Sports

MLB Power Rankings Week 1

How much can change in one week of an MLB season?

Exactly one week since the excitement of Opening Day, our first regular-season rankings of the season offer a reality check for some and reason for hope that this could be the year for others.

Is your favorite team off to a fast start that might — or might not — last, or are you rooting for your squad to pick it up after faltering in its initial matchups?

Either way, our 10-voter panel has combined for an initial order 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, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an early observation for all 30 teams.

Preseason MLB Power Rankings


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Record: 3-2

Previous ranking: 1

The finale of the Dodgers’ season-opening road trip could not have been more encouraging. Clayton Kershaw, sidelined during last year’s postseason because of discomfort around his pitching elbow, twirled seven perfect innings on only 80 pitches and looked dominant in doing so. And Cody Bellinger, who batted .165 last year, struggled mightily throughout spring training and was 2-for-14 to start this regular season, picked up two extra-base hits, including a home run. — Gonzalez


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Record: 4-2

Previous ranking: 5

The Astros showed no sign of decline this first week despite having turned over a couple of key lineup slots the past two offseasons. The replacements for George Springer, at least so far in 2022, have been Chas McCormick and Jose Siri, and both have been very productive. But the bigger story has been rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena, who is squarely in the spotlight having taken over a position held down emphatically for years by Carlos Correa. Pena had a strong first week at the plate and while he did commit his first big league error in the field, his overall metrics were positive. — Doolittle


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Record: 4-2

Previous ranking: 2

Walking around the Blue Jays’ clubhouse, one sees a team clearly more confident in its abilities this season after going through a pressure-packed stretch before narrowly missing the playoffs last year. How young players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette grow into their leadership roles will help determine this team’s trajectory. — Lee


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Record: 4-1

Previous ranking: 4

With injuries to starters Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito, along with a season-ending injury for high-leverage lefty Garrett Crochet, the Chicago pitching staff opened the season with more eyes on its injured list than on what was happening on the field. That’s understandable, given the names involved, but the first week of the season saw the White Sox pitch the ball pretty darn well. If there is one pitcher on the staff to keep an eye on it is fourth-year righty Dylan Cease. Mixing in his slider more than ever, Cease keeps pushing his strikeout rate into the highest echelons of starting pitchers. It’s early, but in a rotation full of perennial Cy Young contenders, this could be the season Cease joins that club. — Doolittle


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Record: 4-2

Previous ranking: 9

Wander Franco put up a strong first weekend, going 6-for-11 with a double and three RBIs in a sweep of Baltimore. In an ultracompetitive division, Tampa Bay will need more of the same from its phenomenal 21-year-old shortstop as he plays his first full season in the bigs. — Lee


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Record: 3-4

Previous ranking: 3

The Braves began the season with a six-man rotation that included rookie Bryce Elder, who looked good against the Nationals until fading in the sixth inning and serving up back-to-back home runs to Juan Soto and Josh Bell. Given the extra workload the pitching staff had last October and the short spring, it makes sense to play it safe and stick with the six-man rotation for a few turns. The Braves begin the season with 14 straight days of games and have just one off day until May 5 (with a scheduled doubleheader on May 3 as well). — Schoenfield


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Record: 3-3

Previous ranking: 6

When Giancarlo Stanton is on, there is no one in baseball who hits line drives harder. Stanton went 5-for-13 with two homers and four RBIs against Boston pitching and nearly every ball he hit — grounders, singles, dingers — screamed off the bat. As Stanton goes, so goes the Yankees’ offense. — Lee


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Record: 5-2

Previous ranking: 8

Tylor Megill has looked like a potential rotation force in his first two starts, not allowing a run or a walk in 10⅓ innings with 11 strikeouts. He has averaged 96.4 mph with his fastball and touched as high as 99.1, while throwing a changeup that often sits in the low 90s. He’s thrown 68 and 78 pitches, so he has to show he has the stamina to go deeper into games (he allowed a 1.026 OPS the third time through the order as a rookie in 2021), but the stuff and control are impressive. — Schoenfield


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Record: 4-3

Previous ranking: 12

Fernando Tatis Jr. will spend most of the first half recovering from surgery to his left wrist, and so the Padres’ offense has been looked upon as a major concern heading into the season. Two of their biggest questions resided in left field and at first base — two positions that have provided the most production through the first week of the season. Jurickson Profar, pressed into semi-regular playing time after occupying a utility role in recent years, and Eric Hosmer, whose salary the Padres have been trying to shed for months, batted a combined .406/.472/.688 through the team’s first six games. If the Padres are going to sustain themselves in the absence of Tatis, they’ll need premium production outside of Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth. So far, Hosmer and Profar have provided it. — Gonzalez


