MLB Power Rankings: Muddled in the Middle

Here we are, just over 10% of the way through the Major League Baseball season.  Some teams are sitting right about where we thought they would be, while others are not.  This is not intended to be “standings”.  This is not based on wins and losses.  As you can see, the middle of the pack is very muddled together right now in terms of W’s and L’s.  These rankings are based on who at this point has the best chance of winning the World Series this season.  Take it with a grain of salt, the picture will become much more clear in the coming months.

1.  Colorado Rockies (13-5)

I really like the lineup and assuming Ubaldo Jimenez comes back healthy, their rotation slots in very nicely with Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hammel behind him.  This team could be a very tough out if they arrive at playoff time healthy.

2.  Philadelphia Phillies (11-6)

Halladay and Oswalt have been very good and Lee and Hamels have pitched better than their ERA’s would suggest.  However, I’m still worried about the lineup.  Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco are weak corner outfielders and the void left by the Utley injury is huge.  I think they can get to the playoffs without him, but if they don’t have him once they get there, they’re in trouble.

3.  Los Angeles Angels (12-6)

Bottom line: Jered Weaver and Dan Haren are the best 1-2 punch in baseball.  Period.  Sorry Halladay and Lee, but these guys have been electric.  I’m not crazy about their lineup, but the infielders have been hot and Bobby Abreu is seeing the ball well.  Young Hank Conger could provide some punch if he’s given the majority of the time behind the plate.

4.  New York Yankees (10-6)

All offseason everyone complained about the rotation and seemed to forget that this team has the best offense in baseball.  Quite simply, they put together great at-bats, see a ton of pitches and get to the opponent’s bullpen faster than anyone.  While Phil Hughes has been a major disappointment, AJ Burnett has looked solid.  I still think Ivan Nova can be useful at the back of the rotation and I have confidence that GM Brian Cashman will go get a starter this summer.

5.  Texas Rangers (11-7)

While the rotation has been solid, I’m not completely convinced.  They lack a true ace they can throw out there against another team’s frontline guys.  The lineup, while excellent with Josh Hamilton, is just good without him.  Let’s see how their pitchers hold up once the weather gets hot in Arlington and the ball starts flying out of that park.

6.  San Francisco Giants (10-8)

As usual, the starters have been very good.  I’m a little worried about Madison Bumgarner though.  He could have some growing pains this season and is in a similar situation as Hughes in New York.  The lineup has been okay with Buster Posey leading the way and Pablo Sandoval experiencing a bit of a renaissance.  They will probably need to do some deadline spackling again to cover some offensive cracks.

7.  Milwaukee Brewers (9-9)

If they get the good Zack Greinke when he returns from injury, this rotation will be very good.  Their lineup past Fielder and Braun makes me nervous, but they should score enough runs.  Yovani Gallardo needs to pick it up as he’s arguably the most talented arm on this team.

8.  St. Louis Cardinals (9-9)

If you didn’t think this team was going to hit, you’re crazy.  Pujols and Matt Holliday make a fine 3/4 and Lance Berkman and Colby Rasmus have been pulling their weight too.  The real question is can they patch up the rotation enough to make up for the loss of Adam Wainwright?  That and is there someone who can get them through the ninth inning?

9.  Cincinnati Reds (9-9)

Like I said in Spring Training, their rotation depth is good, but I’m not crazy about the overall quality of those arms.  All of the starters have struggled to some degree.  The offense has been good, but Jay Bruce needs to take a step forward to help protect Joey Votto.

10.  Chicago White Sox (7-11)

Speaking of bad bullpens, this team can’t seem to save a game.  Matt Thornton has been atrocious in his debut as closer.  It looks like Ozzie Guillen is going to use Chris Sale, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain, in addition to Thornton, in the late innings to try to play the matchups.  The lineup has slumped recently, but I expect them to hit.  I wouldn’t count on much of anything from Jake Peavy after multiple setbacks in his rehab, so it’s a good thing Phil Humber has shown he’s at least somewhat capable.

