MLB Power Rankings: All-Star Break Edition
The All-Star Break has concluded. We are past the unofficial midway point of the season, and the stretch run is what remains.
This is without question an excellent time to take stock of where we are and where we have to go. As in the past, we present these power rankings as a synthesis of how each team has played and the true talent of each team. Without further ado, let’s get right to the All Star break power rankings:
30. Philadelphia Phillies
All the teams at the bottom of this list have a certain level of hopelessness. They all virtually have no chance of reaching the postseason. Some have little hope with regards to next season. But several have undergone rebuilds that have them pointed in a positive direction. The Braves have stocked perhaps the best farm system in the game, while the White Sox rebuilt their farm with the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton last winter. The Mets and Giants should bounce back in 2018.
The Phillies, on the other hand, have seen their particular rebuild stutter over the past year. After amassing what looked like an interesting core of young talent, much of that young talent seems to have stunted, and the Phillies now profile as the most rudderless franchise in the game.
Maikel Franco, after a strong 2015, has a 73 OPS+ as a 24-year-old. Odubel Herrera, signed to a six-year extension prior to the year, has regressed to an 83 OPS+. Cesar Hernandez has fallen from a 107 OPS+ in 2016 to 95 in 2017.
Their young pitching appears to have taken a step back as well. Jerad Eickoff, after posting a 115 ERA+ in 197 innings last year, has a 92 ERA+. Vincent Velazquez posted a 76 ERA+ before hitting the DL. Zach Eflin is also on the DL and has an ERA+ of 70. Aaron Nola has at least bounced back from a poor 2016, but he too has dealt with injuries for the second consecutive year.
Not only have their young players regressed, but the Phillies have whiffed on their chances to trade veterans for prospects. They opted not to trade Jeremy Hellickson at least year’s deadline, and instead re-signed him to a one-year, $17.2 million deal to post a 95 ERA+. Their flyer on Michael Saunders, an All Star last year, has failed, as he’s posted a 65 OPS+. Howie Kendrick has played well when on the field but has hardly been able to do so. Their only veteran to have real trade value at this year’s deadline is probably Pat Neshek, who appeared in the All Star game at age-36 thanks to a 1.27 ERA in 35 innings.
The Phillies’ young core has failed to develop in the last year, and they have next to nothing of interest to offer to contending teams at the deadline. Their farm looks solid, but it’s not on the level of the Braves,Yankees, or Brewers. It’s too early to call Philadelphia’s rebuild a failure: the players that regressed this year could return to prominence next year. But the Phillies’ struggles go to show that rebuilds are no sure thing, and with several teams in the NL bottoming out, not all of them will be able to bounce back to contention quickly. For every (seemingly) successful rebuild like the Braves or Brewers, there will have to be teams like the Phillies that get stuck in the mud.
29. San Francisco Giants
28. San Diego Padres
27. Chicago White Sox
26. Cincinnati Reds
25. Pittsburgh Pirates
24. New York Mets
23. Atlanta Braves
22. Oakland Athletics
21. Detroit Tigers
20. Los Angeles Angels
19. Texas Rangers
Of all the also-rans mired in this tier, the Rangers may have the most hope. Indeed, their playoff odds per FanGraphs are the best among this group, at close to 25%. That may not sound like much, but for a team that’s stopped and started as much as Texas has, it’s something to build on heading into the second half.
Texas’ primary reason for hope may simply be that none of their players have really approached their ceiling yet. That’s not to say their core is performing awfully, with the exception of Jonathan Lucroy and his 74 OPS+ and curiously falling framing numbers. Instead, the bulk of the Rangers hitters have settled towards the middle.
Joey Gallo’s tremendous power has made him valuable, but his .194 average puts a cap on his production. Shin-Soo Choo is getting on base at a robust .360 clip but has seen his power dip from his prime. Nomar Mozara’s .258/.332/.450 line is steady but unspectacular. Similarly, Carlos Gomez’s .248/.328/.477 line is nice for a center fielder but falls short of stardom.
