MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (4/10/18)

By Mark Dankenbring @MarkDank


MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers


Welcome to the first 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 - 4/9/18. We'll be comparing our rankings from this week to ones made in the preseason on March 6th.

The reigning champions sit atop our power rankings to begin the season, as they've backed up their World Series victory with a 9-2 start. Houston may be even better heading into 2018, adding a top of the rotation arm in Gerrit Cole in the offseason while also reaping the benefits of a full year of service from Justin Verlander. They welcome back every key offensive player from their historic run last season, and now have the added experience of October baseball under their belt. We currently have them ranked first in hitting and fifth in pitching, leading them to be our odds on favorites to take home the crown again this season. The Yankees fall closely behind in second, as they made several moves this offseason to help topple an Astros team that needed seven games in the ALCS to send them home. Acquiring Giancarlo Stanton via trade from the Marlins was their biggest move, and they too will enjoy a full season out of Sonny Gray, who was added to the roster at the 2017 trade deadline. After hitting the most homers in the league last season, the Bronx Bombers look locked and loaded to repeat as Giancarlo and Aaron Judge could combine for 100 on their own. Our top ranked National League team happens to be the Astros opponent in last year's epic World Series. Even with the injury to Justin Turner, the Dodgers are the only NL team in the top five of our pitching and hitting rankings, as they too return a nearly identical roster to theirs from a season ago. Matt Kemp was the lone noteworthy addition, as he'll now begin his 10th season with the Dodgers after spending the first nine of his career in LA. Trailing the NL Pennant winners are the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals, who are both looking to avenge their early postseason exits last season with a trip to the World Series. Things get a bit more interesting as we move on down the rankings list, so let's take a look at the three biggest risers of the week, who all fall outside our top 10.

Risers



It was a tough 2017 campaign for the Metropolitans, as they finished 4th in the NL East and 22 games under .500. The young, promising rotation that led them to a World Series appearance in 2015 crumbled, as Noah Syndergaard threw just 30 innings while Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler all fell below 100 innings themselves. Their 4.82 bullpen ERA was second worst in the majors, so everything fell apart for them on the mound. It's amazing what health can do for a team, however, as Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Harvey, and Matz all enter the year 100% healthy and ready to roll. Their rise up from 17th can be attributed to Michael Conforto's health as well, whose breakout season last year was cut short due to shoulder surgery. Conforto also missed spring training, but reentered the lineup and is looking to build on his team-leading 4.3 WAR from a season ago. The 25-year old led the Mets in ISO and slugging percentage and will be a crucial part of their run scoring efforts this season. New York also added some veteran bats to the lineup, bringing in Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez to beef up the lineup and add leadership to the locker room, now headed by rookie manager Mickey Callaway. Their 8-1 start is hard to argue against, especially when three of those wins came in a road sweep of the division rival Washington Nationals. The 2017 Mets didn't win their 9th game until April 28th, giving them 17 games to beat that mark from a season ago and officially put 2017 in the rear-view mirror.



Atlanta is our second consecutive riser from the NL East, as they've started a solid 6-4 and are currently second to the Mets. We should be calling them Hotlanta, as the Braves are leading the NL in runs and doubles, and are fourth in the majors in OBP. Freddie Freeman is doing all he can to make up for his injury-shortened 2017, as he's currently batting .333 with two homers and 11 RBIs. He's been extremely patient, too, trailing only Bryce Harper in walks with 13, leading Freeman to a fifth-best 1.188 OPS to begin the season. Former first-overall pick Dansby Swanson has had a hot start to his 2018 campaign as well. After posting a .302/.361/.442 triple slash in his first 38 MLB games in 2016, his .232/.312/.324 line in 2017 was a disappointment to say the least. While we're just nine games in, his .351/.368/.568 line is impressive and looks like he may have figured something out in the offseason. After hovering around a 23% line-drive rate through his first two seasons, Swanson has jumped up to 27% in the early going, which is a clear sign he's seeing the ball better through the first couple weeks. The Braves lineup will get even deeper in a couple days, when they'll inevitably call up star prospect Ronald Acuna. In 54 AAA games last season, Acuna posted a .344/.393/.548 line while also racking up 11 stolen bases.



