MLB Power Rankings: Cleveland Secures Road Trip Wins To Move Up the Rankings

MLB Power Rankings: Cleveland Secures Road Trip Wins To Move Up the Rankings
In case you haven’t noticed the scorching temperatures around the country over the last couple of weeks, we’re officially in the dog days of summer, when the going gets tough and the tough get going in baseball. It can be easy to give into the muggy heat and fold up the tent around this time of year if things haven’t been going your team’s way. However, a few teams have proved you can get on a roll and revive your season by taking advantage of the downtrodden.
We’ll deal with some examples of each in this week’s power rankings. It’s a sad state of affairs for the four worst teams in the league. The Pirates just wrapped up a 2–8 road trip but still move up two spots this week because the A’s and Tigers have lost eight and seven games in a row, respectively.
Detroit’s six wins since the All-Star break are now tied with Pittsburgh for the fewest. These teams’ records became more important in terms of draft position than this year’s standings a while ago, though, with individual performances from players who could form the core of a contending team mattering much more. The good news on that front is that Ke’Bryan Hayes has stayed mostly healthy this year after injuries derailed his rookie season with the Pirates.
He is leading the team with 103 games played and graded out as MLB’s second-best defensive third baseman by outs above average, behind only Nolan Arenado . The bad news is his production at the plate has been virtually the same as it was last year, registering a . 251/.
323/. 358 slash line and just six home runs in 434 plate appearances. That’s a far cry from what he did in a 24-game cameo in 2020, when he batted .
376 and launched five homers in 93 plate appearances to get the hype train chugging. Though Ke’Bryan Hayes's production has fell off slightly this year, the 25-year-old is one of the bright spots looking ahead for the Pirates. Kyle Ross/USA TODAY Sports Some of this can be chalked up to bad luck.
While Hayes’s wRC+ is just 94, indicating he’s been 6% worse than the average major league hitter, his exit velocity and hard-hit percentage both rank among the 90th percentile in baseball (but his power has been limited by a tendency to hit the ball into the ground). While his approach has improved in that sense since last season, when he posted the third-lowest launch angle (2. 6 degrees) of 232 qualified hitters, he still ranks 22nd-lowest out of 251 qualified hitters this year with a 5.
7-degree launch angle. Hayes’s slow offensive start to his career is far from the biggest issue holding back the 2022 Pirates, who rank 28th in runs scored and 26th in ERA. Jack Suwinski has the second-highest OPS of the 25 Pirates with the most at-bats this season … and he’s batting under .
200. And Hayes’s speed and defense have ensured he’s still worth 2. 7 wins above replacement, per Fangraphs.
But after the second-generation player signed an eight-year, $70 million extension in April, the 25-year-old’s progress at the plate is one of the most critical factors to the franchise’s future success, which is really the focus of the front office, even now. Colorado's Kris Bryant has been sidelined with a foot injury beginning in early July with no projected return date, though he is not expected to be out for the whole season. Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports Injuries over the last six weeks to Jazz Chisholm Jr.
, Jorge Soler , Avisaíl García , Brian Anderson and Jon Berti have decimated what was already a subpar offense and forcing Miami to look ahead to next year. The Marlins were just swept in a four-game set against Atlanta and have lost five straight series, with their lone series victory since July 4 coming against the Pirates. They’ve scored three or fewer runs in 15 straight games, the longest such streak by any team since 1979, when the Cubs also matched that dubious feat.
And it’s not like the Marlins have been facing only the best pitching staffs the league has to offer: they were held to nine total runs in six combined games against the Reds and Cubs to start off August. In the series vs. Atlanta, three of the four Braves starters who shut down Miami’s offense—Ian Anderson, Kyle Muller and Bryce Elder—will be making their next starts in Triple A.
