Do. Not. Panic. It’s one month out of six. Long season and all that. Except …

Except April does tell us something. In checking last year’s standings after the first month (using May 7, since the season started late because of the lockout), eight of the 12 eventual playoff teams were in a playoff position at that point of the season.

As we roll into May, the Rays are in first place in a stacked American League East and possess the best record in the majors, so it’s no surprise they top our list of grades for the month of April. But for some squads that are accustomed to sitting atop their division, this month brought a very different reality.

Let’s check in on all 30 teams and hand out grades — weighed against preseason expectations, factoring in how and whom they’ve played and zeroing in on some key players.

Jump to a team:

AL East: BAL | BOS | NYY | TB | TOR
AL Central: CHW | CLE | DET | KC | MIN
AL West: HOU | LAA | OAK | SEA | TEX

NL East: ATL | MIA | NYM | PHI | WSH
NL Central: CHC | CIN | MIL | PIT | STL
NL West: ARI | COL | LAD | SD | SF

The Rays began the season with a record-tying 13-game winning streak. They won their first 14 at home. They’ve outhomered their opponents by a staggering 61 to 19 and outscored them by a staggering 103 runs. That’s a 3.55 run differential. The Dodgers won 111 games last season with a 2.06 per-game differential. Yes, the schedule has been soft, but it’s still one of the greatest Aprils in MLB history.

The Rays are getting a breakout season from Wander Franco, and perhaps from Josh Lowe, and they’re swatting home runs like they’re taking batting practice at Coors Field. Impressively, they’ve done this without Tyler Glasnow and now Jeffrey Springs. Glasnow should return soon, and while Springs is out for the season with Tommy John surgery, the Rays seem to churn out pitchers like an old Model T assembly line.

There’s nothing on paper that says this should be happening. Their big offseason moves were bringing back 36-year-old Andrew McCutchen and signing 37-year-old Carlos Santana and 43-year-old Rich Hill. All three have been productive, especially McCutchen, who seems to be enjoying the reunion with the franchise he won an MVP Award with in 2013. They even signed Bryan Reynolds to an eight-year, $106.75 million extension. But Oneil Cruz‘s broken ankle was a crushing injury for a player who needs to be learning and developing. Nine of the Pirates’ next 12 games are against Tampa Bay, Toronto and Baltimore, so that will be a good test to see if they can keep the hot start going.

Most analysts expected regression from the Orioles, especially since they needed starting pitching and their offseason additions were the unexciting Kyle Gibson and Cole Irvin. Gibson is 4-0, but Irvin was demoted to Triple-A, so call those moves a wash so far. However, after discovering Felix Bautista last season, they’ve come up with Yennier Cano, who pitched briefly in the majors last season, this year. In 11 innings, he has allowed no hits and no walks — and the Orioles are 7-2 in one-run games. As for the offense, it has been solid thanks to one of the highest walk rates in the majors. While I did end up giving the Orioles an “A” grade, let’s not forget: They suffered the worst defeat of the season in their second game when Ryan McKenna dropped a routine, game-ending fly ball that eventually led to the loss.

The Brewers might not win any beauty contests, and they’re unlikely to have a player who finishes in the top 10 of MVP voting, but they hit home runs, they play defense (they’re leading the majors in defensive runs saved) and their pitching certainly has been good enough (they’re top five in fewest runs per game).

They’ve done that even though Brandon Woodruff has made just two starts and Corbin Burnes hasn’t been his usual dominant self. His strikeout rate is way down from 30.5% to 19.7%, although he has been more effective since two shaky outings to begin the season. Manager Craig Counsell and pitching coach Chris Hook have, once again, developed a reliable bullpen out of thin air. Yes, they have a dominant closer in Devin Williams, but Peter Strzelecki, Hoby Milner, Joel Payamps and Bryse Wilson, not exactly household names, have all pitched well.

Nothing here to suggest the Braves are anything but what we expected: strong World Series contenders — if not the favorites to win it all. Ronald Acuna Jr. has been a swashbuckling star, hitting for average and running wild on the bases. Spencer Strider has emerged as the early Cy Young favorite. Sean Murphy has been the best catcher in the majors. The grade isn’t higher, though, because it hasn’t been a perfect month. Michael Harris II just returned from a back injury that sidelined him for three weeks in April, Marcell Ozuna has struggled in the DH role and A.J. Minter coughed up a couple of late leads in a three-game sweep to the Astros — and then he blew a 4-0 lead in the ninth to the Marlins a few days ago.

