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8/3 MLB Power Rankings: Indians, Padres on the rise

by Chris Brown

Just over one week into the season, COVID-19 has forced the postponement of more than 15 MLB games and affected the schedules of several teams across the country. Some teams have played as many as 10 games, while the Marlins and Phillies have each only played three. That’s undoubtedly an important consideration when weighing the on-field performances we’ve seen thus far this season.

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 this week’s installment:

30) Baltimore Orioles | 5-3 | Last week: 30

Jon Means, the team’s best starter, made his season debut this week after dealing with left arm fatigue. He didn’t fare well, surrendering five runs to the Yankees in 2 ⅓ innings, but Means regularly hit 95 miles per hour with his pitches, showing the best velocity of his career. I’m not fooled by Baltimore’s 5-3 start to the season. 

29) Pittsburgh Pirates | 2-7 | Last week: 24

Colin Moran is off to a strong start at the plate, hitting .277/.322/.751 with five home runs and seven RBI through the team’s first nine games. He’s just about the only Pirate hitting well though. Collectively, the team is slashing a pitiful .177/.241/.299 through Sunday’s action. Top prospect Mitch Keller also landed on the IL with an oblique strain. 

28) Seattle Mariners | 4-6 | Last week: 26

Kyle Lewis simply cannot be stopped. The outfielder became the first rookie to tally 15+ hits through his team’s first eight games of the season since 1977. He’s registered a hit in 10 straight games to begin the season and looks like one of the few bright spots in a pretty weak lineup.

27) Miami Marlins | 2-1 | Last week: 27

With the team’s COVID-19 outbreak including 18 players and two coaches, everything else is pretty trivial. The Marlins are slated to resume play against the Orioles in Baltimore on Tuesday.

26) Kansas City Royals | 3-7 | Last week: 28

Royals starters have a collective 6.10 ERA through the team’s first 10 games. Whit Merrifield is off to a strong start at the plate, hitting .324 with three home runs and nine RBI entering Sunday, but the team has now dropped five of its last six contests.

25) San Francisco Giants | 5-5 | Last week: 25

On Aug. 1, the Giants became the first team since at least 1901 to have none of their starters complete at least five innings in each of the first eight games of the season, per MLB.com’s Sarah Langs. That streak was broken by 5 ⅔ frames on Sunday from Jeff Samardzija,  who gave up five earned runs. In more positive news, Mike Yastrzemski leads all MLB hitters in FanGraphs WAR. The outfielder entered Sunday hitting .400/.561/.767 with two homers, three doubles, one triple and 11 walks through nine games.

24) Detroit Tigers | 5-4 | Last week: 29

The Tigers may be the most interesting not-very-good team in baseball right now. Miguel Cabrera hit two homers in a game for the first time in four years, Detroit is top five in baseball in home runs hit and top prospect Casey Mize’s debut could be on the horizon. Then on Aug. 2, Tigers reliever Tyler Alexander shocked the baseball world by tying an AL record with nine consecutive strikeouts.

23) Texas Rangers | 3-5 | Last week: 23

The Rangers are now without both Corey Kluber and closer Jose Leclerc for an extended period due to shoulder strains. Both are significant blows to a team without a great offense.

22) Arizona Diamondbacks | 3-7 | Last week: 21

It’s been a rough start to the year for the Diamondbacks, who’ve now dropped four of their last five contests. The team is last in baseball with a .533 OPS. Arizona certainly has the personnel to be much better than that.

21) Boston Red Sox | 3-7 | Last week: 20

The Red Sox announced over the weekend that left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has been shut down for the remainder of the season as he continues to deal with a heart condition connected to COVID-19. He is expected to make a full recovery, and his health is of course most important. The team’s rotation has certainly struggled without him, though, posting a 6.69 ERA through 10 games. Manager Rob Roenicke summed up the team’s pitching situation best when asked about the rotation spot of Ryan Weber (0-2, 11.57 ERA in 7 IP), saying: “Who do we have that we can say we’re going to put in that’s going to be better than Ryan?”

