Power Rankings: Amid top-10 turnover, make room for a new No. 1

Originally Published: April 16, 2018
ESPN.com

Two weeks into the season, our voters have seen enough to change things on top, dramatically reshuffling the top 10. Let's start up top: Would anyone have expected the Astros to already cede the No. 1 slot to anyone? Even after a solid start? That's exactly what has happened, not because the Astros are bad but because we've seen several teams sizzle in the early going. Welcome to the reason the red-hot Red Sox captured four of five first-place votes to unseat the reigning champs, although Houston held on to the last vote for the top spot.

That wasn't the only big change. The Mets made this week's biggest move in the rankings, moving up five slots to crack the top five. Meanwhile, the Angels and Indians both moved up four slots apiece within the top 10. The Angels are already at the No. 3 slot, where they're putting pressure on the Astros, just the same as they are in the AL West. Beyond the turnover within the ranks, this week's top 10 welcomed one new entry, as the Twins moved up.

With all of that change, several teams tumbled. All three of the preseason favorites in the National League divisions -- the Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers -- dropped in the rankings thanks to middling starts. The Nats fell furthest, with a five-spot decline, the Cubs lost three, and the Dodgers fell from the top 10 with their own three-spot drop. The Yankees fell four slots, but the Rangers -- already struggling with injuries -- suffered the largest decline in the American League by falling five places and into baseball's bottom five.

What's the big takeaway from all this? Just two weeks in, there are no sure things.

This week, our panel comprises David Schoenfield, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, Bradford Doolittle and Sarah Langs.

Week 1 rankings | Preseason rankings

1. Boston Red Sox

Record: 13-2
Week 1 ranking: 2

It took a week, but J.D. Martinez hit his first home run in a Red Sox uniform. He has continued to hit the ball hard, and he and Hanley Ramirez have powered the Red Sox to a 13-2 start. Less happily, a Xander Bogaerts ankle injury interrupted his hot start at the plate; he had delivered nine extra-base hits in nine games. -- Dan McCarthy, ESPN Stats & Info


2. Houston Astros

Record: 10-6
Week 1 ranking: 1

The Astros' offense went into a mini-slump, scoring four or fewer runs in six straight games in a stretch that ended earlier this week, matching their longest such streak last season. They managed to win four of those six games, though, as their pitching has dominated. Of note is Gerrit Cole, who struck out 14 batters on Friday, giving him 36 K's for the season. That's the most by any pitcher in his first three games with a team since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. -- Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information


3. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 13-3
Week 1 ranking: 7

The Angels could not have scripted a better start. Shohei Ohtani continues to dazzle on the mound and at the plate. Mike Trout ranks among the league leaders in home runs, runs scored, RBIs and extra-base hits. Ian Kinsler homered in his first at-bat with the club after returning from the disabled list. Put it all together, and the Angels are off to their best start in franchise history. -- Paul Casella, ESPN Stats & Information


4. New York Mets

Record: 12-2
Week 1 ranking: 9

The Mets continued their hot start, becoming the 22nd team in the World Series era (since 1903) to start 11-1 or better. Will that start yield postseason success? Of the 21 teams to start 11-1 or better through 12 games before this season, only eight made the postseason, and only three of those won the World Series: the 1955 Dodgers, 1966 Orioles and 1984 Tigers. Of the teams to start that hot in the past 30 seasons, none has even won a playoff series. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information


5. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 11-4
Week 1 ranking: 6

Several factors have helped the Snakes slither atop the NL West. In the lineup, A.J. Pollock is thriving in the cleanup slot, punishing teams after a Paul Goldschmidt free pass, with 11 extra-base hits. On the pitching side of things, the rotation is leading the NL with 10.8 K/9, while the bullpen has combined for a 1.92 ERA while profiting from Brad Boxberger's closing to allow Archie Bradley to work earlier in games. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com


6. Cleveland Indians

Record: 8-6
Week 1 ranking: 10

The Indians' rising fortunes in the rankings owe something to a four-game sweep of the Tigers last week and to improved hitting from Francisco Lindor (.984 OPS) and Jose Ramirez (1.182). If the Tribe can get Jason Kipnis, Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso going, watch out. -- Kahrl


7. New York Yankees

Record: 7-7
Week 1 ranking: 3

Hidden behind the roller-coaster start that Giancarlo Stanton has had is an exceptional stretch by Aaron Judge. After a slow start, Judge has rattled off an 11-game hit streak, pushing his batting average over .340. New York sits in third place in the AL East after dropping five of its past seven games against division foes. The Yankees had a .579 win percentage against the AL East in 2017, its best intra-division record since 2009 (.625). -- McCarthy