The Rangers were a semipopular sleeper pick heading into the season after bringing in Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney to shore up the rotation. After giving up five runs on Opening Day, deGrom settled in with dominant outings — only to leave his last start with forearm tightness, which is often a precursor to Tommy John surgery. Keep your fingers crossed on his health update.

On the offensive side, Corey Seager’s hamstring injury hurts and left field has been a disaster, as was that recent three-game sweep by the Reds (two on walk-offs), but the Rangers are in first place in the American League West and have an impressive +72 run differential that is second only to the Rays. Shoutout to Adolis Garcia for what will likely end up as the best box score line of the season: 5 at-bats, 5 runs, 5 hits, 8 RBIs (with two doubles, three home runs and an HBP) against Oakland on April 22.

The Cubs might just have something here, especially if you’re buying into Cody Bellinger‘s resurgence and the ability of the top of the lineup — Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson and Ian Happ — to keep getting on base like they have. In fact, the Cubs have the best OBP In the majors from the 1-2-3 slots in the lineup. There’s even more depth at Triple-A Iowa, where first baseman Matt Mervis is hitting his way to a call-up and Christopher Morel is raking. Chicago’s pitching is less of a sure thing, but I was in on Justin Steele as a breakout candidate before the season and he has been terrific. Marcus Stroman and Drew Smyly have been outstanding, as well. The Cubs will need bullpen help, and they’ve had so many blowout wins that they’ve needed only three saves, so we’ll see if Brad Boxberger is the answer at closer.

Stop the presses! The most ridiculous, outlandish, absolutely most absurd event of the 2023 season has already happened: The Twins have won their season series against the Yankees, four games to three. No, that’s not quite Jack Morris spinning a 10-inning shutout to clinch the World Series, but the last time it happened was 2001. Including the playoffs, the Twins had gone 40-114 against the Yankees since 2002. So that’s a good sign. Right, Twins fans?

Last year, Twins starters ranked 20th in the majors in strikeout rate at 20.2%; in 2023, they’re at 27.9%, second in the majors behind only the Rays. This could be the best Minnesota rotation in a long time.

To talk about the Diamondbacks in April is to talk about rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll. I had an AI poem generator write a poem about Carroll, and I think this just about covers Arizona’s month.

In Arizona, there’s a young man named Corbin Carroll,
Who joined the Diamondbacks, a team that won’t be frazzled.
He’s quick on his feet, and swings a mean bat,
His opponents are shaking, no doubt about that.

This outfielder’s got skills, he’s a force to be reckoned,
His speed and agility can’t be measured or reckoned.
When he takes to the field, the crowd roars with delight,
His talent is unmatched, he’s truly a sight.

With the Diamondbacks, Corbin will play to win,
He’ll bring his A-game, and give it his all, no matter what may come in.
He’ll run, jump, and dive, to make the perfect catch,
His opponents will be left scratching their heads, unable to match.

Corbin Carroll is an Arizona Diamondback,
A rising star for sure,
With talent and determination that can never be ignored.

The Blue Jays have cleaned up against the teams they needed to — 8-2 against the White Sox, Royals and Tigers — but the upcoming nine-game road trip to Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, followed by a homestand against the Braves, Yankees and Orioles and then a series in Tampa Bay, will give us a better idea of where the Jays stand.

Matt Chapman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette have carried the offense, but it hasn’t been as 1-through-9 scary as the past two seasons when the Jays ranked third and second in the AL in runs. Let’s wait and see about the rotation as well, especially Alek Manoah, who has really struggled with his control and has allowed 54 baserunners in 31⅓ innings. The Jays certainly feel like a playoff team, but I want to reserve judgment until the rotation faces better lineups over the next few weeks.

Look, a lot could have gone wrong given that Justin Verlander and Jose Quintana haven’t pitched yet, Carlos Carrasco landed on the injured list after three poor starts and then Max Scherzer got dinged with a 10-game suspension (not to mention Edwin Diaz‘s season-ending injury in the World Baseball Classic). New York managed to stay over .500 anyway. Verlander made a 69-pitch rehab start in the minors on Friday and could end up making his Mets debut this week in Detroit, of all places. The lack of power aside from Pete Alonso is a potential issue, however, as only Alonso and Francisco Lindor have more than two home runs and the Mets are just 21st in the majors in isolated power. Rookies Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez are getting the opportunity to play — and the Mets will need them to produce.

