Jesse Pantuosco

Power Rankings

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MLB Power Rankings: Week 7

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

If they ever rename Yankee Stadium (spoiler: they won’t), here’s my suggestion: name it Astros Park. Why? Because it belongs to the Houston Astros.


It took the perfect amount of pitching, run manufacturing, clutch performances and hitting the dickens out of a baseball (looking at you, George Springer) but the upstart Astros finally found the antidote. They took three of four from the hottest team in baseball (well formerly the hottest team in baseball) at a place where the Yankees had a 12-3 record entering last Thursday. The series began with a dramatic game-saving throw by Jake Marisnick (which I highlighted in Friday’s Dose) before culminating in a rude slugfest on Derek Jeter night.


Yankee Stadium has been given various nicknames over the years. Some days you’ll hear it referred to as “the house that Ruth built,” while other days Derek Jeter gets the credit. Don’t believe a word of it. Dallas Keuchel built it with his bare hands.


Houston’s bearded wonder (nope, not you James Harden) has been a menace at Yankee Stadium, winning his last four starts there (postseason included) with an impeccable 0.69 ERA. He’s also pitched to a sturdy 1.08 ERA in his last two home starts against the Bombers, so maybe it doesn’t matter where he pitches. Wherever the games are played—New York, Houston, Neptune, some other cool place we don’t know about, North Dakota—Keuchel has the Yankees’ number. WHO’S YOUR DADDY?


Oh yeah, the Astros are No. 1 in my rankings. Probably should have led with that. Anyway, here’s the rest:



1. Houston Astros


Record: 27-12


Last Week: 3


Think Carlos Correa likes May? Yeah, I kind of get that feeling too. He’s hit .377 this month with three homers, 14 RBI, six doubles and 14 runs scored. It almost makes you forget he batted just .233 with 23 strikeouts in 86 at-bats in April. I get that Ken Giles throws 100 mph but if you’re A.J. Hinch, how do you not have Chris Devenski pitching the ninth inning? Opponents are hitting .155 off Devenski with 43 (not a typo) strikeouts in 84 at-bats. Seriously, I need Bill Nye to explain this changeup to me.


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2. Washington Nationals


Record: 24-13


Last Week: 1


Saturday Bryce Harper inked a $21.65 million contract for 2018, the largest deal ever awarded to an arbitration-eligible player. A few hours later he smashed a walk-off home run, his second of the year (both have come against the Phillies). What’s Max Scherzer up to these days? Well he got surly when Dusty Baker tried to pull him against the Orioles and later threw an immaculate inning against the Phillies after almost getting killed by a line drive. So yeah, pretty much the usual.


3. New York Yankees


Record: 22-13


Last Week: 2


We’re finally seeing some cracks in the armor as the slumping Yankees have lost four of their last five. Masahiro Tanaka laid an egg on Derek Jeter Night, yielding eight runs and seven hits including four homers in a loss to Houston. That halted his six-start unbeaten streak. Even with the Yankees leveling off, Brett Gardner’s emergence should give the Bronx Bombers reason for optimism. He’s been on a tear this month, hitting .417 with five homers, 10 RBI and a monstrous .813 slugging percentage.


4. Baltimore Orioles


Record: 22-14


Last Week: 4


Chris Davis hasn’t come close to living up to his absurd $161 million contract and probably never will. But at least he’s showing signs of life, hitting .346 with three homers, five RBI and eight walks over his last eight contests. Chris Tillman holds an elite 2.89 ERA since returning from the disabled list but has yet to pitch more than five innings. Wade Miley is still standing pat with a 2.45 ERA but with 23 walks in only 36 2/3 innings of work, the bottom could fall out at any time.


5. Los Angeles Dodgers


Record: 22-17


Last Week: 8


What a raw deal for Kenta Maeda. After hurling a gem against the Pirates on Wednesday night (8 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 R), the Dodgers sent Maeda to the DL with a dubious-sounding hamstring injury so they could make room in the rotation for Rich Hill and Brandon McCarthy. If you want to point fingers, Alex Wood is the one responsible for the current logjam in the Dodgers’ rotation. Injuries pushed Wood into the top five, but now he’s earned his spot by going undefeated with a 2.27 ERA. That ERA is lower than Clayton Kershaw’s (2.43).


6. Colorado Rockies


Record: 24-15


Last Week: 6


Charlie Blackmon has been unusually quiet on the base-paths this year (two steals on four attempts) but he’s made up for it by hitting .310 with eight homers, 27 RBI and a league-high six triples. It’s pretty early to have Comeback Player of the Year all wrapped up, but I don’t see how anyone other than Greg Holland could win the award. At the moment, he’s on pace for 66 saves, which would break the single-season record set by Francisco Rodriguez in 2008. Amazingly, Holland is throwing harder in 2017 (average fastball velocity of 93.9 mph) than he did the year before he underwent Tommy John surgery (93.6).


