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?
With most teams having played between 12 and 13 games thus far, we have completed less than 10% of the season – and yet, it is always easy to overreact to early April tendencies in baseball. The Rays have become unbeatable behind amazing pitching and all kinds of clutch hitting, while several preseason contenders have gotten off to slow starts, including the Phillies, Cardinals, and Astros. Where do all these teams stand in our rankings?
Among the squads who stood out in Week 2: the Diamondbacks, who are making good on their sleeper contender designation, and the Mets, who have looked great at times, but have yet to put it all together (records and stats are through Wednesday, April 12).
Movin’ On Up
Rank change: +7 (21 to 14)
After alternating wins and losses over their first seven games of the season, the Diamondbacks passed a tough homestand with flying colors, going 5-2 against the Dodgers and Brewers, with one of the losses coming in a game in which they held Milwaukee hitless for the first six innings. The second week of the season provided a formula for how Arizona can keep this up in a tough NL West, as their roster is built mostly on athleticism, speed, and just enough pitching to keep them in most games.
Heading into the weekend, the Dbacks are middle of the pack with a 4.66 team ERA, but Madison Bumgarner showed signs of life in his latest start (2 earned runs over 4.2 innings, albeit with 6 walks), Zac Gallen was masterful with seven shutout innings on Monday, and Merrill Kelly still sports a 2.93 ERA despite Tuesday’s late implosion following his no-hit bid. Even as closer Andrew Chafin only earned one save in week 2, the bullpen came up huge in several spots, with lefty Kyle Nelson picking up a couple of wins.
While the new rules regarding pick-off throws and larger bases have certainly played a part, Arizona’s roster would play in any era, as they use speed as a primary weapon. Their 17 steals lead the NL by a significant margin, as eight players have stolen at least one base.
Most importantly, they have been caught stealing only one time (shame on you, Jake McCarthy). Any outfield configuration that includes McCarthy, Alek Thomas, and rookie phenom Corbin Carroll (who leads the team with 3 homers) will continue to save many defensive outs and keep the pressure when they reach base, which is something Arizona must certainly improve if they are to contend in 2023.
Despite their recent climb in the stands, the Diamondbacks still sport a negative run differential, are dead last in walk rate, 22nd in team OBP, and their pitching is allowing too many baserunners, as their 1.43 team WHIP illustrates. Speed is almost useless if your hitters are not getting on base, and Arizona will need to address this issue sooner or later. With slow starts by the Dodgers and Padres, the Diamondbacks have a path to contention, and at least should continue to be a fun team to watch on MLB.tv; a tricky six-game road trip against the Marlins and Cardinals should provide more clarity over the next week.
Hittin’ The Skids
Rank change: -5 (8 to 13)
At this point of the season, most teams would be at least happy to sport a winning record. Unfortunately, when you have the highest payroll in the history of the sport, a winning record is just not enough. After their first 13 games, with 7 of them coming against the Marlins, the Mets have struggled to find consistency and find themselves a step behind the mighty Braves. Even with what could be described as a solid 4-2 week that included a series win against the Padres, the roster is showing a few cracks that cannot be ignored.
Max Scherzer bounced back after a tough start to the year, shutting down San Diego for five innings, but even that effort required 97 pitches in which Mad Max never found his usual rhythm. He enters week 3 of the season with an uncharacteristic 4.41 ERA. Tylor Megill and Kodai Senga have been bright spots, combining to go 5-0 with a 1.31 ERA, but the back-end of the rotation does not fit the expectations of such a high-powered roster.
New York’s two losses this past week were worrisome, with Carlos Carrasco allowing 6 runs to the Marlins and David Peterson taking his second defeat of the season against the Padres. Overall, the Mets’ pitching staff has a 4.14 ERA and stand in the middle of the pack when it comes to strikeout rate.
Just like the pitching, the Mets’ offense has been uneven and carried by a select few players but overall is still far from preseason expectations. With 12 home runs over their first 13 games, New York is 21st in the league, but half of them have come from the league-leading slugger Pete Alonso, while the rest of the offense has combined for only six.
Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, and Daniel Vogelbach are still looking for their first homer and all of them are hitting below .250, but that pales in comparison to third baseman Eduardo Escobar, who is “hitting” for a paltry .103/.143/.205 line over 43 plate appearances, being the constant target of boos at Citi Field. As a whole, the offense is averaging less than 4 runs per game, though their league-worst .249 BABIP portends better luck to come.
The good news for the Mets is that even with all the negativity, they still boast a winning record and have plenty of resources to right the ship as the season goes along. Justin Verlander’s return should happen around the end of the month, and even Edwin Diaz recently suggested that he may be able to pitch sometime this season.
The team’s slow starters on offense have enough of a track record to trust in them, and the organization can be aggressive with their prospects to either trade them or add them to the big league club. Things will not get any easier with a 10-game trip to the West Coast (though it starts with a gimme series against the A’s), but don’t expect to see the Mets outside the top 10 for much longer.
Week 1 Power Rankings
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)