MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand 1 Month from All-Star BreakJune 10, 2019
We may be just one month away from the 2019 MLB All-Star Game, but we're no closer to having a clear divide between contenders and non-contenders.
A few teams have separated themselves from the rest at the top of our weekly power rankings, but things remain clustered in the middle of the pack. If nothing else, that will make for an interesting trade season with more teams than ever facing the decision of whether to buy or sell.
It's important to remember these rankings are a fluid process. Teams will 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 are the rankings:
Teams That Impressed
The Cleveland Indians (4-2) were the highest-rising team in this week's rankings after picking up series wins over the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees, who checked in at No. 3 and No. 2 in last week's rankings, respectively.
An offense that had managed just 61 home runs in 59 games entering the week launched 17 in six contests. Catcher Roberto Perez accounted for four of them, and Francisco Lindor slugged three.
While the offense finally showed some signs of life, the pitching staff was dealt a blow when it was announced that Carlos Carrasco will be out indefinitely after being diagnosed with a blood condition. That makes the impending return of Mike Clevinger, who is on a rehab assignment, that much more important.
The Chicago Cubs (6-1) also jumped back up the rankings after sliding last week, thanks to a series win over the streaking Colorado Rockies and a weekend sweep of the rival St. Louis Cardinals.
The veteran starting rotation remains one of the best in baseball, and adding Craig Kimbrel to the bullpen will go a long way toward stabilizing an inconsistent unit during the second-half push.
Mediocre weeks from the Twins and Yankees allowed the Houston Astros (5-2) to jump up to the No. 2 spot, and the remaining gap to the No. 1 position is a small one.
The Astros offense ranks among the MLB leaders in batting average (.267, second), on-base percentage (.341, third), OPS (.811, second), home runs (106, fourth) and runs scored (342, t-sixth). Meanwhile, the pitching staff leads the majors in strikeouts (667) and ranks near the top in team ERA (3.44, third), starters' ERA (3.52, third) and bullpen ERA (3.31, third). That kind of balance makes them a serious title contender.
The Los Angeles Dodgers (4-2), Tampa Bay Rays (5-2), Philadelphia Phillies (4-2) and New York Mets (4-2) were the other teams to win both of their series last week.
Teams That Disappointed
After briefly climbing into the top half of the rankings last week, the Los Angeles Angels (2-5) slide back to No. 21 and back below .500 following series losses to the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners.
The starting rotation, which ranks 29th in the majors with a 5.58 ERA, continues to be the biggest issue.
The New York Yankees (2-4) and Colorado Rockies (2-4) were the only other teams from the top 15 to lose both series last week, and the Angels were the only team to fall more than three spots this week.
Further down the rankings, the San Francisco Giants (2-4), Detroit Tigers (2-4), Kansas City Royals (1-5) and Baltimore Orioles (2-4) all continued early trends by dropping both series to fall ever further away from the .500 mark.
Players of the Week
AL Hitter: Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins
Stats: 7-for-21, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R
Nelson Cruz finally returned to action last Tuesday after missing 19 games with a wrist injury, and he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his first game back.
Since then, he's gone 7-for-17 and—after going deep again Sunday—has now homered in four straight games.
"He's incredibly strong, but he has a really, really direct path to the ball," manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters of Cruz. "He's just a good hitter who just happens to be really strong. When you add those things together, you end up with one of the best hitters we've seen, one of the best hitters of our generation."
The Twins signed the 38-year-old veteran to a one-year, $14.3 million deal during the offseason that includes a club option for 2020.
So far, that looks like one of the best bargains of the winter. Even with the time missed, he's still hitting .279/.359/.565 with 11 home runs in 40 games.
AL Pitcher: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
Stats: 1 GS, W, 9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K
It's easy now to forget just how bad Chris Sale was at the start of the season.
Over his first four starts to kick off the 2019 campaign, he posted an 8.50 ERA as opposing hitters teed off to the tune of a .311/.361/.581 line.
In nine starts since, he's looked much more like the perennial Cy Young candidate we've come to know, posting a 2.43 ERA and 0.83 WHIP while piling up 96 strikeouts in 59.1 innings and holding hitters to a much more stingy .166/.234/.318 line.
