MLB Power Rankings: Buy, sell or hold on the D-Backs, Rangers, Pirates and other early-season surprise teams
Do any of the early-season surprise teams have staying power heading into late April and early May?
First things first, apparently the Snyder Curse is back in full effect with the top spot. I mentioned it last week and noted we had a different No. 1 every entry so far this season and gave the coveted top spot to the Rays. They've now lost four in a row. Sorry, guys, but I still haven't learned how to control my powers.
As such, we have yet another new No. 1.
Up here this week, however, I'd like to discuss some of the teams that are surprising in a positive way so far this season, at least to me. That is, teams I wasn't high on to start the year and have exceeded my expectations. I'll play buy, sell or hold their staying power.
This was easy. The started 7-3 (and 8-4). They're a lot more what they've been since that anomaly of a start to the season. SELL.
This stock actually should have been sold when they were 13-2 and staring at a three-gamer against the superior-in-talent Astros. They were predictably swept. I don't think these Mariners are bad. I , in fact. They also aren't seven-games-over-.500 talented, though. The good news is that some of the veterans are playing well enough to land good returns in July. SELL.
I'm legitimately intrigued. The offense can be great on many nights behind what looks to be the true breakout season for Joey Gallo, an energized Elvis Andrus and a healthy Shin-Soo Choo. Mike Minor looks excellent atop the rotation, too, though he could use some help. I ultimately would lean more toward sell than buy, but let's see how this plays out the next few weeks. They already have series wins over the Cubs and Astros (twice). HOLD.
The rotation to this point has been the very best in baseball and while a few of them are due a little regression, there's nothing screaming smoke-and-mirrors in there. The offense hasn't been very good, but they've been winning without it and they'll eventually have Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson back from injury. I predicted the Pirates to come in last in the preseason and I wouldn't do that now.
The issue, however, is placement. If the Pirates were in the AL Central I'd be all over them and, yes, I'd pick them to win the division. They are stuck in the NL Central, though, which means contending with the Brewers, Cardinals and Cubs. Even the Reds are 7-6 since that woeful 1-8 start and have a positive (plus-4) run differential. I would no longer pick the Pirates to finish last, as noted, but I very well might still place them fourth. I do think they'll remain in contention for a while, though. BUY (CONSERVATIVELY).
They won Sunday to break a six-game losing streak. The thing about an upstart team like this is there will be extreme peaks and valleys. Fernando Tatis is absolutely the real deal, we know about Manny Machado, Wil Myers is looking like his peak self and the back-end of the bullpen is great. Everywhere else has been either wildly inconsistent or just bad. Hence the extremes. I don't like the rest of the NL West behind the Dodgers, so, again, let's see how this plays out. HOLD.
The Snakes just went 4-2 on a trip to visit the Braves and Cubs and have won five of seven. Christian Walker is doing an amazing job in replacing Paul Goldschmidt and the offense as a whole has been very good. The pitching overall should be much better and it probably does get better. By the same token, the offense probably then comes back to Earth. The upside is flirting with .500. It took them winning five of seven just to get there at present. They now head to Pittsburgh for four before hosting the Cubs for three games and Yankees for two. After that it's three in Colorado and three in Tampa Bay before four at home against the Braves and three against the Pirates. My hunch is things get ugly in this stretch. SELL (AGGRESSIVELY).
Now, who am I going to curse in the top spot?
