Are you what your record says you are? Not quite.
What an odd start to the 2019 MLB season. The Padres, Mariners, Twins and Rays are all in first place in their respective divisions. The Rockies entered Sunday dead last in the NL in runs scored. The Tigers are over .500. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.
It’s easy to point at MLB standings and records and say, “Well, Team Y has a better record than Team X, so you’re wrong, stupid!” Well, let me tell you about the Twinkie.
Everything in context. Does anyone think the Padres will end the season with a better record than the Dodgers? It’s hard to see that. Will PECOTA be right about the Cubs? Much like Doctor Strange peering into the future, there are approximately 14,000,000 ways the baseball season can play out.
It’s April. There’s plenty of time for teams to right the ship, as baseball often allows.
So here are your absolute, 100-percent correct, irrefutable Power Rankings for the beautiful morning of April 15, 2019. Please do not @ me.
The Astros are who we thought they were.
No one was fooled by the 2-5 start to the season, especially not Astros hitters. Entering Sunday, Houston had eight guys hitting to an OPS+ of 110 or better. Four of them — Robinson Chirinos, Jake Marisnick, Carlos Correa and José Altuve — had an OPS+ of 152 or better. That’s pretty good. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
It’s hard seeing Houston continuing that pace over the course of a 162-game season — especially when looking at Chirinos and Marisnick — but know this: When Houston won it all in 2017, they had seven guys with an OPS+ of 110 or better at the end of the regular season. Could H-Town history be repeating itself?
If you’re new to the program, you should know that I absolutely love the Rays in 2019 and expect them to make a lot of noise. That’s been the case to this point.
The Rays sit atop the somewhat disappointing American League East, but they’re clicking on all cylinders. Their starting pitching is throwing to a sub-2.00 ERA, one of two teams in MLB to do it. (No. 2 may shock you! Keep reading.) Tommy Pham, Austin Meadows and Kevin Kiermaier are all off to hot starts and Yandy Diaz looks like a revelation early on.
It’s like being excited for Christmas on July 4, but I’m excited for what the Rays will do in October. You read that right: October. Book it.
Mitch Haniger homered Sunday, his fifth dinger of the season in 18 games. What’s most impressive: That Haniger bomb extended the Mariners’ MLB record of consecutive games to start the season with a home run (18).
Also not to be forgotten is Domingo Santana. Years after toiling without a true role with the Brewers, Santana finds himself among the league leaders in most offensive catagories, including hits, RBIs and total bases.
Are the Mariners for real? Only the rest of the season will tell. But at least Seattle has a defined identity and direction, which is more than the M’s have had in recent years.
The Bryce Harper effect is a real thing, apparently. But it’s also important to note that three of the Phillies’ four acquisitions this offseason — Harper, Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura — have been hitting, as well. None has benefited as much as Rhys Hoskins, however.
Hoskins is sitting pretty offensively early in the year: He’s mashing with a 184 OPS+ and has five longballs on the year. He’s already matched his 2018 bWAR (0.5), and sticking him back at his natural position will probably help ease him a bit defensively.
The Phillies’ biggest question right now is Aaron Nola. Through his first three starts of the season, Nola has posted a 6.46 ERA while giving up 10 runs in his past two starts. Chances are, Nola can right the ship — and the Phillies are going to need him to. It’s a bit of a projection, but I think the Phillies could be the best team in the East when it’s said and done, but a case could be made for any of the top four teams in the division.
The Dodgers are still putting up runs, and they snapped their six-game losing streak against the Brewers on April 14. The offense is still good, and the pitching staff has been a bit off, but it’s coming around.
Should Clayton Kershaw return and get back to Kershaw form, the Dodgers will be in good shape. They won’t have to worry about the Padres for too much longer. Sorry, San Diego. All good things, and all.
Robinson Cano is not very good right now, but that’s OK because the rest of the Mets offense has been very good, anchored by early frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, Pete Alonso.
