MLB Power Rankings: A pair of NL teams lead shake-up in top 5 (2024)

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May 9, 2024, 07:00 AM ET

Coming off a few big intraleague matchups, the top five of this week's Power Rankings look a little different.

Following the Dodgers' sweep of the Braves in the first matchup between the two powerhouses this season, Atlanta has not only dropped to No. 4 in our rankings but also to second place in the National League East, sitting three games* behind the division rival Phillies.

Los Angeles has retaken the No. 1 spot on our list, while Philadelphia is now second overall. Meanwhile, the Orioles and Yankees continue to duke it out atop their division, with Cleveland not far behind the two in the overall American League race.

Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we've seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Jesse Rogers, Alden Gonzalez and Jorge Castillo to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 5 | Preseason rankings

MLB Power Rankings: A pair of NL teams lead shake-up in top 5 (1)

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 26-13
Previous ranking: 3

Walker Buehler pitched in a major league game for the first time in nearly 23 months on Monday. And though the results were shaky -- he allowed three runs on six hits in four innings to the lowly Marlins -- the peripherals were promising, specifically the velocity on his fastball and the break on his off-speed pitches. Tyler Glasnow and Yoshinobu Yamamoto have established themselves as legitimate front-of-the-rotation starters. The offense -- powered by Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman at the top of the lineup -- seemingly looks more menacing by the day. And the Dodgers as a whole have reached another gear, sweeping the Braves over the weekend and winning 14 of their last 16 games overall. Adding a healthy Buehler to that mix almost seems unfair. -- Gonzalez

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2. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 26-12
Previous ranking: 5

The Phillies swept the Giants in a four-game series over the weekend at the same time the Braves were swept at Dodger Stadium, moving Philadelphia into first place in the NL East. Over the past two seasons, the Phillies were in first place just one day, after the fourth game of the season in 2022. They can thank Bryce Harper for their recent success. He went 3-for-3 with a grand slam on Tuesday, a towering shot into the first row in right-center field, his third straight game with a home run. The Phillies are 17-1 in the past 18 games Harper has played, a span in which he has hit .333/.481/.667 with six home runs and 21 RBIs. He continues to improve at first base, and his Statcast metrics there are excellent, ranking in the 93rd percentile in range.

Meanwhile, the starting pitching has been so good that with Taijuan Walker now back, Spencer Turnbull has moved to the bullpen despite a 1.67 ERA as a starter. Turnbull responded with two scoreless relief innings on Tuesday. -- Schoenfield

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3. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 24-12
Previous ranking: 2

The Orioles' lineup is the deepest in the AL, which makes their recent stretch scary for the competition. Baltimore has limited opponents to three or fewer runs in eight of their past nine games, winning seven of them. Corbin Burnes has performed as advertised, posting a 2.83 ERA through seven starts. Grayson Rodriguez recently landed on the injured list, but John Means and Kyle Bradish were activated to replenish the rotation. Means logged seven scoreless innings in his season debut. Bradish gave up one run to the Yankees over 4⅔ innings in his first start. Baltimore's 3.30 staff ERA is seventh in the majors. Veteran closer Craig Kimbrel, however, has stumbled recently, giving up six runs in 2⅓ innings over his past five appearances. -- Castillo

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4. Atlanta Braves

Record: 22-12
Previous ranking: 1

The much-anticipated showdown with the Dodgers was a complete bust: L.A. swept the three-game series, outscoring the Braves 20-6 and outhomering them 9 to 3. The Braves left the series averaging just 1.0 home runs per game as compared to last year's epic 1.89 per game. Matt Olson's homerless drought reached 24 games after Sunday's loss. Ronald Acuna Jr. did homer on Friday, but that was just his second of the season. Jarred Kelenic remains without a home run. Braves fans can take a little solace in that April and May were the team's worst offensive months in 2023 before the lineup exploded over the final four. Still, the Braves left the series in second place in the division behind Philadelphia, the first time they were out of first since the third game of 2023 (the only day they weren't in first place last season). -- Schoenfield

MLB Power Rankings: A pair of NL teams lead shake-up in top 5 (5)

