MLB Power Rankings: A new No. 1, and a hot AL squad makes its top-3 debut

Baseball

A close race for the most dominant team in baseball has begun to emerge six weeks into the 2022 MLB season. Who prevailed in the battle of the coasts this week — the Los Angeles Dodgers or the New York Yankees ?

And while those squads continue to battle for the top spot in our rankings, the Houston Astros — who have won 13 of their 17 games in May — have entered the top 3 for the first time this season. Will they be able to further distance themselves from the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West?

Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we’ve seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an early observation for all 30 teams.

Week 5 | Preseason rankings

1. New York Yankees

Record: 28-9

Previous ranking: 2

The Yankees keep rolling. Nestor Cortes looks like a legit Cy Young contender in the early part of the season and has been carrying the rotation with his breakout performance. The offense will continue to chug along as long as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton crush baseballs. Meanwhile, reliever Michael King has continued his strong start as one of the best bullpen arms in the sport. — Lee


2. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 25-12

Previous ranking: 1

There has been one noticeable constant on these Dodgers, as key starting pitchers have hit the injured list and critical members of their lineup have been slow out of the gate: Freddie Freeman. The longtime Braves first baseman is slashing .312/.409/.493 while providing his typical excellent defense to begin his $162 million contract. Freeman’s steadiness in the No. 2 spot is especially important now that Mookie Betts is surging from the leadoff spot. But the Dodgers need to get healthy on the starting pitching front, with Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Heaney on the IL and few reinforcements behind them. — Gonzalez


3. Houston Astros

Record: 24-14

Previous ranking: 6

After losing to Texas on April 25, the Astros were 7-9 and in fourth place in the AL West. There was certainly no reason to panic for the defending league champs but it did look like, at the very least, that Houston would have to work hard to defend their division crown with the Angels and Mariners playing well. After that loss, Houston started to roll and has only seemed to add momentum as the days pass. They were in a 17-4 stretch after bashing the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Tuesday. During that spree, when they scored more runs per game than all but three other clubs, the Astros held opponents to just 2.52 runs per game, almost a half-run less than any other team. This version of the Astros is stacking up nicely with their elite clubs of the past eight years. — Doolittle


Record: 25-14

Previous ranking: 3

Tylor Megill allowed eight runs in 1⅓ innings against the Nationals on May 11 then landed on the IL with right biceps inflammation. Megill said he woke up the morning following the start with discomfort. For now, it doesn’t sound serious, but Megill will rest for a few days and be reevaluated. Catcher James McCann also landed on the IL with a hamate bone fracture in his left wrist that will sideline him for about six weeks. No, the Mets are not going to call up top prospect Francisco Alvarez, who is hitting .264/.349/.446 at Double-A (but has struggled in May at the plate after a hot start). — Schoenfield


Record: 24-14

Previous ranking: 4

Milwaukee’s offense has been up and down but the Brewers continue to gobble up wins in what already looks to be a great two-man race in the NL Central. They have good balance right now, ranking in the top 10 in OPS and ERA. It’s fortunate they are getting pitching from other corners of the team because Brandon Woodruff has not resembled the same player as last year. His 5.35 ERA stands out, though he did have a decent start last week against Miami. Perhaps he’s starting to trend in the right direction. — Rogers


6. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 24-16

Previous ranking: 5

The Angels absorbed back-to-back rough starts from Noah Syndergaard and Reid Detmers, two starters who have been among their many bright spots. But they also called up Chase Silseth, their 11th-round pick just last summer, and watched him shut out the A’s through six innings. Two of their other starters, Michael Lorenzen and Patrick Sandoval, continue to thrive. And their most famous starter, Shohei Ohtani, is getting hot in the batter’s box, surging alongside Mike Trout and Taylor Ward. It doesn’t seem as though the Angels are going anywhere. — Gonzalez


Record: 22-15

Previous ranking: 8

Tommy La Stella came off the injured list on Tuesday and hit a leadoff homer at Coors Field, setting the tone in the Giants’ 12th consecutive win over the division-rival Rockies. The Giants were noticeably short-handed earlier this season but are close to full health on the position-player side and can thus begin to do what they do best: maximize matchups and put their players in the best position to succeed. That is especially true now that the pitcher no longer has to bat in the National League, which on Tuesday allowed the Giants to deploy La Stella’s bat as the designated hitter but also deploy Thairo Estrada‘s glove at second base. — Gonzalez


