Power Rankings: Now is the time for MLB's newest No. 1 team

May 20th, 2024

This was mentioned in my weekly Five Fascinations piece, but I think it’s worth asking here as well: Is this Phillies team the best team Bryce Harper will ever play on? Is this the best chance he’ll ever have to win a World Series?

The Phillies, who rise to No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings, swept the Nationals to raise their record to 34-14, the best record in baseball. They now have a five-game lead on the Braves in the National League East as they attempt to win the division for the first time since 2011. They’re on a 115-win pace and steamrolling through opponents.

This is particularly relevant to Harper, a two-time MVP and a very likely Hall of Famer who really is missing only one thing from his résumé: A World Series championship. Remember, too, that his former team, the Nationals, won a World Series the season after Harper left, a factoid he is surely all too aware of. The Phillies are getting older -- as is Harper, for that matter, though I suppose we all are -- and this might be the peak of this team for this era. The Phillies have come so close two straight years, reaching the World Series in 2022 and coming one game short in 2023. Harper, and his team, may never have a better opportunity than they do right now.

These rankings, as always, are compiled from rankings from MLB.com contributors whose names you can find at the bottom of this (and every) piece, but the words are mine. If you dislike the rankings, yell at all of us. But if you dislike the words, feel free to yell at me.

1. Phillies (previously: 2).
Season high: 1 | Season low: 8
Some more historical Phillies love: Their 34-14 start is the best start to a season they’ve had since their beloved 1993 team, which, if you’re into this sort of stuff, raised its record to 34-14 by beating the Rockies 18-1 in Denver in a game that featured two home runs from Darren Daulton and one from winning pitcher Tommy Greene (one of four he hit in his career). To keep the 1993 vibes going, we suggest all current Phillies grow out curly mullets and play “Whoomp! (There It Is)” before every at-bat.

2. Dodgers (previously: 3).
Season high: 1 | Season low: 6
Freddie Freeman is having an excellent year. He has a .407 OBP (fifth in the National League), he’s tied for third in the National League in doubles and he’s eighth in hits. He’s doing great. The one thing he’s not doing: Hitting homers. He is on pace for 13 homers this year, as many as he had in his MVP season … in 2020, when he of course played only 60 games.

3. Yankees (previously: 5).
Season high: 2 | Season low: 7
The Yankees are an absolute blast right now -- seven wins in a row -- for a variety of reasons, but the resurgence of Giancarlo Stanton is one of the biggest ones. He hit three homers this week, all bombs (perhaps because of that super-fast swing!), reminding everyone how joyous it can be to watch him when he is going right. The Yankees, the team everyone was freaking out about before the season, are on a 111-win pace, and, we remind you, Gerrit Cole is on his way back.

4. Orioles (previously: 1).
Season high: 1 | Season low: 5
The Orioles’ first run atop the Power Rankings was short-lived, though that’s more because of what the teams above did than anything they did wrong. The fun part of this week is that they kept that incredible sweepless-series streak alive; if they can keep it going, they will tie the record at Miami July 23-25 and break it July 26-28, at home against the Padres.

5. Braves (previously: 4).
Season high: 1 | Season low: 5
The Phillies are giving the Braves a little bit of a taste of their own medicine. On this date last year, the Braves were already 5 1/2 games up in the division and well on their way to a 104-win season; they just never gave anyone else much of a chance to catch up. The Phillies’ torrid start has made the Braves’ record -- which is the sixth best in baseball -- feel inadequate to the task at hand: They’re five games back, the second-largest deficit for a second-place team in all of baseball.

6. Guardians (previously: 7).
Season high: 4 | Season low: 21
The Guardians made as powerful a statement as they could in the AL Central by sweeping the defending division champion Twins over the weekend. The grandest highlight -- and there were many of them -- was Will Brennan’s three-run walk-off home run on Sunday afternoon. Brennan has shown surprising power for the Guardians in the early going; it was his fifth homer of the season, as many as he had all of last year. This is the first time the Guardians have won 30 of their first 47 games since 2011.

7. Brewers (previously: 6).
Season high: 5 | Season low: 19
William Contreras currently has a .954 OPS, which is seventh highest in baseball and, even more impressive, it is the highest OPS for a catcher in baseball since Buster Posey’s .957 in 2012. It would also be one of the 12 best OPS seasons in Brewers history.

8. Royals (previously: 10).
Season high: 6 | Season low: 24
You may vaguely remember the Royals winning the World Series in 2015, for the first time in 30 years. It was very exciting. Well, it has been a rough decade since then, but the Royals hit a mark Sunday they haven’t hit since that 2015 season: With their sweep of the A’s, they went 10 games over .500. If you’re feeling particularly feisty, the Royals are playing at a 98-win pace, three more wins than they had that season (and that would be the second-most in team history).

