MLB Power Rankings Week 4: Who's No. 1 one month in?

Thursday, April 25, 2024

We're just about to the one-month mark of the 2024 MLB season, and while it's still too early to give too much credence to the standings, there are a number of surprising teams near the top -- and bottom.

We're not even out of April yet, and there's a long season ahead, but few would have thought the Astros would be at the bottom of their division -- a division that includes the A's. Meanwhile, the Guardians have been one of the best teams in baseball, with a major-league-leading plus-47 run differential.

Both are on the move in our Power Rankings, too, as Cleveland is inching closer to the top five, and Houston has fallen further, all the way down to No. 22.

Can these clubs carry -- or change -- their momentum going into May?

Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we've seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Jesse Rogers, Alden Gonzalez and Jorge Castillo to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 3 | Preseason rankings

1. Atlanta Braves


Previous ranking:1

Marcell Ozuna's performance this April is in stark contrast to that of last April, when he hit .085 with two RBIs and there was talk of the Braves releasing him. This year, Ozuna is behind justMike Troutin home runs with nine, ranks first in the majors in RBIs (29) and ranks second to Shohei Ohtani in OPS (1.094). Ozuna is striking out just 15.8% of the time, which would be a career best and a significant drop of almost seven percentage points from last season. There's no good way to attack him right now: He's raking against four-seam fastballs, but six of his homers have come against off-speed pitches. -- Schoenfield

2. Baltimore Orioles


Previous ranking:4

The talk the past few years in Baltimore has been about the Orioles' blindingly bright future. Well, that future is here. The Orioles are World Series contenders with a deep, explosive lineup featuring all but one regular in his 20s. Gunnar Henderson (23) is building an MVP case. Adley Rutschman (26) continues showing he is one of the top catchers in the majors. Jordan Westburg (25) and Colton Cowser (24), two under-the-radar prospects, are mashing from the bottom half of the order. Heston Kjerstad (25), the No. 2 draft pick in 2020 and Kiley McDaniel's 48th-ranked prospect, was just called up. The weakest link in the lineup so far is the most hyped of them all: Jackson Holliday (20). But Holliday, the consensus No. 1 prospect in the sport, will eventually figure it out. When he does, the Orioles will be a nightmare for pitchers. -- Castillo

3. Los Angeles Dodgers


Previous ranking:2

Mookie Betts, a six-time Gold Glove Award winner in right field, went into the 2024 season as the Dodgers' every-day second baseman. Then Gavin Lux's throwing issues resurfaced, and Betts transitioned to shortstop -- arguably the most demanding position on the field and one Betts hasn't played since, well, high school -- on a semi-every-day basis. He has been right around average defensively, at least according to outs above average. And on offense, Betts has been on an absolute tear, slashing.365/.468/.625 with six home runs and a major-league-leading 20 walks while hitting in front of Ohtani and Freddie Freeman. Betts is an early favorite for his second MVP. -- Gonzalez

4. New York Yankees


Previous ranking:3

Juan Soto, a popular pick to win the American League MVP Award before Opening Day, has proved invaluable for the Yankees a month into the season. He has been the steady presence in an otherwise inconsistent lineup, quickly winning over fans in the Bronx with his swagger and comfort in the spotlight. He is working counts. He is clubbing clutch home runs. He has even played some good defense in right field. The soon-to-be free agent is the every-day stalwart for a club off to a promising start despite Gerrit Cole landing on the injured list and Aaron Judge not producing at his typical level. The Yankees need Cole healthy and Judge raking to reach their titles aspirations, but they're winning games with Soto leading the charge. -- Castillo

5. Philadelphia Phillies


Previous ranking:6

OK, while they did come against the lowly White Sox, Spencer Turnbull took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Friday, and Zack Wheeler took a no-hitter into the eighth the very next night. During the team's seven-game winning streak, the starters pitched 51 innings and allowed just four earned runs (0.70 ERA). Yes, six of those games came against the Rockies and White Sox, but at least the Phillies are off to the good start that eluded them the past two seasons. Ranger Suarez is 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA and in line for National League Pitcher of the Month honors for April. -- Schoenfield

