MLB Power Rankings: Which red-hot teams are making the case for a top spot?

MLB Power Rankings: Which red-hot teams are making the case for a top spot?

The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and New York Mets continue to dominate over a month into the MLB season. However, some new faces have emerged in the last couple of weeks.

A red-hot Los Angeles Angels squad has won six of its last seven games, outscoring opponents 52-19, and the San Diego Padres are thriving despite being without their young star. How do they compare to some of the best teams in the game?

Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we’ve seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an early observation for each of the 30 teams.

Week 4 | Preseason rankings


1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 20-9

Previous ranking: 2

The Dodgers have dominated through the first five weeks without necessarily clicking on all cylinders. Now, with the weather warming and offense inevitably picking back up, they might be getting there. Max Muncy, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman have been particularly hot of late, boosting an offense striving to match the dominance of the Dodgers’ starting rotation. However, the Dodgers did experience a major setback recently, with Blake Treinen nursing a shoulder injury that will keep him out at least through the All-Star break. He’s their most important reliever, even if he isn’t their closer. — Gonzalez


2. New York Yankees

Record: 22-8

Previous ranking: 1

The Yankees keep rolling as every part of the team clicks in the early part of the season, with strong offensive performances up and down the lineup and a pitching staff that has seen the emergence of Nestor Cortes, who’s been the team’s best pitcher through six starts this season, leading the position group with a 1.2 WAR on top of a 1.41 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. Featuring Michael King, Clay Holmes and Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees relief corps has also been among the best in baseball. — Lee


3. New York Mets

Record: 21-11

Previous ranking: 3

The Mets pulled off one of the all-time great comebacks last Thursday against the Phillies, trailing 7-1 in the top of the ninth before rallying for seven runs and an 8-7 victory. MLB teams had lost 857 consecutive games when trailing by six or more runs in the ninth inning, and it was the first time the Mets rallied to win when down six in the ninth since Sept. 13, 1997, against the Expos. Max Scherzer‘s loss to the Phillies on Mother’s Day snapped a string of 24 regular-season starts in a row without a loss. He went 15-0 with a 2.55 ERA over that stretch. — Schoenfield


4. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 20-12

Previous ranking: 5

There are some tiny, early cracks in the vaunted Brewers starting staff as Brandon Woodruff hasn’t gotten going yet. He got lit up on Monday against lowly Cincinnati. But what they miss here or there in pitching, Rowdy Tellez has made up for at the plate. He won player of the week behind a 13-RBI effort over the course of just six games. His OPS was over 1.000 during that time frame, as he has found a home at first base in Milwaukee. — Rogers


5. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 21-12

Previous ranking: 8

Reid Detmers, a first-round draft pick less than two years ago, twirled a no-hitter against the Rays on Tuesday night and lowered his ERA to 3.77 ERA through six starts. Patrick Sandoval (2.03 ERA) and Noah Syndergaard (2.45 ERA) have been even better. The offense leads the major leagues in home runs, the bullpen employs a handful of reliable high-leverage relievers and it seems as if Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani finally might — might — have enough help to get into October. We can say this much, at least: The Angels are a lot of fun right now. — Gonzalez


6. Houston Astros

Record: 19-11

Previous ranking: 12

The red-hot Astros caught fire behind a pitching staff that has been all but impenetrable of late. Houston began an eight-game winning spree on May 2. Through Tuesday, they had allowed eight runs during that streak and posted a collective 0.88 ERA. It’s not been just the rotation nor just the bullpen — everyone is dealing in Houston. As good as the pitching has been, don’t overlook the defense. Houston climbed to the top of the defensive runs saved leaderboard during the streak and among players, rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena has ranked near the top all season. — Doolittle


7. San Diego Padres

Record: 20-12

Previous ranking: 7

If the Padres’ offense had any chance of sustaining itself without Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado needed to play at an MVP level. That’s exactly what he has done. Machado leads the majors in FanGraphs wins above replacement through the first five weeks, while batting .383/.460/.625 and playing his typically excellent defense at third base. Eric Hosmer, meanwhile, boasts a .367/.434/.550 slash line behind him, supplying the Padres with just enough offense to support their deep starting rotation. — Gonzalez