8. Chicago Cubs

Record: 7-7
Week 1 ranking: 5

The Cubs had a much-hyped starting rotation coming into the season, but the first two weeks of the season were forgetful for the starting five. The Cubs' rotation ranks 27th in ERA, last in WHIP and 29th in walks per nine innings. The failings have been a group effort, as Kyle Hendricks is the only starter on the team with an ERA under 4.00 through the first three turns in the rotation. -- Ken Woolums, ESPN Stats & Information


9. Washington Nationals

Record: 7-9
Week 1 ranking: 4

Max Scherzer said in the spring that he doesn't think he has reached his peak yet, which was quite the statement from a pitcher who won the 2016 National League Cy Young Award with an impressive season, then posted an ERA almost half a run lower and WAR almost a full win higher in 2017 to win it in a second consecutive season. In his past three starts, Scherzer has posted the three highest miss rates on his fastball at any point since the start of 2017. Maybe he has a point. -- Langs


10. Minnesota Twins

Record: 7-4
Week 1 ranking: 11

The bad news for the Twins is they have not played since Thursday. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the White Sox's and Twins' three straight postponements are the most consecutive since the Mariners and Indians had four straight in April 2007. The good news for the Twins is they went 3-1 in the four games they played last week, including a series win against the Astros in which they limited Houston to 11 runs in three games. -- Woolums


11. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 5-9
Week 1 ranking: 8

Even with Logan Forsythe joining Justin Turner to place half of the starting infield on the DL, on Sunday the Dodgers finally enjoyed their first 2017 Dodgers-style win. Clayton Kershaw dominated with 12 K's to notch his first win of the season, while Chris Taylor hit his third homer in a week to help power the offense. Is more of that on tap? -- Kahrl


12. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 9-5
Week 1 ranking: 14

Toronto's lineup took a hit when Josh Donaldson went on the DL with shoulder inflammation on Friday. It did not immediately hamper the Blue Jays, however, as they went out and scored eight runs against Cleveland that day. It marked their sixth game of the season scoring at least seven runs. Marcus Stroman has struggled some to start the year, as his control has wavered. Stroman walked a career-high 7.4 percent of batters faced last season; he is at 13.9 percent through three starts in 2018. -- McCarthy


13. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 11-4
Week 1 ranking: 12

For a long time, Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon was headed toward being known as "that guy that got picked between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado." Three starts into the season, it looks like Taillon could finally be up for his breakout, as he owns a 0.89 ERA across 20⅓ innings. Perhaps the best part for Taillon believers: He owns a 3.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio and is averaging 95 mph on his fastball. -- Woolums


14. Seattle Mariners

Record: 8-5
Week 1 ranking: 17

Robinson Cano hasn't slowed down yet. The eight-time All-Star is off to a blistering start, with a batting average of .375 and reaching base more than 50 percent of the time. His bat has helped the Mariners get off to a strong start despite a nine-game absence for Nelson Cruz, who returned to the lineup Saturday. So far, the offense has offset Seattle's starting pitching woes. -- Casella


15. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 9-7
Week 1 ranking: 13

Matt Carpenter has quietly become one of the game's best hitters in terms of plate discipline. His 16.5 percent chase rate since the start of last season ranks second to only Joey Votto's (14.1). And it's not just chase rate: Last season, Carpenter was top-five in the majors in swing rate and walk rate, too. -- Langs


16. Colorado Rockies

Record: 9-8
Week 1 ranking: 16

Nolan Arenado dropped the gloves on Wednesday -- then dropped an appeal of his five-game suspension on Saturday. Arenado will miss the entire three-game series in Pittsburgh after charging the mound last week against the Padres. On the bright side, Charlie Blackmon returned from a four-game absence on Saturday and promptly homered off Max Scherzer. -- Casella


17. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 8-8
Week 1 ranking: 15

After losing All-Star closer Corey Knebel to an injury, the Brewers tried a few options in the ninth inning. Knebel was definitely missed, as Milwaukee allowed a ninth-inning run in each of its three games against the Cardinals this week, and Matt Albers and Jacob Barnes each blew a save in the series. -- Nitzberg


18. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 9-5
Week 1 ranking: 22

Youth has been the name of the game for the Phillies, who have had more home runs by players age 25 or younger than any other team in baseball except the Cubs (10 for each team). The Phillies have 78 runs batted in this season, and 50 of those have come from players 25 or younger -- the highest total of RBIs from players that age on any team in the majors. -- Langs