Even aside from this sordid stretch, though, the early returns on GM Kim Ng’s first major acquisitions have been wildly disappointing. Soler, signed to a three-year, $36 million deal by Miami, has more closely resembled the below-average hitter he was in Kansas City last year than the resurgent slugger who earned World Series MVP honors after being traded to Atlanta. Garcia, inked to a four-year, $53 million contract over the offseason, has been even worse.
His 69 wRC+ ranks 95th out of 100 outfielders with at least 250 plate appearances. After leading the Brewers with a career-high 29 homers last year, he has just seven for the Marlins. Infielder Joey Wendle —acquired from Tampa Bay in a trade for minor league outfielder Kameron Misner, now a top-10 prospect in the Rays’ stacked system—has the worst barrel rate in the majors among qualified hitters.
Jacob Stallings , brought over from Pittsburgh for three prospects, has been the least valuable catcher among the 36 backstops with at least 200 plate appearances, according to Fangraphs ’ version of WAR. Add in disappointing showings from Jesus Aguilar and Miguel Rojas and you’ve got a bottom-five offense by wRC+ (91). Even if Miami’s stable of young pitchers churns out a bunch of successful starters, it won’t be enough to overcome an offense as poor as the one fielded by the Marlins this season.
Kahlil Watson and Jordan Groshans, both rated as top-100 prospects by MLB Pipeline, may eventually form a solid left side of the infield. But in order to contend in the stacked NL East in the near future, the Marlins have to at least sort out a couple of the hitters who have started off their South Beach stays in inauspicious fashion. San Francisco’s playoff odds were right around 50% at the All-Star break, according to Fangraphs .
A coin flip! Which makes sense, as the Giants were only a half-game out of a wild-card spot then. Fast forward to the present day, and they’re six games out with 5. 4% odds.
That estimate is actually a two-fold improvement on where they were before a sorely needed sweep of Pittsburgh over the weekend. Where’d it all go wrong? Well, a seven-game losing streak out of the gate on road trips through Los Angeles and Arizona chopped off more than half of their playoff scenarios. Their 9–15 record in the second half certainly isn’t ideal, but it’s really their 0–8 record against the Dodgers that’s killed them.
You can’t really say the Giants deserved any better, either, as they’ve been outscored by their fiercest rivals 50–23 over the last few weeks, with nary a one-run loss in the bunch. In his last 30 games with the Giants, Joc Pederson has totaled 79 at-bats without a single home run. D.
Ross Cameron/USA TODAY Sports Thairo Estrada , improbably San Francisco’s second most-used hitter this year, clinched Sunday’s win over Pittsburgh with his first career walk-off homer (after the Giants’ bullpen had blown a five-run lead) to get his team back to . 500. It’s a scene that’s been seen less frequently in San Francisco this season after last year’s franchise record regular season was fittingly filled with fairytale moments from all across the lineup.
After ranking second in the majors with 241 home runs last season, the Giants have slipped to 11th with 133 round-trippers in 2022. While Brandon Belt , Mike Yastrzemski and Brandon Crawford all surpassed the 20-homer threshold in ‘21, none are on pace to do so again. Joc Pederson , who hasn’t left the yard since June 25, still leads the team with 17.
With San Francisco sporting a leaky relief corps and the league’s worst defense by most advanced metrics, that hasn’t proven to be enough, and as a result, the clock is awfully close to striking midnight on its season. White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson is expected to miss four to six weeks with a torn ligament in his left hand. AP Photo/John Minchillo The AL Central’s preseason favorite was the White Sox.
The division leader since April has been the Twins, whose case was seemingly cemented with an aggressive attitude at the trade deadline that netted Minnesota a new starting pitcher from Cincinnati ( Tyler Mahle ), new relievers from Baltimore ( Jorge López ) and Detroit ( Michael Fulmer ), and even catching depth in the form of Sandy León from Cleveland. And yet, it’s the Guardians who find themselves in the driver’s seat, as they claimed first place last week by going 5–1 on a road trip through Detroit and Toronto while Minnesota went 1–4 against the two Los Angeles teams. For most of the season, Cleveland’s pitching didn’t quite live up to the lofty expectations set by the many stellar staffs of the Terry Francona era.