He was dominant against the hapless Royals on Wednesday, tossing the third complete-game shutout of his career. He allowed just three hits and walked none, wrapping up the game in 102 pitches.
"Anytime you can finish a game, that's what we sign up for," Sale told reporters. "[Catcher] Sandy [Leon] can read my mind, it seems. He put down all the right fingers, and I just followed his lead."
The 30-year-old also recorded his second immaculate inning—nine pitches and nine strikes—of 2019, joining Hall of Famer Lefty Grove as the only pitchers in MLB history to do that twice in the same season, according to Robert Falkoff of MLB.com.
NL Hitter: Jay Bruce, Philadelphia Phillies
Stats: 8-for-21, 2 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 6 R
Looking to add some left-handed pop, the Phillies acquired Jay Bruce from the Seattle Mariners on June 2 in exchange for prospect Jake Scheiner.
The veteran was hitting just .212 with a .283 on-base percentage at the time of the trade, but he had slugged 14 home runs and with the Mariners absorbing the bulk of his remaining salary, it was a low-risk move.
The following day, Andrew McCutchen was lost for the season to a torn ACL.
Just like that, Bruce went from being a potential platoon bat to the team's everyday left fielder, and he made quite the first impression in his first week in Philadelphia, going 8-for-21 in six games.
As Bruce told reporters, joining a contender has given him some added motivation:
"It's definitely a shot in the arm. I know it is my 12th year and I have been to the playoffs five times. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to do that. But the playoffs and winning baseball and championships are very fleeting. They are very, very hard to come by. And I want to be a part of that. And to have a chance on this team that I think has a legitimate chance to play a long time this year, it is something I definitely don't take for granted. And I just want to keep on helping."
The 32-year-old is also signed for the 2020 season, so he'll be more than just a rental for the Phillies.
NL Pitcher: Jason Vargas, New York Mets
Stats: 1 GS, W, 9.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
When the 2019 season began, there were eight active pitchers who had recorded at least eight complete-game shutouts in their careers.
For the most part, no huge surprises:
- Clayton Kershaw (15), CC Sabathia (12), Felix Hernandez (11), Ervin Santana (11), Adam Wainwright (10), Justin Verlander (8), Johnny Cueto (8), Derek Holland (8)
However, the ninth player to join that group was quite the surprise.
With a five-hitter against the feeble Giants lineup Wednesday, Jason Vargas now has eight shutouts over the course of his quietly solid 14-year MLB career.
After struggling to a 5.77 ERA over 20 starts in the first season of a two-year, $16 million deal with the Mets in 2018, it looked like the smart money was on Vargas finishing his career stuck on seven.
Instead, the 36-year-old is enjoying a career renaissance with a 3.57 ERA in 45.1 innings of work.
"When he does what he does best—he's efficient, he keeps the ball down, he gets soft contact—he's able to go deep into games," Mets manager Mickey Callaway told reporters. "As long as he continues to prove that he can do that, then we're gonna let him do it."
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Houston Astros (Tuesday-Wednesday)
A rare interleague matchup between two teams that were ousted in their respective league championship series last season and are again looking like serious contenders.
What more could you ask for?
The Brewers and Astros once shared the NL Central division, but they have met in just two series since 2013, when the Astros moved to the AL West. They last squared off in 2016, when the Brewers won two of three at home.
The series will feature two of the most powerful offenses in baseball. The Brewers rank third in the majors with 114 home runs, while the Astros are close behind in fourth with 106 long balls.
Exciting young right-hander Freddy Peralta will face off against Brad Peacock in the first game. Peacock has posted a 1.32 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over his last six starts.
Then it will be Brandon Woodruff (90 K, 10.9 K/9) against Justin Verlander (110 K, 10.6 K/9) in the finale of the quick two-game series, in a matchup that could yield a ton of strikeouts.
Walking away with a sweep would provide either team with a nice boost in the rankings, and it could be enough to vault the Astros into the No. 1 spot.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and accurate through Sunday's games.