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MLB Power Rankings: Braves move into the top spot followed by Dodgers, Phillies as injuries take a toll across the league

MLB Power Rankings: Braves move into the top spot followed by Dodgers, Phillies as injuries take a toll across the league

Starting tomorrow, no longer can we look at the MLB standings and shrug off the order because, well, it’s April. Of course, the calendar flipping to May does not cement any individual team’s fortune for the remainder of the season, but roughly 18% of the 2024 season is in the books.

By now, good teams have banked a healthy number of Ws. Bad teams have piled up some Ls. Some teams have pleasantly surprised us. Others have gravely disappointed.

After one month of play, here is one big-picture takeaway for each of the 30 MLB teams.

The Atlanta offense has unsurprisingly been one of baseball’s best, but not necessarily in the ways we anticipated. It has been Marcell Ozuna, Michael Harris II and Travis d’Arnaud leading the charge in the lineup, while the megastar trio of Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson and Austin Riley have been fairly pedestrian in the early going. On the mound, newcomers Chris Sale and Reynaldo Lopez have been stellar additions to the rotation, with Lopez’s transition from reliever to starter going as well as anyone could have hoped.

The tidal wave of talent that is the top of the Dodgers order — which, it should be noted, has remained intact for all 31 games of the season thus far — has somehow lived up to the hype, with Freddie Freeman merely being great while both Mookie Betts and Shohei Ohtani play at an MVP level. The bottom of the lineup, though? Yikes. And with a pitching staff that still has several key pieces on the injured list, there’s at least a modicum of trouble in paradise for the juggernaut Dodgers to solve moving forward.

It has been all about the pitching for the Phillies over the first month, which is quite a statement considering the amount of high-profile star power in their lineup. It’s not just the staples atop the rotation in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, either; lefty Ranger Suarez is blossoming into one of baseball’s best southpaws, full stop. Once Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber start hitting, watch out.

For a while, the two new outfielders flanking Aaron Judge — Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo — were doing a whole lot more to power the Yankees’ lineup than the Captain. But Judge seems to be heating up now, which is a scary thought for opposing pitching staffs tasked with navigating this lineup. More importantly, this rotation has stepped up in a big way in Gerrit Cole’s absence and is the biggest reason New York maintains a top-five spot after a month of play.

We knew the bullpen would be a bit of a sore subject relative to last year without an elite closer in Felix Bautista available, and it has had some rough moments already. But new O’s ace Corbin Burnes and a seemingly rejuvenated Cole Irvin have done more than enough to help this new-look pitching staff support what is, as expected, one of the most dynamic offenses in MLB, led by early MVP candidate Gunnar Henderson.

If you had told me Cleveland’s starting pitching would rank in the bottom 10 in fWAR and Jose Ramirez’s OPS would be .741 over the first month, I would’ve had a hard time believing the Guardians would also have one of the best records in baseball. But here they are! Thanks to a truly exceptional bullpen (first in fWAR), a leveled-up Josh Naylor and Steven Kwan looking a lot more like his 2022 self than the 2023 version, the Guards are looking like legitimate contenders in a much-improved AL Central.

With so many new faces after a winter of roster turnover and an infusion of younger players into every-day roles, it was tough to be too bullish on Milwaukee at the outset of the season, regardless of the organization’s stellar track record of recent success. While serious questions remain on the mound beyond the ever-excellent Freddy Peralta, it seems we might have collectively underestimated the Brew Crew lineup, which currently ranks sixth in wRC+. That level of production is going to keep Milwaukee relevant in the NL Central race. Having one of the best catchers in baseball in William Contreras also goes a long way on both sides of the ball.

So far in 2024, it has been difficult to get a read on Chicago’s true talent level, considering the rash of injuries to several key pieces. If anything, I’m encouraged about the Cubs’ place in the standings, considering how little they’ve gotten offensively from guys such as Dansby Swanson, Christopher Morel and Ian Happ. We’re a long way from this team being at full strength, but if they can get there, the Cubs might be the NL Central favorites.

