MLB Power Rankings: Diamondbacks and Indians Climb into the Top 5

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2018

iArizona Diamondbacks' David Peralta, bottom right, celebrates with the rest of his teammates as they leave the field after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game, Saturday, June 23, 2018, in Pittsburgh. The Diamondbacks won 7-2. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

The Houston Astros, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox remain perched atop our MLB power rankings, but this week's version has a different look behind them.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians both turned in impressive weeks to vault into the top five, while the Los Angeles Dodgers are also knocking on the door.

The Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves head in the other direction after losing weekend series to a pair of cellar dwellers, and the Seattle Mariners will look to recover from a rough week against the Yankees and Red Sox.

From one week to the next, this remains a fluid process. Teams rise and fall 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 Houston Astros (52-27)img
2img New York Yankees (50-25)img
3img Boston Red Sox (52-27)img1
4img Arizona D-backs (44-33)
img4
5img Cleveland Indians (43-33)
img5
6img Seattle Mariners (47-31)img3
7img Los Angeles Dodgers (41-35)img2
8img Atlanta Braves (44-32)img3
9img Milwaukee Brewers (45-32)img3
10img Philadelphia Phillies (41-34)img2
11img Chicago Cubs (42-33)img4
12img Los Angeles Angels (41-37)img1
13img San Francisco Giants (40-39)img5
14img Washington Nationals (41-35)
img1
15img Oakland Athletics (40-38)img
16img St. Louis Cardinals (40-36)img2
17img Toronto Blue Jays (36-41)img3
18img Colorado Rockies (38-40)img3
19img San Diego Padres (35-45)img3
20img Detroit Tigers (36-42)img3
21img Pittsburgh Pirates (36-41)img2
22img Tampa Bay Rays (37-40)img1
23img Cincinnati Reds (32-45)img4
24img Texas Rangers (34-45)img1
25img Minnesota Twins (34-40)img3
26img Miami Marlins (31-47)img2
27img New York Mets (31-44)img1
28img Chicago White Sox (26-51)img
29img Baltimore Orioles (23-53)img1
30img Kansas City Royals (23-54)img1

              

Teams That Impressed

Jose Ramirez
Jose RamirezTony Dejak/Associated Press

On the heels of a 93-win season and a trip to the NLDS, the Arizona Diamondbacks are once again looking like a playoff team after a slow start to the 2018 campaign.

A 26-26 start to the season had the D-backs hovering around the middle of the pack in these rankings, but they've gone an impressive 18-7 with a plus-58 run differential in their last 25 games to climb to the top of the NL pack.

Paul Goldschmidt is having a huge month of June, hitting .393/.490/.845 with 10 home runs and 22 RBI in 21 games. Veteran Clay Buchholz (7 GS, 2-1, 2.56 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) has also provided a huge boost with Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray both sidelined.

The Cleveland Indians joined the D-backs in ascending to a spot in the top five with a pair of series sweeps against the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.

The reigning AL Central champs have now won seven in a row and gone 19-9 in their last 28 games with a plus-57 run differential.

Third baseman Jose Ramirez has led the way this month, and he might be the AL MVP front-runner heading into July with a .296/.402/.616 line that includes 20 doubles, 23 home runs, 52 RBI and 12 stolen bases.

Props to the Cincinnati Reds on a 6-0 week that included a four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs.

They've quietly won seven in a row and 10 of their last 12 after a 22-43 start. Expecting them to continue on this path and contend is probably asking too much, but if nothing else, it looks like they're capable of being a thorn in the side of the rest of the NL Central.

The Philadelphia Phillies (4-2), San Francisco Giants (5-2) and Texas Rangers (5-1) were the only other teams to win both of their series last week.

                   

Teams That Disappointed

The Mariners have work to do righting the ship.
The Mariners have work to do righting the ship.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Let's start with the Seattle Mariners.

An East Coast road trip to face the Yankees and Red Sox is as tough a test as the Mariners will face all season, but a 1-5 showing with a minus-12 run differential was not exactly a resume-building performance.

They'll face two of the worst teams in baseball this week in the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals, so there's no excuse this time around if they want to hold on to their spot near the top of the rankings.

The Chicago Cubs also had a tough week, as they followed up a solid series win against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a messy four-game sweep at the hands of the Reds.

An 11-2 thumping Saturday that saw Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani hit a grand slam was the low point, and the North Siders will need to quickly regroup as they head out West for a rematch with the Dodgers.

The San Diego Padres (1-5), Detroit Tigers (0-5), New York Mets (1-6) and Kansas City Royals (1-5) joined the Mariners in losing both of their series last week.

