- This week's power rankings shines a spotlight on baseball's youngest teams, featuring a mix of pennant contenders and woeful rebuild projects.
It’s Power Rankings time once again. After last week’s look at baseball’s oldest teams, it’s time to try the reverse. For this week’s rankings we’re turning the spotlight to the ten teams on the forefront of baseball’s youth movement. (Again, we’re using Baseball Gauge’s age rankings, which weight by plate appearances and innings pitched, rather than just roster spots.) To the ranks!
30. Baltimore Orioles (19-43; Last Week: 30)
There remains amazingly little to be excited about here. The Orioles did not manage to win two consecutive games in the month of May; their run differential is not just the worst in baseball, it’s more deeply negative than the best in baseball’s is positive (-122 vs. the Twins' +105). Their 5.68 ERA is the highest in baseball, the highest of any team in sixteen years, and the fifteenth highest ever. (It seems unlikely that they’ll capture the record set by the 1930 Phillies’ 6.71, but, in a sense, the 2019 Orioles have been even worse, with an 80 ERA+ compared to the 1930 Phillies’ 82, so there you go.)
Evidently, the kids are not all right. There’s one of them, however, who notably is. John Means is… one of the best rookie pitchers in the American League? For now, yes. With a 2.67 ERA (169 ERA+), he’s been getting some of the best results out there, though he was never considered much of a prospect and doesn’t have particularly overwhelming stuff. Take what you can get.
29. Kansas City Royals (19-43; Last Week: 27)
28. Detroit Tigers (23-36; Last Week: 25)
27. Toronto Blue Jays (23-39; Last Week: 28)
The Blue Jays have lost 11 of their last 14. Their .668 OPS is one of the lowest in the American League, second only to Detroit. At least Toronto fans have their hopes for 2021 to keep them warm—and seven home runs (so far) from Vlad Guerrero, Jr.
26. Miami Marlins (23-37; Last Week: 29)
In the last two weeks, Miami has been on a tear, taking their reputation from “laughingstock in last place” to…. “slightly more respectable team in last place?" The Marlins have won 13 of their last 19; they’re no longer the worst in baseball, and they’re no longer on track to be historically bad. Just regular bad. Like Baltimore, this is a team that’s relatively young not because it’s brimming with prospects, but because it’s full of middling guys who feel like journeymen by the age of 26… but may we interest you in one Jorge Alfaro, finding his footing in his first full season after years of trying to break through in Philadelphia?
25. Seattle Mariners (26-40; Last Week: 23)
24. San Francisco Giants (25-36; Last Week: 26)
23. Chicago White Sox (29-32; Last Week: 24)
The White Sox have been slightly exceeding expectations lately—their monthly record for May was above .500 (16-15), which is a feat the team has otherwise pulled off seven times in the last five-and-a-half years—but no one here has exceeded his expectations so much as Lucas Giolito. The 24-year-old is coming off of a season in which he had a very convincing case as the worst pitcher in baseball, which seemed to mark a fall from grace for a pitcher who’d been one of the game’s most promising prospects just a few years before.
Now? He’s reversed all that damage, and then some. Since the beginning of May, he’s looked like a different pitcher, adding some velo back to his fastball and relying on his change-up more than ever, to grand results. His 1.74 May ERA helped him earn the rightful honor of AL Pitcher of the Month, which would have been unthinkable less than a year ago.
22. Cincinnati Reds (28-32; Last Week: 20)
21. Los Angeles Angels (30-32; Last Week: 22)
20. Washington Nationals (28-33; Last Week: 21)
19. New York Mets (30-32; Last Week: 18)
18. Pittsburgh Pirates (30-31; Last Week: 16)
The Pirates’ youngest regular player is 22-year-old Cole Tucker, whose season serves as a pretty good stand-in for the team’s as a whole—a hot start that’s faded fast. Pittsburgh fell out of first place a little more than a month ago and hasn’t looked like it has anything close to a chance of getting back; Tucker’s rave reviews for homering in his debut have faded to concern over one of the most dreadful performances at the plate in the National League (.570 OPS). If you’re looking for a youthful bright spot, though—more youthful than 26-year-old MVP candidate Josh Bell, that is—enjoy 24-year-old Bryan Reynolds, who’s having one of the most surprising rookie seasons around, with a .953 OPS.
17. Arizona Diamondbacks (31-32; Last Week: 13)
16. Cleveland Indians (31-31; Last Week: 15)
15. Colorado Rockies (32-29; Last Week: 19)
The Rockies have won 9 of their last 11—enough to make their dismal start to the season feel like a bad memory, but not enough to make a serious impact. A key part of that is 25-year-old David Dahl, on track for his best performance yet in what might finally be his first full season in the big leagues.
14. St. Louis Cardinals (31-29; Last Week: 17)
13. Oakland Athletics (30-31; Last Week: 12)
12. San Diego Padres (31-31; Last Week: 11)
The Padres are baseball’s youngest team—the oldest pitcher to start so much as a single game for them this year has been 28-year-old Robbie Erlin, and outside of resident veteran Ian Kinsler, they don’t have a regular member of the line-up or a bench player over 30. Of course, the team’s most exciting young player, 20-year-old Fernando Tatis, Jr., has spent much of the year sidelined by a hamstring injury, but as of this week, he’s finally back, and apparently ready to bring San Diego’s PA-weighted age down while bringing its OPS+ up:
11. Texas Rangers (32-28; Last Week: 14)
10. Atlanta Braves (33-29; Last Week: 8)
And here’s where the youthfulness fully crosses the line from hope for tomorrow to results for today. Among Ronald Acuña, Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Mike Soroka, not one is over 22, which is terrifying. Soroka, for his part, finally allowed more than one run in a start for the first time just this week, which dragged his ERA all the way up to… 1.41.
9. Milwaukee Brewers (35-28; Last Week: 9)
8. Boston Red Sox (33-29; Last Week: 10)
7. Chicago Cubs (34-27; Last Week: 6)
6. Philadelphia Phillies (35-27; Last Week: 7)
With Andrew McCutchen unfortunately out after tearing his ACL, Philadelphia doesn’t have regular player in the lineup in his 30s. While that should change with the recent acquisition of 32-year-old Jay Bruce, there’s still plenty of youth here to enjoy—like 25-year-old Scott Kingery, who’s been moving all around the diamond, but finally finding his footing at the plate.
5. Tampa Bay Rays (37-23; Last Week: 3)
In the last two weeks of May, it finally happened: The Rays fell out of first place for the first time this season, bested by the Yankees, and they’ve been in second ever since. (Given the resurgence of the Red Sox, though, managing to stay in second is a feat in and of itself.) The youth movement here is anchored by 24-year-old Brandon Lowe, who’s built on a strong late-season call-up from 2018 (111 OPS+) with what’s looking like an even stronger full-season appearance for 2019 (121 OPS+). In a year loaded with elite rookies, Lowe… well, probably still will not be Rookie of the Year, not with this field, but for now, he does lead the American League in rookie position player WAR, second overall only to Pete Alonso.