7. St. Louis Cardinals


Record: 21-15


Last Week: 11


The Cardinals made the exceptionally rare move of calling up Magneuris Sierra directly from High-A, bypassing Double-A and Triple-A altogether. Naturally, he’s been the team’s best hitter since arriving, batting .375 with seven runs in his first six games. Trevor Rosenthal flamed out as the Cardinals’ closer last year but that hasn’t stopped him from making a smooth transition to his new life as a setup man. He’s registered an astounding 1.88 ERA this year with three saves, five holds and a career-best 15.7 K/9.


8. Cleveland Indians


Record: 20-17


Last Week: 5


Only two teams (the Cubs and Pirates) have hit for a lower average than Cleveland this month (.220). But there’s a reason Terry Francona has won two of the last four AL Manager of the Year awards. Francona got the bright idea to move struggling second baseman Jason Kipnis into the leadoff spot on Sunday. All he did was go 4-for-5 with two homers and four RBI while guiding the Tribe to an 8-3 win over Minnesota. Besides being a great manager and a known Popsicle enthusiast, Francona is also an expert troll. Just ask Rays manager Kevin Cash.


9. Boston Red Sox


Record: 19-18


Last Week: 9


To quote the immortal Chumbawamba, “Mookie Betts gets knocked down, but he gets up again.” Those are the lyrics, right? Anyway, someone should throw Mookie in prison for the crimes he’s committing against innocent baseballs. He’s hit .400 with four homers and 12 ribbies over his last seven games while boosting his average from a very un-Mookie-like .267 to a “now that’s more like it” .296. Meanwhile AL saves leader Craig Kimbrel has struck out 13 of the last 15 hitters he’s faced and hasn’t allowed a run since April 20. Nasty.


10. Chicago Cubs


Record: 18-19


Last Week: 7


Top prospect Ian Happ homered in his big league debut, which happened on the same day Jon Lester (who fears runners like Kramer dreads clowns) picked Magneuris Sierra off first base. Surely this momentous day would end with a Cubs victory, right? Eh, not so much. The Cubs haven’t looked like themselves in 2017, but maybe they’re just pacing themselves like the Cavaliers. It would be nice if Jake Arrieta showed up at some point this year. The imposter who’s been wearing his uniform every fifth day is 1-3 with a 7.65 ERA over his last four starts.


11. Arizona Diamondbacks


Record: 22-18


Last Week: 10


Zack Greinke might be onto something. The former Cy Young winner took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Thursday against Pittsburgh while extending his unbeaten streak to four starts. If you take away his crummy outing against the Dodgers on April 14, Greinke would be 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA, which is what you’d expect from a guy making $34 million a year. Paul Goldschmidt doesn’t make $34 million a year but perhaps he should. The 29-year-old has just about lost his mind over the last 11 games, hitting .333 with six homers and 12 RBI during that span.


12. Minnesota Twins


Record: 19-15


Last Week: 13


Who knows if Byron Buxton will ever develop into a worthwhile big league hitter, but man is he a blast to watch in center field. With Kevin Kiermaier off to a rough start, Buxton may have the opening he needs to swoop in for the AL Gold Glove Award. Jose Berrios fell flat as a rookie last year but his second go-round in the big leagues is off to a much better start. The 22-year-old dominated in his 2017 debut, scattering just two hits and one run over 7 2/3 innings in a convincing win over Cleveland.


13. Milwaukee Brewers


Record: 21-18


Last Week: 19


Man, I just call ‘em like I see ‘em. From last week’s Power Rankings: “With [Neftali] Feliz hanging on for dear life in the ninth inning, fantasy owners would be wise to target Corey Knebel, who has been phenomenal in a setup role for the Beermakers this season (1.10 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 13.78 K/9).” Did I call that or what? Come for the Will Ferrell links, stay for the psychic abilities. That’s the Jesse guarantee. Ryan Braun is on the DL, but the Brewers will be fine. Trust me—I was right last week, wasn’t I?


14. Detroit Tigers


Record: 18-18


Last Week: 12


The Tigers are firmly in the middle-of-the-pack and that won’t change unless they get better production out of their stars. Let’s go down the list: future first-ballot Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is hitting a lowly .238 while veteran reliever Francisco Rodriguez leads the majors in blown saves and was recently ousted from the closer role. Even last year’s Cy Young runner-up Justin Verlander hasn’t shown much in the early going (3-3, 4.47 ERA, 1.43 WHIP). At least Michael Fulmer is still bringing it. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year has pitched to an impressive 2.25 ERA during his four-game unbeaten streak.


15. Cincinnati Reds


Record: 19-18


Last Week: 16


Remember when Raisel Iglesias was going to be the Reds’ future ace? Turns out, he’s more valuable as Cincinnati’s last line of defense in the ninth inning. The hard-throwing Iglesias has been almost untouchable in his first full year as the Reds’ closer, converting all seven of his save chances while providing a masterful 0.89 ERA. We know Joey Votto can hit for average (.312 for his career) but where is all this power coming from? The 44 homers he’s on pace for would dwarf his career-high of 37, which he set during his MVP year in 2010.


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Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
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