Power Rankings: New challengers vie for No. 1

Every week deeper into the season adds extra meaning to where teams are. Get a month in and you can start to wonder if a hot start is an opportunity and if a slow start is a season-derailing stumble. But so far, the Astros can take some satisfaction in having lived up to expectations, nailing down another No. 1 ranking by appearing first on three of five ballots from our voters.

The other two first-place votes went to the Rays, whose hot start places them atop the new wave of contenders looking to unseat the Red Sox as the reigning champs, along with the Phillies and the Brewers.

The biggest move up this week was achieved by the Pirates, who make an eight-spot leap to crack the top 10. Joining them as newcomers to the top 10 are the Indians, who made an almost-as-impressive seven-rung climb. But where some teams made big gains, others took big hits. The Braves fell furthest, declining by seven slots to tumble from the top 10. The injury-wracked Mets dropped six spots and also fell from the top 10.

For Week 3, our panel of voters was composed of Bradford Doolittle, Christina Kahrl, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian and David Schoenfield.

Previous: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2

1. Houston Astros

2019 record: 13-8
Week 2 ranking: 1

Bullpens are struggling across baseball, but that's not a problem for the scorching Astros. Houston's relief staff ranks second overall in ERA (2.47) and first in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.7), has blown just one save opportunity and has allowed just four inherited runners to score. Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon & Co. have been airtight so far. -- Bradford Doolittle

2. Tampa Bay Rays

2019 record: 14-8
Week 2 ranking: 2

For a team that doesn't rely on a traditional rotation, the Rays' starters have been pretty damn good this season. The group has an MLB-best 1.92 ERA and ranks in the middle of the AL in quality starts, even though that stat has less relevance for them (thanks to the opener) than any other club. Only Baltimore's starters have seen fewer batters beyond their first two trips to the dish in a game. -- Doolittle

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

2019 record: 15-9
Week 2 ranking: 6

In a big series win in Milwaukee over the weekend, the Dodgers took three of four and handed Josh Hader two losses in the process on late-game home runs from Enrique Hernandez and Cody Bellinger. Joc Pederson and Bellinger continued their early power streaks, as Pederson hammered his ninth and 10th home runs on Sunday and Bellinger's blast off Hader in the ninth was his 11th (he's batting a neat .424/.500/.882). -- David Schoenfield

4. Milwaukee Brewers

2019 record: 13-10
Week 2 ranking: 3

In a bizarre bit of early scheduling, the Brewers have already faced the Dodgers twice and the Cardinals twice, and on Monday, they begin their third series against St. Louis this season. That's good news for Redbird killer Christian Yelich, who already has eight homers and 19 RBIs against them this season. -- Doolittle

5. Philadelphia Phillies

2019 record: 12-8

Week 2 ranking: 9

The Phillies head back east after a tough weekend series in Denver, with right-hander Jake Arrieta scheduled for a pair of starts this week. Where would the rotation be sans Arrieta, who's 4-for-4 in quality starts? Aaron Nola gets the Marlins this week. That should help. -- Eric Karabell

6. New York Yankees

2019 record: 11-10
Week 2 ranking: 10

Aaron Judge became the 13th player on the Yankees' 40-man roster to head to the IL, with an oblique strain that manager Aaron Boone said on Sunday was "pretty significant." That's now six of the nine position players from the Opening Day lineup out with injuries. The Yankees still managed to go 5-1 in the week against the Red Sox and Royals, rallying Sunday after the bullpen blew a 5-0 lead in the eighth inning. -- Schoenfield

7. Cleveland Indians

2019 record: 12-9
Week 2 ranking: 14

Just when you start thinking the Tribe's fortunes were improving now that Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor are both back from the IL, problems are starting to multiply in the rotation. Mike Clevinger is out until at least June, and Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco have allowed six runs in four of their nine combined starts. -- Christina Kahrl

8. St. Louis Cardinals

2019 record: 12-9
Week 2 ranking: 7

The Cardinals have already lost five of seven games against the Brewers this season but now face their division rivals at home for the first time. Marcell Ozuna has been carrying this red-hot offense with eight home runs in his past 13 games, but the team will need more pitching performances like Miles Mikolas' on Saturday to produce a stronger outcome in the rematch. -- Tristan Cockcroft

