over just three innings Thursday in Seattle and showing diminished velocity on his fastball throughout. But, hey, the Red Sox got Xander Bogaerts locked up Monday on what looks to be a very team-friendly six-year, $120 million deal.

5. Milwaukee Brewers
Record:
4-1
Last Week: 10 
The Brewers took three of four from the Cardinals on opening weekend and beat the Reds in thrilling fashion on Monday night to jump out to an early two-game lead on first place in the National League Central, which projects to be a hotly-contested division all year. Christian Yelich, the reigning National League MVP, homered in each of his first four games, becoming just the sixth player in MLB history to accomplish that feat. The others: Willie Mays (1971), Mark McGwire (1998), Nelson Cruz (2011), Chris Davis (2013), and Trevor Story (2016). Yelich also doubled on Monday.

6. New York Yankees
Record:
2-2
Last Week:
The Yankees dropped two of three to the lowly Orioles in the opening weekend of the season and then got a double-dose of bad injury news on Monday, as Giancarlo Stanton landed on the injured list with a strained left biceps tendon and Miguel Andujar was diagnosed with a small labrum tear in his right shoulder. Stanton is likely to miss all of April and Andujar could potentially be facing season-ending surgery. This team is already without Luis Severino (shoulder), Didi Gregorius (elbow), Dellin Betances (rotator cuff), and Aaron Hicks (back), among others.

7. New York Mets
Record:
3-1
Last Week: 12 
The Mets came just short of a season-opening three-game sweep of the division-rival Nationals, falling 6-5 in walk-off fashion on Sunday. But they rallied for a 7-3 defeat of the Marlins on Monday night in Miami and are currently just a half-game back of the undefeated Phillies for first place in the National League East. Jacob deGrom struck out 10 batters over six scoreless innings on Opening Day, out-dueling Max Scherzer and setting a new MLB record for most consecutive starts (30) allowing three runs or less. The freshly-extended right-hander has a 1.65 ERA over his last 223 frames.

8. Washington Nationals
Record:
1-2
Last Week:
Washington lost its first two games of the season to the division-rival Mets before rallying for a 6-5 victory in Sunday’s series finale. Trea Turner is already clicking on all cylinders with a .385/.429/.923 batting line, two home runs, four RBI, four stolen bases, and four runs scored in just three games. His average draft position this spring in Yahoo leagues was 7.9. By the end of the year, we might be asking why he didn’t go even higher. Up next is a two-game series at Nationals Park against Bryce Harper and the undefeated Phillies. The reaction from D.C. fans will be interesting.

9. Cleveland Indians
Record:
2-2
Last Week:
We gave the Indians a courtesy No. 6 ranking last week in the preseason edition of the Rotoworld MLB Power Rankings, but it quickly became clear that they did not belong there when Tyler Naquin, a guy with a .249/.279/.330 batting line over the last three seasons, was asked to hit third on Opening Day. This team is badly in need of regular three-hole hitter Francisco Lindor, who remains sidelined with calf and ankle injuries. Even he might not be enough to give the lineup respectability. Cleveland has championship-caliber pitching, but how was there not more of a push for offense this winter?

10. St. Louis Cardinals
Record:
2-3
Last Week:
Recently-extended first baseman Paul Goldschmidt slugged three home runs in a 9-5 victory over the Brewers on Friday night, but the Cardinals were otherwise out-played in a four-game season-opening series at Milwaukee’s Miller Park and almost dropped an extra-innings marathon against the Pirates on Monday afternoon in Pittsburgh. As a team, they’ve struck out 64 times in five games, with leadoff man Matt Carpenter and cleanup hitter Marcell Ozuna accounting for 16 of those. Goldschmidt has nine strikeouts in 20 at-bats, but he’s slashing .300/.417/.900.

