MLB Report Card Grades for All 30 Teams Early in 2021

Martin FennFeatured Columnist IMay 2, 2021

MLB Report Card Grades for All 30 Teams Early in 2021

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    We are already one month through the 2021 MLB season.

    There is quite a bit of crowding in most divisions. All 30 teams have things to hang their hats on, while many have evident weaknesses. What do we make of all the action thus far?

    Let's grade each team's start after the first month. These grades were assigned based on factors such as team performance weighted against preseason expectations. Certain clubs might also have graded higher if they've successfully navigated injuries.

    The first returns are in.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Darryl Webb/Associated Press

    The Arizona Diamondbacks and manager Torey Lovullo deserve a ton of credit for just how competitive they have been.

    Lovullo has not been scared to platoon Nick Ahmed as he uses all his bench resources. It's worked so far, as the D-backs came into Saturday ranked second in the National League in runs per game and third in OPS. Carson Kelly has been arguably the best catcher in baseball.

    Arizona has also withstood numerous injuries, with ace Zac Gallen beginning the year on injured list and Ketel Marte and Kole Calhoun on the shelf.

    The pitching staff will need to show a whole lot of improvement, particularly with Taylor Widener on the IL. But Madison Bumgarner has rallied from a woeful start.

    Grade: A-

Atlanta Braves

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    It's difficult to grade the Atlanta Braves' start.

    On the one hand, hovering around the .500 mark is not exactly ideal for a club with World Series expectations. Marcell Ozuna, Dansby Swanson and Travis d'Arnaud have struggled, while the bullpen has been a sticking point.

    But also left-handers Max Fried and Drew Smyly have spent time on the IL, with Mike Soroka now likely out until June. Smyly has been roughed up in two starts since coming off the IL.

    The good news is Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley have all roared back from early-season slumps, and Ronald Acuna Jr. is still playing at an MVP level. The rotation has also found something of a revelation in Huascar Ynoa.

    Atlanta has held together thus far.

    Grade: C

Baltimore Orioles

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Orioles are rebuilding. They rank just 14th in the American League in OPS and eighth in ERA. Yet the O's have remained competitive.

    John Means has been excellent in the rotation. Matt Harvey has even turned some heads, with bullpen arms Cesar Valdez, Adam Plutko and Paul Fry making impacts.

    Cedric Mullins has been fun to watch. He is slashing .337/.387/.545 with 13 extra-base hits, including four homers. Trey Mancini is tied for the team lead in RBI (17) in his bid for American League Comeback Player of the Year.

    The rotation is full of question marks, and the O's don't score enough. But they are hanging in there all the same.

    Grade: B-

Boston Red Sox

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Boston Red Sox fans have to be thrilled with how their team has broken from the gate.

    The Red Sox are atop the AL East and had the fifth-best run differential in baseball entering Saturday's games. The offense ranks fourth in the AL in runs per game and first in OPS, with J.D. Martinez (1.175 OPS), Rafael Devers (.958 OPS), Xander Bogaerts (.915 OPS) and Alex Verdugo (.863 OPS) having terrific starts.

    The pitching staff has impressed, as well. Nathan Eovaldi has a 2.09 FIP. Nick Pivetta—acquired ahead of last year's trade deadline—has a 2.81 ERA through five starts. Eduardo Rodriguez has a 3.52 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in his return from myocarditis.

    The bullpen has been equally good, with Rule 5 draft pick Garrett Whitlock and closer Matt Barnes showing dominant stuff early. Adam Ottavino has also strung together 5.2 innings without allowing an earned run.

    Grade: A

Chicago Cubs

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Chicago Cubs lineup has followed its boom-or-bust trends of the past few seasons.

    The Cubs have five games with seven or more runs and three with 13 or more. They also have been shut out five times. Kris Bryant (1.078 OPS) is playing at an MVP level, though he has been the only consistent presence.

    Things are that much worse from a pitching perspective. Chicago ranks 14th in the NL in ERA. Kyle Hendricks (7.54 ERA) and Zach Davies (9.47) have been abominable, and there is no telling how long Jake Arrieta and Trevor Williams can have success while giving up hard contact. Arrieta got roughed up for seven runs (three homers) Friday against the Cincinnati Reds.

    Meanwhile, the bullpen ranks 17th in xFIP, though that figure would surely be worse if not for the brilliance of Craig Kimbrel.

    The NL Central is still winnable for the Cubs. But the North Siders need their starters to go deeper and their lineup to provide runs on a consistent basis.