9. Cubs (previously: 9).
Season high: 8 | Season low: 12
Shota-Mania? Is anybody saying that? After another brilliant performance on Saturday, Shota Imanaga has a 0.84 ERA, the lowest through a player’s first nine starts in MLB history. Imanaga bested Fernando Valenzuela’s famous 1981 run in which he put up a 0.91 ERA. Shota-Mania still sounds weird. Ima-Mania?

10. Mariners (previously: 12).
Season high: 10 | Season low: 21
George Kirby was a stealth Cy Young candidate heading into the season, and he might still be one if he were better in the first inning. After giving up two more runs against the Orioles on Sunday, Kirby has a 6.30 ERA in the first inning over his 10 starts in 2024.

11. Rangers (previously: 11).
Season high: 4 | Season low: 12
We all thought we were getting a Rangers-Phillies World Series last year -- those two final games of the NLCS in Philadelphia still seem inexplicable -- but we will get to watch the teams face off this week under entirely different circumstances: The Rangers are trying to crawl above .500, and the Phillies … well, I think we’ve established at this point that the Phillies are the best team in baseball.

12. Twins (previously: 8).
Season high: 8 | Season low: 23
Well, that was a nightmare series in Cleveland. They lost a crusher to the Guardians on Friday, a blowout on Saturday and then fell on a three-run walk-off homer on Sunday, and suddenly find themselves 5 1/2 games out. They’re going to have to stew on the sweep for quite a while: They don’t play the first-place Guardians again until Aug. 9.

13. Rays (previously: 16).
Season high: 9 | Season low: 19
The Rays have been streaky this year, so it’s fair if you’re not ready to entirely trust them, but they did exactly what they needed to do this week, taking three of four from the Red Sox and two of three from the Blue Jays, putting some distance between them and the two teams behind them in the AL East. They’ve got a fascinating nine-game homestand coming against the Red Sox, Royals and A’s. If they’re going to make a run, now’s the time.

14. Padres (previously: 14).
Season high: 13 | Season low: 21
Not to panic anyone in San Diego, but when do we start worrying about Xander Bogaerts? He’s off to a very tough start, hitting .220 with a .266 OBP and only four homers, and, not that Padres fans need the reminder, he is signed through the 2033 season. The good news is that he has ticked up lately: Over a five-game hitting streak entering Sunday, he was hitting .350 with two homers and two steals.

15. Tigers (previously: 15).
Season high: 7 | Season low: 20
We all know the obvious names as AL Rookie of the Year possibilities. Mason Miller. Colton Cowser. Evan Carter. Maybe even Jackson Holliday if a few things break very right. But it’s probably time to get more serious about Wenceel Pérez. The 24-year-old outfielder has better offensive numbers -- .301/.377/.527 -- than all of them. This is not the young Tigers hitter everyone saw coming.

16. Red Sox (previously: 14)
Season high: 14 | Season low: 22
Rafael Devers has homered in five straight games, tying a team record, but the Sox’s recent skid -- they had lost four in a row before winning against the Cardinals on Sunday -- may have them with their eyes exclusively on the AL Wild Card chase rather than the AL East: They’re in fourth place and a whopping 9 1/2 games behind the Yankees. They’ve got a fascinating series on the road against the Rays this week.

17. Diamondbacks (previously: 17)
Season high: 10 | Season low: 21
What’s the best indicator of how off Corbin Carroll has been this season? He led the National League in triples last year with 10, but he didn’t have a single triple all year until he hit one on Saturday in an 8-3 loss to the Tigers. He actually hit another one on Sunday. Maybe that will get him going? Something has to, right?

18. Astros (previously: 25)
Season high: 6 | Season low: 26
Yep: The Astros have awakened. They’ve now won nine of 11 and are firmly established in third place in the AL West after being in last place for far longer than the Astros are used to even being in the vicinity of last place. Before their Mexico trip last month, the Astros had a big “we’re better than this” team meeting. They have proven they are better than they were then: They’re 12-7 since.

19. Giants (previously: 23)
Season high: 17 | Season low: 23
Keep an eye on the Giants. They’re in the thick of the NL Wild Card chase -- they’re only half a game out! -- and they’re about to get Blake Snell back from the injured list. This Blake Snell might look a lot more like the old Blake Snell: In two rehab starts, he threw nine innings (one of them an immaculate inning) and gave up no hits with 17 strikeouts. That looks like ready to return to me.

20. Pirates (previously: 22)
Season high: 9 | Season low: 25
According to Game Score data, Paul Skenes' incredible 11-strikeout performance over six no-hit innings against the Cubs this week was the seventh-best Pirates start of the last five seasons, which is pretty impressive considering it was, uh, his second start ever. It is in fact the second-best Pirates start of the season, behind Jared Jones’ seven-inning, 10-strikeout, one-hit win over the Rockies on May 4.