I’ve said this ad nauseum, but here we go again: The Mets’ biggest questions have always been depth, bullpen and health. The depth doesn’t look too bad, they’ve stayed healthy (for now), but the bullpen is something of an enigma. Seth Lugo, Robert Gselleman and Jeurys Familia haven’t been great, three key cogs to that Metropolitans ‘pen.
It feels like the vibe around the Mets has changed early this year, and even though Jacob deGrom has scuffled his past couple of starts, they still have one of the best top three in the NL. Just give them time to gel.
I don’t think anyone expected San Diego to be this good this early. So I’ll stick them at No. 7 so Padres Twitter doesn’t disown me.
But really: Fernando Tatis Jr. is showing why he was one of the best prospects in baseball, as he’s ripping the cover off the ball and playing above-average defense. Manny Machado has been very good so far, but he hasn’t been Manny Machado just yet, which should scare the rest of the NL West.
You can almost expect young teams to hit the wall at some point (see: 2018 Phillies), but if the Padres can keep the starting pitching rolling and the young hitters keep hitting, they could upset the balance in the NL West.
I wouldn’t bet the Padres to finish the season out of the top 10, but it’s also hard to deny the team with the best record in the NL a spot in the top 10.
The Brewers need more starting pitching help, even with Jimmy Nelson coming back soon. (Dallas Keuchel, anyone?) While Milwaukee’s pitching hasn’t been too great early in the season — the Brew Crew’s rotation ERA ranks near the bottom of the majors while their bullpen ERA is surprisingly middle of the pack — I still think their offense is good enough to mask a fair amount of their pitching deficiencies. It just has yet to get going.
That said, the Brewers are taking advantage of the Cubs’ woes right now as they sit atop the NL Central with a big series vs. the Cardinals coming up. The next three-game set between Milwaukee and St. Louis should answer a few questions about both clubs.
Something smells rotten in the state of Ohio, and it’s not the chili. Sorry, Skyline.
The Indians’ offense is stinky right now, and that’s putting it lightly. They’re 14th in the AL in runs, 15th in hits, 15th in average and 14th in OPS. Not great, Bob. I mean, totally good thing Cleveland didn’t make the effort to like, sign any good offensive players this offseason to alleviate that, right? I digress.
The good news for the Indians is that Francisco Lindor is on his way back, so he could provide a boost to an otherwise anemic offense. And the rotation is still good with Kluber at the top. While the division around them has gotten off to a pretty solid start, it would shock me to see anyone other than Cleveland at the top of the AL Central once the season closes. But make no mistake, the gap between the Indians and everyone else in the division is shortening.
The Indians were just swept by the Royals, but these things happen early in the season. It obviously isn’t a stretch to say the Tribe will still be at the top of the AL Central while the Royals figure out what the future holds in 2020 and beyond.
The other NL Central team in the top 10 needs some help to solve its pitching staff issues. But for now, they’ve been scoring enough runs to mask them. The Cardinals are 7-3 in their past 10 games and have yet to see big-time offensive production from Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter or Harrison Bader.
Those things can all change in a flash, so don’t be surprised to see St. Louis hover around the top 10 — and maybe even higher — in the 2019 season, as long as the Cards can figure out their pitching shortcomings. That’s the biggest question facing St. Louis for now.
Middle of the pack
11. Red Sox
Boston is just on the outside looking in. The Red Sox pitching is worse than the parking situation around Fenway Park, but you can chalk up early season woes to a World Series hangover. I’m not ready to move them down just yet, especially with the offense showing more signs of life over the past few games.
Starting pitching is the last ingredient for the Athletics’ push for a wild-card spot. With Jesús Luzardo on the mend, reinforcements could come sooner rather than later. In the meantime, enjoy watching Khris Davis and Matt Chapman mash.
Early on, it kind of looks like we’re watching a repeat of the 2018 Nats. With every “statement” win, we’ll ask: Is THIS the game the Nationals turn it around? The offense is pretty inconsistent but overall good, the back end of the bullpen is rough, but there’s enough healthy talent on Washington’s roster to get it right quick, even without Bryce Harper.
