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Grading Every MLB Team's Performance in April

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IMay 1, 2013

Grading Every MLB Team's Performance in April

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    After the opening month of the 2013 MLB season, we're examining all the stats and highlights to objectively grade every team. Starting pitching, bullpen work and the offensive/defensive performance of regular position players and reserves went into the overall evaluation.

    Preseason expectations also had a subtle influence in several cases. The rationale is that if teams excelled in any particular facet despite heavy skepticism, they should get a tiny bit of "extra credit."

    Let's use the Colorado Rockies as an example. Without changing much personnel from a weak pitching staff, their results were significantly better in April than at any point the previous season. So, as you'll notice, Colorado's grade was better than that of a few teams who posted identical or slightly stronger records.

    "Fun facts" (included in some slide captions) also made a difference. The Miami Marlins, for instance, played 15 of their 27 April contests at home and went 5-10. The schedule-makers gave them extra opportunities to show their fans that they could be relevant in 2013, and they blew it, thus negatively affected their grade.

    Before we get too deep into May, here's how the major league clubs fared over the first several weeks.

Arizona Diamondbacks (15-12): B+

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    Starting pitching: B+

    Patrick Corbin, who began the regular season as the team's No. 5 option, has been outstanding (3-0, 1.91 ERA, 25/7 SO/BB).

    Meanwhile, free-agent acquisition Brandon McCarthy is out of sync. Opponents have batted .360 against him through five outings.

    Despite an elevated walk total, 2012 NL Rookie of the Year contender Wade Miley continues to perform well.

     

    Bullpen: B+

    Arizona Diamondbacks late-inning relief isn't particularly intimidating. J.J. Putz wrapped up April by blowing a save in spectacular fashion (via MLB.com).

    The bullpen has outstanding depth to compensate for such misadventures. Josh Collmenter thrives as a long man, Matt Reynolds owns an impeccable earned run average and Brad Ziegler leads the majors in appearances.

     

    Everyday players: B-

    According to Baseball-Reference.com, top outfielders Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra and Cody Ross didn't start a game together until April 28. Each of them has been effective when healthy.

    Newly extended first baseman Paul Goldschmidt leads the offense. Miguel Montero and Martin Prado continue to slump.

     

    Bench: B

    Didi Gregorius began 2013 in the minors before filling in for Aaron Hill. He played clean defense and sported a .407/.448/.778 batting line, but then this errant pitch sent him to the seven-day disabled list (video courtesy of MLB.com).

    While Wil Nieves rarely starts in place of Montero, he has made the most of those opportunities.

     

    Fun fact (positive)

    Each of Arizona's April opponents finished the month with a winning record.

Atlanta Braves (17-9): A-

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    Starting pitching: B

    Paul Maholm was extraordinary for a couple weeks, but he has since come back down to Earth. Kris Medlen is predictably regressing following his unbeatable streak last summer and Julio Teheran lacks consistency.

    Like last season, Tim Hudson supports himself with timely hits.

     

    Bullpen: A

    Any relief corps that includes Craig Kimbrel ought to be elite. Just like in 2012, he's racking up strikeouts and seldom allowing baserunners.

    Jonny Venters' absence has gone largely unnoticed. The Atlanta Braves bullpen does well in high-leverage situations. Aside from newcomer Luis Ayala, no one has suffered a loss in relief.

     

    Everyday players: B+

    It's been such a mixed bag.

    Justin Upton, of course, is slugging his way into NL MVP consideration, and corner infielder Chris Johnson leads the Senior Circuit in batting average.

    But though Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons and B.J. Upton vaulted Atlanta into first place with defensive gems (like this ridiculous assist), none of them helped with their bats in April.

     

    Bench: B+

    Juan Francisco and Jordan Schafer do well against right-handed pitching, and Gerald Laird is overqualified for reserve duty.

     

    Fun fact (positive)

    Atlanta destroyed its NL East rivals. The club's combined record against the Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals was 10-1.

Baltimore Orioles (16-11): B

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    Starting pitching: C+

    Jake Arrieta is an uber-talented enigma, much like A.J. Burnett circa 2011. Only difference is he entered 2013 with minor league options, so the Baltimore Orioles were welcome to demote him after 14 walks and 16 earned runs in 19 innings.

    The No. 5 starter's spot remains unresolved, however. Neither Zach Britton nor Josh Stinson earned a victory in their auditions.

    We presumed Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel were the rotation leaders, and they have already distinguished themselves from the group.

     

    Bullpen: A

    For the second straight season, the O's have been involved in a lot of tight games. That puts added pressure on the bullpen, but practically everybody has risen to the occasion.

    Jim Johnson could be in line for his second straight All-Star selection. He leads the American League in saves.

    Rule 5 draft pick T.J. McFarland is pleasantly surprising with more than a strikeout per inning.

     

    Everyday players: B+

    Chris Davis tallied 16 RBI in his first four games and continued to rake until there wasn't anything left of April.

    But he is just one of several regulars who enjoyed a memorable offensive month. Leadoff man Nate McLouth batted .346/.452/.513, while Adam Jones and Manny Machado finished close behind in the triple-slash categories.

    Middle infielders Ryan Flaherty and J.J. Hardy were actually counterproductive at the plate, though they make a great double-play combination. 

     

    Bench: C

    Backing up Matt Wieters doesn't come with many on-field responsibilities. Taylor Teagarden has yet to reach base in 13 plate appearances.

    At age 28, Alexi Casilla continues to deteriorate as an offensive player. If it's any consolation, he is outplaying Flaherty.

    Outfielder Chris Dickerson recorded four hits during the month (three in the ultimate game).

