MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (6/12/18)
MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers
Welcome to the 10th edition of this year's MLB Risers and Fallers article! Each week I'll be here with you to discuss the three biggest Risers and Fallers in our MLB Power Rankings, regardless of initial position. Our Power Rankings are developed using current team performance and 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 Power Rankings - 6/11/18.
For the first time in six weeks, we have legitimate movement in the top five of our rankings. Houston and New York stay locked at #1 and #2 thanks to their continued success, but things start to shake up once we move past them. The Boston Red Sox move up one spot to #3 this week thanks to Mookie Betts' return from the DL. They're in a virtual tie atop the AL East with the Yankees, and are at least 14 games ahead of the Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles. Boston and New York are once again AL powerhouses, but one will have to survive the single elimination Wild Card game in order to make a World Series run, something absent from this rivalry's history before last season. The Chicago Cubs drop to fourth this week thanks to Boston's rise, but they've been playing great baseball of late. They're 8-2 to start June and 11-3 in their last 14 games. Chicago's pitching has been elite to start the month, posting a second-best 2.60 ERA while holding opponents to a miniscule .185 average through 10 games. Jon Lester has led the way in June, posting back-to-back seven-shutout-inning performances with just three hits allowed during those two starts. This week also features some new life in the top five, as the Cleveland Indians move up a spot thanks to five wins in their last six games and 11 of their last 15. They're officially 5.5 games clear of the division after this hot streak, and have a good chance to lengthen that gap considering their next 12 games are against division opponents. The bullpen remains their biggest worry moving forward, as they're last in the majors with a 5.72 ERA. Their combined -0.9 WAR is also worst in the majors. The scariest thing about the bullpen situation is how few innings they've actually thrown. Their 170-innings thrown are last in the league and almost 60 innings less than the league average. Not to mention, the six teams right above them in fewest innings thrown all have top 15 bullpens in the majors based on WAR. GM Mike Chernoff will certainly be looking for reinforcements as the summer progresses, as the current state of the bullpen would be a huge liability in the postseason.
Seattle has been the hottest team in the majors over the last month. Since losing to the Tigers on May 17th to drop to 24-19, the Mariners are 18-5 and have catapulted themselves into first place in the AL West. It hasn't been complete domination for Seattle, however, as their 21-9 record in one-run games gives them the most one-run wins of any team by a large margin. The next closest team is Milwaukee with 15 wins, with a couple teams sitting at 12 wins. Seattle's effectiveness in close games can be partially attributed to their bullpen, which is fourth in the majors with a combined 3.3 WAR and 3.30 FIP. Edwin Diaz has been masterful closing things down, leading the league with 24 saves and sitting second among closers with a 14.40 K/9. His 1.5 WAR ranks second among all major league relievers, and his 35 appearances are the most among any reliever. Outside of their impressive record in one-run games, Seattle hasn't really been elite anywhere else. They are currently 12th in runs scored per game with 4.38 and 11th in runs allowed with 4.05. Their pitching staff has been held afloat by the dominance of James Paxton, and their offense has been ignited by Jean Segura's .347 batting average, but it will be interesting to see how this team fares once they start to drop some close ones. Even with their dazzling record, Houston is just 0.5-games back and New York/Boston would earn home field advantage in a Wild Card game, so Seattle still has a long way to go to ensure a lengthy playoff run. The additions of Denard Span and Alex Colome will certainly help their outfield and bullpen depth moving forward, and Jerry Dipoto likely won't stop there in his quest to take the Mariners to the postseason for the first time since 2001.
The Giants make a huge jump this week thanks to Madison Bumgarner's season debut and an 8-3 record over their last 11 games. Ironically, two of those three losses have come in Bumgarner's first two starts, but things are certainly looking up in the Bay. Their starting pitching has been ravaged by injuries, with Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, and Bumgarner combining to throw just 79 innings thus far, while 25 starters around the majors have already logged 80 or more innings this season. Bruce Bochy has been waiting on the offense to start producing more as well, and they've finally answered the call here in June. They've averaged five runs per game to start the month, a vast improvement from their 4.24 mark on the season. Brandon Crawford has remained scorching hot by slashing .485/.550/.879 through the first 10 games of June, having already collected seven doubles and two home runs on the month. Since May 1st, the shortstop is slashing .439/.483/.697 and has raised his batting average from .189 to .338. This incredible five-week stretch has catapulted him into the top 20 players in terms of WAR, as he lands in 19th with 2.3 on the season. Andrew McCutchen has found some rhythm at the plate in June as well. His .350/.349/.725 line is a great sign for Giants fans, but the best part about his hot start is the return of his power. McCutchen's three home runs in the month doubled his season total, while his 10 RBIs account for one-third of his 30 up to this point. Even with injuries and underperformance holding back the Giants, they are still 33-33 and just 3.5-games back of the division lead. Having Bumgarner pitch every fifth day will be an enormous boost to this club, and they should be considered more of a threat moving forward, especially when Cueto and Samardzija rejoin the rotation.