Record: 23-14

Previous ranking: 7

There were a lot of questions in San Diego surrounding what the Padres would do with their abundance of quality starting pitching, to which the answer seems to be: Use it. All of it. On Tuesday, Mike Clevinger started, MacKenzie Gore came in behind him and the Padres shut out the Phillies. On Wednesday, Blake Snell took the mound and Nick Martinez followed, closed out the 3-0 loss for San Diego. The Padres employ seven premier starting pitchers, all of whom currently reside on the active roster. And it seems as though they prefer to get creative with them in an effort to take some of the pressure off their bullpen and manage some workloads, particularly those of Clevinger and Gore. — Gonzalez


Record: 23-15

Previous ranking: 10

The Rays took a series win against the Blue Jays to improve to 7-2 against the division with upcoming games against the Detroit Tigers and the Baltimore Orioles. Pitcher Shane McClanahan ranks among the top pitchers in baseball for strikeouts and is tied with reliever J.P. Feyereisen for the highest WAR on the Rays pitching staff. — Lee


Record: 20-17

Previous ranking: 12

It’s the same old confounding Cardinals. One of the hardest teams to figure out this year is in the thick of things but still not playing its best baseball. At least Paul Goldschmidt had a huge week, going 12-for-30 over a seven-game span. On the other end of the spectrum was Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson and Nolan Arenado. None hit higher than .286 over the past seven games. Cardinals players including their pitchers have traded off hot and cold streaks, which has prevented the team from taking off but it’s also kept it close to first-place Milwaukee. — Rogers


Record: 20-18

Previous ranking: 9

The Blue Jays offense is struggling in May and that’s reflected in the team’s record. Toronto faced a tough stretch against the Yankees and the Guardians, but it is depending on Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer and Bo Bichette to bounce back from their offensive struggles to turn around the team’s fortunes. — Lee


Record: 22-16

Previous ranking: 11

The Twins’ season could have taken a major downturn when Carlos Correa was hit in the hand by a pitch, just as he and the club were heating up. It turns out that Correa wasn’t seriously injured and he was activated Wednesday after a brief IL stint. Not only are the Twins still in first place but while he was out, Minnesota fans got their first glimpse of shortstop Royce Lewis, the top overall pick of the 2017 draft whose rise to the majors has been slowed by injury. Lewis did not disappoint, though he was sent down when Correa was activated so that he could continue to see regular playing time. Lewis hit .308/.325/.564 over his first 40 big league plate appearances while making consistent contact and ranking well above the MLB average in StatCast metrics such as average exit velocity and sprint speed. — Doolittle


Record: 17-21

Previous ranking: 13

Spencer Strider continues to be a big weapon out of the bullpen, with a 2.61 ERA and 32 whiffs in 20⅔ innings. He’s gone at least two innings in six of his nine appearances, including three scoreless stints of at least 3⅔ innings. This isn’t necessarily a big surprise given that he fanned 153 in 94 innings across three levels of the minors in 2021, but his ability to rely on his upper 90s fastball has been impressive. Can he be a starter long-term? He’ll have to develop his changeup, which he has thrown just nine times so far, to go with his slider. — Schoenfield


Record: 18-19

Previous ranking: 14

Maintaining depth figured to be a big challenge for a star-studded White Sox rotation that projected to be one of the AL’s top units. In reality, the starters have been more solid than outstanding as a group but, then again, front-of-the-rotation righty Lance Lynn has been on the disabled list all season. The rotation received a potential boost on the depth front last week when veteran Johnny Cueto, a late offseason signee, shined in his season debut against Kansas City, holding the Royals scoreless on two hits over six innings. It’s just one game and Cueto has been quite hittable the past couple of seasons, but if he can keep rolling, that would give Chicago four starters who have finished in the top 10 of Cy Young balloting at some point. And that list doesn’t include breakout young righties Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech. — Doolittle