21. Blue Jays (previously: 21)
Season high: 8 | Season low: 23
There are funny cycle watches, and there are “Vogelbach needs a triple for the cycle” cycle watches. (Daniel Vogelbach has 1,925 plate appearances in his career and … one triple.) Hey, the Blue Jays are in last place, we need to be able to laugh when we can.

22. Mets (previously: 18)
Season high: 10 | Season low: 25
It’s difficult to imagine Edwin Díaz not being a closer for a team, but the Mets are openly discussing the possibility after a nightmare week for Díaz. After giving up four runs in the ninth inning on Saturday -- the third straight game he has given up a run -- he has given up more earned runs this year than he did all of 2021. There is no less fun place to be a closer in peril than in Queens.

23. Cardinals (previously: 27)
Season high: 18 | Season low: 27
After bottoming out last week, the Cardinals won four of six this week, thanks largely to their offense at last waking up. Before Monday, they had only scored seven runs or more three times all season; they did that very thing four times this week alone.

24. Nationals (previously: 19)
Season high: 19 | Season low: 27
If you know you’ve got a road series against the smoking-hot Phillies coming up, it’s best to take care of business if you’re playing the worst team in baseball. The Nationals didn’t do that this week; they lost two of three to the White Sox, which combined immediately with a non-competitive sweep at the hands of the Phillies to turn a slight skid into a downright collapse. Even with that “collapse,” the Nationals are higher up in the NL Wild Card race than they have been in several years.

25. Reds (previously: 20)
Season high: 11 | Season low: 25
I mentioned this in my Five Fascinations piece this week, but the Reds have some serious 2023 Padres vibes: A team with a ton of talent, high expectations and a staggering inability to win close games. The Reds are already 1-11 in one-run games this year, which is how you have a team with Elly De La Cruz putting up a potential MVP-type season and a surprisingly solid rotation still finding itself in last place in a not-all-that-stirring of a division.

26. A’s (previously: 24)
Season high: 20 | Season low: 30
The little A’s boomlet we were enjoying a couple of weeks ago has rather violently popped. They’ve now lost eight in a row, and 13 of their last 15. Still: They fell to 19-30 with Sunday’s loss, and if that seems bad to you, know that at one point last year they were 19-58.

27. Angels (previously: 26)
Season high: 24 | Season low: 27
The Angels are specializing in rostering guys you probably forgot were still in the league -- hey, hello, Kevin Pillar! Cole Tucker! Hunter Strickland! -- but the one that’s thriving the most is, amazingly, Willie Calhoun. The eight-year veteran has never played more than 83 games in a season, and has had an OPS-plus over 100 only once in his career, but now somehow in 14 games he’s hitting .328 … and batting cleanup!

28. Rockies (previously: 28)
Season high: 28 | Season low: 29
The Rockies won seven in a row this week! Did you miss that? It really happened! They weren’t beating nobodies either: They swept both the defending champion Rangers and the recently surging Padres before the streak ended against the Giants over the weekend. Their best starting pitcher over the stretch, and really all year, has been Austin Gomber, the “key” to the Nolan Arenado trade who has a 3.02 ERA in nine starts so far.

29. Marlins (previously: 30)
Season high: 23 | Season low: 30
Speaking of unlikely winning streaks: The Marlins aren’t going to put up a winning streak that often, so we should certainly showcase it when they do. Before their loss to the Mets on Sunday, the Marlins had indeed won four straight, thanks in large part to some good starting pitching, a hot streak for Josh Bell and some surprising contributions from Otto Lopez, a player who they claimed off waivers from the Giants just last month and who is slugging .540 on the season with regular playing time in the wake of the Luis Arraez trade. If you were a fan of Canada during the World Baseball Classic last year -- and hey, who wasn’t? -- you might remember Lopez: He actually outhit both Freddie Freeman and Tyler O’Neill on that team.

30. White Sox (previously: 29)
Season high: 28 | Season low: 30
After another miserable White Sox loss (in a string of them), manager Pedro Grifol told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin that he actually appreciates all the negativity he hears from fans. “I actually love them, and the reason I do is because they are passionate, they are smart,” Grifol said. “What you hear out there is good baseball stuff. They know the game. I try to put myself in their shoes -- like, if I’m going to spend my hard-earned dollars on a baseball game and I’m expecting to watch good baseball, if I don’t see it, I’m pissed.” This is a good attitude for Grifol to have, and you appreciate his honesty, but the fact remains, when one of your primary topics during a 1-on-11 interview is “how often fans are yelling at you,” and you just lost 101 games a season ago (and are on a worse pace this year), things, uh, aren’t going well.

Voters: Nathalie Alonso, Paul Casella, Anthony Castrovince, Mark Feinsand, Alyson Footer, Doug Gausepohl, Sarah Langs, Will Leitch, Sweeny Murti, Arturo Pardavila, Manny Randhawa, Andrew Simon, David Venn.