It has finally happened. After six weeks of being a part of the Diamond Digest team, I have become the Power Rankings Czar. Did I simply just ask the editors to start writing my own power rankings in the Discord chat? That’s not important. The major takeaway is that we have power rankings at Diamond Digest again, starting this week. From what I have observed in my time reading power rankings, the only teams that people really read about are the top five teams, the bottom five teams, and their favorite team. In that lies the format that I have arbitrarily decided to adopt, a format where I rank only the top five and the bottom five teams. I have developed a primitive ranking system via Google Sheets using a team’s record, record from their last 10 games, and run differential. It’s not necessarily bad to not see your favorite team here every week, it just means that they are closer to an average team instead of a great one or a terrible one. Also, I don’t play favorites and I don’t hate your team (at least I don’t hate them enough to rank them lower). These rankings are derived straight from the numbers. With all of that said, let’s get into the rankings!
March to World Series Glory: The five teams that have the best chance at lifting what Rob Manfred lovingly calls a “hunk of metal” at the end of the season
1. Chicago White Sox (37-23, +90 run differential): Right now, the Chicago White Sox are the hottest team in baseball. Their offense is fourth in the AL and fifth in the majors in runs scored, and fifth in the majors in OPS. Meanwhile, their pitching leads the American League in runs allowed, ranks fifth in the majors in strikeouts, and third in fielding independent pitching (FIP). Their biggest weakness? Well, that guy has an office at Guaranteed Rate Field and the players dominating for this Chicago team have lockers. It’s fun to laugh at Tony La Russa’s managerial mistakes until you realize this is the best team the ChiSox have fielded since they won the World Series in 2005. At least he hasn’t had any gaffes for the Sox in the postseason (yet).
2. San Francisco Giants (38-23, +74): I’ll admit, I did not see the Giants having the best record in baseball after nearly sixty games, yet here we are. One of the reasons behind their hot start: pitching. Kevin Gausman over his last nine starts has been utterly dominant, throwing 58 innings with a 7-0 record, 0.62 ERA, and 6.81 K/BB ratio, earning himself NL Pitcher of the Month for May. Another factor in the Giants’ early success: the resurgence of big name players such as Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, and Brandon Crawford. Crawford is third amongst players who have spent at least 50% of their playing time at shortstop in home runs, Longoria is fourth among qualified third basemen in OPS, and Posey is the leader among catchers in OPS among catchers with at least 160 plate appearances. The biggest problem for the Giants now is replacing Longoria’s early production, as he will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks after colliding with Crawford last Saturday.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (39-23, +77): Death, taxes, and the Rays winning baseball games with a low payroll. Entering today, the Rays lead the Red Sox by half a game in the AL East, the most competitive division in baseball. Rich Hill is pitching like he’s in his prime instead of his age 41 season, with a 3.05 ERA and 3.79 FIP and a 0.68 ERA and 3.04 FIP since May 1. Tyler Glasnow has devastated batters with his curveball, striking out 69.1% of batters faced this year while surrendering a wOBA of .090 to put himself in the thick of the AL Cy Young race alongside Shane Bieber and Gerrit Cole. Meanwhile, they have traded Blake Snell and Willy Adames, two key pieces to their run to the World Series last year and are among the top teams in the majors. Wash, rinse, repeat.
4. Boston Red Sox (37-24, +48): Let’s talk about the biggest name that the Red Sox got back in the Mookie Betts trade: Alex Verdugo. Since joining Boston, Verdugo has slashed .300/.358/.473, with an OPS of .831, a wRC+ of 125, and a wOBA of .357. This season, he’s hitting .292/.351/.469 for an OPS of .820, a wRC+ of 123, and wOBA of .353. Other key pieces to Boston’s success have been Xander Bogaerts, Nick Pivetta, Nathan Eovaldi, and Matt Barnes. Since 2019, Xander Bogaerts has accumulated the most fWAR among shortstops, and leads all shortstops in wRC+ in that same span with 141. Pivetta is currently having a mini-breakout season, with a career high in strikeout rate, and career lows in ERA, FIP, BABIP, and WHIP, sporting a 3.78 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 0.296 BABIP, 1.29 WHIP, 27.3 K%, and a record of 6-1 in 12 starts. Eovaldi currently has the same ERA as Pivetta at 3.78, with an insanely low FIP of 2.39, 1.19 WHIP and 23.3 K% for a 7-2 record in 12 starts. Out of the bullpen, Matt Barnes is sporting a career-high 16.06 K/9, a career-high 49.5 K%, a career-low 0.72 WHIP and 2.73 ERA (with an expected ERA of 1.33 per Statcast!), and a 1.36 FIP.