    Grade: D+

Chicago White Sox

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The Chicago White Sox entered the season with World Series expectations. They have played good baseball early, though it hasn't been their best. That could be scary for opponents.

    Chicago opened the season at 6-8. It has gone 8-3 since, though the South Siders were fortunate to have consecutive series' against the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers. Still, there are big positives. 

    Chief among those positives, in the rotation, is Carlos Rodon. The left-hander has a 0.72 ERA in four starts and looks like in ace after entering the season as a back-end starter. Michael Kopech has also looked quite good in a couple spot starts after dominating out of the bullpen to start the season. 

    Yet, the South Siders can still get so much more from their stars. Lucas Giolito (5.68) ERA, Jose Abreu (.690 OPS) and Yasmani Grandal (.567) have all really struggled.

    Imagine if Giolito gets back to ace form and the two boppers start to produce, particularly with Yermin Mercedes continuing to mash everything in sight and guys like Rodon and Lance Lynn (before he was placed on IL) dominating.

    Grade: B

Cincinnati Reds

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Has any team been quite as perplexing as the Cincinnati Reds? Cincy started the season at 9-5 before losing seven straight. Naturally, the Reds then took two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    What do we make of this team? The Reds rank first in OPS, with Jesse Winker excelling after missing the first several games and Nick Castellanos still producing at a high level.

    The rotation has also been strong, save for a puzzling showing from Luis Castillo (6.29 ERA). Tyler Mahle has been terrific. Jeff Hoffman and Wade Miley have been effective, with Sonny Gray showing good signs (5.2 IP, 2 ER, 11 K) in his third start on Wednesday against L.A.

    The bullpen is pretty horrendous, however. Tejay Antone (0.66 ERA) can throw multiple innings and pitch in high leverage. But he's about the only guy manager David Bell can trust. Amir Garrett can't get anyone out. Garrett, Sal Romano and Jose De Leon have each given up three homers. Lucas Sims couldn't find the strike zone Friday against the Cubs and the unit nearly blew a four-run lead in the ninth.

    Cincy has no chance if it can’t get better contributions from its relievers.

    Grade: C


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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Cleveland has been mediocre thus far. If you asked the obvious question "Is it the offense?" you would be correct.

    Cleveland ranks 13th in the AL in runs scored and 13th in OPS. Jose Ramirez (908 OPS) is really starting to heat up, hitting safely in eight straight games entering Saturday's game. Jordan Luplow (.931 OPS) has been a pleasant surprise, and Franmil Reyes (7 HRs) is hitting the ball out of the yard. There just isn't much other production there.

    Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale have been a strong duo at the top of the rotation. But it's not as if that group has dominated. The group ranks 20th in ERA, though we'll have to see who replaces Logan Allen.

    It should be said, though, that Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak are as good a bullpen tandem as any.

    Grade: C

Colorado Rockies

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Let's not spend too much time on the Colorado Rockies. The franchise has been in a tough spot thanks in part to the maneuverings of former general manager Jeff Bridich, who resigned earlier in the season. It is still likely to be out of sorts so long as Dick Monfort owns the club.

    On the field, it's the same old story. The Rockies rank sixth in the NL in runs scored and OPS despite a sluggish early performance from Charlie Blackmon (.606) and a bit of a slower start from Trevor Story. But Colorado ranks just 13th in ERA. 

    The rotation ranks 24th in xFIP, though Jon Gray could be making himself into a trade asset. Colorado also has five blown saves. There aren't a ton of guys that exude confidence in the bullpen group.

    Grade: F

Detroit Tigers

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Not only do the Detroit Tigers have the worst record in baseball. They also have, by far, the worst run differential in baseball.

    It's not just that the Tigers are losing. They weren't expected to be very competitive this season. But it's the nature of the losses and the individuals who are struggling that make this grade what it is.

    Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal help make up the pitching foundation. They both have ERAs over 5.00 and the peripherals are not much better. None of Jeimer Candelario (.661 OPS), Willi Castro (.523 OPS) or Victor Reyes (.350 OPS) are impressing. 

    Losing is one thing. But the Tigers would likely prefer to see some semblance of growth from the young players, at the very least.

    Grade: F

Houston Astros

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    The Houston Astros responded to a difficult stretch (nine losses in 10 games) by winning seven of nine between April 22 and April 30. It's also important to remember the Astros had a number of guys hit the COVID-19 IL.

    This is most definitely a dangerous team when the stars are hitting. Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman are heating up in a hurry. Don't forget Yuli Gurriel, either. Michael Brantley (.925 OPS) is spraying the ball all over the field, and Yordan Alvarez (.879) is off to a good start.