11.  Boston Red Sox (6-11)

To be honest, I’m impressed it only took Terry Francona this long to realize Jed Lowrie needed more at-bats.  The guy is a stud and should be in the lineup at shortstop every day.  If Carl Crawford and/or Jacoby Ellsbury can stabilize the leadoff spot, this team is going to score some runs.  However, similar to the Reds, the rotation, while deep, has not performed up to expectations.  Josh Beckett has been good, but I’m not sure he can keep this up.  Jon Lester is a notorious slow starter and will probably improve as the season goes on.  Clay Buccholz is the ex-factor.  He needs to provide them a solid third starter.

12.  Atlanta Braves (8-11)

The pitching looks very good, especially the bullpen.  Some of the bats have slumped so far, namely Dan Uggla, Martin Prado and Jason Heyward, but I have faith they will come around.  Expect them to push the Phils through the summer.

13.  Los Angeles Dodgers (9-10)

What an embarrassing week for the Dodgers.  This franchise deserves better in terms of ownership than the McCourt’s.  The lineup outside of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier has been very poor.  They recently called up prospect Jerry Sands, but I don’t know how much they can really expect from him.  If Chad Billingsley can pick it up, the rotation is coming together nicely.

14.  Oakland Athletics (9-9)

Isn’t it crazy how one-dimensional some of these teams are?  Oakland, as usual, is all pitching and no hitting.  They have some decent offensive pieces, but a lot of them have slumped out of the gate.  In my opinion they need to find more at-bats for Connor Jackson.  The pitching has been excellent as was expected.  They could really use a healthy Andrew Bailey at the back of the pen.

15.  Cleveland Indians (13-5)

The surprise of the young season.  The lineup is 100% legit.  If Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner can perform like they did before their respective injuries, it’s scary good.  The rotation has had some nice surprises with Justin Masterson taking a step forward and Carlos Carrasco making some progress, but I don’t think there’s enough pitching to make an extended run.

16.  Detroit Tigers (9-10)

It didn’t take a genius to see that depth was going to be the Tigers’ main problem this season.  Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are two talented starters, but who slots in behind them?  Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are two elite bats, but who’s going to protect them?  Evidently the Tigers didn’t think that far because no one outside of those four has provided much support.

17.  Tampa Bay Rays (9-9)

After a horrid start, the Rays are back to .500.  If they can get Evan Longoria back soon, they still have a chance to make some noise in this division (especially with Boston weaker than anticipated).  Sam Fuld has been a godsend in the leadoff spot, though he is playing a bit over his head at the moment.  David Price got on track against Chicago this week and Wade Davis and James Shields have pitched well.  Expect some ups and downs from rookie Jeremy Hellickson.

18.  Florida Marlins (10-6)

Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez have been great at the dish.  Unfortunately Hanley Ramirez has struggled and Mike Stanton can’t shake a few nagging injuries.  Josh Johnson looks like he’s going to be in the Cy Young conversation again and Ricky Nolasco is finally living up to the billing.  They need more from the back-end of the rotation though.

19.  Minnesota Twins (6-12)

Where to start?  Joe Mauer is hurt again.  Justin Morneau is apparently healthy, but can’t hit.  Francisco Liriano has a 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  I guess the only good thing you can really say here is that it couldn’t get any worse.  With Cleveland and Kansas City out in front in this division, they still have a shot if they can get back on track.

20.  Toronto Blue Jays (8-10)

Jose Bautista might not hit 50+ home runs again, but he certainly looks legit.  It also looks like they guessed right on Yunel Escobar and shortstops like him aren’t easy to come by.  Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Travis Snider need to pick it up though.  Those three are too talented to be hitting like they are.  If they can pick it up, this offense could be scary.  Brandon Morrow is set to re-join the rotation and Ricky Romero and Kyle Drabek have been very good.

