MLB Power Rankings: Who's No. 1 one week into the season?

Thursday, April 4, 2024

We're one week into the 2024 MLB season, and after the Brewers and Pirates each suffered their first loss of the season on Wednesday, we have one team still undefeated through seven days of play -- the Tigers?!

We've seen hot starts across the league from not only a few surprising teams but also typical ones, such as the Yankees, whose new slugger,Juan Soto, has shined in his debut for the team. Mookie Betts has also bashed 5 home runs for his Dodgers, who also boast superstars in Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman.

Is your favorite team off to a dominant start -- and more importantly, will it last? Or are you hoping the first week's returns aren't a glimpse of the future?

Our expert panel has gotten together to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we've seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Jesse Rogers, Alden Gonzalez and Jorge Castillo to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Preseason rankings

1. Atlanta Braves


Previous ranking:1

The new additions to the rotation had positive results in their initial starts. Pitching against the Phillies, Chris Sale allowed two runs in 5 innings, striking out seven. He did serve up a leadoff home run to Kyle Schwarber, who jumped on an 0-1 fastball down the middle, but settled in after that and recorded five of his seven strikeouts on his fastball, which touched 96 mph. Reynaldo Lopez had an easier matchup against the hapless White Sox on a cold night in Chicago, but he allowed just one run in six innings, throwing an efficient 82 pitches -- a key for a guy who didn't have great control even as a reliever. "This start meant a lot to me," Lopez said after the game. -- Schoenfield

2. Los Angeles Dodgers


Previous ranking:2

There was so much hype around everything that was new about the 2024 Dodgers that we seemingly forgot one really important thing: Betts is incredible. No worries -- he has been kind enough to remind us. He began the spring transitioning full time to second base, then moved over to shortstop to cover Gavin Lux's throwing issues, a spot where he will now spend the majority of his time. And despite all the defensive turmoil, Betts has been the sport's best offensive performer thus far. In 42 plate appearances, he has 16 hits, including a major league-best five home runs, and nine walks. His OPS is 1.686. Not bad. -- Gonzalez

3. New York Yankees


Previous ranking:7

Soto's first week in a Yankees uniform couldn't have gone any better. The superstar outfielder went 9-for-17 in New York's season-opening four-game sweep of nemesis Houston on the road, a performance that earned him American League Player of the Week. He drove in the Yankees' first run of the season. He concluded his debut by throwing out the tying run at home in the ninth inning. He provided the go-ahead home run two nights later. He's been an exhaustive at-bat for pitchers every night, setting the tone for an offense that prides itself on grinding opponents down. Soto is locked in for his platform season. That's scary for the rest of the AL East. -- Castillo

4. Baltimore Orioles


Previous ranking:4

Jackson Holliday, to just about everyone's surprise, was left off Baltimore's Opening Day roster. The official reason, according to Orioles general manager Mike Elias, was that the club wants Holliday, the consensus top prospect in baseball, to face more left-handed pitching in Triple-A. In response, Holliday homered in his first at-bat of the season -- off a left-handed pitcher. It's only a matter of (very little) time before the 20-year-old infielder bulldozes his way to the majors. When he does, the Orioles, a team already loaded with young position player talent, will become that much more explosive as they seek their second straight AL East title. -- Castillo

5. Texas Rangers


Previous ranking:6

It's too early to tout anyone for awards honors, but at the very least, we can say that Wyatt Langford did not look overmatched during his first few big league games. Langford was in the Rangers' Opening Day lineup less than a year after being drafted No. 4 overall in 2023 out of Florida. He even became just the 44th player to be intentionally walked in his debut, though he had worked a 3-0 count before the free pass was issued. Still, Langford leads a deep Rangers lineup in hard-hit balls during the first week even as he acclimates to frequent DH duties, something he never did at Florida or in the minors. -- Doolittle

6. Arizona Diamondbacks


Previous ranking:9

The D-backs doubled down after an unlikely trip to the World Series last fall, signing Eduardo Rodriguez and Jordan Montgomery to bolster their rotation andJoc Pedersonto provide more punch to their lineup. But the core group in Phoenix is really good on its own. And nobody represents that better than ace Zac Gallen, who showed out on Tuesday, throwing six scoreless innings to hand the Yankees their first loss of the season. Gallen, in his second-to-last season before free agency, has allowed just one run in 11 innings thus far, having also stifled the Rockies. -- Gonzalez

7. Philadelphia Phillies


Previous ranking:5

After a rough first two games against the Braves to start the season -- the bullpen imploded to allow nine runs after Zack Wheeler had tossed six scoreless innings in the opener, and then Aaron Nola allowed a career-worst 12 hits the next day -- the Phillies salvaged the series finale with three runs in the seventh as Alec Bohm delivered the go-ahead hit.