6. Cleveland Guardians


Previous ranking:8

While the bullpen continues to dominate and the rotation received recent good outings from Xzavion Curry and Ben Lively, the surprising aspect of the Guardians' hot start is an offense that ranks among the best in the AL in runs, on-base percentage and slugging -- while also ranking near the top of the majors in batting average with runners in scoring position. Leading the way: Josh Naylor, hitting .306 with six home runs and 20 RBIs. Going back to May 13, 2023, Naylor leads all hitters in batting average, ahead of Freeman and Luis Arraez. -- Schoenfield

7. Milwaukee Brewers


Previous ranking:9

The Brewers' resiliency is the story of their first month. Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes aren't here? No problem. Christian Yelich goes down? We got it covered. Milwaukee is at the top of the NL Central due to an opportunistic offense and a pitching staff that has survived roster turnover. If there is a face to this group, it's catcher/DH William Contreras. He's hitting .359 with an OPS of .983, which is among the best in the NL -- and now, the traditionally power-weak Brewers rank near the top of the majors in home runs so far. That might be the true story of their first month. -- Rogers

8. Chicago Cubs


Previous ranking:7

Injuries have been a big part of the Cubs' season to this point; most recently, they lost two middle-of-the order bats. Seiya Suzuki went down with an oblique injury last week, then Cody Bellinger suffered two cracked ribs Tuesday when running into the brick wall at Wrigley Field. Add in Justin Steele's Opening Day hamstring strain, Jameson Taillon's delayed start due to a back ailment and Kyle Hendricks now appearing on the IL and it seems like this team has had a season full of issues already. But they have survived and are still in the thick of the NL Central race heading into May. -- Rogers

9. Texas Rangers


Previous ranking:5

Entering the season, the betting markets saw a three-way race for AL Rookie of the Year between Baltimore's Jackson Holliday and Texas'Wyatt Langford and Evan Carter. Holliday has really struggled out of the gate under a bright spotlight, but Langford and Carter also have started slowly at the plate. Carter has contributed plenty in the field and on the bases and has drawn 10 walks (tied for the team lead), but he is off to a .215 start at the dish and still has done nothing against lefties. (He's 1-for-23 in his career against southpaws.) Langford has held his own, but as hard as he hits the ball, he is still looking for his first homer and has just four extra-base hits. As for that awards race, it's way too early to declare the betting markets were wrong, but May will be big for all of the struggling rookies. -- Doolittle

10. Toronto Blue Jays


Previous ranking:12

It's just a month into the season, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s decline from AL MVP runner-up in 2021 has continued thus far. The three-time All-Star is batting .219 with a .674 OPS, which is down from .788 last season, which was down from .818 in 2022, which was down from 1.002 in 2021. Defensively, the former third baseman cost the Blue Jays a win against the Royals on Tuesday when he dropped a routine throw at first base. Toronto remains over .500 despite a minus-13 run differential, thanks to a stingy starting rotation led by Jose Berrios' 0.85 ERA in five starts. Offensively, Justin Turner (.319/.414/.500) and Daulton Varsho (six home runs) have been the stars, but Toronto won't compete in the AL East if Guerrero doesn't perform like one. -- Castillo

11. Arizona Diamondbacks


Previous ranking:10

The Diamondbacks made numerous notable improvements to their lineup and their rotation coming off a surprising World Series run, but one area they didn't really address was the bullpen. And so far, that has backfired. They have blown six saves already this season, trailing only the Pirates, Marlins and Rays. Their 4.09 bullpen ERA ranks 20th, and they've suffered a major-league-leading 10 losses when leading after the sixth inning. Closer Paul Sewald, who has been out with a strained oblique, is nearing his return. That should certainly help -- but others have to step up. -- Gonzalez

