MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (05/30/17)
MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers
With June 1st and summer baseball fast approaching, we're back with another edition of Risers and Fallers for this week's MLB Power Rankings. There are some big movers in our rankings this week, as five of our six teams featured have moved five spots or more since last week. 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 MLB Rankings - 5/30/17.
Within our rankings every week, there are noticeable risers and fallers throughout. The goal of this article is to identify who has gained or lost the most ground in the Majors, whether it be due to injury, roster changes, or just a decline in team performance. Each article will include the Top 3 risers and fallers in the rankings, despite their initial position.
There is limited movement in our Top 10 this week, as the top seven teams all remain the same, with a few flip-flopping positions. The Cubs fall to their lowest ranking at #5 as they can't seem to get the ball rolling, heading into Tuesday's game with a 25-25 record. The Cardinals and Tigers both exit their positions within the Top 10, and will be further examined in the fallers section of the article. The Blue Jays crack the Top 10 as Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki officially return. J.A. Happ will also return to the club, as he'll start against the Reds tonight, hoping to provide a boost for the Blue Jays that they desperately need. Donaldson, Tulo, and Happ will look to turn around Toronto's season, and they're the team who opens up our discussion of the biggest risers in this week's rankings.
Top 3 Risers
Toronto Blue Jays - #14 up to #9
Entering Tuesday, the Blue Jays remain in last place in the AL East, but are just 6.5 games back of the first place Yankees. With a record that will be below .500 entering June, Toronto knows it has to make moves to make up for the first two months of their season. They've begun to make that move, entering Tuesday with a 6-1 record in their last seven. Justin Smoak has had a breakout season so far, as he's already hit 12 homers (he hit 14 all of last season) and driven in 38 runs (matching his total from 2016). Smoak has seen his average rise more than 70 points from where he finished last year, largely due to the fact he's cut his strikeout rate nearly in half, and sits at 18.2 K% on the season. With Smoak's emergence and the return of Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays are in a great position to close the gap in the AL East. They'll begin a 4-game series with the division leading Yankees this Thursday, and will hope to close their current 6.5 game gap.
Colorado Rockies - #16 up to #11
The Rockies return to an appropriate position this week, as they move up to #11 in the rankings. May has been a successful month for the Rockies, as they've maintained their top position in the NL West by not losing a single series in the month, and entering Tuesday with a 17-10 record in May. Charlie Blackmon continues to be the ultimate catalyst for the Rockies, entering Tuesday with a .329 average and OPS just under 1.000. His production has been atypical of a leadoff man, as he leads the team in slugging percentage and home runs, as well as leading the entire National League in RBIs with 46. He's making a great campaign for NL MVP as he currently leads a team with the second best record in the majors. The Rockies' pitching remains top notch as well, with rookies leading the way in Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez, and Kyle Freeland, who have combined for a 16-6 record while all carrying an ERA under 3.80. Their lineup got even deeper with the return of Trevor Story last week, and they're still awaiting the return of sophomore slugger David Dahl, who slugged .500 in just 63 games with the Rockies last season. If Colorado can continue their excellence on the road, which they'll need to with 18 of their 27 June games happening away from Coors Field, they'll continue to battle the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks for title of best team in the NL West.
Minnesota Twins - #22 up to #13
The Twins have been one of the major surprises of 2017, as they remain in 1st place in the AL Central entering Tuesday. They've been led by two players in particular; Miguel Sano on the offensive side, as he enters Tuesday with a .292/.406/.590 slash line with 12 homers, 33 runs, and 39 RBIs, which are all a team high, and Ervin Santana, the 12-year vet who has had the best start to a season of his career, with a record of 7-2 and ERA of 1.75. He's been able to rely on weak contact, as he only strikes out 6.55 hitters per 9 innings, but boasts a BABIP of just .143. It will be interesting to see how the Twins fare once Sano and Santana regress, as Sano's BABIP numbers are off the charts in the other direction, leading the majors with a .461 BABIP, nearly 30 points higher than Justin Turner in second, and over 50 points higher than Ryan Zimmerman who's in third. Outside of Santana and Sano, the Twins have been an average team, so even as they move up to #13 in our rankings this week, it will be interesting to see how they progress through June with regression likely for their top two stars.