Bryce Harper broke out of an 0-for-11 start to the season on Tuesday with three home runs and six RBIs against the Reds, including a grand slam. Two of the home runs were blasts of 107 and 108 mph -- and he almost went 4-for-4 but was robbed of an extra-base hit by a diving catch in center field. And how about this: Following a six-hour drive from Rochester, New York,Ricardo Pinto, back in the majors for the first time since 2019, arrived in the fourth inning and then pitched the final four innings of the game for his first career save. -- Schoenfield

8. Houston Astros


Previous ranking:3

The Astros' early bullpen problems and four straight season-opening losses to the Yankees aren't forgotten, but their opening week was still dominated by the no-hitter thrown by Ronel Blanco. To say the gem was unexpected is a massive understatement. For one thing, it was the earliest -- by date -- no-hitter in MLB history, coming at a time of the season when starters seldom work deep. Also, for the 30-year-old righty, the no-no gave him just his third career MLB victory. Blanco hasn't even been a starter for the most part, with just 34 of his 202 career minor league outings coming in that role. And yet, Blanco authored the 305th single-pitcher no-hitter in history. Go figure. -- Doolittle

9. Seattle Mariners


Previous ranking:10

Perhaps the Mariners' splashiest offseason pickup was the addition of former All-Star infielder Jorge Polanco, acquired in a trade with Minnesota. The early returns were ... not great. Polanco's Seattle career started in ice-cold fashion as he managed just three singles and a walk over his first six games for the Mariners while striking out more than 40% of the time. It's only six games, of course, but it would be better if Polanco started hitting sooner rather than later, as these numbers are either an acceleration or an exaggeration of trends that appeared to crop up last year for him with the Twins. Perhaps the worst part about it is that in each of Seattle's first six games, manager Scott Servais penciled Polanco into the 3-hole as protection for Julio Rodriguez at No. 2. -- Doolittle

10. Tampa Bay Rays


Previous ranking:8

Wander Franco's future as a major leaguer remains unclear. The All-Star shortstop was placed on paid administrative leave through June 1 before the start of the season as a potential criminal case remains unresolved in the Dominican Republic. Prosecutors allege the 23-year-old Franco broke sexual exploitation and money-laundering laws, but he hasn't been formally charged yet. His status with MLB could change based on developments in the case. Without Franco, the Rays have turned to Jose Caballero at shortstop to start the season. The 27-year-old Panamanian made his major league debut last season with the Mariners. -- Castillo

11. Milwaukee Brewers


Previous ranking:21

Longtime bench coach Pat Murphy got his managerial career off on the right foot as Milwaukee won its first four games. Meanwhile, first baseman Rhys Hoskins endeared himself to his new team, ticking off the Mets with a hard slide which led to the benches clearing and Hoskins getting thrown at. It's the kind of spark the Brewers need as they begin a new chapter without former manager Craig Counsell, Brandon Woodruff (for now -- he's out for the entire 2024 season) and Corbin Burnes. Their first week could not have gone better. -- Rogers

12. Toronto Blue Jays


Previous ranking:11

Offense was the Blue Jays' projected weakness entering the season, and the first week was evidence of that. They were held to two or fewer runs in four of their first six games and were no-hit by Blanco, a 30-year-old right-hander, in his eighth career start Monday. Toronto's pitching, meanwhile, has limited opponents to five or fewer runs in four of the six games behind two dominant outings from starter Jose Berrios. The Blue Jays will jockey for a playoff spot if the offense can provide consistent support for the strong pitching staff. Justin Turner is off to a strong start, but it'll come down to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette carrying the load. -- Castillo

13. Boston Red Sox


Previous ranking:19

New uniform, same Opening Day results for Tyler O'Neill. The former Cardinal homered in his Red Sox debut, becoming the first player in MLB history to hit a home run on five consecutive Opening Days in the team's win over the Mariners. Red Sox fans were disappointed with Boston's inactive offseason after they were promised a "full-throttle" effort to improve the last-place club. All they got was a whimper, but O'Neill, one of the team's few free agent additions, delivered in Game 1 once again. Next up: Frank Robinson's record eight career Opening Day home runs. -- Castillo

14. Detroit Tigers


Previous ranking:22

Detroit began its season with a three-game sweep of the White Sox. Yeah, the White Sox aren't expected to be any good this season, but it was monumental nonetheless. The Tigers began 3-0 for the first time since 2016, their most recent winning season. They did so by way of three consecutive one-run victories for the first time in their history. The most encouraging of those wins came on Opening Day, when Tarik Skubal, who many expect to elevate to one of the game's best pitchers, fired six scoreless innings. Said Javier Baez: "I think he can win a Cy Young if he's got a good plan, which we do." -- Gonzalez

