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MLB Week 5 Power Rankings: Which AL East team fell from top 5?

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Which surprise MLB team will win their division this year? (1:17)

Jessica Mendoza and Tim Kurkjian make their picks for a surprise team to win their respective division in 2023. (1:17)

We're just over a month into the new MLB season, and that means it is time to start taking what we've seen -- for better or worse -- a little more seriously as the sample continues to grow.

Does that mean we should buy in to unexpected starts in Texas, Pittsburgh and Baltimore? Or ramp up the concern about the underachieving St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees? And what about a surging Los Angeles Dodgers squad that made a big jump on our list before a weekend showdown with the San Diego Padres (Sunday Night Baseball, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Our expert panel has combined 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 Joon Lee to weigh in with observations for all 30 teams.

Week 4 | Preseason rankings

1. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 25-6

Previous ranking: 1

Tampa Bay remains the top dog in baseball, leading the majors in run differential, batting average, OPS, home runs, runs per game and team ERA. The rest of May will provide a big test, with games against the Pirates, Yankees, Orioles, Mets, Brewers, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Cubs -- and only one day off. Second baseman Taylor Walls remains one of the team's biggest surprises, tied for second among Rays position players for bWAR, behind just Wander Franco. -- Lee


2. Atlanta Braves

Record: 21-10

Previous ranking: 2

The top of the Braves' rotation continues to dominate. Max Fried hasn't allowed a run in three starts since returning from the IL after tweaking his hamstring on Opening Day. Bryce Elder is 3-0 with a 1.75 ERA in six starts and has allowed no earned runs in four of those starts. (Interesting to note that the Braves initially started the season with two rookies in the rotation and Elder in the minors, and he got the call only after Fried got injured.) Spencer Strider actually gave up four runs against the Mets but got the victory to improve to 4-0 with a 2.57 ERA. Charlie Morton has been solid as well. Along with Kyle Wright, if that group stays healthy it seems like the Braves have already separated themselves as having the best rotation in the NL. -- Schoenfield


3. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 19-13

Previous ranking: 8

The Dodgers' roster continues to turn over, young players -- most recently Gavin Stone, who made his major league debut Wednesday -- continue to get cycled in. But Clayton Kershaw remains a constant. Kershaw, 35, is still one of the world's premier pitchers when healthy. He navigated the month of April with a 1.89 ERA through six starts, striking out 41 batters and walking only five in 38 innings while earning NL Pitcher of the Month honors. With Noah Syndergaard struggling, Julio Urias going through a recent rough stretch and Tony Gonsolin just now getting back, Kershaw's contributions have been critical. They always are. -- Gonzalez


4. Houston Astros

Record: 16-15

Previous ranking: 4

The Astros have gotten by with sterling pitching and defense during the opening weeks of their title defense. The offense, on the other hand, has been middling in terms of runs per game and the underlying metrics have been even worse than that. Houston ranks in the bottom half of the majors in all the slash stats and in terms of isolated power, only four teams have been worse. The Astros can look forward to the eventual returns of Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley to bolster the attack but in the meantime, the scrutiny falls on free-agent addition Jose Abreu. Abreu hit just .230/.260/.262 through Tuesday and had yet to go deep as a member of the Astros. The power outage is concerning, as Abreu's .141 isolated power last season for Chicago was easily the lowest of his career. At 36, you start to wonder if dwindling bat speed is to blame and Abreu's average exit velocity (87.3 mph, down from a career mark of 91.6) is far from comforting. It's obviously way too early to write off Abreu but, still, the Astros would surely like to see him swat a few balls into the Crawford Boxes sooner than later. -- Doolittle


5. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 18-13

Previous ranking: 6

Toronto completed an outstanding April thanks to Matt Chapman, who put together an MVP-worthy stretch and earned Player of the Month honors, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette also helping fuel the offense. There's room for growth, with George Springer struggling and Alek Manoah stumbling on the mound. If Springer and Manoah start to piece things together, Toronto has the talent to challenge the Rays for the division crown. -- Lee


