MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers: All-Star Break Edition (7/11/17)
MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers: All-Star Break Edition
With the All-Star Break officially underway and more than half of the season finished, we welcome you back to another edition of Risers and Fallers for this week's MLB Power Rankings. This week will be a unique edition as we'll compare our Power Rankings at the All-Star Break to our Preseason Power Rankings in order to identify the biggest Risers and Fallers of the first half. Our Power Rankings are developed using players on the active depth chart, which causes fluctuation week-to-week based on injuries and who is in and out of the lineup. To see a full description of how our Power Rankings are created, as well as this week's full list of rankings, please visit our current MLB rankings, as well as our preseason rankings, which can be found here.
After over three full months of baseball, there's a lot to digest when looking at our All-Star Break rankings compared to preseason. The Cubs have fallen from grace, dropping from the first spot down to #8 as they enter the break with a sub .500 record and a 5.5 game deficit in the NL Central. There seem to be four teams that could realistically win the Central, as the Brewers enter the break in first, while the Pirates and Cardinals feel the only way they can go is up. The 2-6 spots in our preseason rankings now make up our Top 5, showing things have gone relatively as planned for the teams at the top. Our downfall comes when we reach the Mets and Giants at 7 and 9, respectively, who will both be featured in our Fallers section as they have little to no chance of making the playoffs. Overall, when taking a look at our current rankings, there hasn't been a whole lot of drastic movement outside of the six teams featured, as fluctuations throughout the season have come back to the norm as teams have shown their true colors through 90 games. So without further ado, let's take a look at our biggest first-half riser, the New York Yankees.
Top 3 Risers
New York Yankees - #15 up to #6
The Yankees entered this season with a few question marks, mostly around their youth and how well they would perform. Greg Bird, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, and Jordan Montgomery would all be in the starting lineup or rotation and would be called upon all season long. So far, Severino and Judge have had incredible first halves, nearly doubling the next closest player on their team in terms of WAR, as Severino sits at 3.0, good enough for 8th in the majors, and Judge leads the world in WAR, sitting at 5.5 heading into the break. Sitting behind Severino for 2nd in pitcher's WAR is Jordan Montgomery, who has been great for the Yanks, entering the All-Star Break (ASB) with a 6-4 record and ERA of 3.65. Bird has been the sole disappointment from this group, as he's been on the DL since May 2nd and is looking more and more like he won't return in 2017. Beyond that grouping, the Yankees have gotten help from all over the diamond, as they currently have seven players with 10 or more home runs, and eight players with at least 36 RBIs. They enter the break 3rd in runs scored, 5th in home runs, 6th in average, and 3rd in OPS, while their pitching also ranks 7th in ERA. The Yankees will start the second half 3.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, but are atop the AL Wild Card Standings, putting them in a great position to make the postseason.
Arizona Diamondbacks - #16 up to #7
Arizona began 2017 with high hopes after an injury riddled 2016, hoping their offseason moves from a year ago would finally come to fruition. That has been the case so far in 2017, as the Diamondbacks enter the ASB with the second-best run differential in the NL and a tight grip on the Wild Card. They also bring the second-best home record into the break, as they've gone 33-15 at Chase Field. Like the Yankees, the D-Backs have excelled on offense and on the mound. Their staff ERA comes in 2nd in the majors at 3.41, largely in part to their starters turning in the 5th most quality starts in the majors with 46, as well as an opponent batting average of just .235, good for 3rd best in the league and even more impressive since they play their games in Chase Field, one of the best parks in the game for offense. Jake Lamb has had a breakout year for them, having already blasted 20 homers and driven in 67 runs, tied with teammate Paul Goldschmidt for 5th best in the majors. David Peralta, Chris Owings, and Brandon Drury have all been solid contributors as well, as all three are batting at least .285 and boast a wOBA of at least .340. Paul Goldschmidt continues to mash in the middle of their lineup, entering the break with the 4th highest WAR in the majors at 4.0. Zack Greinke leads the pitching staff as he's had a resurgent 2017, entering the ASB with an 11-4 record, 2.86 ERA, and the 6th highest WAR among major league pitchers. Robbie Ray has had a breakout season, catching the majors by storm with his 11.97 K/9 mark and sub 3.00 ERA. Overall, Arizona has shown they're a legit contender in the NL, and it's a shame they share a division with the Dodgers, as they'll likely be stuck in a Wild Card spot come playoff time. But with Greinke as their ace and a stellar home record, Arizona would welcome an opportunity at Chase Field come September.
Tampa Bay Rays - #18 up to #13
The biggest surprise in the AL East resides in Tampa, as the Rays enter the ASB tied with the Yankees at just 3.5 games back of the Red Sox. Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison have added huge pop to their lineup in their second season with the club, as Dickerson has already set a personal-best WAR of 2.8, while Morrison has set a career high home run mark with 24 in the first half. Steven Souza Jr. has had a career year as well, entering the break with a career high 17 homers, .271 average, .369 OBP, .500 SLG, and 2.5 WAR. They've battled with some unfortunate injuries to their lineup, as Wilson Ramos just rejoined the team and Kevin Kiermaier has been sidelined since early June with a hip fracture. Mallex Smith has been a great fill-in for Kiermaier, as he's batting .333 with 22 runs and 11 stolen bases in 35 games. Chris Archer remains the ace of the staff and one of the premier pitchers in baseball, entering the break with a 3.2 WAR, good enough for 5th best in the majors. His 10.76 K/9 is the highest of his career other than 2012 (only made four starts), and he's on pace for his third consecutive 200 inning season. Rookie Jacob Faria has been impressive thus far through six starts, posting a 4-0 record with a miniscule 2.11 ERA. He's notched a quality start in all six appearances and the Rays have won five of his six starts. With an improved lineup and a staff that can hold their own, the Rays have a definite shot at making the playoffs, and might not be finished making moves, as they added Adeiny Hechavarria just a week ago to solidify the middle of their defense.
