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MLB Power Rankings: Didi Gregorius and Red-Hot Yankees Are Eyeing the No. 1 Spot

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2018

New York Yankees' Didi Gregorius celebrates his home run during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Friday, April 27, 2018, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Weather postponements aside, we're essentially one month into the 2018 MLB season.

That means we now have a large enough sample size that it's time to think about no longer giving perceived contenders the benefit of the doubt while also taking surprise performers a bit more seriously.

That's reflected in this week's power rankings, as the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals slide to the bottom half of the board, while the Pittsburgh Pirates jump into the top 10 and the Atlanta Braves are knocking on the door.

Just remember, this is a fluid process, with teams rising and falling based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.

Here's an updated look at where all 30 teams stand heading into this week's action.

 Updated Rankings 
1img Boston Red Sox (20-7)img
2img Arizona Diamondbacks (19-8)img
3img New York Yankees (18-9)img6
4img Houston Astros (19-10)img1
5img New York Mets (17-9)img
6img Chicago Cubs (15-10)img2
7img Los Angeles Angels (16-12)img3
8img Pittsburgh Pirates (17-11)img6
9img Cleveland Indians (14-12)
img3
10img St. Louis Cardinals (15-12)img3
11img Atlanta Braves (16-11)img4
12img Toronto Blue Jays (15-12)img2
13img Milwaukee Brewers (16-13)img1
14img Seattle Mariners (16-11)img5
15img Philadelphia Phillies (16-11)img1
16img Colorado Rockies (15-14)img2
17img Oakland Athletics (14-14)img3
18img Tampa Bay Rays (12-14)img3
19img San Francisco Giants (14-14)img4
20img Los Angeles Dodgers (12-15)img9
21img Washington Nationals (12-16)img8
22img Minnesota Twins (9-14)img5
23img Texas Rangers (11-18)img1
24img Detroit Tigers (11-15)img2
25img Miami Marlins (9-18)img3
26img San Diego Padres (10-19)img
27img Baltimore Orioles (8-20)img2
28img Chicago White Sox (8-18)img1
29img Cincinnati Reds (7-21)img1
30img Kansas City Royals (7-20)img3

              

Teams That Impressed

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Mitch Haniger is off to a huge start at the plate for the Seattle Mariners.
Mitch Haniger is off to a huge start at the plate for the Seattle Mariners.Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The New York Yankees have gone 12-2 with a plus-49 run differential since a forgettable 6-7 start to the season, and they've racked up nine wins in a row heading into the week after series sweeps of the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels.

Another strong week could land them in the No. 1 spot in these rankings, but there's a tough road ahead. Their next three series will be against the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians and rival Boston Red Sox.

The Chicago Cubs seem to be hitting their stride with Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist both back healthy and fresh off a four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Yu Darvish (ND, 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER) and Jose Quintana (W, 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER) both turned in their best outings of the season by far last week after rocky starts to the year, and the rotation as a whole is once again starting to look like a strength.

The Atlanta Braves (+38, second) and Pittsburgh Pirates (+21, fifth) both rank in the top five in the NL in run differential. With an abundance of young talent exceeding expectations on both squads, a run at a wild-card berth seems reasonable.

A bit further down the rankings, the Seattle Mariners made some noise with a 5-2 week that included series wins over the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians.

Mitch Haniger (.309/.384/.701, 10 HR, 27 RBI) has quietly been an early AL MVP candidate, and the offense as a whole is averaging a solid 4.7 runs per game. However, an MLB-worst 5.62 ERA from the starting rotation remains concerning.

The San Francisco Giants are also worthy of mention after going 5-2 against a pair of expected contenders that have disappointed thus far in the Nationals and Dodgers.

Johnny Cueto (5 GS, 3-0, 0.84 ERA, 0.69 WHIP) is off to a brilliant start headlining a rotation that is without ace Madison Bumgarner, while Chris Stratton (6 GS, 2-2, 3.90 ERA) and Ty Blach (7 GS, 2-3, 4.10 ERA) have both held their own.

That said, the Arizona Diamondbacks have quickly stormed out to a five-game lead in the NL West standings, thanks to a plus-39 run differential that is tops in the NL and fourth in the majors—trailing the Astros (+66), Red Sox (+59) and Yankees (+47).

              

Teams That Disappointed

Closer Fernando Rodney (3/6 SV, 5.87 ERA) is one of a number of relievers struggling for the Minnesota Twins in what's been baseball's worst bullpen.
Closer Fernando Rodney (3/6 SV, 5.87 ERA) is one of a number of relievers struggling for the Minnesota Twins in what's been baseball's worst bullpen.Jim Mone/Associated Press

The obvious place to start here would be with the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers.

As we noted in the intro, those two teams had been given the benefit of the doubt early on while slowly sliding down the rankings from spots inside the top five back on Opening Day. With a month's worth of games now, it's impossible to continue ignoring their weak showing.

