MLB Power Rankings Week 7: Which surging teams are in a tight race for a top-5 spot?

Paul Goldschmidt, Mookie Betts and Nick Pivetta ESPN

The last week in baseball, a couple powerhouse offenses stuttered, while squads that seemed destined for a skid have started stringing together wins. We're just seven weeks into the MLB season, so there's plenty of baseball left to play.

Will the surging San Diego Padres be able to catch up to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West? Can the Houston Astros catch Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees in the American League? How high have the Boston Red Sox risen in our rankings?

Our expert panel ranks 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 season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an early observation for all 30 teams.

Week 6 | Preseason rankings

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 29-14

Previous ranking: 2

Mookie Betts got off to a slow start, but the five-time All-Star has quickly vaulted himself into the early MVP conversation with a scorching May. Betts is slashing .341/.410/.739 over his last 22 games and has homered four times in his last four starts. His offensive surge has come at a time when the Dodgers are noticeably short-handed in their rotation, with Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Heaney still on the mend. -- Gonzalez

2. New York Yankees

Record: 31-13

Previous ranking: 1

The Yankees look like one of the best teams in the sport, but questions are rising about Aroldis Chapman and whether this team can afford to keep him as their closer. Meanwhile, Aaron Judge -- in his contract year -- has looked like an MVP candidate and is having one of the best seasons of his career. Between Judge and the offense clicking as well as the strong performance from the pitching staff, the Yankees look like they have very few holes in their roster. -- Lee

3. Houston Astros

Record: 29-16

Previous ranking: 3

As the Astros have re-established themselves as one of baseball's leading title contenders, they've done so with a less-than-vintage performance thus far from All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman. Bregman's plate discipline has been just fine, perhaps even better than ever. Bregman ranks among the league leaders in walks and has walked about as often as he's struck out. That's kept Bregman's overall production solid despite a lagging .230 average**. And that figure is driven by a rock-bottom .237 BABIP**, 51 points below Bregman's career norm. Some of this is surely luck, but at the same time, Bregman is hitting quite a few more flyballs, and those are coming at the expense of line drives. His average launch angle, per StatCast, has been 22.1 degrees**, by far the highest figure of his career. -- Doolittle

4. New York Mets

Record: 29-17

Previous ranking: 4

After being on the winning end of some dramatic victories, the Mets were on the losing end of maybe the best game of the year on Tuesday, a 13-12 loss to the Giants -- after the Mets had scored seven runs in the eighth and two in the ninth. Edwin Diaz, however, couldn't hold the lead in the bottom of the ninth. It was his third blown save and second in three appearances. Setup man Drew Smith, unscored upon in his first 12 appearances, has also allowed runs in four of his past six appearances, so the late-game relief has been a little shaky as of late. -- Schoenfield

5. San Diego Padres

Record: 28-16

Previous ranking: 8

The Padres needed Manny Machado to play like a superstar with Fernando Tatis Jr. out, and he has taken that a step further -- playing like an MVP front-runner. Machado leads the NL in OPS and leads the majors -- by a healthy margin, considering it's only May -- in FanGraphs wins above replacement. He's pacing the offense while the Padres' deep and decorated rotation finally lives up to the hype. When Tatis gets back, this team could be flat-out scary. -- Gonzalez

6. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 28-16

Previous ranking: 5

The news on Freddy Peralta doesn't sound good, so all of a sudden, Milwaukee looks a little more vulnerable on the mound. Peralta is out with a shoulder strain while fellow all-star Brandon Woodruff is still searching for some rhythm -- though he may have found some in his last start against the Nationals over the weekend. He gave up just one run on five hits without issuing a walk. His last two outings have been promising. Kolten Wong had a rough week at the plate, going 1-for-19** over a six-game span. -- Rogers

7. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 27-18

Previous ranking: 6

As recently as Wednesday morning, there was only one team in the majors that ranked within the top five in OPS, starting-pitcher ERA, relief-pitcher WHIP and outs above average. That would be the Angels. They're not just Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani at the moment. In fact, they have proven to be one of the most well-rounded teams in the sport, as evidenced by their plus-48 run-differential. -- Gonzalez

8. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 26-17

Previous ranking: 9

Shane McClanahan and Drew Rasmussen have been one of the top rotation duos in baseball so far, keeping Tampa Bay on pace with the rest of its competitive division. Also keep an eye on lefty pitcher Jeffrey Springs, who has turned in some strong performances for the Rays this season and could be Tampa Bay's next previously unknown revelation. Wander Franco has been struggling in May and will need to get back on track if the Rays hope to stay competitive with the rest of the division. -- Lee

9. Minnesota Twins

Record: 27-17

Previous ranking: 12

As good as the first-place Twins have been thus far, Minnesota fans probably can't help but look longingly at former closer Taylor Rogers, who was dealt to San Diego the day before the Twins began their season. Rogers has been near perfect for the Padres, while Chris Paddack -- one of the two players Minnesota got for Rogers -- is out for the season and headed for Tommy John surgery. The other returnee in the deal, Emilio Pagan, has been OK, with six saves and a good ERA that is not really supported by his peripherals. Hindsight is a dangerous thing. Still, between Pagan and dominant rookie Jhoan Duran, the Twins converted 12 of their first 16 save opportunities, a success rate (75%) that rates among the MLB leaders.-- Doolittle

10. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 24-19

Previous ranking: 10

St. Louis feels like a team quietly waiting in the wings to take over the NL Central. After an 18-4 drubbing of the Pirates on Sunday, their run differential took a leap and is now better than the first place Brewers. More importantly, the Cardinals have played three times as many games against plus-.500 teams than Milwaukee has. Paul Goldschmidt had a huge week at the plate, compiling 10 RBI in a five-game span, including a walk off grand slam. -- Rogers

11. San Francisco Giants

Record: 24-19

Previous ranking: 7

The Giants were one of the biggest surprises in the majors last year in part because they cobbled together a starting rotation that performed well beyond any reasonable observer's expectations. Lately, though, that hasn't been the case. Giants starters have a 4.33 ERA in the month of May, 19th in the majors. The team has lost seven of its last 11, and its pitching staff as a whole has allowed 85 runs in 97 innings during that stretch. -- Gonzalez

12. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 23-20

Previous ranking: 11

Toronto started off May on a disappointing note but have turned things around against the Mariners and Reds. The offense has struggled to score runs, especially compared to the talent in that lineup. The team will need more out of its veteran core like Hyun Jin Ryu, Jose Berrios, Teoscar Hernandez and Matt Chapman, while hoping that pitchers Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman can keep up their top-notch performances. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette will need to step things up if the team hopes to live up to its championship aspirations. -- Lee

13. Boston Red Sox

Record: 20-23

Previous ranking: 21

The Red Sox are turning things around, climbing ahead of the Orioles in the division standings while piling up victories to close the gap between them and the rest of the division. Trevor Story's bat coming alive has been the biggest catalyst for the team's success in recent weeks, taking pressure off the bullpen, which has been performing better as of late. Nick Pivetta has also had some standout performances in recent weeks after struggling mightily in the early part of the season. -- Lee

14. Chicago White Sox

Record: 22-21

Previous ranking: 14

If Johnny Cueto continues his resurgence, questions about where Dallas Keuchel fits in to a healthy version of the White Sox pitching staff are going to grow more complicated. In the rotation, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito are fixtures and will (hopefully) soon be augmented by Lance Lynn, who has finished in the top six of each of the last three AL Cy Young balloting cycles. Cueto, who now has two scoreless outings under his belt, appears to be the best option for No. 5 -- if he can remain this effective, or something close to it. While a sixth starter might be needed from time to time, Keuchel would need to show some progress to be in the running for even that role. His 6.60 ERA is troubling enough but perhaps even worse: Through seven starts, Keuchel has walked more batters (18) than he has struck out (16). -- Doolittle

