There has been a lot of movement in the MLB Power Rankings this week, and here are some teams I’m buying and selling right now.
On face value alone, this team isn’t very impressive. They’re second in a weak AL Central, their offense isn’t very spectacular, and they have the third-lowest payroll in baseball. But, when you look past all that, this team is doing some extraordinary things. First, the Guardians are 8-2 in their last ten games and have stolen the final AL wildcard spot from the red hot Red Sox. Second, they are led by superstar third baseman José Ramírez who has flown under the radar as an MVP candidate behind the Yankees’ Aaron Judge. Still, he is having a genuinely historical season. Let me lay down some stats. According to Sports Illustrated, Ramírez leads the league in RBIs with 59. He is on pace for 171 RBIs, the most since 1938 and seventh-most all-time in one season. He is on track to hit more than 40 homers with less than 50 strikeouts. Nobody has done that since Albert Pujols in 2006. Ramírez is on pace for 46 homers and 26 stolen bases. No infielder has ever achieved those kinds of numbers. He has struck out swinging on a pitch in the zone only five times all season. He has swung and missed at only 14 of the 487 fastballs he has seen this year. The average major league hitter sees a fastball in the zone 30% of the time. Ramírez sees one only 25% of the time, and he slugs .959 against them. Thirteen of his 16 home runs this season have been hit off fastballs, and 100 of his 131 homers over the past five seasons have come against fastballs (76%). I think this team has the potential to make some noise this year, especially in the AL Central. There will soon be an announcement that a new minority owner has joined the Guardians ownership group. Hopefully, they will spend some money, and if they do, they could have something special.
This division is led by two good teams: the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers, and is burdened with three horrible teams: the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and Cincinnati Reds. The St. Louis Cardinals have a top 5 offense in baseball right now, led by scorching hot first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado. On the other side, their pitching is ranked in the bottom ten in fWAR. I look for this team to make some moves before the deadline and increase their chances of winning the division. The Milwaukee Brewers are one of the colder teams in baseball right now, going 2-8 in their last 10 games. While they have had a lot of injuries, their problems are the polar opposite of the Cardinals. They have an excellent pitching staff (when fully healthy), but their offense has been disappointing once again. I think both of these teams could turn it around, considering the weakness of their division, but I don’t see much playoff noise coming out of it. Those factors make this an easy sell for me.
The Braves are HOT. Only losing one game so far in the month of June, this Braves team seems to have tapped into last year’s magic to really get rolling after a slow start. While many of the same pieces are there from last season’s world series win, there are a few notable new faces and surprises. Rookies Center Fielder Michael Harris II and Pitcher Spencer Strider are simply outstanding. Michael Harris is the Brave’s number one prospect and has shot through the minor leagues, skipping AAA to join the big club. He has exceeded all expectations, especially at the plate. Since calling up Harris on May 28, the Braves are 16-3. Spencer Strider started off the season as a depth bullpen arm, but injuries and his own consistent success have thrust him into a starting role. His signature mustache and electric fastball have made him a quick fan favorite. Two other surprises have been likely all-stars: Pitcher Kyle Wright and Shortstop Dansby Swanson. Both have been spectacular and nothing like they were projected to be by the pundits. Relievers Tyler Matzek, Collin McHugh, and Kirby Yates all look to join an already great bullpen sometime around the All-Star game. Also, Ozzie Albies and postseason hero Eddie Rosario look to return sometime within the next few months to give this explosive lineup even more juice with their bats. All these data points are great for the Braves right now, but they look to get even better before the playoffs, which is why I am buying stock in them.
Tampa Bay Rays
This team is by no means terrible, but this just is not the quality team they had last year or the year before. With a few critical injuries and offseason losses, it just feels like this team is coasting until next season. Before this season, they traded corner outfielder Austin Meadows to the Detroit Tigers and are still waiting for pitchers Tyler Glasnow, Peter Fairbanks, Nick Anderson, and more to return from the IL. While the pitching has been depleted, others have stepped up, especially Shane McClanahan. McClanahan is a dark horse Cy Young candidate for sure. The main challenge lies with the Ray’s offense. They are 24th in the AL in runs scored so far this season which is abysmal. As players start to come back from injury, I expect this to improve, and the Rays will probably end up in the playoffs because that’s what they do. But, I would not expect much more than that this year. This team needs to make some changes, especially to their offense. So as for this year, I am selling on the Rays.