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MLB Power Rankings: Rays Rise While Yankees, Dodgers Stumble

With the close of May and Memorial Day’s arrival comes the unofficial start of summer. That means the 2021 season has stretched its legs and is running at full speed. Just this past week, we saw the American League MVP favorite miss a pitching start because of traffic; a defensive lapse in Pittsburgh that took on operatic levels of dysfunction; and the two millionth run to cross home plate in MLB history. Imagine how much quicker we might have reached that milestone if not for all these darn no-hitters.

As we welcome the start of June, there’s been a shift in the pecking order up top, as teams in the top 10 jockey for position. If your team isn’t where you’d like them to be—either here in the venerable SI power rankings or in the actual standings—fear not. This time last year (in terms of games played), we were gearing up for the home stretch with most playoff spots already filled. Instead, we’ve now got an entire calendar season’s worth of games to decide each club’s fate. Now let’s settle in for the long haul and get to the rankings.

30. Baltimore Orioles (LW: 29)

What do you say to an O’s fan at a time like this? Baltimore has lost 13 in a row and 20 of its last 22, sinking to the basement of our power rankings for the first time all season. With their current form, the Orioles could be here a while. It’s not all doom and gloom, though: Top prospect Adley Rutschman is hitting .293/.465/.573 this month in Double-A, with more walks (22) than strikeouts (20) and three home runs in his last six games.

29. Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 27)

Arizona ends May without a series win despite finally snapping its 13-game losing streak against St. Louis on Sunday. The D-Backs were swept by three division rivals in the Dodgers, Rockies and Giants during the skid, which dropped their playoff odds all the way down to 0%, per Fangraphs.

28. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: 30)

After Javier Baez humiliated the Buccos on Thursday, the only thing keeping them out of the basement are Baltimore’s and Arizona’s matching 13-game losing skids. To be fair, Pittsburgh kept it close with the Cubs in all three of their midweek losses and rebounded to win a weekend series against Colorado. But the Pirates still carry MLB’s worst run differential (-74).

27. Colorado Rockies (LW: 26)

The Rockies have historically boasted good offenses, but Coors Field has been hiding a sneakily awful lineup this season. Colorado ranks ninth in the NL in runs scored but last in the majors with a 74 wRC+, which takes each ballpark’s run-scoring environment into account. Ryan McMahon is the only hitter with more than five homers. Trevor Story, who just hit the injured list with elbow inflammation, has looked rather ordinary this season but should still fetch a good return before the trade deadline once healthy.

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26. Detroit Tigers (LW: 28)

The Tigers swept the Yankees at home this weekend for the first time since 2000, and they did it thanks to some outstanding pitching performances. Detroit has a 2.64 ERA over the last two weeks, with the team’s young arms showing all kinds of promising results in that span. Veteran right-hander José Ureña was placed on the injured list on Saturday with right forearm tightness, but manager A.J. Hinch said he expects Ureña to be activated as soon as he’s eligible.

25. Texas Rangers (LW: 22)

As Nick Solak goes, so do the Rangers. That might not hold true all the time, but Solak’s bat has cooled off considerably as the losses pile up in Arlington. After a scorching April, Solak has hit .200/.268/.318 in May, during which the Rangers have gone 11-17. Texas has lost six straight games and 15 of its last 19 to fall into last place in the AL West.

mitch garver

24. Minnesota Twins (LW: 25)

Last week saw the Twins do something they hadn’t done all season long: win four consecutive games. Minnesota is still at the bottom in the AL Central, but progress is progress. A key figure in the team’s recent stint of success has been catcher Mitch Garver. Garver broke out with 31 home runs in 93 games in 2019 but suffered through injury and ineffectiveness in what was an awful 2020 season. He started off slow in April but has come on strong in May, batting .291/.435/.600 with four home runs in 69 plate appearances.

23. Los Angeles Angels (LW: 24)

The Angels beat the A’s, 4-0, on Saturday, becoming the last team in the majors to pitch a shutout this season. That tells you just about all you need to know about the team’s pitching fortunes, though the oft-maligned rotation had itself a good week on the whole. Things aren’t going so well offensively, either. The Angels have just four players with at least 75 plate appearances sporting a wRC+ above league average (100), and two of them (Mike Trout and José Iglesias) are on the IL. The team heads to San Francisco for a two-game series Monday in what will be its first games in a National League ballpark. Keep an eye out for how Joe Maddon opts to use Shohei Ohtani, who is not scheduled to pitch and could be in store for some more reps in the outfield.

22. Washington Nationals (LW: 21)

Manager Davey Martinez moved Juan Soto to the leadoff spot Sunday for just the second time in his career to try and provide a spark for the struggling slugger, who has just four homers in 135 at-bats. It didn’t work; he went 0-for-3 with a walk as Washington lost its fourth straight. The Nationals lineup as a whole has been extremely disappointing, having only outscored the Pirates and the Mets despite ranking fifth in the NL in on-base percentage.