15. Atlanta Braves

Record: 21-23

Previous ranking: 13

The Braves would love to see Ian Anderson get on some kind of roll. He's had some good outings, including allowing one run to beat the Mets in early May and a one-run outing against the Brewers last Monday. But those have been mixed in with some so-so games, so his ERA sits at 4.07. His strikeout rate-minus-walk rate has declined from 13.3% in 2021 to 6.1% as his K rate is down more than 6% from last season. Maybe Anderson's postseason numbers (a career 1.26 ERA over 35.2 innings) has created unrealistic expectations, but it still feels like there is more upside here for the 24-year-old. -- Schoenfield

16. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 20-24

Previous ranking: 15

Zack Wheeler looks to be back in his Cy Young-contending form (he finished second in the 2021 voting). After an 8.53 ERA in his first three starts, Wheeler has a 1.38 ERA over his past five outings, with 40 strikeouts and six walks -- and just one home run -- over 32.2 innings. He tossed seven scoreless innings against the Padres last week and then fanned 10 to beat the Braves on Monday. The Phillies head to Citi Field for three important games this weekend, part of a tough portion of the schedule that follows with series against the Giants, Angels and Brewers. -- Schoenfield

17. Cleveland Guardians

Record: 18-22

Previous ranking: 16

Jose Ramirez's career-best season just keeps gathering momentum. And that's no small feat for a player whose career includes three top-three finishes in AL MVP balloting. His 1.000-plus OPS is a career high, and as impressive as that is, consider the overall levels of decreased offense around the majors. Ramirez's OPS+ is 195, 28 points better than his previous high. The most obvious reason for this is Ramirez's heightened mastery of the strike zone and enhanced ability to get the ball on the bat. Ramirez has walked nine more times than he's struck out. Through Tuesday, he ranked second in the AL by pitches seen per plate appearance (4.39) and third in contact percentage (87.9%). -- Doolittle

18. Miami Marlins

Record: 18-24

Previous ranking: 18

Heading into Wednesday's game, the Marlins had a plus-13 run differential -- but a losing record. They were 6-13 in one-run games (including 0-2 in extra-inning games), but were 7-2 in blowout games (those decided by five or more runs). So maybe that's a sign they just need a little more good fortune/timely hitting/clutch relief work to pull out more of those close games. While their odds of catching the Mets look slim given the Mets' blazing start, note that the two clubs haven't played yet -- and won't play their first game until June 17. Many head-to-head games to make up ground. -- Schoenfield

19. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 23-22

Previous ranking: 19

The D-backs' rotation looks good and they have received several impressive contributions throughout their lineup, but they need to get their big offseason addition, Mark Melancon, on track. The 37-year-old closer has converted 10 of his 11 save opportunities, but he sports a 7.04 ERA and has struck out only eight of the 73 batters he has faced thus far. -- Gonzalez

20. Seattle Mariners

Record: 18-27

Previous ranking: 17

After an optimistic 11-6 start, the Mariners went 6-21 over the next 27 games, including a four-game sweep by the Red Sox at Fenway Park over the weekend. That means changes are in order. They signed Justin Upton, who will join the team after a few tune-up games in the minors. Kyle Lewis returned from his injury rehab and made his first appearance of the season on Tuesday at DH. None of those moves, however, will help a bullpen that ranks 25th in ERA or a rotation that has allowed the most home runs in the majors. -- Schoenfield

21. Chicago Cubs

Record: 18-25

Previous ranking: 23

Patrick Wisdom is proving some scouts wrong as he continues to hit for power and is establishing himself as an everyday player. He hit home runs in four consecutive games and is just one of eight NL players with at least 10 home runs this season. It hasn't helped the Cubs much in the standings because The Friendly Confines haven't been very kind to them these days. Their 7-15 home record is the reason they're buried in the NL Central despite being over .500 on the road. -- Rogers

22. Colorado Rockies

Record: 20-23

Previous ranking: 20

Kris Bryant -- signed to a seven-year, $182 million contract that shocked many this offseason -- landed back on the injured list Wednesday after his back injury worsened again. He has played in only 17 of the Rockies' 43 games this season, with a .676 OPS and zero home runs. The team has lost 12 of its last 16 games. This could get ugly really fast. -- Gonzalez

