MLB Power Rankings: Sifting through each club’s concerns

Red Sox left-hander David Price had some eye-raising comments this week about what could happen if the reigning World Series champs continue their free fall. (Kathy Willens/AP)

The season is still early. We’re not yet at the 30-day mark in this baseball campaign.

However, with spring training in the rear-view, hope no longer springs eternal for teams around the league.

Some clubs have been afflicted in recent days with major concerns that could shape the outcome of their season. Others have been lucky enough to be bothered by just minor mosquito bites in the form of an injury here or struggle there.

Our latest edition of the MLB Power Rankings delves into the concerns that each team faces as we head into Easter Weekend.

1 (1) Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are doing just fine in the power department, with their 40 home runs ranking second in baseball. But if we have to identify a concern for the club, it could be the lack of power from slugging third baseman Justin Turner. He’s collected just two doubles and has yet to record a homer this season.

2 (2) Houston Astros

Fresh off a 10-game winning streak, the Astros are clicking on all cylinders, except when it comes to the offensive production of backup catcher Max Stassi. The plan in spring training was to rotate the 28-year-old more frequently with Robinson Chirinos, but Stassi has been abysmal at the plate, reaching base just twice (one hit, one walk) in 19 plate appearances.

3 (11) Tampa Bay Rays

A large jump in the power rankings is warranted, given that the Rays hold the best record in baseball. A minor concern is ace Blake Snell’s broken toe — suffered while getting out of the shower — that forced him to the 10-day injured list. However, the team appears confident he’ll miss just one start.

4 (3) New York Yankees

The Yankees have nearly a full all-star team currently on the injured list, with Luis Severino’s ailment profiling as the No. 1 red flag. A recently diagnosed Grade 2 lat strain means the right-hander won’t join New York’s rotation until at least July and the team is still trying to figure out how that injury occurred while Severino was reportedly making good progress in his recovery from rotator-cuff inflammation.

5 (7) Philadelphia Phillies

Aaron Nola has a 7.45 ERA and has looked out of sorts over his past three starts. He says he’s healthy and has no idea what’s causing the struggles, which have included a sharp decrease in the effectiveness of his curveball. Opponents own a .522 slugging percentage off it this season, compared to just .249 last year.

6 (8) Milwaukee Brewers

Jesús Aguilar was a monster in the Brewers lineup last season, finishing with 35 home runs and an .890 OPS while garnering some MVP consideration. So far, he’s slashing .155/.254/.190 with zero homers.

7 (4) Boston Red Sox

Chris Sale is probably the main culprit here, but we’ll zoom out a bit. The most prevalent concern for the Red Sox might be the psyche in the clubhouse. The pressure’s clearly on, prompting David Price to outline one possible doomsday scenario to the Boston Globe if the club doesn’t turn things around soon: “If we don’t start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded. We’re, what, 30th in minor league systems?”

8 (6) St. Louis Cardinals

Andrew Miller is off to a rocky start and, factoring in his pedestrian 2018, looks ways off from the superhuman reliever we’ve come to know. It’s early, but not what you want to see from a free agent acquisition who was expected to impact the St. Louis bullpen.

9 (5) Washington Nationals

Washington’s 8.01 bullpen ERA is dead last in baseball, thanks in large part to the monumental struggles of Trevor Rosenthal. Glass half full? The pen has tossed a league-low 48.1 innings, with an effective starting staff pitching deep into games.

10 (8) Chicago Cubs

Yu Darvish’s struggles are looked at differently than those of his teammates, simply by virtue of his large contract. Honourable mention: Kris Bryant

11 (12) New York Mets

The Mets entered the season expecting to boast one of the strongest rotations in the league. If they’re going to compete in the ultra-competitive NL East that will need to play out in reality, but right now, the collective’s 5.48 ERA trails each team in the division, even the Marlins.

12 (10) Atlanta Braves

Closer Arodys Vizcaíno is done for the season, leaving a large void in Atlanta’s bullpen. It could potentially be filled by free agent Craig Kimbrel, and with the Mets, Phillies and Nationals all showing concerns in that area, an arms race could develop for the closer.