8. San Francisco Giants

Record: 19-12

Previous ranking: 4

Carlos Rodon didn’t sign until after the lockout and was obtained by the Giants on a two-year, $44 million contract that will allow him to opt out early if he accumulates 110 innings in Year 1. It looks like one of the best bargains in the sport. Rodon fashions a 1.80 ERA through his first six starts, striking out 53 batters in 35 innings. With the Giants, the 29-year-old left-hander has abandoned his changeup, is relying more heavily on his fastball-slider combination and is getting great results on his curveball, which has limited opponents to a .110 expected batting average. — Gonzalez


9. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 17-15

Previous ranking: 6

The Blue Jays dropped five of seven games before losing both games in their series with the New York Yankees. Despite offensive struggles from Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman, Lourdes Gurriel and Alejandro Kirk, the team remains competitive with the Yankees and the Rays atop the American League East. Alek Manoah ranks among the best starting pitchers in the game out of the gate with a 1.3 WAR. — Lee


10. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 19-13

Previous ranking: 9

The Rays may have gotten no-hit by Reid Detmers, but the team has looked strong the past few weeks against the Mariners and the Athletics. Outfielder Manuel Margot claimed American League Player of the Week honors for the first week of May after going 12-for-24 with three homers, two doubles and a triple and has been the team’s strongest player — aside from Wander Franco — in the early part of the season. — Lee


11. Minnesota Twins

Record: 18-12

Previous ranking: 11

After a slow start, the Twins started winning and vaulted into first place in the AL Central. But just as Minnesota seemed poised to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division, the White Sox got hot and the injury bug came for the Twins, with Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa and Chris Paddack among those suffering various maladies. The timing for such things is never ideal, but this is a soft spot in the Twins’ schedule. After a three-game home set over the weekend against a Guardians team suddenly dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak, Minnesota will begin a stretch of 18 straight games against struggling teams: Oakland, Detroit and Kansas City. — Doolittle


12. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 17-13

Previous ranking: 10

Like their season so far, the Cardinals had mixed results the past week. There were three straight wins, with St. Louis outscoring its opponents 20-3. But that was followed by three consecutive losses, with their run differential at minus-9. It’s kind of been the story of their season so far. Back and forth without real consistency. Still, they’re right in the middle of the NL Central race. And while Nolan Arenado has cooled off a little, others have gotten hot, starting with Venezuelan rookie Juan Yepez. Dylan Carlson, Yadier Molina and Tyler O’Neill all had good weeks at the plate also. — Rogers


13. Atlanta Braves

Record: 15-17

Previous ranking: 13

Ronald Acuna Jr. returned earlier than expected from his ACL surgery and he’s looked good (other than a high strikeout rate). Brian Snitker has alternated him between right field and DH, but the surprising thing is Acuna has been stealing bases — he’s 5-for-5 so far in his first 10 games after stealing 17 in 82 games in 2021. Worth noting: His top sprint speed via Statcast is just in the 68th percentile, while he’s always been in the high 90s in the past — including last season, when he was in the 97th percentile. — Schoenfield


14. Chicago White Sox

Record: 14-14

Previous ranking: 17

Talk about a topsy-turvy ballclub. We’ve barely played a month’s worth of games and the White Sox have already had a 6-1 stretch that was followed by a 1-10 slump, in which Chicago was generally pulverized. It then recovered with a six-game winning streak, with five of the victories coming on the road. Add it all up and the White Sox have reset what threatened to become a bummer of a season, and the news is getting better. Yoan Moncada is back in the lineup, Eloy Jimenez is recovering quicker than anticipated, Tim Anderson’s suspension was reduced to a fine on appeal and Lance Lynn should be back in the rotation early next month. The good times may yet roll this summer on the South Side. — Doolittle


