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MLB Power Rankings: Who opens June as our No. 1 team?


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MLB Power Rankings: Who opens June as our No. 1 team?

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/31552737/mlb-power-rankings-week-9-opens-june-our-no-1-team

We’re already two months into the 2021 MLB season, and the standings are starting to come into focus with teams already 50-plus games into their schedules. What does that mean for our first MLB Power Rankings of June?

Well, for starters, there’s plenty of movement at the top, including a very tight race for No. 1. Has the Tampa Bay Rays‘ torrid stretch moved them past the San Diego Padres ? How high has a strong run pushed the Chicago Cubs this week? And, on the other end of our rankings, where do the Baltimore Orioles sit after a recent 14-game losing streak?

Here is what our eight-voter expert panel decided based on what we’ve seen in the first two months of the season. We also asked ESPN baseball experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 9 observation for all 30 teams.

Previous rankings: Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Opening Day


Record: 34-23
Previous ranking: 1

The Padres followed 16 wins in a stretch of 19 games with four consecutive losses to the Astros and Cubs. Worse, Fernando Tatis Jr. exited the game at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night with tightness around his midsection. The Padres hope his ailment isn’t serious, but Tatis has already experienced two start-and-stops this season. And despite the Padres’ enviable depth, Tatis makes that team go like no one else. His shortstop replacement, Ha-Seong Kim, finished May with a .195/.248/.331 slash line. — Gonzalez


Record: 35-22
Previous ranking: 3

The Rays continue to impress while now standing atop the American League East, with the lineup anchored by Randy Arozarena and Austin Meadows, who looks to be bouncing back after a lackluster 2020 season. Among the team’s bright spots has also been reliever Andrew Kittredge, who sits second in WAR among Tampa Bay’s pitchers behind Tyler Glasnow, posting a 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP in 26 innings pitched. — Lee


Record: 33-23
Previous ranking: 2

The Dodgers got Cody Bellinger back on Saturday and could get AJ Pollock and Brusdar Graterol back relatively soon. They remained one of the sport’s best teams despite suffering a rash of injuries and could soon be one of the sport’s healthier teams, even without Corey Seager. The Dodgers own a .589 winning percentage even though Seager, Bellinger and Mookie Betts, widely regarded as their three best players, have all contributed far less than what would have been expected. In other words: The Dodgers’ best baseball might still be ahead, and Wednesday’s first-inning explosion is a reminder what this team can do when healthy. — Gonzalez


Record: 33-22
Previous ranking: 4

The White Sox (19-10) posted the third-best marks in record and run differential during May. Chicago led the majors in run prevention, allowing just 3.07 runs per game. It posted baseball’s second-best strikeout rate last month. The rotation ranked third in collective ERA (2.93) and the bullpen ranked fourth (2.83). The White Sox offense usually grabs the headlines, but this is shaping up as a really hard team to score against. — Doolittle


Record: 34-21
Previous ranking: 7

The Giants lost their first four games against the Dodgers this season but came back to win three in a row at Dodger Stadium over the weekend. Through the first two months, the Giants ranked sixth in ERA and second in outs above average while getting optimal offensive production from Buster Posey and Evan Longoria, among others. Maybe they’re just legit. — Gonzalez


Record: 32-23
Previous ranking: 5

Boston has established itself as one of the best teams in baseball and a force to be reckoned with moving forward this season. Beyond the lineup’s anchoring trio of J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, the team is getting contributions from players such as Hunter Renfroe, who sits fourth in WAR among Red Sox position players, providing strong defense while hitting .258/.291/.465. — Lee


Record: 31-24
Previous ranking: 8

Houston went 15-12 in May despite an offense that ranked among the game’s best during the month and a rotation that deployed eight different pitchers but still managed to rank eighth with a 3.28 starter ERA. The disconnect between that record and those strengths points to one area: the bullpen. Houston relievers posted a collective 5.03 ERA last month and blew more saves (seven) than they converted (five).

Presumably, the Astros will eventually get offseason signee Pedro Baez back to help. But in the meantime, Cristian Javier, who has been one of the Astros’ top starting pitchers since his arrival last season, has been moved to the bullpen, where he can be used in multi-inning stints. — Doolittle


Record: 32-23
Previous ranking: 13

The Cubs have been on roll, having won 19 games in May and starting June with a sweep against the Padres. That gave them series wins over the Dodgers, Mets and Padres this season. Patrick Wisdom has been the latest in a group providing depth beyond Chicago’s known names. He hit four home runs in his first 10 career games as a Cub. — Rogers


Record: 33-25
Previous ranking: 9

Oakland has cooled off considerably after its 13-game win streak in April, not winning more than three games in a row since. Oakland’s pitching is anchored by Chris Bassitt, who sports a 3.53 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 74 innings across 12 starts, and Sean Manaea, who has a 3.86 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 60⅔ innings pitched in 11 starts this season. — Lee