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Record: 3-3

Previous ranking: 13

It was an adventurous first week for Alec Bohm. He made three errors in the first three innings on Monday and was caught on camera saying “I f—- hate this place.” He then pinch-hit on Tuesday and in a shocking turn of events, Phillies fans gave him a standing ovation. Who knew you had it in you, Philadelphia? For now, third base remains a timeshare with Bohm, Johan Camargo and rookie Bryson Stott, although you have to think the Phillies will want Stott to eventually play every day — either at third, shortstop or in Triple-A. Bohm’s defense was an issue before the three-error game, so don’t be surprised if Camargo ends up playing a lot. — Schoenfield


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Record: 4-2

Previous ranking: 10

One of the most remarkable elements of the 2021 Giants — and there were many — was their ability to cobble together an elite starting rotation seemingly on the fly. Is it possible they could do it again? Their two new additions, Alex Cobb and Carlos Rodon, combined to allow three runs and strike out 21 batters in 10 innings in their season debuts. Oh, and catcher Joey Bart, Buster Posey’s replacement, reached base eight times in his first 15 plate appearances. — Gonzalez


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Record: 3-3

Previous ranking: 7

Milwaukee’s question is the same as when we saw the Brewers knocked out of the postseason by the Braves last fall: Is there enough offense? The Brewers were shut out twice within their first four games. The first turn through the rotation for Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes didn’t go as planned as both had some control issues, which the Brewers hope can be chalked up to a shortened spring of preparation. — Rogers


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Record: 3-3

Previous ranking: 11

Boston narrowly avoided a season-opening sweep in the Bronx by beating the Yankees on Sunday, aided by a strong performance from the bullpen. The weekend series provided a preview of how the American League East might shake up this season: a lot of really competitive teams leaving each other very little breathing room. — Lee


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Record: 3-1

Previous ranking: 15

The highlight of the year for St. Louis so far? That’s easily Albert Pujols going deep for the first time this season, and calling his shot no less, on Tuesday against the Royals. The Cardinals are already showing why they might be the class of the division — they have solid hitting, pitching and defense — the obvious hallmarks for a serious contender. — Rogers


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Record: 2-4

Previous ranking: 14

A huge key to Seattle’s season — maybe THE key — is getting production from young outfielders Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic. Both are off to slow starts, including a four-strikeout game for Kelenic. Remember, as hyped as Rodriguez is, he skipped Triple-A entirely in making the Opening Day roster. Kelenic likewise hadn’t played much above Class A when the Mariners called him up last year and watched him struggle. — Schoenfield


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Record: 2-4

Previous ranking: 17

The Twins’ offense couldn’t put it together consistently over the first week, but all across the roster there were flashes that the bounce-back season Minnesota was hoping for is in its early formation. While the trade of closer and key clubhouse presence Taylor Rogers shook things up a bit, his eventual replacement may have already emerged. Over his first two appearances in the majors, Jhoan Duran flashed triple-digit velocity and a solid arsenal of secondary pitches. Carlos Correa raved about Duran after seeing him for the first time, saying, “That’s closer stuff right there.” By the end of this season, Correa may prove to be prophetic, because Duran has looked scintillating. — Doolittle


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Record: 3-3

Previous ranking: 16

Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon can make a case as the best lineup trio in the sport, right up there, perhaps, with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner. Early on, though, that hasn’t been the case. Ohtani, Trout and Rendon combined for just nine hits and 17 strikeouts in their first 57 at-bats. Those numbers will undoubtedly pick up significantly if all three are healthy. But it’s worth emphasizing the following: If Ohtani, Trout and Rendon don’t all produce like stars, the Angels have little shot of snapping their postseason drought. Their roster isn’t otherwise talented enough to make up for it. — Gonzalez


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Record: 4-2

Previous ranking: 20

A Guardians’ offense that looked meager on paper enjoyed some explosive sequences during the first week of the season. In Cleveland, it will forever be remembered as the week of Steven Kwan, who reached base a record 18 times over his first five games, all of which came before he struck out for the first time against Cincinnati’s Nick Lodolo on Wednesday. With leadoff hitter Myles Straw excelling along with Kwan atop the Guardians’ lineup, Jose Ramirez could post a spectacular RBI total in 2022. As for Kwan, no one is capable of maintaining what he’s been doing over a full season, but in a sense he is simply doing what he has always been doing, going back to his days at Oregon State. It’s just that now he’s doing it on a stage where the rest of us can’t help but notice. — Doolittle


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Record: 2-4

Previous ranking: 18

It’s been a rough start for the Tigers’ offense, though as manager A.J. Hinch pointed out to reporters, it’s far too early to panic. Still, a lineup that added top producers like Javier Baez and Austin Meadows figured to be better. As it turned out during Detroit’s opening homestand, Meadows and Baez are about the only Tigers hitting to start the season. Star prospect Spencer Torkelson is off to a slow start, which means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps a more wary eye could be cast on second-year outfielder Akil Baddoo, who was setting the majors on fire about a year ago at this time, but collected just one hit over the Tigers’ first five games. He and fellow starting outfielder Robbie Grossman combined for fewer than half of the total bases Meadows compiled during the first week. — Doolittle