9. Seattle Mariners

2019 record: 16-9
Week 2 ranking: 5

After a dreadful 0-6 homestand against the Astros and Indians, the Mariners went to L.A. and their bats suddenly came alive again, as they hit 11 home runs in the first three games against the Angels to take the four-game series. The Mariners hit 53 home runs in their first 24 games. The 1979 Astros hit 49 home runs all season (and still won 89 games). -- Schoenfield

10. Pittsburgh Pirates

2019 record: 12-7
Week 2 ranking: 18

Strong pitching has propelled the Pirates into first place. From April 10 to April 21, the team limited its opponents to three runs or fewer in every game. Even fifth starter Jordan Lyles has gotten into the act, with consecutive quality starts and a 0.53 ERA through his first three turns of the season. -- Cockcroft

11. New York Mets

2019 record: 11-10
Week 2 ranking: 4

This week starts with lefty Steven Matz on the mound, seeking revenge after one of the worst starts in history against the Phillies last week. Matz allowed eight runs while retiring nary a Phillie. The concern with Matz in the past has rarely been ability but his durability. At least he appears to be healthy. -- Karabell

12. Chicago Cubs

2019 record: 10-10
Week 2 ranking: 16

The Cubs' bullpen had an ERA over 9.00 in its first eight games, then under 1.00 for its next nine. What's the real number? As we wait to find out, the Cubs can take solace in having weathered their early struggles even though neither Kris Bryant nor Anthony Rizzo has really gotten things going at the plate early in the season. -- Doolittle

13. Washington Nationals

2019 record: 10-10
Week 2 ranking: 11

The Nationals avoided a sweep in Miami when Stephen Strasburg pitched one of the best games of his career on Sunday with a line of 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 SO. The Game Score of 87 matched the third-highest of Strasburg's career. Now the Nats need to get Max Scherzer back on track after he allowed 14 runs his past three starts. (He's fine -- mostly some bad luck on BABIP in those games.) -- Schoenfield

14. Atlanta Braves

2019 record: 11-10
Week 2 ranking: 8

One of the best surprises for the Braves has been the early production of shortstop Dansby Swanson, who ranks third in the NL in RBIs while already more than one-third of the way to his 2018 total of 14 home runs. The biggest development for him so far: He has cut his chase rate from 30.8 percent to under 20 percent. -- Schoenfield

15. Boston Red Sox

2019 record: 9-13
Week 2 ranking: 12

So the defending champs aren't dead yet. After a three-game sweep of the Rays, the Red Sox are at Fenway for a 10-game homestand that includes three more against Tampa Bay. The surprising hero this weekend? Catcher Christian Vazquez, who hit a two-run homer Friday, picked Tommy Pham off first to end Saturday's win and knocked in the winning run Sunday with an 11th-inning sac fly. -- Steve Richards

16. Minnesota Twins

2019 record: 12-7
Week 2 ranking: 17

Twins third basemen, led by free-agent acquisition Marwin Gonzalez, have been a bit disappointing, but at least Miguel Sano is on the mend and should help by early May. The word "disappointing" describes Sano's recent seasons, as well, but he has slugged .477 in his career. Meanwhile, Gonzalez returns to Houston this week. -- Karabell

17. Oakland Athletics

2019 record: 11-13
Week 2 ranking: 15

Pitching was the big question for the A's, and despite strong encores from Brett Anderson and Blake Treinen, it hasn't been great. They lost all five of Marco Estrada's starts before he landed on the IL, and Estrada and Mike Fiers have combined to allow 42 runs in 48⅔ IP across 11 starts. Beyond Treinen, the pen has allowed an MLB-worst 50 percent of inherited baserunners to score. -- Kahrl

18. San Diego Padres

2019 record: 12-11
Week 2 ranking: 13

A six-game losing streak cooled some of the buzz that surrounded this team early, but top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. continues to reward the team for putting him on the Opening Day roster and ignoring the service-time debate. On Friday, Tatis became the youngest player in history to homer and steal three bases in a single game. -- Cockcroft

19. Texas Rangers

2019 record: 12-8
Week 2 ranking: 24

It was a big week in Texas, as the Rangers went 5-1 to wrap up their homestand. They did it by swinging the big sticks, averaging 7.3 runs per game (including 20 the last two games against the vaunted Astros staff), or nearly 2.5 runs more than their average entering the week. -- Richards

