The top 10 saw a bit of a shakeup after the Rays and White Sox faltered in what was another eventful week.
The rhythms of a six-month baseball season can create a quirky paradox. The day-in, day-out schedule means there’s always something new to react to, while the magnitude of a single game is relatively insignificant when it’s just one out of 162. No franchise plays out this offbeat balance better than the Yankees.
Last week began with general manager Brian Cashman’s giving a ham-handed endorsement (kind of?) of manager Aaron Boone, saying “We made this bed, and we’re going to sleep in it.” Six days later, the Yankees are all smiles after winning five out of six and getting some breathing room from a .500 record, making the talk of a midseason managerial change feel somewhat knee-jerky.
Such is the balance when performing an exercise like these weekly power rankings. We all fall victim to being prisoners of the moment occasionally, but it’s imperative to balance that with a 30,000-foot view—unless we’re talking about the Diamondbacks, in which case it’s best to not look too far in the past at all.
With respectful apologies to the greater Phoenix area (hey, how ‘bout those Suns!), let’s get on with this week’s rankings.
30. Arizona Diamondbacks (Last Week: 30)
The Diamondbacks have lost 31 of 33 and hold a 3.5 game “lead” for the worst record in baseball. They’re currently on a 17-game losing streak, the longest in franchise history, and haven’t won on the road since Madison Bumgarner’s unofficial no-hitter April 25. Walker Buehler carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning against them Saturday. Catcher Carson Kelly broke his wrist when he was hit by a pitch Sunday (it’s anyone’s guess who will be the team’s All-Star Game representative now). At least the team’s Twitter account has progressed past depression onto gallows humor.
29. Baltimore Orioles (LW: 29)
Rookie outfielder Ryan Mountcastle shed any under-the-radar status he had left with his three-homer game Friday. The former first-round pick became the second Orioles rookie to hit three home runs in a game, joining Nick Markakis. Mountcastle has hit .308/.328/.562 in his last 45 games, though there remains plenty of uncertainty about his ability to command the strike zone, as Mountcastle has struck out 78 times with just eight walks on the season. Meanwhile, Cedric Mullins’s star turn continues—the center fielder leads the American League in hits (86) and ranks fourth in steals (12) and OPS (.941).
28. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: 28)
Pittsburgh’s offense is stubbornly resisting the league-wide movement toward home runs and strikeouts. The Pirates have launched an MLB-low 51 homers, with a 15-homer gap between them and the next-to-last D-backs proving larger than the difference between the Arizona and 19th-ranked Detroit. Meanwhile, their strikeout rate of 22.5% is only worse than the Dodgers and Padres among NL squads. That trade-off hasn’t quite worked out for the Buccos, but hey, if you’re gonna stink, you may as well go against the grain and put the ball in play.
27. Texas Rangers (LW: 26)
The losses keep piling up for the Rangers, who have dropped 19 of their past 22 as the team’s pitching continues to flounder. Dane Dunning in particular has gone through a rough patch, going 0–3 with a 6.65 ERA and 1.94 WHIP in his last five starts. Rookie sensation Adolis García had a much-needed two-hit day with a home run Sunday. Before that, he had been batting .217/.230/.300 in 15 games during the month of June.
26. Detroit Tigers (LW: 25)
Perhaps no player is more integral in the Tigers’ rebuild than Casey Mize. The former No. 1 pick has shown his ace potential of late. He’s allowed no more than three runs in each of his last 10 starts, posting a 3.06 ERA in the process. Mize’s slider has been a particularly effective weapon, with opposing hitters batting just .160 against it. The Tigers have won in six of Mize’s last nine starts.
25. Colorado Rockies (LW: 27)
The Rockies continued to hold their own at Coors Field last week, following a sweep of the Padres with a four-game split against Milwaukee. Bud Black’s crew is a formidable 25–16 at home, but a putrid 5–27 road mark has doomed any shot at contention. Raimel Tapia has been quite the underrated spark plug at the top of Colorado’s lineup, leading the majors in hits (40) and the NL in batting average (.345) over the past 30 days with 21 runs scored.
