|Photo by USA Today|
By Steve Roney
This early in the season a lot can change in the space of a week, and while the Braves hold steady with the majors' best record, several teams have made big leaps -- and some have slid a mile. Here is how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the league stacking up as of today:
1. Atlanta Braves (LW: 1) – Hughes: The Braves look like the most balanced team in the majors and are playing without Brian McCann, Jonny Venters, and Brandon Beachy. It will be interesting to see what or who can slow them down.
2. Texas Rangers (LW: 9) - Roney: Josh who? They certainly don't miss Hamilton so far, and while Opening Day starter Matt Harrison is on the shelf until after the All-Star Break, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish continue to dazzle.
3. Oakland Athletics (LW: 2) - Roney: Cleanup hitter Jed Lowrie is one of four Red Sox castoffs that Billy Beane has collected (Brandon Moss, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick). Lowrie and Crisp, especially, are raking right now as they wait for Reddick - who led last year's team with 32 home runs - to finally get going.
4. Boston Red Sox (LW: 4) – Hughes: Seeing the Red Sox do this well has to be a nice pick-me-up for the city of Boston. As long as Alfredo Aceves doesn’t get in the way (ed. note: Aceves was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket Thursday morning), they could be back in the playoffs this season.
5. Colorado Rockies (LW: 6) - Roney: It feels like we say it every year, but these guys can mash. Dexter Fowler looks like a superstar so far in centerfield.
6. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 8) - Zuckerman: Seems like they've sorted out their bullpen woes, with Mujica taking over as closer.
7. San Francisco Giants (LW: 10) - Roney: Their vaunted pitching staff has been battered a bit this year, with Matt Cain's struggles the most surprising. Only Madison Bumgarner is holding up his end of the bargain.
8. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 13) - Zuckerman: Aroldis Chapman is sporting nearly a 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Simply unhittable.
9. Baltimore Orioles (LW: 15) – Hughes: Last season was no fluke, the Orioles are legitimate and look even better than they were in 2012.
10. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 21) - Zuckerman: Snuck up on everybody with a 9-game winning streak.
11. Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 11) - Roney: Didi Gregorious, the main return in the Trevor Bauer trade, has hit well in limited action (.400 avg, 2 HR). The D-Backs hope they've found the long-term answer at shortstop with him.
12. New York Yankees (LW: 7) – Hughes: The Yankees are staying afloat which is bad news for the rest of the A.L. East as they are still missing key guys.
13. Kansas City Royals (LW: 14) - Zuckerman: Amazing what a difference a quality starting rotation makes. These guys could be for real.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: 16) - Zuckerman: The most anonymous closer in baseball? Jason Grilli, who has yet to allow a run.
15. Washington Nationals (LW: 5) – Hughes: Given all that has gone wrong, the Nats should feel fortunate their record isn’t even worse. Someone other than Bryce Harper needs to get hot and soon.
16. Detroit Tigers (LW: 3) - Zuckerman: Is it a good sign when you ink a guy to a minor-league deal (Jose Valverde) and immediately name him closer?
17. New York Mets (LW: 12) – Hughes: The Mets started out with about the same record last season and couldn’t keep it up. I doubt they’ll hang around all year, but for now they are a tough matchup with John Buck as hot as he is.
18. Minnesota Twins (LW: 18) - Zuckerman: Rookie centerfielder Aaron Hicks is 4 for his first 55. Hmm...maybe they shouldn't have traded Denard Span AND Ben Revere.
19. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 25) – Hughes: The Rays are pitching well, they just can’t hit. Maybe letting big bats go each year is finally catching up to them.
20. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 19) - Roney: The first of two overpaid, underachieving LA teams. The good news? Carl Crawford has started the season pretty well. The bad news? All of that starting pitching depth has vanished, as starting pitching depth is wont to do.
21. Los Angeles Angels (LW: 28) - Roney: Arte Moreno has spent too much money for this. It's early, of course, but after last season's disappointment, an encore performance should have heads rolling in LA.
22. Cleveland Indians (LW: 23) - Zuckerman: Remember when Ubaldo Jimenez was one of the best young arms in the majors? Feels like ages ago.
23. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 22) – Hughes: None of the Blue Jays’ pitching acquisitions from the offseason have panned out so far. Not much you can do when your top three starters have ERAs over 4.60.
24. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 20) – Hughes: So far the Phillies can’t hit and can’t pitch. Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay have improved as of late, but they will have to be even better to save the Phils’ season.
25. Seattle Mariners (LW: 24) - Roney: With a lineup filled with former uber-prospects who haven't quite found their stroke, Seattle hasn't been able to score for what feels like ten years. At least Dustin Ackley has showed vague signs of life at the plate lately.
26. Chicago White Sox (LW: 17) - Zuckerman: Adam Dunn is batting .100 and on pace for 230 strikeouts. Just isn't the same hitter anymore.
27. Chicago Cubs (LW: 27) - Zuckerman: The three scariest words in Chicago right now: "Carlos Marmol entering."
28. Houston Astros (LW: 29) - Roney: Not nearly as bad as they should be, given their extremely low payroll. Context: A dozen or so players are making more money this season than Houston's entire roster.
29. San Diego Padres (LW: 26) - Roney: At least Chase Headley is back to inject some offense, and to allow Jedd Gyorko to slide over to second base.
30. Miami Marlins (LW: 30) – Hughes: What a disaster, not even Giancarlo Stanton can get anything going.