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Record: 3-2

Previous ranking: 22

There’s some renewed excitement in Chicago, mostly due to the arrival of Japanese rookie Seiya Suzuki. The outfielder made headlines with his first two-homer game in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday, but it was the walks — four of them in four games — that have shown his maturity as he laid off several borderline pitches to keep rallies alive. Suzuki is the first player since 1920 to record at least eight RBIs and four walks in his first four MLB games. — Rogers


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Record: 4-1

Previous ranking: 26

Kris Bryant, who shocked the industry by signing a seven-year, $182 million contract with the Rockies, is batting .350/.391/.500 through his first 23 plate appearances. But the best moment so far was turned in by Randal Grichuk, who came over on a minor trade weeks before Opening Day, when he leaped against the fence at Globe Life Field, lifting his elbow up over the railing, to rob Corey Seager of a home run. It’s the play of the year so far. And might still be by the end. — Gonzalez


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Record: 2-3

Previous ranking: 23

The Royals’ rebuild was focused on young starting pitchers drafted out of college. This is the season many have been pointing to as the campaign when that strategy would begin to pay off. However, while the Royals did get good initial outings from veterans Brad Keller and Zack Greinke, the Royals’ overall pitching and defense was the worst in the majors over the first week. That’s not good. Worse, the culprits for much of that damage were most of those foundation guys. Kris Bubic, Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar all compiled double-digit ERAs after their initial outings. — Doolittle


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Record: 1-4

Previous ranking: 19

The early bright spot in a slow start: Jesus Luzardo’s first start. He struck out 12 in five innings and allowed just two hits and one run. His four-seamer averaged an impressive 97.6 mph, topping out at 99.2 mph, and he fanned nine batters with his curveball. This was the pitcher who was a top prospect with the A’s as opposed to the one who struggled in the big leagues last season (6.61 ERA). The 12 K’s tied Dontrelle Willis and Wei-Yin Chen for the franchise record for a lefty. It’s one start, but something to dream on. — Schoenfield


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Record: 2-4

Previous ranking: 25

On the same day that CEO Phil Castellini put his foot in his mouth regarding his retooling Reds, they got no-hit into the sixth inning and then gave up six runs in the ninth of a 10-5 loss to the Guardians. It was a bad home opener all around for Cincinnati. Joey Votto started the season just 3 for his first 17 at-bats as he and Rookie of the Year Jonathan India are the anchors for a team void of great hitters. — Rogers


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Record: 1-4

Previous ranking: 21

So how’s all that money Texas spent on its middle infield paying off after a few games? Corey Seager has seven hits, but only one has gone for more than a single. Marcus Semien is just 2-for-22 through Tuesday’s game. Perhaps that’s part of the reason the Rangers are off to a bit of a slow start but in reality it is the pitching that’s let them down — to the tune of the second worst ERA in the AL after five games. Spencer Howard, Martin Perez and the rest of the staff need to be better. — Rogers


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Record: 3-4

Previous ranking: 24

Early indications are it’s going to be a long, long season, but the biggest news for the Nationals were reports that the Lerner family is exploring the possibility of selling the team it purchased in 2006 for $450 million. Forbes estimates the franchise is now worth $2 billion. The last team to sell was Steve Cohen’s purchase of the Mets in 2020 for $2.4 billion. Mark Lerner, the managing principal owner, called it an “exploratory process,” but the family has hired an investment bank to research potential investors and/or buyers. — Schoenfield


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Record: 3-3

Previous ranking: 28

With the departures of Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea, plus manager Bob Melvin, this team is being torn down. The question now is which players will make up Oakland’s foundation moving forward. Frankie Montas represents one of the few established big leaguers left on the team, but Oakland could look to move him, too. Montas posted a shaky performance in his first outing of the season, going five innings and allowing six hits and five runs while striking out six. — Lee


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Record: 2-4

Previous ranking: 27

The season was only four games old but the D-backs had already lost three times. On a Sunday afternoon from Chase Field, they allowed the Astros to score 10 runs and looked just as sloppy defensively and offensively as they did on the mound. Afterwards, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo struck an unusually harsh tone for the first series of a season. He called the performance “unacceptable,” telling reporters: “We’ve got to be better.” The D-backs lost 110 games last year and Lovullo clearly doesn’t want to go through something like that again. But it’s hard to see how his team is appreciably better right now. — Gonzalez


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Record: 2-3

Previous ranking: 29

Locking up Ke’Bryan Hayes on a long-term contract might be the brightest news of the entire season for a team that has already made its way to the bottom of the NL Central standings. Pitching is going to be a problem for the Pirates all year and the first few games didn’t change that narrative. — Rogers


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Record: 1-5

Previous ranking: 30

It wasn’t a strong first series for this Orioles squad, which was outscored 15-4 by Tampa Bay, including an 8-0 shutout on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep. Baltimore fans have reason to be optimistic about the future, with a strong farm system led by catcher Adley Rutschman, but their team’s 2022 season isn’t looking so bright. — Lee

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/33730748/mlb-power-rankings-week-1-which-teams-made-biggest-jumps-opening-day MLB Power Rankings Week 1

John Walker

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