Home Featured 7/27 MLB Power Rankings: Astros fall to 5th following Verlander injury, Twins up to 3rd

7/27 MLB Power Rankings: Astros fall to 5th following Verlander injury, Twins up to 3rd

by Chris Brown

The first weekend of the 2020 MLB season is now in the books. In a 60-game season, each game carries more meaning, but that said, it’s still difficult to draw any big conclusions from just a few games. In fact, there’s not a single team that made it through the weekend without at least one loss.

Each Monday during the 2020 season, I’ll break down where things stand with power rankings of all 30 teams. Let’s jump right in with the first installment:

30) Baltimore Orioles | 2-1

Baltimore took two of three from the Red Sox to start the season. I’m still not confident in the O’s surpassing 20 victories, though.

29) Detroit Tigers | 2-1

Like Baltimore, Detroit is off to a solid start to the season, but it’s nothing that’s going to change anyone’s perception of the team. C.J. Cron hit two hitters in the team’s first three games, but that offense still leaves a lot to be desired.

28) Kansas City Royals | 1-2

2018 first-rounder Brady Singer made his MLB debut over the weekend with a solid five-inning, seven-strikeout outing. His development will be fun to watch in 2020. The Royals still aren’t likely to compete this season, though.

27) Miami Marlins | 2-1

The Marlins took two of three against the Phillies to begin the season, but the big story right now is the four players who have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. The team has reportedly delayed its exit from Philadelphia due to concerns about a possible outbreak within the team. 

26) Seattle Mariners | 1-2

The Mariners won’t compete in 2020, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a big name to watch. Outfielder Kyle Lewis, once considered one of the top outfield prospects in baseball, is off to a sensational start after flashing impressive power last September. Lewis is hitting .364 with two longballs and four RBI in three games to start the season. 

25) San Francisco Giants | 2-2

The Giants are likely to get veteran corner infielders Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria back in their lineup this week. That’s certainly good news, but it doesn’t really change the outlook for the team this season.

24) Pittsburgh Pirates | 1-2

Top prospect Mitch Keller was solid in his first outing of the year, holding the Cardinals to one run in five innings. While there’s no powerhouse in the NL Central, the Pirates are clearly at the bottom of the bunch.

23) Texas Rangers | 1-2

On Sunday, Corey Kluber exited his first start in almost 15 months after just one inning due to shoulder tightness. The Rangers are certainly hoping the situation isn’t serious. Given the lack of star power in that lineup, the team will need an above average rotation to compete in 2020, even with the expanded playoffs.

22) Colorado Rockies | 2-1

Trevor Story is raking again to start the season. Daniel Bard returned to the mound in a major league game for the first time in over 2,600 days and picked up his first win in over eight years. The Rockies starters are off to a strong start and this team certainly has the offense to make things interesting in the 60-game season.

21) Arizona Diamondbacks | 1-2

There were no major needle-moving developments for the D-Backs over the weekend. Madison Bumgarner wasn’t great, but certainly wasn’t awful, in his Arizona debut. The team’s offense got off to a slow start, but that’s not necessarily anything significant.

20) Boston Red Sox | 1-2

Boston showed that offense can still pack a punch with a 13-2 Opening Day rout of the Orioles. The Red Sox pitching staff let them down the next two days, with starters Martin Perez and Ryan Weber giving up 10 earned runs in 8 ⅔ innings. With Eduardo Rodriguez sidelined for the time being due to a heart condition related to COVID-19, that rotation is of significant concern.

19) Toronto Blue Jays | 1-2

First things first: The Blue Jays now have a plan to play most of their home games in Buffalo, New York, which at least gives the club some certainty. The young offensive core hasn’t really made much noise yet, but it’s only been three games. And baseball’s No. 3 pitching prospect, Nate Pearson, is expected to be added to the team’s active roster this week. Fun times could be ahead for the Jays, though there is concern regarding injuries to closer Ken Giles (elbow soreness) and outfielder Randal Grichuk (lower back pain).

18) San Diego Padres | 2-1

The Padres have the pieces to compete this season. They’ve got the established veterans, the rising ace and young emerging hitters. Things are looking up for a San Diego team that could certainly be in the running for the second place spot in the NL West.

17) Milwaukee Brewers | 1-2

Christian Yelich is on the board with his first home run of the season following a rough stretch at the plate to end training camp. There’s still reason to be concerned about Milwaukee’s lack of star power behind a few key names.

16) Los Angeles Angels | 1-2

Shohei Ohtani’s return to the mound was, frankly, a disaster, as he was pulled in the first inning against the A’s on Sunday without recording an out and was charged with five earned runs on three hits and three walks. It’s important not to overreact, but it’s certainly something to monitor. The team is hoping to have Anthony Rendon in its lineup for the first time soon, as he’s missed the first few games due to an oblique injury.

15) New York Mets | 1-2

Jacob deGrom picked up right where he left off with eight strikeouts in five scoreless innings against the Mets to begin the season. There’s certainly plenty of concerns about the rotation behind him, though, as evidenced by Rick Porcello’s implosion on Sunday night against the Braves. Yoenis Cespedes appears healthy after missing most of the last two seasons due to injury. He could be a huge difference-maker for the team if that remains the case.