Boston Red Sox (18-8): A-

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    Starting pitching: A

    If not for Alfredo Aceves, the Boston Red Sox rotation would've received some unfathomably awesome grade, like an A+++.

    Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester have rebounded from disappointing campaigns. After an ordinary stint with the Texas Rangers, Ryan Dempster seems more than capable of competing in the American League.

     

    Bullpen: B+

    The Joel Hanrahan acquisition didn't make much sense at the time. Why didn't Boston just hold onto Mark Melancon, who dominated late in 2012?

    But anyway, the middle relief is living up to the preseason hype, and Andrew Bailey pitched marvelously as fill-in closer when Hanrahan was disabled.

     

    Everyday players: B

    Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Dustin Pedroia have been the constants in John Farrell's lineup. Will Middlebrooks has missed only one contest, though poor plate discipline limits his contributions to the occasional home run.

    David Ortiz seems to be a surefire All-Star selection despite opening the regular season on the disabled list. He has driven in runs in nearly every start.

    Boston put up with Jackie Bradley's .097/.263/.129 batting line before accepting that he needed more seasoning in the minors.

     

    Bench: A

    Reserve catcher David Ross pulverizes left-handed pitching, and Daniel Nava boasts one of the league's top on-base percentages.

    Pedro Ciriaco's role has essentially disappeared.

     

    Fun fact (positive)

    The Red Sox own the top run differential in the majors.

Chicago Cubs (10-16): C+

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    Starting pitching: B+

    Jeff Samardzija's excellence isn't entirely surprising, but how about some praise for Carlos Villanueva and Travis Wood? That duo has combined for a .176 batting average against.

    Now, if only Edwin Jackson could begin living up to his $52 million contract...

     

    Bullpen: B-

    Kyuji Fujikawa and Carlos Marmol stunk initially. Marmol still can't command his pitches, but his current scoreless inning streak is among the longest in baseball.

    In his second tour of duty with the Cubs, Kevin Gregg has yet to allow a run. The same applies for James Russell, who quietly improves every season.

     

    Everyday players: C

    The only overachievers have been David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz. Anthony Rizzo is hitting for lots of power, though he's struggling to put balls in play. Also, Alfonso Soriano's trade value is gradually dropping as he fails to produce. 

     

    Bench: C-

    Alberto Gonzalez and Brent Lillibridge split second-base duties when Darwin Barney mended on the disabled list. It was pretty pathetic. Scott Hairston has disappointed coming off a career year.

    The most effective reserve, Julio Borbon, was claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers toward the end of the month.

Chicago White Sox (10-15): C

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    Starting pitching: C+

    Jake Peavy and Chris Sale haven't quite pitched at an All-Star level, though they've given the Chicago White Sox six-and-a-half innings per start.

    When John Danks and Gavin Floyd are healthy, this rotation boasts outstanding depth. But the former is still working his way back from shoulder surgery, while Floyd recently joined him on the disabled list after a sloppy first month.

     

    Bullpen: B-

    Finishing off close games was an adventure for the 2012 edition of the team. Thanks to Addison Reed's improvement, that's not entirely true anymore.

    The bridge to him still needs some maintenance.

     

    Everyday players: D

    Paul Konerko's gradual decline has continued. On top of underwhelming offensive numbers, he's now splitting time between first base and designated hitter.

    The bizarre stat line for Jeff Keppinger thus far makes his new $12 million contract seem like a gross overpay.

    Meanwhile, Adam Dunn is on pace to replicate his unforgettable 2011 campaign.

     

    Bench: B-

    Gordon Beckham fractured his hamate bone early in the year, but Conor Gillaspie has wholly filled the void. 

    The next-best reserve, Tyler Greene, wasn't even signed by the White Sox until Opening Day. 

Cincinnati Reds (15-13): B-

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    Starting pitching: A-

    Tony Cingrani has maintained a 1.50 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, but Johnny Cueto feels "strong" as he rehabs a strained lat muscle (via John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer). What a nice problem to have.

    With five quality starts in six opportunities, Mat Latos is quietly sneaking into the NL Cy Young discussion.

     

    Bullpen: C+

    On paper, this Cincinnati Reds bullpen seemed to be one of the most dominant in Major League Baseball.

    After asking out of the starting rotation, Aroldis Chapman is actually performing better than he did in 2012. Sean Marshall has faced the minimum number of batters so far.

    The others, however, are largely to blame for the club's pedestrian April performance. J.J. Hoover screwed up several times when there was no margin for error, and the Manny Parra signing has backfired (15 H in 6.2 IP prior to DL stint).

     

    Everyday players: B

    Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto set the gold standard that all other left-side infielders aspire to reach. Center fielder Shin-Soo Choo and Votto have separated themselves from the rest of the league with superb on-base percentages.

    Too bad homegrown regulars Zack Cozart and Devin Mesoraco aren't contributing much with their bats. Jay Bruce is also mired in a season-long slump.

     

    Bench: C

    Ryan Hanigan is still a defensive stud, though it's tough to allocate plate appearances to someone with zero extra-base hits.

    Receiving the lion's share of Ryan Ludwick's playing time, Chris Heisey has been terrible.

Cleveland Indians (11-13): B

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    Starting pitching: C

    What an inconsistent group.

    Ubaldo Jimenez thrived in his season debut and most recent outing.  In between, however, he gave up 18 runs over 11 innings (three starts).

    Despite Scott Kazmir's feel-good comeback story, he might be nearing the end of his leash.

    Tendinitis could keep Brett Myers out until Memorial Day. Nobody will miss him (10 HR allowed in 4 G).

