MLB Power Rankings: Diamondbacks, Cardinals on the rise; every team's unsung hero


By Grant Brisbee, Andy McCullough and Stephen J. Nesbitt

Every week,​ we​ ask a selected group of our baseball​ writers​ — local and national — to rank the teams from first to worst. Here are the collective results.

They called them the Murderers’ Row: Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri. They started off the New York Yankees lineup in 1927, destroyed pitching staffs and dominated sports pages. But those six names, with commas and spaces in between, took up 76 characters of newspaper typeface. Not much space left for their teammates.

We still talk about the Murderers’ Row almost a century later.

Do we ever mention that catcher Pat Collins had a 116 OPS+ and absolutely should have been the two-hole hitter over Koenig, who kinda stunk with the stick (83 OPS+)?

Do we talk about rookie Wilcy Moore leading the league in ERA and saves?

What do we tell our grandkids about Urban Shocker?

Every team has a player who’s not getting nearly enough credit. For this week’s edition of the power rankings, we celebrate an unsung hero for each team.


Record: 50-24
Last Power Ranking: 1

Unsung hero: OF Alex Verdugo

Verdugo certainly did not look unsung on Friday night, when he walloped a home run off the first pitch he saw in his first trip back to Fenway Park since being traded by the Red Sox in the offseason. But he arrived in the Bronx this past winter with far less fanfare than he received when Boston acquired him as the centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade in 2020. The Yankees traded for Verdugo because he offered the sort of skillset — particularly as a left-handed hitter who did not strike out at an elevated rate — that their lineup could use.

Verdugo, on the verge of free agency, has lived up to his billing. He has played solid defense and been an above-average hitter, adding some variety to the lineup behind the team’s approach. — Andy McCullough

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Yankees’ Cole to make season debut Wednesday

Record: 48-24
Last Power Ranking: 2

Unsung hero: IF Edmundo Sosa

With Trea Turner activated from the injured list on Monday, Sosa’s time as Philadelphia’s starting shortstop will end. But what a time it was. Turner got hurt on May 3. The Phillies went 25-13 over the next six weeks, hardly skipping a beat despite losing their talented No. 2 hitter. Sosa played a sizable role in the winning. He posted an .841 OPS in Turner’s absence while playing solid defense at shortstop.

Sosa’s bat has begun to cool in recent weeks, so the Phillies will be happy to see Turner return. But Sosa helped the club take flight and emerge as the favorite in the National League East. — McCullough

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Alec Bohm delivers as Phillies outlast O’s in June classic: ‘It was like a playoff game’

Record: 47-24
Last Power Ranking: 4

Unsung hero: DH Ryan O’Hearn

Being a No. 3 hitter does not mean precisely what it used to — the best hitter on the team often bats second or even leads off, as Gunnar Henderson does for the Orioles. But the lineup slot still conveys a measure of respect, and O’Hearn has been a dependable, productive performer batting third for Baltimore.

On the verge of 31, O’Hearn is often the eldest player in Baltimore’s lineup. Scooping O’Hearn off the scrap heap from Kansas City before last season has been one of the best moves of Mike Elias’s tenure running the front office. O’Hearn has significantly cut down his strikeout rate in 2024 while posting the second-best on-base percentage on the club. — McCullough

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Orioles’ amazing AL East series streak is most impressive run of division-play era

Record: 45-29
Last Power Ranking: 3

Unsung hero: RHP Gavin Stone

The Dodgers are in a bit of a pickle. They’ll be fine, and they’ll probably win 102 games instead of 105, but their IL list is an All-Star team. They’re deep enough to still win the NL West, and probably by a bunch. But there has to be some concern.

The reason they’re not despondent is because of players like Stone. If he were a weird, confusing young pitcher — like most young pitchers — the Dodgers might be more worried about the Padres, Giants and Diamondbacks, even though all three are having erratic seasons. Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman get all of the attention, and rightly so, but Stone being really, really good this season has helped them feel better about life. — Grant Brisbee

Record: 44-25
Last Power Ranking: 5

Unsung hero: RHP Cade Smith

I’ll let you guess how many pro ballplayers have been drafted out of Mennonite Educational Institute in Abbotsford, B.C.