5. New York Yankees

Record: 25-13
Previous ranking: 4

Losing Gerrit Cole, arguably the best pitcher in the world, for at least two months before the season started could've doomed the Yankees. But New York's rotation has remained stout, with Luis Gil capitalizing on his opportunity as Cole's replacement. The 25-year-old right-hander held the Orioles scoreless over 6⅓ innings last week. Gil limited the Astros to one run in six innings on Tuesday. In seven starts, he has a 2.92 ERA despite leading the majors with 24 walks. Meanwhile, Cole, who is eligible to come off the IL at the end of the month, recently took the next step in his rehab, throwing off a mound for the first time since being shut down in mid-March. -- Castillo

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6. Cleveland Guardians

Record: 24-13
Previous ranking: 6

Jose Ramirez is off to an interesting start. On one hand, his power (seven HRs) and RBI numbers (28 in his first 34 games) are fine, and his strikeout rate is right in line with his career norms. On the other hand, he is hitting .245 with a .290 OBP as his walk rate is way down and his chase rate is up about six percentage points from last season. Back in 2018, Ramirez's chase rate was super elite, in the 90th percentile, but it actually has decreased each season since, landing in the 49th percentile last season. In 2024, he is down in the 15th percentile. While the Guardians are scoring runs right now thanks to a .293 average and .463 slugging with runners in scoring position (RISP), that's likely to regress, so a better Ramirez will become a necessity. -- Schoenfield

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7. Texas Rangers

Record: 22-17
Previous ranking: 9

One thing about Rangers standout Marcus Semien: You know he'll be there. As a leadoff hitter who never misses a game, Semien topped the AL in plate appearances in four of five seasons from 2019 to 2023, and he heads that leaderboard once again. So far at the plate this season, his numbers have been right at his career averages, with a bit of a shortfall in walks the only thing that stands out. In the field, however, Semien is building a strong case for what would be his second career Gold Glove, after earning his first when he played second base for Toronto in 2021. According to Fangraphs' DEF metric, which combines the results of the leading defensive evaluation systems, Semien easily leads the majors -- among all positions -- with 7.6 runs above average. -- Doolittle

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8. Chicago Cubs

Record: 22-16
Previous ranking: 8

A historic run by the Cubs' starting staff probably should have produced more wins over the past week, but that doesn't take away from the accomplishments. In the first seven games to start May, the rotation compiled a 0.86 ERA, including going seven-plus innings without giving up a run in four straight games. Rookie Shota Imanaga was finally touched up on Tuesday when he gave up a home run to Jurickson Profar in the eighth inning of a 1-0 game. It raised his ERA to 1.08, which is still tops in MLB. -- Rogers

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9. Minnesota Twins

Record: 21-15
Previous ranking: 14

The Twins' recent 12-game winning streak was blemished a bit when they placed Byron Buxton on the 10-day IL last week due to inflammation in his right knee. History suggests it was just a matter of time for the talented center fielder: Buxton has played more than 92 games in a season just once in his 10-year career -- in 2017. He has had surgery on the same knee twice, but the Twins have said they are hopeful he'll return immediately after the 10-day window. They already had their two other top position players go on the IL before the start of May; Royce Lewis is still out, but Carlos Correa is back. The team's postseason outlook largely depends on players staying healthy. -- Castillo

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10. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 21-15
Previous ranking: 10

Win-loss records for pitchers don't mean a lot these days, but as a group, Milwaukee's bullpen is 14-4 on the season. High-leverage pitches have made when needed, but is it sustainable? For example, Elvis Peguero is 4-0 despite a .313 batting average against, to go along with a 1.69 WHIP. Still, the Brewers' pen has mostly been good, led by Bryan Hudson and Hoby Milner. Even with the loss of Devin Williams, the Brewers have been able to close out games, a testament to their pitching infrastructure even after manager Craig Counsell moved on. -- Rogers

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11. Seattle Mariners

Record: 20-17
Previous ranking: 7

Remember when the Mariners' offseason plan was to slice into the lineup's strikeout rate? That hasn't happened, but we knew that would be the case going into spring training because to slice strikeout rate, you have to acquire batters who make good contact. President of baseball operations Jerry DiPoto wasn't able to accomplish that over the winter. Nevertheless, it's stunning that the strikeout decline hasn't happened at all; in fact, the problem is worse than ever. The Mariners have whiffed 10.38 times per game this season, per, which would add another 0.48 strikeouts to last season's franchise-worst mark. Seattle is on pace to strike out 1,682 times this year, a total that would break the record Minnesota set last season (1,654). -- Doolittle

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12. Kansas City Royals

Record: 22-16
Previous ranking: 13

Rumors that the Royals were curious about Luis Arraez before he was ultimately traded from Miami to San Diego are interesting if only because it would indicate that Kansas City is serious about building on its strong start. The hot beginning has begun to cool thanks to a spate of one-run losses and offensive inconsistency. The troubles at the plate can be traced in part to the inevitable return of Salvador Perez to reality after his supersonic start.

