Much has been made of Tampa’s recent stumbles, but it’s worth noting that they’d still be on roughly a 98-win pace even if you lopped off that historic 13-0 start. This is still a very deep, dangerous lineup, with enough pitching even after all the injuries — though we’re a bit concerned about the bullpen given Pete Fairbanks’ constant health problems.
Texas stubbed its toe on the last day of the month in Detroit, but they’ve run roughshod of late, including taking two of three against the Orioles in Baltimore. Oh, and Jacob deGrom is still waiting in the wings.
Hello, Houston. Jose Altuve’s return has lit a spark under Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and the rest of this Astros lineup — or was that just the Oakland A’s pitching staff? Maybe a bit of both, but given the strength of Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Hunter Brown atop the rotation, the champs get the benefit of the doubt.
Bobby Miller’s emergence allays some of our concerns about the starting rotation moving forward, although Noah Syndergaard remains a real problem — especially after getting roughed up by the Washington Nationals on Wednesday. Still, the Dodgers find a way, and this is a very good lineup and bullpen with Ryan Pepiot, Julio Urias and others on the mend.
5. Baltimore Orioles
Exhale, O’s fans. This isn’t a sign of disrespect; this team is good, and it’s going to remain good all summer. There’s just no way they can be higher than this given the state of their starting pitching right now — you saw Austin Voth’s implosion against the Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday the same as we all did. Hopefully Grayson Rodriguez gets right in the Minors in a hurry.
Atlanta salvaged the final game of their set in Oakland, but “salvaged” and “Oakland” are never words you want to see in the same sentence. Mike Soroka’s return should help the injury-ravaged rotation, but the Braves could really use a Michael Harris II resurgence right about now.
I didn’t intend on angering the entire AL East today, I swear. Luis Severino looks like his old self, and yet another magic act of bullpen building will keep them in most every game. But I simply cannot trust a team whose second-best — or best, depending on Anthony Rizzo’s healthy — lefty hitter is Willie Calhoun. Aaron Judge can only swat so many dingers.
After that top seven, we arrive at a glut of erstwhile contenders that can’t seem to get out of neutral, with a whole group of talented teams hovering around .500. There’s not much to separate them at this point, so we’re going to rely on the on-paper talent, and few teams come out better there than Toronto — if Jose Berrios has recaptured his old form, the Jays have just about all the pieces they need. (Although Alek Manoah figuring it out wouldn’t hurt.)
This is probably too high given their Jekyll-and-Hyde routine, but I just can’t quit the Mets, not when Francisco Alvarez is hitting like this. I still think that Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Kodai Senga are going to lock in eventually, and there’s enough talent in this lineup to put them above the rest of this tier.
10. Boston Red Sox
James Paxton looks like Big Maple again, but who knows how long that’s going to last? This team simply doesn’t have enough trustworthy starting pitching right now, although the potential is there with Paxton, Garrett Whitlock and Brayan Bello supplementing a rejuvenated Chris Sale.
At a certain point, you are what your record says you are, and I should probably have bumped the Snakes up a few spots based on their surprising start. It’s just hard to fully buy in to the idea of Number Two Starter Merrill Kelly, while an overachieving offense has fallen back to Earth a bit lately (23rd in wRC+ over the last two weeks).
12. Seattle Mariners
I have a hard time believing in Seattle’s recent surge back over .500, especially when it came largely at the hands of the Oakland Athletics, Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates. Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Bryce Miller sound great on paper, but I’m a bit skeptical of Miller’s ability to survive a whole year on his fastball alone, and not even a resurgent Julio Rodriguez can carry this offense by himself.
13. Minnesota Twins
We’ve now arrived at baseball’s middle class, teams that aren’t around .500 because they’re underachieving but because that’s just probably who they are. The Twins lineup feels like it should be better than this, but who knows if or when Carlos Correa’s going to turn it around.