6. New York Mets

Record: 16-15

Previous ranking: 3

While the Mets got Max Scherzer back from his suspension Wednesday and await Justin Verlander's Mets debut on Thursday, the offense has been rather "meh" all season. Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil are getting on base at a .400 clip, and Pete Alonso has been driving in runs, but several others are struggling. Francisco Lindor got off to a nice start but hasn't homered since April 16 and has been striking out at a career-worst rate (10% worse than his career average). Starling Marte has just one home run, and Tommy Pham hasn't produced much as the fourth outfielder. Mark Canha is well below his career norms as well. Brett Baty has taken over for Eduardo Escobar at third base. All this is a reminder that the Mets have an old lineup, even as they infuse Baty and Francisco Alvarez into it: Canha, Marte and Escobar are all 34, and Pham is 35. -- Schoenfield


7. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 18-12

Previous ranking: 7

Milwaukee has been treading water since a fast start. After losing two consecutive series, the Brewers took two of three from the Angels over the weekend while hitting just .197 over a seven-day span before heading to Coors Field this week. Offense was always going to be a question mark for the Brewers, but their staff will keep them in the race. While doing little at the plate last week, Milwaukee had a 2.75 ERA over the same time frame -- good for second best in the NL behind the Pirates. -- Rogers


8. Texas Rangers

Record: 18-12

Previous ranking: 9

The Rangers appear to have righted the ship since being swept by the Reds, but Jacob deGrom going on the IL with forearm tightness will test the pitching staff. Without him, the rotation looks ordinary. As Texas holds its collective breath, the team will attempt to cover deGrom's innings by moving Dane Dunning into the rotation. The 28-year-old's previous chances as a starter haven't gone well, but he has been great as a long man out of the pen this season. If that can translate to the rotation, the Rangers might be OK as long as deGrom's IL stay isn't an extended one. Those are big ifs, though, both about deGrom's injury and Dunning's ability. -- Rogers


9. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 20-10

Previous ranking: 11

Even with the scorching hot start from the Rays, the O's are inching closer to first place in the AL East. Baltimore added a few more series wins, going 8-2 in 10 games against Boston and Detroit, closing April on a 15-4 stretch. While the offense, led by Adley Rutschman, Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins, is carrying this team, Baltimore will need more out of its starting rotation, which currently ranks 25th among all teams in ERA. -- Lee


10. San Diego Padres

Record: 17-15

Previous ranking: 10

Might Juan Soto finally be starting to heat up? The Padres' superstar outfielder has looked a lot like, well, himself lately, slashing .333/.489/.528 over his last 10 games and accumulating four extra-base hits to begin the month of May. Manny Machado, meanwhile, has carried a 1.226 OPS over his last five games. It's a small sample, sure, but if those two get going -- with Fernando Tatis Jr. getting acclimated and Xander Bogaerts continuing to produce -- the Padres' offense will become as dangerous as we all expected. -- Gonzalez


11. Minnesota Twins

Record: 17-14

Previous ranking: 12

The Twins' notion of making Byron Buxton the most athletic designated hitter in the history of baseball has more or less paid off so far. Buxton has missed only a couple of games, and his OPS+ stood at a prodigious 141 through Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Twins have gotten some bursts of power along with a team-high three stolen bases and solid defense from Michael A. Taylor as Buxton's primary replacement in center field. According to fWAR, the Twins are second at DH and 18th in center field. We still don't know when the Twins plan to take the bubble wrap off Buxton's overall game, but it will be interesting to see how their positional distribution can be optimized once they do. -- Doolittle


12. New York Yankees

Record: 17-15

Previous ranking: 5

The injuries keep piling on in New York, with outfielder Aaron Judge sidelined by a hip strain, the return of reliever Jonathan Loaisiga delayed by a surgery to remove bone spurs, reliever Lou Trivino undergoing Tommy John surgery and starter Carlos Rodon still unable to pitch because of back issues. Yankees fans are starting to hit the panic button as the team sits in last place, but there are signs of hope. Harrison Bader has returned to the outfield from the IL, and rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe is emerging from his early growing pains, collecting seven hits in 24 at-bats over the past week. -- Lee


13. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 20-11

Previous ranking: 14

When can we declare the Pirates are for real? A 20-9 first month that included a series win over the Dodgers is a good start, but a May schedule that includes matchups with the Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, D-backs and Rangers will be telling. Right now, the Pirates rank in the top 10 in MLB runs scored at the plate and ERA on the mound. If they're not for real yet, they're at least real-ish. -- Rogers


14. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 15-17

Previous ranking: 17

Bryce Harper made his quick return from Tommy John surgery Tuesday and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, but a little rust is to be expected because he didn't play in any minor league rehab games. According to ESPN research, it's the fastest return any player has made from Tommy John surgery. He's still not throwing, but he's swinging at full strength. As one of the more deliberate hitters in the game, he'll also have to adjust to the pitch clock without the advantage of spring training. Before losing the just completed series against the Dodgers, the Phillies had won four series in a row against the White Sox, Rockies, Mariners and Astros. Zack Wheeler won all three of his starts in that stretch, including his best outing so far of 2023, six scoreless innings against Houston. -- Schoenfield


15. Boston Red Sox

Record: 18-14

Previous ranking: 19

If you blinked, you might have missed that Boston has turned things around after a slow start. Right fielder Alex Verdugo and reliever Josh Winckowski are among the two biggest surprises, but recent performances from outfielder Jarren Duran and catcher Connor Wong could take the Red Sox to another level. After a bumpy 2022 that included run-ins with fans, Duran is carrying himself with a new confidence, reflected in his batting line of .396/.414/.679. Wong also continues to impress, hitting two homers in a game against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night, including one that brought in the go-ahead run. -- Lee


16. Chicago Cubs

Record: 15-15

Previous ranking: 13

Getting swept by the Marlins to end the month took some luster off a good start by the Cubs, who are now battling to stay above .500. Cody Bellinger looks like he has returned to near-MVP form, though. He slashed .297/.371/.604 in April a year after compiling a .206/.275/.438 mark over the same time frame. What changed? This year, he has been on time with a leveled-out swing that is producing both power and simple base knocks. He has also been as speedy as ever while playing a near flawless center field for the Cubs. -- Rogers


17. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 17-14

Previous ranking: 16

Zac Gallen finished fifth in NL Cy Young Award voting last year and might be on track to outright win it this year. The 27-year-old right-hander has thrown the fifth-most innings in the majors but boasts a 2.53 ERA with the sixth-lowest WHIP and the second-highest strikeout-to-walk ratio. Gallen put together four consecutive scoreless starts before giving up three runs in five innings against the surging Rangers on Tuesday. He might have another one of those runs in him. -- Gonzalez


18. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 17-14

Previous ranking: 20

The Angels had a sneaky good starting rotation last season, and they need to get back to that. The foursome of Tyler Anderson, Jose Suarez, Reid Detmers and Griffin Canning -- so, everybody outside of Shohei Ohtani and Patrick Sandoval -- have combined for a 5.72 ERA through their first 18 starts. Suarez in particular had a 10.26 ERA through his first four starts but contributed five scoreless innings against the Brewers on Sunday, an encouraging sign considering he, like most of the Angels' pitchers, is out of options and basically needs to figure it out in the major leagues. There's upside with that entire group. -- Gonzalez


19. Cleveland Guardians

Record: 14-17

Previous ranking: 15

The Guardians' No. 14 ranking in rotation ERA is a modest improvement over last season's slot at No. 20, but perhaps that improvement looks more impressive when you consider Cleveland has been without Triston McKenzie and Aaron Civale for all but two Civale starts. Even more encouraging is that the Guardians' starting pitching factory seems to once again be churning out the quality arms. It has been only seven starts combined for rookies Peyton Battenfield, Logan T. Allen (not to be confused with former Cleveland pitching prospect Logan S. Allen) and Tanner Bibee, but the trio has been impressive. Together over those seven outings, Battenfield, Allen and Bibee have put up a 2.89 ERA with 41 strikeouts, 10 walks and four homers allowed over 37⅓ innings. -- Doolittle


