Power Rankings: Preseason favorites rebound to contend with early surprises

As we get deeper into the season’s second month, we’re seeing some teams iron out their early-season hiccups and regain their places near the top of our Power Rankings. Witness a pair of big comebacks in this week’s rankings, as the 2018 win leaders from both leagues, the Red Sox and Brewers, both returned to our top 10.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t still room for surprises. The Twins made their first appearance of the season in our top five, a reward for their sustained excellence in the early going, something that might ultimately lead to an AL Central title with the ailing, short-handed Indians looking vulnerable.

That appearance owes something to the Twins getting a first-place vote this week, a first for them this season. Minnesota was one of four clubs to get one, with the Dodgers holding on to their top slot with two, and the Astros and Rays getting one apiece. And with the Cubs moving up to No. 4 overall on the strength of their own in-season rebound, the voting might get even more split up in the weeks to come.

While the Brewers and Red Sox both climbed four slots in the rankings, they did not make the week’s single biggest gain. That honor goes to the Reds, who made a seven-spot leap — can they sustain it? And the biggest decline was suffered by the injury-wracked Nationals, who tumbled six spots and out of the top 20. That fall was almost matched by the Cardinals, whose 2-5 week — losing four games while scoring either one run or no runs — almost took them out of the top 10 with a five-rung slide.

For Week 6, our panel of voters was composed of Bradford Doolittle, Christina Kahrl, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian and David Schoenfield.

Previous: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2019 record: 27-16
Week 5 ranking: 1

Is it time to start recognizing Hyun-Jin Ryu as one of the best lefties in the league? Since coming off the injured list last Aug. 15, he has a 1.78 ERA over 17 starts with a 107:8 ratio of strikeouts to walks. In his first eight starts of 2019, he has yet to give up more than two runs in a game. He fired a four-hit shutout over the Braves last Tuesday, then pitched eight one-hit innings against the Nationals on Sunday. — David Schoenfield

ICYMI: Is Ryu the new Greg Maddux?

2. Houston Astros

2019 record: 26-15
Week 5 ranking: 3

The early leader for the best offseason free-agent signing in terms of 2019 impact is Houston’s addition of Michael Brantley. Brantley signed for a modest two years, $32 million and has outproduced Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and A.J. Pollock while sporting an OPS approaching 1.100. He has crushed it at home and on the road, against lefties and righties. Brantley has been just what the Astros needed, and they didn’t need much. — Bradford Doollittle

ICYMI: Unsigned Keuchel stands his ground on market value

3. Tampa Bay Rays

2019 record: 24-15
Week 5 ranking: 2

This weekend brought bittersweet news for breakout starter Tyler Glasnow and the Rays. When he left Friday’s start against the Yankees with “forearm tightness,” it was hard not to assume the worst. The words are too often a precursor for a coming Tommy John surgery. Thankfully, it was just a strain. Still, the 4-6 weeks Glasnow is expected to miss could have a major impact on the postseason awards chances for a pitcher who has been as good as anybody during the season’s opening weeks. But thanks to gambits like the opener, the Rays have the pitching depth to cover Glasnow’s innings for a few weeks. — Doolittle

ICYMI: Snell still the man to beat for AL Cy Young

4. Chicago Cubs

2019 record: 24-14
Week 5 ranking: 5

Recently, chief decision-maker Theo Epstein said that pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s name came up too often during the staff’s poor start over Chicago’s first nine games. So it would only be fair to mention him now that things have turned. During that 2-7 start, Cubs pitchers ranked last with a 7.51 ERA. Since then, they have the best ERA in the majors. So, Tommy Hottovy, consider your name mentioned, and for a good reason. — Doolittle

ICYMI: How a mid-at-bat change to an ax-handle bat helped ignite Kris Bryant

5. Minnesota Twins

2019 record: 25-14
Week 5 ranking: 7

The Twins are among the OPS and slugging leaders despite receiving dismal production from third base, mainly free-agent bust Marwin Gonzalez. Enter Miguel Sano. It might not be as early as this week, as Sano continues his rehab assignment at Triple-A Rochester from a heel laceration, but it is coming. Sano is a career .477 slugger; Gonzalez can return to utility status. — Eric Karabell

