MLB Power Rankings Week 4 — Which early surprise teams climbed into our top five?

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If you’re new to MLB, welcome aboard! If you’re not, then you’re already aware that we’re in the midst of a great pennant race. Ten teams in MLB are within 4 games of a .500 record, let alone a division lead. (The Houston Astros are in last place in the NL Central, but they’re only 9 games out of first.) The picture is just as muddled in the AL, where 9 teams are within 5 games of a .500 record, let alone a Wild Card spot, or the NL East, where the last-place Philadelphia Phillies are only 7 games out of first place. So, who are our Top 5 teams?

In the spirit of the MLB season, here is my weekly MLB power rankings. These rankings are based on how teams have played so far and how I think they will play the rest of the season. If you don’t like where your team is ranked, don’t blame me; just wait a week and things might change. Blog Post:

Believe it or not, the 2021 MLB season has been underway for almost a month, and this weekend the calendar jumps to May.

What does this mean for our MLB rankings this week? Yes, it’s early – but it’s not too early either.

To what extent did our voters take this into account when they pitted early surprises like the Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants against preseason favorites like the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves? Did any of these teams impress our experts enough to challenge the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres for the top two spots on our list?

Here’s what our panel of eight experts decided based on the first four weeks of the season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schonfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to give us their thoughts on Week 4 for all 30 teams.

Previous reviews: Week 3. Week 2. Week 1. Opening Day.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Registration: 16-9
Previous ranking: 1

The Dodgers lost their third game in a row on Tuesday, the first since late August 2019. That loss, at home against the Reds, gave them seven runs in nine games, so the Dodgers are not undefeated. Their offense has slowed down a bit, which will definitely make a difference. There are serious questions about their bullpen, especially with the injuries to Corey Knebel, David Price and Victor Gonzalez. As of Wednesday morning, only two bullpens had a higher WHIP than the Dodgers: the Rockies and the Tigers. They’re not good teams. — Gonzalez

2. San Diego Padres

Registration: 14-12
Previous Review: 2

2 Connected

Fernando Tatis Jr. was at Dodger Stadium for four games, hitting five home runs and stealing three bases. Trent Grisham entered Wednesday’s game with an .888 OPS. With these two at the top of the lineup, the Padres’ offense will be one of the best in the sport. — Gonzalez

Registration: 15-10
Previous Ranking: 6

The A’s extended their win streak to 13 games before losing to the Orioles on Sunday. The bullpen is excellent, and what about Yusmeiro Petitu, who is still one of the most underrated players in baseball. Despite his long track record, a one-year, $2.55 million contract was enough to bring him back to Oakland. — Shoefield

Registration: 16-9
Previous ranking: 3

Whether or not the Red Sox can hit is not the issue at this point – they have the best OPS in baseball. Boston’s season will depend on the depth of its pitching staff, especially the back end of the rotation. Garrett Richards, the biggest wild card, made significant mechanical adjustments for his last start, in which he pitched seven innings, struck out 10 and allowed one run against the Mets. If Richards looks more like the pitcher he was Tuesday night than in his previous four starts, watch out. — Lee

5. San Francisco Giants

Registration: 16-9
Previous ranking: 12

The Giants’ rotation has the lowest ERA in the sport, which is an amazing feat considering the composition of this group – a former first-round pick who was once considered an outfielder; a 14-year veteran who has made just 25 starts in the past three years; a player who underwent shoulder surgery; another player with an ERA of 7.22 last season; a 24-year-old fourth-rounder who had to earn his spot in the rotation during spring training; and a 30-year-old player with a heavy medical history. Farhan Zaidi is already working his magic. — Gonzalez

Registration: 14-10
Previous Ranking: 8

Corbin Burns hasn’t slowed down much, although the Miami Marlins gave him five hits (four earned) on Monday. He is just two strikeouts away from breaking the record for strikeouts without a walk earlier in the season. He has 49 strikeouts and zero walks. That kind of performance helped the Brewers win. A win against the Padres and then two of three games against the Cubs could be decisive early in the season. — Rogers

Registration: 12-10
Previous Ranking: 7

Baseball is here! Follow the 2021 MLB season on ESPN and the ESPN app.

Tuesday, 4. May
Astros – Yankees, 7 ET on ESPN

Wednesday, 5. May
Dodgers-Cubs, 7:30 ET on ESPN

Sunday, 9. May
Phillies – Braves 7 ET on ESPN

Aside from the Royals’ early success, the Twins’ incomprehensible recent slump coincided with the gradual rise of the White Sox team we’ve come to expect this season, and as the first month draws to a close, Chicago appears to be the team to beat in the AL Central. The rotation is one of the most consistent groups in baseball, despite Lucas Giolito’s recent struggles. And Michael Kopech, whose role will continue to change, looked like one of the most electric pitchers in baseball early in the game. — Doolittle.