Top 3 Fallers
St. Louis Cardinals - #8 down to #12
The Cardinals exited the Top 10 once Kolten Wong headed to the DL with an elbow injury, as well as Randal Grichuk being optioned to the minors to figure out his swing after a 2-20 stretch with 10 strikeouts. The Cardinals have been a streaky team this season, starting a mediocre 3-9, only to bounce back with a stretch of 18-6 to take over first place in the NL Central, but have fallen into a rut having gone 3-9 in their last 12 games. Their starting rotation has been outstanding, leading the majors with a 3.21 ERA in large part because they limit opposing teams from hitting the long ball, as they're second in the majors with just 33 homers allowed as a starting staff. Unfortunately for St. Louis, they've been unable to capitalize on their dominant starting pitching. The offense has struggled mightily outside of Jedd Gyorko, as Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler, who both hit over .270 last season, are stuck under .230 through 48 games. Just as their pitchers have limited homers, the offense has struggled to hit the ball out of the ballpark, as no one on the team has double digit homers, and they enter Tuesday with the fourth fewest home runs in the majors. Luckily for St. Louis, however, is the fact that no one in the NL Central is playing exceptionally well, with the Brewers atop the division at 27-24. The Cards still have plenty of time to right the ship, but really need the offense to step it up in June if they want any chance at a division title.
Detroit Tigers - #10 down to #18
Detroit takes a dive in this week's rankings after they placed Ian Kinsler on the DL with a hamstring injury. The Tigers have been underwhelming so far in 2017, entering Tuesday with a 24-27 record. Their struggles begin with their starting staff, who currently have the 5th highest collective ERA in the majors at 4.75, as they're the only starting staff with a ground ball rate under 40%. Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann are the two main culprits in this case as their ground ball rates are an identical 29.2%, a bad strategy when the league is overtaken with hitters trying to elevate the ball more and more. Michael Fulmer has been the only bright spot in the rotation as he boasts a 5-3 record and an impressive 2.65 ERA through 10 starts. With a struggling starting staff, the offense needs to be exceptional, but Detroit is right around league average in nearly every category. This is in large part due to the fact J.D. Martinez began the year on the DL and Miguel Cabrera hasn't found his form, as well as the fact Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos have struggled mightily in terms of average and slugging compared to a season ago. I'm confident that the offense will find its form in June, but without a quality starting staff, it's hard to imagine the Tigers going anywhere meaningful this season.
Los Angeles Angels - #13 down to #19
The most depressing news in baseball this week came out of Los Angeles, where Mike Trout was sent to the DL for the first time in his career after tearing a ligament in his left thumb while sliding head first into second base. Trout heads to the DL near the top in almost every offensive category, as he was off to the best 47-game start of his career. Arguably his most impressive number comes from the 1.203 OPS he'll head to the DL with. If he were to keep that number through the end of the season, he would join Ruth, Gehrig, Ted Williams, Hornsby, Foxx, Bonds, and McGwire as the only players to finish a season with an OPS of 1.203 or higher (courtesy of Jayson Stark). It's hard to imagine the Angels doing much with Trout sidelined, as his WAR of 3.6 is more than two wins higher than the next closest player on his team, and his replacement, Ben Revere, currently has the lowest WAR on the team with a -0.5, according to FanGraphs. He'll head to the DL with a slugging percentage of .742, while Andrelton Simmons and Yunel Escobar are tied for second on the Angels with a .405 slugging percentage. It's pretty remarkable how much Trout does for this team, and I think that will be noticed even more as he enters the first DL stint of his career. If Albert Pujols weren't two home runs away from being the 9th player ever to hit 600 career homers, there would be no reason to watch the Angels sputter along without the best player in baseball.