Three. You thought it was one, but it’s three. Smith is the only big leaguer of the group, but he didn’t even sign out of high secondary school. He said no to the Twins and accepted his only scholarship offer, to the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. He was not selected in the shortened 2020 draft but caught on with Cleveland, punched out five in his two-inning debut back in March, and is now rocking a 1.67 ERA and .866 WHIP for the first-place Guardians. He’s a fan favourite! — Stephen Nesbitt

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As he flirts with .400, here are 7 Steven Kwan stats bound to blow your mind

Record: 43-31
Last Power Ranking: 8

Unsung hero: 3B Josh Rojas

The Mariners are in their annual “Wait for Julio Rodríguez to get hot” mode, and they have a couple guys named Mitch with .600-something OPS. They need hits, and they need runs, but more than either of those, they need consistency.

Here’s a guy. Rojas has mostly played at third base this year, but he can play second and the outfield if you need him, and he can steal a base if the situation calls for it. He’s a 30-year-old with a career 95 OPS+, so don’t melt down your fillings to build the statue just yet. But if the Mariners are going to win the AL West, they’ll need some “Hey, Not Bad” guys. Rojas might be their patron saint. — Brisbee

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Record: 42-30
Last Power Ranking: 7

Unsung hero: LHP Bryan Hudson

The Brew Crew has no shortage of under-the-radar standouts, from Joey Ortiz to Colin Rea to Trevor Megill to Jared Koenig to Blake Perkins. But have you heard about Hudson? Milwaukee’s ability to develop dominant relievers is on display again.

Hudson was dumped by the Dodgers in December to make room on the roster for Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Hudson worked his way into a leverage role in the Brewers bullpen — which remains without its regular closer, Devin Williams — and has a 0.95 ERA while leading qualified NL relievers in WHIP (0.66) and sitting second in opponent batting average (.132). The 6-foot-8 lefty delivers deception, funk and filth. — Nesbitt

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Sliders: The unsung bullpen fueling the first-place Brewers, plus 5 Father’s Day coaching lessons

Record: 39-31
Last Power Ranking: 6

Unsung hero: SP Chris Sale

The sky has been falling for months in Atlanta. Spencer Strider is gone for the season. So is Ronald Acuña Jr. The historic offense of 2023 has been replaced by a more lackluster version in 2024. The Phillies are running away with the division and looking likely to snap Atlanta’s six-year reign atop the National League East.

On the bright side? Chris Sale looks a lot like Chris Sale. His fastball velocity is holding firm at just shy of 95 mph. He’s striking out nearly 11 batters per nine innings. And he’s already made 13 starts. The Braves are going to reach the postseason. When they get there, their rotation of Sale, Max Fried, Reynaldo López and Charlie Morton could carry them. — McCullough 

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Three Braves takeaways: Riley’s emotional day, Braves’ 5th-starter woes, Kelenic at leadoff

Record: 41-32
Last Power Ranking: 9

Unsung hero: 3B Maikel Garcia

Garcia is having a worse offensive season than last year, and you’d prefer significantly better than a .299 OBP and .365 from a third baseman. But it’s what Garcia does in concert with Bobby Witt Jr., his partner on the left side of the Royals infield, that stands out. Entering this week, Witt had started all 73 Royals games, Garcia 71. Witt has played every inning at short, Garcia every inning at third. Garcia has batted first each game, while Witt has hit second. Witt has 11 outs above replacement, Garcia has 4. Witt has 21 steals, Garcia has 17. They both have 16 percent strikeout rates and 7 percent walk rates.

Those two are the speedy table setters for one of the most intriguing teams in baseball this season. Witt is providing most of the heroics, which is why he’s atop MVP lists, but Garcia had his walk-off moment against the Yanks last week. — Nesbitt

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Around Bobby Witt Jr., Royals build a new culture and enter MLB’s modern era

Record: 40-32
Last Power Ranking: 10

Unsung hero: SS Carlos Correa

If you wrote off Correa back when his free-agent deals with the Giants and Mets fell through because of a surgically repaired ankle, or if you wrote him off after a down year in 2023, or if you wrote him off after he went on the injured list in the first few weeks of this season … you’d be shocked to know he’s still great.

Correa is batting .308/.370/.507 in 2024. He’s chasing less, striking out less and barreling more than he did last year, and the fancy new Statcast bat-tracking metrics tell us he has 89th percentile swing speed. The bat still plays. Correa is also grading out at plus-2 by outs above average at shortstop. — Nesbitt

Record: 38-35
Last Power Ranking: 13

Unsung hero: C Connor Wong

Don’t close the books on the Mookie Betts trade just yet! Wong is the last member of the return package still with the Red Sox, now that Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs are gone. He put together a solid season as a 27-year-old rookie in 2023. His batting average on balls in play has soared in 2024, which has inflated his offensive production to levels that he is unlikely to maintain. But he has held his own as the team’s primary catcher, offering some stability at the position and guiding a pitching staff that has outperformed expectations. — McCullough

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Record: 37-39
Last Power Ranking: 11

Unsung hero: SP Matt Waldron

It feels like we should be talking a lot more about a unicorn pitcher like Waldron. He’s a part-time knuckleballer, with enough of a fastball and secondary repertoire to throw those pitches 60 percent of the time — and it’s working. Since a disastrous start against the Diamondbacks on May 5, he’s made seven starts, with a 1.91 ERA in 42 1/3 innings. He’s doing this with a part-time knuckleball. Did we mention that he throws a knuckleball? There’s a freaking knuckleballer thriving in the majors right now, and you’re just going about your day???

