The sobering reality of what has become 2020 set in with the Marlins over the weekend, that was supposed to begin on Monday. As we embark on the task of something as silly as my subjective ranking of baseball teams, let's be clear that I definitely grasp the seriousness of the situation while also realizing this is a space for escape. We'll continue to try and have fun while noting that we absolutely grasp the grave reality of playing through a pandemic.
Let's proceed under that agreement, please.
For the first time since 1954, not a single team got to 3-0. We aren't going to go crazy with the rankings based upon such a small sample (for example, I'm not ranking the Tigers above the Reds even though they beat them two out of three games), especially with one series in the books. Before we get to that, let's examine the group of teams that might be upstart types this year. You know, the teams that were generally considered in baseball circles to be the best bets for a breakout.
Padres: Get on the hype train while you still can. They've nearly taken all four games against a good Diamondbacks team and the underlying signs are good. Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet and Garrett Richards all threw the ball very well, Eric Hosmer appears to be the next member of the Launch Angle Revolution, Trent Grisham looks great and the left-side combo gives them a pair of stars. Now at 3-1, they hit the road to take on the Giants and Rockies. I'd bet on them winning a majority of those games.
Reds: As noted, they lost two of three at home to one of the worst teams in baseball. Then lost to the Cubs on Monday. Not ideal. Just remember last year, early, the Orioles took two of three from the Yankees. The Reds have time to turn it around, but man, what an awfully disappointing start. Getting to play the Tigers this year was a huge blessing to the NL Central teams and the Reds squandered their chance. They have, however, only played 1/15 of the season. Pump the brakes on the panic, Cincy.
Phillies: Saturday was big. They knocked it around the yard and newly-signed Zack Wheeler was excellent. Friday and Sunday were atrocious, with the Phillies losing at home to a Marlins team that is improved but still doesn't have the roster of anything better than a last-place team. It doesn't get any easier. In fact, it gets a lot tougher, as the Phillies next deal with the Yankees.
Diamondbacks: A late comeback salvaged Sunday's game to avoid the sweep in four games. They got the lead Monday but then Luke Weaver got pounded with a big inning. The outing from Robbie Ray wasn't very encouraging and the offense as a whole has mostly struggled. I still like this team and getting out of San Diego with a win isn't awful, but it was certainly a rough start for a team with expectations.
Angels: The 1-3 record looks bad, but it could've been worse. It started out with three competitive games against an A's team I believe is one of the very best in baseball. They'll get a healthy Anthony Rendon soon while the starts of Dylan Bundy and Andrew Heaney were encouraging, not to mention the relief effort of Matt Andriese on Sunday. The Shohei Ohtani start, however, was really concerning. They need him right. Rough start but all isn't lost by any stretch.
Blue Jays: Major bummer on Sunday, eh? The Jays were all set to take two of three from the Rays and blew the game. There was definitely enough here to be excited, though. Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero -- I like to call them the Legacy Trio -- have shown flashes of excellence along with Lourdes Gurriel and Teoscar Hernandez, who homered twice on Monday. Matt Shoemaker made an encouraging start and we could probably lump in Trent Thornton, too. Plus, top prospect Nate Pearson is coming. Lots to like despite just being 2-2 instead of 3-1.
White Sox: Tough to get a read, right? I mean, it is tough to get a read on any team in just one series, but the White Sox were playing a Twins team that set the home run record last season and can still mash. The White Sox allowed them to score 24 runs combined on Friday and Sunday in. I had concerns about their run prevention ability heading into the season and those haven't dissipated. We saw the offensive punch they can win with on Saturday and it won't be near the last time. Just outslug opponents en route to the playoffs?
Rangers: Not too impressive and the news gets worse. They only scored five runs in three games off the Rockies in their new home. Then, Monday, we learned Corey Kluber is likely done for the season. At the very least, he won't be starting anymore. I was already dubious on their chances to break though and that remains the case. The offense has to start doing an awful lot more and a lot of the breakthrough potential stemmed from a strong big three in the rotation. Kluber's now gone from that equation.
