Early Season MLB Top-10


Sam Richardson '22, Editor in Chief

MLB Early Season Top 10

1. Dodgers

The Dodgers are easily the best team in the majors at this point. Their lineup is completely stacked with stars such as Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, who they don’t even seem to need after their weekend series against the Nationals which they swept without the two. Their depth is truly astounding. It seems that the Dodgers constantly call up nobodies, such as Zach McKinstry (33rd round pick), who perform far above their expectations and become above replacement level performers. With this depth, I don’t see their lineup slowing down anytime soon, and their pitching matches their offense. They have a star-studded rotation, with 7 major-league starters competing for 5 spots, and their new addition Trevor Bauer has looked as-advertised in his debut season with his hometown Dodgers. Their bullpen completes their dominance, and they have just continued the pace from their 2020 world champion season. 

2. Padres

The Padres have 10 pitchers hurt, but they still have the best ERA in the majors. Following their offseason of pitching expenditures, this is exactly what they need, and reliever Keone Kela has especially shined early this season. Barring any of his signature arguments with the manager, he will continue to be a key piece to this team’s success. In addition, Eric Hosmer’s launch angle revolution has completely turned around his career, as he went from a negative WAR player in 2019 to an absolute slugger in 2021. With Tatis back, their offense will only continue to improve. One concern though is Tatis’ defense, which has been remarkably bad so far. Although errors are generally a poor stat to judge defense, 6 errors in 6 games is an obvious sign of defensive regression since last season.

3. Twins

The Twins record does not match their performance for the season, and their run differential indicates that they should be doing better on paper than they actually are. With sluggers like Miguel Sano, Nelson Cruz, and Byron Buxton, and with a pitching staff consisting of studs Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda, I only expect them to go up from here. This also stems from the fact that their closer Alex Colome has not lived up to the expectations so far, but as Colome rebounds, I only expect the Twins to get better. This season, Byron Buxton has been a shining star as well. He has finally found his bat after years of being a speed-defense kind of player, and this season he has a 341 wRC+ and 0.9 defensive rating according to fan graphs. Even when his hitting inevitably slows down from this unsustainable pace, he will continue to be a star in the Minnesota center field.

4. Yankees

No matter how poorly the Yankees play early this season, their team is just too good on paper to put them lower on the power rankings. As of right now, they have the worst record in the AL, and their batting and pitching have been poor, but with the team Brian Cashman has assembled, there is no way they don’t rebound. With sluggers such as Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez, and a pitching staff led by Gerrit Cole, their team is built to succeed in a difficult AL East. So far this season, their hitting has been relatively cold, but with Luke Voit on the verge of returning and Giancarlo Stanton heating up, things are looking better right now for the Yankees. Once the team rebounds to their expected numbers, all should be well in the Bronx. Anyways, stretches like these are why baseball is 162 games, and over the course of the full season their talent should show through, a fact reinforced by Fan Graph’s playoff algorithm, which places the Yankees at the best chance to make the playoffs in the AL despite the fact that they hold the worst record.

5. Astros

After a hot start, the Astros have slowed down quite a bit. To start the season, they swept the A’s, but have teetered a bit since then. At home against the AJ Hinch led Tigers they got crushed twice, but series like that are not supposed to happen often for a team like the Astros, who still has the world series core of Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman, and who also supplemented that with star hitters Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley. To improve, the offense obviously has to return to Athletics-series form, but their veteran pitching staff must as well. Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers, and Jake Odorizzi all had rough outings, but their experience with adversity will likely guide them back, and their young arms have also looked good to start the season. Like the Twins and Yankees, the Astros should soon return to form and all will be well in Houston once again.

6. Angels

The Angels have finally assembled a team to surround the greatness of Mike Trout, and Shohei Ohtani has been exceptional to start the season. His pitching has finally lived up the hype, and he was hitting 102 in his first start of the season. In the same game, he went on to hit a home run, and I am beyond excited to see Ohtani going forward. Also, the pitching staff and bullpen have been better than expected, and if this continues the Angels will be a formidable team going forward. And as always with the Angels, one must mention Mike Trout, who has been on an absolute tear to start the season, as usual. The greatest player of all time is doing GOAT things once again.

7. Braves

Ronald Acuna Jr is seriously one of the most fun players to watch in baseball. Every at-bat he is doing something spectacular, such as legging out a routine ground ball to short with an insane 31 ft/s sprint speed or blasting towering home runs. With Acuna finally recovered from his slump to begin the season, the Braves are looking up as a franchise, especially with franchise second-baseman Ozzie Albies coming off his ice-cold start to the season. If their bullpen can perform, this team will come back from their slow start to the season. A team who was up 3-1 to the Dodgers last season simply can not continue to play this poorly in 2021, and like teams above them on tis list, the Braves will also turn the ship around.

8. White Sox

Although Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez are both hurt, the White Sox continue to be a force, with bats like Jose Abreu, Yermin Mercedes, and Yasmani Grandal bringing star power to the lineup. Their arms have also started to warm up this week, with Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodon both throwing gems against the Indians, the latter being a no-hitter. Also, Liam Hendriks, their star closer acquisition of the offseason, has been getting very unlucky to start the season, with a FIP a whole 3 points greater than his xFIP. The major concern for this team is the managing of Tony LaRussa. No one expected him to be good, but he has truly been a terrible manager to start the season, making questionable bullpen decisions and benching top prospect Andrew Vaughn in favor of pitiful bats like Billy Williams.

9. New York Mets

The starting rotation for the Mets has been amazing to start the season, with Marcus Stroman, Jacob deGrom (obviously), and surprising pickup Taijuan Walker all shutting down opposing teams to begin the season. Stroman and deGrom have 0.74 and 0.45 ERAs respectively, and their pitching has been the driving force of their team. However, their bats have been ice-cold to start the season. Against the Rockies yesterday, the Mets almost lost even when deGrom gave up 0 ER and had 14 strikeouts, and I would not be surprised if deGrom has not had a few words with teammates regarding the abysmal run support. The Mets have had 8 games postponed so far this season, and the bats have not gotten into the regular season groove quite yet. If the Mets are to play well this season, their bats must improve to match the dominance of their pitching staff.

10. Boston Red Sox

I did not want to put the Red Sox here, but I simply can’t ignore their success to start the 2021 season. Going into the year, the pitching of the Red Sox was looking shaky at best, but so far, they have a combined WAR of 2.0, and minus Garret Richards, their starting rotation has been surprisingly solid. This pitching, combined with the top-tier offense of Boston has led them to a 10-5 record to start the season. JD Martinez and Rafael Devers have looked great to start the year, both with 10 home runs, and they have 5 hitters with a wRC+ greater than 100. Although the Red Sox have been a surprise to start the season, if their pitching can sustain its current pace, they will be able to secure a Wild Card spot.