Waldron has been exactly what the Padres have needed, and it’s a big part of why they’re in postseason position right now. He’s cool, and you should tell a friend about him. — Brisbee

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In Luis Arraez, the Padres have found the spiritual heir to Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew

Record: 35-37
Last Power Ranking: 15

Unsung hero: OF Daulton Varsho

Varsho flies under the radar. He does not hit for a high average. He has spent a good chunk of his time in Toronto playing in the outfield corner, rather than the two more important positions, catcher and center fielder, that he manned for Arizona. But Varsho has demonstrated his power potential in 2024, leading the Blue Jays in both home runs and slugging percentage. With Kevin Kiermaier’s bat fading, Varsho may get more time in center field, where his elite defense becomes more obvious to the casual observer. — McCullough

Record: 35-37
Last Power Ranking: 22

Unsung hero: DH Joc Pederson

If you’re not watching the Diamondbacks often, or if you’re not a fan of an NL West team, here’s a question for you: When’s the last time you thought about Joc Pederson? Probably not recently. He was a part of the Dodgers’ core when their quasi-dynasty started, but he’s become something of a journeyman.

And yet, he might be even better than he was back in his heyday. His career OPS+ is 118, but it’s 135 over the last three seasons. That three-year span is better than any of his single seasons with the Dodgers. He’s aging like a fine wine, albeit one that you can’t just pair with anything. You have to sit the wine against left-handed seafood. Still quite good, though. — Brisbee

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Record: 36-35
Last Power Ranking: 21

Unsung hero: Iván Herrera

JoJo Romero blew his shot here by serving up a three-run dinger Monday night, so we’re pivoting. With Willson Contreras nearing a return from the injured list, Herrera will soon be relegated to a role other than starting catcher. That might be for the best, given that opponents were running all over him (40 steals in 43 tries).

But on the whole, Herrera performed valiantly in Contreras’ absence, as the Cardinals clawed back into the NL Central conversation. Herrera singled, tripled and drove in two runs Monday to give him a .280 batting average and .720 OPS for the season. He’s been one of the better hitters in an uninspiring yet slowly improving lineup. — Nesbitt

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Cardinals’ John Mozeliak addresses roster, trade deadline: ‘We have to get to where we’re healthy’

Record: 33-39
Last Power Ranking: 12

Unsung hero: RHP Tayler Scott

Scott’s been everywhere, man, he’s been everywhere. In fact, let’s see if you can fit his travels into the country standard “I’ve Been Everywhere”:

He’s been to Johannesburg, Boise, Geneva, Daytona, Buffalo, Knoxville, Myrtle Beach, Biloxi, Scottsdale, Sioux City, Round Rock, Tacoma, Norfolk, Seattle, Baltimore, Hiroshima, El Paso, Allentown, San Diego, Worcester, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, Boston, Oakland and Houston. (True story — just check his Baseball-Reference page.) He’s a killer, and he’s crossed the deserts bare, man.

Now he’s sporting a sub-2.00 ERA in the bullpen of an Astros team that needs every scoreless inning it can get. Hopefully, he’ll get to stay in one place for a bit. — Brisbee

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Astros’ Verlander scratched vs. Tigers with neck discomfort

Record: 33-39
Last Power Ranking: 16

Unsung hero: RHP Michael Lorenzen

The Rangers are waiting for other pitchers to get back. It’s not a secret strategy — they have 3/5 of a championship rotation on the IL, and they’ll be healthy at some point, in theory.

Until then, they’ll need quality innings to stay in postseason contention. Lorenzen has given them much more than that, with an ERA under 3.00 in 11 starts. His FIP suggests it’s not likely to continue, but the good stuff has already happened. It counts. And it’s exactly what the Rangers needed.

(Also, Bruce Bochy should give him at least one pinch-hitting at-bat in a blowout game. He’s earned it. Swing for the moon, my guy.) — Brisbee

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Record: 36-37
Last Power Ranking: 17

Unsung hero: IF Brett Wisely

Wisely has become a glue piece for a Giants team that didn’t know how much they needed him. He can play shortstop against right-handed batters, and second base when Thairo Estrada needs a rest. His defense in center is way better than it should be, and he can even play first when needed.