Kudos to San Fran for clawing their way back into the NL Wild Card race, but I’m going to wait another week before I buy in here for good. There’s just a lot of injury risk in that lineup, much as I love to see Michael Conforto raking again, and the bullpen and back-end of the rotation still have lots of question marks.
15. Miami Marlins
Miami’s negative run differential is a glaring red flag, but I’m a (relative) believer here. Jorge Soler is on an all-time heater right now, while Bryan de la Cruz appears to have taken the leap. And while they haven’t pitched up to their full potential yet, Sandy Alcantara, Jesus Luzardo, Braxton Garrett, Edward Cabrera, Eury Perez and the soon-to-return Trevor Rogers is a sneaky solid rotation.
Smack in the middle feels right for this team, that seems like they’re set to go on a run before getting swept by the Miami Marlins at home. L.A. desperately needs Reid Detmers and Griffin Canning to step up.
Everyone keeps waiting for Corbin Burnes to turn the corner, but it hasn’t happened yet, and this team can’t win without Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta pitching like aces. All due respect to Owen Miller’s torrid month, but does anyone really scare you in that lineup?
It was around this time last year that Philly turned this season around and streak all the way to the World Series; can they do it again? I’m skeptical — even if Aaron Nola suddenly finds his form again, there are just so many question marks in that rotation. If Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber wake up, though, watch out.
19. Detroit Tigers
Look, this is probably too high based on talent alone, especially with Riley Greene now out with a stress fracture in his leg. But talent only matters when it actually, you know, wins baseball games, which Detroit has done more of than the next team on this list.
20. San Diego Padres
Okay, Dads, are we going to actually wake up at some point soon? It’s been two months now, and Juan Soto can’t do it alone.
21. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Bucs have taken on water since they’re fast start, but Mitch Keller, Bryan Reynolds and a mediocre division are doing their damnedest to keep hope alive. Can Roansy Contreras, Johan Oviedo and/or Luis Ortiz take a leap?
22. Cleveland Guardians
Cleveland got off to a slow start last year too, and you can squint and see how the old formula might work again — Josh Naylor heating up, a bevy of talented starters once Aaron Civale and Triston McKenzie return (and Gavin Williams gets called up from Triple-A). But the whole thing just feels creakier this time around, especially on offense, even in a division that might only need 85 wins to take.
Just when we thought we were back in, the Cards hit the skids again. Jordan Montgomery has fallen apart just as Miles Mikolas got going again, as this rotation still can’t find any answers.
24. Cincinnati Reds
Break up the Reds? Cincy has won six of nine, as Hunter Greene turns the corner and Matt McLain looks like a budding star at shortstop. This team isn’t going anywhere unless Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft get healthy and effective, but this bullpen is a whole lot of fun.
25. Chicago Cubs
How safe should David Ross’ job be after yet another crushing late loss, this time to Tampa on Wednesday? Justin Steele’s arm injury could further thin a rotation that was already looking for a fourth and fifth starter to emerge.
Lance Lynn turned into a pumpkin again, as this team continues to have a ton of names you can talk yourself into but that aren’t actually performing. At least Liam Hendriks is back on the mound.
27. Washington Nationals
MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray and CJ Abrams have all shown signs of what this Nats rebuild may be building toward in future years, and the Lane Thomas heater has been a lot of fun, but there’s just not enough talent here — especially in the rotation.
28. Colorado Rockies
Speaking of not having enough talent, injuries have forced the Rockies to put career Minor Leaguer Karl Kauffmann and career reliever Connor Seabold in the rotation recently, while Kris Bryant looks like a shell of himself.
Maybe this is unfair to K.C., who have a run differential better than their record suggests and who’ve gotten solid play from youngsters Michael Massey and Nick Pratto of late, but, well, 17-39 is 17-39.
30. Oakland Athletics
The A’s really might be shaping up to be the worst baseball team of the modern era, with fewer wins through the first two months than just about anyone save for the 1899 Cleveland Spiders — a team so bad that they eventually wound up playing all their games on the road because it wasn’t worth teams’ money to travel to play them.