13 (13) Cleveland Indians

The Tribe was banking on a strong rotation this season and opted to stay inactive in the off-season. That created a thin margin for error and, well, things can change quickly, as Mike Clevinger is out for an extended period and Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco have been unusually hittable over their first four trips through the rotation.

14 (15) Oakland Athletics

The A’s excelled at beating up on lesser teams last season. They’ve continued that this April, going 4-2 against the Orioles and Rangers. Oakland plays the Blue Jays six times over the next 10 days and will need take care of business.

15 (14) Minnesota Twins

The bullpen depth is not especially strong here, and will be tested as the club is in the early stages of a 40-games-in-41-days stretch. Perhaps the aforementioned Kimbrel is a fit here?

16 (17) Seattle Mariners

The offence has been better than expected (an MLB-leading 45 dingers), helping the team to a blazing start. But was that just a mirage? The M’s have come back down to Earth with consecutive sweeps to the Astros and Indians, before eking out a win over the Angels.

17 (20) Pittsburgh Pirates

Prospect Ji-Hwan Bae was suspended 30 games by MLB this week for violating the minor league player domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy. Seul-Gi Kim, who was assaulted by Bae in 2017, told The Athletic the penalty is insufficient. “I don’t think the punishment is enough,” she said. “It’s too weak, compared to my suffering. I honestly want (the Pirates) to release him.”

18 (16) Los Angeles Angels

Opposing batters have been tattooing the Angels’ starting staff to the tune of an .864 OPS. That’s just one point less than Aaron Judge’s OPS this season.

19 (19) Colorado Rockies

Winning four straight has helped allay some concern after a terrible start. Something to keep an eye on: Kyle Freeland has battled blister issues recently.

20 (18) San Diego Padres

Ian Kinsler’s wRC+ from 2016-19: 124, 93, 87, 34. The 36-year-old signed a two-year deal in the off-season and needs to show he’s got something left in his bat.

21 (23) Texas Rangers

Shelby Miller has been atrocious across three starts this season (9.00 ERA, 7.70 FIP). Manager Chris Woodward recently offered a public vote of confidence, but the question is already being asked: How much more rope can the team give the once-promising starter?

22 (22) Arizona Diamondbacks

Like clockwork, Zack Greinke’s fastball velocity continues to dip. It’s been trending downward since 2015 to its current state of 89.3 mph. That has barely affected the right-hander’s results in recent seasons, but will this finally be the year where it catches up to him? Opponents have cranked a whopping eight homers off Greinke across just 23.1 innings.

23 (21) Cincinnati Reds

The NL Central is no joke and the Reds currently sit in the basement, in part due to a .266 team OBP that’s tied for last in MLB.

24 (25) Toronto Blue Jays

The throwing yips that seem to be affecting Lourdes Gurriel Jr. can be classified as a concern and is something worth monitoring when he eventually returns to playing the field in triple-A.

25 (24) Detroit Tigers

Miguel Cabrera is homerless this season. In fact, the last time he left the yard was April 28, 2018.

26 (26) San Francisco Giants

Evan Longoria has an OPS+ of 64, meaning he’s 36 points below that of an average major-league hitter. To find the last time he was better than league average, you’d have to go back to 2016, when he produced a 127 mark. The 33-year-old is guaranteed just over $68 million through the 2022 season.

27 (27) Chicago White Sox

You saw the bench-clearing brawl this week between the Royals and White Sox that kicked off after Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson flipped his bat and was later hit. These teams will play each other several more times this season, so Anderson’s safety definitely qualifies as a concern.

28 (28) Kansas City Royals

See above, only for Royals players.

29 (29) Miami Marlins

Marlins centre fielder Lewis Brinson was the main incoming piece in the trade that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee. He’s supremely talented and was once considered a blue chip prospect, but the results simply haven’t been there in the majors. The 24-year-old was given a few days off this week amid his struggles to begin the season and his career slash line stands at .189/.240/.322 over 149 MLB games.

30 (30) Baltimore Orioles

Quite frankly, there’s a lot for the Orioles to be concerned about. But since they sit in the final spot on this list, let’s not pile on them. Instead, we’ll use this space to highlight the spectacular season being enjoyed by Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini. Across 20 games, he’s belted six home runs, seven doubles and owns a 1.043 OPS.

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