- The defending champion Astros remain the best in baseball, but the Mets are the most pleasant surprise to start the season.
The sample size crowd may hoot and holler that two weeks into the season is no time to rank teams, but most squads have gotten ten games in (others are stacking up makeup games due to postponements) and there have already been plenty of consequential injuries. Let's get to the rankings!
30. Tampa Bay Rays (2–8): Kevin Kiermaier was going to slather himself in Vaseline to try and add an extra layer of warmth before the Rays’ makeup game against the Yankees. Turns out we’ll have to wait until the next chilly day for Kiermaier to try this confounding strategy.
Sorry to disappoint the blown outta proportion comment about me possibly applyin vaseline to help keep me warm tonight. Forgot to put it on. Have my 2 under shirts on already and goin vaseline free. Print that folks.— Kevin Kiermaier (@KKiermaier39) April 3, 2018
29. Detroit Tigers (4–5): Detroit won’t be winning too many games this year, but Michael Fulmer continues to induce soft contact from the opposition. His K/9 is just 4.7, but Fulmer has allowed just one earned run in 13.1 innings pitched.
28. Kansas City Royals (3–5): Lucas Duda homered in the first inning of the Royals’ opening day game against the White Sox. He homered again on April 6th against the Indians. Those were the only two home runs the team hit until Mike Moustakas went deep on Monday night against the Mariners.
27. Miami Marlins (3–7): In his first start of the season, Dillon Peters shut out the Cubs over six innings in the Marlins’ 6–0 win. In his second start of the season, Peters surrendered nine earned runs and two grand slams in the Marlins’ 20–1 loss to the Phillies. Never get too comfortable!
26. Cincinnati Reds (2–7): Who knows how many times we’ll see Raisel Iglesias pitch this season, but his appearances are something to treasure. Check out this pitch to strike out Kyle Schwarber. Pair this with a fastball that hovers between 94-97 along with a slider that had a 40% whiff percentage last year and you’ve got one of baseball’s most fearsome closers.
25. San Diego Padres (3–8): The Padres weren’t expected to compete in 2018, but to lose a game on an infield popup wasn’t cruel inasmuch as it was absurd.
24. Philadelphia Phillies (4–5): Rhys Hoskins doesn’t look like a regression candidate at all. The second-year first baseman is slashing .429/.553/.821 and seven of his 12 hits have gone for extra bases. Even if the fans keep booing Gabe Kapler’s confounding managerial decisions, they’ll continue to love Hoskins, who looks like a franchise cornerstone.
23. Atlanta Braves (6–4): The Braves are going to hold Ronald Acuna down in the minors until they can secure another year of team control … and Freddie Freeman will have more difficult at-bats in the process. Freeman is off to a white-hot start while hardly seeing any pitches in the strike zone. (Credit to Braves beat writer Mark Bowman for that discovery.) It’s not hyperbole to call Freeman the game’s most underrated talent.
22. Oakland A’s (4–7): Two of the A’s starters (Sean Manea and Andrew Triggs) have combined for a 1.72 ERA over 26.1 innings pitched and a K/9 rate of 8.23. The other three (Kendall Graveman, Daniel Gossett and Daniel Megden) have combined for an 8.97 ERA over 31.1 innings and seven homers. Graveman, the presumed ace of the staff, has been especially bad, allowing five homers and striking out just five players over his first two starts.
21. Baltimore Orioles (4–7): Howl about small sample size all you want; the Orioles may have saved their season by taking three of four from the Yankees on the road this past weekend. The O’s entered a series against one of the game’s most feared teams with a 1–5 record and zero effective starts from any pitcher besides Dylan Bundy. After taking the series from New York, the Orioles avoided a disastrous start and the feeling that they may be “out of it in April” during Manny Machado’s contract year.
20. Chicago White Sox (3–6): Avisail Garcia is off to a great start to the season (.343/.351/.486) and check out this home run!
19. Texas Rangers (4–8): Just relax and enjoy these Bartolo Colon highlights.
18. San Francisco Giants (4–5): Until Evan Longoria hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning in the sixth game of the season, the Giants had scored three runs in 42 innings. All three of those runs were Joe Panik solo homers. And they still got two wins out of it!
17. Toronto Blue Jays (7–4): Randal Grichuk is having an abominable beginning to his career rehabilitation. The Cardinals jettisoned the former top prospect to the Blue Jays in the offseason, and he’s started the year with a .086 average and has one hit in his last 25 at-bats. Toronto’s other new outfielder, Curtis Granderson, has a .360/.448/.520 slash line to start 2018. Grichuk was expected to be a full-time starter while Granderson was envisioned as more of a fourth outfielder. If this trend keeps up, those roles will switch.
16. Seattle Mariners (4–4): Who is the most dominant closer thus far? That would be Edwin Diaz, who is a perfect three-for-three in saves and has struck out eight hitters of nine possible outs. He hasn’t allowed a hit or walked anybody (his only two runners have come by hit batsmen). The Mariners are forming one of the most powerful bullpens in baseball, and Diaz is the anchor that nobody can hit.