    The pitching staff will be key. Cristian Javier's development as a strikeout arm could be massive. Luis Garcia has displayed good stuff, with Kent Emanuel dazzling in relief of Jake Odorizzi last weekend. Then there's Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. anchoring the staff.

    The Astros definitely need more from the bullpen especially in the middle innings. But Houston will be tough going forward.

    Grade: B

Kansas City Royals

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    We cannot speak highly enough about what the Kansas City Royals have done thus far.

    Sure, the run differential suggests KC is closer to a .500 club. Yes, that run differential is worse (-4) against AL Central contenders like Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox. But… the Royals are winning.

    The rotation, save for Brad Keller, has been surprisingly strong. Both Jakob Junis and Danny Duffy have FIPs under 3.00, with Duffy posting a 0.39 ERA in his first four starts. Brady Singer had been pitching well before leaving Friday’s start with a heel contusion

    The bullpen has also been quite good, with Josh Staumont seemingly taking over the closer role and Scott Barlow taking on a heavy workload. Jake Brentz gives the team a quality lefty.

    Will the Royals create more offense? They lead the AL in stolen bases but rank just 10th in OBP. Production will likely define just how long Kansas City can stay in playoff contention.

    Still, it's been quite the valiant effort.

    Grade: A-

Los Angeles Angels

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Angels should be able to hit with anyone.

    It seems unlikely Anthony Rendon's struggles last too much longer given his pedigree. Mike Trout is looking for another MVP, but so is teammate Shohei Ohtani. Outfielder Jared Walsh has followed a terrific 2020 with a brilliant first month.

    But (we can only harp on this so often) pitching will determine this team's fate.

    Los Angeles ranks dead last in the majors in ERA despite a relief group that has shown good promise. The bullpen ranks 11th in xFIP. The rotation has been horrendous. Newcomers Alex Cobb and Jose Quintana haven’t been effective, nor has 25-year-old Griffin Canning.

    Sure, the starters ranks seventh in xFIP. Maybe that's a sign things will improve. Or, maybe L.A. already needs to consider its options for acquiring a starter.

    Grade: C

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Dodgers have hit a snag. 

    Los Angeles is just 3-9 after a 13-2 start. Corey Seager is struggling after his scorching-hot run to start the year, and Mookie Betts has a .768 OPS. The rotation is still terrific, but the bullpen has been prone to some inconsistency. L.A.'s relievers rank 14th in xFIP

    Another interesting tidbit: the Dodgers are 4-6 in one-run games and 1-3 in extra-inning games. That's not anything astoundingly bad, especially given the sample sizes. But one might expect L.A. to be better in both categories.

    In truth, the Dodgers are doing just fine. But the recent skid drops them from an A-level grade.

    Grade: B

Miami Marlins

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Miami Marlins' arms provide a wonderful foundation.

    Sandy Alcantara has a 3.19 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in six starts. Trevor Rogers has a 1.29 ERA and 2.00 FIP, rapidly proving himself one of the best strikeout arms in the game. Pablo Lopez has a 2.34 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 34.2 innings. Sixto Sanchez hasn't even pitched yet.

    Granted, preseason concerns about the offense appear to be real. Then again, the Marlins have been without Starling Marte for some time. Brian Anderson had yet to get it going before he hit IL. Jazz Chisolm was electrifying before he, too, hit IL. But at least veterans like Jesus Aguilar and Corey Dickerson are giving Miami some production.

    The Marlins deserve credit for how they've battled thus far. They arguably should be in even better position, with the bullpen blowing eight saves.

    Grade: B-

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Pitching, pitching and more pitching. That's been the recipe early for the Milwaukee Brewers. And why shouldn't it be? 

    The Brewers have two elite arms in Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes. Young right-hander Freddy Peralta (2.25 ERA) has been exceptional. The bullpen has been up and down, but one has to believe Devin Williams will figure it out. Josh Hader has been a top-flight closer.

    Will the offense turn a corner and help the pitching staff? Milwaukee ranks last in the NL in OPS and 11th in runs scored. The Brewers are also rank 27th in strikeouts.

    The lineup should get a boost once Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain return. But the Brewers need better efforts especially from guys like Keston Hiura and Avisail Garcia.

    Grade: A-

Minnesota Twins

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Twins' run differential would seem to indicate they should be closer to .500. Yet, that sort of disguises the fact the lineup has mostly disappointed outside of Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz. 