The Braves needed rotation help this offseason, but so far, they’re OK: They’re just about middle of the pack in rotation ERA. The NL East is going to be tighter than Han Solo and Chewbacca, so they’ll need Josh Donaldson, a returning Mike Foltynewicz and more to turn it on to really climb these rankings — something that’s very doable.
The Cubs have 99 problems, and a pitcher is one. Yu Darvish has not been good for the North Siders, pitching to a 7.50 ERA through three starts this season. If it’s just rust, then Chicago shouldn’t have to worry. If it’s more than that, it might be time to panic, considering what the Cubs are paying Darvish and what they’re expecting from him.
Also, their bullpen is terrible. I won’t use the hashtag, though.
The Yankees must have taken a cue from Chris Jericho when it comes to lists. While injuries are definitely affecting the Bombers, the healthy guys they’ve relied on this year — James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Zack Britton, Greg Bird/Luke Voit — haven’t been great, either. We’re still a bit away from finding out what this team will be at full strength, but until that day comes this is what the Yankees are.
Also, no: Aaron Boone is not the problem.
The Twins decided what they wanted to be offensively this year: sluggers. Minnesota has been putting the bat on ball, but hasn’t driven in the runs. The Twins’ offense can be good, especially with Byron Buxton and Max Kepler off to good starts. But let’s see how the rotation turns out as the season wears on to get a real feel of what Minnesota will be.
The Pirates are the second team in MLB to be throwing to a sub-2.00 rotation ERA. Shocking, right? If the Pirates can keep the bats going — and Jameson Taillon pitches like Jameson Taillon — things could get really, really interesting in the NL Central. We’re not talking division crown for the Buccos, but a monkeywrench for the rest of the pack.
The most surprising thing about the 4-12 Rockies is that the offense has been bad. It’s early (a theme for the next few weeks), but between Kyle Freeland’s ineffectiveness and those shockingly flat bats, it’s gotten ugly quick for Colorado.
The bottom third
The Tigers are over .500 — hence why ranking these teams is such an impossibility — but with Michael Fulmer out for the year and no real offensive threats, it’s going to get worse before it gets better in Detroit, even with Jordan Zimmermann’s seeming resurgence.
Mike Trout will be back soon enough, but even with him the Angels might not be going anywhere. The rotation isn’t good and the offense has been largely underwhelming.
22. Blue Jays
Fret not, Jays fans. The future is coming, even if the wins currently are not. Even at 5-11, it seems like Toronto should be better than it is right now between the Jays’ offense and pitching.
Cincinnati is heading in the right direction, especially after a fun offseason. The NL Central is still killer, though, with 2 1/2 really good teams. (Cubs, what are we doing?) The Reds should be better than this right now, even if the record says something different, just given the veteran talent in the lineup.
Who are the Diamondbacks? What are the Diamondbacks? When are the Diamondbacks? Their offense has gotten off to a decent enough start in 2019, but I think the baseball world would be shocked if they kept up that reputation moving forward.
Well, Elvis Andrus is on fire to start the season, but the rest of the team is ice cold. The Rangers have some offensive highlights, but their rotation is near the bottom of the majors in ERA, unsurprisingly.
The Chris Davis Redemption Tour is full bore after his 3-for-5 performance Saturday. (We’ll just pretend his oh-fer on Sunday didn’t happen — he deserves a break). But the Orioles are still not very good, even with success in the first two weeks of the year.
27. White Sox
The South Siders just won a three-game series over the Yankees in New York, the first time they’ve done that since … last season. Eloy Jimenez launched his first two major-league dingers Friday, a small taste of what’s to come for Chicago. The Sox need to get Lucas Giolito figured out, however. He’s key to their rebuild.
The Giants’ offense is not very good right now. They’ve scored two runs or fewer in seven of their 16 games this season. In only one of those games have they scored two runs. In a word: Yikes.
The Royals are finding ways to score runs, which is fun, but it’s hard to see how they keep it up over 162 games.
It’s hard to make the case for Marlins as No. 30. It’s probably easier to make a case for them as 31.