24. Minnesota Twins (LW: 24)
Welcome back, Byron Buxton. After missing 39 games with a hip injury, the star center fielder returned over the weekend and promptly went 3-for-9 with a home run that left the bat with an exit velocity of 107 mph.
On the pitching side, Kenta Maeda has quietly turned things around after a miserable April. He’s 2–0 with a 3.77 ERA in his last six starts, striking out 30 batters in 28.2 innings. Maeda has been a disappointment in his follow-up season after finishing second in last year’s Cy Young voting, but a resurgence would go a long way in Minnesota’s climbing up the AL Central standings.
23. Kansas City Royals (LW: 21)
It’s been a tough June for the Royals, who took two out of three from the Red Sox to win their first series of the month. Kansas City is 3–12 in its last 15 games despite getting great production at the top of the lineup. Whit Merrifield homered in what was another two-hit game Sunday, raising his June slash line to .338/.358/.506 in 18 games. His hot streak—combined with another strong year from Salvador Pérez and a return to the lineup from Adalberto Mondesí—gives an otherwise subpar Royals lineup some much-needed thump.
22. Miami Marlins (LW: 20)
After 2020 brought the Marlins a disruptive COVID-19 outbreak, this season Miami has had to endure a rash of injuries that have prevented any sense of roster continuity. This past week, it was outfielder Corey Dickerson and infielder Jose Devers who hit the injured list (though they got back shortstop Miguel Rojas and starter Cody Poteet). Don Mattingly has not deployed any batting order more than three times, and an MLB-high 13 different pitchers have started games.
21. Seattle Mariners (LW: 23)
No team has outperformed its Pythagorean record more than the Mariners, and their weekend sweep of the Rays was emblematic of that trend. Three of the four wins came in walk-off fashion, capped by Sunday’s 10th inning grand slam by Shed Long Jr.
No Mariners hitter has been hotter of late than J.P. Crawford. The typically glove-first shortstop has batted .364/.414/.584 in 19 games this month, with as many extra-base hits (11) as in his previous 54 games this season.
20. Los Angeles Angels (LW: 19)
The Angels responded to getting swept in Oakland by taking three out of four against the Tigers. MVP frontrunner Shohei Ohtani once again stole the show, with six home runs in his last six games. He has eight home runs and an .830 slugging percentage this month, while going 2–0 with 23 strikeouts and a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings on the mound. He’s set to face the Giants and MLB’s ERA leader Kevin Gausman at home Tuesday. The Angels have scored 118 runs in June, the most in the majors.
19. Washington Nationals (LW: 22)
Kyle Schwarber has been on a power binge since Davey Martinez moved him to the leadoff spot, and the Nationals are the hottest team in the National League (8-2 in last 10 games) as a result. After his three-homer game Sunday against the Mets, Schwarber is the only player in franchise history to homer nine times in a 10-game span, and only the second with five in two games—the other being Bryce Harper in 2015.
18. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 17)
The Cardinals have lost 15 of 21 to fall back to .500. We warned you of an impending John Gant crash back to earth in this space a few weeks ago, and that has come to fruition. He’s allowed 15 runs over 11 innings in his last three starts. It may be time to consider moving Carlos Martinez (6.62 ERA in 13 starts) back to the bullpen. The 29-year-old was rocked by the Braves on Friday and threw more balls than strikes for the second time in four starts. But with Jack Flaherty injured, there aren’t many more appealing arms for St. Louis to turn to. Bringing back Max Scherzer to his hometown team may be a pipe dream at this point with the Nationals warming up, but executive John Mozeliak may have to explore other external options if he wants to save his team’s season.
17. Atlanta Braves (LW: 17)
Taking three of four from a struggling St. Louis club felt like a necessary development for a team that had lost three series in a row. Doing the same in a four-game series against the division-leading Mets would mean even more. Since returning from a hamstring strain at the beginning of May, Max Fried has started to resemble the ace he was last season, registering a 2.53 ERA in eight starts with 41 strikeouts in 46.2 innings. He turned in the best start of his season Friday against the Cardinals, two-hitting them over seven frames.
16. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 16)
Joey Votto had a rough weekend in San Diego. On Saturday, he drew his 13th career ejection in the first inning, upsetting a young Reds fan in the process (don’t worry, he made up for it). On Sunday, he committed a throwing error on a Wil Myers triple, allowing Myers to score what would become the game-winning run.
15. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 14)
Zack Wheeler handed the Dodgers their first shutout since September 2019 on Wednesday. He’s lately been the only consistent member of the Phillies rotation, which has used off days recently to revert to a four-man group in the absence of any palatable No. 5 options. Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin were roughed up by San Francisco over the weekend to leave Wheeler as the only starter with an ERA below 4.00.
14. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 10)
The Blue Jays have the fourth-highest run differential in the AL yet sit in fourth place with a .500 record. They’re 5-9 in one-run games, with a pitching staff that ranks 29th in the majors in fWAR (2.3) and 28th in home-run rate (1.48 HR/9). Though he’s turned in good results so far (3.50 ERA in 13 starts), Robbie Ray is a prime regression candidate. He leads the AL with 17 home runs allowed and has an unsustainable 90.3% strand rate. Ray has at least improved his control, with a 6.5% walk rate compared to last season’s abysmal 17.9%.
13. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 11)
After a couple of lackluster starts against the Pirates and Rockies, Corbin Burnes isn’t a lock to make the NL All-Star team anymore, despite his historic start to the season. It’s an especially surprising stretch considering he walked five batters in 9.1 combined innings. While a spin rate drop over the last couple weeks during MLB’s sticky stuff crackdown isn’t unassailable proof of past Spider Tack usage, it certainly raises suspicion that his decline has coincided with the rpms of his fastball/cutter reaching a two-year low.
12. Cleveland (LW: 13)
Can Cleveland survive with Shane Bieber on the shelf? The reigning Cy Young Award winner won’t throw for at least two weeks, and it’s unclear how long it will be before he takes the mound in a big-league game again. Aaron Civale is the only regular starter left standing in the rotation, and the reserves haven’t exactly offered much support. Cleveland’s stout bullpen can compensate for a depleted rotation—the group ranks fifth with a 3.42 ERA—but has thrown the third-most innings (56) over the past two weeks and risks overuse if the starters consistently fail to pitch deep in games.
11. New York Yankees (LW: 15)
And just like that, panic subsides in the Bronx. The Yankees have won five of their last six games against two of the best teams in the AL, thanks in large part to their exceptional knack for turning triple plays. The saving grace for the Yankees all year has been the bullpen, with several standouts worth highlighting. We’ll settle on multi-inning specialist Jonathan Loaisiga for praise here. The 26-year-old has recorded more than three outs in 14 of 30 appearances this season, holding opposing hitters to a meager .209/.267/.284 slash line. As Aaron Boone’s go-to high-leverage arm, he’s picked up seven wins in relief this season.
10. Chicago Cubs (LW: 9)
The Cubs offense has gone cold, averaging just two runs over their past eight games. That includes Kris Bryant, who has just seven hits, one homer and three RBIs in 60 June plate appearances. Patrick Wisdom, a 29-year-old Quad-A type and former Cardinals draft pick, has unexpectedly done his best impression of Bryant at third base by carrying the lineup with nine home runs in 73 plate appearances and an astronomical 1.112 OPS since being called up in late May.
9. New York Mets (LW: 12)
The Mets are in the middle of a grueling stretch of 33 games in 31 days, which they’ve started 6–5, with only one more off day before the All-Star break. Francisco Lindor has alleviated some of the pressure that had been building by fulfilling his expected role as New York’s most valuable hitter this month, with a .275/.359/.522 slash line and four home runs in 19 games. Fellow free-agent signing James McCann has also experienced some positive regression after a similar, quieter rough start to his Mets career, with a .896 OPS over the last 30 days.
8. San Diego Padres (LW: 6)
After an eyebrow-raising sweep at the hands of the Rockies in Denver, the Padres returned home to a full capacity Petco Park for the first time this year and quelled some concerns by completing their first four-game sweep in a decade for their first series win of the month. The continued stretching out of Dinelson Lamet, who twirled five shutout innings Sunday over the Reds, is encouraging, as is the expected return of Fernando Tatís Jr. after a shoulder injury scare over the weekend. But San Diego still needs better showings from veteran hitters such as Eric Hosmer (.665 OPS), Manny Machado (.776 OPS) and especially Jurickson Profar (.214/.317/.272, one HR in 242 PAs).