8. Kansas City Royals

Registration: 15-8
Previous ranking: 19

Whatever happens, the Royals can look back at the end of April and say they woke up with the best record in baseball, at least for a few days. There are definite areas where the Royals’ pace doesn’t seem to hold. Their record is 6-1 in games with only one goal. They are hitting .381 in late innings, a category in which the MLB average is .156 in high-innings. But KC’s record is what it is, and there’s reason to believe the Royals have yet to play their best baseball. — Doolittle.

Registration: 13-12
Previous Review: 5

They didn’t play like the defending AL champions, but don’t forget the Rays. Tyler Glasnow – 2.05 ERA, 0.75 WHIP with 46 strikeouts in 30⅔ innings – is pitching like a Cy Young candidate. And Randy Arozarena, after a few slow weeks, looks like the sensation he was last season with eight strikeouts in 19 at-bats. — Lee

Registration: 9-10
Previous ranking: 4

At an age when many pitchers are starting to slow down, Jacob DeGrom’s speed and productivity are on the rise. That’s why he could be the next king of long life in baseball.

Jeff Passan

The lack of power is the biggest problem, as the team cannot score and has hit only 15 home runs in the first 18 games. The Mets have only scored over four runs three times in those games. Meanwhile, Jacob deGrom continues to gain ground, including 15 strikeouts last Friday against the Nationals, and Francisco Lindor, who was booed at home Tuesday, continues to struggle. — Shoefield

11. Atlanta Braves

Registration: 12-12
Previous Assessment : 10

Ronald Acuna Jr. continues to be a team destroyer and is showing no negative effects from the abdominal muscle strain that forced him to miss two games. He hit a 481-foot home run on Tuesday, which now gives him two home runs at 480 feet. The only other player with two 480-foot shots from 2018 is Nomar Mazara. — Shoefield

12. Houston Astros

Registration: 13-11
Previous Assessment : 15

The Astros appear to be in a slump, exacerbated by adjustment issues related to health and safety protocols. The pitcher was the main reason Christian Xavier had a great 2020 season and developed into a true ace. All metrics are on: 0.89 ERA, 1.46 FIP, 25% K%-BB%, 64 point average game. Houston is just days away from hitting .500, but still has the second-best strikeout differential per game in baseball. It was tough for a while, but the Astros are doing well. — Doolittle.

Registration: 12-11
Previous Ranking: 9

Mike Trout has had perhaps the best month of his career, Shohei Ohtani has become an offensive force, Albert Pujols has promising power numbers, and Anthony Rendon is back from the injury list. Once David Fletcher is in the spotlight, the Angels’ offense becomes a force to be reckoned with. The question – always a question – is whether they can pitch well enough to stay in the race. That’s why the Ochtani team is so important. — Gonzalez

Registration: 11-12
Previous Assessment : 20

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is starting to justify being one of the most interesting young prospects since Ken Griffey Jr. After shedding 20 pounds in the offseason, Guerrero is hitting .360/.484/.693 with seven home runs after hitting three home runs on Tuesday, two of which, including the grand slam, were hit by Max Scherzer. — Lee

15. New York Yankees

Registration: 11-13
Previous ranking: 16

General manager Brian Cashman said he’d like to forget the first 15 games of the season, but since then the Yankees have won 5-3 against Atlanta, Cleveland and Baltimore and are looking more and more like the team everyone expects this year. Although they are replacing catcher Gary Sanchez with Kyle Higashioka again, they have reason to be optimistic about their rotation, with Corey Kluber making his longest start in nearly two years against the Orioles on Tuesday. — Lee

Registration: 12-12
Previous Assessment : 21

How a new generation of players is changing the culture of the MLB. Jun Lee

There are three big holes in the team right now. Alec Bohm has had a slow start, his OPS is under .600, and he may have cashed in a few more strikeouts than expected. Andrew McCutchen had a few days rest and was sitting at a .154 average. Center field remains the biggest problem, as the Phillies’ center fielders hit .093 with three RBIs Wednesday, forcing the team to call up Odubel Herrera from the backfield to give him a chance. — Shoefield

Registration: 11-12
Previous Assessment : 14

In an era when the offense in the Major League is of feast or famine, Cleveland is perhaps the most extreme all-or-nothing team in the Majors, limping to the end of the month with a .210 batting average, which – in 2021 alone – is even better than some other teams. However, Cleveland is in the top five in terms of isolated power, so if they push the ball out of the backfield, the pitching is good enough to win. Only the Tigers have relied more on home runs to fuel the scoreboard this season. — Doolittle.