The Marlins have had some bad lineups in recent seasons — they finished last in the National League in runs in 2018, 2019 and 2022, with a gleaming 14th in 2021. That coincides with the 2017-18 offseason when they traded Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna. Anyway, it doesn’t help crying about the past, but here’s our big point: The 2023 Marlins are averaging 3.39 runs per game, which is worse than any of those other bad lineups managed. Their incredible 10-0 record in one-run games has kept them over .500 despite being outscored by 35 runs. The good news is the rotation hasn’t even pitched as well as expected. Still, unless they start using corked bats or banging garbage cans, I’m not sure the offense can score enough runs to make this a playoff team.

They had a slow start, going 3-6 in their first nine games as some members of the rotation started off slow and the bullpen lost a couple of games, but the Astros have played better of late to avoid a disastrous April World Series hangover. Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier are back in form, and Hunter Brown is an early Rookie of the Year favorite with a 2.37 ERA and no home runs allowed through five starts. The concerns are on offense, where they’re getting nothing from catcher Martin Maldonado and first baseman Jose Abreu and have missed Jose Altuve. Meanwhile, Yordan Alvarez returned Saturday after missing nearly a week with neck tightness. Maybe the Astros don’t cruise to 106 wins and an easy division title again, but they remain the favorites in the AL West despite the so-so start.

They’re not on the fringes of the playoff race or anything, but the Nationals have been much more competitive than expected with a reasonable minus-12 run differential. (Oops, I wrote that before the Pirates beat them 6-3 and 16-1 in Saturday’s doubleheader. The run differential is now much worse.) They won back-to-back series against the Twins and the Mets for their first series wins of the season, and they’ve played one of the toughest schedules so far (Braves, Rays, Orioles, Twins, Mets).

Most importantly, some of the young players are looking interesting: Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore are pitching well and Mason Thompson has emerged as a top reliever. Keibert Ruiz is showing excellent contact skills; let’s see if the power starts to develop. CJ Abrams has been better, but he’s still giving away too many at-bats with a high chase rate.

Somewhere in an alternate universe, Shohei Ohtani is still the greatest show on alternate Earth, Mike Trout plays 162 games every season, Anthony Rendon signs a free agent contract and hits .300 with 100 RBIs every season, Jo Adell turns into a 40-homer slugger and the Angels sign, say, Justin Verlander as a free agent and he wins 25 games. Alas, this isn’t that universe, and that means another imperfect Angels team.

Ohtani has been terrific, Trout has been great and Hunter Renfroe has been a big addition, but for every positive there’s a negative: Rendon hasn’t homered, catcher Logan O’Hoppe suffered a torn labrum after a strong start, and starters Tyler Anderson and Jose Suarez have struggled. Keep an eye on rookie shortstop Zach Neto: He has been hit by a pitch seven times in his first 15 games, and I really hope that proclivity doesn’t lead to a broken wrist.

It was pretty ugly the first two-plus weeks when the team started 5-10, but then came the White Sox, Rockies and Mariners, and the Phillies temporarily turned it around to look respectable. Yes, they added Trea Turner, but Turner has unfortunately left his power stroke back in the World Baseball Classic — he has just two home runs and a .260/.300/.374 batting line. So much for my MVP pick. Without Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, the surprising output from Brandon Marsh and Bryson Stott has kept the offense afloat, and some of the underlying metrics suggest real improvement for both. But the Phillies need to get the rotation going — although Matt Strahm has been a pleasant surprise.

Overall, it’s hard to get a read here between stars underperforming and non-stars overperforming, but Harper could return Tuesday against the Dodgers after taking batting practice over the weekend in Houston. That could be the big lift the Phillies need.

The Red Sox are who we thought they were: kind of mediocre, kind of not very interesting. They’re scoring some runs but giving them all back, especially in the rotation, which was projected to be a weakness and has been even worse than expected with Chris Sale (6.75 ERA) and Corey Kluber (6.75) a long way away from their Cy Young-contending days (2018 for both, if you’re curious). Jarren Duran‘s recent spurt at the plate is intriguing, although Triston Casas continues to scuffle in the batting average department. James Paxton is ready to return from his rehab assignment, but he has been hit hard, so it doesn’t appear as if he’s going to give the rotation the jolt it needs.