All of those hitters have an OPS+ mark better than 100 but worse than 112. The only hitter to truly make a huge impact has been Adrian Beltre (136 OPS+), but the future Hall of Famer missed a large chunk of the first half. The Rangers have more offensive talent than their team 93 OPS+ suggests: they just need to it start showing itself down the stretch.
Texas’ pitching staff has surprisingly held up its end of the bargain, with Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels as great as ever, and less heralded arms like Martin Perez and Andrew Cashner providing quality innings. It all comes down to the bats heating up along with the Texas weather. Should a handful of their solid but unspectacular bats break out down the stretch, the Rangers will have a real chance to chase down the AL’s other Wild Card contenders.
18. Baltimore Orioles
17. Toronto Blue Jays
16. Seattle Mariners
15. Minnesota Twins
14. Miami Marlins
13. Kansas City Royals
12. St. Louis Cardinals
11. Milwaukee Brewers
10. Chicago Cubs
9. Colorado Rockies
8. Tampa Bay Rays
7. New York Yankees
These teams haven’t cemented themselves among the game’s best, but every club in this tier can, now that we’ve progressed this far in the season, lay claim to real playoff contention. That doesn’t mean anyone here is assured of the playoffs, and that anyone below is doomed.
Still, it might surprise some to see the Yankees this high, after they dropped 18 of their last 25 heading into the break. Indeed, the Yankees are scuffling mightily, and what was once a four-game lead in the AL East has turned into a 3.5-game deficit. But New York stands to return several key players from injury in the coming weeks, and their underlying numbers suggest a team that is underserved by the their record.
Consider, most simply, their run differential. Even after losing games left and right over the past month, the Yankees still own the fourth-best run differential at +98. As a team, the Yankees have compiled a .264/.344/.450 slash line, one of the best in the league. Compare that to the .240/.307/.398 line yielded by their pitchers. Purely on a rate basis, the Yankees have thoroughly outplayed their opponents across the first half.
Unfortunately for them, champions aren’t crowned based on run differential. They have to win enough games to make their shiny stats matter, and they haven’t done that recently. Thanks to a number of bullpen implosions and a lack of timely hitting, the Yankees have dropped an inordinate number of close games, posting a 9-17 record in one-run games, just a year after posting a 24-12 record in the same such games. There lies the main reason the Yankees have underperformed their pythagorean record by a league-high seven games.
Even so, the Yankees boast better than even odds to make the postseason, and still sit in a Wild Card slot. With Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks, and Matt Holliday all on the cusp of returning, and the potential for trade deadline additions looming, New York’s roster will soon be deeper. They’ve played better than their record indicates so far, and with reinforcements on the way, the slump they ended the first half mired in should soon be no more.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Boston Red Sox
4. Cleveland Indians
A quick glance at our top tier reveals that one of these teams seems to not be like the others. The Dodgers, Astros, and Nationals have all spent the better part of their first halves smashing other teams. They all lead their respective divisions by several games. The Indians trail by comparison, holding only a slim lead in the AL Central.
Look past the standings, though, and this Cleveland team looks ready to compete with the game’s upper echelon, just as they did last year in their run to World Series. For one, they’ve outscored their opponents by 74 runs, one of the six best marks in the game. Go even further, and FanGraphs BaseRuns, which strips out the effects of sequencing baserunners, estimates that Cleveland *should* be 53-34, a record which would give them a stranglehold in the Central.
Moreover, look at the talent that’s still on hand. Francisco Lindor has slumped to a 98 wRC+, but some positive regression post-break could put him back to superstar status. Super-utility-men, Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall, both have a wRC+ above 145. Veterans Michael Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion have been rounding into form posting a wRC+ of 124 and 180 respectively in June.
The pitching staff, of course, headed by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller is as terrifying as any the game. Subsequently,, the Indians project for the AL’s best winning percentage the rest of the way. They project for the most WAR this side of the Dodgers from here on out.
Slightly underwhelming record aside, the Indians have played very well so far, and are set up to play very well all year. They’ve yet to blow the division open yet, but barring another shocking run from the Royals, Cleveland should soon open some breathing room. They won’t catch Houston for the top seed in the AL, but rest assured: Cleveland is every bit as dangerous this year as they were last.
3. Washington Nationals
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
1. Houston Astros