20. Seattle Mariners

Record: 14-16

Previous ranking: 18

Bryce Miller, the team's top pitching prospect, made his major league debut Tuesday, and it was impressive. He took a perfect game into the sixth inning and finished with 10 strikeouts and no walks in six innings while allowing one run. He averaged 95.3 mph with his fastball, topping out at 97.3, and had excellent command of it at the top of the strike zone. He became the first Mariners pitcher with 10 strikeouts in his debut and joined Stephen Strasburg and Johnny Cueto as the only pitchers with 10 K's and no walks. He ended up throwing 57 four-seam fastballs out of 81 pitches, along with 16 cutters, seven sliders and one changeup, so we'll see if the fastball-heavy approach can continue to work against teams better than the A's. -- Schoenfield


21. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 10-21

Previous ranking: 21

A rough start got even worse for the Cardinals during a 10-game West Coast swing to end the month. They went just 2-8 in series losses to the Mariners, Giants and Dodgers. St. Louis would like to forget the entire month of April after posting a 10-19 record that was second worst in the NL, ahead of only the Colorado Rockies. There's still a chance St. Louis turns it around, but it's going to need to start with the rotation after the starters had an ERA nearing 5.00 ERA over the season's first month. It's too early to count the Cardinals out, but sometimes -- no matter how good you are on paper -- it's just not your year, and the hole they've dug suggests this could be one of those seasons. -- Rogers


22. Miami Marlins

Record: 16-15

Previous ranking: 22

The Marlins swept the Cubs over the weekend by scores of 3-2, 7-6 and 4-3, improving their record in one-run games to an incredible 10-0 -- the first team to win its first 10 one-run games since the 2004 Dodgers. That gave them a 16-13 record at the end of April, their best opening month since 2011 when they were 16-9. (The Marlins were 31-22 at the end of May that year but fell apart with a 5-23 record in June and finished 72-90. They haven't finished above .500 in a full season since 2009.) Maybe the Marlins were due for some good luck in this department: They were 24-40 in one-run games in 2022, the most one-run losses since the 1975 Astros. Luis Arraez's .438 average at the end of April was also the highest through the first month since Barry Bonds hit .472 in 2004. Now if they can just get Sandy Alcantara back in his 2022 groove. -- Schoenfield


23. San Francisco Giants

Record: 13-17

Previous ranking: 23

The Giants were reeling. They had lost four in a row, and several members of their clubhouse were fighting stomach viruses coming off a weekend trip in Mexico City. They needed someone to carry them going into Tuesday's game against the reigning-champion Astros, and Anthony Desclafani did just that, pitching eight scoreless innings in a much-needed victory. DeSclafani, limited to five starts last season, has a 2.13 ERA and has issued only three walks in 38 innings this season. With Alex Wood on the injured list, Sean Manaea struggling and Logan Webb only now turning the corner, he has been a major lift. -- Gonzalez


24. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 13-18

Previous ranking: 26

Cincinnati had an under-the-radar good week after sweeping the first-place Rangers and winning a series against the lowly A's. Center fielder Nick Senzel had a scorching seven-day stretch when he went 10-for-18 (.556) with three home runs. His OPS (1.730) over that span was second only to the Giants' LaMonte Wade Jr. -- who got to play in the high altitude of Mexico City. Hunter Greene looked magnificent while striking out 10 over just five innings in Saturday's win over Oakland and now sports a 2.89 ERA for the season. -- Rogers