19. Atlanta Braves

Record: 8-6
Week 1 ranking: 18

Ozzie Albies is tied for the lead among middle infielders in home runs (five), third in OPS and second in slugging percentage. As great as his start has been, there is one problem: Albies didn't draw a walk until this weekend. That said, he has helped the Braves to a winning record midway through the first month of the season. -- Woolums


20. San Francisco Giants

Record: 6-9
Week 1 ranking: 19

The only teams averaging fewer runs per game than the Giants this season are the Royals and Reds. That isn't a desirable group to be in for a team that had wild-card aspirations entering the season. The starting pitching has kept the Giants afloat, but there have been hiccups. Despite a rotation that has been without Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija at points, if not the entire season, the Giants sport the ninth-best starter ERA in the NL. -- Langs


21. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 5-11
Week 1 ranking: 20

Last season, the Brewers struck out 1,571 times, the most by any team in a season in the live ball era (since 1920), but through 16 games this season, the Orioles are on pace for 1,792. Chris Tillman has struggled on the mound, posting an 11.91 ERA through three starts. He has allowed at least four earned runs in each start. Alex Cobb's debut did not inspire much confidence, either; he allowed seven earned runs before exiting in the fourth inning. -- McCarthy


22. Oakland Athletics

Record: 6-10
Week 1 ranking: 23

Despite some struggle from their rotation, the A's have kept their heads above water thanks to the long ball, ranking second in the AL in homers hit (trailing the hard-charging Angels), with DH Khris Davis and third baseman Matt Chapman leading the way with five apiece and Jed Lowrie chipping in another four. -- Kahrl


23. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 3-12
Week 1 ranking: 25

The Rays own the worst win percentage in the AL, and their ace, Chris Archer, has not quite been himself. Archer has allowed 19 runs in four starts, tied for the most runs allowed in baseball to this point. One bright spot for the Rays so far has been the performance of Yonny Chirinos, a 24-year-old rookie right-hander who has pitched 14⅓ scoreless innings so far. -- McCarthy


24. Chicago White Sox

Record: 4-8
Week 1 ranking: 24

The White Sox just can't catch a break. They have lost six of their past seven games and just had the final three games of their four-game series against the Twins wiped out by snow. The good news is they will leave the snow behind on Monday, when they open a series in Oakland. The bad news is they have averaged just 3.1 runs per game after scoring 14 on Opening Day. -- Casella


25. San Diego Padres

Record: 7-10
Week 1 ranking: 27

Most of the headlines this week about the Padres will center on their brawl with the Rockies and losing center fielder Manuel Margot to the disabled list after he was hit by a pitch. The silver lining could be the call-up of Franchy Cordero, who hit .326 with 17 homers and 15 steals in Triple-A last season and homered in two of his first three games of the season for the Padres. -- Nitzberg


26. Texas Rangers

Record: 6-11
Week 1 ranking: 21

The Rangers snapped a five-game losing streak with a thrilling, come-from-behind, extra-inning victory on Saturday against the reigning World Series champion Astros. However, the Rangers' starting rotation has been one of the worst in the majors, and Texas is just 2-8 at home. As if that weren't bad enough, shortstop Elvis Andrus is expected to miss six to eight weeks after fracturing his right elbow. -- Casella


27. Kansas City Royals

Record: 3-10
Week 1 ranking: 26

The Royals started the week well, walloping the Mariners 10-0 to snap a six-game stretch of scoring three or fewer runs. However, they then scored just 10 total runs in their next four games. The offense has been lacking in all areas, but sweet-slugging catcher Salvador Perez nearing a rehab assignment has to be welcome news. -- Nitzberg


28. Detroit Tigers

Record: 4-9
Week 1 ranking: 29

The Tigers were swept by the Indians while scoring five runs in the four-game series. That continues a pattern dating to last season, as Detroit has lost 11 straight games to Cleveland since September and has scored three or fewer runs in all 11 of those games. The Tigers are hitting just .216 on the season, third worst in the majors, and have five home runs this season, tied for fewest in MLB. -- Nitzberg


29. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 2-13
Week 1 ranking: 28

The Reds are 2-12 (or worse) for the first time since 1931. Their minus-49 run differential is the worst in the majors, and their minus-47 through their first 14 games is the worst in franchise history. At this pace, the Reds will pick in the top five of the MLB draft in four consecutive years (2016 to 2019). -- Woolums


30. Miami Marlins

Record: 4-11
Week 1 ranking: 30

As terrible as the Marlins are, can they afford to give Lewis Brinson a full season's worth of patience if he fails to make any progress? His .316 OPS through Sunday is worst in the NL, he has yet to register an extra-base hit, his well-hit average of .049 suggests he isn't even making hard contact, and he's whiffing more than 30 percent of the time. -- Kahrl

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