More systemic is the total lack of production from the Royals' outfield, which as a group ranks last in average, on-base percentage and OPS. It's unclear how Arraez might have addressed that issue, if indeed the Royals were interested, but perhaps the important takeaway is that they might well be in add mode if they remain competitive on the field. -- Doolittle

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13. Boston Red Sox

Record: 19-18
Previous ranking: 11

Masataka Yoshida is Boston's latest addition to the IL, landing there with a left thumb injury that could require surgery. Yoshida was slashing .275/.348/.388 in a diminished role as the team's primary designated hitter in his second year of a five-year, $90 million contract. But there is some good injury news for the Red Sox on the rotation front. Nick Pivetta (elbow) was activated to start Wednesday, while Brayan Bello (lat) began a rehab assignment Tuesday. Both right-handers would bolster a surprisingly excellent rotation that has kept the Red Sox afloat with the best ERA in the majors by throwing fewer fastballs than any other group of starters. -- Castillo

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14. San Diego Padres

Record: 20-20
Previous ranking: 19

Leave it to A.J. Preller, the Padres' perpetually active general manager, to acquire an in-his-prime batting champion in early May. Preller did just that by sending a package of four prospects to the Marlins in exchange for Luis Arraez on Friday then watching Arraez debut with four hits in a win over the Diamondbacks the following day. Preller has been faced with a limited budget in 2024. But rather than plug holes on the cheap, he has exhibited uncharacteristic patience in his pursuit of premium talent. He showed it while acquiring frontline starter Dylan Cease just before his team boarded a plane to South Korea to begin its season in late March. And he showed it while waiting until the season's second month to add Arraez, an ideal fit at the top of the lineup and at designated hitter. Now, Preller will hope his team can finally get hot. -- Gonzalez

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15. Detroit Tigers

Record: 19-18
Previous ranking: 16

The Tigers' promising start hit a bit of a snag during a just-completed road trip that saw them get swept by the Yankees and lose two of three to the division rival Guardians, dropping Detroit five games out of first place. Starting pitchers Jack Flaherty, Casey Mize and Reese Olson provided optimistic performances, but the Tigers' offense mostly struggled outside of Tuesday's 11-run outing. Spencer Torkelson and Colt Keith, two of their most heartening young players, have combined for a .195/.266/.253 slash line this season and gone homerless in 268 plate appearances. It's hard to see the Tigers truly taking off until those two get going. -- Gonzalez

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16. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 19-19
Previous ranking: 21

With six starting pitchers already on the IL, the Rays received another scare when Ryan Pepiot took a 107.5 mph off his left calf on Sunday. The good news: The Rays said tests didn't reveal any structural damage. The bad news: Pepiot was placed on the 15-day IL on Wednesday. He has been a bright spot for the Rays' banged-up pitching staff, recording a 3.68 ERA and 41 strikeouts in seven starts after being acquired from the Dodgers over the offseason in the trade for Tyler Glasnow. Pepiot now will miss time, but it could've been worse. -- Castillo

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17. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 16-20
Previous ranking: 12

Cincinnati's underperformance on offense is concerning. Only one player -- Elly De La Cruz -- has an OPS over .800, as free agent pickup Jeimer Candelario is hitting just .206 while both Jonathan India and Spencer Steer aren't slugging up to expectations. India and Steer are at least getting on base, but the rest of the team is struggling in that department, as well. The Reds rank 28th in on-base percentage with a chance to dip below the lowly Marlins in that category. Even De La Cruz is slumping, hitting just .136 so far in May. -- Rogers