It’d be disingenuous to call what has happened with Kansas City’s pitching staff a turnaround after last year’s group ranked 28th in ERA; this is a full-blown transformation. Both fresh faces (Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, John Schreiber) and holdovers (Brady Singer, James McArthur, Alec Marsh) have contributed heavily to a staff ERA of 3.18 that ranks top-five in MLB. There remains a severe lack of offensive depth beyond Bobby Witt Jr., Vinnie Pasquantino and Salvador Perez, but I’ve seen more than enough to be convinced that this team will remain a factor in the AL Central race if it can stay healthy.

The defending champs appear to be too injured to reel off a legitimate hot streak but too talented to fall into any sort of concerning rut; their record reflects that. That said, what to make of Corey Seager’s slow start? The underlying data (.349 xwOBA vs. .389 wOBA) looks reasonably strong, but I wonder if his lack of spring training after having sports hernia surgery in the offseason has slowed him somewhat. Either way, I expect him to heat up soon.

The M’s rattled off four consecutive series wins to wrap up the month and catapult themselves from an ugly 6-10 start to a much more palatable place in the standings. With each passing game, the elite pitching staff continues to impress, and the offense continues to underwhelm to a fairly concerning degree. The overwhelming talent on the mound suggests that this team is built for success in October, but Seattle still needs to hit enough if it wants to reach the postseason.

The preseason AL Central favorites have surged from a 7-13 start thanks to an eight-game winning streak and the unlikeliest of rally items in the form of a summer sausage, courtesy of Kyle Farmer and Ryan Jeffers, much to their manager’s dismay. Honestly, I’d question Jeffers’ tactics a lot more if he weren’t absolutely raking; he can do whatever he wants if he’s slugging .561. And while the ERAs aren’t especially pretty so far, I have a lot of confidence in this rotation to find a rhythm soon.

Through the season’s first month, injuries are playing a significant role in many teams’ early returns. (Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

In a year in which nearly every roster has lost at least one key player to significant injury in the first month, Boston has been particularly unfortunate in the health department — and the Red Sox have weathered the storm in impressive fashion. Downright dominance on the mound from Kutter Crawford and Tanner Houck combined with a laughably outstanding start from Tyler O’Neill (1.176 OPS!!!) have kept the Sox more than just afloat amidst the injury chaos. We’ll see how long they can keep it up.

Elly De La Cruz’s spectacular display of power (seven home runs) and speed (18 steals!!!) in April has been a delight to witness as he continues to ascend into the inner circle of the league’s superstars. Now it’s on the rest of the Reds lineup to pick it up around De La Cruz and better support one of the National League’s most underrated pitching staffs.

Much like Seattle, Detroit continues to get the job done on the mound while the offense leaves much to be desired. Credit the Tigers for taking the series from Kansas City this past weekend, but I still lean toward K.C. in the long haul, considering the lack of star power among Detroit’s hitters, even if the two pitching staffs are fairly comparable. These two teams will be fun to watch all season, and having four AL Central teams in the top 15 after one month is pretty remarkable.

Jordan Hicks finding immediate success as a starter has been one of the more exciting and surprising developments of the season’s first month, and the rest of the San Francisco rotation — outside of an injured Blake Snell and his 11.57 ERA — has been formidable as well. As for the overhauled offense? That has been much slower to get off the ground. But hey, the Giants are second in the NL West.

Here we go again, waiting for Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to start hitting like the superstars they purportedly are. Forgive the snark, but this level of production isn’t going to cut it, especially when the rotation appears to be closer to good than the great it was in 2023. This offense should be especially grateful for the early bounce-back of Daulton Varsho and the incredible production of 39-year-old free-agent acquisition Justin Turner because there ain’t a whole lot else to write home about.

Luis Severino’s no-hit bid on Monday was a reminder of how quietly solid this revamped Mets pitching staff has been in the first season of the David Stearns era. But because that outing came in a loss, it was also a sobering reminder of how stagnant the offense has looked. I don’t think this team is bad, but I am highly skeptical about how good it really is.

I really want to believe in this team, but it hasn’t been the most encouraging start. Blowing a 9-4 lead with six outs to go last week in Colorado was a bad look, but weird stuff happens at Coors Field. Immediately coming home and losing another four in a row? That’s a tougher pill to swallow, especially considering how good the crowds at Petco Park have been this year, despite the team’s underperformance. The Padres aren’t doomed by any stretch, but they’ll need to start beating some good teams eventually.