21. Seattle Mariners (LW: 22)

Reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis missed roughly the first three weeks of the season with a bone bruise, and he looked a bit rusty upon his return. He’s picked things up since the calendar flipped to May, though, batting .274/.373/.389 this month after going 5-for-31 in April. Similarly, left-hander Yusei Kikuchi has turned things around of late, with a 2.77 ERA and 41 strikeouts over his last six starts.

jesse winker
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20. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 20)

Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker rank first and second in the NL in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. However, Cincinnati continues to struggle for consistency, having not won consecutive series since the first two of the season. Luis Castillo (7.22 ERA) hasn’t made it through six innings since his second start of the year, and accordingly has just one quality start out of 11.

19. Kansas City Royals (LW: 19)

Last week marked the long-awaited return of shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, who hit the ground running in his first six games of action. The 25-year-old went 7-for-22 with four extra-base hits, making plenty of hard contact with lots of swings and misses. He struck out 10 in 23 plate appearances and no walks, showing no deviation in what’s been a common theme throughout his career. Whatever holes exist in his game, Mondesi is a key player for the Royals, and how he’s able to adjust at the plate will go a long way toward Kansas City’s success.

18. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 17)

Roman Quinn’s season-ending Achilles injury means the switch-hitting, speedy outfielder may have played his last game as a Phillie. Despite never representing much of a threat at the dish, which makes him a non-tender candidate this offseason, his sprint speed of 30 feet per second ranked fifth in the majors and he boasted the league’s strongest outfield arm at 97.1 mph. His absence will be felt on a Phillies defense that’s already among the league’s worst.

17. Miami Marlins (LW: 16)

Garrett Cooper leads MLB with a .457 batting average over the last 15 days. But he and Brian Anderson have been the only hot bats for the Fish lately, as they’ve failed to climb out of fourth place in the NL East despite continued excellence from the rotation led by Trevor Rogers.

16. Atlanta Braves (LW: 14)

Marcell Ozuna’s fractured fingers—sustained on a head-first slide—and domestic violence arrest just a couple days later cast a pall over this team, which only played three games last week due to a couple off-days and rainouts. In their only game since Wednesday, the Braves allowed the Mets to score 13 runs on Saturday after New York hadn’t topped eight in any previous game this year.

jackie bradley jr

15. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 18)

Milwaukee should hope Jackie Bradley’s off-the-wall walk-off on Thursday against San Diego, the first one of his career, could serve as a springboard into June (although he hasn’t tallied a hit since). The Brewers probably weren’t expecting the world from him at the plate, but they also were banking on better than an MLB-worst .317 OPS in May. He has just four hits and 20 strikeouts in his last 49 at-bats.

14. Cleveland (LW: 12)

Cleveland’s offense has been a mess all season, but the team has gotten a boost lately from shortstop Amed Rosario. The crown jewel return from the Francisco Lindor trade, Rosario slogged out of the gate this season, batting .153 through his first 20 games. Since then, he’s hit .303/.361/.449 in 23 games, including the game-tying RBI walk that helped Cleveland avoid being swept in Sunday’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays.

13. New York Mets (LW: 13)

The top four pitchers in May by ERA were Kevin Gausman, Brandon Woodruff, Trevor Bauer and … Taijuan Walker, who blanked the Braves on Saturday while racking up eight strikeouts over five innings in his return from the injured list. The Mets got in just one game against the Braves over the weekend due to rainy weather, but they scored a season-high 11 runs in the one contest they did play, are riding a four-game winning streak and are looking increasingly more like the favorites to win the NL East. Fangraphs gives them a 74.5% chance of claiming its first division title since the 2015 World Series season.

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12. Chicago Cubs (LW: 15)

The Cubbies have won five straight series against the Tigers, Nationals, Cardinals, Pirates and Reds to climb within a half-game back of St. Louis in the NL Central. After a horrific April that made the Yu Darvish trade look even worse than it did at the time, Zach Davies rebounded in May with a 1.72 ERA in six starts (albeit with just 15 strikeouts against 12 walks in 31.1 innings).

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11. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 11)

A down 2020 season resulted in Marcus Semien signing a one-year contract with Toronto this winter and moving off his primary position to second base. What a boon that’s been for the Blue Jays. Semien leads the AL in wRC+ in May (189), hitting .368/.429/.702 in 126 plate appearances. Semien finished third in AL MVP voting in 2019, and he’s making harder contact this season than ever before. Even in what’s expected to be a loaded upcoming free agent class for shortstops, it’s safe to say Semien won’t have to settle for another one-year deal.

10. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 9)

John Gant and his majestic mane have been beating the odds all season. Despite walking 31 hitters and striking out 35 in 44.2 innings, he holds a sparkling 1.81 ERA through nine starts. The difference between his ERA and FIP (4.06) is the largest in the majors among pitchers with at least 40 innings, and suggests it’s only a matter of time before regression hits the 28-year-old during his first year in the rotation. But manager Mike Shildt has done a good job of hooking Gant before he goes through the lineup a third time to protect him and his beautiful head of hair (sorry, but it really is a sight to behold … and a much better look than what he sported last month).

chris bassitt

9. Oakland A’s (LW: 8)

A’s starting pitchers put up a 2.60 ERA over the past week, yet the team still lost four of seven games. Leading the charge in the rotation is Chris Bassitt, whose first career shutout Thursday was the culmination of a long and winding path to ace status. Bassitt, 32, joined Oakland as part of the Jeff Samardzija trade in 2015 and missed all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s been a mainstay in the rotation since 2019, going 20-9 with a 3.31 ERA in 277 innings during that time.

8. New York Yankees (LW: 4)

A week ago, the Yankees won six straight games and looked to be hitting a stride, and since then things have sort of fallen apart. The bats have gone cold while Corey Kluber and Luke Voit are on the IL. A bright spot amid the struggles, though, has been Gleyber Torres. Since coming off the COVID-19 injured list, Torres is hitting .368/.429/.474 in 42 plate appearances. A crucial seven-game homestand this week against the Rays and Red Sox looms large.

7. San Francisco Giants (LW: 10)

Kevin Gausman allowed just three runs in six May starts, including Sunday’s two-hit stifling of the Dodgers over six innings to record the NL’s best May ERA (0.73). The 30-year-old righty is set to cash in next offseason on the strength of his nasty fastball-splitter combo after accepting the qualifying offer last November.

6. Houston Astros (LW: 7)

A 2-3 week isn’t the worst outcome in the world for the Astros, considering how banged up the team is at present. Michael Brantley and Lanc McCullers Jr. are on the IL, while Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Álvarez have not been available in recent games. Thankfully for Houston, Zack Greinke was there on Sunday to serve as the team’s stopper. The 37-year-old fired eight innings of one-run ball against the Padres. He’s 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA over his last four starts, holding opposing hitters to a .208 batting average. Now, if he could only remember to wear the right jersey.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 2)

Los Angeles was leapfrogged in the standings by the Giants after losing three of four at Chavez Ravine, but stay above them in our rankings thanks to last weekend’s sweep in San Francisco and an ever so slight advantage in run differential. Max Muncy leads the National League in home runs in May with 10, and ranks third for the month in walks with 16. The 30-year-old is putting together a pretty solid MVP case to help make up for a pretty blah season from Mookie Betts (5 HRs, .782 OPS).

4. Boston Red Sox (LW: 3)

The Red Sox have been among the best teams in the AL to this point thanks in large part to several savvy, under-the-radar acquisitions this past winter. One of those moves that’s paid off is the signing of right fielder Hunter Renfroe. In 90 plate appearances this month, Renfroe has hit .307/.322/.557 with 12 extra-base hits. He’s not walking nearly as much as he did last season, though he’s making higher quality contact.

3. Chicago White Sox (LW: 5)

The top of the White Sox rotation has gotten outstanding results from Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodón and Dylan Cease all year long. But it was Lucas Giolito who was supposed to ascend as the team’s ace, and after a somewhat rocky start the right-hander appears to have found his stride. Giolito went 4-2 with a 2.41 ERA and 45 strikeouts in six starts this month, holding opposing hitters to a .187 batting average. The White Sox are the only AL Central team with a positive run differential, and have the highest (plus-80) in the AL.

ji-man choi joey wendle

2. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 6)

On May 12, the Rays were a mediocre 19-19 with a stalled offense that had just been shut out by Gerrit Cole. Since then, nobody’s been able to slow down Tampa Bay. The team has won 16 of its last 17, with basically the entire lineup catching fire simultaneously. Of the bunch, we’ll highlight Ji-man Choi, who returned from the IL after recovering from a knee injury and has hit .342/.479/.605 in 12 games. The upper echelon of the junior circuit is an impressive group, but none can top the defending AL champs at the moment.

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1. San Diego Padres (LW: 1)

With the Padres down to their last out against Houston on Saturday, Fernando Tatis Jr. strode up to the plate … and popped up into foul territory. But Astros first baseman Taylor Jones misplayed it and the ball dropped to the ground. On the next pitch, Tatis hit a game-tying three-run homer, and San Diego went on to win in extra innings. It’s better to be lucky than good, but being both is even better. The Friars’ MVP candidate has taken to the cleanup role since moving there on May 19 upon his return from a COVID-19 absence; he leads baseball in OPS (1.573) since then, with a .447 average and a whopping 22 RBIs in his last 11 games.

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