15. Cleveland Guardians

Record: 15-15

Previous ranking: 20

As Terry Francona continues to move around what has become a plethora of young breakout hitters in an effort to keep everyone engaged, Josh Naylor is gradually becoming entrenched at first base. Naylor has been one of the AL’s most improved hitters during the season’s opening weeks. While his .345 BABIP might not be entirely sustainable, it’s at least undergirded by increases in line drive rate and hard hit percentage. Naylor still isn’t getting a ton of run against left-handed pitchers, but his .876 OPS against southpaws suggests that might change. Either way, Naylor’s improvement has been a godsend for Francona, given the ongoing struggle of basher Franmil Reyes. — Doolittle


16. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 14-17

Previous ranking: 16

Should we talk about that ninth-inning meltdown last Thursday against the Mets? No, let’s just move on (see Mets comment for details). Instead, how about we go back to the same old tired story: Bullpen woes and bad defense. The bullpen is 23rd in the majors with a 4.11 ERA through Wednesday — although that Mets loss notwithstanding, it has actually been pretty solid in high-leverage moments. The defense ranks 25th in the majors in defensive runs saved. With Bryce Harper still DH-ing, Nick Castellanos is in the ninth percentile in Statcast’s outs above average and Kyle Schwarber is in the 20th percentile. — Schoenfield


17. Seattle Mariners

Record: 14-18

Previous ranking: 14

The Mariners lost 11 of their last 14 games including a three-game sweep in Houston in which they were shut out twice — to fall well behind the Angels and Astros in the AL West. The one bright spot in that skid was George Kirby‘s major league debut, as he tossed six scoreless innings against the Rays, striking out seven with no walks and hitting 98 mph. He replaces Matt Brash in the rotation, as Brash was sent down and will be turned into a multi-inning reliever, at least for the remainder of 2022. — Schoenfield


18. Colorado Rockies

Record: 16-15

Previous ranking: 18

The Rockies were one of the most pleasant early surprises of this season, but they’ve dropped five of six games in back-to-back series against the division-rival D-backs and Giants, accumulating only 13 runs in the process. The Rockies still have a winning record — every team in the NL West still does, amazingly — but they also have the fifth-lowest run-differential in the majors. Their bullpen has been atrocious. — Gonzalez


19. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 17-15

Previous ranking: 23

The D-backs, believe it or not, are one of the hottest teams in the sport right now, having won 13 of their last 20 games to get up over .500 and give themselves an outside chance in the hypercompetitive National League West. Their starters are mostly carrying them. Merrill Kelly (1.71 ERA), Madison Bumgarner (1.78 ERA) and Zac Gallen (0.95 ERA) have all been outstanding. — Gonzalez


20. Miami Marlins

Record: 14-17

Previous ranking: 15

Right when you’re ready to start buying into them … the Marlins fall from 12-8 to 14-17 — including losing five in a row against Arizona and going 0-7 in one-run games in that span. The bullpen is 11th in the majors with a 3.35 ERA, but it hasn’t been clutch in those games. The typical power positions in a lineup are also still struggling as Marlins left fielders, right fielders and DHs were all hitting under .200 heading into the series finale against Arizona, which Miami won 11-3. — Schoenfield


21. Boston Red Sox

Record: 11-20

Previous ranking: 19

The fire alarms are going off in the Red Sox fan base as Boston continues to struggle offensively, which has put a major strain on the team’s bullpen. While Trevor Story is the biggest name struggling out of the gates, the team also needs more out of Alex Verdugo, Kike Hernandez, Bobby Dalbec, Christian Vazquez and Jackie Bradley Jr. The Red Sox also lost Michael Wacha, who’s been one of their best starters, to the injured list. — Lee

22. Texas Rangers

Record: 12-17

Previous ranking: 25

The Rangers are gradually starting to right the ship after a slow start. Last week, they swept the Phillies in a quick two-game series then hung tough with the Yankees, giving up just five runs in a series loss. Their pitching has stabilized to the point where their team ERA dropped to below 4.00 — quite the accomplishment after beginning the year near the bottom in baseball. Dane Dunning, Martin Perez, Glenn Otto and Jon Gray were all effective last time through the rotation. Otto, in particular, is making great strides having given up just eight hits in 14⅓ innings. — Rogers


