Power Rankings: Division races heating up

May 22nd, 2023

The season is a little more than one-quarter complete, and while a few teams have risen to the top of their division standings with commanding leads, no one has separated themselves from the competition with a double-digit advantage.

Even the Rays, who, if they keep this up, could threaten the single-season win record, have only a 2 1/2-game lead over the second-place Orioles. And every team in the AL East has a winning record, including the Blue Jays, who are in last place but are also three games over .500 at 25-22.

The biggest division lead is in the NL East, where the Braves hold a five-game lead over the Mets. As of this writing, 16 teams are either leading their division or trailing by five or fewer games.

Biggest jump: The Mets jumped six spots from 19 to 13. Given how their May started -- 11 losses in 16 games -- it’s probably a little premature to say they’ve snapped out of whatever was weighing them down earlier. But things are looking better -- after taking the first game of their doubleheader against the Guardians on Sunday, Justin Verlander outdueled Shane Bieber in the nightcap to extend the Mets’ win streak to five.

Biggest drop: The Phillies dropped six spots, from 13 to 19. They lost five in a row before their 12-3 win over the Cubs at home Saturday, and they ended the week on a high note by winning Sunday, too, 2-1.

Power Rankings Top 5:

1. Rays (34-14; last week: 1)

The Rays’ start to the season was so dominant that not even a losing road trip could detract from their dizzying pace that has made them the class of the Major Leagues. Even with a loss to the Brewers on Sunday, Tampa Bay is on pace for 115 wins, which would be one shy of the Mariners’ record 116-win season in 2001. Though the Rays went 4-6 on their recent swing through Baltimore and New York, they returned home to do what they often do at the Trop -- win. They took two of three from the Brewers, and they’ll be tested further in their upcoming series against the Blue Jays and Dodgers.

2. Braves (29-17; last week: 2)

The Braves’ rotation has taken quite an injury hit of late, and after using six relievers the day before, they needed two things from rookie Jared Shuster on Sunday: length, and results. They received both. The 24-year-old lefty held the Mariners to one run over six innings, and he struck out seven batters. The Braves had a good week -- after they were swept in Toronto the prior weekend, they took two of three from both the Rangers and Mariners. Despite the injuries, Atlanta’s rotation leads the NL with a 3.22 ERA heading into Monday.

3. Dodgers (29-19; last week: 3)

Speaking of pitcher injuries, the Dodgers are another club attempting to navigate through May without a handful of key starters. Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard are the only members of the Opening Day rotation who are still healthy, and the Dodgers just finished a so-so week, taking two of three from the Twins before losing three of four in St. Louis. Individually, Freddie Freeman is on a tear -- he’s batting .442 (19-for-43) with 10 extra-base hits and 14 RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak. He’s raised his OPS more than 100 points during that stretch.

4. Orioles (31-16; last week: 5)

Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of Adley Rutschman’s Major League debut, and since then, he leads all catchers in on-base percentage, walks and game-winning RBIs. Meanwhile, Baltimore has the fifth-best record in the Majors (98-71) since Rutschman’s debut. The Orioles, coming off a sweep of the Blue Jays in Toronto, have more challenging series ahead of them to end May. They open a three-game set with the Yankees in the Bronx Tuesday, and then they’ll return home to host the Rangers and Guardians.

5. Rangers (29-17; last week: 4)

The Rangers continue to roll -- they pummeled the Rockies on Sunday, 13-3, capturing their 11th win in their past 14 games. They averaged 8.2 runs per game over those 11 wins. Sunday was the 12th time this season the Rangers scored double digits, the most in the Major Leagues. Corey Seager was 3-for-5 with a double and a home run in the Rangers’ win Sunday and is hitting .438 (7-for-16) with five extra-base hits and eight RBIs in four games since coming off the IL.

The rest of the field of 30:

6. Yankees (last week: 8)
7. Astros (10)
8. Twins (9)
9. Jays (6)
10. Red Sox (11)
11. D-backs (15)
12. Brewers (7)
13. Mets (19)
14. Mariners (12)
15. Pirates (17)
16. Angels (16)
17. Marlins (21)
18. Padres (14)
19. Phillies (13)
20. Cardinals (24)
21. Cubs (18)
22. Guardians (20)
23. Giants (22)
24. Tigers (23)
25. White Sox (28)
26. Rockies (26)
27. Reds (25)
28. Nationals (27)
29. Royals (29)
30. A’s (30)

Voters: Will Leitch, Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince, Paul Casella, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, Arturo Pardavila, Andrew Simon, David Venn, Sweeny Murti, Doug Gausepohl, Travis Miller