Power Rankings: Blue Jays crowd into more than just the AL East picture

play
Red Sox hold top spot in power rankings (1:34)

The MLB power rankings show the American League's strength in the top five. (1:34)

Just three weeks into the season, there's some consensus among our voters for the Power Rankings: The Red Sox and Astros are the two best teams in baseball. And the Reds and Marlins are the two worst. But everything in between? There's almost no agreement whatsoever. Some votes reflected a continued faith that teams that were expected to be good or bad will be, whatever the opening results suggest. Others embraced what has happened on the field. The result? Some dramatic moves up and down the rankings.

For starters, the top 10 got a shake-up, as two teams jumped seven places apiece -- the Blue Jays and the Cardinals, with the Jays soaring high enough to crack the top five. The Blue Jays' arrival puts three AL East teams among the MLB's elite top third, because the Yankees, despite dropping three spots, still cling to that distinction.

This week's other big climb, from the Cardinals, was part of a shake-up among the NL Central's teams, as the Cardinals and the Brewers gained ground while the Pirates came back to the pack. The Birds haven't separated themselves from their division rivals just yet, but seven straight wins against the Reds in their past nine games has helped them rise to first place.

The two teams falling from the top 10 in this week's shake-up were the Cubs and Twins, both expected to be in the running for the postseason picture and both struggling to string wins together to break out beyond .500. The Twins also suffered the indignity of tying for the week's biggest fall, dropping five slots. The team that joined them? The Orioles, who seem to be picking up steam as they dig deeply into the AL East basement, fueling early-season speculation that Manny Machado's days in Baltimore will run out long before the regular season does.

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

Week 2 rankings | Week 1 | Preseason

1. Boston Red Sox

Record: 17-4
Week 2 ranking: 1

The Red Sox have gotten off to such a great start that you basically have to no-hit them to quiet their offense. That's precisely what Sean Manaea did on Saturday night. The Red Sox entered Saturday with an .895 winning percentage. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, that's the best win percentage for any team to be no-hit, minimum five games into the season. That no-hitter also ended an eight-game win streak for the Red Sox. Elias research shows that's the second-best single-season win streak snapped by a no-hitter in history; the only one longer was a 10-game win streak by the 1884 Providence Grays, snapped by Larry Corcoran's third no-hitter. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information


2. Houston Astros

Record: 16-7
Week 2 ranking: 2

The Astros' starting pitching has been spectacular so far this season; their 2.10 ERA is the lowest in the majors. While the big names like Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are having great seasons, it's actually No. 5 starter Charlie Morton who leads the team with a minuscule 0.72 ERA. As it stands, that would be the lowest by an Astros pitcher in April (minimum 25 innings) and the lowest in any month since Nolan Ryan had a 0.20 ERA in May 1984. -- Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information


3. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 15-6
Week 2 ranking: 5

The Snakes' rotation may be the team's key for winning the NL West, but it rode a roller coaster of news both great and awful last week. Patrick Corbin flirted with throwing the first no-hitter of 2018 last week, losing it in the eighth but completing his first shutout, but the Diamondbacks lost Taijuan Walker for the season to Tommy John surgery. Organizational depth isn't a strength, so another injury or a struggling starter could force the D-backs to start looking to trade for help. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com


4. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 14-8
Week 2 ranking: 3

The Angels finally experienced some adversity last week -- they were outscored 27-3 in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox. Shohei Ohtani also left his start early in that series because of a blister on his pitching hand. The good news is that Mike Trout is on a 60-homer pace, Albert Pujols is closing in on 3,000 hits and Ohtani is expected to be ready to start this week. -- Paul Casella, ESPN Stats & Information


5. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 13-8
Week 2 ranking: 12

While the bullpen deserves mention for posting an AL-best 2.12 ERA so far, helping make sure the Jays haven't lost a game they've led after five innings, a couple of hot-hitting reinforcements to the lineup also deserve mention: Teoscar Hernandez has done nothing but hit since being called up, and Yangervis Solarte has clubbed four of his five homers subbing for an injured Josh Donaldson. Can the Jays make their hot start stick? This week's series against the Red Sox will be an interesting test. -- Kahrl


6. New York Mets

Record: 14-6
Week 2 ranking: 4

After being a key strength during their hot start, the Mets' bullpen is starting to show cracks. The bullpen had a 1.51 ERA during the team's 12-2 start through April 15 but a 9.00 ERA in its past six games. And now Matt Harvey will move to the bullpen; Harvey's 5.80 ERA since the start of 2016 ranks 186th among 191 pitchers with at least 150 innings pitched in that span. -- Langs


7. Cleveland Indians

Record: 11-8
Week 2 ranking: 6

It's a good thing the pitching staff is dealing, holding opponents to three runs or fewer in 13 of the Indians' past 14 games, because the offense has barely managed to score more than three per game during that same stretch. While the Tribe sound confident about getting their offense going, they almost literally have nowhere to go but up, ranking next to last in the AL in OPS and wOBA. -- Kahrl


8. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 13-8
Week 2 ranking: 15

The Cardinals have quietly climbed near the top of the home run leaderboard. They have 30 home runs, tied for most in the National League and second most in the majors. That charge has been led by elder statesman Yadier Molina and youngster Paul DeJong. The team is on pace for more than 225 home runs, which would be second most in franchise history behind a 2000 output of 235 that involved Mark McGwire. The Cardinals didn't break 200 last year, even in the Year of the Home Run. -- Langs


9. Washington Nationals

Record: 10-12
Week 2 ranking: 9

The end of the game feels like the same old story for the Nationals this season. After having a 4.41 bullpen ERA in 2017, 23rd in the majors and worst among teams to make the playoffs, the Nationals yet again do not rank favorably in that category. They have a 5.78 ERA, 28th in the majors. It's very early, but only three teams have made the playoffs with a bullpen ERA of 5.00 or higher since saves became official in 1969: the 1987 Twins (5.11), 1997 Mariners (5.47) and 2005 Red Sox (5.17). -- Langs


10. New York Yankees

Record: 11-9
Week 2 ranking: 7

The Yankees may be consistently flirting with the .500 mark, but here is a fun question: Is Aaron Judge off to a better start this year than last year? Last April, he had a 1.161 OPS, 27 percent strikeout rate and 14 percent walk rate. So far this April, he has a 1.106 OPS, 25 percent strikeout rate and 19 percent walk rate. While his .419 BABIP will decrease, his peripheral stats are better now than at this point last season. -- Ken Woolums, ESPN Stats & Information


11. Chicago Cubs

Record: 10-9
Week 2 ranking: 8

The Cubs spent ace-level money to sign Yu Darvish this offseason, but the early returns have been suspect, to say the least. Other than a six-inning, one-run, nine-strikeout performance against the Brewers on April 7, Darvish has struggled. The righty has been pulled in the fifth inning in his three other starts, all after having that inning fall apart on him. Figure this: With two outs in an inning, Darvish has given up 11 hits and seven walks (18 of a combined 32 hits and walks against him) this season. -- Woolums


12. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 10-10
Week 2 ranking: 11

Sweeping the Padres last week gave the Dodgers their first series win of the season, but perhaps even better news was seeing struggling closer Kenley Jansen nail down a save on Saturday night against the Nationals. Further good news? Justin Turner started hitting off a tee as he continues to come back from a broken wrist, while Rich Hill should be back from the DL as soon as the Dodgers need a fifth starter again this week. They're not clicking on all cylinders yet, but they're getting there. -- Kahrl


13. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 14-7
Week 2 ranking: 18

The Phillies have been one of the hottest teams in baseball. Since getting off to a 1-4 start, they've gone 13-3, the best record in the majors since April 5. Their plus-52 run differential in that span is second to only the Red Sox (plus-57), and no other team is even close -- the next-best run differential in that span is the Astros at plus-37. It helps that the Phillies also have a 2.25 ERA in that span, third best in the majors. -- Langs


14. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 14-9
Week 2 ranking: 17

Eric Thames hit two-run home runs in back-to-back 2-0 wins over Cincinnati this week, and he loves playing against the Reds, especially in April. Thames is hitting .406 with 10 HRs and 17 RBIs against Cincinnati in April over the past two seasons. He joined Joe Panik (first two games of 2018) and Yogi Berra (1955) as the only players in MLB history to have one home run account for all the runs between both teams in back-to-back games, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. -- Nitzberg


15. Minnesota Twins

Record: 8-8
Week 2 ranking: 10

If you want a good candidate for best under-the-radar performance to this point in the season, Max Kepler is a good one. In 16 games, Kepler has four home runs, more walks than strikeouts and a lofty .308 isolated slugging percentage. The Twins will miss Byron Buxton -- still on the 10-day DL with migraines -- a little less if Kepler continues to perform. -- Woolums


16. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 12-10
Week 2 ranking: 13

Pittsburgh had by far its worst week of the season, dropping series at home to the Rockies and on the road in Philadelphia. An offense that started red-hot scored two runs or fewer six times (all losses). A lot of the reason for Pittsburgh's difficulty to score runs stems from Gregory Polanco going cold; he had just one extra-base hit. -- Woolums


17. Atlanta Braves

Record: 12-8
Week 2 ranking: 19

Braves fans have to be thrilled with how the team's young players are faring so far. Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies have maintained early OPS marks over .900. Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb are each striking out at least 11 batters per nine innings. And as the season progresses, Atlanta should continue to draw talent from its top-rated farm system. -- Woolums


18. Seattle Mariners

Record: 11-9
Week 2 ranking: 14

The Mariners were reminded last week that the Astros still are the class of the AL West for the time being. Seattle lost three of four to the reigning champs, scoring a total of six runs in the four-game series. Edwin Diaz has been lights-out at the back end of the bullpen, but Felix Hernandez isn't showing many signs of a bounce-back season, and James Paxton hasn't been nearly as effective as he was last season. -- Casella