     

    Bullpen: A

    Six different relievers finished April with a sub-3.00 ERA. That's a testament to the bullpen's depth and quality.

    The Cleveland Indians tend to be involved in lots of lopsided games. Otherwise, Chris Perez would have a higher saves total that reflected his great performance.

     

    Everyday players: B

    Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis have gradually begun to produce after weeks of mediocrity.

    First baseman/designated hitter Mark Reynolds is quietly working on a career year. He still strikes out on a daily basis, though not as often as in years past. More headlines featured Carlos Santana, who leads the AL batting title race.

     

    Bench: B

    Ryan Raburn starred during spring training. He has made the most of frequent starts in the outfield.

    In their first year with the Indians, Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes have filled important defensive roles.

     

    Fun fact (positive)

    The Tribe played 62.5 percent of their April games on the road—the highest percentage of any team in the majors. 

Colorado Rockies (16-11): B+

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    Starting pitching: B

    Taken out of context, the rotation is C- material. Metrics like average start length and strikeout-to-walk ratio reflect poorly on the Colorado Rockies.

    Then again, after spending conservatively the previous offseason and setting dubious pitching records in 2012, we must hold the franchise to a low standard.

    Jhoulys Chacin excelled from the get-go (3-0, 1.46 ERA, 0.89 WHIP). Tyler Chatwood made a decent replacement once the right-hander went down with tightness in his oblique.

    Jeff Francis—but only Jeff Francis—ought to be subjected to a harsh reprimand.

     

    Bullpen: B-

    Acquiring Chris Volstad didn't make sense in the first place. At least the Rockies optioned him before his 8.53 ERA bloated any further.

    Closer Rafael Betancourt uncharacteristically issued six walks in April. Fortunately, those only contributed to three runs (two earned).

    Wilton Lopez, a Nicaragua native, single-handedly sabotaged Colorado on two occasions. Overall, he gave up multiple base hits in six of 13 appearances.

    The steadiest relievers were Matt Belisle (2.35 ERA) and Edgmer Escalona (2.20 ERA).

     

    Everyday players: B+

    The Rockies finished off April with nine games in eight days. Dexter Fowler had hits in all of them to pad his .305/.411/.621 batting line.

    And he wasn't even the No. 1 position player! That distinction goes to Troy Tulowitzki once you factor in defensive prowess. The shortstop didn't participate April 29-30 because of a strained shoulder, but that's just "Tulo being Tulo."

    The weakest position on the field was third base...until top prospect Nolan Arenado unseated Chris Nelson.

     

    Bench: A

    Devoid of Todd Helton's world-famous plate discipline, Jordan Pacheco has nonetheless been an extraordinary alternative.

    Eric Young is getting nearly as much playing time. There's little to criticize about his .310/.338/.479 batting line, though going 2-for-6 in stolen-base attempts cannot be tolerated.

    And in Yorvit Torrealba, Colorado settled on a solid second-string catcher.

Detroit Tigers (15-10): B-

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    Starting pitching: B+

    One through four, there isn't a better rotation in baseball. Justin Verlander is, well, Justin Verlander, yet Doug Fister (1.03) and Anibal Sanchez (1.04) lead him in WHIP. And Sanchez has the filthy repertoire to completely take over (via MLB.com).

    However, the Detroit Tigers can't gain separation in the AL Central. It's largely Rick Porcello's fault. The 24-year-old elephant in the room gets bashed around like a batting practice pitcher.

     

    Bullpen: C

    There's still some uncertainty in the later innings. Ironically, the top Tigers reliever, Drew Smyly, is pretty much the only one who has not been discussed as a potential closer.

    Jose Valverde looks good so far, though his 2013 debut didn't come until April 24.

     

    Everyday players: B-

    Not to sound like a broken record, but one through four, no major league lineup compares to Detroit's. Torii Hunter is in the hunt for a batting title, while Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera contend for the RBI lead.

    The Tigers starting infielders combine for more hits than any other quartet. Then again, they allow plenty of them due to their limited defensive range.

    Alex Avila and Victor Martinez continue to kill rallies.

     

    Bench: C

    Matt Tuiasosopo spells Andy Dirks against southpaws. His stellar spring training apparently wasn't a fluke.

    The other bench players rarely appear on the field, and when they do, it's painful to watch.

Houston Astros (8-19): C-

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    Starting pitching: F

    Holdovers from the 2012 season—Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris—have combined for six of the rotation's seven victories.

    The other Houston Astros are just pathetic.

    The lone lefty, Erik Bedard, averages less than three innings per start. Philip "Mr. Perfect" Humber can't get a swing-and-miss to save his life.

     

    Bullpen: C-

    Obviously, Houston's relievers get overused when the starters can't survive into the middle innings. The Oakland Athletics work nearly as much, but they have played more games, including three that needed extra frames.

    Jose Veras shouldn't close, and eighth-inning man Rhiner Cruz might be worse.

     

    Everyday players: D

    Brett Wallace recorded one hit in two weeks before the Astros decided to demote him to Triple-A.

    Middle infielders Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez have been bright spots. The rest struggle with bloated strikeout totals and shaky defense.

     

    Bench: B+

    Platoon outfielder Brandon Barnes has recorded hits in nearly each of his starts. Similarly, Ronny Cedeno and Carlos Corporan are slugging surprisingly well.

     

    Fun fact (positive)

    In April, Houston faced teams with the three best records in the American League: the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Texas Rangers.