|1||Dodgers||There's been a lot of (rightful!) fawning over Christian Yelich, but the NL MVP right now would be Cody Bellinger. Seriously, yes it would. No, stop arguing. It would be Bellinger.||6||32-18|
|2||Rays||Fret not, Rays fans. If someone told you in spring training you'd be cheering for a 14-8 team through April 21, you'd have taken it, right?||1||29-18|
|3||Astros||It was a pretty savvy move of the Astros to notice that 1. they were second in the rankings and 2. the Rays had lost four in a row. Therefore, losing two of three to the Rangers, including a game on Sunday in which they hit five home runs was clearly the correct move in order to avoid the Snyder Curse. These guys are smart.||1||33-18|
|4||Mariners||Must-see TV is Dan Vogelbach batting. He's slashing .327/.472/.836 right now.||1||23-29|
|5||Brewers||They started 8-2 and have gone 5-8 since. They have a negative run differential and are 5-1 in one-run games. I'm grabbing a "sell" ticket here, just in case.||--||29-22|
|6||Cardinals||The Cardinals are 10-4 when they don't play the Brewers. All seven of their games against the Brewers were on the road, however, and they now host the Brewers for three games to start this week. I'll predict a Cardinals series win.||--||25-24|
|7||Phillies||There were at least a handful of things I thought might go wrong this season. Aaron Nola having a 6.84 ERA through five starts wasn't really on the menu.||3||29-21|
|8||Twins||How about that Nelson Cruz? He turns 39 this summer and he's hitting .306/.443/.571 so far.||2||33-16|
|9||Yankees||There are legions of Yankee Haters who would scoff and say something like "excuses" but I'm not sure I've ever seen such an impressive "lineup" of players on the injured list before. They just need to tread water around .500 and look for everything to come together in a second-half surge. They have the talent to do it. Doubt this group at your peril.||8||32-17|
|10||Braves||In six appearances (four starts), lefty Max Fried now has a 1.38 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 26 innings. As for the eye test (some of us still use this archaic method, which I know is shocking), he looks the part, too.||2||28-23|
|11||Cubs||After a 1-6/2-7/3-8 start, the Cubs are 10-10. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwaber have been awful offensively, too. Naysayers be damned, this group isn't done just yet.||3||29-19|
|12||Pirates||Keep an eye on rookie Cole Tucker. He homered in his MLB debut on Saturday and doubled on Sunday. He's a fun player who has fun and you know we love those.||3||25-22|
|13||Red Sox||Did they just get their mojo back? Losing the leads late and still winning makes it seem the case.||6||27-23|
|14||Rangers||Let's expand on the Joey Gallo comment from my intro. Some might find it weird for me to say he's in a possible breakout season when he hit at least 40 homers in each of the last two seasons, but his combined average was .208. As well as he takes walks and hits for power, someone like Gallo only needs a marginally good average to be a star. Right now he's hitting .281/.382/.734. If he keeps his average around this point and the Rangers hang in contention, this is an MVP candidate. Not down-ballot, either, in fact he'd be a top-five MVP candidate. Maybe top-three.||6||24-23|
|15||Indians||It might sound weird to non-die-hard fans, but there was something comforting about seeing Francisco Lindor on my TV again Saturday night. He didn't even do anything special. I just saw him playing baseball and smiled like, "yeah, missed that dude."||3||25-24|
|16||Mets||Noah Syndergaard should be so much better. He throws as hard as any starter, his offspeed stuff is killer and he just can't get over the proverbial hump to stardom. He's not even mediocre right now.||7||24-25|
|17||Nationals||The Nats bullpen worked one scoreless inning on Sunday (though it allowed a hit and two walks and came against the Marlins) and that lowered the bullpen ERA to 7.33. What a mess.||4||19-31|
|18||Reds||They are playing better but the offense is still grossly underachieving in my eyes, given the abilities of the personnel. Tough division -- the toughest in baseball -- but buy the stock here before selling it.||3||22-27|
|19||Rockies||Back on track after that brutal 3-12 start, the Rockies have won six of seven, mostly against quality competition.||9||22-26|
|20||Padres||They don't need Eric Hosmer to be a star and shouldn't expect it, because he's not one. I don't think it's too much to ask for him to do better than .214/.275/.333 at the plate, however.||9||26-24|
|21||Blue Jays||Well lookie what we have here. The Blue Jays have sneakily won six of seven and have a decently workable schedule the next three or so weeks. Keep an eye out here.||6||20-30|
|22||Diamondbacks||Given the early offensive positives and poor performances from the pitching staff, back-to-back excellent starts from Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray had to be encouraging this past weekend.||--||25-25|
|23||Athletics||This starting rotation, as comprised, just isn't getting it done.||11||25-25|
|24||Angels||Tommy La Stella has six home runs this year. That's a career high. Yes, for a whole season.||8||22-27|
|25||Giants||In a 3-2 win on Sunday, Buster Posey homered and doubled with three RBI. That was a fun throwback. Vintage Buster!||2||21-28|
|26||Tigers||Shane Greene has 10 saves in 10 Tigers wins. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that if he saves every win this season it would be a record.||2||18-29|
|27||White Sox||Hello. My name is Matt. I'm now a member of the Tim Anderson Fan Club.||1||23-26|
|28||Royals||Aw! Poor Royals got their feelings hurt because a guy was happy about a home run? Go watch highlights from 2014-15 and bask in the hypocrisy. (And if any of you are actually paying attention, I'm really looking forward to all the "well here's why it's different" takes. Those are so convincing).||3||17-32|
|29||Orioles||The next home run the Orioles allow will mean it's the most ever allowed in an MLB month. They've already coughed up 56 long ones.||--||15-35|
|30||Marlins||The Marlins just took two of three from the Nationals and are on pace to win 44 games this season.||--||16-31|
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