19. Colorado Rockies

Record: 12-11
Week 2 ranking: 16

The usual suspects keep hitting for the Rockies, with both Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon off to hot starts this season. On the mound, it has been Chad Bettis, not Jon Gray, who has pitched like the staff ace so far. Gray, the club's Opening Day starter, is 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts. Bettis has helped pick up the slack, spinning a 1.44 ERA over his four starts this season. -- Casella


20. Oakland Athletics

Record: 11-11
Week 2 ranking: 22

Sean Manaea's no-hitter against the Red Sox was just his latest strong start to lower his ERA to 1.23. His was the seventh no-hitter in Oakland A's history, and their first since Dallas Braden's perfect game in 2010. The lefty is throwing with slightly less velocity this year, but he's generating more called strikes, ground-ball outs and popups, and getting the benefit of a significantly improved A's defense. -- Kahrl


21. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 8-13
Week 2 ranking: 23

The Rays had a strong showing last week after starting the season 3-12. Newcomer C.J. Cron has provided some much-needed pop for a lineup that hasn't shown much power in the early going. His three-homer weekend brought his season total to five, which leads the team. -- Casella


22. San Francisco Giants

Record: 9-12
Week 2 ranking: 20

Brandon Belt has hit five home runs this season and is on pace for more than 30, which is a reminder of something that illustrates the character of the Giants' offense over the past 10-plus years. The last Giants hitter to notch 30 home runs in a season was Barry Bonds, with 45 in 2004. In that span, every other team has had at least two players hit 30 home runs in a season. The Yankees have had 20 players do so. -- Langs


23. Detroit Tigers

Record: 9-11
Week 2 ranking: 28

The Tigers saw their offense get going in their three-game sweep of the Orioles, hitting seven home runs in the series, two more than they had all season going in. Over the weekend, one Tiger who belatedly joined the power surge was Nicholas Castellanos, who had gone homerless in his first 18 games to start the season before homering on Saturday. He had not gone more than four games without a home run to start each of his first four full seasons in the majors. -- Nitzberg


24. Texas Rangers

Record: 8-15
Week 2 ranking: 26

It may be hard to believe, but Bartolo Colon has been the highlight of the Rangers' young season. He not only flirted with perfection against the Astros, but he has a 2.59 ERA in five outings (three starts) and seems to have found a spot in Texas' starting rotation for now. He has provided a few bright spots for a team that has already settled into the AL West basement and continues to deal with injuries. -- Casella


25. San Diego Padres

Record: 8-15
Week 2 ranking: 25

After allowing 30 runs to the Dodgers while suffering a three-game sweep early in the week, the Padres have lost six straight to the Dodgers dating back to last season, allowing seven or more runs in each of the games. That ties the Padres' longest such streak against any opponent in franchise history. The other such six-game streak also came against the Dodgers, back in 1974. -- Nitzberg


26. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 6-16
Week 2 ranking: 21

The Orioles lost six games in a row last week before winning Friday, which tied for their second-longest losing streak in the past seven seasons. They lost seven in a row last season, and before that, they lost nine straight in July 2011. That year, Baltimore finished 69-93 in the basement of the AL East. One bright spot has been Manny Machado, who had his 17th career multi-HR game for the Orioles last week, breaking a tie with Frank Robinson (16) and tying Brady Anderson for the fifth most in franchise history. -- Nitzberg


27. Chicago White Sox

Record: 4-14
Week 2 ranking: 24

It has been a disastrous opening month for the White Sox. They've lost 12 of their past 13 games, had four games postponed and allowed double-digit runs in four straight games last week. All of that was put on to the back burner following the medical scare with Danny Farquhar. Farquhar passed out in the dugout on Friday after suffering a brain hemorrhage and remains in critical condition. -- Casella


28. Kansas City Royals

Record: 5-15
Week 2 ranking: 27

Before splitting their four-game series with the Tigers, the Royals had lost nine straight games while scoring just 27 runs. Their last single-season winless streak of that length was 11 games streak back in 1986. The one Royal who can't be faulted for this offensive slump is Mike Moustakas, who leads the team in average, hits, runs, home runs, RBIs, total bases and OPS this season. He's also in the AL's top five in total bases and extra-base hits. -- Nitzberg


29. Miami Marlins

Record: 5-16
Week 2 ranking: 30

Derek Jeter's latest kerfuffle aside, some Marlins really are doing things to make them competitive as currently configured. Center fielder Lewis Brinson had a three-homer week, lefty Jarlin Garcia has yet to be scored on as a starter (through two turns), and shortstop Miguel Rojas is among the MLB leaders in defensive runs saved. -- Kahrl


30. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 3-18
Week 2 ranking: 29

Manager Bryan Price took a pink slip last week from a team that never had a chance this season. The Reds' run differential sits at minus-56, 61 runs worse than any other team in the NL Central. While the Pirates are a bit of a surprise early in the season, the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers are all set up to win. The Reds are rebuilding; they had to expect it would be tough. -- Woolums