MLB Power Rankings: The Astros are no longer the team to beat

Yahoo Sports

With April more than half over, we’re getting a clearer perspective of the Major League Baseball landscape. It’s still plenty early, though. There are still far more questions to be asked than answers to be found, but we’ve seen enough games to know which teams could surprise, and which teams need to improve and where they have to do it.

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With that said, we’re still putting some weight on preseason expectations when putting our MLB Power Rankings together. Yeah, things haven’t exactly gone how the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals or Los Angeles Dodgers hoped they would, but they’re all just one good week away from putting themselves in a prime position. Meanwhile, teams like the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves will have to continue showing they have turned it around.

Mookie Betts is a big reason why the Red Sox are off to their best start in franchise history and own the No. 1 spot in Yahoo Sports MLB’s Power Rankings. (AP)
Mookie Betts is a big reason why the Red Sox are off to their best start in franchise history and own the No. 1 spot in Yahoo Sports MLB’s Power Rankings. (AP)

1. Red Sox (14-2; last week: 2)
Enjoy it, Boston. You’re No. 1 this week. And it might not be a one-week thing. The Red Sox early-season hot streak makes them the hands-down No. 1 team this week. The Red Sox keep looking fantastic — second-best ERA, second-most runs scored. And they’ve still only lost two games.

2. Angels (13-4; last week: 5)
The Angels look very real at the moment. They’ve scored the most runs in baseball, but what’s really impressive is that their pitching is among the best in the league. For a team that didn’t have a great rotation, that’s impressive. There will be a lot more questions about Shohei Ohtani after Tuesday night’s outing, but that shouldn’t discount the Angels’ great start.

3. Diamondbacks (12-4; last week: 3)
People worried about their offense without J.D. Martinez, but the D-backs had a radical idea to fix that: Not give up runs. They’ve got a sub-3.00 team ERA

4. Mets (12-4, last week: 4)
After winning a cool nine in a row, the Mets have dropped a couple to the Nats this week. But, by the look of things, Mets fans shouldn’t fret. And we won’t either.

5. Astros (11-7; last week: 1)
It was bound to happen: The Astros looked human this week after running into the Twins, Mariners and Rangers. There’s no reason to worry about them — especially if Gerrit Cole keeps pitching the way he has. But they’ve ceded the American League West to the Angels for now, and they’ve dropped a bit for us.

6. Indians (9-6; last week: 9)
We’re starting to see flashes of the team we know the Indians can be. They’ve won six of seven around a few rainouts.

7. Blue Jays (11-5; last week: 10)
Every move the Blue Jays made in the offseason was underwhelming, but we’re starting to see the value in guys like Vangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz. Depth pieces are important. After Toronto went through all those injuries last year, they made sure to pick up guys who could produce if things went haywire again. Those two, along with Randal Grichuk and Curtis Granderson, have already shown their worth.

8. Yankees (8-8; last week: 7)
The Yankees still aren’t blowing everyone away. Aaron Judge is smashing the ball. Giancarlo Stanton is not. They’re not as good as the Red Sox, but they’re not bad.

9. Cubs (7-8; last week: 6)
It’s hard to gauge who the Cubs are at this point. They’ve been postponed quite a bit lately. They’re also middle of the pack of scoring and middle of the pack in ERA. They’re 7-8 and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They’re holding steady now, but what we’re waiting to see which way they go.

10. Rockies (11-9; last week: 15)
The Rockies are winning games on the road, which is a good sign for them. They just completed a 5-2 road trip through Washington and Pittsburgh after going 4-3 on the road to open the season. Charlie Blackmon has been a big part of their road success, hitting all seven of his home runs away from Coors Field.

The Pirates have been celebrating a lot to start 2018. (AP Photo)
The Pirates have been celebrating a lot to start 2018. (AP Photo)

11. Pirates (12-6; last week: 11)
The Pirates haven’t missed Andrew McCutchen. The team’s entire outfield is performing well. Both Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte have returned to form, and Gregory Polanco may have found his power stroke. As for dealing away Gerrit Cole … well, at least Jameson Taillon looks like he’s taken a step forward.

12. Twins (7-5; last week: 16)
The Twins offense, which carried them last season, is struggling to score runs, ranking in the league’s bottom five. However, their aggressive offseason is paying on the pitching side as their staff currently ranks top 10 in ERA. Chances are, that will balance out over time, but the Twins seem to be in solid shape.