To their credit, the Dodgers (+12) and Nationals (+3) do both have positive run differentials and rosters that are still crawling with star-level talent. It would be unwise to bet against either team contending, but there's no turning a blind eye to what they've done—or rather failed to do—so far this year.

Another 2017 playoff team in the Minnesota Twins also continued its precipitous fall down the rankings after going 1-6 last week. That included a four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees and a series loss to a Cincinnati Reds team that at the time had occupied the No. 30 spot in these rankings.

What was one of the best offenses in baseball last season is hitting .238 as a team and averaging just over four runs per contest, while the starting rotation (4.53 ERA, 20th in MLB) and bullpen (6.25 ERA, 29th in MLB) have both been far from strengths.

The Kansas City Royals (-61) and Baltimore Orioles (-54) now own the two worst run differentials in baseball after going a combined 4-9 last week, and it's interesting to note that the entire AL Central enters the week with a negative showing in that department.

And finally, we have the Los Angeles Angels.

Since climbing to the No. 2 spot in the rankings two weeks ago, they've gone 3-9 in their last 12 games, including a three-game sweep against the Yankees over the weekend. They still have the talent to make some serious noise this year, but it's now looking like they may have been playing over their heads during a 13-3 start.

                 

MVPs of the Week

Hitter: Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees

Stats: 10-for-28, 1 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R

First off, a tip of the cap to baseball's No. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna Jr.who went 8-for-19 with four doubles and a home run during his first week in the big leagues. Big things are coming from the 20-year-old phenom.

That said, Gregorius is the clear choice for offensive star of the week.

The Yankees shortstop homered in four straight games starting last Sunday, then launched a game-winning blast in the 10th inning Friday.

With that, he enters the week tied for the MLB lead with 10 home runs, and he's also tops in the majors in RBI (30) and OPS (1.202).

The 28-year-old set career highs in home runs (25) and RBI (87) last season, and he's on pace to blow past those numbers in 2018 as he's made a strongalbeit very earlycase for AL MVP honors.

        

Pitcher: Nick Kingham, Pittsburgh Pirates

Stats: 1 GS, W, 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

While there were a number of strong pitching performances around the league last week, top honors go to Pirates rookie right-hander Nick Kingham, who made his MLB debut against the Cardinals on Sunday and took a perfect game into the seventh inning.

According to ESPN News Services, he joined Johnny Cueto as the only pitchers in the past 100 years to allow just one hit while striking out at least nine and walking none in their debuts.

Kingham, 26, went 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 27 strikeouts in 22.2 innings over four starts at Triple-A Indianapolis to start the year.

         

Video Highlights of the Week

Longest Home Run: Mac Williamson, San Francisco Giants (464 feet)

Technically, there was a tie for the longest home run of the week, with Rockies shortstop Trevor Story also hitting a 464-footer.

That meant a tiebreaker was needed, and we decided to go with exit velocity, where Williamson held a slight 111.5 to 111.0 mph advantage.

The 27-year-old Williamson has made a strong case for the everyday left field job since being recalled from the minors, going 6-for-19 with three home runs in five games after a torrid start in Triple-A.

However, he was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list on Saturday, retroactive to Wednesday. He'll be eligible to return on Tuesday, and the Giants will be hoping his bat stays hot for an offense that's been stagnant at times to begin the year.

         

Best Defensive Play: Randal Grichuk, Toronto Blue Jays

All right, so Grichuk probably made that catch a lot harder than it needed to be by stumbling into an awkward dive.

He essentially fell into the perfect spot on the field and had the ball land in his glove, especially when you consider that his eyes were closed at the moment of impact.

Call it dumb luck or call it a great catch; it's just not something you see every day.

And for a guy who's hitting .106 and striking out at a 31.2 percent clip, Grichuk was long overdue for something to break his way this season.

          

Must-See Upcoming Matchup

New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros (Monday-Thursday)

Lance McCullers Jr.
Lance McCullers Jr.Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

After last year's thrilling seven-game ALCS battle, the Yankees and Astros figure to be must-see TV once again in their first matchup of the 2018 season.

A struggling Sonny Gray takes the ball for the Yankees on Monday looking to duplicate the success he had in Game 4 of the ALCS when he allowed just one hit and one earned run over five innings. He'll be opposed by Charlie Morton, who is off to an excellent start with a 1.86 ERA over his first five starts.

Jordan Montgomery takes on Justin Verlander in the second game of the series, and Luis Severino and Dallas Keuchel do battle on Wednesday. The best pitching matchup of the four-game set might be the finale on Thursday, though.

Masahiro Tanaka (2 GS, 1-1, 13.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER) and Lance McCullers Jr. (2 G, 1 SV, 10.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER) were both dominant in the ALCS last year, so something has to give as they go head-to-head.

With both teams residing in the top five of our latest rankings, the No. 1 spot could go to the winner of this series if the Red Sox falter.

       

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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