The 2021 Major League Baseball season is now two weeks young. (Some) teams are thriving, rookies are making their impacts felt, and the power dynamic is starting to take shape.
Let’s dive into the first power rankings of the regular season.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Nobody should be surprised that the Dodgers are off to a red-hot start in their quest to run it back. Their +23 run differential is the best in baseball and they show no signs of slowing down. Of their next eight games, three are against the Rockies and two are against the Mariners.
2. San Diego Padres
Believe it or not, the two best teams in baseball both come from the same division. The Fernando Tatis Jr. injury is quite worrisome, but the Padres still reside at No. 2 thanks to their depth of talent and a strong start to the season. They get the Pirates this week before hosting the Dodgers and Brewers.
3. Minnesota Twins
The Twins don’t have the flashiest record in baseball, but they do employ Cy Young candidate Jose Berrios and MVP candidate Byron Buxton. (Yes, I went there.) In all seriousness, the Twins are playing better than their schedule suggests. They’re waiting to begin a series against the Red Sox after the first game was postponed due to the protests in Minnesota.
4. Houston Astros
The Astros got off to a hot start and have continued to swing the bat very well. They have the most runs and second-best run differential in the American League. Meanwhile, Zack Greinke has been a solid ace of the rotation. Bryan Abreu and Luis Garcia have looked great out of the bullpen, too. They may be riding a three-game losing streak, but they get seven straight games against the Tigers, Mariners, and Rockies.
5. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have the best record among teams not named the Dodgers or Padres. Their bats have been electric, leading all of baseball in runs scored and run differential. Cincinnati’s upcoming weekend series against the pitching-heavy Indians could be one for the ages.
6. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have won two-thirds of their games, and it’s not like they played easy opponents. They opened the year at home against the Braves and Mets, then traveled to Atlanta for a series. They will have a critical stretch coming up against the Mets, Cardinals, and Giants.
7. Atlanta Braves
Atlanta opened the year 0-4 but bounced back to win four of their last six games. Ronald Acuña is, naturally, very good at baseball. The Braves are also one of just two teams under .500 with a positive run differential. Things are looking up for the club as they take on the Marlins and Cubs this week.
8. Boston Red Sox
Boston looked like garbage in its opening series against the Orioles, getting swept and starting the year 0-3. However, they have bounced back and won six straight, sweeping Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Next up for the Red Sox is a critical series against the Twins that could reveal whether they are a legitimate beast out of the American League.
9. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are the best team in the American League and are 5-2 against teams above .500. Mike Trout is Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani is a phenomenal baseball player, and things are clicking. This is a team to keep an eye on, though, as they have a very narrow +2 run differential. They’ll take on the Royals in Kansas City before returning home for sets against the Twins and Rangers.
10. Milwaukee Brewers
Currently riding an NL-best three-game winning streak, the Brewers are off to a solid start. Their hitting has been okay, but it’s their pitching that has looked really solid. If this is sustainable, Milwaukee could make a deep run. Coming up, they get five games against the Cubs, three against the Pirates, and three against the Marlins. A trio of clashes with the Padres is sandwiched in the middle.
11. Cleveland Indians
The Indians might be mediocre at the plate, but that’s a fair sacrifice when your pitching staff is absolutely dominant. The Indians lost Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Mike Clevinger yet still have an AL-best 26 runs allowed. With that said, they will be tested over the next couple of weeks as they take on the White Sox, Yankees, Twins, and Reds.
12. Chicago White Sox
Yermin Mercedes has quieted down and Chicago has dropped to .500, but they still own an attractive +12 run differential. The next week (Red Sox and Indians) could be tough, but the road gets smoother after that with series against the Rangers and Tigers.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have had a better start than their record suggests, but getting swept by the Red Sox really hurt. Their -13 run differential is also the worst among teams with at least five wins. Still, Tampa Bay owns a strong pitching staff in addition to a pair of Rookie of the Year candidates in Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco. An upcoming stretch against the Rangers, Yankees, and Royals could reveal a lot regarding their season outlook.
14. New York Yankees
The Yankees and Rays remain neck-and-neck in a race for the No. 2 spot in the AL East. Tampa Bay won two of three against the Yankees this weekend, so they get the edge in these rankings. While New York has won four of its last seven, they have a really challenging stretch coming up.
15. San Francisco Giants
The Giants are looking nice above .500, but they’re in an extremely challenging division and have scored just 31 runs (fourth-worst in National League). Still, Johnny Cueto is off to a great start and the Giants could still be in contention at the trade deadline. Upcoming series against the Reds, Marlins, and Phillies will provide more clarity on their legitimacy.
16. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays may have a losing record, but they do own the best run differential (+5) among teams below .500. This, coupled with the fact that they have lost just one game by more than three runs, suggests Toronto is better than its record suggests. They’ll have a chance to improve their record in upcoming series against the Yankees and Royals.
17. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are truly playing mediocre baseball this year. Nolan Arenado has been fun to watch, but St. Louis also has a negative run differential. They’ve also lost two inter-division series.
18. New York Mets
It’s painful to put the Mets at No. 18 considering their offense has been incapable of producing at reasonable volumes and they stole a win against the Marlins. With that said, a win is a win and the Mets’ pitching has looked strong to start the year. Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball and deserves more run support. New York would be a top-five team if they had a respectable offense.
19. Kansas City Royals
The Royals are another team playing mediocre baseball, which means they don’t quite belong in the bottom-third of this list. They have a tough stretch over the next week and a half but will be rewarded with sets against the Tigers and Pirates at the end of the month.
20. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks continue to be such a confusing, odd team. They have frequently had talent and looked dominant against the Reds. Still, from a historical perspective, it’s been a little while since they emerged over the hump despite having strong clubs. One factor into this is the Diamondbacks’ presence in such a challenging division. It will be interesting to see how Arizona’s season unfolds.
21. Detroit Tigers
Akil Baddoo is pretty good at baseball as he helped the Tigers to a 2-0 start. However, Detroit then won just one of seven. They have a very challenging stretch coming up against the Astros and Athletics, too. This could be the beginning of a painful weeks-long descent down these rankings.
22. Oakland Athletics
Oakland opened the year 0-6 but then won four of five. Their slow start is the only reason why they appear in the bottom-third here. If they can keep winnings, they’ll be into the top dozen in no time. They get four games against the Tigers, three against the Twins, and then three in Baltimore.
23. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners are in such a strange place right now. Despite being over .500, they have a -11 run differential. Furthermore, starter James Paxton is done for the year. Seattle’s record is the sole factor keeping them out of the very bottom of these rankings. If they start to struggle, they will drop very quickly.
24. Washington Nationals
Could Washington be headed for a second straight season of massive underperformance? It’s possible, but their slow start can more likely be blamed on a COVID-19 outbreak that delayed their season and left several key players off the Opening Day roster. It’s too early to determine Washington’s season outlook, but their status could be boosted as the team returns to full health.
25. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs cannot hit. They have the third-lowest run differential, but that’s nothing compared to an MLB-worst .164 batting average. (For comparison, the next-worst team is hitting .192.) They have the second-worst run differential in the NL Central and won’t be given any favors as they take on the Braves, Mets, and Brewers to close out the month.
26. Baltimore Orioles
A sweep of the Red Sox at season’s start was sweet, but they then lost five of six, including a three-game sweep at the hands of Boston. They do get the Mariners, Rangers, and Marlins coming up, so it’s possible they finish April above .500. Keep an eye on them as potential risers in the upcoming weeks.
27. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have stayed semi-competitive this season as five of their losses had a margin of two or fewer runs. Furthermore, when they did emerge victoriously, they did it in a grand fashion, winning by scores of 8-5, 8-0, and 7-3. Still, Nolan Arenado is gone and there isn’t much to look forward to with the Rockies. An occasional climb to the Nos. 21 or 22 range could be possible this season, but Colorado is still entrenched in misery.
28. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates continue to struggle mightily. With the second-worst record in baseball and lowest run differential in the National League, not much is going right for Pittsburgh. They’ll face the Padres, Brewers, Tigers, and Twins over the next two weeks. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that this placement at No. 28 will be the Pirates’ highest ranking all year.
29. Miami Marlins
This one hurts. The Marlins are such a likable team, but they’re off to a pitiful start. Coming up, Miami has seven games against the Giants and two against the Orioles. It’s possible that they have an outside chance to resurface at .500. A -6 run differential does indicate the potential for some success, albeit minor.
30. Texas Rangers
The worst team in the American League, Texas hasn’t been able to do much right at the plate. Their pitching has been respectable considering the team’s subpar status, but the offense is nonexistent at times. They could rise a few spots in the rankings as the season progresses due to favorable matchups, but it’s hard to see them finishing outside the bottom-five.
Follow Andersen Pickard on Twitter @AndersenPickard
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