Record: 18-19

Previous ranking: 16

The strong start for Jean Segura, a two-time All-Star with Milwaukee in 2013 and Seattle in 2018, puts him in the running among NL second basemen for an All-Star spot in 2022. He’s hitting the ball harder and with more power than he ever has, without sacrificing anything in his strikeout rate, which remains reasonably low. His average exit velocity of 92.0 mph is way above his career norms (he’s never been above 90) and his hard-hit rate is in the 92nd percentile (with a higher launch angle as well). — Schoenfield


Record: 16-18

Previous ranking: 15

The Guardians endured a particularly dreary week, especially for a team that played just four games since last Tuesday a rarity in this compressed season. Cleveland had a game postponed in Chicago because of a COVID-19 outbreak that kept manager Terry Francona and most of his coaching staff away from the team. Josh Naylor, having a breakout season at the plate, hit the COVID-19 injured list. The Guardians lost three of the four games they did play, including a home loss to lowly in-state rival Cincinnati. The flip side of all that is that the light schedule might have been well-timed. The Tuesday loss to the Reds kicked off a stretch of 58 games in 62 days for Cleveland, taking the Guardians all the way up to the All-Star break.— Doolittle


Record: 17-21

Previous ranking: 17

With Jarred Kelenic hitting .140 with a 37.5% strikeout rate, the Mariners optioned the 22-year-old to Triple-A to work on things. Meanwhile, Julio Rodriguez is starting to figure it out, hitting .315/.370/.446 over a 25-game stretch from April 22 to May 18 including a four-hit game against the Mets on Sunday that featured his second career home run, a 114-mph rocket. He’s not hitting for a ton of power overall, but he is hitting the ball hard, with an 86th percentile ranking in hard-hit rate. Let him improve his contact rate first, then work on adding more launch angle to his swing. — Schoenfield


Record: 17-20

Previous ranking: 20

After hitting .340 in his first 13 games, Jesus Sanchez has been mired in a terrible slump, going 9-for-69 (.130) with one home run from April 24 to May 18. Sanchez is emblematic of the Marlins’ biggest issue on offense, which goes back years: They rank second-to-last in the majors in chase rate, .1% behind the Red Sox heading into Thursday. Sanchez and Avisail Garcia have combined for 11 walks and 76 strikeouts — without enough hits and home runs to compensate. Bryan De La Cruz has a chance to receive more playing time if he continues to hit. — Schoenfield


Record: 18-21

Previous ranking: 19

Alek Thomas, the 14th-best prospect in the sport according to ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, is batting .314 with five extra-base hits through his first 11 games. Thomas’ setup is noticeably unconventional, with active hands and a high leg kick, but the 22-year-old center fielder did nothing but hit throughout his minor league career and has continued to do the same in the majors. — Gonzalez


Record: 18-19

Previous ranking: 18

The Rockies have come back down to Earth after their strong start, losing nine of their past 12 games while posting a 6.03 ERA during that stretch. Kris Bryant might be nearing his return from a back injury, but offense hasn’t necessarily been the Rockies’ problem. Only the Reds have a higher ERA this season. The starting rotation, which carried some promise heading into 2022, has been especially problematic. — Gonzalez


Record: 15-22

Previous ranking: 21

Boston put together one of its better weeks, but that isn’t saying much given that the team is still climbing itself out of a hole. The Red Sox need to see better performances out of players like Enrique Hernandez, Bobby Dalbec and Alex Verdugo, as the team’s offensive struggles are beginning to exacerbate its issues on the pitching staff. Meanwhile, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez continue to put together strong seasons. — Lee


Record: 17-19

Previous ranking: 22

Slowly but surely, the Rangers continue to find their stride in the AL West. After back-to-back losses to the Red Sox on Friday and Saturday, they began this week beating the Angels three times as their offense finally woke up. But it wasn’t their expensive offseason additions which paced Texas, it was veteran Kole Calhoun and youngster Adolis Garcia who led the way. Their production is helping the Rangers inch their way to .500 after a terrible start to the season. — Rogers


