MLB Power Rankings Week 9

MLB Power Rankings Week 9 post thumbnail image

Another week, another change at the top of our MLB Power Rankings.

While the powerhouses ruling baseball have separated from the pack early this season, the battle for our No. 1 spot remains an intense one between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers — with some surging teams making their own cases for big jumps on the list.

Where does your team stand in Week 9?

Our panel of experts has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we’ve seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 8 | Preseason rankings

1. New York Yankees

Record: 40-16

Previous ranking: 2

The Yankees keep rolling and Nestor Cortes, along with a top-notch pitching staff, leads the way — boasting a slower fastball but a high strikeout rate. While Aaron Judge puts together an MVP campaign, the starting rotation has carried this group, with strong seasons from Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon and Luis Severino. New York looks like the juggernaut so many expected the team to be during the 2021 season. –– Lee


2. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 36-20

Previous ranking: 1

The Dodgers’ starting pitching depth has been tested by the loss of Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Heaney. And though both are nearing a return, another problem has emerged — Walker Buehler, the staff ace, is navigating some rare struggles. The 27-year-old right-hander allowed five runs in 2⅔ innings against the Mets on Saturday and has a 6.66 ERA over his past five starts, while striking out only 20 in a stretch of 24⅓ innings. The Dodgers have dropped six of their past nine. — Gonzalez


Record: 38-21

Previous ranking: 3

The Mets went 2-2 in a big series at Dodger Stadium, losing the first two games (one run in two defeats) before knocking out Walker Buehler in the third inning in the third game and winning the fourth game in 10 innings after Seth Lugo blew a ninth-inning lead (closer Edwin Diaz had pitched the eighth against the meat of the Dodgers’ order). Eduardo Escobar hit for the cycle Tuesday against the Padres, the first for the Mets since Scott Hairston in 2012 — and the first at Petco Park, which opened in 2004. — Schoenfield


Record: 36-21

Previous ranking: 4

If there were such a thing as an ace emeritus in baseball — a designation for the sport’s most accomplished active starter — it would be a lively discussion as to whether it should be Justin Verlander, Kershaw or Max Scherzer. Verlander staked a claim to this nontitle by striking out 12 in another terrific outing against Seattle on Tuesday, which moved him ahead of the injured Scherzer as the active career strikeout leader. Verlander also is the active leader in career bWAR and is the leader in career wins (233) by a good margin. After his last start, Verlander was leading the AL in wins, innings and WHIP. Not bad for a 39-year-old who made one start over the two previous seasons. — Doolittle


Record: 33-23

Previous ranking: 9

Toronto is gathering some momentum after a sluggish start to May by picking up series wins against the Mariners and Reds. One of the under-the-radar contributors for the team’s offense has been catcher Alejandro Kirk, who leads all AL catchers in batting average, on-base percentage, wRC+ and WAR. — Lee


Record: 35-22

Previous ranking: 6

The Padres’ starting-pitching depth is only getting deeper. On Tuesday, the team activated Adrian Morejon, the promising young left-hander who spent the past 13-plus months building his way back from Tommy John surgery, and watched him pitch two scoreless innings in relief of a dominant Yu Darvish. The Padres’ rotation boasts six highly capable starters, and that doesn’t even include Nick Martinez, who’s in a long-relief role. Morejon has that capability, as well. If they all stay healthy, Padres general manager A.J. Preller might be able to use some of that depth to help a needy offense. — Gonzalez


Record: 32-25

Previous ranking: 8

Perhaps this is what the Cardinals will be until they get healthy on the mound: really good but not elite. Paul Goldschmidt has been elite, winning Player of the Month in May while carrying the team. Others will have to step up as St. Louis had a bottom-third ERA last week and just can’t get that part of its game in rhythm at the moment. Then again, the Cards have set the bar so high in the pitching department, anything less than great stands out. — Rogers


