MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (05/23/17)

By Mark Dankenbring

MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers

As we begin the last week of May baseball, we're back with another edition of Risers and Fallers for this week's MLB Power Rankings. We have an interesting dynamic in this week's article as all the risers come from the American League, while each faller resides in the National League. Also, just like last week we see a decent amount of movement in our Top 10, which always makes for an exciting 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 - 5/23/17.

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.

This week features some interesting changes in our Top 10, as the Red Sox move all the way up to the second spot, knocking the Astros down to three and moving the Cubs out of the Top 3 for the first time all season. After a one-week hiatus, the Indians find themselves back in the Top 5 as they went into Houston and swept the Astros over the weekend. The Tigers have found themselves inside the Top 10 for the first time this season, largely due to the return of J.D. Martinez, who took home AL Player of the Week honors in his first full week back with the club. The Tigers are the only new team in the Top 10 this week as the Rockies drop out, but let's start by taking a look at the Red Sox, one of our biggest risers this week as they move up to #2 in our Power Rankings.

Top 3 Risers

Boston Red Sox - #6 up to #2

The Red Sox jump up to their highest spot of the season, taking over the #2 spot in our rankings this week. Boston has been led primarily by their pitching staff, which sits at #2 in the majors in overall WAR, according to FanGraphs. The Red Sox have seen great production from the front end of their rotation, led by Chris Sale, and from the back end of the bullpen, where Craig Kimbrel has been the most dominant closer in the game thus far. Sale is far and away the best pitcher through the first two months, as he's started 4-2 with a 2.19 ERA and has struck out 95 batters in just 65 and 2/3 innings while walking only 13, good enough for the best K-BB% of any qualified starter. Boston's offense has been solid thus far, sitting just under the league average in runs scored. Their team average is at an impressive .267, but their main struggle has been hitting the ball out of the ball park. Boston is tied for the Giants for the least amount of home runs in the majors with 38, and are only one of four teams under 45 home runs. The Red Sox definitely miss the pop Big Papi added to the middle of their lineup last season, so it will be interesting to see if their power numbers climb at all in the upcoming weeks. They're expecting David Price and Pablo Sandoval to return right around the end of May, so their roster will become even more potent. Hopefully Sandoval can fill the void at third base, as that position has produced a .228 average with a .307 slugging percentage on the season, which is the worst in the majors.

Toronto Blue Jays - #18 up to #14

After an atrocious 6-17 start, the Blue Jays rebounded by going 11-4 in their next 15, but have recently lost five of seven to return to a 19-26 record. Toronto welcomed back starting catcher Russell Martin on Saturday, boosting both their offensive and defensive numbers, resulting in their rise up to 14th this week. Their offense has struggled, and rightfully so, without Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson in the middle of their order, but both are expected to return later this week. Kevin Pillar has done his best job to hold down the fort, as he leads the team in runs, average, on-base percentage, and stolen bases, while also sitting in second on the team in slugging percentage. Their rotation has been somewhat solid in the absence of Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Francisco Liriano, but it's tough to maintain consistency with three of your top five starters on the DL. Marco Estrada and Marcus Stroman are both having solid seasons, as both post a winning record and ERA at 3.30 or lower. The Blue Jays have been dealt a tough hand with all of their early season injuries, but we should see them continue to climb up the standings as their core players return.

Texas Rangers - #22 up to #18

The Rangers have been baseball's hottest team over the last two weeks, winning 10 of 11 and vaulting all the way up to second in the AL West. They've excelled on both sides of the ball over this stretch, allowing under 3.5 runs while scoring just over 6.5 runs per game. Mike Napoli found his power stroke during this stretch, homering five times and driving in 10 in the 10 games he's played. Nomar Mazara has been a machine for them as well, hitting .368 with seven doubles and 10 RBIs in the 10 games he's played over this stretch. Joey Gallo continues to be an all-or-nothing candidate at the plate, as he retains an average below .200, but has now clubbed 13 homers on the season and is slugging .504. Their staff has performed admirably as well, with Yu Darvish leading the starters with a 2-0 record and 3.00 ERA in his three recent starts. Matt Bush seems to have settled down the back-end of their bullpen, and after eight early-season blown saves, the Rangers are 5 for 5 in this 11-game stretch. Texas will obviously cool off, but this run was crucial in closing the gap with the Astros, and Cole Hamels and Adrian Beltre will likely be back in the next couple weeks to help aid the surge.

Top 3 Fallers

Washington Nationals - #4 down to #7

The Nationals slip a few spots in our rankings this week after losing four of five, but still remain in the Top 10 as they maintain their solid hold on the NL East. Their prowess remains strong on the offensive side, as they still have the most runs scored in the majors, and they still sit at a remarkable .471 slugging percentage as a team. They continue to lead the league in team average as well, led by Ryan Zimmerman at .362, who is followed closely by Bryce Harper at .349. While their starting pitching has been successful through the first two months, their bullpen has been anything but. Their pen has the second worst ERA in the majors at 5.40, largely due to the fact they've struggled to keep the ball in the ball park, as they have the 4th highest HR/9 innings in the majors at 1.66. There's a great article over on ESPN which discusses Dusty Baker's usage of the starting staff, and how their four main starters are all in the Top 5 in pitches per start in the majors. With a taxed starting rotation and a struggling bullpen, it will be interesting to see how the Nationals progress if their offense begins to cool off at any point.

Colorado Rockies - #9 down to #16

This is definitely a shocker and a tough one to explain, but it basically comes down to the fact that the teams from #9 - #16 are so close that just a small injury or drop in performance can lead to a several spot slide. It's tough to find anything negative to say about a 29-17 division leading team, so I won't pick at loose ends and try to make a case for their drop. The Rockies have been great through nearly the first two months, and will welcome Trevor Story back with open arms as he's poised to return this week.

Miami Marlins - #19 down to #23

Thankfully, the Marlins provide a lot more ammo for a team that's falling in our rankings. To start off, the Marlins haven't won back-to-back games since April 22nd-23rd, and have gone 5-20 since that point. They officially rank as the worst pitching staff on FanGraphs, as their overall WAR is still under one at 0.6, and a lot of their issues can be related to their inability to strike batters out while walking the most in the league. They come into tonight having walked 189 batters on the season, and sit at 8th worst in the majors in strikeouts at 332. Their starting rotation has been a revolving door, as nine different pitchers have started a game for the Marlins, with Dan Straily being their best pitcher by a considerable margin through the first seven weeks. They are one of four teams with a starters' ERA of 5.00 or higher, and their save percentage is laughable, as they've blown 7 of 11 opportunities. Their offense has been anemic as well, with their top players performing well but seeing minimal production from everyone else. They've scored the 6th fewest runs in the league, and with a starting staff holding an ERA over 5.00, it's understandable why they've hit such a rough patch over the last month.