13. Nationals (9-9; last week: 8) 
Bryce Harper is doing his part, slugging a league-best eight home runs while reaching base at a near .500 clip. The rest of Washington’s offense has been slow out of the gate, and it hasn’t helped that Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon have been slowed by injuries. Their big wins at Citi Field this week might be enough to get them rolling.

14. Cardinals (10-7; last week: 17)
The Cardinals are still doing Cardinals things, which means getting solid production from less heralded players like Jose Martinez and Greg Garcia. Top prospect Tyler O’Neill is coming too, which will further solidify their roster.

15. Phillies (10-6; last week: 19)
The Phillies are steadily working their way up the rankings. Another solid week has them on the cusp of challenging the Mets for first place in the NL East. The offense and pitching staff are both currently ranked in the top 10, and it feels like there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Especially once Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford start hitting.

16. Mariners (9-6; last week: 18)
Winning is the name of the game, and the Mariners are doing a lot of it considering their offense isn’t exactly clicking and their starting rotation is off to a really rough start. James Paxton got on track in his last outing. Now they’ll need the same from Felix Hernandez.

17. Braves (9-7; last week: 14)
No Acuña, no problem. The Braves keep rolling, and have already seen some solid improvement from their youngsters. Dansby Swanson is hitting, Ozzie Albies looks solid and Mike Foltynewicz might be breaking out. Acuña should join all of them soon, and people anticipate he’s the best of that bunch. Get excited, Braves fans.

18. Brewers (10-9; last week: 13)
The Brewers haven’t fully lived up to the hype this season, but they haven’t fully disappointed either. Christian Yelich just came off the DL, so it might be time for them to make a jump.

Kenley Jansen has had a tough time early for the Dodgers. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Kenley Jansen has had a tough time early for the Dodgers. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

19. Dodgers (7-9; last week: 12)
Again? Yes, again. The Dodgers have plummeted even further in our rankings. They’re down to 19 this week after getting beat some more by the D-backs. They were No. 5 two weeks ago. And while we think the Dodgers’ true selves are better than No. 19, it’s hard to ignore the 7-9 record at this point.

20. Athletics (8-10; last week: 23)
Here’s something you might not realize: the A’s have scored the third-most runs in MLB this season. They’re not going to be a serious challenger to the Angels or Astros, but they might be fun to watch.

21. Padres (7-12; last week: 27)
Don’t look now, but the Padres aren’t *horrible*. They’re actually 10th in team ERA. Who woulda guessed?

22. Giants (6-10; last week: 20)
A Recipe for Disaster: The Giants beefed up for their offense this offseason by adding Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. The Giants are tied for fewest runs scored this season. This is not how success happens.

23. Orioles (5-13; last week: 22)
A Recipe for Disaster II: The Orioles were built to score a lot of runs. The Orioles are 25th in the league in scoring runs. This is not how success happens.

24. Rangers (7-13; last week: 25)
The Rangers continue to be near the bottom of the league in run differential, which is not a formula for winning games, as their record shows.

The Rays’ new pitching approach hasn’t worked thus far. (AP Photo)
The Rays’ new pitching approach hasn’t worked thus far. (AP Photo)

25. Rays (5-13; last week: 30)
On the plus side: Mallex Smith is looking great. On the minus side: They’ve won five games.

26. Tigers (6-9; last week: 21)
The Tigers are streaking lately. Sort of. If you consider this streaking: They’ve won two in a row after three rainouts. Maybe those rainouts were key, as the team lost five-straight games prior to its series with New York getting rained out.

27. White Sox (4-10; last week: 26)
Turns out, we had it all wrong in spring training. Reynaldo Lopez, not Lucas Giolito, is the team’s breakout pitcher to watch. Lopez has been excellent in three starts, posting a 1.42 ERA and an explosive strikeout rate. The walks are an issue, but they haven’t prevented him from going at least six innings every time out. If you’re stuck watching a White Sox game, make it one where he’s pitching.

28. Reds (3-15; last week: 28)
They’re No. 1 … in losses this season. With 15.

29. Royals (3-12; last week: 24)
They’ve lost seven straight entering play Wednesday. Not good, Ned.

30. Marlins (5-12; last week: 29)
The Marlins beat the Yankees 9-1 on Tuesday and lost to them 12-1 on Monday. Make no mistake: The second one is a better representation of who they are.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

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