Of their first nine series, only one came against a team currently with a winning record, which helps explain why the Guardians have managed to hang around .500 even though they haven’t hit for any power (next-to-last in the majors in home runs) and the rotation has mostly scuffled other than Shane Bieber. And even Bieber’s strikeout rate is way down. Indeed, Guardians starters are last in the majors in strikeout rate. Maybe it’s not a huge deal just yet, but note the five teams immediately ahead of them: the Rockies, Royals, A’s, Tigers and Nationals — the dregs of the major leagues. Rookies Logan Allen and Tanner Bibee just made their major league debuts and both fanned eight batters in stints of six and 5 2/3 innings, respectively, so we’ll see if those two can provide a lift.

By their usual high standards, it’s a slow start — Dodgers fans would certainly give the team a lower grade — and it’s clear just by looking at all the batting averages that begin with a “1” that this lineup isn’t as deep as we’re used to seeing. Still, the Dodgers are over .500 and the NL West isn’t looking particularly tough anyway. Mookie Betts has been forced into action at shortstop — and the early returns have been positive, giving us yet another reason to love Mookie. Max Muncy and James Outman have been two of the best hitters in the majors, so the offense has been above average.

Indeed, the bigger concerns are with the pitching staff, even though Clayton Kershaw has been exquisite (5-1, 1.89 ERA, 41 SO, 5 BB). But the back of the rotation hasn’t been, and relievers Evan Phillips, Alex Vesia and Yency Almonte, who combined for a 1.47 ERA last season, have combined for a 6.68 ERA this season. The Dodgers haven’t had to fight for a playoff spot since 2018, when they tied the Rockies for the NL West title and were just three wins clear of the last nonplayoff team, but they’ll likely be fighting in 2023.

The Padres are just now at full strength with Fernando Tatis Jr. back from his suspension and Joe Musgrove with a couple of starts, but this first month exposed their lack of depth — they had to play the likes of Rougned Odor and Jose Azocar in right field — and how the bullpen, without Robert Suarez, is a little shaky behind closer Josh Hader. It hasn’t helped, of course, that Juan Soto is off to a frustrating start with a sub-.200 batting average and, for him, sky-high strikeout rate. Manny Machado hit .214 with one home run in his first 26 games before finally breaking out with two home runs on Saturday in Mexico City (thank you, altitude!). The Padres were the No. 2 team in our preseason power rankings, although I picked the Dodgers to win the division. The Padres haven’t shown me enough to suggest they will be the best team in the division, that’s for sure.

Meh. The Giants are hitting home runs, but they’re not doing enough else on offense to make this a powerhouse lineup like that 2021 team. I do think there’s a chance the offense improves: Mitch Haniger just returned after starting the season on the IL, plus Brandon Crawford, David Villar and Michael Conforto can’t be as bad as they’ve shown so far. Staff ace Logan Webb is 1-5 with a 4.10 ERA, but he’ll be fine (43-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio). The bullpen, however, is an issue. The Giants are a good example of the year-to-year unpredictability of relievers: 2.97 ERA in 2021 (first in MLB), 4.06 in 2022 (20th), 6.15 in 2023 (28th). If the bullpen doesn’t turn around, it won’t matter how many home runs they hit.

No, this team won’t draw comparisons to the best Yankees team of all time like last year’s squad did in the first half — but last year’s squad that ultimately won “just” 99 games is also a reminder not to overreact in the early going, positive or negative. The Yankees have received a grand total of zero starts from Carlos Rodon and Luis Severino (not to mention Frankie Montas) and fill-ins Clarke Schmidt and Jhony Brito are a combined 2-6 with an ERA over 6.00. Of course, having capable injury replacements is part of the game. Luckily, Gerrit Cole (5-0, 1.11 ERA, no home runs) has been better than ever.

Really, the big concern is an offense that looks uninspiring, especially without Aaron Judge doing his Babe Ruth impersonation. And he might now miss time with a mild hip strain. Even with Judge, the outfield production has been abysmal, with the Yankees ranking 29th in OPS. Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks have struggled and the Franchy Cordero bandwagon is already back in Triple-A.

In one five-game stretch, the Reds beat the Phillies 13-0, lost 14-3, beat the Rays 8-1 and then suffered 10-0 and 8-0 losses. They got swept in Pittsburgh and then bounced back to sweep the Rangers at home. That sums up the early returns on the Reds: Some days they look interesting and like they’re ready to turn the corner, and then the next day they look like the worst team in baseball. For the most part, however, this isn’t a good team. There’s little power in the lineup, and while Graham Ashcraft and Hunter Greene have had their moments, Nick Lodolo‘s slow start is frustrating and the back of rotation has been a total mess.