Registration: 12-12
Previous Assessment : 18

The Cardinals are slowly starting to find their stride, coinciding with the discovery of starter Carlos Martinez. He was good in his last two starts – three earned runs in 13⅓ innings – while St. Louis’ rotation was a bit of a struggle. St. Louis as a whole has been doing well lately. — Rogers

Registration: 12-12
Previous Assessment : 26

The D-backs’ attack, led by Carson Kelly, was a pleasant surprise. And they’ve seen some good signs in their starting rotation lately. Madison Bumgarner pitched seven scoreless innings in the second game of a doubleheader against the Braves on Sunday. Zach Gallen allowed just one hit in the first game. Those two are key to the D-backs’ hopes of staying relevant in a crowded division. — Gonzalez

20. Seattle Mariners

Registration: 13-12
Previous Review: 17

Which teams will surprise or disappoint? Who are the players to keep an eye on this year? We asked baseball insiders for their opinions. Jesse Rogers

The bullpen remains the key to a good start, with a 2.29 ERA (second in the majors through Wednesday) and a slugging average of .180 (best in the majors). This is certainly a surprise, as the Mariners ranked 28th in bullpen ERA (5.92) and 26th in allowable batting average (.258) in 2020. — Shoefield

Registration: 11-13
Previous ranking: 11

A seven-game losing streak has cost the Reds first place in the NL Central, even though they beat the Dodgers twice earlier this week. Despite the loss, the Reds still had the largest lead in the NL Central for Wednesday’s games. — Rogers

Registration: 10-14
Previous ranking: 23

The Cubs have holes in their game, as well as some key injuries. David Ross lamented the lack of depth in the relay as two close games last week ended in easy wins for the opposition. And that’s all their attack has been: jagged. Kris Bryant is the most consistent player, but even Monday’s grand slam couldn’t prevent the loss. He and Javy Baez have minor injuries. There is a lot of inconsistency in the team. — Rogers

Registration: 8-15
Previous assessment : 13

What happened? During Minnesota’s recent slump (13 losses in 15 games), the Twins ranked 28th in runs scored and 29th in ERA. That’s not a good combination, especially for a nominal division favorite. In a surprising turn of events, manager Rocco Baldelli has found himself in the social media hot seat, even as he does well in the eyes of his bosses after emerging as one of the best young managers in baseball over the past few seasons. In most cases, it’s an overreaction, but there’s no question that a blunder like the recent one – Baldelli had to take Jose Berrios out after 83 pitches in a productive start because he forgot that pitching coach Wes Johnson was already on the mound in that inning – shouldn’t happen again. — Doolittle.

24. Miami Marlins

Registration: 11-13
Previous ranking: 22

Trevor Rogers is the only starter to win so far, his record is 3-1 and his ERA is 1.29. He’s been fantastic, with crushing, hard-hitting stuff (38 runs in 28 IP), and has played 13 scoreless innings in his last two starts (albeit against the Orioles and the light-hitting Brewers). Against his fastball, batters are averaging .175 with just one home run in 63 at-bats. — Shoefield

Registration: 9-12
Previous ranking: 24

What’s an ace? Well, it’s complicated. So we determined some criteria and identified pitchers who met them.

Kylie McDaniel Ace Ranking

Juan Soto participated in the practice interlude and reported that his shoulder is not hurting, but he has not yet been cleared to pitch. Still, it looks like he’ll be back soon. And the Nationals really need him. Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber, two big mid-season acquisitions, have combined for a .157 batting average, two home runs, six RBI, 37 strikeouts and six walks in 27 games through Tuesday. — Shoefield

Registration: 10-15
Previous Classification : 25

The Rangers’ rotation is back to earth after a tough week in which they dropped from first place in the American League ERA to ninth. Kohei Arihara was one of those hits in the White Sox sweep this weekend. The Rangers will continue to play the spoiler, but they are not yet in last place in the AL West. — Rogers

Registration: 10-14
Previous ranking: 27

The biggest positive for Baltimore was ending Oakland’s 13-game winning streak with John Min on the field. Means continues to have one of the weakest hot starts of 2021, with a 1.50 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in five games. I don’t want to turn the Orioles’ power rankings into a weekly Cedric Mullins update, but the center fielder’s outstanding performance remains historic: His numbers are .356/.408/.556 and he has three home runs and nine doubles. — Lee

Registration: 12-12
Previous Assessment : 28

We have two promising candidates on our list who are a class act. Is Jordan Lawler or Jack Leiter number one in our top 100?

Kylie McDaniel

Pittsburgh, one of the most surprising teams in baseball, crossed the 500-run mark thanks to a great pitcher. After seven games, the Pirates have won just 16, including a five-game series – which continued Wednesday – in which they have won two or fewer. The success cannot be attributed to one or two players – the whole team had a good week. — Rogers

Registration: 8-16
Previous ranking: 29

The good news for the Tigers in their four-game home series against Kansas City last week is that they allowed just 15 runs in the series. The bad news is that they only scored five points and lost all four games. A total lack of positive offensive skills – outside of an average contact performance – has made Detroit’s offense the worst in the AL. On the other hand, the rotation wasn’t much better than mediocre. Unfortunately, two starters disappointed, and those are the two pitchers Detroit needs most to succeed: Casey Mize and Tariq Skubal. — Doolittle.

Registration: 9-15
Previous assessment : 30

The Rockies are just a mess. In the offseason, they paid a lot of money to another team for Nolan Arenado, arguably the best player in their history. Earlier this week, general manager Jeff Bridich resigned. They will soon lose the current face of their franchise, Trevor Story, and won’t get much for him because he is so close to Free Agency. On top of that is an active team with the third worst winning percentage in sports and a farm system that was ranked 27th by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel. The Rockies need to regroup. But first they need a well thought out plan. — Gonzalez

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