20) Colorado Rockies | 6-2 | Last week: 22

The Rockies have played three series this season. They’ve won all three. Trevor Story is mashing and Matt Kemp — that’s right, Matt Kemp — has homered in back-to-back games. Perhaps he really does have something left in the tank. Rockies starters have posted an MLB-leading 2.08 ERA. One area of concern: the back end of the bullpen. Wade Davis has landed on the IL with a shoulder strain while Scott Oberg was moved to the 45-day injured list due to blood clots in his right arm.

19) Toronto Blue Jays | 3-4 | Last week: 19

The Blue Jays got the past weekend off as a result of COVID-19 related postponements. Closer Ken Giles is currently sidelined with a strained forearm. The team is still waiting on some of its young bats to get going, but outfielder Teoscar Hernandez has four homers in the team’s first seven games. Hyun-Jin Ryu’s tenure with the Jays has gotten off to a rocky start (8 ER in 9 IP), but top prospect Nate Pearson impressed in his big league debut against Washington with five shutout innings.

18) New York Mets | 3-7 | Last week: 15

Things are not going especially well for the Mets. The team has lost five games in a row, its bullpen has posted an ERA of 6.81 thus far, Pete Alonso is struggling at the plate, Rick Porcello has a 13.50 ERA through two starts, and, after an odd series of events, Yoenis Cespedes has opted out of the remainder of the 2020 season.

17) Milwaukee Brewers | 3-3 | Last week: 17

The Brewers haven’t played since Wednesday due to the Cardinals’ positive COVID-19 tests. Christian Yelich is just 1-for-27 to begin the year and veteran center fielder Lorenzo Cain announced Saturday that he has opted out of the remainder of the 2020 season. Additionally, Ryan Braun is now on the IL after undergoing a surgical procedure due to an infected finger. Team ace Brandon Woodruff is off to a strong start, though, posting a 1.59 ERA and 15 strikeouts to one walk through his first two starts (11.1 IP).

16) Los Angeles Angels | 3-7 | Last week: 16

Anthony Rendon made his debut this past week after missing the Angels first few games with an oblique injury. On a less positive note, Shohei Ohtani’s struggles on the mound in his return from Tommy John surgery have continued. After failing to record an out in his first appearance, Ohtani walked five batters and was charged with two earned runs over 1 ⅔ frames against the Astros on Sunday. His velocity dropped significantly near the end of his start, a major concern.

15) Philadelphia Phillies | 1-2 | Last week: 14

The Phillies have played only three games thus far due to COVID-19 concerns, with none in the last week. This makes it essentially impossible to draw any significant conclusions about the team this season. Didi Gregorius is off to a strong start to the year in his second season back from Tommy John surgery, hitting two homers in his first 11 at-bats.

14) Oakland Athletics | 5-4 | Last week: 10

Khris Davis’ early season slump has only continued, as he’s just 1-for-21 to begin the 2020 campaign. None of the team’s star hitters have really gotten things going at the plate yet. There’s still plenty of reason for optimism, but the frequently slow-starting A’s need to kick things into gear before too long.

13) Chicago White Sox | 5-4 | Last week: 13

Things are looking up for the White Sox coming off a three-game series sweep of the Royals. Luis Robert already looks like one of the most electric players in baseball and Eloy Jimenez is also off to a sensational start. Infielder Nick Madrigal, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 draft, was promoted to the majors and tallied the first four hits of his big league career on Sunday. The White Sox will surely hope that Tim Anderson’s IL stay is a short one.

12) San Diego Padres | 6-4 | Last week: 18

The Padres are an incredibly fun team right now. The loss of Eric Hosmer to the IL with a stomach issue is significant, but this team has a number of exciting bats off to strong starts, including Trent Grisham, Fernando Tatis and Tommy Pham, and leads baseball in runs scored through Sunday’s games.

11) St. Louis Cardinals | 2-3 | Last week: 8

The Cardinals played just two games this week, falling twice to the Twins before their weekend series against the Brewers was postponed following positive COVID-19 tests from the club. St. Louis’ offense, which has plenty of questions coming into the season, scored just four combined runs over its last three games. The team’s bullpen, though, had an MLB-best 0.98 ERA heading into Sunday’s action.