More than any of that, though, Wisely is hitting right now. He’s a classic baseball rat, a player whose skills exceed the sum of his tools. If his minor-league stats are any indication, the walks will eventually follow as pitchers start to take him more seriously.

Also, his timing with clutch hits has been impeccable this season, which is a great way to endear oneself to a manager and a fan base. — Brisbee

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The incredible, record-setting Tyler Rogers stat that nobody is talking about

Record: 34-38
Last Power Ranking: 18

Unsung hero: RHP Fernando Cruz

Can a hero be unsung if he’s already been the hook for a The Athletic trend piece and a Pitching Ninja favorite? We’ll have to see.

Cruz’s “gift from God” splitter has helped transform a former infielder into a bonafide back-end reliever for the Reds. The Cruz hype train was derailed by a few ugly lines in early May, when he got smacked around by the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Padres, but he settled back into a rhythm this past month. Top relievers by strikeout rate: Mason Miller (15.92 per nine innings) and Cruz (15.63) — just ahead of former Reds closer Aroldis Chapman (15.48). — Nesbitt

Record: 34-39
Last Power Ranking: 19

Unsung hero: 1B Michael Busch

The price you pay for having a scorching first month with your new team is that it sets expectations. Busch had an OPS over .900 when he woke up on April 27. His OPS dropped 153 points over the next month. Oof.

The Cubs are trending in the wrong direction, but Busch is back on track. He’s batting .333/.458/.462 since May 27. Swing-and-miss will always be an issue for Busch, but he’s doing his part with his on-base skills and pull power to push runs across for this disappointing Cubs lineup. — Nesbitt

Record: 34-38
Last Power Ranking: 14

Unsung hero(es): RPs Jason Adam and Garrett Cleavinger

The relief duo entered Monday’s games tied with 31 appearances for Tampa Bay, a club seemingly unable to find its footing in 2024. The Rays tend to ask a lot of their best relievers. Adam and Cleavinger have both pitched often in high-leverage situations. Each man has taken down a handful of save opportunities when the team’s primary closer, Pete Fairbanks, has struggled. And each man could net the team some sort of prospect return if Tampa Bay decides to sell at next month’s trade deadline. — McCullough 

Record: 34-38
Last Power Ranking: 20

Unsung hero: RHP Jack Flaherty

Unsung compared to staff ace Tarik Skubal, Flaherty has proven the Tigers right for placing a one-year, $14 million bet on him for this season. After a couple of down seasons by his standards, Flaherty has a 3.01 ERA through 13 starts, with career-bests in strikeout rate (11.6 per nine innings) and walk rate (1.3 per nine innings). The Orioles traded three prospects, but none of their top prospects, to St. Louis for a lesser version of Flaherty at last year’s trade deadline. The Tigers will certainly be asking about higher-caliber returns for Flaherty in the next six weeks. He’ll bring back a big haul — if he’s still healthy and pitching like this. — Nesbitt

 

Record: 34-37
Last Power Ranking: 25

Unsung hero: SS Francisco Lindor

The vibes, as they often do, have shifted in Flushing. After falling 11 games under .500 on June 2, the Mets have won nine of their last 11 games, including a five-game winning streak that featured a sweep of San Diego this past weekend. The team can now consider itself part of the conversation among the mediocre clubs competing for wild-card spots in the National League. Considering how crummy the first two months of the season were for the Mets, this qualifies as progress. And it’s no coincidence that the recent upswing has featured a revival from Lindor, who slugged .558 during that 11-game stretch. — McCullough 

Record: 35-37
Last Power Ranking: 23

Unsung hero: 2B Nick Gonzales

Here’s Gonzales in two 35-ish-game samples, one year apart:

2023: 128 PA, 2 HR, 3.8 Barrel %, 28.1 K%, .209/.268/.348
2024: 133 PA, 5 HR, 11.6 Barrel %, 23.3 K%, .311/.341/.508

Pirates fans were not particularly surprised when Gonzales, the No. 7 overall pick in 2020, lost the second-base job to Jared Triolo this spring. Gonzales was terrible in his time in Pittsburgh last summer. But after posting a 1.039 OPS at Triple-A Indianapolis early this season, he got a second chance and has made it count. His chase tendency remains, but Gonzales ripping balls around the field like he did in college is a massive bright spot for the Buccos. — Nesbitt