11. Chicago Cubs
Record:
1-3
Last Week:
Chicago won big on Opening Day in Arlington, Texas, with Javier Baez belting two home runs and Jon Lester going six strong innings in a 12-4 victory over the host Rangers. But the Cubs haven’t won since, and they were shut out 8-0 by the Braves in Monday night’s series-opener at SunTrust Park in Atlanta. Of most concern right now is the bullpen, which has combined for a 7.63 ERA in 15 1/3 innings. Brandon Morrow (elbow) is at least a couple weeks away, and is he really going to be a savior? The oft-injured reliever hasn’t thrown a pitch in a major league game since July 15, 2018.

12. Tampa Bay Rays
Record:
4-1
Last Week: 14 
Tampa Bay lost 5-1 to the Astros on Opening Day, with Justin Verlander thoroughly out-pitching Blake Snell in a marquee matchup of Cy Young Award winners. But everything has come up aces for the Rays since. They won the final three games of their four-game set versus Houston, allowing just four total runs over those three victores, and then stymied the Rockies in a 7-1 blowout win on Monday, with Ryne Stanek and a parade of other relievers striking out 12 batters across nine innings of one-run ball. Rays pitchers as a whole have delivered a 2.00 ERA through five games this season.

13. Atlanta Braves
Record:
1-3
Last Week: 11 
The defending National League East champions got off on the wrong foot on opening weekend, suffering a three-game sweep against the division-rival Phillies. But the Braves seemed to snap out of their funk in Monday night’s series-opener against the visiting Cubs, as Ronald Acuna smashed his first home run of the season and Ozzie Albies tallied three hits, including two doubles, as part of an 8-0 blowout victory. Atlanta’s bullpen was dreadful in that three-game set in Philadelphia, but the good news is A.J. Minter (shoulder) could be activated from the injured list as early as Thursday.

14. Minnesota Twins
Record:
2-1
Last Week: 15 
Minnesota made a big statement on opening weekend against the division-rival Indians, taking two of three games by a combined score of 12-5. Jose Berrios looked terrific on Opening Day, setting a Twins record for strikeouts in a season opener with 10 while delivering 7 2/3 scoreless innings on just 96 pitches. The 24-year-old was the 18th starter off the board in the average Yahoo draft this spring, which might look pretty silly when all is said and done for the 2019 season. This team has designs on winning its first American League Central division title since 2010.

15. San Diego Padres
Record:
3-2
Last Week: 16 
Top shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. was a surprise addition to the Padres’ Opening Day roster, but the 20-year-old has looked right at home at the major league level. Look how easily he handled this play in the hole on Sunday, and watch his first career home run from Monday. San Diego took three of four from the Giants on opening weekend, with top pitching prospect Chris Paddack looking especially sharp in the series finale, a 3-1 victory. He looked even sharper pre-game, when he showed up to his MLB debut in a wide-brim cowboy hat and dark shades. This team is going to be a whole lot of fun.

 

16. Colorado Rockies
Record:
2-3
Last Week: 13 
Daniel Murphy was praised as a perfect fit for the Rockies and the hitting environment at Coors Field when he signed a two-year, $24 million free agent contract in December, but the veteran infielder landed on the disabled list Monday with an avulsion fracture in his left index finger and there is some fear that he might also have tendon damage, which could mean a multi-month absence. Colorado won its first two games of the season in Miami before dropping the final two games of that four-game set and then getting embarrassed in a 7-1 loss to a procession of Rays relievers on Monday night.

17. Oakland Athletics
Record:
4-3
Last Week: 17
The A’s lost both games of the Japan Series back on March 20-21 against the Mariners, but they’ve gone 4-1 since returning to North America, including a 7-0 drubbing of the defending World Series-champion Red Sox on Monday night at the Oakland Coliseum. Khris Davis, who led all MLB hitters in home runs last season, has already gone deep five times in seven games and is currently sporting a 1.086 OPS through 30 plate appearances. It’s easy to see the rotation depth becoming an issue in the long term, but this club should keep raking even without Matt Olson, who underwent hamate bone surgery last week.