20. Colorado Rockies

2019 record: 8-13
Week 2 ranking: 26

A five-game winning streak during the past week spared the Rockies from the depths of last place, and Charlie Blackmon's weekend resurgence gave hope of an impending move up the standings. The Rockies' leadoff hitter was 9-for-14 with his first two home runs of the season, snapping what had been a .219/.266/.301 opening three weeks. -- Cockcroft

21. Arizona Diamondbacks

2019 record: 11-11
Week 2 ranking: 23

Arizona's biggest short-term concern is the health of first baseman Christian Walker, who sat out Sunday with a hip pointer. Walker has come out of nowhere to rank in the top 10 in OPS (1.127), slugging (.706) and wOBA (.461). He also has a hard-hit rate of 73.3 percent, with just 4.4 percent soft contact, which is best in baseball. Walker said he's OK; the D-backs sure hope so. -- Richards

22. Los Angeles Angels

2019 record: 9-13
Week 2 ranking: 19

Right-hander Matt Harvey should start twice this week, against the Yankees and Royals, as he attempts to alter his rough start of 20 earned runs through 18⅔ innings. Harvey's work in March/April in his first five seasons added up to a 3.66 ERA over 24 starts. The Angels already lack rotation depth, but Harvey is on watch. -- Karabell

23. Toronto Blue Jays

2019 record: 11-12
Week 2 ranking: 25

Business ought to be picking up in Toronto sometime this week with the much-anticipated arrival of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. This on the heels of a strong 6-1 week for the Jays. Enough to divert attention from the Maple Leafs' Game 7 against the Bruins on Tuesday night? Let's not get crazy -- but some April baseball excitement nonetheless. -- Richards

24. Detroit Tigers

2019 record: 10-10
Week 2 ranking: 21

The Tigers' respectable start owes much to a solid staff-wide performance from their pitching. Detroit is one of just five teams to get quality starts in 50 percent or more of their games, and the bullpen -- keyed by closer Shane Greene's recording a save in all 10 Tigers victories this season -- ranks fourth in the majors in ERA (3.29). -- Kahrl

25. Cincinnati Reds

2019 record: 8-13
Week 2 ranking: 20

Jesse Winker's bat has started to catch fire with six home runs in his past 43 trips to the plate, but the rest of the offense needs to follow suit soon. The Reds can't keep expecting Luis Castillo and his 1.47 ERA to single-handedly carry them to victory every fifth day -- ask Jacob deGrom how that worked out in 2018. -- Cockcroft

26. Chicago White Sox

2019 record: 8-12
Week 2 ranking: 27

Lost in the back-and-forth of the Brad Keller-Tim Anderson incident was that the White Sox missed a golden opportunity to build some momentum. First, they lost that game against the Royals in extra innings. Then they blew a late lead in Detroit. In a division that might not require 90 wins to win it, these are the kinds of games that could haunt an improving ChiSox squad later. -- Doolittle

27. San Francisco Giants

2019 record: 9-14
Week 2 ranking: 22

The middle infield might have been one area in which the Giants entered the season thinking they were in solid shape, but slow starts from veterans Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford have the Giants dead last with a .479 OPS from their second base/shortstop combo. Will they reach a point where they feel the need to shake things up? -- Kahrl

28. Kansas City Royals

2019 record: 7-15
Week 2 ranking: 29

Royals Opening Day starter Brad Keller, scheduled to pitch twice this week, made news last week for a retribution plunking of Tim Anderson and earned a suspension, but he deserves notice for his numbers. Keller is among the qualified leaders in batting average against, with 19 hits permitted in 30⅔ innings. The Royals need myriad things, but they might have a surprising ace. -- Karabell

29. Baltimore Orioles

2019 record: 8-15
Week 2 ranking: 28

We knew those heady days floating near .500 couldn't last, and a 1-5 week sunk the O's to their expected spot in the AL East cellar. On the bright side, Chris Davis is on fire -- relatively speaking. Since April 12, when Davis' record hitless streak reached 0-for-54, his slash line is .333/.364/.619 and he has almost as many RBIs (six) as strikeouts (seven). Progress, such as it is. -- Richards

30. Miami Marlins

2019 record: 6-16
Week 2 ranking: 30

With Marlins outfielders dead last in offensive production with a .502 OPS, the Fish turned back to last year's most frequently used right fielder last weekend after starting five other players there (in just 20 games), moving Brian Anderson back from third base. It helped Miami win its series with the Nationals -- including handing Max Scherzer a drubbing. -- Kahrl