ICYMI: The Twins are baseball’s most pleasant surprise

6. New York Yankees

2019 record: 24-16
Week 5 ranking: 6

DJ LeMahieu has a huge home/road split over his career thanks to Coors Field — .331 at home, .266 on the road — but like some other Rockies hitters in the past, he has left Coors Field and his home/road splits have evened out. (The theory is that not seeing as many good breaking balls at home hurts Rockies hitters on the road.) He’s hitting well over .300 so far and has been getting on base in the leadoff position. — Schoenfield

ICYMI: Meet the Yankees: Five unlikely Bronx heroes to watch

7. Milwaukee Brewers

2019 record: 24-18
Week 5 ranking: 11

Through mid-April, it looked as if the Brewers would be stuck with a couple of open seats in a game of rotation musical chairs, but things have settled nicely since, with Milwaukee’s starters fueling a seven-game win streak. Over their first 19 games, the rotation put up an ugly combined ERA of 6.19. Since then, it has been 3.26 over 23 games, including an MLB-best 1.65 ERA during the streak through Sunday. — Doolittle

ICYMI: Yelich driven to show last year was anything but luck

8. Boston Red Sox

2019 record: 22-19
Week 5 ranking: 12

You don’t need next-level stats to appreciate how dramatic the turnaround has been for the Red Sox. After their first 19 games, the Sox were an AL-worst 6-13 with 77 runs scored and 119 runs allowed for a minus-42 run differential. In the 22 games since then, they are 16-6 with 143 runs scored, 74 allowed and a plus-69 differential. — Steve Richards

ICYMI: Red Sox are (probably) going to be OK

9. St. Louis Cardinals

2019 record: 22-19
Week 5 ranking: 4

A rough 2-9 run bumped the Cardinals from first place in the NL Central, but there have been bright spots: Miles Mikolas began the year with a 5.29 ERA in his first six turns but has pitched three consecutive quality starts, and Paul DeJong has batted .308 (8-for-26) with two home runs in his past eight games. — Tristan Cockcroft

ICYMI: Do the Cardinals need rotation help?

10. Philadelphia Phillies

2019 record: 23-16
Week 5 ranking: 10

The Phillies come home from their Missouri trip with ace Aaron Nola scheduled to face the Brewers and Rockies, teams hitting significantly better and more than normal, in home games. Nola appears to have regained his ace-level status, posting a 1.47 ERA over his past three outings, with one home run allowed. In his first five starts, his ERA was 6.84 with seven homers. — Karabell

11. Arizona Diamondbacks

2019 record: 22-19
Week 5 ranking: 9

Arizona has lost six of eight, including the last three of a four-game series with Atlanta this weekend. In the three losses to the Braves, the Diamondbacks left 25 runners on base and went 4-for-24 with runners in scoring position. — Richards

12. Cleveland Indians

2019 record: 21-18
Week 5 ranking: 8

After a stone-cold start to his season that had his OPS below .400 through April 14, Jose Ramirez has started showing some signs of life at the plate, producing a .735 OPS from April 15. Unfortunately, his unremarkable 89.9 mph exit velocity in that same period of time is parked right around the MLB average, and there’s no sign of the power spike he delivered last season, something the Indians badly need now. — Christina Kahrl

ICYMI: Is Oscar Mercado ready for the call?

13. Atlanta Braves

2019 record: 21-20
Week 5 ranking: 13

The Dodgers swept the Braves earlier in the week before the Braves bounced back to win their series in Arizona. As they scuffle along at .500, they basically just need to improve their “clutch” performance. They’re fourth in OBP and fifth in slugging in the NL, but seventh in runs as they’re hitting just .240/.319/.346 with RISP. The bullpen ranks 25th in win probability added as A.J. Minter (0-4, 9.82) lost his closer role and was demoted to Triple-A. — Schoenfield

ICYMI: Ronald Acuna Jr. is quietly getting better

14. San Diego Padres

2019 record: 22-19
Week 5 ranking: 16

Fresh off the disappointment of losing out on NL Rookie of the Month honors for April, Chris Paddack dominated the Mets with 7⅔ shutout innings of 11-strikeout baseball this past Monday, lowering his ERA to 1.55. He has been instrumental in keeping the pitching staff ranked among the game’s top 10 in ERA (3.96), but questions about his innings cap will multiply as the summer progresses. — Cockcroft