Kansas City Royals (14-10): B-

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    Starting pitching: B+

    There's a whole lot to like about the veterans of this group. James Shields has been every bit as outstanding as he used to be for the Tampa Bay Rays. And after completely devaluing himself last year, Ervin Santana looks trustworthy once again.

    Unfortunately, the back-end starters have rarely turned in quality outings.

     

    Bullpen: B+

    The Kansas City Royals were widely expected to trade Bruce Chen and/or Luke Hochevar once they were displaced from the rotation. Instead, they embraced relief roles and have combined to allow only one run.

    But setup man extraordinaire Kelvin Herrera has shockingly struggled to keep opponents in the ballpark (5 HR in 11.1 IP).

     

    Everyday players: C

    Most of us anticipated Eric Hosmer to rebound from an infuriating sophomore season. His production actually pales in comparison to those 2012 numbers.

    Alcides Escobar has been the only effective infielder. He routinely makes flashy defensive stops and constantly puts the ball in play.

    Eternally underrated left fielder Alex Gordon continues to excel.

     

    Bench: C

    Miguel Tejada is playing past his usefulnessm and George Kottaras seldom gets any action as Perez's backup.

    The Royals use Jarrod Dyson effectively. He's an elite defender with blinding speed on the basepaths.

Los Angeles Angels (9-17): D-

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    Starting pitching: F

    The Los Angeles Angels added three starting pitchers over the winter. While Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas have performed much worse than expected, the club should feel reasonably content with Tommy Hanson (3-1, 3.91 ERA).

    But L.A. won't accomplish anything this summer unless C.J. Wilson commands his stuff and Jered Weaver returns to No. 1 form.

     

    Bullpen: C+

    It blew a five-run lead on April 29, and a seemingly easy win stretched deep into extra innings. Closer Ernesto Frieri is much too wild to trust.

    At least the bridge to him—Sean Burnett, Dane De La Rosa and Scott Downs—is solid. Jerome Williams has logged 21.2 IP, by far the most of any MLB reliever.

     

    Everyday players: D

    Peter Bourjos suffered a hamstring injury on this stretch and has landed on the disabled list. It's an unfortunate loss considering his .828 OPS in 2013 has been second best to Mark Trumbo's.

    That's right. Baseball's new "Murderer's Row" of Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout is sorely disappointing after one month.

    Injuries tore apart the infield. Plantar fasciitis often kept Pujols at designated hitter, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo each spent most of April sidelined.

     

    Bench: C

    Reserve outfielder J.B. Shuck has been productive with the bat (granted, in very limited plate appearances).

    It's difficult to understand how Hank Conger was ever seen as a top prospect.

Los Angeles Dodgers (13-13): C+

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    Starting pitching: B

    Clayton Kershaw, as usual, looks phenomenal. His April began with a complete-game shutout, and the other outings have been nearly as impressive.

    We see eery similarities between Josh Beckett's recent pitching and how he began last season. Most damage done against has come via the home run. Plus, Ted Lilly is pitching poorly since being activated from the disabled list.

     

    Bullpen: B

    Brandon League's command hasn't caused problems (yet), and Kenley Jansen locks down the eighth inning. 

    John Wall was pummeled for multiple runs of three occasions. His awfulness taints this bullpen's overall stats, which would otherwise be above average.

     

    Everyday players: C

    On a team with so many well-paid power hitters, Carl Crawford shouldn't be first in home runs. He shouldn't be in the top five.

    Aside from him, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is also outperforming his 2012 campaign.

    Matt Kemp has just a handful of extra-base hits, only one of which left the ballpark. And while Hanley Ramirez recovered from a thumb injury, Justin Sellers failed to fill the lineup void.

     

    Bench: C+

    It's loaded with versatile guys who can hold their own at multiple positions. But besides Nick Punto, none of them provide offensive value.

    According to ESPN.com, the Dodgers are tied for last among NL teams with four pinch-hitter hits.

Miami Marlins (8-19): D

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    Starting pitching: B-

    Wade LeBlanc (6.20 ERA, 1.78 WHIP) and Alex Sanabia (4.85 ERA, 1.62 WHIP) make a mess at the back end of the Miami Marlins rotation. Jose Fernandez has pitched acceptably, but management is limiting his workload whenever possible.

    But the keys to adequacy have been Ricky Nolasco and Kevin Slowey. They give the Fish a chance by attacking the strike zone.

     

    Bullpen: C+

    John Maine's long-awaited return to the majors went even worse than expected. Miami granted him free agency after four appearances and 20 earned runs.

    Steve Chisek is shaky as closer, to say the least, and Jon Rauch had a rough month too.

    Everybody in between did relatively well during April.

     

    Everyday players: F

    Giancarlo Stanton rarely made contact the first few weeks of 2013. Shoulder issues also sidelined him for several games. He found his mojo at the very end of the month, then suffered a hamstring injury. All in all, the Marlins ought to be dissatisfied.

    There's absolutely nothing surrounding him. Miami ranks dead last in virtually every offensive category, including runs scored, batting average and OPS.

    Rob Brantly has earned recognition for his work behind the plate, nabbing 56 percent of runners who attempt to steal.

     

    Bench: C

    How come Miami won't give up on Chris Coghlan? It's been a zillion years since his standout rookie campaign, and the numbers just keep getting worse.

    Journeyman Nick Green, filling in for Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop, could stay in the majors all summer if he stays hot.

     

    Fun fact (negative)

    The Marlins have already lost 10 home games.

Milwaukee Brewers (14-12): B

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    Starting pitching: B-

    Overcoming several ugly outings and a shameful DUI arrest, Yovani Gallardo escaped April with decent numbers (3-1, 4.25 ERA in 36.0 IP). Just like in previous seasons, he's swinging a potent bat (2 HR, 1.072 OPS).