Record: 33-25

Previous ranking: 5

OK, Josh Hader is human. He blew a save, gave up runs and lost a game. Big deal. Milwaukee may not be a perfect team, but it’s in the right division. Still, some cracks on offense began to show last week, as the Brewers hit just .190 over a seven-day span. The result included a home series loss to San Diego. — Rogers


Record: 33-23

Previous ranking: 7

Tampa Bay came out of its two series against the Orioles with a pair of walk-off losses. Those are two big games in determining the fate of the ultracompetitive AL East, where games against Baltimore will play a major role in shaping the order of the teams in the division. Meanwhile, lefty Jeffrey Springs continues to emerge as an impact arm in the rotation, with a 1.62 ERA in 15 appearances this season, including seven starts. — Lee


Record: 32-25

Previous ranking: 12

Joc Pederson made the news cycle for getting slapped by Tommy Pham over his unseemly behavior in a fantasy football league, but in this forum we’re going to focus on his play. Specifically, his bat. Pederson, signed to a $6 million contract this offseason, leads the Giants in adjusted OPS while slashing .262/.338/.574 with 13 home runs through his first 45 games. The Giants acquired him as a depth piece who could match up against righties, but with several key players on the injured list, Pederson has been one of the team’s most important contributors. — Gonzalez


Record: 33-25

Previous ranking: 10

Yes, every team can complain about injuries. Few, if any of them, can do so with more justification than Minnesota. According to Spotrac, the Twins have had 24 players hit the injured list so far, the most in baseball. As of Wednesday, five starting pitchers were on the shelf. Five! They were Joe Ryan, Sonny Gray, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddock and Kenta Maeda. The injury situation almost got worse Tuesday, when MLB batting average and on-base percentage leader Luis Arraez hurt his shoulder while diving for a ground ball. Luckily, the initial prognosis is that it’s nothing serious. Despite all this: the Twins remain comfortably atop the AL Central, where they’ve resided since April 24. — Doolittle


Record: 30-27

Previous ranking: 13

Boston keeps finding ways to climb back up the standings. After a slow start, the Red Sox are closing the gap between them and the rest of the division — they currently would make the playoffs in the last wild-card slot. And while Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers have carried the offense so far, Trevor Story has turned around his sluggish start to the season, ranking as one of the top second basemen in WAR. — Lee


Record: 30-27

Previous ranking: 15

A four-game sweep in Colorado pushed the Braves over .500 for the first time since they began the season 2-1. Michael Harris II has made some highlight-reel plays in center field, showing why the Braves were willing to promote him from Double-A. Indeed, when the Braves line up with Harris in center, Ronald Acuna Jr. in right and Adam Duvall in left, the outfield defense looks like one of the best in the majors, and a big improvement compared to Marcell Ozuna in left and Duvall or Guillermo Heredia in center. Harris hasn’t done much yet at the plate after hitting .305/.372/.506 in 43 games at Double-A, but the Braves will live with him in the No. 9 hole with his defense. — Schoenfield


Record: 26-26

Previous ranking: 18

The Guardians have gradually climbed to the top or near it in team defense leaderboards, depending on which metric you check. Cleveland led all of baseball in defensive runs saved through Tuesday, per Sports Info Solutions, largely because of an outfield that has graded as the best in MLB. The Guardians’ collective minus-14 DRS from the outfield was leading the majors, one run better than the Twins. But whereas Cleveland has tacked on another six runs saved from outfield positioning, Minnesota has been minus-7 in that regard. Myles Straw, Steven Kwan and Oscar Gonzalez all rate among the top 30 outfielders in DRS. — Doolittle


Record: 27-29

Previous ranking: 17

The Phillies put together consecutive dramatic victories to help new skipper Rob Thomson begin his managerial career with four straight wins. On Sunday, Bryce Harper hit a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning against the Angels and then rookie Bryson Stott hit a walk-off three-run homer after the Angels had regained the lead in the top of the ninth. On Tuesday, Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling homered off Hader in the ninth to give the Phillies a 3-2 win over the Brewers, snapping Hader’s streak of 40 consecutive scoreless appearances. — Schoenfield


Record: 26-28

Previous ranking: 14

Recently fired managers Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon rank 30th and 34th, respectively, in career wins above .500. Ninth on that list — and second in wins — is White Sox skipper Tony La Russa, who, like Girardi and Maddon, is piloting a club that has fallen short of expectations so far in 2022.