21.  Chicago Cubs (9-9)

Surprisingly, Starlin Castro has justified the hype.  I really thought he might struggle, but he’s been excellent.  Aramis Ramirez looks re-invigorated and Darwin Barney has been a find at second.  Unfortunately the rotation has underperformed so far and injuries to Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells haven’t helped.  They could still be a factor in the NL Central as I don’t see the Brewers, Reds or Cardinals running away with it.

22.  New York Mets (5-13)

This team has too much talent to be this bad.  The lineup should be fine with Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Ike Davis leading the way.  However, without Johan Santana, the rotation is horrible.  Chris Young has actually been their best pitcher, and that’s saying something.  Jonathon Niese showed potential last year, but he’s struggled and Mike Pelfrey is just far too hittable.  They could finish in the basement this year.

23.  Arizona Diamondbacks (8-8)

The offense looks much better without human strikeouts Mark Reynolds and Adam Laroche in the middle.  Justin Upton and Stephen Drew look to be turning the corner and Miguel Montero could be one of the best catchers in the NL.  Outside of Daniel Hudson, the rotation has really struggled so far.  They need Ian Kennedy and Joe Saunders to pick it up and give them quality innings.

24.  Kansas City Royals (11-7)

They’re not going to contend, but they are unearthing some quality players to pair with their mess of prospects that are on the way.  Bill Butler is the definition of a professional hitter.  He’s shown great progress with his plate discipline.  If the power picks up, he’s one of the best hitters in the division, maybe even the AL.  I’m still a little leery of Alex Gordon because of the BB:K ratio.  He’s hit well though and seems to be taking to left field.  There’s some nice bullpen pieces, but this rotation will probably completely replaced in a year or so.  There’s a lot of good arms on the farm.

25.  Baltimore Orioles (8-9)

Finally, the Orioles have had a young pitcher turn the corner.  Zach Britton needs to cut the walks, but he’s pitched very well so far.  Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta have struggled thus far, but Buck Showalter would do well to let them continue to learn.  Both have good stuff.  The lineup has finally shown some life, but probably not from who they’d hoped.  They need one or two from the Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters group to step forward and become a star in the middle of this lineup.

26.  Washington Nationals (9-8)

I figured this team would hit the skids as soon as Ryan Zimmerman got hurt.  I figured wrong.  Rookie Danny Espinosa has been great and looks to have taken the leadoff spot and Wilson Ramos looks like the answer behind the plate.  Jayson Werth hasn’t gotten going yet, but he’s a very streaky hitter.  Look for a hot streak in the near future.  The pitching has held up surprisingly well.  Expect guys like Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez to be dealt at the deadline if they can keep this up.

27.  Pittsburgh Pirates (8-10)

I’m not sure how old Jose Tabata really is, but who cares if he keeps hitting like this?  Andrew McCutchen has struggled a bit out of the gate, but he’s seeing the ball well.  It’s pretty clear Pedro Alvarez needs to work on his control of the strike zone.  Twenty-three strikeouts in 17 games in unacceptable.  It’s a shame most of the pitching is a few years away as the bats could be ready soon.

28.  San Diego Padres (8-10)

How this team has won eight games with a lineup full of #8 hitters is beyond me.  They’ve gotten surprising production out of starters Dustin Moseley, Aaron Harang and Tim Stauffer.  Mat Latos has stumbled a bit, but should rebound.  This team needs a lot of help in the lineup.

29.  Seattle Mariners (6-13)

Rookie Michael Pineda has been electric, but the rest of the starters, including Felix Hernandez, have ranged from ordinary (Jason Vargas) to bad (Erik Bedard).  Justin Smoak has looked very good so far, but other than him and Ichiro, there’s really not much to speak of in the lineup until Dustin Ackley gets the call.

30.  Houston Astros (7-11)

This team is a mess.  We’ve got a pretty good feel for what Hunter Pence is, but he’s really not more than a solid outfielder.  Michael Bourn looks like a solid leadoff man and Brett Wallace has made nice strides with his plate discipline.  The other lineup pieces are uninspiring.  Brett Myers has been good and should be traded for prospects at the deadline.  Unfortunately it looks like J.A. Happ’s performance in Philadelphia was a mirage.

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