    The staff's savior, however, is last-minute acquisition Kyle Lohse. He ranks second in the National League in strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    Lots of inexperience surrounds these rotation leaders.

     

    Bullpen: B-

    Since being demoted to a setup role, John Axford has quietly looked competent again. Of course, that doesn't atone for his awfulness during the opening week.

    Jim Henderson is impressive in the ninth inning, and Tom Gorzelanny looks unhittable through one month of baseball.

     

    Everyday players: B+

    The Milwaukee Brewers offense revolves around Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez. Also, sophomore Jean Segura has emerged as one of the best all-around shortstops in the sport.

    On the down side, catcher Jonathan Lucroy doesn't resemble the star slugger we saw in 2012.

     

    Bench: B

    Yuniesky Betancourt has long been a punch line in the sabermetric community for his impatience at the plate and defensive mediocrity. He entered 2013 with -0.5 WAR in the majors, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

    But while playing the corners in place of Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez, he has been a pesky power threat.

    Martin Maldonado is the only other reserve doing a respectable job.

Minnesota Twins (11-12): C+

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    Starting pitching: C

    There isn't a single objective MLB expert who believed that Kevin Correia would experience any success in the American League. The secret has been fearlessly attacking the strike zone, as he leads the American League in pitch efficiency (via MLB.com).

    Meanwhile, the rest of the Minnesota Twins rotation is utter garbage. Specifically, Scott Diamond, Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley keep getting clobbered.

     

    Bullpen: A-

    It's a very underrated group of fly-ball pitchers, anchored by Glen Perkins. Remarkably, Minnesota's relievers have surrendered only four home runs.

     

    Everyday players: C

    Big-shot prospect Aaron Hicks is gradually getting comfortable, yet his year-to-date contribution still stinks. Ryan Doumit also disappointed during April as a whole.

    Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham look like their usual selves with plenty of hits and power, respectively.

     

    Bench: B+

    A utility man received in last summer's Francisco Liriano trade, Eduardo Escobar sticks on the 25-man roster thanks to a .378/.395/.541 batting line.

    Jamey Carroll is batting .300 in sporadic playing time and bolstering Minnesota's infield.

    On the other hand, Darin Mastroianni was a non-factor prior to his ankle injury, and Oswald Arcia rarely reaches base.

     

    Fun fact (negative)

    Four scheduled games were postponed due to inclement weather. Even with the extra rest, the Twins posted a sub-.500 record.

New York Mets (10-15): C+

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    Starting pitching: B-

    Life is good every fifth day when Matt Harvey takes the mound. Mark Simon of ESPNNewYork.com writes that his dominant fastball-slider combination was responsible for "Tom Seaver-esque" success.

    But the only other starter who consistently gave the New York Mets a chance in April was Jon Niese (3.31 ERA). Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner combined to surrender 10 home runs in their starts.

     

    Bullpen: C

    Only Bobby Parnell has legitimately had a great year, and even he blew two saves throughout the month.

    New York's bullpen desperately lacks power arms, as we can see from its NL-worst strikeout rate. No more Aaron Laffey pick-ups, OK?

     

    Everyday players: B-

    Lately, the lineup has gone quiet, but the Mets initially slugged their way to several exciting victories.

    Most of the credit goes to John Buck, Lucas Duda and David Wright.

    Marlon Byrd and Ike Davis evidently didn't much from 2012. They were major offensive liabilities last April and thus far lead the club in strikeouts.

     

    Bench: B

    Justin Turner's batting average isn't all that important because he primarily hits singles. Nonetheless, he's been a pleasant surprise.

    Jordany Valdespin provides more style than substance, and Anthony Recker barely gets up from the bench.

New York Yankees (16-10): B

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    Starting pitching: B

    Despite weak season debuts, Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia have been exactly what the New York Yankees hoped for atop the rotation. They eat innings and never hurt themselves with walks.

    Andy Pettitte's April 29 implosion served as a sour ending to his month, writes David Waldstein of the New York Times.

    Ivan Nova was totally unreliable through four starts with a 1.86 WHIP, not to mention three hit batsmen. David Phelps takes his turn in the rotation beginning in May.

     

    Bullpen: C+

    The grade can't go much lower than this when Mariano Rivera is your anchor.

    But manager Joe Girardi doesn't have another arm to trust. Longtime Yankees Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan were very hittable this past month. David Robertson's 4.22 ERA pales in comparison to what we've seen from him since 2011.

     

    Everyday players: B+

    With free agency looming, Robinson Cano's production and fielding is still exceptional. Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells were successful in protecting him throughout April.

    Francisco Cervelli got off to a fiery start behind the plate before fracturing his hand. He was slugging .500 coming off a season where he failed to get a major league hit.

    Taking over in center field for an injured Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner's presence has been invaluable. He's a true difference-maker defensively.

    Shortstop Eduardo Nunez, on the other hand, has no such qualifications for an expanded role.

     

    Bench: C+

    Mixed results from Brennan Boesch and Chris Stewart can't entirely compensate for Ben Francisco (.316 OPS) and Jason Nix (.526 OPS).

    If nothing else, it's a sure-handed bunch of players.

Oakland Athletics (16-12): B+

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    Starting pitching: C+

    On April 30, Jarrod Parker lasted six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) and striking out four. And that was his second-best start of the whole month. Prior to that, he had not been inducing ground balls or finishing off batters in general.

    Brett Anderson is experiencing command issues for the first time in his major league life.