15. Chicago Cubs


Previous ranking:14

Justin Steele's injury, which will keep him out at least one month, is a big one. Even before he strained his hamstring fielding a ground ball on Opening Day, the Cubs weren't top-heavy in their rotation. It means when they go up against another team's ace, they'll be behind the eight ball from the get-go. However, Japanese starter Shota Imanaga pitched well in his debut, striking out nine. As long as the wind is blowing in at Wrigley -- like it was on Monday -- the fly ball pitcher can match another team's ace. But navigating April, which includes a West Coast trip, without Steele is going to be difficult. -- Rogers

16. Pittsburgh Pirates


Previous ranking:25

The Pirates are at it again. After getting off to a good start -- and then fading -- last season, they have won their first five games to start this one. Their production has been spread out -- 12 different players drove in at least one run in their first five games while the bullpen was 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in that time frame. Shortstop Oneil Cruz carried over his hot bat from the spring to start the season 6-for-23. He's key to the Pirates' success, as is center fielder Bryan Reynolds, who drove in eight runs in the first week. -- Rogers

17. Minnesota Twins


Previous ranking:12

Significant injuries have already surfaced in Minnesota. Anthony DeSclafani, signed to take Sonny Gray's rotation spot, was lost for the season before it started. Three innings into Opening Day, Royce Lewis pulled up lame running the bases after starting the season 2-for-2 with a home run. Lewis, whose career has been marred by injuries, will miss at least two months with a strained quad. Those are two major setbacks for the Twins, who spent just $7.7 million in free agency figuring they were the favorites to win the AL Central anyway. But the division has improved. The Guardians, Tigers and Royals will challenge them -- so the margin for error to reach the postseason has already shrunk. -- Castillo

18. San Diego Padres


Previous ranking:13

New Padres manager Mike Shildt made the rather surprising decision to slot Jake Cronenworth into the No. 3 spot of his lineup -- between franchise pillars Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado -- and Cronenworth has delivered early on, slashing .286/.333/.429 through his first 39 plate appearances. He signed a seven-year, $80 million extension last April and turned in a brutal 2023 season, finishing with an adjusted OPS of just 92. If Cronenworth can get back to producing like he did from 2021 to 2022, when his adjusted OPS was 115, it will be a major boost for a Padres team that traded away Soto and still has major holes in left field and at designated hitter. -- Gonzalez

19. San Francisco Giants


Previous ranking:15

We can't quite know yet whether the Giants' flurry of offseason moves will vault them back into the playoffs, but it seems pretty clear early on that San Francisco fans are going to love Jung Hoo Lee. The Giants gave Lee a whopping six-year, $113 million contract, a record for an Asian-born hitter. But he looks like he fits in nicely as a major league center fielder and leadoff man, with six hits and three walks in his first 24 plate appearances. He didn't have a great series against the Dodgers, but the 25-year-old left-handed hitter had just two whiffs on his first 31 swings this season. He also has a great personality, which is already starting to come through. -- Gonzalez

20. Cincinnati Reds


Previous ranking:16

Journeyman Nick Martini was the hero of the first week for Cincinnati, which already has had to tap into its depth after spring injuries and a suspension reared its head. Martini was 4-for-8 with three extra-base hits in his first three games, giving the Reds a boost from the bench they'll need this season. Meanwhile, starter Frankie Montas' debut for the team could not have gone better as he threw six shutout innings against the Nationals. Cincinnati is counting on him to be really good as the veteran at the top of the rotation. -- Rogers

21. Cleveland Guardians


Previous ranking:20

The best sign a week into the season: Shane Bieber has thrown two gems, allowing no runs in 12 innings with 20 strikeouts and just one walk. He had 18 swinging strikes in his first start and 10 in his second, so he's showing swing-and-miss stuff. His velocity is up a tick to 92.0 mph on his four-seamer -- up from 91.3 last year, although still below the 94 he averaged in 2020, when he won the Cy Young. Granted, those starts came against the A's and the Mariners in Seattle (a tough place to hit early in the season), but zero runs are zero runs. -- Schoenfield

22. St. Louis Cardinals


Previous ranking:17

Shortstop Masyn Winn looks like he belongs after starting the season 5-for-14 while playing flawless defense. The 2020 second-round pick got his feet wet last year, though his production was nothing to write home about. However, that time in the majors might have set him up for this season. The newly 22-year-old looks more comfortable at the plate and doesn't have that same wide-eyed look about him that he sported last season. So perhaps something came of the Cardinals' awful showing last year: experience for their new man up the middle. -- Rogers