    Buxton (1.363 OPS) is on a tear, and Cruz (1.037) has continued to rake. Josh Donaldson is having a decent campaign thus far. The other big boppers have been underwhelming. Miguel Sano had a .555 OPS before hitting IL. Jake Cave has not been the answer in left field. Alex Kirilloff has a pair of early homers, but also boasts a .194 OBP. The likes of Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler have also struggled.

    Kenta Maeda (6.56 ERA) has been incredibly disappointing in the rotation, though that group has mostly held together. The bullpen has not held together as well, though that's partly because Alex Colome was a nightmare in the ninth before being moved out of the closer role.

    Simply put: it's been an extremely disappointing start for the Twins, who are 2-6 in one-run games.

    Grade: D-

New York Mets

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    There is absolutely no way the New York Mets should be in this position right now.

    Jacob deGrom (0.51 ERA), Marcus Stroman (1.86 ERA) and Taijuan Walker (2.14 ERA) have been brilliant at the top of the rotation. The bullpen rebounded from a shaky start and ranked first in xFIP entering play on Saturday. However, New York's offense has been totally anemic thus far.

    New York ranks last in the NL in slugging and 14th in OPS. Francisco Lindor, Dominic Smith and James McCann have sub-.600 OPS marks. Michael Conforto (.667 OPS) and Jeff McNeil (.636 OPS) haven't exactly been prolific, either.

    Can the Mets get it rolling? New York ranked second in the NL in runs scored and third in OPS in 2020. The offensive potential is there. But potential only means so much for a team hungry to make a statement this season.

    The Mets need to start providing run support.

    Grade: D+

New York Yankees

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    The squad to the north of Queens is off to a frustrating start as well. But things are slightly more encouraging for the New York Yankees.

    Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela are all starting to produce. DJ LeMahieu isn't slugging, but he's hitting all the same.

    The Bronx Bombers would surely like more production from guys like Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and Aaron Hicks. New York still ranks just 12th in the AL in runs scored. That said, it seems like there's some momentum.

    The bullpen is possibly the best in the bigs. New York's relievers handily lead the majors in fWAR. Nearly every arm has produced good results, and Aroldis Chapman has 20(!) strikeouts in 8.0 innings.

    As for the rotation, the jury's still out. Gerrit Cole will be in search of his first Cy Young. It's hard to assess the rest of the group, though the peripherals aren't exactly outstanding.

    Grade: C-

Oakland Athletics

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    Steve Nesius/Associated Press

    The Oakland Athletics have taken a strange route to get to the top of the AL West. 

    Oakland began the year 1-7, only to go 15-4 in its next 19 games heading into Saturday. That stretch included a 13-game win streak. 

    Jed Lowrie and Mark Canha have cooled significantly as of late. But Sean Murphy and Matt Chapman look to be breaking out. Matt Olson was still clobbering baseballs before he sustained an unfortunate eye injury on Thursday.

    Perhaps most importantly, the rotation arms have really rebounded. All of Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea and Cole Irvin have sub-4.00 ERAs. Jesus Luzardo's swing and miss (10.4 strikeouts per nine innings) is there.

    The bullpen has withstood the loss of Trevor Rosenthal, with Lou Trivino holding down the closer role and Jake Diekman thriving yet again. The decision to bring back Yusmeiro Petit (1.10) is paying major dividends.

    Oakland has slowed a bit in its past few games with the lineup struggling to produce runs. But, as the A's have already shown, this team is quite resilient.

    Grade: A-

Philadelphia Phillies

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Phillies are lucky to be where they are. The Phils have a -15 run differential, yet somehow came into Saturday's game atop the NL East. 

    Philadelphia ranks 12th in the NL runs scored and 11th on OPS. Bryce Harper (1.063 OPS) and J.T. Realmuto (.932 OPS) are living up to their star billings. Jean Segura had been hitting (.333 BA) before hitting IL. But the leadoff spot has been an issue for the Phillies, and finding the right guy tom play center field has been a disaster. Alec Bohm is in a bit of a funk, as well.

    Fortunately, the front end of the rotation has been quite good. Both Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin have sub-3.00 FIPs. Zack Wheeler had a 3.11 ERA in his first five starts. But the Phillies desperately need to find someone to hold down the No. 5 spot. 

    The bullpen doesn't have a ton of quality depth, but at least Hector Neris (1.54 ERA), Sam Coonrod (1.54 ERA) and Jose Alvarado (1.13) have been good thus far. In actuality, Connor Brogdon and Brandon Kintzler have also been decent outside of a couple blowup outings.