Again, we aren't gonna go crazy and overreact to the results we have so far. Even in a season that's much more sprint than marathon, most teams only having played three or four games is equivalent to 8.1 or 10.8 games in a 162-game season. Remember, the Mariners started 13-2 last season and were 25-35 through 60 games.
|The Giancarlo Stanton Smash Tour, 2020?||--||58-49|
|Splitting at home against the Giants is far from ideal, but we'll give them a pass for now. It's still just four games and there's a ton of talent here. But put them on the watch list. That won't be acceptable for long.||--||65-44|
|Ramon Laureano ... MVP candidate?||--||61-48|
|Nelson Cruz is hitting .538/.571/1.385 with two doubles, two homers and 10 RBI. In three games. He's 40.||1||45-63|
|Two late-game comeback wins to take the series over the Blue Jays was just so very Rays, wasn't it?||1||65-44|
|Is Dansby Swanson in line for a breakout offensive season? He looks great so far, both the process and results. Also, how about William Contreras (Willson's brother) being thrown in the fire and coming out raking? Fun stuff.||--||54-54|
|If they do lose Justin Verlander for the season, the already-questionable rotation -- which saw Zack Greinke struggle against the Mariners -- gets even more questionable. With that injury and them only having played a bad Mariners team so far, they still sit in the seven hole.||--||65-43|
|Kyle Hendricks' Opening Day shutout hopefully helped get him more attention because he remains underrated, but how about Tyler Chatwood on Sunday? Jon Lester looked sharp on Monday, too. Starting pitching was a big concern here and so far, so good in the small sample. As for the bullpen? It remains a big-time concern.||--||52-57|
|Kolten Wong and Tommy Edman are a pretty lively 1-2 in the lineup. That's my big takeaway, as I expect the Pirates are bad and it's tough to judge much here.||2||53-54|
|So close to the sweep! Oh well, they have still looked every bit the contender I expected them to.||4||62-48|
|The Yankees were a tough draw for the champs and I'm not yet inclined to drop them any further, but I'm not loving this offense even when it gets Juan Soto back.||2||49-59|
|Remember how awful Jose Ramirez was to start last season? This time around, he's going nuts.||1||52-53|
|What an absolutely brutal debut for Rick Porcello. At least Michael Wacha -- kind of, sort of -- helped make things look a little better the next night?||1||56-52|
|Christian Yelich is 1 for 18 with seven strikeouts. The one hit was a booming home run, but the other plate appearances have looked generally pretty bad. On the bright side, they had that amazing comeback win Monday and can boomerang back to positivity.||5||65-44|
|.389/.450/.722? Hello, Mr. Votto of old?||5||57-51|
|Shohei Ohtani on the mound: Uh oh. I'm not gonna drop them much lower without Rendon and after playing a tough team.||1||54-54|
|Yes, it's only four games, but the D-Backs were outscored 21-9 and looked pretty inferior to their opponent.||1||34-75|
|It'll be interesting to see how well they handle bouncing around this year, but I'm confident they'll remain fun throughout.||4||56-49|
|If someone asked me to describe what a superstar baseball player looks like, I feel like Luis Robert has a pretty compelling case to be the person I name. Hopefully Rick Renteria starts moving him up in the order.||2||63-45|
|Lots of reasons to be pleased with the opening weekend for, most notably the work from starters German Marquez, Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland.||4||47-61|
|One of the things I really missed seeing was the Johnny Cueto shimmy. Love it.||4||68-40|
|At least Joey Gallo hit the first Rangers homer in Globe Life Field. That had to happen. On the down side, what a bummer regarding Corey Kluber.||2||39-69|
|I don't expect them to stay above the Phillies next week. I figured the head-to-head win for the Marlins earned them the right to be above the Phils. Of course, on-field play takes a backseat to more serious matters at the moment. Let's hope they can safely find a way to keep going.||4||47-62|
|At least Sunday provided a vintage Bryce Harper bomb. Otherwise what a bad start to the season.||3||55-53|
|I expect the Tigers to be moved down before they rise any higher, but hey, good start to the season!||4||52-58|
|No, I'm not putting the team with Anthony Santander and Jose Iglesias hitting 2-3 any higher than this.||4||38-69|
|Yes, it's just one series, but that was embarrassing and it carried over to Monday. They just aren't gonna pitch. Long season likely coming.||9||64-45|
|Fun to see Mitch Keller with a quality outing against the Cardinals on Sunday. He's got high upside and the Pirates have completely revamped how they deal with pitchers in the organization.||5||41-67|
|I have no doubt Royals fans agree that it's really nice to watch Savador Perez again.||1||46-60|
|Good signs from J.P. Crawford and Kyle Lewis!||4||58-51|