5. San Diego Padres (37-27, +67): Fernando Tatis Jr., even though he currently does not have enough plate appearances to qualify, is among the league leaders in home runs and wRC+. Trent Grisham has been performing at an elite level this season as well, much further under the radar than Tatis. Grisham, in his 154 plate appearances this year, has a slashline of .301/.383/.515 for an OPS of .898 and wRC+ of 149, despite his injuries up to this point in the season. Two of Trader AJ’s biggest offseason acquisitions have also been paying off for the Friars, as Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove have been All-Star caliber pitchers this season. I documented the changes that Musgrove made over the past few years, and continues to cement this year as his (mainstream) breakout year. Darvish, entering the season as the runner-up for the 2020 NL Cy Young Award, has continued to dazzle with a 2.16 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.
The Race to the Bottom: The five teams that have the best chance at drafting Elijah Green, the best prospect since Bryce Harper came out of the College of Southern Nevada
26. Washington Nationals (24-33, -33): There are plenty of teams that could rightfully take this spot in the rankings (Rockies, Tigers, etc.), but the Nationals have been among the most disappointing teams this season. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections had the Nats winning 85 games, ahead of the reigning division champion Braves, and tied for the last wild card spot in the NL with the Cubs. Now, they are slotted for 79 wins, fourth in the division and are among the worst teams in baseball. The main culprit? An offense that ranks ahead of only the Tigers, Mets, and Pirates in runs per game, and the struggles of two of their three pitchers with nine-figure contracts; Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg, before injuring his neck, was sporting a 4.57 ERA with a 5.69 FIP, and Corbin has a 6.28 ERA and 5.55 FIP in his first 11 starts.
27. Pittsburgh Pirates (23-36, -77): This team is bad and everyone knows this team is bad. So why not focus on the positive? Adam Frazier leads the majors in doubles at 21 entering play on Wednesday. The last Pirate to singularly lead the majors in doubles? Willie Stargell in 1973, who finished the year with a 1.038 OPS and second in NL MVP voting behind Pete Rose. Plus Ke’Bryan Hayes is back after a stint on the 60-day IL for left-wrist inflammation, and hit probably the most impressive flyout to a pitcher I’ve ever seen against Walker Buehler and the Dodgers on Tuesday.
28. Baltimore Orioles (22-38, -46): Here is another bad team and another team that everyone knew would be bad entering the season. How about Cedric Mullins though? Against Cleveland last Saturday, Mullins went 5-5 with 2 home runs. The next day, he went 3-4 with a double and a home run against Cleveland. The performance over the weekend has been a microcosm for the way that Mullins has hit this year. Currently, the outfielder is slashing .325/.394/.541 with an OPS of .935, a wOBA of .400, and a wRC+ of 159. The bad news for the O’s? The loss of burgeoning ace John Means for the time being with a strain in his throwing shoulder.
29. Texas Rangers (24-39, -54): In December of 2019, the Rangers thought they were an arm away from contending for a playoff spot, and traded for two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, only giving up Delino DeShields Jr. and Emmanuel Clase. What a failure that trade was, as Kluber pitched a grand total of one inning in Texas, then joined the Yankees in the offseason. It manages to get worse, as Kluber, in his first start in Texas since joining the Yankees, threw a no hitter! It wasn’t even the first time the Rangers got no-hit this season either. Despite boasting Adolis Garcia, a rookie with 16 home runs this year, and Joey Gallo, sporting a 123 wRC+, this offense has been anemic, averaging only 3.90 runs per game. At least Isiah Kiner-Falefa is still an elite defender, I guess?
30. Arizona Diamondbacks (20-43, -71): Entering May, Arizona was a half-game behind the San Diego Padres in the NL West standings and the wild card standings, tied with the Cardinals. Madison Bumgarner was in the midst of a four-week stretch where he had a notable achievement, an ERA of 0.90, an FIP of 2.15, and a 32.4 K%. Since May 1, the Diamondbacks have managed to win six games, with an ongoing 2-21 stretch dating back to the middle of May, with one of those two wins coming in extra innings. Bumgarner’s notable achievement marks the last time Arizona won a game outside of Chase Field, losing a remarkable 19 consecutive road games. Plus, seven of their next ten include a trip to San Francisco and a home set against the Dodgers. Brutal stretch.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and BaseballSavant, numbers are accurate leading into 6/9/2021