Power Rankings: Astros remain on top, but who is closing in?

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Houston dominating early power rankings (1:03)

The Baseball Tonight crew weigh in on the defending world champion Astros' impressive start to the 2018 season. (1:03)

Now that the regular season is underway and we have more than a week's worth of action to consider, it's time to fire up ESPN.com's Power Rankings. Unlike our preseason Power Ranking, which used projected wins to sort MLB teams from No. 1 to 30, from this week forward we turn things over to our panel's votes based on results as well as expectations. While the initial action didn't convince the panel to move away from ranking the reigning champion Astros as baseball's best, it wasn't unanimous -- one voter identified the Red Sox as baseball's top team in light of their already strong start.

While there's a good amount of overlap between expectations and initial results -- six teams beyond the Astros were voted into the same slots -- some club's good or bad starts have already produced significant moves up and down the rankings. The teams that clambered highest from their preseason pegs were the Pirates making a nine-slot jump to almost reach the top 10, and the Braves, escaping the bottom tier by moving up eight rungs. The Diamondbacks and Mets were the other big upward-bound clubs as both cracked our top 10. Having gotten there, with health both teams might have the ability to stick. And perhaps thanks in part to Shohei Ohtani's already impressive debut at the plate and on the mound, the Angels moved up to No. 7.

Less happily, some clubs have already disappointed initial expectations and taken a quick tumble. Cold starts (and cold bats) dropped the Dodgers and Indians down six rungs, though both teams managed to remain in the top 10. Their initial fade in the rankings was matched by the Phillies' fall six spots after a few high-profile losses and an overused bullpen helped put rookie manager Gabe Kapler on the spot. In the NL Central, the Cardinals and Brewers took five-slot drops from the voters.

This week, our panel comprises David Schoenfield, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, Bradford Doolittle and Sarah Langs.

Preseason rankings

1. Houston Astros

Record: 8-2
Preseason ranking: 1

Can anyone stop the defending champs? The Astros started their season in style, as George Springer became the first player in MLB history to hit a leadoff home run on Opening Day in consecutive seasons, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Josh Reddick have taken things from there at the plate. -- Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information


2. Boston Red Sox

Record: 8-1
Preseason ranking: 7

The Red Sox's rotation jumped out to a hot start, posting a 0.86 ERA through the team's first seven games. Their four earned runs allowed over that stretch are the teams fewest allowed over a season's first seven games in the past 10 years. A healthy Hanley Ramirez has provided some dramatic flair at the plate in close games. His two go-ahead hits in extra innings are already one short of his career high for a season. -- Dan McCarthy, ESPN Stats & Info


3. New York Yankees

Record: 5-5
Preseason ranking: 3

Prized acquisition Giancarlo Stanton smacked two home runs in his team debut, but it has not all been positive for the slugger. In his first home game, Stanton struck out five times for the first time in his career. But all was well again the next day, when Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez all homered in the same game for the first time as teammates. The Yankees lead the AL East in scoring, with Didi Gregorius swinging the hottest bat of all, producing an AL-best 1.430 OPS. -- McCarthy


4. Washington Nationals

Record: 4-5
Preseason ranking: 5

Scoring wasn't an issue for the Nationals in the early going. They scored in the first inning in each of their first five games of the season. Elias research tells us that was the longest streak of its kind to open a season since the St. Louis Browns scored in the first inning in each of their first five games of the 1944 season. The Nationals were 43-17 when scoring in the first inning last season. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information


5. Chicago Cubs

Record: 5-4
Preseason ranking: 6

Of all the reasons to be concerned about the Cubs' offense in the early going, the main concern is probably Anthony Rizzo's start. Before missing some games with lower back tightness, Rizzo was hitless in his previous three games, going a combined 0-for-15 in the process. No offense is going to score much when its No. 3-hole hitter has a .433 OPS. -- Ken Woolums, ESPN Stats & Information


6. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 7-2
Preseason ranking: 12

The Diamondbacks' strong start despite a tough initial schedule is even more impressive considering they've lost two starting players -- RF Steven Souza Jr. and 3B Jake Lamb -- to the DL, plus SS Nick Ahmed has lost time to illness, but once again super-utilityman Chris Owings has helped paper over those absences. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com


7. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 7-3
Preseason ranking: 9

Written off by many in spring training, Shohei Ohtani has instead lived up to or even exceeded the hype so far. After going 4-for-32 with zero extra-base hits this spring, Ohtani is 7-for-19 through four games as a hitter and has hit a home run in each of his past three games at DH. He also has flashed a nasty splitter on the mound, and his average fastball velocity ranks among the best for starting pitchers. Ohtani's incredible run has helped overshadow an unusually slow start for Mike Trout. -- Paul Casella, ESPN Stats & Information


8. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 3-6
Preseason ranking: 2

Offense has been the Dodgers' chief problem one week in, as they got shut out three times in their first nine games and failed to get a home run from their outfielders (and just a .542 OPS). As a result, Clayton Kershaw opened the year 0-2 in three starts despite allowing just four runs -- three of them on solo homers hit by left-handed hitters. -- Kahrl


9. New York Mets

Record: 7-1
Preseason ranking: 15

The Mets have started off hot, finding themselves atop the NL East entering the season's second full week. Michael Conforto returned far earlier than anticipated -- a date that was once rumored to be mid-May or even early June turned into April 5. And what did he do? After stating that he was back because he wanted to face Stephen Strasburg, he hit a homer in his third at-bat against him. Conforto is now 3-for-18 in his career against Strasburg, but two of those three hits have been home runs. -- Langs


10. Cleveland Indians

Record: 4-5
Preseason ranking: 4

Most of the Indians' hitters have been ice-cold initially, but getting oft-injured Michael Brantley back from the DL provided an immediate boost as he powered a win in their home opener. Nick Goody has also looked good stepping into Bryan Shaw's shoes to join Andrew Miller and Cody Allen and create a new late-game power trio in the pen. -- Kahrl


11. Minnesota Twins

Record: 4-3
Preseason ranking: 11

Joe Mauer is showing flashes of his former self as an offensive force, with a .962 OPS and more walks than strikeouts. If he can put up a strong year along with Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano behind him, the front third of the Twins' lineup could be among the best in the majors. -- Woolums


12. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 7-2
Preseason ranking: 21

Not to rain on Pittsburgh's parade, but when five of your six wins are against the Tigers and Reds, and your biggest early-season accomplishment is a home split against the Twins, it might not inspire people to be believers. That said, in the first year without Andrew McCutchen since 2008, Pittsburgh is averaging 6.4 runs per game. -- Woolums


13. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 4-5
Preseason ranking: 8

Paul DeJong hit 28 home runs in his first 115 games, tied with Albert Pujols for the most in a player's first 115 career games in Cardinals history. The only major league shortstop with more home runs than DeJong since the start of last season is Francisco Lindor -- and DeJong debuted partway through last season. -- Langs


14. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 6-4
Preseason ranking: 19

Toronto sits sixth in baseball in runs scored and extra-base hits through Sunday. Justin Smoak has paced the offense, clubbing seven extra-base hits and driving in 10 runs. The Blue Jays have surged against opposing bullpens, posting a .469 slugging percentage after the starter comes out, the best mark in baseball. -- McCarthy


15. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 5-5
Preseason ranking: 10

The Brewers' new-look outfield got off to a fast start this season. Lorenzo Cain is the first player in Brewers history with at least nine hits and no strikeouts over the team's first four games of a season. Not to be outdone, Christian Yelich became the first player in Brewers history with 10 hits in his first five games with the team, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, before injuring his oblique against the Cardinals on Wednesday. -- Nitzberg


16. Colorado Rockies

Record: 5-5
Preseason ranking: 13

The Rockies may have made the best move of the young season so far, reaching a contract extension with reigning NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon that will keep him under team control through 2021 (with player options for 2022 and '23). Blackmon led the majors in hits, runs and triples last season, also crushing 37 home runs. He was also the first player since Duke Snider in 1954 with at least 35 homers, 35 doubles and 10 triples in a single season. -- Casella


17. Seattle Mariners

Record: 4-3
Preseason ranking: 14

Felix Hernandez followed up an encouraging Opening Day start against the Indians with a rocky outing six days later in San Francisco. At the plate, Robinson Cano is off to a hot start, while the club hopes to get Nelson Cruz back from his ankle injury later this week. Closer Edwin Diaz has had his electric stuff on full display, but how often can the Mariners get him the ball with a lead? -- Casella


18. Atlanta Braves

Record: 6-3
Preseason ranking: 26

Perhaps the craziest stat early in this young season is that Freddie Freeman has walked in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances and has a Barry Bonds-ian .558 on-base percentage. Freeman is the key cog in a Braves offense that leads MLB in OPS and runs scored early on. -- Woolums


19. San Francisco Giants

Record: 4-4
Preseason ranking: 17

It's hard to have a more energizing win than the one the Giants had over the Dodgers at AT&T Park on Saturday night. Andrew McCutchen entered the game 2-for-24 on the season, but went 6-for-7, notching his first career six-hit game, culminating in a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the 14th inning with the Giants trailing by a run. It was McCutchen's second career walk-off home run with his team trailing in the 14th or later -- he also had one in 2015 with the Pirates. He's the first player in MLB history with multiple such walk-off homers. -- Langs


20. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 4-6
Preseason ranking: 20

Outside of Manny Machado, the Orioles' offense has not inspired much confidence. Baltimore was the first team in the league to reach the 100-strikeout mark, and the O's lead the league in percentage of pitches out of the zone that result in a swinging strike. On the mound, Dylan Bundy has looked excellent in his first two starts despite not being able to get a win, posting 15 strikeouts to go with a 0.69 ERA. -- McCarthy


21. Texas Rangers

Record: 4-7
Preseason ranking: 18

Adrian Beltre, now in his 21st major league season, has already passed Rod Carew and Rickey Henderson on the career hits list this season. He'll continue climbing the leaderboard as he looks to bounce back from being limited to a career-low 94 games last season (not including his rookie year, when he debuted in June). Beltre's continued success shouldn't surprise anyone, but what might surprise some -- Bartolo Colon made arguably the best start by a Ranger so far this year. -- Casella


22. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 3-5
Preseason ranking: 16

The Phillies won just one of their first five games, while generating questions on bullpen usage and other managerial moves. But game No. 7 was a whole other story: the Phillies defeated the Marlins 20-1, hitting two grand slams in a single game for the fifth time in franchise history, and Jake Thompson earned the save by pitching the final three innings. The plus-19 run margin of victory was tied for the second largest in a game in which a player got a save since the stat became official in 1969. -- Langs


23. Oakland Athletics

Record: 4-7
Preseason ranking: 23

Losing Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk to Tommy John surgery might have already dented hopes that Oakland's young rotation could surprise people this year, but at least Sean Manaea is turning heads. In his first two starts, the lefty allowed just nine baserunners in 15⅔ IP, with an 11-1 ratio of strikeouts to walks. -- Kahrl


24. Chicago White Sox

Record: 3-5
Preseason ranking: 28

Matt Davidson stole the show on Opening Day, becoming just the fourth player in MLB history to hit three homers in a season opener. He has slowed down a bit from that 486-homer pace, but the 27-year-old has still been swinging the bat well. Though the White Sox will gladly take the home runs, his improved plate discipline over the first week is an encouraging sign for a player who struck out 165 times and drew just 19 walks last season. -- Casella


25. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 1-8
Preseason ranking: 22

Fourth-year manager Kevin Cash has decided to forgo the traditional five-man rotation, opting instead for a bullpen game when the need arises. The results so far have been inconsistent, as the Rays have dropped eight straight no matter who started. The offense has not offered much, either; Tampa Bay's .567 OPS and 3.0 runs per game are among the worst in baseball. Unless they can score more runs, creativity in the rotation might not be of any help. -- McCarthy


26. Kansas City Royals

Record: 2-5
Preseason ranking: 25

The Royals are clearly missing Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez. Their offense is at or near the bottom of the league in OBP (next to last in the league at .264) and power (tied for last in the league with two home runs). It's not going so great on the mound, either, thanks in large part to their bullpen, which has a 6.53 ERA so far this season. -- Nitzberg


27. San Diego Padres

Record: 2-8
Preseason ranking: 27

The Padres have struggled out of the gate, but one highlight was Christian Villanueva's three-homer game against the Rockies, making him the seventh Padre and second Padres rookie to hit three home runs in a game. Villanueva had just four career home runs entering the game, and now will have to help pick up the slack on offense to make up for the loss of Wil Myers, who went on the disabled list Wednesday. -- Nitzberg


28. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 2-6
Preseason ranking: 24

Worry not about Joey Votto's slow start at the plate -- Votto is a notoriously slow starter. His .293 average and .917 OPS in March/April are his worst in any month of the season in his career. Votto has a career 1.002 OPS in the second half of the season, so expect the established first baseman to pick things up as the season goes on. -- Woolums


29. Detroit Tigers

Record: 4-4
Preseason ranking: 29

The Tigers have started well by going 4-4 to open the season against the Pirates, Royals and White Sox. But it does not get any easier next week, with four games against the Indians and three against the Yankees on the schedule. After setting career lows in batting average (.249), slugging percentage (.399) and OPS (.728) last season, Miguel Cabrera is off to a better start in 2018, other than injuring himself rounding the bases in Chicago on Thursday. -- Nitzberg


30. Miami Marlins

Record: 3-6
Preseason ranking: 30

Outside of a good crowd for their home opener, the Marlins have already drawn almost 9,000 fewer fans per game than last year's NL-worst attendance, and that was for a chance to see the Cubs and Red Sox visit Miami. If attendance drops further, the Marlins could be the first team to fail to draw a million fans in a season since the Expos in their last year in Montreal in 2004. -- Kahrl