12. Cincinnati Reds


Previous ranking:16

Elly De La Cruzhas picked up where he left off in 2023, leading the Reds in home runs (seven) and stolen bases (15), and it's not even close. He has improved all parts of his game, including his strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.38). He could be among the early favorites for NL MVP after producing a 1.400-plus OPS over the past week. He's the face of a young and exciting team that should be in the NL Central race to the end. -- Rogers

13. Kansas City Royals


Previous ranking:13

While their run prevention has remained consistent, the Royals lost four of five during a recent stretch mostly due to a sputtering offense. Even so, there are signs that the downturn is in part the result of a spate of ill fortune. During a nine-game stretch in which they managed just 3.3 runs per game, Kansas City's hitters nonetheless ranked ninth in average exit velocity. One culprit of the scoring drought was batting average on balls in play (BABIP): Their .221 mark during that span belied all that hard contact. Chances are if the Royals just keep hitting the ball hard collectively, the scoring will tick back up. -- Doolittle

14. Seattle Mariners


Previous ranking:21

Seattle's offense has performed at around a league-average rate this season once you factor in ballpark adjustments, which admittedly can skew perspectives early on. But whatever the Mariners' real offensive level might be, one clear shortfall has emerged. They have mostly platooned full-time at a couple of spots -- left field and third base -- and feature two every-day switch hitters in Jorge Polanco and Cal Raleigh. There are also three every-day righty hitters: Mitch Haniger, Ty France andMitch Garver. Despite all of those looks from the right side of the dish, those righties have struggled mightily against left-handed pitching. The righty platooners, Luis Urias and Dylan Moore, also have not performed. If this continues, Seattle will not be shy about shuffling the deck. -- Doolittle

15. Boston Red Sox


Previous ranking:18

Remember all that terrible injury luck the Yankees experienced last season? It looks like they passed that misfortune along to their rivals. The Red Sox are banged up -- badly. The latest casualty is up-and-coming starTriston Casas. The first baseman is going to miss significant time due to a fractured rib after mashing six home runs in 22 games.

Boston already has lost Lucas Giolito (elbow) and Trevor Story (shoulder) for the season. Nick Pivetta is out indefinitely with an elbow injury. All-Star Rafael Devers has missed time for two different injuries. Vaughn Grissom is on rehab assignment after starting the season on the IL, while Tyler O'Neillrecently came off it. All that before the end of April. The Red Sox are still hanging around behind surprisingly great starting pitching. But it's early, and the AL East won't be forgiving. -- Castillo

16. San Diego Padres


Previous ranking:11

The Padres knew they were going to cut costs over the offseason. They knew they'd begin the year with some holes in their lineup. And they knew some players needed to step up in a big way to fill them. One of those guys has been Jackson Merrill, the 21-year-old lifetime shortstop who transitioned to center field during spring training and already looks like he belongs in the major leagues. Just 27 games into his career, Merrill is slashing .318/.378/.409 and has been worth two outs above average at a demanding position that was foreign to him not too long ago. More importantly, though, he has added some much-needed depth to the Padres' lineup. -- Gonzalez

17. New York Mets


Previous ranking:20

CatcherFrancisco Alvarez is expected to miss about eight weeksafter undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, putting his return in late June. He was injured after stumbling around first base at Dodger Stadium last week. Backup Omar Narvaez takes over as the regular starter and projects as an offensive downgrade (although Alvarez had been off to a slow start). Narvaez has hit just .208 with a .591 OPS over the previous two seasons and .188 in his first 11 games of 2024. Tomas Nido is back as the reserve catcher -- and he owns a career OPS+ of 55. With Nido, Joey Wendle and Zack Short, the Mets' bench is pretty thin right now. -- Schoenfield

18. Detroit Tigers


Previous ranking:19

Many saw this as the year when Tarik Skubal would emerge as a legitimate, front-of-the-rotation starter, and so far, that has certainly been the case. The Tigers' 27-year-old left-hander allowed three singles and nothing else in six shutout innings against the Rays on Monday, lowering his ERA to 1.82 through his first five starts. He has coupled that with 0.74 walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and a 7.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Tigers look like they might remain competitive within the AL Central all summer, and Skubal is the biggest reason. As Tigers manager AJ Hinch said of Skubal, "The stuff is off-the-charts good." -- Gonzalez

19. Tampa Bay Rays


Previous ranking:15

The Rays have innovated their way to the postseason each of the past five years, staying ahead of the curve to challenge the industry's heavyweights with some of the lowest payrolls in the sport. But too many injuries are an insurmountable problem for even the smartest franchises, and the Rays might have reached that threshold.