ICYMI: Paddack’s start radically changes his season forecast

15. New York Mets

2019 record: 19-20
Week 5 ranking: 14

Todd Frazier is running out of time to make an impression. The veteran third baseman has struggled to hit since his delayed season debut. He pushed J.D. Davis aside, but Jed Lowrie, when healthy, has to play. How the Mets line up with Lowrie, who compiled a .356 on-base percentage the past two years for Oakland, will be interesting; he batted third last season. Will he push struggling Robinson Cano aside in the lineup? — Karabell

16. Pittsburgh Pirates

2019 record: 20-17
Week 5 ranking: 18

Despite injuries to two of their key starting pitchers, the Pirates have been getting valiant efforts from both Trevor Williams and Jordan Lyles. Williams’ 2.21 ERA since last year’s All-Star break is third best among qualifiers in baseball, and Lyles’ 2.09 mark this season is sixth best — and the Pirates have won six of his seven starts to date. — Cockcroft

17. Cincinnati Reds

2019 record: 18-23
Week 5 ranking: 24

From Nick Senzel’s two-homer game last Monday to the team being no-hit by Mike Fiers Tuesday to Luis Castillo’s 11-strikeout gem in a 7-0 victory Friday, the Reds had quite the up-and-down week. That has been the story of their season, as the team hasn’t had a streak longer than three games on either side, win or lose, since April 14-17 and have been mired in last place since the beginning of said streak. — Cockcroft

ICYMI: Is it too late to save Joey Votto’s season?

18. Colorado Rockies

2019 record: 19-21
Week 5 ranking: 19

German Marquez has seemed like the Rockies’ only reliable starting pitcher this season. His 3.43 ERA is more than three-quarters of a run lower than any of his rotation-mates, and he chipped in a key three-run double in his most recent turn. Despite his work, Rockies starters still have a 7.38 ERA in May, third worst in baseball. — Cockcroft

19. Seattle Mariners

2019 record: 20-23
Week 5 ranking: 15

Felix Hernandez is in the final year of his contract and it’s starting to look ugly. He has given up 14 runs in 7⅓ innings his past two starts as his ERA has ballooned to 6.52. The Mariners are in free fall after their hot start, have put him on the IL and don’t have any obvious long-term replacements for him, at least until Wade LeBlanc is ready to come off the IL. But you also don’t want to keep him sending him out there if he’s just going to get pounded. The Mariners might be facing a tough choice for a franchise icon. — Schoenfield

ICYMI: No MLB ruling on substance on Kikuchi’s hat

20. Los Angeles Angels

2019 record: 19-21
Week 5 ranking: 21

Jonathan Lucroy hit .292 with 24 home runs for the 2016 Brewers and Rangers. Over the following two seasons with the Rangers, Rockies and Athletics, he hit .253 with a total of 10 home runs. Perhaps that explains why Lucroy, 32, had to settle for a one-year deal with the Angels in December. So far, so good — a rejuvenated Lucroy homered twice off Justin Verlander last weekend and should reach double digits in HRs. — Karabell

ICYMI: Passan: The inside story of the 7-year-old Mike Trout fan and his Troutfits

21. Texas Rangers

2019 record: 17-21
Week 5 ranking: 20

The Rangers seem to be sinking fast (5-13 since April 22), but how about Hunter Pence? In his past 16 games, Pence has a .340/.424/.820 slash line with six doubles, six homers and 22 RBIs. Not bad for a guy who few figured would even land a job coming off a .590 OPS season in 2018. — Richards

22. Oakland Athletics

2019 record: 19-23
Week 5 ranking: 23

Remember when Khris Davis was parked atop the MLB leaderboard with 10 home runs, back on April 12? He hasn’t hit one since, a 20-game stretch (punctuated by a hip injury) that is his second-longest set of games without a home run in his career, and his longest since his 36-game (and 126 plate appearance) drought in 2015 — his last year in Milwaukee, and his last hitting fewer than 40 home runs in a season. Or 30. — Kahrl