15. Pittsburgh Pirates (7–2): They can’t stop winning! Right now, it’s all about Gregory Polanco, the former top prospect who has endured three consecutive disappointing seasons. The 26-year-old outfielder is hitting .310/.447/.759 with three homers. Even more encouraging, Polanco has taken eight walks to just six strikeouts. He’s one of six Pirates regulars who is hitting over .300. For a team that was supposed to tank in 2018, Pittsburgh is off to a fantastic start.
14. Colorado Rockies (5–6): Colorado spent plenty of money on the bullpen in the offseason in acquiring Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw. Their best reliever, however, may have been there all along. Adam Ottavino, now in his seventh season in Denver, has allowed just one hit and struck out 14 players in seven innings of relief. If Wade Davis continues to struggle (his ERA sits at 4.15), then Ottavino may be a candidate to creep into late-inning work.
13. St. Louis Cardinals (4–6): I’m poaching a note from trusted colleague Tom Verducci to demonstrate the serious pickle that the Cardinals are in. They have several effective sinker/splitter pitchers (Carlos Martinez and Luke Weaver) and a bad infield defense that caused them more issues on Monday night against the Brewers.
12. Minnesota Twins (4–4): The Twins needed to improve their starting pitching if they wanted to get past the AL Wild Card game. The pitching staff currently holds a 3.38 E.R.A. and has allowed more than five runs just once this season. Once the offense ticks up, the Twins will remain one of the most competitive teams in the AL.
11. Milwaukee Brewers (6–5): Despite losing closer Corey Knebel to a hamstring injury and outfielder Christian Yelich to an oblique injury, the Brewers are finding ways to win games late (five of their six wins have come in the final inning). While they’re still looking for the right replacement for Knebel (Matt Albers blew a save on Monday in Milwaukee’s win over the Cardinals), the Brewers have a host of effective relievers (Albers, Jeremy Jeffress, Jacob Barnes) who can fill in for one of baseball’s most feared closers in Knebel.
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (8–2): Are you looking for the most dominant 1-2 starting pitching punch to start the season? It’s not Scherzer-Strasburg or Syndergaard-deGrom, it’s … Zack Godley and Patrick Corbin? The two have a combined E.R.A. of 1.00 and WHIP of 0.703. Even with Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke underperforming in their first two starts, the dominance of Godley and Corbin have helped lift Arizona to eight wins in their first ten games.
9. Chicago Cubs (5–4): Outside of Kris Bryant, most of the Cubs' starting lineup is off to a slow start to the season. Thankfully, the bullpen has surrendered just two earned runs in 22 ⅔ innings pitched. The best reliever of the lot might be Carl Edwards Jr., who has induced swings in misses on 27.63% of his pitches, good for fourth in the big leagues.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers (3–6): The Dodgers have done virtually nothing to earn this ranking except that we think the defending NL champions will get a lot better. The team’s batting average is .213—29th in the league—and a team OPS of .592. Their at-bats aren't competitive and the only reason they've won any games is because of their excellent starting pitching. It simply seems like a terrible start to the season that a team with that much talent is bound to snap out of, though the struggles of Kenley Jansen (two blown saves in four outings) are worth monitoring.
7. Cleveland Indians (5–5): Speaking of struggling offenses, the Indians have a .158 team batting average. … .158! Now that Lonnie Chisenhall (.235) is on the 10-day DL, Cleveland doesn’t have a single regular hitting above .200. Yet, they're tied for first in the AL Central!
6. Los Angeles Angels (8–3): What’s your favorite Shohei Ohtani moment? Mine might be the splitter that earned his first MLB strikeout against Marcus Semien.
While Ohtani hogs the headlines, take time to note the continued success of Andrelton Simmons, who is following a career-best offensive season with a white hot start (.362/.375/.404).
5. New York Yankees (5–5): Giancarlo Stanton became just the third player in 100 years to strike out more than five times in a game twice in a season. And he did it all by the second week of the season. Gary Sanchez is 2-for-32 to start the season. It’s not going great for the Yankees, even if they still terrify most pitching staffs.
4. Washington Nationals (5–5): Here’s another opportunity to redirect to one of my vaunted colleagues. Michael Beller documented how Bryce Harper is off to one of the best starts in recent history.
3. New York Mets (8–1): Everything is working for new manager Mickey Callaway thus far, but he’d be smart to find more plate appearances for reserve outfielder Brandon Nimmo. The 25-year-old has reached base in nine of his 15 plate appearances and scored four runs. It will be difficult to find Nimmo at-bats with a healthy Michael Conforto in center and Jay Bruce occupying rightfield, but the longtime prospect has demonstrated that he can be a valuable part of the everyday lineup. The Mets' solution to this problem was to ... demote Nimmo to Triple-A?
Otherwise, everything is going right for the Mets. Maybe it's a little easier on them now that the New York spotlight (again) sits squarely on the Yankees.
2. Boston Red Sox (8–1): Is David Price back? He hasn’t allowed a run over his first 14 innings. The K/9 rate is low (6.4) and both starts have come against the lowly Rays, but Price looks to have regained some of what made him a dominant starter in years past.
1. Houston Astros (9–2): The unlikely star of the Houston offense to start the season? Josh Reddick. The rightfielder is slashing .346/.452/.692 and leads the team with three home runs. Reigning MVP Jose Altuve still leads the team in average (.357), but the Astros still have the best balance of any offense in the league.