    At least the "geezers" of this rotation know what they're doing. Bartolo Colon and Tommy Milone have seven walks between them (64.0 IP).

     

    Bullpen: A-

    The Oakland Athletics leaned heavily on their relievers down the stretch in 2012. So far, the key contributors have shown no ill effects.

    All-around excellence from Grant Balfour, Jerry Blevin, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle.

    According to MLB.com, Oakland's spotless bullpen winning percentage is matched only by the Cleveland Indians.

     

    Everyday players: B+

    After going hitless through April's first three games, the season didn't get much better for Josh Reddick. The Gold Glove winner is taking his frustration into the outfield (2 E in 23 G).

    Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss co-lead the offense, though Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Josh Doanldson have all shined brightly too.

     

    Bench: C

    With four home runs and five stolen bases, Chris Young is an asset in fantasy baseball. Here's what manager Bob Melvin sees: sub-.200 batting average vs. lefties and righties.

    The A's had outfielder Casper Wells for about five minutes. Spring training star Shane Peterson also made a brief cameo before returning to the minors.

     

    Fun fact (positive)

    Oakland buried several division rivals with a 13-2 record in AL West competition.

Philadelphia Phillies (12-15): C+

22 of 31

    Starting pitching: C+

    While the Philadelphia Phillies should extol Kyle Kendrick's 2.41 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, they ought to have concerns about one of the three rotation leaders.

    Roy Halladay is now a full year removed from being dependable. He doomed the club in half of his April starts by exiting in four innings or less.

    Between John Lannan and Jonathan Pettibone, the No. 5 spot wasn't particularly problematic.

     

    Bullpen: B

    The Phillies' faith in Antonio Bastardo is at an all-time high given the improvement in his walk rate. And you won't find many closers steadier than Jonathan Papelbon.

    Phillippe Aumont and Chad Durbin generally struggle to throw strikes. Using them in high-leverage situations backfired several times.

     

    Everyday players: C

    Before Carlos Ruiz returned from suspension, Erik Kratz was a cushy landing spot for opposing pitchers. Center fielder Ben Revere put more balls in play, but totaled only one extra-base hit the entire month.

    Chase Utley was easily Philadelphia's finest player, while Ryan Howard and Michael Young predictably had difficulty defending the corners.

     

    Bench: B

    Both Kevin Frandsen and Laynce Nix were effective when working with the platoon advantage.

Pittsburgh Pirates (15-12): B+

23 of 31

    Starting pitching: B

    For much of 2012, there was a big drop-off from A.J. Burnett to the rest of the rotation.

    That's not the case anymore.The right-hander is still an ace, leading the National League in strikeouts, but Jeff Locke and Wandy Rodriguez pitched almost as well in April with their finesse styles.

    Too bad Jonathan Sanchez exists (12.71 ERA in 4 GS). The Pittsburgh Pirates questionably retained him after spring training and didn't demote him from starting duty until month's end.

     

    Bullpen: A-

    The Bucs might be drowning in the NL Central cellar (rather than contending for the lead) if not for Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli. They have been charged with just one earned run apiece.

    Others in the bullpen share their talent for racking up strikeouts, though Jared Hughes, in particular, often forces himself to pitch from the stretch.

     

    Everyday players: B

    Andrew McCutchen contributed with men on base, but absolutely reeked under other circumstances. Pedro Alvarez was even worse.

    Especially defensively, free agent Russell Martin had a great influence on his new team. Starling Marte also has the potential to be an All-Star-caliber player.

    Painful as it is to watch Clint Barmes attempt to swing a bat, his fielding makes it all worthwhile.

     

    Bench: B

    Michael McKenry is an elite slugger in abbreviated action, as is red-hot Gaby Sanchez (4 HR since April 20).

    Jose Tabata has a long-term, guaranteed contract, but the Pirates will soon need to consider relocation options.

San Diego Padres (10-16): C+

24 of 31

    Starting pitching: C-

    Edinson Volquez is the West Coast's version of Ubaldo Jimenez. Slightly darker and shorter and stouter, but all the same mechanical issues and inconsistency.

    Jason Marquis, Clayton Richard and Eric Stults have all reprised their roles from 2012. Richard was particularly useless in April, accumulating only 10 strikeouts versus 13 free passes in five starts.

    The brave savior of the San Diego Padres rotation is Andrew Cashner (2.70 ERA, 0.90 WHIP in 2 GS). The coaching staff limited him to 10 innings in these starts because he was transitioning from the bullpen.

     

    Bullpen: B-

    Normalization of Huston Street's BABIP explains his not-so-special month. Meanwhile, Luke Gregerson and Dale Thayer were basically untouchable.

    There's glaring imbalance on this club. Joe Thatcher is the only left-handed reliever, and even he gets bullied by left-handed batters.

     

    Everyday players: B-

    Chase Headley is nearly duplicating the triple-slash line from his breakout season, though he was only active for the second half of April. The next-most-notable position player, Carlos Quentin, had a ho-hum month of .239/.339/.478. And surely you'll remember how the aftermath of this crazy melee limited him to 16 games (via MLB.com).

    Everth Cabrera ignites the offense, and Yonder Alonso is a legitimate threat in the middle. These guys have skills in the field, as well.

    But Jedd Gyorko, a popular NL Rookie of the Year pick, has done very little thus far.

     

    Bench: B-

    Alexi Amarista can be useful given his defensive versatility and contact-oriented swing. Ditto for Mark Kotsay.

    The well-traveled Cody Ransom appeared for the Padres five times and didn't do much of anything prior to being dismissed (.000/.000/.000 with 5 SO).

