MLB Power Rankings: Dodgers, Padres and then chaos reigns on our Week 3 list

MLB

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres held on to their perch atop our MLB Power Rankings as they prepare to meet again — this time in a four-game series starting Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

Putting the two NL West rivals there was the easy part. But putting any order to the rest of the 28 teams in baseball right now starts to get very tricky very quickly. Did our voters reward first-place surprises like the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners? How much faith do they still have in preseason favorites who have started slowly (we’re looking at you, New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves)? And just how high does an 11-game winning streak move the Oakland Athletics on our list?

Here is what our expert panel decided based on what we’ve seen in the first three weeks of the season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 2 observation for all 30 teams.

Previous rankings: Week 2 | Week 1 | Opening Day

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 14-4
Previous ranking: 1

Kenley Jansen reached 97 mph, threw his cutter in the mid-90s and featured some wipeout sliders in a save against the Mariners on Tuesday. One of his longtime catchers, Austin Barnes, admitted that it has been “a couple years” since Jansen’s stuff popped like that. If he has suddenly rediscovered his 2017 form, who can possibly beat the Dodgers? — Gonzalez


2. San Diego Padres

Record: 10-10
Previous ranking: 2

The Padres dropped two out of three in a heated weekend series against the Dodgers, but they could have easily won all three games. Their starting pitching depth is really beginning to show itself with Adrian Morejon slated for Tommy John surgery and Dinelson Lamet‘s status in question. Ryan Weathers has stepped up in the No. 5 spot of a rotation that still features Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove and Chris Paddack. — Gonzalez


3. Boston Red Sox

Record: 12-7
Previous ranking: 12

This doesn’t look like the Boston team that finished in last place last season. Designated hitter J.D. Martinez has returned to slugger form since the return of in-game video, while both Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez have started strong on the mound. The Red Sox have the most wins in the American League, with surprises like infielder Christian Arroyo and Rule 5 reliever Garrett Whitlock making substantive impacts. –Lee


Record: 7-6
Previous ranking: 9

Francisco Lindor is off to a slow start, hitting .222 and finally belting his first home run Wednesday night, but that should turn around soon enough. He’s showing the best plate discipline of his career with nine walks and just three strikeouts, but he hasn’t been squaring the ball up enough. No complaints about his defense, which has been terrific. — Schoenfield


Record: 10-9
Previous ranking: 10

The Rays rallied with a three-game sweep of the Yankees after dropping a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. Tyler Glasnow continues to look like a bona fide ace, with an 0.73 ERA and 36 strikeouts that are both fifth best in baseball. Last year’s postseason darling Randy Arozarena, meanwhile, finds himself in the middle of a slump, hitting .219/.306/.250 in his last eight games. –Lee


6. Oakland Athletics

Record: 12-7
Previous ranking: 18

The Athletics shook off a 1-7 start to go on a scalding-hot 11-game winning streak, relying on consistent starting pitching and clutch hitting. Infielder Jed Lowrie, who played a total of nine games in 2019 and 2020, leads the Oakland offense with a .323/.400/.516 line and six doubles and two homers through 17 games. — Lee


Record: 9-9
Previous ranking: 7

Chicago has been stuck in a win-one, lose-one cycle that reflects the up-and-down tendencies of a starting rotation that still looks promising. The last week or so has seen this pattern, with Carlos Rodon throwing the 20th no-hitter in White Sox history and ace Lucas Giolito getting tagged for eight runs in two innings at Fenway Park. When the rotation can piece together a couple of consistent weeks, the White Sox will be poised to go on a tear. — Doolittle


Record: 11-7
Previous ranking: 15

What more can be said of Corbin Burnes, or for that matter, the combo of Burnes and Brandon Woodruff? Beating the Padres in San Diego was a big series win for a MiIwaukee team at the top of the NL Central despite not having Christian Yelich or Lorenzo Cain. — Rogers


Record: 9-7
Previous ranking: 8

Shohei Ohtani was a bit erratic in his return to the mound on Tuesday, issuing six walks and falling behind on 13 of the 19 batters he faced. But it was his first start in 16 days, the product of a pesky blister. And he was nonetheless difficult to square up. If Ohtani can keep having some impact on the rotation, the Angels might have a shot. — Gonzalez


