Prior to Opening Day, it was a foregone conclusion that the Astros would run away with the American League West title, though maybe not so much by a landslide 21 games as they did in 2017.If early-season performances are any indication, there may actually be a race in the AL
Prior to Opening Day, it was a foregone conclusion that the Astros would run away with the American League West title, though maybe not so much by a landslide 21 games as they did in 2017.
If early-season performances are any indication, there may actually be a race in the AL West this year, thanks to the emergence of the improved Angels.
The Angels will open a three-game home set with the AL East-leading Red Sox on Tuesday night as one of the most interesting teams in baseball. At 13-3, they're off to one of their best starts, and, boosted by a seven-game winning streak, will begin their week-long homestand with a three-game advantage over the third-place Mariners.
The headline-grabber is, obviously, two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, who has all but erased memories of his Spring Training struggles and is, dare we say, exceeding expectations on both sides of his game. But he's not the only contributor. The Angels fortified their lineup with veteran acquisitions this offseason, and, combined with impressive starts by some of the mainstays -- Andrelton Simmons, Jose Pujols, and, of course, Michael Trout -- the Halos have separated themselves as the best offensive team in the AL.
Their quick start to 2018 jettisoned them to near the top of our weekly Power Rankings. They're not the only team debuting in the Top 5.
Biggest jump: Flushing faithful have been riding the Mets' fast start for three weeks now; others of us took a while to hop on the train. But it's time. Monday's stunning loss to the Nationals notwithstanding, the Mets are off to one of their best starts in history, and are deserving of a seven-spot jump, from No. 10 last week to No. 3 now. Time to stop asking, "Can they stay healthy?" and just enjoy the top-rate pitching staff, which in the early-going has the lowest ERA in the National League.
Biggest drop: The season is now several weeks old, and it's time to inch away from judging teams based on last year. That's not to say the Nats are going to be a sub-.500 team all season -- there's too much talent all over this roster, and for good teams, things have a way of fixing themselves over the course of six months. But the Nationals, who drop from No. 3 to No. 8, are simply not a great team right now (though they were during their stunning 8-6 comeback win over the Mets on Monday).
Power Rankings Top 5
1. Red Sox (2 last week)
It's hard to argue with the Red Sox taking over as baseball's best team. Their rainout on Monday didn't change the fact that they started the day tops in the AL with a 2.06 rotation ERA. As a pitching staff, they have the fourth-lowest WHIP in the Major Leagues at 1.13, and the third-lowest staff ERA at 2.94. Offensively, they have the second-highest batting average in the AL at .275, behind only the Angels (.291).
2. Astros (1)
For the first time in this young season, the Astros are no longer the highest-ranked team, although based on the strength of their rotation, they haven't lost their standing as one of baseball's elite teams. But offensively, they've struggled -- over the past week, prior to Monday's game, hitters were collectively slashing .220/.298/.322.
3. Mets (10)
The Mets fell short of their best 15-game start in history with their loss Monday to the Nationals, but at 12-3, good times are still rolling in Flushing. They've received outstanding performances from every area, including the bullpen, which, before Monday's blip, led the Majors with a 1.51 ERA, allowing 37 hits over 53 2/3 innings.
4. Angels (9)
The Angels were supposed to be better this year, but this much? Ohtani isn't the sole reason for Anaheim's early-season dominance -- there's a slew of starters who have contributed to the rotation's MLB-low 1.66 ERA in the past week -- but given Ohtani is the most intriguing player in baseball, it's understandable he's absorbing most of the attention. Ohtani has retired 35 of the past 38 batters he has faced since allowing a home run to Matt Chapman in the second inning of his first start. He has also recorded a hit in all seven of his starts as designated hitter. Overall, he's batting .367 (11-for-30) with three homers and 11 RBIs.
5. D-backs (7)
Arizona had a good week, taking two of three against two divisional opponents -- the Giants and then the Dodgers. The D-backs scored 17 runs in their first two games in Los Angeles over the weekend and have scored five or more runs in three of their past four games. Individually, Paul Goldschmidt has had a nice week -- he's 10-for-24 (.417) with four homers and eight RBIs during his six-game hit streak.
The rest of the Top 20
- Yankees (5)
- Cubs (4)
- Nationals (3)
- Indians (8)
- Dodgers (6)
- Pirates (13)
- Blue Jays (11)
- Cardinals (12)
- Twins (16)
- Rockies (15)
- Brewers (14)
- Phillies (24)
- Mariners (18)
- Braves (19)
- Giants (17)
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.