23. Oakland Athletics

Record: 13-19

Previous ranking: 22

The early hot start for the Athletics has cooled off dramatically, with the team falling into a nine-game losing streak that was snapped by a strong start from Paul Blackburn, one of the team’s brightest spots, on Monday. Outfielder Ramon Laureano has returned from an 80-game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, while infielder Sheldon Neuse and reliever Dany Jimenez have been silver linings amidst the team’s recent struggles. — Lee


24. Chicago Cubs

Record: 11-19

Previous ranking: 21

The Cubs lost every game of a recent homestand, with the mighty Dodgers sweeping them after the White Sox did the same. They are simply overmatched in almost every area of the game, but at least Kyle Hendricks spun a good performance in his native Southern California on Monday. The win over the Padres was much-needed after the Cubs lost five in a row by a combined score of 27-7. — Rogers


25. Washington Nationals

Record: 11-21

Previous ranking: 29

Yadiel Hernandez has been one of the feel-good stories of the season. The Cuban outfielder reached the majors in September 2020, when he was already 32 years old (he didn’t begin his professional career in the U.S. until 2017), hit .273 in a part-time role in 2021 and now at 34 is hitting around .350, playing mostly against right-handers. The Nationals don’t have a lot of need for him in their rebuild, so he could be a nice bench player/platoon outfielder for a playoff contender looking for a little offensive help. — Schoenfield


26. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 13-17

Previous ranking: 27

Pittsburgh hasn’t gone away, at least not yet, as they sit in third place in the very average NL Central. They finally got a win out of a starter when lefty Jose Quintana stymied the Dodgers on Monday their first all season. Bryan Reynolds and Ben Gamel had huge weeks at the plate, which helped keep the Pirates afloat. Maybe they’ll be better than anyone imagined? — Rogers


27. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 13-18

Previous ranking: 28

Cedric Mullins struggled out of the gate but is hitting .366/.381/.659 in the month of May, with three homers and doubles. And while the Orioles will not be competing for a spot in the playoffs this year, the future seems to be inching closer as expectations rise around Adley Rutschman‘s imminent arrival in the major leagues. Baltimore’s top prospect is hitting .378/.500/.514 in the minors this season. — Lee


28. Detroit Tigers

Record: 9-22

Previous ranking: 24

If there is any solace to be found in the Tigers’ lackluster start, perhaps it’s that they did the same thing a year ago. Detroit started the 2021 season at 9-24 and seemed well on the way to a 100-loss season, but recovered to threaten .500 later in the campaign. The Tigers’ pitching has been decent, more middling than good, but has been undermined by a hapless offense. The Tigers have 11 hitters with at least 50 plate appearances so far. Only one of them — Austin Meadows — has an OPS of at least .700. Five of them have an OPS under .600. In other words, there is plenty of room for improvement. — Doolittle


29. Kansas City Royals

Record: 10-18

Previous ranking: 26

In theory, an organization that builds its position group on a foundation of speed, defense and batting average should fare well in a season of declining home run rates. In reality, the Royals have featured one of baseball’s weakest attacks thus far, perhaps better than only Oakland and Cincinnati — two franchises freshly launched into full-scale rebuilds. No team has struck out fewer times than the Royals, yet bizarrely, Kansas City is still hitting under .220 as a team. Even in the current MLB context, that’s not going to get it done for a team that hasn’t hit for power and doesn’t draw many walks. — Doolittle


30. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 7-24

Previous ranking: 30

Cincinnati showed some signs of life after a miserable start to their season. At least they’ve started to score runs while getting Luis Castillo back on the mound. He ran out of gas in his first start on Monday against the Brewers but the Reds still managed to win the game by chasing Brandon Woodruff after just 4⅓ innings. Cincinnati might be settling into that perfect spoiler role for the rest of the season. — Rogers

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