But the Guardians have again managed to concoct a similar formula for success and haven’t lost a series in over a month. The bullpen has been especially lights-out, with Emmanuel Clase , James Karinchak, Sam Hentges and Nick Sandlin combining to allow just one earned run in 36⅓ innings over the past month. José Ramirez is again doing most of the heavy lifting in the lineup—his .
896 OPS ranks fourth in the AL, and his 23 RBIs over the last 30 days are tied for second-most in the majors, behind only Aaron Judge—but a new wave of youngsters has eased his burden a little bit. Andres Giménez has been the game’s best second baseman with an all-around game that has him positioned to be the shortstop of the future if/when Amed Rosario departs in free agency after next season, if not earlier. Steven Kwan has fit like a glove at the top of the lineup.
No rookie this century has had a strikeout rate as low as his (9%) with a walk rate (9. 9%) as high. They’ve also brought a new dimension of speed to the offense: The Guardians boast five players with at least 10 steals, while no other team has more than three.
Ramirez has appeared in 110 games and is a driving force for Cleveland's offense this season. AP Photo/David Dermer There are still some depth issues in both the lineup and rotation that could end up costing Cleveland. Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale , who returned from a wrist injury last week, have earned two wins apiece in 34 combined starts, an indictment of their inconsistency and inability to make it through opposing lineups a third time.
Myles Straw ’s 59 wRC+ is the worst among full-time outfielders, raising the question of whether his putrid offense is worth the trade-off of his excellent defense. Since May 1, Straw and Owen Miller rank worst and fifth-worst, respectively, in wRC+ among 156 qualified hitters. But for now, the Guards are on top of a division no one expected them to win this year and should feel good about their future.
The Yankees fell to the Red Sox Sunday, marking their ninth loss in 11 games. With a 72-43 record, they remain at the top of the AL East. Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Atlanta owns the longest active winning streak in the majors at six games after the Dodgers’ 12-gamer was snapped Sunday.
It’s quite the turnaround from a week ago, when the Braves were coming off losing four of five to the Mets to fall seven games out of first place in the NL East. Now, they’ve got the Mets coming to Truist Park on Monday to kick off a four-game series that gives them a chance to slice their deficit to 1. 5 games.
Then they host Houston for a World Series rematch over the weekend. It’s the toughest back-to-back test left on their schedule (and maybe anyone’s). Brian Snitker’s squad has been energized by a trio of rookies who have all burst onto the scene and snagged the spotlight at various points, and it’ll be interesting to see which of the two more established rookies will end up winning the NL Rookie of the Year award.
But for now, we’ll start with the one who most recently made a splash: Vaughn Grissom, Atlanta’s only remaining farmhand in MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospect rankings. The middle infielder comes in at 97th on that list, but he’s outplayed that projection so far. He became the only Brave since 1901 to score in his first four games, a feat that included homering at Fenway Park in his MLB debut and unleashing a silky smooth bat flip in the process.
Grissom’s first bomb brought in his minor league teammate Michael Harris II, who like Grissom skipped Triple A. Harris has been the NL’s best rookie position player by more than a full win, according to Fangraphs, as he’s been a true five-tool player for Atlanta in center field, slashing . 293/.
331/. 512 with 12 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 69 games since being called up on Memorial Day weekend. Then there’s Spencer Strider, who started the season in the bullpen but forced his way into the rotation when his stuff could no longer be saved for short appearances.
The mustachioed Clemson product’s slider is the only pitch with a whiff rate above 50% and a hard-hit rate below 20% this season (min. 400 pitches). If there was an award for MLB’s best rookie pitcher, Strider would have lapped the field: his 3.
1 fWAR is more than double of his competitors for that imaginary trophy. He may want to stop providing bulletin board material for Atlanta’s fiercest in-division rival, though. Daniel Vogelbach has hit three out of the park in the last 15 games as the Mets continue to dominate.
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