In addition to his close relationship to owner Jerry Reinsdorf, La Russa has a couple of other things working in his favor when it comes to avoiding becoming the third big-name manager to be shown the exit. For one thing, Chicago hovering around .500 isn’t great, but its run differential (minus-52 through Tuesday) actually suggests that it is incredibly lucky to be so near breakeven, especially in the still winnable AL Central. Also, we still haven’t seen the White Sox at full strength. The rotation has yet to see the 2022 debut of Lance Lynn, who is nearing a return. And La Russa hasn’t been able to pen his preferred everyday lineup a single time all season. — Doolittle


Record: 27-31

Previous ranking: 11

The Angels lost their 12th consecutive game on Monday night, then fired Joe Maddon as their manager the following morning, watched Mike Trout exit with tightness in his left groin later that afternoon and suffered their 13th straight loss moments later, setting a new single-season franchise record. It was just over two weeks ago that the Angels sat 10 games above .500 and looked like a dominant force, primed to reach the postseason for only the second time in 13 years. But now, suddenly, they’re reeling again. It has been a stunning turn of events. — Gonzalez


Record: 26-30

Previous ranking: 16

The Rangers might be finding their stride soon because high-priced second baseman Marcus Semien is doing the same. Semien had a three-homer day during a doubleheader this week while hitting .355 over the past seven days. His power stroke is returning, as he’s slugged .839 over that period. It all bodes well for Texas who is quietly getting back into the playoff race thanks to the Angels’ collapse. — Rogers


Record: 26-31

Previous ranking: 20

Do you want a Julio Rodriguez update? Of course you do. After hitting .136 in the first 12 games of his career, he hit .309/.363/.497 with seven home runs over his next 43. Overall, his hard-hit rate is in the 90th percentile and his walk rate is acceptable at the 43rd percentile. The big surprise has been his speed and defense, which both rate among the best in the game via Statcast metrics. The swing-and-miss rate is still the biggest issue, and if he learns to lift the ball a little more, those hard-hit balls will start turning into home runs. — Schoenfield


Record: 24-30

Previous ranking: 21

Check out this six-start stretch from Sandy Alcantara capped by Wednesday’s nine scoreless innings against the Nationals: 7 IP, 1 R; 8 IP, 1 R; 9 IP, 0 ER; 8 IP, 1 R; 7 IP, 0 R; 9 IP, 0 R. He allowed just 24 hits in 48 innings over that stretch, just one home run and kudos to Don Mattingly for actually letting him top 100 pitches in four of the games. He leads the majors in innings pitched, has a 1.61 ERA and keeps the ball in the park. Alcantara should be on the short list of possible All-Star Game starters. No Marlins pitcher has ever started one. — Schoenfield


Record: 27-31

Previous ranking: 19

The D-backs took a chance on Dallas Keuchel, the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2015, and might have an immediate opening for him in their rotation. Humberto Castellanos is out with an elbow injury, and his replacement, Tyler Gilbert, recorded only five outs and was charged with six earned runs against the Reds on Tuesday. Keuchel, signed to a minor league deal, has struggled through a 7.11 ERA since the start of last July. The D-backs are hoping a reunion with Brent Strom, the pitching coach who oversaw Keuchel’s excellence in Houston, could help unlock a former ace. — Gonzalez


Record: 23-33

Previous ranking: 23

It’s the Christopher Morel show in Chicago. The rookie leadoff man has begun his career getting on base in 22, the most by any player to start their career in nearly 20 years. And his OPS in the first inning, after a leadoff home run Tuesday, is a whopping 1.523. He’s also good late in games, with some combination of Javy Baez (energy) and Tim Anderson (hit tool). Bottom line: He’s fun to watch. — Rogers