18. Los Angeles Angels
Record:
1-4
Last Week: 18
The Angels have dropped four of five to open the 2019 regular season and currently rank 28th in combined team OPS (.513) despite the presence of Mike Trout. Justin Upton is out at least another two months with a left big toe injury and Shohei Ohtani just recently resumed taking on-field batting practice in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, so there’s no immediate offensive help on the horizon. Justin Bour, who’s hit third behind Trout in four of the Angels’ first five games, currently sits 1-for-18 (.056) with six strikeouts. The ghost of Peter Bourjos is patrolling left field.

19. Cincinnati Reds
Record:
1-2
Last Week: 19
Cincinnati won its season-opener versus the Pirates behind a strong pitching performance by 26-year-old staff ace Luis Castillo, but Saturday’s game got rained out and the Reds were blanked 5-0 on Sunday afternoon before falling 4-3 on Monday night against the Brewers. This is not the start that the new-look Reds were envisioning. Yasiel Puig hit a two-run double and drew a walk on Monday but is batting just .091/.231/.182 over his first 13 plate appearances. Matt Kemp is 0-for-7 with three strikeouts. Sonny Gray lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his Cincinnati debut.

20. Pittsburgh Pirates
Record:
1-2
Last Week: 20
Pittsburgh’s two highest-drafted players in fantasy disappointed on Opening Day, as Starling Marte (Yahoo ADP: 34.6) had to be scratched from the starting lineup due to a migraine headache and Jameson Taillon (Yahoo ADP: 69.2) surrendered four earned runs over six innings in a 5-3 loss to the Reds. Felipe Vazquez, the third-most-popular Pirates player in terms of ADP, allowed a run (unearned) in the top of the 11th inning Monday as the Bucs lost their home opener against the visiting Cardinals. The good news is Chris Archer looked pretty nasty in that one.

21. Seattle Mariners
Record:
6-1
Last Week: 23 
Seattle has the most wins in the majors and the second-best run differential (+16) among all 30 teams, behind only the Dodgers at +18. Of course, it helps that the Mariners started the season on March 20-21 with a two-game sweep of the A’s at the Tokyo Dome. But three of their other four wins came against the defending-champion Red Sox and Felix Hernandez looked to be in somewhat vintage form in a 6-3 win over the Angels on Monday night at T-Mobile Park. They’ve survived the loss of closer Hunter Strickland (lat) so far, with Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Bradford, and Roenis Elias all picking up saves.

22. Arizona Diamondbacks
Record:
2-3
Last Week: 21 
Arizona got bludgeoned in its season-opening series against the Dodgers, dropping three of four while yielding a whopping 38 runs across the three losses. Merrill Kelly mercifully stopped the bleeding on Monday night in San Diego, as he carried a shutout into the sixth inning and the Diamondbacks went on to win the game 10-3. Kelly, 30, was making his first career appearance at the major league level after spending four years with the SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization. He signed a two-year, $5.5 million free agent contract with the D-backs in early December.

23. Toronto Blue Jays
Record:
2-3
Last Week: 22 
Toronto nearly got perfect-gamed by Jordan Zimmermann on Opening Day and went hitless for 6 1/3 innings against the Orioles and David Hess on Monday night. Had top third base prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. not suffered an oblique strain in early March, there would be wild clamoring for his promotion to the major leagues. Vlad Jr. recently began taking at-bats in extended spring training games and should be cleared to join the active roster at Triple-A Buffalo in about a week. It’ll probably be another few weeks after that before he’s allowed to provide a much-needed jolt for the Blue Jays offense.