San Francisco Giants (15-12): B

25 of 31

    Starting pitching: B-

    The San Francisco Giants hold their starting pitching to a very high standard, so it's somewhat alarming to see two veteran members simultaneously struggling. We're referring to Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong, who have served up 16 home runs in 65 innings pitched.

    Thankfully, Tim Lincecum isn't quite the train wreck he was in 2012. Then again, 17 walks through five outings is an ominous trend.

    If Madison Bumgarner's World Series masterpiece failed to earn him widespread respect, his undefeated April (1.55 ERA) definitely did. The left-hander has lasted nearly seven frames per start.

     

    Bullpen: B+

    Even without Jeremy Affeldt, the relief corps rarely falters. Everything leads up to Sergio Romo, who has double-digit saves and a 15.0 SO/BB ratio.

    The bullpen also has responsibilities when games aren't competitive. That's when you learn to appreciate a long man like Chad Gaudin. He makes lopsided contests move along swiftly with a tiny 0.87 WHIP.

     

    Everyday players: B

    What a start for Brandon Crawford. Hitless in the April finale, he nonetheless finished the month batting .272/.346/.511 with five home runs (a career high).

    Angel Pagan (.652 OPS) and Marco Scutaro (.587 OPS) aren't validating their new contracts yet. Brandon Belt's .640 OPS is especially embarrassing when you consider the production expectations at first base.

    But have no fear, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval both made huge impacts.

     

    Bench: C

    Andres Torres is back in the Bay Area, but he's not energizing the offense like he used to. In fact, none of the reserves have gone deep in 2013.

    The best of them might be rookie infielder Nick Noonan. He appeared in 15 of 27 games.

     

    Fun Fact

    The Giants lost five straight contests April 23-28, all of them by two runs or less.

Seattle Mariners (12-17): C+

26 of 31

    Starting pitching: C+

    Hisashi Iwakuma might have been the best bargain of the offseason. Before officially hitting the open market as a free agent, the Seattle Mariners locked him up for two years and $14 million.

    While Felix Hernandez was as brilliant as ever this past April, the 32-year-old Japanese right-hander set the baseball world aflame with a 0.69 WHIP.

    Yet, despite their heroics, there isn't anybody holding the rotation in high regard. Joe Saunders can't buy a strikeout, Brandon Maurer averages five innings per start and Aaron Harang should be sent back to wherever he came from (0-3, 11.37 ERA).

     

    Bullpen: B

    A near-perfect month (following a solid summer) proves that Oliver Perez can thrive in the bullpen. And not only against other lefties.

    Seattle appropriately designated Kameron Loe for assignment, as he served up a half-dozen home runs in record time. Now, Blake Beavan is similarly incompetent in that long-relief role.

    But the late-inning, high-leverage situations matter most, and the M's have luxuries like Stephen Pryor and Tom Wilhelmsen to handle those.

     

    Everyday players: C

    The line between regulars and reserved is blurred, as the Mariners platoon at several positions.

    Mike Morse has great power numbers, like eight homers and .265 ISO. Yet manager Eric Wedge has ignored recommendations to the contrary and placed him in the outfield. He simply lacks the range to be effective out there.

    Switch-hitting Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak have been very ordinary. Everyday second baseman Dustin Ackley doesn't even deserve that much praise.

    Outfielder Michael Saunders spent most of the month on the disabled list.

     

    Bench: C+

    Interestingly, oft-injured Franklin Gutierrez owns the best slugging percentage on the team. He and Brendan Ryan have great defensive reputations.

    Robert Andino, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez and Kelly Shoppach are all susceptible to striking out.

St. Louis Cardinals (15-11): B

27 of 31

    Starting pitching: A+

    No Chris Carpenter? No problem.

    The St. Louis Cardinals rotation ranks first in groundouts, innings per start and earned run average. The starters have allowed only seven home runs.

    Besides Lance Lynn (who's doing pretty darn well), every individual owns a sub-2.50 ERA.

     

    Bullpen: C-

    The Cardinals finally identified Edward Mujica as their closer. He finished April with five saves and a remarkable 11.0 SO/BB ratio.

    His appointment came toward the end of April after Mitchell Boggs had imploded multiple times. Marc Rzepczynski is also in the dog house with a 2.00 WHIP.

    This bullpen has zero wins and the highest batting average against in the majors.

     

    Everyday players: B

    No passed balls, great game-calling and seven multi-hit games for Yadier Molina already. It must be tough for manager Mike Matheny to ever omit him from the lineup.

    Matt Carpenter, shockingly, leads St. Louis in plate appearances. He's regularly scoring runs and doing fine defensively.

    It's been a struggle for both corner infielders, Allen Craig and David Freese. Neither has hit a home run or tried exercising more patience.

     

    Bench: C

    Using Matt Adams to spell them wasn't an option this past week. The 24-year-old batted .542/.593/1.042—yes, really—before going to the DL with a strained oblique.

    Ty Wigginton was supposed to be the right-handed power substitute, but he has exactly zero extra-base hits so far.

    As if Daniel Descalso didn't already have weaknesses, fielding has suddenly begun to bother him. Three errors committed in 17 games at second base or shortstop.

Tampa Bay Rays (12-14): C+

28 of 31

    Starting pitching: B

    Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. He was beaten convincingly in a couple instances and involved in an argument with umpire Tom Hallion.

    In reality, Matt Moore (5-0, 1.13 ERA) has led the Tampa Bay Rays rotation. His .121 BAA is best among qualifying MLB starters.

    Later this summer, this club won't be able to fill in for injured pitchers like it has in years past. But the Rays made it through the first month without needing a single roster move. 