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18. New York Mets

Record: 18-18
Previous ranking: 18

Edwin Diaz saw his streak of 26 consecutive save chances converted -- what had been the longest streak in the majors -- end Sunday when the Rays' Randy Arozarena hit a two-out solo home run to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, with the Rays then winning in the 10th. Diaz has now surrendered three home runs in his first 14⅔ innings, matching the season total he allowed in each of 2021 and 2022, when he pitched 62 innings in both campaigns. Mets fans will remember Diaz's first season with the Mets in 2019, when he was tagged for 15 home runs, so it's worth watching the home run rate to see if it becomes a bigger issue. -- Schoenfield

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19. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 17-20
Previous ranking: 17

The D-backs went on a stirring run to the World Series in 2023, but they have struggled against quality teams this season. They were swept by the Braves in early April and already have lost series to the Dodgers, Padres, Mariners, Yankees and Cubs. (Arizona's favorable run differential is mostly the result of beating up on the lowly Rockies.) But a major positive might have occurred Tuesday night, as star outfielder Corbin Carroll, slashing just .203/.297/.250 through his first 145 plate appearances, homered and drove in five runs in a win over the Reds. He believes he has made some necessary tweaks to his swing path. "I feel like my attack angle and vertical bat angle are becoming more where I want them to be and giving me a bigger window for success," Carroll told The Arizona Republic. -- Gonzalez

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20. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 17-20
Previous ranking: 15

Jose Berrios' 1.44 ERA entering Tuesday was the lowest in the majors. The right-hander had allowed seven runs in 43⅔ innings across his first seven starts. Then that changed. The Phillies pounded him for eight runs over 3⅔ innings, nearly doubling his ERA to 2.85. Toronto lost 10-1 as the offense was held to fewer than four runs for the 20th time in 36 games. The result highlighted how important the last-place Blue Jays' pitching staff has been in keeping the team from sinking too deep in the standings. The Blue Jays need Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette & Co. to score more runs or it'll be a long summer in Toronto. -- Castillo

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21. Washington Nationals

Record: 18-18
Previous ranking: 25

Second baseman Luis Garcia Jr. went 4-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs in Sunday's win over Toronto, helping the Nationals to a series victory and raising his average to .337 with 19 RBIs (that now sits at .321 with 20 RBIs). Some of Garcia's advanced metrics are impressive, backing up the hot start: a 93rd percentile ranking in hard-hit rate, 90th in expected batting average and 91st in expected slugging. He strikes out less than average. He won't turn 24 until May 16 -- and yet, he already has over 1,300 plate appearances in the majors. He looks like he's coming into his own as one of the better-hitting second basem*n. -- Schoenfield

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22. Houston Astros

Record: 12-24
Previous ranking: 22

Josh Hader's first few weeks back in the Houston organization have not gone according to plan. Some of that is on him and some is on the Astros as a whole. On the latter front, Hader had just four save opportunities in his first 15 outings. Houston just hasn't played well enough to max out on his leverage. He has three saves, but he has given up runs in three of the four opportunities. Overall, Hader has more losses and blown saves (four, combined) than saves, owns an ERA over 6 and already has allowed as many runs (11) as he did all of last season. With a soft pocket on the schedule coming up, the Astros might be able to provide him with a few more leads to protect. If that happens, will he be able to convert? -- Doolittle

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23. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 17-21
Previous ranking: 24

All eyes will be on PNC Park on Saturday when Paul Skenes, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, makes his MLB debut against the Cubs. Skenes, just 21, dominated at Triple-A, posting a 0.99 ERA in seven starts. He struck out an eye popping 45 batters in just 27⅓ innings. He's considered one the best pitching prospects to hit the big leagues in years, reminding some of Mark Prior when he came out of college. A 6-foot-5 righty, Skenes probably could have made the jump from college ball to the big leagues but his stop in the minors only increased the anticipation for his debut. -- Rogers

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24. Oakland Athletics

Record: 18-21
Previous ranking: 27

The Athletics looked like they might have been gathering real momentum, capping a six-game winning spree with a 20-4 thumping of the Marlins on Saturday. That victory evened Oakland's record at 17-17, and in the current format, a .500 mark will almost always allow you to ponder that last wild-card slot. It's too early to think about that, of course, but after the past couple of years, you could forgive any A's fan who might still be out there fantasizing about a miracle campaign. Alas, Oakland dropped four of five games since that early-May peak and was outscored 47-33. An upcoming 10-game trip to Seattle, Houston and Kansas City might stifle thoughts of .500 once and for all, except for this: Oakland has played .500 ball away from "home" so far this season. -- Doolittle