7. Boston Red Sox (LW: 8)
In the first two months of the season, Boston’s starting rotation posted an AL-best 3.37 FIP in 53 games. Since then, the group has fallen apart, with a 4.82 FIP and 5.74 ERA. The offense has kept that drop-off from being too steep, scoring the fourth-most runs in the majors in June. Leading the charge all year has been shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who’s having perhaps his best season yet. Aside from a six-game hitless streak from May 26 to June 2, Bogaerts has gone more than one game without hitting safely only once, a two-game skid from May 11-12.
6. Oakland A’s (LW: 7)
The A’s saw their seven-game winning streak snapped after losing two straight on the road against the Yankees. Oakland has received contributions from all over its balanced roster, but few standouts have surprised more than Tony Kemp. The 5′ 6″ utility man has developed into a patient bat with a good amount of pop, hitting .273/.392/.453 on the year with a 16.1% walk rate. That’s the eighth-highest walk rate among players with at least 150 plate appearances.
5. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 1)
Tampa Bay takes a tumble after losing six straight games, including four in walk-off style. But fear not, Rays fans: Wander Franco is coming to the rescue. The über prospect has torn up the minor leagues at every stop and will now take his switch-hitting swing to the big stage. The Rays don’t need Franco to be a star right away, as there’s plenty of talent scattered throughout the roster. But if he acclimates himself quickly to big-league pitching, he could be the difference maker in what should be a tight race in the AL East.
4. Chicago White Sox (LW: 2)
The White Sox got beaten up by the Astros in a four-game sweep this week after taking two of three against Tampa Bay. The Houston series embodied a somewhat concerning early-season trend for Chicago. The White Sox are just 17–23 against teams .500 or better this year, and 26–6 when facing teams with losing records. Beating up on bottom-feeders is what good teams should do, but a better showing against the cream of the crop is a needed step toward serious championship contention.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 5)
We did not list Walker Buehler among the Dodgers’ potential All-Stars a couple of weeks ago. That was not a sign of disrespect, but an acknowledgement of the extremely high bar set by NL pitchers. Still, it seems to have been a mistake. Buehler, who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Arizona on Saturday, has allowed just six runs over his last seven starts and boasts MLB’s third-best ERA (1.36) over that span.
2. San Francisco Giants (LW: 4)
Some observers (*ahem*) figured the Giants would fade as their schedule got tougher. They’ve proceeded to record the third-best winning percentage (19–13, .594) against teams over .500. After scoring just three runs in four games against the Nationals last weekend, they exploded for 59 runs in seven games this week, and are now tied for the MLB lead with 107 homers. Mike Yastrzemski’s first career grand slam led a seven-run comeback over Arizona last Tuesday. His continued re-emergence after a slow start is crucial to San Francisco’s offense.
1. Houston Astros (LW: 3)
Houston, we have a new No. 1 team. The Astros are 16–4 in their last 20 games and boast far and away the best lineup in baseball. Houston’s wRC+ (124) is 11 points better than the next-best team (the Dodgers at 113). That’s larger than the gap between Los Angeles and the No. 11 offense (Atlanta at 103). What’s even more impressive is, unlike the White Sox, the Astros perform their best against the top teams. Houston is 35–19 against teams .500 or better, easily the best mark in baseball. A year ago, the Astros were poised to be baseball’s most reviled villains in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal. That feels like ages ago given the sticky situation the league finds itself in at present. But fans who feel robbed of getting to boo to their hearts’ content when the Astros came to town last year can rest easy—stadiums are open again, and Houston is back on top.
More MLB Coverage:
- Odd-Year Magic? Why the Giants Are for Real?
- Sticky Cleanup: What Pitch-Doctoring Enforcement Means for MLB
- Tragedy and Hope: An All-Time Prospect, an All-Time MLB Scout and a Pop Fly
- He Made Sticky Stuff for MLB Pitchers for 15 Years. Now He’s Speaking Out.