Record: 24-30

Previous ranking: 25

The Pirates are confounding, but not in the worst way if you’re a fan. Nobody expected them to do anything — yet here they are sweeping teams like the Dodgers. Pittsburgh had the fourth-lowest ERA in the majors over the past two weeks, as Roansy Contreras and Zach Thompson spun good turns though the rotation. Like Cincinnati finishing out of last place, if the Pirates finish in third, it would be a huge (moral) victory. — Rogers


Record: 24-32

Previous ranking: 22

The Rockies were recently swept in a four-game home series against the Braves, the end of a 27-game run that saw the team lose 20 times. In that stretch, the Rockies went from five games above .500 to eight games below it. Their pitching staff held a 6.06 ERA, last in the majors. Perhaps you can chalk some of that up to bad luck, given that the Rockies’ opposing BABIP was the highest in the majors. But Rockies pitchers also allowed the second-highest percentage of batted balls hit 95 mph and above. — Gonzalez


Record: 24-33

Previous ranking: 24

The Adley Rutschman era is fully underway, but the Orioles hit a speed bump with their rebuilding process when top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez suffered a lat muscle strain last week — an injury that could keep him out of action until at least September. Rodriguez ranked No. 8 among the top 100 MLB prospects by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel and was expected to make the majors at some point this season. — Lee


Record: 23-33

Previous ranking: 28

The near-term fortunes of young starters Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal continue to diverge. Skubal’s season just keeps gathering momentum and at present, he has to be in any conversation regarding early speculation on the AL Cy Young race. Since the beginning of May, Skubal has gone 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA over seven starts. Meanwhile, Mize, who has made just two big league starts this season because of elbow trouble, recently had to be shut down because of lingering soreness. Rotation injuries have been rampant in the AL Central this season, so perhaps the Tigers should consider themselves fortunate that all of their news in this area isn’t bad. — Doolittle


Record: 20-36

Previous ranking: 27

Guess which team had the highest OPS in baseball over the past week? That’s right: the Big Red Machine is back! Three regulars (Brandon Drury, Joey Votto, Tommy Pham) all topped 1.000 in OPS last week. If Cincinnati finds its way out of last place after its miserable start, it may be able to proclaim the season a success. OK, not really. But still, it’s been an impressive run for the Reds, who are 16-12 since their horrendous 4-23 start to the season. — Rogers


Record: 21-37

Previous ranking: 29

Stephen Strasburg will make his first major league start of 2022 on Thursday after pitching 13⅔ innings across three rehab starts in the minors, including a final one in Triple-A where he allowed just one hit over six innings. Manager Dave Martinez said there will be no restraints on him. It’s been a tough couple of seasons for Strasburg since he won World Series MVP honors in 2019 and then re-signed with the Nationals on a seven-year, $245 million deal. Strasburg made just two starts in 2020 and then five in 2021 before undergoing thoracic outlet surgery. In 2019, he led the NL with 18 wins and 209 innings (plus another 36⅓ in the postseason). — Schoenfield


Record: 20-38

Previous ranking: 26

Oakland continues to tumble down the standings as its competitive start to the season fades into the distance after the team suffered series losses to the Twins and Angels. There are still bright spots to be found, though, as Frankie Montas and Paul Blackburn anchor the top of the rotation. — Lee


Record: 18-37

Previous ranking: 30

The Royals’ 2022 season started sliding away early but because Kansas City keeps finding a new floor for its performance, this is suddenly shaping up as what could be the worst season in franchise history. Kansas City was on pace for 51 wins through play on Tuesday. That would be five fewer than any previous Royals team in a full season.

If you think things are going to get better, consider this: K.C.’s expected win percentage based on run differential is also on pace to shatter the franchise’s worst-ever mark. Then, finally, consider that because of the early collapse, KC could trade Andrew Benintendi, who is in a walk year and has been the Royals’ best player thus far. A long summer looms. — Doolittle



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