Top 3 Fallers
Chicago Cubs - #1 down to #8
The Cubs headline our disappointments of the first half as they enter the break with a 43-45 record and 5.5 game deficit in the Central. After their whole infield started in the All-Star Game last season, the only rep for the Cubs in 2017 is closer Wade Davis, who wasn't even on the club a season ago. Unfortunately for the Cubs, they can't just pinpoint one specific area to fix after the break, as they've seen declines in offense, defense, and pitching from a season ago. Chicago enters the break 20th in runs scored, 28th in hits and average, and 19th in slugging percentage. Their only impressive offensive category is walks received, as they sit 3rd in the majors with 337. Their bullpen has been solid thus far, as the struggles have come mainly from the starting rotation. Their only starters with an ERA below 4.00 are Mike Montgomery (3.75 ERA thru 6 starts) and Eddie Butler (3.88 ERA thru 11 starts). After Jon Lester's career year last season, he's responded with his worst since 2012, entering the break with a 4.25 ERA and 5-6 record through 19 starts. His HR/9 rate of 1.25 is his highest since 2007, while his BB/9 of 3.08 is his worst since 2011. Jake Arrieta can sympathize with Lester, however, as his ERA and HR/9 are up considerably from last season, while his ground ball percentage has dropped nearly 7% from last season, returning to his marks when he was with the Orioles. Lastly, John Lackey's gas tank might be finally reading empty at age 38, as he enters the break on the DL with a 5.20 ERA and WAR below 0. Lackey can't stop giving up homers, as he is second among all pitchers with 24 surrendered. Even though I've focused on their pitching, their offense deserves some heat as well. Kyle Schwarber has been one of the biggest disappointments of the season, and guys like Jason Heyward, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, and Ben Zobrist have all been underwhelming as well, as none of them have posted a WAR over 1.0 heading into the break. The Central might be slipping away from the Cubs just a year after their historic season, and if their top arms and offense outside of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo don't turn it up a notch, the Cubs will miss the playoffs and look on to 2018.
New York Mets - #7 down to #17
New York has seen a tale of two teams this season, as the Yankees moved up from 15 to 6, and the Mets fall from 9 to 17. The Mets' season can be easily explained just by looking at their FanGraphs pitching page, which shows exactly why the Mets have struggled this season. Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are the two names you'd expect at the top, but then you realize Syndergaard hasn't pitched since April 30th, and you wonder where all the highly touted depth in the rotation has gone over the last few years. Well, Matt Harvey is at the bottom of the page with a -0.4 WAR through 13 starts, Zack Wheeler has a 3-6 record with a 4.86 ERA, and Steven Matz and Seth Lugo have made five and six starts, respectively. Their bullpen has been completely re-ordered without the presence of Jeurys Familia, and Addison Reed, Jerry Blevins, Fernando Salas, and Josh Edgin all find themselves in the Top 30 in the majors in terms of appearances out of the pen. With their inability to stay healthy and lack of success while on the mound, the Mets carry the third worst ERA in the majors into the break at 4.94. On the offensive side, there isn't a whole lot to commend or criticize. The Mets sit around league average in most offensive categories, with their strengths coming in the home run and slugging departments, but sit towards the bottom in terms of team average. Yoenis Cespedes's absence hurt them in May and early June, and he hasn't been the same Cespedes that has produced for the Mets in the last season and a half. Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, and Jose Reyes are the only Mets to play over 70 games, and while Bruce and Granderson have been well above average players, Reyes has been just worse than a replacement player, carrying a -0.1 WAR into the break. At this point, the Mets should dump some assets after the break and look towards 2018, as they have nearly no chance of catching the Nationals, and are 10.5 games back in the NL Wild Card race.
San Francisco Giants - #9 down to #27
The Giants head into the break as baseball's most disappointing team. Their 34-56 record is good for 2nd worst in the majors, and the 56 losses sets a franchise record for most before the All-Star Break. Their offense has lacked pop all season long, as they've remained one of the lowest scoring teams in the majors all season, entering the break 3rd worst in the majors with just 354 runs scored (league average is 413). In a year where we're on pace to break the major league home run record with more than 6,000, the Giants enter the break with 75, good for last in the league and 12 behind the next closest team. They're not just missing home runs, but any semblance of offense in general. Their OBP of .303 is bottom five in the majors, and that number combined with their lack of power leads to the lowest OPS in the majors at .677. They only have four players with 35+ RBIs (remember Yankees have 8 at 35+), and currently have only two position players that crack the Top 100 in WAR. They've struggled on the mound as well, as they are currently 24th in the majors with a 4.68 ERA, and only have one shutout on the season, compared to the 3.55 ERA and 6 shutouts they had entering the break last season. Jeff Samardzija has been their ace, leading the team with a 2.3 WAR and FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 3.44. Ty Blach has also been a bright spot for them, posting a solid 6-5 record with a 4.06 FIP in the first half of his rookie campaign. Johnny Cueto has underperformed this season, however, as his 4.51 ERA is his worst since his rookie season in 2008, and his ground ball rate has dropped from 50.2% last season to 39.6%, his lowest mark since 2008. Cueto's BB/9 is the highest since 2009 at 3.06, and his HR/9 is the highest of his career at 1.53, which is crazy since he spent seven and a half years pitching in Great American Small Park. Cueto has been getting hit harder this year than ever before, as his 35.2% hard contact rate is more than 4% higher than his worst career number, and up over 8% from last season. The Giants are finished in 2017, and it will be interesting to see them as a seller as the trade deadline approaches.