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Biggest misses from the 2014 MLB Draft — Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek lead long list

Record: 35-36
Last Power Ranking: 24

Unsung hero: SP Jake Irvin

Irvin did not exactly rocket to the majors after being drafted in the fourth round in 2018. Part of that was out of his control: He did not pitch in the COVID-19-afflicted 2020 season and then underwent Tommy John surgery in 2021. At 27, he is in his second season in the majors, building off a decent rookie campaign last year. Irvin has cut down his walk rate and added a cutter that has kept hitters off balance. The Nationals have unearthed a wide variety of solid contributors this season — from Irvin to Mitchell Parker to Jacob Young — who have kept the team around .500 and within shouting distance of a wild-card spot. — McCullough 

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Redrafting the 2014 MLB Draft — Trea Turner, Matt Chapman bolster a thin group

Record: 29-43
Last Power Ranking: T-26

Unsung hero: INF Luis Rengifo

This is the sixth season that Rengifo has played for the Angels, and in those first three seasons, he was a part of the franchise’s biggest problem: a profound lack of production from anyone not named Mike Trout or Shohei Ohtani.

Over the last three seasons, though, he’s hit .274/.324/.436 while playing every position except first base, catcher and pitcher. He’s spraying the ball all over the place like a switch-hitting Luis Arraez, with an average over .300 this season. He’s under contract for next year, too, so he should be an extremely popular target at the trade deadline. But if the Angels keep him, could you blame them? He’s pretty cool to have around. — Brisbee

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Ron Washington is working to make Angels’ young players better, but to what end?

Record: 26-48
Last Power Ranking: T-26

Unsung hero: OF JJ Bleday

There’s nothing like a good challenge trade. Back in 2022, the A’s had A.J. Puk, a mercurial, oft-injured and supremely talented pitcher who was drafted sixth overall and just starting to have success as a major-league reliever. The Marlins had Bleday, a fourth-overall pick, who hadn’t done much in the minors or majors, and whose development was stunted by the minors-less pandemic. It was a messageboard what-if that came to life.

There’s a lot of baseball left before we get to declare a winner of the trade, but the A’s sure wouldn’t undo the deal from here. Bleday is playing like a, well, fourth-overall pick, with lots of power, some speed, a discerning eye and a strong arm. The only tool that’s missing is the contact, but if not for Mason Miller, Bleday might have made the American League All-Star team this year. — Brisbee

Record: 25-47
Last Power Ranking: 29

Unsung hero: RHP Cal Quantrill

The Rockies have built a rotation out of pitchers who put the ball in play. They have an embarrassment of defensive riches, so it’s not the wackiest idea, but they also play in a ballpark that punishes pitchers who put the ball in play, so maybe it’s absolutely the wackiest idea.

Quantrill is calmly rolling along, though. He’s embarrassing hitters with a variety of offspeed offerings and a sinker-splitter combo that allows Gold Glove-types like Ryan McMahon and Ezequiel Tovar to scoop up harmless grounders. It, uh, won’t be enough to get them to the postseason this year, but it’s nice to have one starting pitcher to count on, at least. — Brisbee

Record: 23-49
Last Power Ranking: 28

Unsung hero: Marlins fans

Back when Buddy Bell managed the woebegone Kansas City Royals in the 2000s, he said something that epitomized life on a bad ball club: “I never say it can’t get worse.” The Marlins started the season on a nine-game losing streak. It’s possible that this June has been just as dispiriting. The team went 2-11 to start the month. Ryan Weathers hurt his hand and landed on the injured list. Jesús Luzardo isn’t pitching well enough to merit a haul at the trade deadline. Same story with Josh Bell’s bat. It was a long spring for the beleaguered fans of this franchise. It figures to be a long summer, too. — McCullough

Record: 19-54
Last Power Ranking: 30

Unsung hero: SS Paul DeJong

When Grant Brisbee pitched this week’s theme in our Slack channel, he wrote, “Undersung hero for each team? Like, where would the White Sox be without Paul DeJong?”

We set Grant straight on “undersung” (“You know, I was wondering why the typo squiggle kept coming up”) then dug in on DeJong. The White Sox are, as of Monday afternoon, 19-54 and the worst team in baseball. DeJong has been worth 1.4 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs. His replacement, if we choose a different adventure for 2024, is Tim Anderson: minus-0.8 WAR.

Do not try this WAR math at home.

Without DeJong, the White Sox would be 2.2 wins worse. Let’s conservatively peg them at 17-56 and the worst team in baseball, only more so. — Nesbitt

(Top photo of Joc Pederson: Norm Hall / Getty Images)





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