After one month of the season, we’ve seen some teams overperform, some underperform, and a whole lot of mixing around in the middle of the league. In a month filled with ups, downs, and an abnormal amount of home runs, here’s what we’ve learned:
Simply put, the Dodgers lead the majors in wins, and don’t seem to be slowing up. Los Angeles sports the best run differential in the National league, thanks primarily to a potent offense led by the otherworldly Cody Bellinger. With the recent returns of Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, the rotation is gaining the stability it has lacked, setting the Dodgers up to do even more damage, even as they move into a difficult stretch of their schedule.
The Tampa Bay Rays are still running on all cylinders despite Austin Meadows and Blake Snell hitting the IL. While the New York Yankees are surging, the Rays are holding strong to their AL East lead, especially behind the continued breakout of Tyler Glasnow.
The Astros are off to as strong a start as they could’ve hoped, having taken the division lead from the initially red hot Mariners and accruing a +27 run differential. The rotation lacks depth, though, so prolonged struggles from McHugh, Miley, or Peacock could spell trouble until Framber Valdez or Josh James are ready to enter the mix. The Astros’ bats have also yet to come alive. Even with these weaknesses, the team has time to reach its full potential and several prospects are ready to contribute in the majors.
The Redbirds have survived a minor injury bug to start the season and looked great doing it thanks to some happy surprises. Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler have both far exceeded early season expectations with impressive offensive production to add onto the blazing hot starts of Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong. The Cardinals pitching has also been holding it together thanks in large part to the bullpen stepping up in a big way and Jordan Hicks emerging as a intimidating option in the ninth inning.
Last week, the Yankees lost superstar Aaron Judge, which seemed to be the icing on a cake full of injuries to start this year. Amazingly though, the Yankees, full of replacement-level talent, have turned around a season that seemed lost, winning 11 of their last 13 and making themselves into a serious threat when many of their mainstays return.
The Twins are on fire right now, taking eight of their last ten games and leading the AL Central with a 17-9 record that’s good for the second best winning percentage in the MLB. Most notably, the Twins lit up the Orioles for 23 home runs in a span of six games, breaking their franchise record for most bombs in a three game set first with 11 and then breaking it again with 12 within several days.
The Phillies entered the last weeks rankings as a consensus top 4-5 team in baseball, but recently struggled on a road trip that was bogged with injuries and tough luck losses. Nonetheless, the organization should be in good spirits, still leading the NL East by a game and a half as the bullpen is showing some signs of a turnaround, and Jean Segura returns from the IL to reform one of the most potent lineups in the game.
Over the first month of the season, Cleveland has shown an extreme inability to score runs. However, their elite starting pitching has carried them thus far to a winning record and kept them only a few games back of the red-hot Twins. The recent return of Francisco Lindor should continue to boost the offense beyond its initial inadequacy, at the very least.
The Friars have played well early, especially behind the excellent performance of Chris Paddack. There are certainly reasons for concern given the team’s -10 run differential, and they will face a difficult stretch while elite young shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. spends some time on the IL. The Padres continue to call up top prospects from their #1 farm system, though, and will only get more dangerous.
Christian Yelich has continued his pace as just the second best player in baseball so far (which is still ridiculous), but the rest of the Brewers roster has been fairly mediocre. With Yelich exiting a recent game against the Mets due to discomfort in his back, the Brewers have to hope that he’s back soon, or else step up from elsewhere in the lineup. A two HR performance from Jesus Aguilar after a cold start to the season is certainly a step in the right direction.
The Mariners have come down a bit from their slugfest beginning of the season, but still sit just a game back of the Astros for the division lead in the AL West. Their run differential is a modest +13, but disregarding two big losses to the Rangers that shoots up to +40. The Mariners will definitely have to improve upon their .411 home winning percentage to stay in contention, though.
After an unexpectedly rough start to the season, the Cubs appear to be righting the ship after one month. The offense has produced well from about every spot, and the rotation appears to really be coming together with the return of Jon Lester. The Cubs are, however, still faced with pesky bullpen issues which look particularly bleak after another setback in Brandon Morrow’s recovery.
The Mets are currently in second place in the NL East after their hot start, but are still in prime position to take the division as we head into May. The starting rotation has not been as good as it needs to be for this team, as New York’s team ERA is bottom 5 in the league. However, the emergence of Pete Alonso as a potential star is something for Mets fans to be excited about in the early season. All in all, this team has the pieces to put something together, but is yet to do it.
The Diamondbacks are among the teams who have been squarely better than anticipated. With a +22 run differential, everything has been there for the Diamondbacks, even if one of their best hitters so far has been Zack Greinke. Having won seven of their last ten, the snakes don’t appear to be going anywhere, and may even factor into what will be an excellent NL Wild Card race.
The Braves are struggling a bit right now, especially in the bullpen, but still sit fairly comfortably in third place in the contentious NL East. Their offense has been solid, and Max Fried has flashed some exceptional starts. Like many teams on this list, some stability from the bullpen will go a long way for the Braves.