Record: 27-21
Previous ranking: 15

Jacob deGrom finished May with a 0.71 ERA, the lowest ERA for a qualified starter through May since Chris Short had a 0.64 ERA for the 1964 Phillies. In his start Monday, he threw 27 pitches of 100-plus mph, the third most in a single game since 2008 (Jordan Hicks had 29 in 2019 and Nathan Eovaldi had 28 in 2015). Batters are hitting .129 against him … and deGrom is hitting .450. Luis Rojas pulled him after 70 pitches, as they played it conservatively, but he should be back to a 100-pitch count or so in his next outing. — Schoenfield


Record: 31-25
Previous ranking: 6

The Yankees looked to be hitting their stride, but then Corey Kluber and Luke Voit landed on the injured list. New York’s lineup has fallen short of expectations given how the offense looks on paper, with second baseman DJ LeMahieu among those performing below what we’ve seen in recent years. — Lee


Record: 29-25
Previous ranking: 10

Top pitching prospect Alek Manoah made his debut against the Yankees, throwing six innings, allowing two hits, walking two batters while striking out seven. The rotation remains the team’s biggest question with Hyun-Jin Ryu anchoring the pitching, but questions remain around how the rest of the rotation — Steven Matz, Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling — will continue performing over the rest of the season. — Lee


Record: 31-25
Previous ranking: 11

The impact of the injury to Jack Flaherty can’t be overstated. The Cardinals were already having pitching problems and now have to cover for their ace. After Wednesday’s route at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cardinals are just 8-14 against plus-500 teams. — Rogers


Record: 30-24
Previous ranking: 12

The bullpen continued to keep the team afloat even as Cleveland’s touted starting pitching machine sputtered over recent weeks. During May, the Indians’ relievers ranked fifth in bullpen ERA (3.05), second in strikeouts per nine innings (11.4) and were the only relief staff to avoid a blown save, going 9-for-9 during the month. For the season, Cleveland has four qualifying relievers with an average leverage index greater than 1.0: Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak, Bryan Shaw and Nick Wittgren. That quartet has combined to post a 2.38 ERA and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings while converting 18 of 20 save opportunities. — Doolittle


Record: 29-26
Previous ranking: 16

Milwaukee had a five-game winning streak snapped Tuesday, as its performance on the mound continues to keep it in the National League Central race despite some hitting woes. The Brewers gave up just 10 runs during the streak, which included two extra-inning affairs. Milwaukee has dominated good competition, going 17-11 against plus-500 teams, but sits below .500 against teams with losing records. — Rogers


Record: 25-28
Previous ranking: 14

Marcell Ozuna was arrested on domestic violence charges and could face a long suspension by Major League Baseball, which plans to review the matter under the joint domestic violence policy in place between MLB and the players’ union.

On the field, the Braves might have to turn to the trade market to find a bat. That could be a left fielder or a third baseman, if they want to move Austin Riley back to the outfield. High-end options could include Mitch Haniger or Joey Gallo. Eduardo Escobar and David Peralta of Arizona should be available. Baltimore’s Trey Mancini can hit, but he hasn’t played any left field this season. Detroit’s Robbie Grossman has a .362 OBP. — Schoenfield


Record: 24-30
Previous ranking: 17

Some good news/bad news down on the farm. Max Meyer, the third overall pick in 2020, has a 1.96 ERA through five starts at Double-A. J.J. Bleday, the fourth overall pick in 2019, is hitting .159 with one home run at the same level. Jesus Sanchez, who played with Miami for 10 games in 2020, is hitting .402 with seven home runs at Triple-A and might force the Marlins’ hand with a call-up. — Schoenfield


Record: 27-26
Previous ranking: 19

What a topsy-turvy team the Royals have been. After winning their first game in May, Kansas City stood 16-9, the best mark in the majors. They then lost 11 in a row. Ah, but then they bounced back, and after winning their first game of June, the Royals had won 11 of 17. All told, K.C. is a game over .500 and hanging around the postseason races. The breakout player in May was first-year Royal Andrew Benintendi, who might have put to rest any notion that the lackluster guy who slumped in Boston last season was in fact the player he’d become. Benintendi hit .340/.377/.443 in May, then started June with a five-RBI game that included a grand slam. Some of Benintendi’s sagging Statcast-based metrics that worried so many, such as exit velocity and sprint speed, have largely bounced back to their pre-2020 levels. — Doolittle


Record: 26-29
Previous ranking: 18

Roman Quinn is out for the season after rupturing his left Achilles tendon, an injury that could sideline him into the 2022 season. That means Odubel Herrera is the full-time center fielder, and he has hit well so far. Bryce Harper was eligible to come off the injured list on Wednesday, but that didn’t happen, although he has resumed hitting and could return Friday. Didi Gregorius, out with an elbow injury since May 12, hasn’t started hitting yet, so there’s no timetable on his return. — Schoenfield