ICYMI: Mike FIers spins MLB’s improbable, incredible 300th no-hitter

23. Washington Nationals

2019 record: 16-24
Week 5 ranking: 17

The Nationals had lost six series in a row before splitting the four-game series to the Dodgers, leading to increased speculation that Dave Martinez’s job is on the line. You get the feeling that the club better perform well in its next 10 games — seven against the Mets, three against the Cubs — or GM Mike Rizzo will be seeking a new manager. — Schoenfield

ICYMI: The Nats are in trouble, and so is Dave Martinez

24. San Francisco Giants

2019 record: 17-23
Week 5 ranking: 27

It would be hard to have a worse May than the Giants’ starting rotation has put up so far, getting shellacked for an MLB-high 49 runs in 43 ⅔ innings, with MLB worsts in home runs allowed (19), ERA (8.66) and WHIP (1.99). Shelving Derek Holland and demoting Dereck Rodriguez might reshuffle the deck chairs, but pitching was supposed to be a strength; this boat by the Bay is definitely taking on water. — Kahrl

ICYMI: Holland rips Giants brass

25. Detroit Tigers

2019 record: 18-20
Week 5 ranking: 25

With Matthew Boyd and now Daniel Norris pitching well in the Tigers’ rotation, the David Price trade has turned out pretty well; add in homegrown rookie Spencer Turnbull filling the strike zone with 93-94 mph velocity and nice complementary breaking stuff. Even with Michael Fulmer on the IL, the Motor City Kitties’ starting pitching is legitimately brag-worthy for keeping games in reach. — Kahrl

ICYMI: Fan who kept Pujols milestone ball changes his mind

26. Toronto Blue Jays

2019 record: 16-24
Week 5 ranking: 22

Vlad-mania hasn’t exactly turned Toronto’s season around. Since the Jays swept Oakland on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s first weekend in the majors to push their record to .500, they’ve gone 2-10, with Guerrero checking in at 6-for-35 (.171) with one extra-base hit (a double Sunday) no runs and one RBI in that stretch. — Richards

ICYMI: Edwin Jackson set to play for record 14th team

27. Chicago White Sox

2019 record: 18-21
Week 5 ranking: 26

Travis d’Arnaud. Gerardo Parra. Edwin Jackson. Chris Stratton. Aaron Altherr. These are all possibly-useful veterans who changed teams this week and could have been had cheaply by any club looking to shore up the back end of a roster. That said, the Sox did get in on the act, adding pitcher Ross Detwiler and trading for outfielder Paulo Orlando. More of that stuff, guys. Reaching .500 level is still within sight. — Doolittle

ICYMI: Tim Anderson shows no mercy to Tribe’s Bauer after tweet

28. Kansas City Royals

2019 record: 14-27
Week 5 ranking: 28

The Royals were patient with third baseman Hunter Dozier, and wisely so. Dozier hit .229 with 11 home runs over 388 plate appearances last season. This year has been vastly different, as he is among the league leaders in OPS, walk rate and home runs. Dozier was the No. 8 pick in the 2013 amateur draft, and has drastically cut down on his chase rate and strikeout rate, raised his launch angle. This excellent start might be for real. — Karabell

ICYMI: How much Dozier’s breakout changes his projections

29. Baltimore Orioles

2019 record: 14-26
Week 5 ranking: 29

The good news: Baltimore got two solid mound performances from John Means, who won twice and gave up only two runs over 13 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.33. The bad news: In between, the O’s went 0-4, giving up 37 hits, 21 walks and 25 runs over 39 innings (5.77 ERA, 1.49 WHIP). — Richards

30. Miami Marlins

2019 record: 10-29
Week 5 ranking: 30

Caleb Smith is now among the NL’s top five in ERA (2.11), as is his strikeout rate among starting pitchers (11.8 K/9). But he could use some help. The Marlins aren’t just struggling to score — averaging an NL-low 2.3 runs per game in May — they’re not even generating many hard knocks. Between them, Jorge Alfaro, Starlin Castro, Brian Anderson and Miguel Rojas — half the starting lineup — has one extra-base hit, a double by Anderson, in the month of May. — Kahrl

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