25. Chicago White Sox

Record: 10-21

Previous ranking: 24

The White Sox snapped a 10-game losing streak so dire that it at times looked like they might never win another game. They followed that with two straight last at-bat wins and in between, Chicago shuffled the roster in an attempt to keep pointed in the right direction. Back to the minors go Oscar Colas, who was struggling badly both at the plate and in the field, and Lenyn Sosa, who fielded OK despite some mental lapses but didn't hit at all. Tim Anderson is back from the IL, and veteran Billy Hamilton was recalled to help the defense and serve as a high-octane pinch runner. Finally, veteran reliever Alex Colome is back in the majors and while it remains to be seen if he has much left to offer, he almost has to help this stat: Through Tuesday, the White Sox sported a 7.65 ERA from the seventh inning on this season, nearly a run worse than every other team in the majors. -- Doolittle


26. Detroit Tigers

Record: 12-17

Previous ranking: 25

Since the beginning of last season, it has been easy to illustrate Detroit's problems through the prism of a pair of splashy free agent signings that until recently had simply not worked out. Well, lo and behold, suddenly the Tigers can point to the performances of Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Baez as evidence that things are turning around. After a couple of so-so starts, Rodriguez has been on a roll, allowing just two runs over his past four starts for a minuscule 0.68 ERA. His ERA for the season is now 2.21 after six starts. Baez, meanwhile, has recovered from a frigid start at the plate by hitting .340 over his final 14 games of April. He never homered in April but went deep on May 2 against the Mets. Through the offensive ups and downs, Baez's defensive metrics have been top of the charts all season. -- Doolittle


27. Washington Nationals

Record: 12-18

Previous ranking: 28

After allowing the second-most runs in the majors last season, the Nationals' run prevention has been much improved as they rank 19th in runs allowed per game (through Tuesday). That won't win any awards, but it's better than the Cardinals, Phillies, Giants, Red Sox or White Sox, all supposed playoff contenders at the start of the season. The problem is the offense and the lack of power, as the Nationals are last in MLB in home runs. Dominic Smith, Joey Meneses and Lane Thomas each have just one home run. Smith raked with the Mets in 2019 and 2020 (150 OPS+ across 396 plate appearances) but hasn't been the same hitter since even though he's still only 27. He played through a partially torn labrum in his shoulder in 2021, and you have to wonder if he has never fully recovered from that injury given his poor exit velocities this season. -- Schoenfield


28. Colorado Rockies

Record: 11-20

Previous ranking: 27

The Rockies finished the month of April tied for the fewest stolen bases and the third-fewest home runs in the major leagues. They ranked 26th in OPS, 29th in starting pitcher ERA, 26th in relief pitcher WHIP and 30th -- dead last -- in outs above average. They are thoroughly bad, in all areas, with scant signs of being a whole lot better - especially now that their best pitcher, German Marquez, is headed for Tommy John surgery. And they'll need far better months to maintain any shred of respectability within the NL West. -- Gonzalez


29. Kansas City Royals

Record: 8-23

Previous ranking: 29

This week's edition of Discouraging Royals Stats concerns age and experience. As bad as the season has been, Royals fans can't necessarily take solace in the idea that it's a young team finding its way. The team's hitters are pretty young overall, but they've gotten virtually nothing from rookies. A big reason for this is that Kansas City promoted so many hitters last season, but it's still startling that before Kansas City recalled infield prospect Maikel Garcia on May 2, their contributions from rookie hitters amounted to seven plate appearances by reserve catcher Freddy Fermin. Meanwhile, through Tuesday, only the Royals and the Blue Jays had exactly zero innings pitched by players with their rookie eligibility still intact. The Royals' team pitching age (30.1, per baseball-reference.com) made them one of eight teams with a 30-something pitching staff. -- Doolittle


30. Oakland Athletics

Record: 6-25

Previous ranking: 30

How bad are the Athletics? They played 28 games in April without a win by a starting pitcher, the most for a calendar month in MLB history according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Athletics' starting rotation went a combined 0-15 with a 8.51 ERA during the month, more than two runs higher than the second-worst team in baseball. As it stands, Oakland is on pace for the third-worst record in baseball history, behind the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. These A's could challenge the 2003 Detroit Tigers -- who went 43-119 -- for the worst record in this century. -- Lee