14) Philadelphia Phillies | 1-2

Dropping two of three to the Marlins at home certainly wasn’t how the Phillies wanted to start their season, but it’s not disastrous either. Zack Wheeler pitched well in his Phillies debut and Didi Gregorius looks poised for a rebound in his second season back from Tommy John, hitting homers in back-to-back games. It’s just too early — even in a 60-game season — to jump to any big conclusions.

13) Chicago White Sox | 1-2

The White Sox pitching got beat around by the Twins to begin the season, but there are promising signs on the offensive end, as Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert both hit their first home runs of the season. It’s too early to overreact to pitching struggles, particularly since they came against one of the best lineups in baseball, but that is something to monitor moving forward.

12) Cleveland Indians | 2-1

Carlos Carrasco was dominant in his first start since his leukemia diagnosis last year, striking out 10 while surrendering two runs over 6+ frames. That followed a strong outing from Mike Clevinger and a 14-strikeout performance from Shane Bieber on Opening Day. I still have questions about that offense beyond Jose Ramirez (who hit two homers Sunday) and Francisco Lindor, but the Indians will be in contention for the division title deep into September if the rotation can perform.

11) Chicago Cubs | 2-1

The Cubs’ performances over the weekend were emblematic of the strengths and weaknesses of this team. Five hitters who played in all three games have an OPS over .900, and Kyle Hendricks became the first Cubs pitcher to throw a shutout on Opening Day in over 45 years. In the team’s second game of the season, though, Yu Darvish was ineffective and the team’s bullpen gave up five runs in a loss to Milwaukee. There are real questions in that rotation.

10) Oakland Athletics | 2-1

Questions remain in the rotation after Sean Manaea and Mike Fiers struggled over the weekend, but there’s still plenty of reasons for optimism considering the A’s high-powered offense.

9) Washington Nationals | 1-2

Juan Soto was left off Washington’s Opening Day roster following a positive test for COVID-19. Stephen Strasburg was scratched from his Saturday start due to a nerve impingement in his right wrist. Those could both be short-term absences, but mild concern is warranted with the shortened schedule. Patrick Corbin did impress in his 2020 debut, striking out eight in 6 ⅓ while surrendering just one run.

8) St. Louis Cardinals | 2-1

There are concerns about the depth of St. Louis’ offense, but the team came out swinging to start the season with 14 combined runs in its first two games. Only time will tell if it’s sustainable. If Carlos Martinez can regain his previous form, that rotation goes from just solid to pretty darn good.

7) Cincinnati Reds | 1-2

Starters Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo and Trevor Bauer struck out 33 batters in 18 ⅓ innings over opening weekend. All three pitched six or more innings while allowing just one earned run. This rotation could be one of the best in baseball. Of concern: Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel woke up Sunday feeling unwell, and Moustakas was placed on the 10-day IL.

6) Atlanta Braves | 2-1

I picked the Nationals over the Braves to win the NL East, but given the health concerns for star Washington players right now, I’m slotting Atlanta a few spots higher. Marcell Ozuna made a good first impression with Braves fans with his game-tying, ninth-inning homer against the Mets in a comeback win on Saturday before adding another the next day.

5) Houston Astros | 2-1

The Astros were going to be third on this list. Then it was reported that reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander would miss the rest of the season with an arm injury, dealing a significant blow to a fragile rotation. I moved the Astros down to seventh — that’s how important Verlander is to this team. But with manager Dusty Baker saying after the game that Verlander will be reevaluated in a couple weeks due to a forearm strain, I’ll slide them in at fifth for now. That offense is incredible, but without Verlander, a lot of pressure falls on 36-year-old Zach Greinke and Lance McCullers, who’s returning from Tommy John surgery.

4) Tampa Bay Rays | 2-1

Tampa Bay walked off the Blue Jays on Sunday to win its first series of the season. Blake Snell struck out five batters in two innings in an abbreviated first start of the year as he recovers from shoulder soreness. The expectations are high for the Rays in 2020, and it’s so far, so good.

3) Minnesota Twins | 2-1

Minnesota’s offense picked up right where it left off, scoring 27 runs in three games over the weekend. At 40 years old, Nelson Cruz is showing no signs of slowing down, as he on Sunday became the oldest player in MLB history with four extra-base hits and four RBI in a game. Kenta Maeda also fared well in his Twins debut. There’s a lot to like about this team.

2) New York Yankees | 2-1

Giancarlo Stanton is back. The slugger hit home runs of 426 and 483 feet in the team’s first three games. Gerrit Cole was dominant in his rain-shortened Yankees debut. James Paxton will look to get on track after a rough first start.

1) Los Angeles Dodgers | 2-2

The Dodgers entered the season as clearly the best team in the National League, and nothing has happened in the last few days to prove otherwise. Clayton Kershaw missed his Opening Day start due to back stiffness, but it appears to be a short-term injury and Dustin May filled in admirably in his place. Max Muncy and Corey Seager are off to strong starts, and it’s only a matter of time before Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts get going at the plate.

Photos by Andy Witchger / Flickr (Cruz), D. Benjamin Miller / Public domain (Verlander), Ian D’Andrea / Flickr (Bellinger)

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