Tampa has lost three of its last four series and suffered even more injuries to its starting rotation, but with Tyler Glasnow set to return and Taj Bradley back from Triple-A, we’re giving the Rays the benefit of the doubt in the top spot for one more week. After that, it’s a bloodbath; the Orioles and Rangers are arguably the two hottest teams in baseball, but Atlanta just took two of three in Texas, while we still don’t quite trust Baltimore’s depth particularly in the starting rotation. L.A. has starting pitching questions of their own right now with Dustin May out with an elbow injury, but we trust their development track record a bit more.
The Astros have won nine of 10, and while that’s partly attributable to series against the bottom-feeding A’s, Cubs and White Sox, Houston is also finally getting healthy — and few teams boast as strong a top of the rotation as Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Hunter Brown. The Yankees have won seven of eight and now have a healthy Luis Severino in the rotation, while the Twins look to have discovered a functional offense to go with their elite pitching. The Jays have the potential to rocket up this list, but they’re an awfully thin team behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Kevin Gausman and Chris Bassitt, while the Brewers’ offense gives us real pause.
The Mets are the team has the strongest argument to belong higher on this list, with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander looking like their old selves and some late-game heroics (and long-awaited call-ups) finally getting the offense going. If they can get everything firing at the same time, they’re as talented as anyone — and that potential gives them the nod over a D-backs team that, while exciting, has fattened up on a soft schedule and doesn’t have any trustworthy pitching beyond Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.
I still don’t fully trust the Red Sox offense, but Boston keeps finding ways to score runs no matter who’s in the lineup. This version of Chris Sale, Brayan Bello and a revitalized James Paxton is absolutely good enough to compete for a Wild Card spot in the AL, while the Angels just don’t have quite as much depth with Anthony Rendon on the IL.
The Cardinals’ resurgence appears to be upon us, as St. Louis continues to crush the ball in the month of May. The rotation remains a question mark, but Steven Matz, Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty have all been better recently — and are all more talented than their season-long numbers suggest. (The same is certainly true of the Padres, but until they actually show it on the field it’s awfully hard to put them any higher than this.)
The Mariners’ lineup remains too inconsistent to trust; the starting pitching is solid, but this team has a star-shaped hole where Julio Rodriguez’s production should be. The Phillies have disappointed this year, but if they can get Taijuan Walker and Ranger Suarez right, they’re still a deep and balanced team despite suffering a slew of early injuries — I still think they have the fewest weaknesses of any team in this tier.
The Cubs’ May swoon has landed them all the way out of the top 20, as the Marlins’ close-game formula continues to pay dividends. Bryan de la Cruz’s emergence gives Miami at least someone to supplement Luis Arraez in the lineup, while Sandy Alcantara, Jesus Luzardo, Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera (plus a very good bullpen) can at least keep the Marlins in most games. Pittsburgh’s long-awaited free fall has finally begun, as a no-name offense is starting to hit like it this month, while the Giants’ rotation remains in flux — they could be passed soon by a White Sox team that looks a lot different now that Luis Robert and Lance Lynn are playing up to par.
We’ve officially hit the non-competitive tier, with all due respect to the Tigers’ fluky record so far — we’re not buying Detroit to hang around .500 over a full season, and their run differential isn’t either. Cincinnati’s starting pitching is enticing, but with Nick Lodolo hurt, their lack of position player depth gives the nod to MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray and a Nats lineup that isn’t as bad as you think.
It might be offensive to Kansas City to include them in the same tier as Oakland, honestly. The A’s have the worst pitching staff in recent memory, while the Royals at least boast some intriguing young pieces in their lineup.