    All in all, an average start for Philadelphia. The offensive production is disappointing, though, particularly since Harper and Realmuto are both raking.

    Grade: C

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Let's give the Pittsburgh Pirates their just due. Any number of people—including me—felt they'd be the worst team in the bigs. But the Bucs finished April at 12-13.

    Some of it has been a bit fluky. The Pirates have a -16 run differential. The offense ranks 13th in OPS and 12th in runs scored. But there have also been clear positives.

    Pittsburgh's bullpen ranks sixth in xFIP. Closer Richard Rodriguez had not allowed a run in his first 10.1 innings. He is almost guaranteed to be an asset at the trade deadline. Meanwhile, JT Brubaker (2.63 ERA) and Tyler Anderson (3.38 ERA) are holding down the top of the rotation.

    Don't forget: Pittsburgh was without Ke'Bryan Hayes (wrist) essentially for the entirety of the first month. Pretty impressive they have hovered around .500 given his injury and preseason expectations.

    Grade: B+

San Diego Padres

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    The San Diego Padres' pitching staff is driving their success. It probably should, considering the Friars acquired all of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove.

    Darvish and Musgrove have been really good, and Snell has pitched decently aside from a forgettable start against the Pittsburgh Pirates in his third outing. Ryan Weathers (0.55 ERA) has been outstanding as the Padres deal with injuries to Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet and Adrian Morejon.

    However, the bullpen has probably been even better than the rotation. That group ranks second in xFIP, with Mark Melancon looking like the bargain of the offseason and lefties Tim Hill and Drew Pomeranz offering legitimate strikeout stuff from that side of the rubber.

    San Diego ranks eighth in runs scored and ninth in OPS. But there's reason for optimism. Fernando Tatis Jr. is building tons of momentum. Trent Grisham (.894 OPS), Eric Hosmer (team-high 17 RBI) and Wil Myers (.824 OPS) are all producing. Manny Machado has yet to see results, but is hitting the ball hard. There's plenty of upside with that lineup.

    Grade: B

San Francisco Giants

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    San Francisco Giants fans probably can't ask for a much better start.

    San Francisco's rotation leads baseball in ERA and ranks third in fWAR. Kevin Gausman is putting his splitter to good use and appears to have the makings of a frontline guy. Anthony DeSclafani had a 1.50 ERA in his first five starts. Right-hander Aaron Sanchez (2.22 ERA) is as good a comeback story as any. 

    The lineup ranks fifth in the NL in OPS, with veterans Buster Posey (6 HR, 1.123 OPS) and Evan Longoria (.949 OPS) pacing the team. Mike Yastrzemski was coming on strong, though he was recently placed on IL (oblique).

    On second thought, maybe fans actually could be asking for a better start to the season. The bullpen has seven blown saves. Luckily, the starters have been able to go pretty deep in games. 

    It remains to be seen just how long the starters can keep up their terrific work. But the Giants have certainly exceeded expectations early.

    Grade: A

Seattle Mariners

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The Seattle Mariners are another team that has overachieved through the first month.

    Chris Flexen (3.33 ERA) is making a surprising case to be the team's No. 1. Justin Dunn has seemingly gotten his command issues under control. Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi has provided multiple quality starts.

    But let's focus on the bullpen for a second. Kendall Graveman had not allowed a run and gave up just two hits in his first 10.2 innings. He has been the standout arm for a group that leads the bigs in ERA. The Mariners are getting the most out of finesse guys like Ljay Newsome, Drew Steckenrider, Will Vest and Anthony Misiewicz.

    Seattle's lineup ranks just 12th in the AL OPS. But the Mariners are maximizing their scoring opportunities, ranking sixth in runs scored. Mitch Haniger's comeback season has been quite special, and Ty France is a steadying presence. Kyle Seager is busting out, plus Kyle Lewis is back. When will Jarred Kelenic come up?

    Grade: A-

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The St. Louis Cardinals are a bit like the Mariners in that they capitalize on scoring chances. 

    St. Louis ranks sixth in the NL in runs scored despite ranking just 10th in OPS and enduring a shockingly bad season from Paul Goldschmidt (.597 OPS) thus far. Dylan Carlson is an early candidate for NL Rookie of the Year. Tyler O’Neill has five homers in his first 16 games. Yadier Molina was one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball prior to hitting IL.