23. Texas Rangers

Record: 19-23

Previous ranking: 22

Though Texas isn't gaining much ground in the standings, their pitching staff is taking steps in what looks to be a transition year for the team. Even in losing four of six, the Rangers had under a 3.42 ERA for the week. It kept them in games against a hot Houston squad. Yes, there were a couple poor starts mixed in, but their bullpen performed well and Martin Perez threw the gem of the week -- a complete game shutout over the Astros. -- Rogers

24. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 18-27

Previous ranking: 26

The future is here. The Orioles called up top prospect and catcher Adley Rutschman, marking the beginning of a new era of baseball in Baltimore. Rutschman can't single-handedly save the franchise, but his arrival at Camden Yards signifies the start of Baltimore's years-long rebuild finally coming to fruition. Rutschman's call-up is the first from what many think is one of the top farm systems in baseball, with Grayson Rodriguez and Gunnar Henderson projected to be in the major leagues before the end of the 2023 season. -- Lee

25. Oakland Athletics

Record: 19-27

Previous ranking: 24

The fast start for Oakland is now coming back around, as the consequences of the team's talent drain is coming to effect. Jed Lowrie leads the team in OPS+ at 110, which speaks to the team's larger offensive problems and the lack of top-end talent on the roster. Rookie reliever Dany Jimenez has been one of the few bright spots for this team, posting a 0.49 ERA in 18 relief appearances so far this season. -- Lee

26. Kansas City Royals

Record: 14-28

Previous ranking: 27

The Royals' disappointing season seems to just get worse, as Kansas City's current six-game losing streak featured four blown leads. Rather than dwell on that pleasantness in this space again this week, let's focus on something positive: The recent performance of starter Brady Singer. Singer started the season in the Kansas City bullpen before being sent down to Omaha to stretch out his innings and work on his change-up. Since he was recalled to the big club, Singer has thrown back-to-back seven-inning scoreless appearances. -- Doolittle

27. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 18-25

Previous ranking: 25

No one thought the Pirates would be battling for third place in the NL Central. In that sense, the season hasn't been all that bad so far. But after an OK April, they've regressed in May, compiling back-to-back wins just once this month. They got swept by the Cardinals over the weekend, giving up 28 runs in three games. After an 18-4 thrashing by St. Louis, the Pirates have the worst run differential in the NL and it's not even close. Remember, they also lost a game 21-0 this year. -- Rogers

28. Detroit Tigers

Record: 15-28

Previous ranking: 28

The Tigers' offensive struggles are reaching the hard-to-believe level. Detroit has scored 118 runs. Not only is that last in the majors, but the next-lowest run total in the AL is 154, by Chicago, over the same number of games played. According to OPS+, which adjusts for ballpark and league contexts, the Tigers' woeful 79 would rate as tied for the third-worst figure during the 122 years of the franchise's existence. You might think there is nowhere to go but up from there, but consider this: Detroit hit .229 as a team in April. The Tigers have hit .210 so far in May as we enter the last week of the month. -- Doolittle

29. Washington Nationals

Record: 15-30

Previous ranking: 29

After losing 10-1 and 9-4 to the Dodgers on Monday and Tuesday, games in which the starters allowed 13 runs over 7.2 innings, the rotation ERA ballooned to an ugly 5.92 -- nearly two runs higher than the major league average for starters. Nationals starters have pitched at least six innings just nine times in their first 45 games -- and allowed a .271 average. No mushy ball when the Nationals are playing. If this pace keeps up it will be one of the worst rotations ever ... except Cincinnati's rotation has somehow been even worse. -- Schoenfield

30. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 13-30

Previous ranking: 30

At least Cincinnati is looking more like a major-league team these days -- though their first two games of the week against the Cubs weren't very competitive. Before that, the Reds went to Toronto and pitched very well against a tough Blue Jays lineup. They gave up just seven runs in losing two of three. On offense, Aristides Aquino is off to a good start after being recalled from the minors. If he can ever find some consistency at the plate, his power is real. On the other end of the spectrum for the week was Tommy Pham. He hit .160 over a seven-day span. -- Rogers