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25. San Francisco Giants

Record: 17-21
Previous ranking: 20

The Giants were recently swept in a four-game road series from Philadelphia, during which they accumulated 11 runs and dropped to six games below .500. By the time they touched down in Colorado early Tuesday morning, the Giants ranked 21st in OPS and 23rd in runs per game. Jung Hoo Lee, Matt Chapman and Jorge Soler, their three big offseason acquisitions, have all been below-average hitters, as have Mike Yastrzemski and Wilmer Flores.

"We got to clean it up; we got to play better," Giants manager Bob Melvin told reporters earlier this week. "We left home ... we weren't playing very well. I thought [going on the road] might be a pretty good place for us, being that we haven't played well. And now we're playing terribly." -- Gonzalez

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26. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 15-21
Previous ranking: 23

Everything that could possibly go wrong for St. Louis is continuing, as catcher Willson Contreras fractured his left forearm in a big blow for an already faltering team. He led the team in doubles, home runs and OPS before going down. Backup Ivan Herrera is capable enough, but he can't bring the thunder at the plate like Contreras can. With Paul Goldschmidt and others struggling, the loss is even bigger. Someone is going to have to step up for the Cardinals, and it likely will take a few guys to get their offense in gear. -- Rogers

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27. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 14-23
Previous ranking: 26

One way to view the fortunes of a team is how well its payroll hierarchy lines up with its productivity leaderboard. For the Angels, one glance at those two lists tells the story of a club that has stalled on the contention cycle. According to Cot's Contracts, here are the five highest-paid Angels this season: Anthony Rendon (injured), Mike Trout (injured), Tyler Anderson (healthy and has been their best player), Robert Stephenson (out for the season) and Aaron Hicks (released May 1). Anderson has been solid and could be an intriguing name on the in-season trade market given his track record and reasonable deal ($13 million both this season and next). At some point, you figure the Halos will need to get aggressive in acquiring future value however they can. -- Doolittle

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28. Miami Marlins

Record: 10-29
Previous ranking: 28

With their disastrous start, the Marlins decided it wasn't necessary to wait until July and traded Luis Arraez to the Padres for four prospects. Center fielder Dillon Head, the 25th pick in the 2023 draft, was the big name in the deal, with outfielder Jakob Marsee, first baseman Nathan Martorella and reliever Woo-Suk Go also sent to Miami. Peter Bendix, the Marlins' first-year head of baseball operations, put it bluntly: "We are unlikely to make the playoffs this year."

Reviews of the trade were generally positive, although there are no guaranteed stars in that group, and it just means more spinning in the mud for the Marlins. You could ask who's next, but there isn't much talent here that would interest other teams. Maybe Jesus Luzardo, but he's on the IL right now with an elbow strain. -- Schoenfield

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29. Colorado Rockies

Record: 8-28
Previous ranking: 29

A season full of lows reached a new one last week, when the Rockies were swept by -- of all teams -- the Marlins. Two of those losses came in walk-off fashion, dropping Colorado a dozen games out of first place and 17 games below .500. The Rockies have yet to win a single series this season despite completing 11 of them. They lost a franchise-record 103 games in 2023, and they are currently on pace to lose far more than that in 2024. They're not pitching well, which probably isn't surprising. What is surprising, considering their home environment, is their continued lack of offense. The Rockies rank 24th in slugging percentage and have accumulated just 28 home runs, fourth-fewest in the sport. It doesn't make sense. -- Gonzalez

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30. Chicago White Sox

Record: 9-28
Previous ranking: 30

The White Sox have been signaling they are open for business since spring training, so Wednesday's trade of Robbie Grossman to the Rangers for minor league pitcher Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa should not come as a surprise. The team added Tommy Pham and Mike Clevinger recently, creating the opening for others to be moved. There are several teams already playing out the string, and we've seen two of them make early-May deals, including Chicago. Both the Marlins and White Sox will continue that trend deep into the summer. -- Rogers

MLB Power Rankings: A pair of NL teams lead shake-up in top 5 (2024)


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