They have six pitchers and five position players on the IL, including two-time All-Star starter Shane McClanahan; right-hander Drew Rasmussen, who posted a 2.78 in 36 starts over the past two seasons; left-hander Jeffrey Springs, who has a 2.53 ERA since joining the Rays before the 2021 campaign; bullpen stalwart Pete Fairbanks; and every-day players Josh Lowe and Brandon Lowe. Without them, Tampa is in last place in the AL East, one game under .500 with a minus-24 run differential. It's early. If any team can dig itself out of the hole, it's the Rays. But at some point, too many injuries are too much to overcome. -- Castillo

20. Pittsburgh Pirates


Previous ranking:14

Rookie Jared Jones is the story of the Pirates in April. The second-round 2020 draft pick has made five starts, and all have been impressive. Just 22 years old, Jones gave up 20 hits in his first 29 innings while walking only four batters. His ERA is a solid 2.79, and he hasn't allowed a single stolen base off him. He has been a rock on a team that got off to a fast start and hopes to hang around the playoff race longer than it did last season. If Jones can keep it up, the Pirates might be able to sustain some success, something that has eluded them over the past few years. -- Rogers

21. San Francisco Giants


Previous ranking:25

The Giants changed the dynamic of their offseason in March by signing two high-profile free agents in Matt Chapman and Blake Snell. So far, though, San Francisco has had to absorb their slow starts, a likely byproduct of their limited time to prepare for the regular season. Snell allowed 15 runs in 11 innings through his first three starts and on Wednesday was placed on the IL with an adductor strain. Chapman, meanwhile, has been a below-average hitter, slashing .228/.278/.416 with four home runs in his first 26 games.Needless to say, the Giants need a lot more from them if they hope to overcome a crowded NL West. -- Gonzalez

22. Houston Astros


Previous ranking:17

Things are bad in Houston. A loss at the Cubs on Wednesday dropped the Astros to 11 games under .500, depths to which Houston had not sunk since May 2016. Injuries to the rotation are certainly part of the story, as only the woeful Rockies and White Sox have hemorrhaged runs at a more rapid pace this season.

But an offense that has been so consistently elite over the past decade bears blame, as well. Houston has scored well below the league-average rate early on, and some of the individual performances border on alarming, especially that of former MVP Jose Abreu. Over the Astros' first 19 games, Abreu went a stunning 4-for-62 with one extra-base hit (a double). When he won the MVP award for the White Sox in 2020, his hard-hit rate was 53.3%, according to Baseball Reference. So far in 2024, his hard-hit rate is less than half that. -- Doolittle

23. Minnesota Twins


Previous ranking:23

It was no secret entering the season that the Twins' three best position players -- Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis and Byron Buxton -- carried troubling injury histories. One month in, Buxton is the only healthy one of the trio. Lewis didn't last three innings before suffering a severe quad strain on Opening Day. Two weeks later, Correa joined him on the IL with an intercostal strain. Max Kepler, another key bat, was activated this week after missing 13 games with a knee contusion. Unsurprisingly, the Twins' offense has faltered. They rank in the bottom five of the majors in runs scored per game, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.As a result, they're already 6.5 games behind the surging Guardians in the AL Central.-- Castillo

24. St. Louis Cardinals


Previous ranking:22

As predicted by, well, just about everyone, the Cardinals are having issues on the mound. It's the same problem they had last season, and though Lance Lynn has been OK overall, their starting staff isn't getting it done. They have an ERA in the bottom third in the NL, and only Sonny Gray has looked dominant. Like last season, Miles Mikolas is throwing batting practice, Kyle Gibson is showing his age andSteven Matzis having his own struggles, as his ERA ballooned to 5.55 after giving up 12 runs over his past two starts. That rotation -- minus Gray, who has only pitched in three games -- has defined St. Louis so far. -- Rogers