    The rotation has made gains, as well. John Gant, previously a reliever, has been a consistently effective starter even if the peripherals aren't outstanding. Jack Flaherty has looked really good since his Opening Day meltdown. Carlos Martinez allowed just six hits and two earned runs across 13.1 innings in his last two starts. The return of Kwang Hyun Kim and Johan Oveido’s effectiveness suddenly gives the Redbirds some depth, even with Adam Wainwright on the COIVD list.

    Is the bullpen for real? Alex Reyes, Ryan Helsley, Tyler Webb and Jordan Hicks have all had command issues. Genesis Cabrera has a 2.92 ERA, but a 3.70 xERA. Giovanny Gallegos is definitely a legitimate weapon. But this is a group that puts runners on and ranks 28th in xFIP.

    Grade: B

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Steve Nesius/Associated Press

    There were always questions as to how this Tampa Bay Rays team would look after dealing Blake Snell and letting Charlie Morton walk in free agency. Early injuries to top relievers Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks added to the skepticism. 

    It's been something of a bumpy road for Tampa Bay. The offense ranks sixth in the AL in runs scored, but has a .601 OPS with runners in scoring position. The pitching staff has produced mixed results, with the bullpen ranking 24th in xFIP and the rotation looking a bit mercurial aside from Tyler Glasnow.

    Tampa Bay's rotation is likely to become increasingly dependent on the development of young arms like Josh Fleming, Luis Patino and Shane McClanahan. That was always the likely scenario, though those guys might have to show progress earlier than anticipated.

    Meanwhile, the Rays could stand to see Brandon Lowe (.665 OPS) get hot. Top prospect Wander Franco might not be all that far away given just how poorly Willy Adames fared in the first month.

    Grade: C

Texas Rangers

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Texas Rangers' start would seemingly deserve a low grade, at first glance. However, there are actually reasons for fans to be legitimately pleased. 

    First baseman Nate Lowe (.845 OPS) has the look of a real building block after Texas acquired him from the Rays in the offseason. Adolis Garcia has displayed tremendous slugging potential.

    Meanwhile, Nick Solak has seven homers and a .910 OPS. Right-hander Dane Dunning—acquired in the Lance Lynn trade—has a 2.19 FIP. Kolby Allard has looked excellent after being converted to a reliever.

    No, the Rangers will not make a run at contention. But the team's future looks slightly less bleak than it might have during preseason.

    Grade: C

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Mike Carlson/Associated Press

    What a strange season it's been for the Toronto Blue Jays. We have to start with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

    Vladdy has stopped pounding the ball into the ground and, as a result, is realizing his immense potential. Guerrero came into Saturday's game slashing .350/.490/.663 with seven homers and 20 RBI. He also had more walks (20) than strikeouts (16). Sheesh.

    Bo Bichette is tied for the team lead in homers, with Randal Grichuk (.839 OPS) producing at a high level. Alejandro Kirk has seemingly seized starting catching duties from Danny Jansen with a run of good starts.

    But the offense has been mostly underwhelming, notably Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.572 OPS) and Cavan Biggio (.641 OPS). Instead, it's really the pitching staff that has propelled Toronto's success, particularly the bullpen. That group has seemingly found new heroes at every turn, from David Phelps and Tim Mayza to Anthony Castro and Tyler Chatwood.

    The rotation has held steady thus far, though there is a real shortage of depth. Robbie Ray's 4.80 FIP suggests he has outperformed his 2.78 ERA. Plus, Hyun Jin Ryu (glute) was just placed on IL. 

    Still, Toronto is right in the thick of things in the AL East. The Blue Jays should also get a big lift from George Springer once he settles in.

    Grade: C+

Washington Nationals

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    The Washington Nationals came into Saturday's game with the worst run differential in the NL. It’s not hard to see why.

    The Nationals rank 14th in the NL in runs scored. Juan Soto remains on IL. There hasn't been much production outside of Trea Turner, Josh Harrison and Ryan Zimmerman.

    Additionally, the pitching staff has been suspect. Stephen Strasburg's timeline is still a bit unclear, and Patrick Corbin has been all over the place in terms of effectiveness. The bullpen, meanwhile, ranks 29th in xFIP and lacks depth in the middle innings.

    There is good news. Erick Fedde has a 3.70 xERA. Joe Ross has been fantastic aside from one hideous start against the St. Louis Cardinals. Max Scherzer has been plagued by the home run ball, but is still off to a fine start. Washington also got Jon Lester back Friday night.

    However, the Nats need a whole lot more from the offense and bullpen to make substantive gains going forward.

    Grade: C-


    All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant or FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Stats are accurate as of May 1.