Record: 15-21

Previous ranking: 24

Chicago has had a little resurgence since dropping five straight at home. The pitching has been outstanding — though it helps to play the Diamondbacks and the Pirates back-to-back (Neither team can hit). Still, a 1.70 ERA over their past six games tells a good story for the team as youngsters Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson continue to impress. The former pitcher earned his first career 10-strikeout game against Arizona over the weekend. The Cubs get the Diamondbacks at home this weekend so expect their pitching numbers to continue to impress. — Rogers


Record: 16-24

Previous ranking: 23

Oakland is seeing strong performances offensively from Sheldon Neuse and Sean Murphy, but the rest of the lineup doesn’t have much to write home about. Standouts in the rotation include Paul Blackburn, Dany Jimenez and Sam Moll while former first-round pick A.J. Puk has been pitching well out of the bullpen. Speculation also continues to circle around Frankie Montas‘ future with the team. — Lee


Record: 16-21

Previous ranking: 26

Yes, they won a game in which they were no-hit. Great. Following that up with being shutout in back-to-back games against the Cubs kind of negated the excitement over that stunning win on Sunday. Pittsburgh looks like a team headed for the cellar, though it started the season as a scrappy bunch. The team’s week at the plate was brutal. — Rogers


26. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 14-24

Previous ranking: 27

The Orioles are scuffling after losing six straight games, despite starting the season better than they did in 2021. Top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez is pitching well for Triple-A Norfolk while Adley Rutschman should be in Baltimore sooner rather than later to give fans a glimpse of the future. — Lee


Record: 14-22

Previous ranking: 29

A disastrous start for the Royals’ offense led Kansas City to fire hitting coach Terry Bradshaw, who has worked in the club’s organization since 2000. Replacing Bradshaw is Alex Zumwalt. Zumwalt shifts from his position overseeing the development process of Kansas City’s developing hitters, a perch from which he oversaw a number of key breakouts last season. Thus, as prospects like M.J. Melendez, Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino start to reach K.C., they will encounter a familiar voice in Zumwalt. Though perhaps initially Zumwalt’s voice would be best served to convince Mike Matheny to stop penciling Carlos Santana and Ryan O’Hearn into the lineup. — Doolittle


28. Detroit Tigers

Record: 13-25

Previous ranking: 28

There hasn’t been much in the way of good news so far this season for Detroit. The Tigers’ hopes for a breakout seemed mostly pinned to hopes of having an elite starting rotation. That hasn’t happened but it could be worse. Detroit is in the middle of the AL pack in categories like rotation ERA, quality start percentage and average game score even though the unit has been stricken with a rash of injuries. Staving off a rotation collapse has been a result of the improvement of young lefty Tarik Skubal and an emerging feel-good story in rookie righty Alex Faedo. Faedo is a former top prospect who fell prey to injuries and, at 26, finally made his MLB debut this season. So far, so good. Faedo allowed just five runs over 15⅔ innings in his first three appearances, good for a 2.87 ERA. — Doolittle


Record: 13-26

Previous ranking: 25

Was it the worst baserunning play of all time? Well, there is the famous anecdote where the Brooklyn Dodgers once ended up with three runners at third base at the same time. But the Nationals’ blunder last week was certainly one of the more embarrassing gaffes in years. Juan Soto was on second when Josh Bell hit a hard grounder to third base, but for some reason Soto broke for third. He was caught in a rundown and tagged out. Bell, meanwhile, raced for second, but the Mets threw the ball into right field, so Bell headed for third. Unfortunately for him, Starling Marte backed up the play and easily threw Bell out at third. “Horrendous baserunning by the Nationals!” exclaimed Mets announcer Gary Cohen. — Schoenfield


Record: 10-26

Previous ranking: 30

OK, the Reds can officially call themselves spoilers as they beat the Brewers twice late last week then defeated the Guardians on Tuesday. Both Tyler Naquin and Mike Moustakas have been on fire but it’s the Reds’ pitching staff which led the way. They produced a 2.05 ERA over the course of their last five games, which included a no-hitter! Yes, they lost that game but the Reds need positives wherever they can find them. Hunter Greene was magnificent that day. — Rogers

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