The Mets are now a dismal 4-17 in the month of June, with only the Royals posting a worse record during that time at 3-18. Expect both teams to be busy leading up to the trade deadline.

                      

MVPs of the Week

Hitter: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

Stats: 11-for-29, 2 2B, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 7 R

Here's a list of all the third basemen in MLB history who have recorded three straight seasons with at least 37 home runs, 100 RBI and an .895 OPS:

  • Eddie Mathews (1953-1955)
  • Nolan Arenado (2015-2017)

That's it. That's the entire list.

Arenado is well on his way to making it four straight, sporting a .997 OPS with 18 home runs and 55 RBI over the team's first 78 games—which puts him on pace for 37 homers and 114 RBI.

Playing half his games in Coors Field doesn't hurt, but with an .868 OPS and six home runs on the road this season, his impressive numbers are by no means simply a product of his environment.

He's just really, really good.

         

Pitcher: Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians

Stats: 2 GS, 2-0, 13.1 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 19 K

Trevor Bauer took a big step forward last season when he went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 196 strikeouts in 176.1 innings to raise his strikeout rate from 8.0 to 10.0 K/9.

Now, the 27-year-old is taking his game to another level entirely.

Over his first 16 starts, he's gone 7-5 with a 2.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 140 strikeouts in 107 innings, giving the Indians another ace-caliber arm alongside reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.

He's been particularly excellent of late, posting a 1.93 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 56 innings over his last eight starts—racking up double-digit strikeouts in six of those outings.

"He works so hard to get ahead and throw strike one and then put guys away," catcher Roberto Perez told Casey Harrison of MLB.com. "He's pitching his tail off, and hopefully he keeps doing that the rest of the way."

An AL-leading 2.24 FIP suggests his current performance might be the new norm, and that's great news for an Indians team with lofty expectations.

                

Video Highlights of the Week

Longest Home Run: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners (465 feet)

Nelson Cruz hit .247/.324/.475 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI over the first two months of the season.

Not bad numbers by any means but not exactly on par with what we've seen in recent seasons.

Was this the beginning of the end for a 37-year-old slugger who has been one of the game's most consistent offensive performers for the better part of the last decade?

A .329/.424/.772 line with 10 home runs in 92 plate appearances so far this month has resoundingly answered that question.

Among those 10 long balls was this blast off knuckleballer Steven Wright that sailed 465 feet.

The old adage for facing knuckleball pitchers goes: "If it's low, let it go. If it's high, let it fly."

Let it fly he did.

         

Best Defensive Play: Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs

Say what you will about Jason Heyward's offensive production in recent seasons, but he's continued to be nothing short of elite defensively.

Since the start of the 2016 season when he signed that massive eight-year, $184 million deal to join the Cubs, his 43 DRS trails only Mookie Betts (67), Brett Gardner (45), Jarrod Dyson (44) and Kevin Kiermaier (44).

He's known more for his elite range and impressive instincts than anything else, but he's also capable of unleashing a cannon arm when the situation arises.

Not only was this throw right on the money, but he also cut down one of the faster runners on the Dodgers roster in Chris Taylor on the play.

If nothing else, Heyward can always be counted on to be an asset with the glove. The fact that he's been swinging a hot bat this month has just been icing on the cake.

       

Must-See Upcoming Matchup

Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees (Friday-Sunday)

Chris Sale
Chris SaleHannah Foslien/Getty Images

Whether or not you're a fan of either team, it's good for the sport of baseball when the Red Sox and Yankees are both competitive.

The two teams have already met up twice this season for a pair of three-game series, and they each took two of three at home. That leaves 13 more head-to-head matchups, starting with three games at Yankee Stadium this coming weekend.

Lefties CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.18 ERA, 61 K, 76.1 IP) and Eduardo Rodriguez (9-2, 3.86 ERA, 92 K, 81.2 IP) will start the opener Friday. The two already faced off once this season back on May 10, with Rodriguez (5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 8 K) throwing the ball well, while Sabathia (4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER) was hit hard.

Red Sox ace Chris Sale (7-4, 2.56 ERA, 153 K, 109.0 IP) takes the ball Saturday opposite Sonny Gray (5-5, 4.93 ERA, 73 K, 80.1 IP). Gray has thrown the ball much better of late with a 3.23 ERA in five June starts.

David Price will start the series finale for the Red Sox, while the Yankees have a decision to make. Domingo German was hit hard Sunday (3.0 IP, 9 H, 6 ER), and with an off day Thursday and Luis Cessa making a spot start Wednesday, the team could skip him and go to ace Luis Severino (11-2, 2.24 ERA, 123 K, 104.2 IP) on regular rest.

One thing is for sure, whoever wins this series will head into the month of July with plenty of momentum on their side.

          

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

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