10) Washington Nationals | 3-4 | Last week: 9

The Nationals haven’t played since Thursday since their weekend series against the Marlins was postponed. Juan Soto has received clearance to rejoin the team after a positive COVID-19 test kept him out of action the first week of the season. He’s expected to be back in the lineup soon. Stephen Strasburg also seems not far from a return to game action after dealing with a nerve impingement in his right wrist. Needless to say, those additions will provide a big boost for the Nats.

9) Cincinnati Reds | 4-5 | Last week: 7

Sonny Gray has been absolutely lights out, striking out 20 batters and posting a 0.71 ERA in 12 ⅔ innings thus far. Since July 2019, Gray has pitched to a 1.79 ERA with 134 punchouts in 105 ⅔ innings. In much less positive news, face of the franchise Joey Votto was placed on the IL on Sunday after reporting symptoms connected to COVID-19.

8) Chicago Cubs | 7-2 | Last week: 11 

Among the teams that have gotten off to the best starts record-wise, the Cubs seem to have the biggest concern: their bullpen. The team’s reliever ERA of 9.75 is easily the worst in MLB. Craig Kimbrel looks more like Joe Pitcher than the best reliever of the last decade — he’s given up 11 homers in his last 22 innings pitched dating back to last season. The Cubs’ offense has certainly come as promised, though, with five players posting an OPS above .980 through the team’s first nine games.

7) Houston Astros | 5-4 | Last week: 5

Pitching injuries are continuing to pile up for the Astros as closer Roberto Osuna was placed on the IL with elbow soreness. He joins Austin Pruit, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski and Joe Biagini among key relievers who are sidelined. Ryan Pressly is the only healthy bullpen arm who is not a rookie, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart noted. Not great.

6) Cleveland Indians | 5-5 | Last week: 12

The Indians’ rotation has been lights out to start the season. On Aug. 30, Shane Bieber became the first pitcher in the modern era to strike out 13+ batters in each of his first two starts of a season. Cleveland this past week became the first team since at least 1901 with four or more 10+ strikeout performances from their pitchers in the first seven games of a season, per MLB.com’s Mandy Bell. There are certainly concerns on the offensive end, though, as Indians hitters are batting just .193/.285/.278 to begin the 2020 campaign.

5) Tampa Bay Rays | 4-6 | Last week: 4

The Rays’ season has been a bit of a rollercoaster thus far. The team dropped its first game of the season, won four consecutive contests, and then lost five in a row to end this past week. I’m not especially concerned with the team at this point, but it is something to keep an eye on.

4) Atlanta Braves | 7-3 | Last week: 6

Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies haven’t hit their stride offensively, yet the Braves are still second in baseball in runs scored through the end of Sunday. Marcell Ozuna has three home runs early and Dansby Swanson appears to be breaking out at the plate. Mike Soroka and Max Fried are off to promising starts. And Nick Markakis will provide another solid bat in the lineup after opting back into the season.

3) Minnesota Twins | 7-2 | Last week: 3

The Twins are rolling. After being shut out by Sane Bieber in the first game of the series, the team took the final three games of a four-game set with the division-rival Indians to move to 7-2 on the season. Miguel Sano seemed to shake the rust off with a two-homer day on Sunday. Kenta Maeda has impressed in his first two starts with Minnesota and the back end of the Twins’ bullpen has been incredible.

2) New York Yankees | 7-1 | Last week: 2

Aaron Judge has homered in five straight games. Five. Masahiro Tanaka was solid in his first start of the season. Closer Aroldis Chapman seems likely to join the Yankees’ active roster within the next week or so after being cleared to return following a COVID-19 diagnosis.

1) Los Angeles Dodgers | 7-3 | Last week: 1

After back injuries delayed his start to the season, Clayton Kershaw was in vintage form in his 2020 debut on Sunday, striking out six Diamondbacks in 5 ⅔ scoreless innings. Despite being without Kershaw to start the year, and injury to Alex Wood and David Price’s decision to opt out of the season, the Dodgers lead baseball with a 1.84 team ERA. Corey Seager is hitting the cover off the ball and on Sunday Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger homered in the same game for the first of what’s sure to be several times.

Photo by Erik Drost / Flickr

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