10. Atlanta Braves

Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 6

Atlanta ranked 25th in rotation ERA (5.31) through Tuesday, and Max Fried and Drew Smyly are on the IL. Unfortunately, Mike Soroka was shut down in early April with shoulder inflammation and has yet to resume throwing. In the meantime, Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright will get yet another opportunity to show something in the rotation. — Schoenfield


Record: 9-8
Previous ranking: 13

The Reds need Luis Castillo to figure things out to stick around the playoff race. His 6.05 ERA is dragging the staff mark down to No. 17 in baseball. His struggles are offset by strong early production from Wade Miley, Jeff Hoffman and Tyler Mahle. On offense, the Reds aren’t reliant on one or two hitters. Tyler Naquin has cooled off, but others have picked up the slack. — Rogers


Record: 11-7
Previous ranking: 19

The Giants’ rotation carries the sport’s fourth-lowest ERA. Five members of that rotation — Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez, Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto — could be free agents at season’s end. So if the Giants fall out of contention around midseason, they might be able to spin them off to acquire some nice controllable pieces for the next phase of their trajectory. — Gonzalez


Record: 6-11
Previous ranking: 5

After the first week of the season, the Twins looked like a team on the verge of putting it all together. My, how fast the wind can change in April. Jose Berrios has had a couple of so-so outings. No one seems to be hitting other than Nelson Cruz, as Byron Buxton has again struggled to stay on the field. A veteran-heavy bullpen that looked on paper like it might be one of baseball’s best has been horrendous. And, of course, everything has been disrupted by COVID-related absences and postponements. It’s been a bad month for the Twins, but lucky for them, no one in the AL Central looks to be sprinting away with the division any time soon. — Doolittle


Record: 8-8
Previous ranking: 17

The burden on the Cleveland rotation to prop up a bad offense can be illustrated by two stats. Its starters rank sixth in the majors during the first month in average game score, even though Zach Plesac has struggled. Nevertheless, Cleveland’s starters have out-game-scored the opposing starter only half the time — a .500 mark by this metric. For all his dominance, even Shane Bieber has fallen prey to this dynamic. His average game score over four starts is 71, ranking fifth in baseball. Yet Bieber’s game score record is only 2-2. — Doolittle


15. Houston Astros

Record: 7-10
Previous ranking: 4

Houston started the season by making the Oakland Athletics look like the Bad News Bears, but what comes around came around with a vengeance. Oakland was five games back of the Astros after six games of the season. Now the Astros have thudded into the basement of the AL West after losing several key players to the injured list because of health and safety protocols. Houston’s patchwork offense has struggled to put up more than two or three runs per game, underscoring the importance of the Astros’ health scenario in the months to come. — Doolittle


16. New York Yankees

Record: 6-11
Previous ranking: 3

The series sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays represented the low point in this young season for the Bronx Bombers, with fans throwing objects on the field. General manager Brian Cashman isn’t ready to hit the panic button yet, preaching patience in both the team’s roster and the coaching staff. But the team’s offense — expected to be the biggest strength — and the rotation have both struggled, exacerbating the other’s weaknesses. — Lee


17. Seattle Mariners

Record: 11-7
Previous ranking: 24

2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis returned to the lineup on Tuesday, and rumor is that Jarred Kelenic may not be far behind. Two big bright spots early on: Mitch Haniger, after not playing since June of 2019, is hitting and playing a good right field; and Kendall Graveman is throwing in the upper 90s with movement and location out of the bullpen. — Schoenfield


Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 16

The Cardinals’ record continues to hover around .500, and their run differential is basically nil. The good news is that Jack Flaherty is starting to round into form, and the ageless Yadier Molina continues to hit. — Rogers


19. Kansas City Royals

Record: 10-7
Previous ranking: 22

You don’t want to overreact to a small sample of defensive stats, so put this observation in the “things to keep an eye on” basket: The Royals are dead last in defensive runs saved in the early going. The thing is, Kansas City is roughly break-even in DRS as compiled by the actual fielders. However, the Royals rank last in the team columns of DRS that rate how much run prevention teams have gotten from defensive alignments. This was not a problem last season, so it may well be a fluke. It better be, or the Royals’ surprising stay in first place will prove to be a short one. — Doolittle


Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 11

The team’s biggest bright spot remains Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who looks like the slugger many expected him to become when he arrived in the majors, hitting .383/.513/.650 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 18 games. The biggest question is whether the injuries will get the best of Toronto, with Teoscar Hernandez and prized offseason acquisition George Springer on the IL and regulars Lourdes Gurriel, Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen, Marcus Semien and Rowdy Tellez off to rough starts. — Lee


Record: 9-9
Previous ranking: 14

Aaron Nola doesn’t often get mentioned alongside Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole and a couple of others as one of the best starters in the game, but maybe he should. He’s 1-1 with a 2.19 ERA after pitching a shutout on Sunday (the first nine-inning shutout of his career), has a 28-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has allowed one home in 24⅔ innings. — Schoenfield


Record: 8-9
Previous ranking: 23

Jazz Chisholm has been one of the pleasant early surprises in the game, hitting for average, hitting for power, drawing walks, stealing a few bases and bringing flair and energy. The tools were never a question, but the contact ability was the concern. He has reined in the strikeouts by not chasing pitches and is looking like a potential star. — Schoenfield


Record: 8-9
Previous ranking: 20

Javier Baez is on pace for an offensive season like none other: .200, 40 homers, 121 RBIs, 50 steals, 10 walks and 313 strikeouts through Tuesday’s game. Of course he won’t keep up the pace, but as the Cubs hitter with the most at-bats with runners in scoring position, Baez needs to cut down the K’s and show some more consistency. Otherwise, the Cubs will be stuck in neutral all season. — Rogers


Record: 7-9
Previous ranking: 21

Rough week for the Nationals, as Stephen Strasburg (shoulder) and Juan Soto (shoulder) both landed on the injured list. Soto’s stay is expected to be the minimum 10 days. We’ll have to wait and see on Strasburg. At least Patrick Corbin, who got shelled in his first two starts, pitched six scoreless innings Tuesday. — Schoenfield


25. Texas Rangers

Record: 9-10
Previous ranking: 27

Their run differential is second worst in the AL, but the Rangers’ record is hovering around .500 thanks to a huge series win on the road against the defending league champion Rays. Second baseman Nick Solak has already doubled his home run total from all of 2020 — he has four — and has hit safely in all but five games. — Rogers


Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 25

Carson Kelly, one of the biggest pieces of the Paul Goldschmidt trade from December of 2018, is off to a hot start, batting .375/.563/.719 with more walks (12) than strikeouts (10). He’s chasing less, lifting the ball better and barreling pitches within the top 10% of the league. So yeah, there’s one bright spot. — Gonzalez


Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 28

Cedric Mullins continues to be the bright spot on this team, placing in the top five in the American League in hits behind the likes of J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Haniger and Yermin Mercedes. Lefty John Means continues to throw the ball well, posting a 1.52 ERA in four starts. –Lee


Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 30

Pittsburgh has been surprisingly resilient despite the loss of Ke’Bryan Hayes. JT Brubaker has opened eyes on the mound, while outfielder Bryan Reynolds was up for player of the week in the NL. — Rogers


Record: 7-11
Previous ranking: 26

The last few years, it seems like the Tigers become a team to watch on the trade deadline rumor mill because they have a starter throwing well who seems like he’d bring a good return but may not quite fit with Detroit’s contention timeline. Expect this to be the case once again in 2021, as Matt Boyd has become a deadline trade candidate to watch, as he has been in years past. Boyd has been terrific early in the season, putting up a 2.12 ERA with a sub-3.00 FiP and an average game score of 61. His game score record is a perfect 4-0 — the Tigers were otherwise just 3-9 by that metric through Tuesday. — Doolittle


Record: 6-12
Previous ranking: 30

The Nolan Arenado-less Rockies, who have already had to play the world-beating Dodgers seven times, sport the worst record in the majors. And their best players have not been immune to the struggles. Charlie Blackmon, their leader, is batting .176/.311/.314. Trevor Story, who will soon be one of the game’s most coveted free agents, carries a .689 OPS. — Gonzalez

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