Can you get a “feeling” about a team after one month? Because the gut feeling I get watching the Mariners — and I’ve watched them a lot so far — is that this isn’t a playoff team. Last year’s rotation didn’t miss a single start, but Robbie Ray went down with Tommy John surgery last week and will miss the rest of 2023. Kolten Wong, AJ Pollock and Tommy La Stella have somehow been worse than Adam Frazier, Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro were last season. With Andres Munoz sidelined, the bullpen hasn’t been as dominant and the Mariners’ one-run and extra-inning magic of the past two seasons has dried up (1-5 in extra innings).

Julio Rodriguez and Teoscar Hernandez have combined for 10 walks and 72 strikeouts, creating some OBP issues for the meat of the Seattle lineup, and J-Rod left Saturday’s game with lower back tightness. This is where I remind Mariners fans that last year’s team was 29-39 before turning things around.

OK, relative to preseason hopes and expectations, we considered an “F” grade here, but the Cardinals really aren’t as bad as their record shows. Or maybe they are. Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz and Jake Woodford have all struggled, and when three-fifths of your rotation have ERAs on the wrong side of 5.00, you’re not a good team. These aren’t misleading ERAs either: All have allowed more hits than innings pitched and with too many home runs. In the bullpen, Ryan Helsley and Jordan Hicks are both 0-2 and allowing a lot of baserunners. The offense needs to carry more of the load, but Nolan Arenado in particular is off to a slow start and Jordan Walker, after a record-tying 12-game hitting streak to begin his career, was demoted to Triple-A. Can the Cards turn it around? I think so, but they need to string together some quality starts.

They had one nice little three-game stretch when they won three straight on walk-off hits, including home runs from Nick Maton and Kerry Carpenter, but for the most part, it’s been the same version of the Tigers we’ve seen in recent seasons: no offense and mediocrity everywhere else. The Tigers were last in the AL in runs last season and are last so far again. Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene and Javier Baez are supposed to be the team’s foundation players, but it’s a foundation full of cracks and plumbing leaks. The group has combined for just four home runs. Eduardo Rodriguez has been the bright spot, and even though he’s in just the second year of a five-year deal, he could be an interesting name at the trade deadline.

It’s not necessarily surprising the Rockies are this bad, unless you’re Rockies owner Dick Monfort, who said in January, “We have a lot of talent, a lot of good things are going to happen, and I think they are going to start happening this year, and I think we can play .500 ball.” And, yes, I’ll be using that quote all season. Are good things happening? Even a few? Something? The Rockies aren’t even young, ranking as the fourth-oldest team in position players and older than average in pitching.

OK, Bobby Witt Jr. is fun, although I still don’t know if he’s going to be a star or merely a solid player, and I love Vinnie Pasquantino, but where is the progress here? MJ Melendez? Michael Massey? Kyle Isbel? These guys are supposed to be contributors and all have struggled. They’re still fooling around with Hunter Dozier, and Jackie Bradley Jr., who hit .182 the past two seasons, is eating up playing time. The farm system isn’t especially interesting — top prospect Gavin Cross is hitting .182 in Class A. The Royals were 58-104 in 2018 and 59-103 in 2019, and it feels like they’re not any closer to fielding a competitive team than they were with those squads.

The White Sox were plodding along at 5-6 when everything suddenly fell apart, and even though their losing streak just ended at 10 games, their season might be over before Memorial Day. They suffered back-to-back shutout losses in Toronto in which they struck out 27 times — just two examples in a string of feeble offensive performances — and then suffered blowout 14-5 and 12-3 losses at home to Tampa Bay. Injuries to Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada sound all too familiar. Luis Robert Jr. has a .254 OBP and was either injured (his story) or not hustling (manager Pedro Grifol pulled him from the game thinking that was the case on Saturday). Either way, it points to complete dysfunction — and that starts with owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who, we remind you, cut payroll from 2022 even though the White Sox are trying to win.

That’s a big fat “F” as in … Fisher. Yeah, John Fisher, the owner who announced the team has agreed to buy land near the Las Vegas Strip with the idea of building a new stadium and moving the team there for the 2027 season. Meanwhile, the A’s have a possum living in the visiting team broadcast booth, the lowest payroll in the majors and have lost games 18-3, 17-6, 13-1, 12-2, 11-0 (twice) and 10-1. In that 17-6 loss, they walked 17 batters. Their starting pitchers are 0-15 with an 8.51 ERA. The A’s moved to Oakland in 1968 and have the sixth-best winning percentage in the majors since then. They’re not going to have a winning season in 2023.

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