23. Kansas City Royals


Previous ranking:26

Small sample caveats apply but it sure looks like Bobby Witt Jr. is even better after his second-half breakout in 2023. Witt's average exit velocity (102.1 mph, based on his first 13 batted ball events) is the best in the majors over the first week, as was his barrel rate (38.5%). Witt is still seeing an average percentage of pitches in the strike zone and his approach remains aggressive: if in doubt, swing. It will be interesting to see how Witt adapts if that strike percentage begins to plummet as pitchers start to treat him with even more deference. -- Doolittle

24. New York Mets


Previous ranking:18

You can argue that no team had a more disappointing/embarrassing/awful first week than the Mets. Let's see here: (1) Jeff McNeil whining about a tough -- but legal -- slide from Hoskins; (2) Yohan Ramirezresponding bythrowing behind Hoskins and getting suspended (manager Carlos Mendoza had to serve one game as well); (3) Luis Severino getting roughed up in his Mets debut; (4) Tylor Megill landing on the IL with a shoulder strain; (5) losing a game in extra innings due to a couple of defensive misplays; (6) Mendoza needing just three games to reshuffle the batting order, moving Francisco Alvarez up to the cleanup spot. Not the start the Mets needed. -- Schoenfield

25. Los Angeles Angels


Previous ranking:24

Even though Mike Trout hit about five miles' worth of homers over the first week, perhaps the most encouraging development for the Halos during those games was that Nolan Schanuel went deep. Schanuel has elite on-base skills, but after he hit just a lone dinger during his 132 plate appearances in 2023, questions remained if he was going to hit for enough power as a corner player. One homer is just one homer, but it's a start. Schanuel is the kind of hitter who doesn't need to hit 30 bombs to be a plus offensive player -- 15 to 20 will do. Well, that's less than one per week over a full season, so he's ahead of pace so far in 2024. -- Doolittle

26. Miami Marlins


Previous ranking:23

This has not gone well. With Eury Perez, Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera all starting the season on the IL after injuries in spring training, these opening weeks were all about just keeping things together until the rotation got healthy. Instead, the Marlins started 0-7, lost two games in extra innings and were outscored 51 to 24, allowing at least six runs in six of their seven games. A.J. Puk had a great spring as he moved from the bullpen to the rotation -- and then walked six batters in his first start. The lineup hasn't hit either, and the early returns on the Tim Anderson signing don't look good. -- Schoenfield

27. Washington Nationals


Previous ranking:27

I hate to pick on the Nationals one week into the season but can't ignore what is going on here with an outfield of Jesse Winker in left field and Eddie Rosario in center. Winker is a notoriously bad outfielder -- one of the worst in the game -- and while he had a great season for the Reds in 2021 (.949 OPS), he struggled with the Mariners and Brewers the past two seasons as he battled injuries (hitting .199 last season). I could maybe see taking a flier on him as a DH, but not as a left fielder. Rosario is 32 years old and has spent the vast majority of his career in left field (just 39 career starts in center before this season). Why not help your pitchers and at least give them some good defense? -- Schoenfield

28. Chicago White Sox


Previous ranking:28

The White Sox might lose more games this season than the 101 they lost in 2023. They're debuting an entirely new pitching staff outside of Michael Kopech and now Mike Clevinger. Add two new catchers to the mix and it's going to take a while for any chemistry to develop. The lone bright spot might be Garrett Crochet, their Opening Day pitcher. He threw well in his first two career starts this week -- though Chicago lost the first game. Baby steps. -- Rogers

29. Colorado Rockies


Previous ranking:29

It's probably going to be another long year for the Rockies, who have been outscored 58-24 through their first seven games and already suffered two blowouts. But it has been nice to see Charlie Blackmon get going. While the Rockies are starting to incorporate some of their younger guys, Blackmon is by far their longest-tenured player, as a 37-year-old outfielder navigating through his 14th season in Colorado. He has been a bright spot thus far, slashing .417/.440/.625. He recorded both the first stolen base and the first outfield assist of the Rockies' season, and he even gave them their first lead. -- Gonzalez

30. Oakland Athletics


Previous ranking:30

The Athletics' decision to demote speedster Esteury Ruiz, who stole 67 bases last season, led to some head-scratching. For an explanation, maybe you need to look no further than the guy occupying Ruiz's position in center field, J.J. Bleday. It's very early but Bleday was the fourth overall draft pick by Miami in 2019. He entered the season with that baseline talent -- and still had just a .190 career average. However, Bleday started 2024 on fire, enjoying perhaps his best week as a big leaguer with 15 total bases over Oakland's first six games. We need to see much, much more of this to buy in, but on a team that needs all the good news it can get, Bleday's early play is a reason to smile. -- Doolittle

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