Every week, the Pitcher List team publishes an update to our power rankings, reviewing the biggest risers and fallers of the past seven days. As always, the full rankings can be found at the bottom of this article … but where’s the fun in that?
One week into the 2023 season, and we’re already shaking up our Opening Day Power Rankings after some surprising starts. If you are a Rays, Brewers, Angels, Pirates, or Rangers fan, you are thrilled with your team’s performance. If, on the other hand, you root for the Phillies, Mets, or Blue Jays, you’re probably not too happy with the way your team has looked thus far. Fear not; it’s still early.
Two teams really stood out in Week 1: the Rays, who looked phenomenal, and the Phillies, who looked dreadful. Let’s dig into the first two series for these two teams (records are through Wednesday, April 5).
Movin’ On Up
Rank change: +6 (8 to 2)
The Rays had a perfect first week, sweeping the Tigers at home and the Nationals on the road. You’re probably thinking, yeah, but it’s the Tigers and the Nats. Indeed, expectations for these two franchises aren’t high this year, evidenced by our preseason ranks of #26 and #27, respectively, but the way the Rays took care of business was impressive. Tampa didn’t just win all six games; they dominated them. Every victory was by at least four runs, and their +31 run differential leads all teams.
The Tigers scored three runs in their three-game series. The Nationals’ offense was better, scoring ten total runs, but six of them came in Tuesday’s contest, primarily off of Josh Fleming. Fleming was the only Rays’ hurler to struggle on the week, as the other starters have a combined ERA of 0.93. Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen pitched six scoreless innings apiece, while Shane McClanahan allowed two earned runs in twelve innings and Zach Eflin one in five.
The offense did its part also, scoring 44 runs over the two series. After putting up four runs on Opening Day, the offense scored twelve, five, six, ten, and seven over the next five games. That will get it done! Wander Franco looked every bit the superstar after slashing .417/.481/.792 for the week with two home runs, two stolen bases, four runs scored, and seven RBI.
The veterans Randy Arozarena and Yandy Díaz also started strong, but the most encouraging part of the Rays’ start was the production from the youngsters. Luke Raley belted three home runs. Josh Lowe smacked three doubles and had six hits. Jose Siri drove in eight runs, and Taylor Walls scored five runs. If the Rays get decent production from these players all year, watch out.
The Rays’ hot start may not cool this week, as their upcoming schedule isn’t very daunting. They’ll host the Athletics over the weekend, then start a four-game series with the Red Sox on Monday. The rest of the AL East could be looking up at them by a fair bit this time next week.
Hittin’ The Skids
Rank change: -6 (10 to 16)
Not much went right for the defending NL champs in Week 1. They were swept by the Rangers in Arlington in their first series and lost two of three to the Yankees in New York. Through Wednesday, the Phillies’ run differential of -24 was the worst in baseball. Dropping a series to the Yanks in the Bronx is forgivable, but a sweep to the Rangers? Come on, Phillies; you are better than that!
The first two games were particularly disastrous. Aaron Nola allowed five earned runs in less than four innings on Opening Day, and the bullpen was even worse. Zack Wheeler was hit almost as hard in Game 2, allowing five runs (four earned) in four and one-third innings. He then watched the bullpen get torched for another eleven the rest of the way.
New Philly Taijuan Walker didn’t help, putting up a similar line in Game 1 against the Yanks. Fortunately, Bailey Falter and converted reliever Matt Strahm pitched well in their starts, and Nola had a better outing on Wednesday, so perhaps the rotation will settle down. However, the bullpen’s league-worst 8.44 ERA has to be a concern.
Offensively, Philadelphia wasn’t much better, scoring only 18 runs over the six games. Only the Royals, Marlins, and Nationals scored fewer runs in their first six. New shortstop and WBC hero Trea Turner has done his part. He’s slashing .370/.393/.556 thus far. Bryson Stott and Alec Bohm have also been productive, getting on base at .458 clips. Unfortunately, the long ball, which the Phils rely heavily on, hasn’t materialized. Philadelphia has only four HRs on the season, putting them near the bottom of the league in that department.
The good news is that it’s only six games, and the Phillies are home this week after starting the season on the road. They get four with the Reds (Thursday’s game was postponed, but a doubleheader is scheduled for today) and three with the Marlins, neither of which is a powerhouse. If they can take care of business at home, their ranking should reverse course next week.
Week 1 Power Rankings
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)