     

    Bullpen: C

    Everything about pre-2012 Fernando Rodney suggested that he didn't have great command of his fastball. His current 1.68 WHIP falls much closer to his career average than last year's 0.78.

    Kyle Farnsworth and Jake McGee are so far sub-replacement-level players, too.

     

    Everyday players: B

    James Loney might never figure out left-handed pitching. That's not going to matter, however, if he keeps raking against everybody else.

    Twelve different Rays have launched home runs in 2013, though nobody has more than 10 extra-base hits.

    Manager Joe Maddon shuffles Kelly Johnson and Ben Zobrist between the middle infield and outfield corners. Regardless of where they're positioned, he can count on them being patient at the plate.

     

    Bench: C+

    Sam Fuld has a couple tools: speed and an excellent glove. Despite that, his .415 OPS is just inexcusable.

    Sean Rodriguez absolutely owns lefties (.418/.523/.591), while Shelley Duncan recorded just two hits against them all month.

Texas Rangers (17-9): A-

29 of 31

    Starting pitching: A

    Yu Darvish leads his MLB peers with 58 strikeouts. No one since Randy Johnson (2002) has reached 300, but the right-hander is on a torrid pace.

    Following a forgettable individual season, Derek Holland came back rejuvenated (3.38 ERA, 0.95 WHIP). Apparently, a mustache doesn't dictate his success.

    But who could have envisioned the Texas Rangers prospects being so steady? Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch made seven total starts, striking out 29 batters and only walking seven. Matt Harrison can take his time getting healthy.

    The only knock against this rotation is that none of its members made it through a complete game.

     

    Bullpen: B+

    Joe Nathan still makes closing look effortless. He's 8-for-8 in save opportunities.

    Keeping Robbie Ross in the bullpen turned out to be smart decision. A southpaw who neutralizes opponents of either handedness can be invaluable in the later innings.

    Their successes haven't been surprising, but Tanner Scheppers has burst off the farm and into some exclusive company. Among AL relievers with at least 10 appearances, his 0.66 ERA is second best to Jim Johnson's.

     

    Everyday players: A-

    The demise of the Rangers' lineup was grossly exaggerated.

    Replacing Josh Hamilton with Lance Berkman and Mike Napoli with A.J. Pierzynski may have actually remedied a problem. The 2013 group struck out fewer times than any other team in April, according to MLB.com. 

    Hot hitters like Berkman, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland outnumber the underachievers. And even as the left-side infielders work through offensive issues, their defense hasn't slumped one bit.

     

    Bench: B-

    Geovany Soto's $2.75 million salary makes him one of baseball's priciest backup catchers. Texas has curbed his usage due to a .158/.273/.211 batting line.

    Craig Gentry earns his lesser paychecks against right-handed pitching. There aren't many better defensive center fielders in the league.

     

    Fun fact (positive)

    Texas did not lose any of its first eight series (six wins, two ties).

Toronto Blue Jays (10-17): C-

30 of 31

    Starting pitching: C-

    Whenever J.A. Happ has the best month of anybody in a rotation, that month surely didn't go well. That applies to the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays, as non-Happ starters—namely Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey—struggled to prevent home runs.

    To add injury to awfulness, Josh Johnson is already managing triceps tightness (via the Globe and Mail).

     

    Bullpen: B

    A dozen different pitchers have made relief appearances for the Jays.

    At least those with the largest workloads seem competent (e.g. Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar). Though Casey Janssen doesn't get many leads to protect, his performance also deserves praise.

    The major concerns at this point are Darren Oliver's low strikeout rate and Sergio Santos' availability.

     

    Everyday players: C

    Edwin Encarnacion exploded with six homers and 12 RBI over the final seven games, largely wiping out an initial slump.

    But free-swingers like J.P. Arencibia and Colby Rasmus negate their power contributions by constantly whiffing. Plus, Brett Lawrie doesn't completely have his timing back at the plate and Melky Cabrera ended April on a 4-for-33 skid.

    Jose Reyes (sprained ankle) will be sorely missed.

     

    Bench: C-

    Henry Blanco still hasn't caught a would-be base-stealer. Emilio Bonifacio's versatility is for naught so long as his hands betray him (video courtesy of MLB.com).

    Veteran speedster Rajai Davis saves the bench from a failing grade.

Washington Nationals (13-14): C

31 of 31

    Starting pitching: C+

    From a distance, you wouldn't be too upset with Stephen Strasburg's opening month. His first-inning adventures, however, have jacked up his pitch counts, leading to early exits and losses for the Washington Nationals.

    Jordan Zimmermann has pitched two complete games and allowed only 32 baserunners in 36 innings.

    On the other hand, the Dan Haren signing isn't panning out (.355 BAA).

     

    Bullpen: C-

    The Nats bandwagon began to fill up once they added Rafael Soriano. The free-agent closer was supposedly the key to a dominant bullpen.

    Instead, this group is being torn apart by left-handed batters.

    Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez, particularly, have been unable to command their stuff. 

     

    Everyday players: C+

    Anybody who used the Internet in April should be aware of Bryce Harper's torrid start. Dubbing him the sport's best player is premature, but this 20-year-old is a nightmare for right-handed pitchers.

    Alas, Ryan Zimmerman is injured, Adam LaRoche hasn't produced and most Nationals refuse to draw a walk.

     

    Bench: C

    Wilson Ramos is temporarily Kurt Suzuki's backup, but that could definitely change if he continue to put balls in play with authority.

    Every other reserve made it through the month with a sub-.600 OPS.

     

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