When we published our preseason rankings over a month ago, the Royals officially lost Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, and had yet to resign Mike Moustakas, leading them to be our last ranked team. They locked up Moose for another season, helping their offensive cause after he finished last year tied for 7th in the majors with 38 home runs. Cain and Hosmer were huge losses, however, as they both hit .300 or better and led the team with 4.3 and 4.1 wins above replacement, respectively. While the resigning of Moustakas moved them up in our rankings, they'd likely be higher had Salvador Perez not suffered a freak knee injury while carrying his luggage down the stairs. With Cain, Hosmer, and now Perez out of the lineup, it's no surprise the Royals rank 28th in hitting. If they want to have any success this season, their pitching will have to do the heavy lifting. Jakob Junis has shown he's willing to shoulder the load early on, as the second-year pitcher has hurled 14 scoreless innings in his first two starts, having allowed just four hits and striking out nine in those innings. Ian Kennedy will need to rebound from the worst season of his career as well if the Royals want to compete. His 154 innings were the fewest in his career, yet he still surrendered at a career high 34 homers and posted a career-worst 5.38 ERA. He's allowed just one run through his first 14 innings this season, and will look to avoid the blow-up outings he had a season ago, as he had seven starts allowing five or more earned runs (only six allowing one or fewer).

Fallers



It's been a rather shocking start to the season for the Indians, seeing as how they finished sixth in scoring a season ago (5.05 runs per game) and have managed just 29 through their first 10 games. The two players who led them in offensive rating last season are ice cold to begin the season, combining to go 10-75 (.133 BA) with just one double and one home run between them. Their lack of production is astounding considering both finished top five in doubles a season ago, and were clearly the catalysts of the offense as they combined to score over 200 runs. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor will certainly turn things around, but it's a disappointing start nonetheless. It doesn't help that Lonnie Chisenhall will be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks with a calf strain, as he quietly put up a .288/.360/.521 triple slash line last season in 82 games. His .521 slugging percentage would have put him second on the team and equaled the aforementioned Mike Moustakas. Cleveland has been able to scrounge up a 5-5 record out of this poor offensive start, showcasing just how valuable their pitching is as well. They led the majors with a 3.30 team ERA and 1,614 strikeouts last season and have already shut out opponents twice in just 10 games. Reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber just notched an 8.0 inning, 13 K gem against the Tigers on Monday and appears set to dominate hitters once again. Their rotation has six proven starters when fully healthy, but as is usually the case with rotations in the MLB, Danny Salazar is currently injured and likely won't be back until June.



San Fran takes the biggest tumble in our rankings compared to a month ago, as they lost two of their top end starters in Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija. Bumgarner and Samardzija were 1-2 in both ERA and WAR for the Giants last season, so every start they miss is a lost opportunity for the team by the bay. The Giants are looking to bounce back after losing their most games since 1994 and get back on the even-year trend they had going when they made it to the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In order to aid their league-worst offense from a season ago, they added veterans Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, and Austin Jackson to the order. McCutchen and Longoria will hopefully add some pop to a lineup that saw everyone fall below the 20-homer mark last season and finish nearly 80 home runs behind the league average. While they may not provide an enormous power boost, at least they'll provide stability to the lineup, as both McCutchen and Longoria have averaged more than 155 games played over their last five seasons. Despite the additions, it still feels like an uphill battle for the Giants, as they're without their top two arms from a season ago for the time being and are in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, as the Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Dodgers are all expected to win north of 80 games, while two could very well reach 90.



The A's drop a few spots thanks to a 4-7 start to the season. It's shaping up to be another typical year in Oakland, as their roster is littered with young, aspiring talent while also featuring some veteran players who are trying to prove their worth in their mid-to-late careers. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman headline the offensive prospects for Oakland, as they were both called up towards the end of last season and produced some gaudy numbers in their first major league action. Chapman was around the club for 84 games, posting the second-highest WAR on the team at 2.7, highlighted by his 14 homers and .472 slugging percentage as well as some stellar play defensively. Olson, however, took the league by storm and was launching homers at an incredible pace. The 24-year old Georgian managed to club 24 homers in just 59 games (on pace for 66 in 162 games), while posting the highest ISO of any major leaguer last season. His hard contact rate of 40.3% was an elite mark, especially when paired with his 46% fly ball rate. Hard hit fly balls = home runs, so it's easy to see why Olson had so much success last year. Although it's unlikely he'll hit over 60 home runs this season, Olson's hard-hit percentage mixed with his fly ball rate creates a dangerous combo for opposing pitchers. These two Matts will be a great combination to watch throughout the season, as they're perfect headliners to the fly ball revolution we're seeing in the game today.