Record: 28-29
Previous ranking: 24

Jarred Kelenic‘s struggles are intensifying, as he’s 0-for-26 with 11 strikeouts over seven games entering Wednesday’s contest. Remember, he only has 27 games above Class A, so you can argue the Mariners rushed him to the big leagues more so than held him back. Meanwhile, Kyle Lewis landed on the IL with a small tear in the meniscus in his right knee. Taylor Trammell, who hit .384 with six home runs in 17 games at Triple-A, was called back up and homered in his first game. –Schoenfield


Record: 22-33
Previous ranking: 22

Minnesota’s cruel April was followed by a not-too-flowery May, leaving the Twins and their decision-makers a vanishing window to salvage a season the club entered with playoff aspirations. The pitching has been terrible and May didn’t offer many signs of improvement. Minnesota ranked 28th in overall ERA last month, with the starters landing at No. 27 (5.11) and the relievers at No. 21 (4.82). And if you want to say “at least the bullpen wasn’t as bad as the starters,” consider this: Twins relievers allowed 71% of inherited runners to score in May, last in the majors by a mile. The next-worst mark was put up by St. Louis — at 54%. — Doolittle


Record: 24-29
Previous ranking: 21

Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos are bright spots for a team that has gone backward since April. Luis Castillo simply isn’t the same pitcher this year, as his ERA is over 7.00 and he hasn’t given up fewer than three runs in an outing since early April. The Reds are dead last in ERA. That says it all about their playoff chances. — Rogers


Record: 23-29
Previous ranking: 20

After leaving Tuesday’s start after 30 pitches, Stephen Strasburg underwent an MRI for a tight right trapezius muscle. If he lands on the injured list, it will be the second time this season and 14th time in his career. The Nationals were 21-29 after 50 games, a reminder that they were 19-31 after 50 games in 2019. The difference is that year Strasburg and Patrick Corbin were both healthy and effective. Not the case so far in 2021. — Schoenfield


Record: 25-30
Previous ranking: 25

Anthony Rendon had three hits and drove in five runs in the Angels’ road win over the Giants on Tuesday night, accounting for only his sixth multi-hit game of the season. Rendon’s OPS is still only .647, but obviously he’s a much better hitter than that. If the Angels are going to stay relevant without Mike Trout, who might not return until after the All-Star break, they’ll need a lot more performances like that from Rendon. — Gonzalez


Record: 22-35
Previous ranking: 23

A weeklong losing skid that included sweeps by the Angels and Mariners has dropped the Rangers into the cellar of the AL West. As of late, their problems have been at the plate. Texas compiled just a .454 OPS over the past seven days entering Wednesday. Second baseman Nick Solak has cooled off, going just 3-for-18 last week. Nate Lowe was 0-for-10. — Rogers


Record: 23-32
Previous ranking: 30

If the Tigers are tanking this season, they aren’t doing a very good job of it. After an 8-19 April with an equally horrific run differential, all signs pointed toward a season of at least 100 losses. But Detroit rebounded to go 14-13 in May and then won its first game of June. All of which makes you think of those construction workers from “Major League” when they reached the point of saying, “These guys ain’t that (gosh-darn) bad.” Well, it’s just a good month, but what is exciting for Tigers fans is that the success was driven by a 3.48 rotation ERA. That rotation includes some foundation pieces in the Tigers’ rebuild. Spencer Turnbull posted a 2.83 ERA in May and threw a no-hitter. Casey Mize had a 1.74 ERA and put up four quality starts in five outings. And Tarik Skubal had a 3.33 ERA while striking 13 batters per nine innings over five starts. — Doolittle


Record: 22-34
Previous ranking: 27

German Marquez has a 1.97 ERA over his past five starts, striking out 35 batters and walking 12 in 32 innings. On Tuesday, he limited the Rangers to one run over seven innings, improving the Rockies to 17-12 at home. (Don’t worry about their road record. We’re trying to focus on the good stuff this week.) Marquez is controllable through at least 2023 and could soon evolve into the Rockies’ most coveted trade piece, Trevor Story included. — Gonzalez


Record: 20-37
Previous ranking: 26

The D-backs amazingly lost 13 consecutive games before finally snapping their skid on Sunday. During that stretch, they averaged 2.6 runs per game, pitched to a 5.35 ERA and were outscored 73-34. They went from four games below .500 to 17 games below .500 and with no shot in a highly competitive NL West. — Gonzalez


Record: 20-34
Previous ranking: 29

Adam Frazier just keeps hitting, as he went 9-for-23 last week, raising his batting average to .335. Going into Wednesday’s games, he led the NL in hits and doubles. It really hasn’t helped the Pirates, though, as Pittsburgh has gone just 2-9 in its past 11 with both wins coming over the lowly Colorado Rockies on the same day. — Rogers


Record: 19-37
Previous ranking: 28

The Orioles fell to the bottom of the AL East with a 1-14 record since May 18. The bright spots on this team remain consistent with center fielder Cedric Mullins, first baseman Trey Mancini and John Means, who looks like a Cy Young contender with a 2.05 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 3.3 WAR, all playing well despite the team’s struggles. — Lee

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