Now that we’re five weeks into the season, the picture is getting a little clearer regarding which teams that had good starts are legitimate contenders, and which are destined to drop back to the middle (or end) of the pack, as predicted before 2019 got rolling.
The Astros, Rays, Twins, Phillies, Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers and Dodgers are largely meeting expectations, either leading their divisions or threatening to take over with another good week or so.
But there are still some teams that probably need more time before we judge. Are the Rangers really a .500 team? Can the Indians continue to contend without Corey Kluber? Will the Braves, Mets and Nationals make the NL East the four-team race that many predicted?
And how legitimate are the D-backs and the upstart Padres?
It’s early, but it’s still notable that 16 of the 30 teams are at the .500 mark or better. Let the pennant races begin.
Biggest jump: The Cubs jumped seven spots, from No. 13 to No. 6.
The Cubs’ 1-6 start is all but forgotten, now that they’re officially back in first place in the National League Central after pummeling the Cards on Sunday, 13-5. The win was the Cubs’ seventh in a row and gave them 16 wins in their past 20 games.
Biggest drop: The Mariners dropped a whopping nine spots, from No. 9 to No. 17. We loved their story to start the year, but who saw this coming? Aside from their 10-0 win over the Indians on Sunday, the Mariners have had little to celebrate lately. In their past 11 games, they’ve lost eight times, including twice to the Cubs and two of three to the Indians.
Power Rankings top 5:
1) Dodgers (1 last week)
Their stunning loss to the Padres on Sunday aside, it’s hard to unseat the Dodgers as the most complete team in baseball at this point. It’s also hard to talk about the Dodgers without talking about the run Cody Bellinger has put together -- entering Sunday’s game, he was leading the Majors with a .466 batting average (34-for-73) vs. right-handers, 66 points higher than the next player, the Brewers’ Christian Yelich. Bellinger has good numbers against lefties, too, with a .333 average (15-for-45).
2) Rays (2)
The Rays have the second-most wins in baseball (21) and are still tops in their division, even with the Yankees gaining steam. Interestingly, the Rays are just 5-4 in games started by an opener this season, while they’re 16-8 with a traditional starting pitcher. Meanwhile, since the start of last season, the Rays have a 3.51 ERA in the first inning, tied for fifth-best in the Majors.
3) Astros (5)
The Astros walloped the Angels in Monterrey, Mexico, over the weekend, hitting eight home runs while outscoring their division foe, 24-6, in the two-game Mexico Series set. Among the many contributors, Alex Bregman stood out, driving in eight runs over the two games and going 5-for-10 with three homers.
4) Twins (6)
The Twins are emerging as the team to beat in the American League Central and could have an easier pathway to the division crown, given the injury to Kluber. Entering Sunday, Twins starters had a 2.05 ERA over a nine-game stretch.
5) Yankees (5)
Full disclosure -- our voting body is still very divided on exactly how good the Yankees are now, and how that projects over the season, assuming the never-ending injured list shrinks soon. They seemed to get on track with their recent West Coast swing, taking three of four from the Angels before sweeping the Giants. But against teams with winning records, the Yankees just aren’t that good. They were swept in a two-game set with the D-backs, though that preceded a series win over the Twins, two games to one. Their next big test will be this weekend when they play the Rays in St. Petersburg.
The rest of the Top 20:
6) Cubs (13 last week)
7) Brewers (10)
8) Cardinals (3)
9) Phillies (7)
10) D-backs (11)
11) Indians (9)
12) Red Sox (18)
13) Nationals (16)
14) Braves (15)
15) Padres (12)
16) Mets (14)
17) Mariners (8)
18) Rockies (17)
19) Angels (NR)
20) Blue Jays (NR)