24. San Francisco Giants
Record:
2-3
Last Week: 24
The Giants had a starting outfield of Connor Joe, Steven Duggar, and Michael Reed on Opening Day. That’s what you might call … problematic. The outfield situation in San Francisco was so desperate that new club president Farhan Zaidi made an uncharacteristic move on Tuesday morning, sending three players (RHP Juan De Paula, INF Alen Hanson, and RHP Derek Law) to the Blue Jays for Kevin Pillar. It should be a nice upgrade defensively, but Pillar is 30 years old and already in his second-to-last year of arbitration. And he also holds a weak .260/.297/.396 career batting line at the MLB level.

25. Texas Rangers
Record:
2-2
Last Week: 25
Texas took two of three from the Cubs on opening weekend before falling 2-1 to the division-rival Astros on Monday night. Rangers pitchers have combined for a 7.50 ERA in 36 innings this season, which ranks second-to-last among all major league pitching staffs. And with a rotation of Mike Minor, Edinson Volquez, Lance Lynn, Drew Smyly, and Shelby Miller, it’s doubtful that the situation will improve. Minor got the nod on Opening Day and surrendered six earned runs over 4 2/3 innings versus Chicago. Lynn did him one better on Sunday, allowing seven runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 frames.

26. Kansas City Royals
Record:
2-1
Last Week: 27 
Opening Day in Kansas City was delayed for a couple of hours due to rainy conditions around Kauffman Stadium, but the wait was well worth it as starter Brad Keller yielded just two hits over seven shutout innings and rising star Adalberto Mondesi hit a pair of triples in a 5-3 season-opening victory over the White Sox. Mondesi then smacked a third-inning RBI double in an 8-6 win over Chicago on Saturday, with Jorge Soler chipping in three hits and three RBI. This is not a good team, but how many bottom-dwellers have the amount of fantasy-relevant players that this Royals team does?

27. Chicago White Sox
Record:
1-3
Last Week: 26 
White Sox pitchers have combined for a 5.18 ERA through four games this season, with the relief corps looking especially awful outside of closer Alex Colome. One shiny object from opening weekend was former top prospect Lucas Giolito carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning Saturday against the Royals en route to his first win since August 25, 2018. The 24-year-old was a popular mid-round target in fantasy drafts last spring, before mostly going ignored in standard mixed formats this year. Maybe he has finally figured something out, though we’ve said that before.

28. Detroit Tigers
Record:
2-3
Last Week: 28
Veteran right-hander Jordan Zimmermann turned back the clock on Opening Day in Toronto, as the former two-time All-Star carried a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Blue Jays. The Tigers won that game 2-0, but their bats went quiet on Friday and Saturday, and they fell 3-1 in Monday night’s series-opener against the Yankees, who are reeling from major injuries. Detroit hitters have combined for a league-worst .140/.250/.207 slash line through 188 plate appearances this season, and this offense is probably going to lose Nicholas Castellanos to a trade at some point.

29. Miami Marlins
Record:
2-3
Last Week: 29
Miami split a four-game series against the Rockies on opening weekend behind some better-than-expected pitching performances. Sandy Alcantara was especially brilliant in Sunday’s series finale, striking out six batters over eight scoreless innings in a 3-0 shutout victory. He issued only four hits and did not issue a walk in the 92-pitch effort. The 23-year-old right-hander was acquired from the Cardinals last winter as the centerpiece of the Marcell Ozuna trade and might be ready to emerge as the Marlins’ long-term ace here in 2019. Finally, some positive momentum for Derek Jeter and Co.

30. Baltimore Orioles
Record:
3-1
Last Week: 30
Break up to the Orioles? They lost to the Yankees on Opening Day in the Bronx but went on to win the final two games of that three-game series and then outlasted the Blue Jays for a 6-5 victory on Monday night in Toronto, with somebody named David Hess carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Jonathan Villar, whom we identified last week as the only position player of any fantasy interest on this roster, has already picked up his first home run and first stolen base. Trey Mancini has two homers and a 1.408 OPS. Chris Davis, meanwhile, is 0-for-9 with five strikeouts.

 



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