MLB Power Rankings: Braves take over top spot, AL West pair rises
It's becoming a trend in this season's Power Rankings: Each week has brought a new team to the top of the list. This time, it's the Atlanta Braves that are the new No. 1 squad in baseball. But it's tight at the top, as the Brewers and A's are right on Atlanta's heels, and the surging Rangers aren't far behind at No. 4. The Giants round out the top-five.
They're No. 1: Braves. Atlanta enters the week having won seven of 10 and four in a row, including a three-game sweep of the Reds at home over the weekend. The Braves collected 178 points and four of the six first-place votes from our panel to move up to the top spot. At 17-7, Atlanta already boasts a healthy 3½-game lead in the National League East. A lot of credit for the team's stellar week goes to Justin Upton, as he has hit a red-hot .368/.429/.737 in his last six games and is now at .330/.406/.625 for the season. April has been anything but the cruelest month for Upton; his .887 career OPS in April is his highest for any month of the year.
Cellar Dweller: Diamondbacks. One thing hasn't changed in the Rankings this season, as Arizona lands in the basemen for the fourth straight week. Now at a league-worst 8-20, the Diamondbacks at least avoided a clean sweep of last-place votes, with the Cubs drawing one tally for 30th place. Chase Field has hardly been a happy home for Arizona this year; the Diamondbacks are 2-11 in Phoenix, a miserable .154 winning percentage, as compared to last season's .556 mark (45-36).
Biggest Riser: Rangers/Angels. Both AL West teams jumped six places in the standings from last week. The injury-ravaged Rangers have already had eight different pitchers make starts for them, including Matt Harrison, who took the mound for the first time this season on Sunday against Seattle. The Angels, meanwhile, are being carried by Albert Pujols, who has demolished opposing pitchers to the tune of a .320/.370/.720 line and three home runs in his last six games.
Biggest Faller: Blue Jays. Toronto fell eight places in a week after losing back-to-back series to division rivals Baltimore and Boston, dropping to 7-9 against AL East foes this season. The lone bright spot for the Blue Jays might be the strong play lately of Edwin Encarnacion. The burly first baseman posted a .286/.375/.571 line last week and finally hit his first homer of the year on April 21. Slow starts are nothing new for Encarnacion, who hit .200/.286/.307 through the season's first 20 games last year, only to bash seven homers in the month's final seven games.
A few words about the...
Mets: New York moved up only one spot this week, from 22nd to 21st, but did grab a top-10 vote after winning six of its last 10 and posting the NL East's second-best record. The Mets are showing major patience at the plate, with an NL-best 89 walks so far, but a .218 batting average (29th overall) and .318 slugging percentage (30th) aren't helping.
Twins: Minnesota continues to climb the rankings, going from 19th to 18th to 14th in the last three weeks. Like the Mets, the Twins are showing some impressive plate discipline; Minnesota's 121 walks lead all of baseball, making up for league-average marks in batting average and slugging percentage. Minnesota can primarily thank Trevor Plouffe (.419 OBP) and the rejuvenated Jason Kubel (.376) for that boost.
Orioles: Baltimore took a nice jump in the standings, going from 20th to 15th, but the loss of Chris Davis to an oblique injury will make the weeks ahead tough. Luckily, the Orioles get the scuffling Pirates to start the week for a two-game set, then will try to feast on Minnesota's struggling starting rotation over the weekend. With Davis on the mend, Nick Markakis will likely take his spot at first base. The 30-year-old outfielder has a nice 10-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the young season, but his power has evaporated; he has yet to hit a home run and has managed only five extra-base hits.