Any optimism regarding rookie shortstop Masyn Winn’s offensive potential was assuming he’d be a competent contributor at or near the bottom of a potent lineup. Instead, he and Willson Contreras have inexplicably been the only above-average hitters on this team, prompting some serious questions about St. Louis’ ability to compete, especially considering the concerns that already existed on the mound. But as long as the Cards can avoid falling into as deep of a hole as they did in the first half last year, I’m not counting these guys out.

William Contreras, Josh Naylor and Gunnar Henderson are powering their teams’ offenses through the first month. (Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)

At first glance, one could look at Arizona’s +25 run differential — the only positive run differential among the sub-.500 teams — and assume the Snakes have been playing better than their record. But I’m not so sure that’s the case. That run differential is boosted almost entirely by three lopsided victories: 16-1 over Colorado on Opening Day, 17-1 over San Francisco on April 19 and 14-1 over St. Louis on April 23. This isn’t meant to discredit such epic blowouts, but beyond those three contests, the D-backs have been average at best.

Is getting swept by the 2024 White Sox an inexcusable failure for a team with postseason aspirations? Perhaps. But it has been more than just one ugly series this year for the Rays, who have been woefully inconsistent and stunningly shoddy in the bullpen in April. The standard is just too high in the AL East for the Rays to play at this level for long stretches of time, so they’ll need to pick it up soon. The good news? Their City Connect jerseys are sensational. Maybe the Skateboarding Ray can help this team find its groove.

Are the Nationals still too low in these rankings? Maybe. There’s a lot going right for them on both sides of the ball, some of which is difficult to imagine them sustaining, but it’s hard not to feel good about the performances from key pieces of the rebuild, such as CJ Abrams and MacKenzie Gore. What’s most exciting is the prospect that more of those players are on the way in the form of top outfield prospect James Wood (.930 OPS in Triple-A) and the return of right-handed pitcher Cade Cavalli from Tommy John surgery.

Houston’s shockingly awful start has put them in quite the hole, one that would be even bigger if the rest of the AL West weren’t off to such a middling start as well. There’s no way this team is actually this bad, and there’s a good chance this is the lowest they will be in these rankings at any point for the remainder of the season. At some point, though, you are what your record is. There’s a lot of work to be done in H-Town.

The Pirates managed to speed through their crash back to reality even faster than they did a year ago. They’ve plummeted from 9-2 to 14-16 in a relative blink, whereas last year’s team that started 20-8 managed to stay above .500 as late as mid-June. The biggest red flag here — and why the Buccos are so low — is a position-player group that currently ranks 24th in OPS and 24th in fWAR.

Mason Miller and Lucas Erceg are two of the most electric relievers in the league, making me wish the A’s offense was good enough to give them leads to convert to wins more frequently. Still, massive credit to this group of predominantly young players for competing to a respectable degree on a nightly basis, despite everything looming over the organization.

Things were really starting to spiral before the Angels pulled off a much-needed, narrow victory over the Phillies on Monday. What has been most disappointing about the Angels’ poor play thus far is the number of defensive miscues and baserunning blunders that one would not expect from a team managed by Ron Washington. A lot will have to change if the Angels want to avoid a ninth consecutive losing season.

I’m not sure I’ll have the opportunity to rank the White Sox any higher than this at any point this season, so I’m going to bask in the glory of their weekend sweep of Tampa Bay and slot them here at No. 28, a full TWO SPOTS from the bottom. The offense remains atrocious, but Erick Fedde’s steady excellence has been a welcome sight as Garrett Crochet has fallen off a bit after his first few outings.

No matter how bad their record, it’s very clear the role the Rockies are going to play this season: spoiler. Trips to Denver will be a perilous endeavor for teams in search of stability amidst heated playoff races. The horrors and unpredictability of Coors Field can doom those hoping to collect a few easy wins against this ill-equipped roster. To the teams visiting Colorado over the season’s final month — the Orioles, Cubs, D-backs, Cardinals and Dodgers — I wish you luck on your journey.

Can you believe we’re just seven months removed from this team reaching the postseason with the exact same record as the eventual NL champion Arizona Diamondbacks? Sheesh. The injuries keep on coming, and the losses keep piling up. It’s going to be a long summer in Miami. Let’s hope some attractive trade chips emerge on this roster so the organization can at least add some prospects at the deadline.

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