25. Washington Nationals


Previous ranking:26

Welcome to the big leagues, Mitchell Parker. The 24-year-old lefty has allowed just two runs in 12 innings across his first two outings -- facing the Dodgers and Astros, no less. Against Houston, he fanned eight in seven innings, recording four of the strikeouts with his splitter, while allowing just three hits. His fastball has averaged 92 mph, so he isn't overpowering. But he has been throwing strikes, as he hasn't issued any walks -- a problem for him in the minors last year, when he averaged 4.4 walks per nine. Parker isn't a heralded prospect; he didn't make McDaniel's preseason prospect rankings for the Nationals. But a rebuilding team such as Washington needs a player like this to pop up and turn into a valuable contributor. -- Schoenfield

26. Los Angeles Angels


Previous ranking:24

Mike Trout is running better than he has in a few years and hitting the ball as hard as ever, leading the majors in home runs with 10. He also is averaging around a half-an-RBI per game. Some of that is the Angels' lineup, and some of it has been Trout himself. He began the season by going 1-for-14 in high-leverage situations, 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and two outs. One possible solution? Bat Trout leadoff, as manager Ron Washington had him do on Tuesday. Trout led off that game by homering, the first time he had done that since Sept. 28, 2012. -- Doolittle

27. Oakland Athletics


Previous ranking:27

We can't write about Mason Miller every week. Sorry, A's fans. We could write about starter Paul Blackburn, if we wanted to keep things positive. Alas, it can't be all sunshine and roses about the flailing A's. The lineup isn't built to post high batting averages, but what has happened so far is particularly remarkable. Of Oakland's top 12 hitters in plate appearances, eight of them have hit under .200, including seven who qualify in the percentage categories. The record for most sub-.200 hitters (minimum 300 plate appearances) on one team is three, and the last time that happened was in 1910. We've got a long way to go, but there is a real chance here for the A's to make some history. Even more remarkable: Thanks to the White Sox, Oakland isn't even last in MLB in batting average. -- Doolittle

28. Miami Marlins


Previous ranking:28

This sums up the Marlins' start to 2024: On Monday against Atlanta, they began the game with a single, a single and a double -- and failed to score in the inning. Luis Arraez was on second onJazz Chisholm Jr.'s double off the wall in right-center field but went back to tag up. With Bryan De La Cruz on his heels, Arraez had to head home and got thrown out by 40 feet. The next two batters failed to get a run in, and the Marlins ended up losing 3-0. They then got shut out again Tuesday. Last year, they found ways to win close games. This year, they're just losing ugly. -- Schoenfield

29. Colorado Rockies


Previous ranking:29

Kyle Freeland, the Rockies' Opening Day starter, allowed a whopping 17 runs in his first 5 innings to begin the season. He began to round back into form over his third and fourth start, lowering his ERA from 27.00 to 13.21. On April 15, he was then used as a pinch runner and was shaken up after getting thrown out at home in the ninth inning. Four days later, he was placed on the IL with an elbow strain. The Rockies said the injury was unrelated; it occurred, they added, during a start the day before running the bases. But it was a reminder, perhaps, that it's going to be another long year in Denver. -- Gonzalez

30. Chicago White Sox


Previous ranking:30

Losing. Lots of losing defined the White Sox in April. Much of it by design, as they turned over all their catchers from last season and every pitcher save one. But no one could have imagined being shutout eight times in their first 22 games. The White Sox rank last in runs scored per game and are tied for second to last in runs given up -- behind only the Rockies, who play in the most hitter friendly ballpark in MLB. Perhaps there is help on the way, as Mike Clevinger and Tommy Pham will make their season debuts soon. But nothing can erase the horrendous play of the first month. -- Rogers

Related Video