Oakland continues to stay alive out in the AL West despite some tough competition. Their 34-32 record is fourth in their division, but only the Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees have a better mark among remaining AL teams. The A's have played well to begin June, averaging five runs per game while also boasting a top-10 team ERA of 3.23. Oakland is right around league average in a lot of categories up until this point, and that point is echoed by our rankings this week, as they land at 15th in our pitching and hitting ranks. Their starting pitching is currently 14th with a 4.07 ERA, but the bullpen has found a little more success. Their 3.54 bullpen ERA ranks 8th in the majors, and their seven losses surrendered are the third-fewest in the league. Blake Treinen has excelled in the closer role. His 0.87 ERA is the fourth-best mark in the league among relievers with 20+ innings pitched, and his 1.3 WAR also puts him fourth among relievers and matches his season total from 2017. Treinen is striking out more batters than ever, as his 10.45 K/9 is well above his prior season-best mark of 8.80. Their pitching has also been bolstered by Frankie Montas, the organization's fifth-ranked prospect who averages nearly 97 mph on his sinker, a pitch he's thrown 70% of the time in his three starts this season. The 25-year old has thrown 21.2 innings in those three starts, and is 3-0 with a 1.25 ERA and an FIP of 3.10. It's going to be awfully tough for Oakland to make its way out of the AL West, but they should remain competitive and right around league average the rest of the way, or even better depending on the success of their summer call-ups.
After a 16-month rehab from Tommy John surgery, St. Louis' #1 prospect Alex Reyes suffered a torn lat muscle in his first appearance back in the majors. The 23-year old right hander was supposed to be a big contributor to the Cardinals' rotation this season, but he'll once again have to rehab and wait another season to be on an MLB mound. He would've been joining a rotation who already boasts the third-best ERA in the majors at 3.04, but it's still a tough blow to Reyes and the team after such a long rehabilitation process and anticipated return to the big leagues. Outside of injuries, things have been going well for the Cardinals. Their 36-28 record gives them the fifth-best winning percentage in the NL, but they currently find themselves third in the NL Central with the Cubs and Brewers out in front. The starting pitching has been outstanding for St. Louis, as four of the five starters in the current rotation hold sub-3.00 ERA, with three of those starters falling at or below 2.50. The most pleasant surprises have come from Miles Mikolas and Michael Wacha, who are a combined 15-2 and are top 20 in the majors in WAR. The bullpen has struggled, however. They rank 27th in combined WAR and are 24th with a 4.49 ERA. Injuries have piled up in the bullpen as well, as five major league capable relievers are currently on the DL for St. Louis. Offseason acquisition Marcell Ozuna has started to heat up in the last couple weeks, which is an enormous sigh of relief for Cardinals' fans everywhere. Up until May 20th, Ozuna was slashing .234/.275/.316, but has since posted a .407/.470/.610 line with all three of his home runs coming in June. His .706 slugging percentage to start the month is something Mike Matheny and the rest of the organization had been waiting to see out of the left fielder, considering he belted 37 homers last season and rocked a .548 slugging percentage. If Ozuna can remain hot moving forward, the Cardinals will just be a few bullpen arms away from being a major contender in the NL.
It's been a lousy three weeks for the Pirates, as they've seen their 26-17 record disintegrate right in front of them. Since reaching that mark on May 17th, Pittsburgh is 6-17 and has fallen below .500 for the first time this season. Their offense has been pretty atrocious over that stretch, averaging just 3.74 runs per game, which would put them 28th overall if those were their season-long numbers. Francisco Cervelli has been one of their better hitters on the season, usually occupying the three-hole in Clint Hurdle's lineup. Since their skid began on May 18th, Cervelli is batting just .192 and has tallied only five extra base hits in the 16 games he's played. Gregory Polanco continues to be one of the biggest disappointments of any team, as he's slashing .206/.308/.417 and is last on his team with -0.4 WAR. That number makes him the 8th-worst qualified player in the majors according to WAR, so it's been a tough season to say the least. Austin Meadows continues to outshine Polanco and looks like the better option in the outfield at the moment. The 23-year old lefty is slashing .346/.373/.654 in his first 22 games, and is currently fifth among Pirates' position players with 0.9 WAR. The pitching hasn't been great for Pittsburgh this season either, as their 4.27 team ERA is 20th in the majors. The bullpen has really struggled in close games, with only 13 completed saves compared to 11 blown ones, giving them a second-worst 54.17% save percentage on the season. With such a tough NL Central surrounding them, the Pirates are a long shot to make the playoffs at this stage, so hopefully their offense can turn it around and ignite another winning streak to get them back in the mix.
Colorado makes their way into another Fallers section this week as they've lost 8 of 10 and dropped to fourth place in the NL West. We continue to dislike their offensive makeup, as they drop down to last in our offensive rankings this week. Outside of the three-headed monster of Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Trevor Story, the Rockies offense has been pretty terrible. In fact, according to FanGraphs, every other player has a negative runs above average mark this season. Ian Desmond continues to be the biggest culprit, as his -12.3 runs added above average is fifth-worst in all of baseball (among qualified batters), while his -0.9 WAR is third-worst. Gerardo Parra has also been a negative asset for Colorado overall, posting -5.9 runs added above average and -0.3 WAR. The Rockies are always an interesting team to break down considering half of their games are played at Coors Field, but in this case the starting pitching has outperformed the offense. They've been the healthiest staff in the majors, as all five starters have started 13 games and thrown at least 67.1 innings. Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland are the best two at the moment, with Gray boasting 1.8 WAR and a 3.12 FIP alongside his 10.41 K/9. Gray has had some tough luck thus far, as his 5.66 ERA currently sits well above his FIP. Freeland's 3.68 ERA is more in line with his 4.01 FIP, as he's been a master at inducing soft contact. His 21.5% soft contact rate allowed leads all Rockies' starters, while his 30.7% hard contact rate allowed is best among starters and behind only Adam Ottavino for the team lead. Overall, Colorado is going to need more out of their offense if they want to make a run in the NL. They have the starting staff to do it with some solid pieces in the bullpen behind, so all they need is some more runs to deal with.