The Nats look to be embracing the MLB’s youth movement, as they had three players under 22 all starting a game for the first time since 1997 (Florida Marlins). The offense is performing well, led by Juan Soto and Victor Robles, but the bullpen is still struggling to get things going. A trip to the IL by the red hot Anthony Rendon certainly isn’t ideal, either.
After a nightmarish start to the season, the Rockies have finally begun to show their playoff promise, having won 10 of 12 before a recent 3 game skid. The offense is finally showing signs of life, but the team needs to begin to begin performing to its full potential in order to make a run. This is especially true for the pitching staff, where everyone not named German Marquez or Jon Gray has struggled more than expected out of the gate.
The A’s have been stuck in mediocrity so far, led by the left side of the infield in third baseman Matt Chapman and shortstop Marcus Semien. The pitching, however, has been poor, as the A’s have the fourth most runs allowed in all of baseball. For now, excellent defense and a just a couple of offensive producers haven’t been enough for the A’s to win games.
19. Blue Jays
The Jays largely outperformed expectations throughout April, especially with Marcus Stroman being among the best pitchers in baseball and the only qualified starter who hasn’t yet surrendered a homer. Now, with the addition of Vlad Guerrero Jr. on top of it all, the Blue jays begin to look like a significant threat, even if Vlad Jr. hasn’t quite played at his expected level yet.
20. Red Sox
This team is still struggling immensely more than anticipated. Chris Sale is going to end the month of April winless, the rest of the starting rotation still looks lost and the bullpen is a hot mess, but the bats are starting to turn it around. Could this be a sign that they’re getting over their World Series hangover? Only time will tell, but it’s possible.
After winning 5 games in a row to take the lead in the contentious NL Central, the Bucs went on to lose their next 8, dropping all the way down to fourth. The pitching continues to be great, and Josh Bell is hitting well, but beyond that there isn’t much going offensively in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have the lowest combined runs scored and runs allowed in baseball, so if you’re looking for a game with a lot of scoring, look elsewhere.
The Rangers have outperformed expectations thus far, with starter Mike Minor and shortstop Elvis Andrus playing very well. They sit three games back of the division lead, but still don’t appear to be a real threat, especially considering the fact that their +9 run differential is highly inflated by consecutive 15-1 and 14-1 beatdowns of the Mariners.
Since their hot 7-3 start in which Shane Greene recorded 7 saves, Detroit has regressed back to their preseason expectations. Although it hasn’t been great, it’s been the pitching that has carried this team thus far. Starter Matt Boyd is off to a better start than most would’ve expected, and the Tigers are fielding some young players to be excited about. However, their recent regression and now losing record leaves them at 23 in these rankings.
Though 2019 wasn’t supposed to be the Angels’ year, it wasn’t supposed to go down in this manner. The Angels’ leading sluggers are Tommy La Stella and Kole Calhoun, which is not exactly a recipe for success. Couple that with the recent struggles of the pitching staff and fans will be clamoring for more prospects to follow Griffin Canning to the majors so they at least have something to root for.
T-25. White Sox
The White Sox have been steadily improving and got two solid wins over the Tigers this week along with one against the Orioles. The offense is still showing a lot of promise, including Tim Anderson, who is hitting .402/.422/.632 on the year. The pitching is still lacking consistency, but Reynaldo Lopez showed his dominance as well on April 28th against the Tigers with 6.0 IP and 14 K’s, giving up only 2 hits.
The Reds have sat at the bottom of a contentious NL Central so far, with a vastly underperforming outfield. However, their pitching staff, led by standout Luis Castillo, is one of two in baseball that hasn’t yet allowed 100 runs. With the imminent arrival of Nick Senzel to boost a lineup which already boasts many weapons, the Reds could become dangerous very quickly.
The Giants had some potential to perform well this season, but ultimately have been about as poor as expected early on. Despite some bright spots, especially from the bullpen, that is only keeping the door open for a terrible offense who often fails to capitalize and put the Giants ahead in games.
Trey Mancini, Renato Nuñez, and Dwight Smith Jr. have kept the offense fun and interesting. The pitching (outside of John Means) has been interesting and not fun, having allowed a not so nice 71 home runs through April 28th, 20 more than any other team in baseball.
With a check swing double, a sacrifice fly that scored from second, and two players to hit two triples in the same game already, it’s ironic that the Royals have reinforced their reputation as the fun police recently. Perhaps the biggest surprise for the team with the AL’s worst record, though, has been league OPS leader Hunter Dozier. While there have been standout performers, it’s possible that there’s more talent on the roster of the High-A affiliate (six of the Royals’ top ten prospects) in Wilmington than there is in Kansas City.
The Marlins entered 2019 in the start of a franchise altering rebuild, changing the logo, uniforms, and remodeling the “corny” stadium. While they haven’t done a lot of winning, some younger guys have really stepped up and look like pieces for the future in Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara, Brian Anderson, and the best of them all, catcher Jorge Alfaro, the return for JT Realmuto. Alfaro is sporting a 127 wRC+ so far through the young season and his batterymate Caleb Smith has pitched 29 innings with a 2.17 ERA. Things still aren’t exactly pretty right now in Miami, but the team finally has a clear plan in place, to put the Marlins back unto the baseball map.
Featured Photo: Chris O’Meara/AP Photos