AJC’s MLB power rankings: Braves remain among three best teams

Editor’s note: Welcome to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s new feature, our own MLB power rankings. This feature will run weekly during the season with our ranking of the top 10 teams.

Two weeks into the MLB season, here’s how we view baseball’s top 10:

1. New York Yankees (+2)

We’ve had the Braves and Dodgers in this spot in each iteration of our rankings, so we’ll change it up based on a two-week sample. The Yankees have been brilliant. Since a four-game sweep in Houston to open the season, they’ve won series against the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Marlins. This weekend’s matchup in Cleveland carries the intrigue of the Guardians’ hot start.

The Yankees still are waiting for Aaron Judge to catch fire, but plenty else is going well. Juan Soto’s contract year has started as he’d hoped. Anthony Volpe is living up to the hype after a rookie season loaded with growing pains. Marcus Stroman has a 2.12 ERA through three outings.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (-1)

The Dodgers lost a series at Wrigley Field, but otherwise have rolled along. Tyler Glasnow was masterful against the Twins, striking out 14 over seven scoreless. James Outman homered twice in that same series; a promising development given his previous offensive struggles. Shohei Ohtani had a seven-game hitting streak entering Friday, a run that’s included five multi-hit efforts.

3. Atlanta Braves (-1)

The Braves’ 16-4 loss to the Mets on Thursday damaged their run differential, but we aren’t going to penalize them much for getting shelled in a game started by Allan Winans. The Braves will be fine, though losing Spencer Strider looms large when thinking ahead to October. Reynaldo Lopez’s return to starting has been fruitful. He’s been the team’s most consistent starter with a 0.75 ERA – one run over 12 innings – in his first two starts. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s been a tough first two starts for Max Fried, but we’ll bet on his resume. He’ll get himself right.

4. Baltimore Orioles (+1)

The Red Sox led in each game against the Orioles this week. They lost them all, getting outscored 23-10. The Orioles summoned Jackson Holliday from the minors, making it three consecutive years they’ve promoted MLB’s No. 1 overall prospect. Colton Cowser is becoming a sensation. Corbin Burnes is the Cy Young favorite through two weeks, for whatever that’s worth. This team is a behemoth and will be for a long time.

5. Kansas City Royals (NR)

File this under “strong reaction to a small sample,” but how could we ignore the Royals? Their plus-39 run differential was best in MLB entering Friday. They swept the Astros by a combined 28-8. Bobby Witt Jr. looks like he’ll be a perennial MVP candidate. MJ Melendez appears to be breaking out. Cole Ragans has a 2.60 ERA through three starts, and acquiring him from the Rangers last year looks like the best move the Royals have made since they were competing for a championship in 2014-15. The Royals probably won’t remain this high, but they certainly look capable of competing in the lackluster American League Central.

6. Cleveland Guardians (+4)

Speaking of the AL Central, guess who has the second-best run differential? Stephen Vogt’s Guardians are plus-35. It hurts that the Guardians lost ace Shane Bieber for the season, but this franchise just finds ways to remain competitive. Like the Royals, Cleveland likely won’t be near this high as the season unfolds, but they will be vying for a postseason berth.

7. Milwaukee Brewers (NR)

No Craig Counsell. No Burnes. Yet the Brewers have started well. This weekend in Baltimore will be a good test, but there’s a lot to like here. Christian Yelich has been tremendous, and notably he’s rediscovered some power. After hitting 19 homers in 144 games last season, he has five in 10 to start this one. Top prospect Jackson Chourio, 20, already is thrilling Brewers fans. The once-forgotten Joe Ross, who hadn’t pitched since 2021, has a 1.80 ERA across two starts.

8. Philadelphia Phillies (NR)

The Phillies are waking up after a slow first week. They completed a 4-2 trip to Washington and St. Louis before taking the opener against Pittsburgh on Thursday. The Phillies are relying heavily on homers, as expected, and their lineup has some promising signs lately. Buford’s Brandon Marsh has been excellent. The Phillies’ rotation, outside Aaron Nola’s meltdown against the Braves, has been strong.

9. Texas Rangers (-5)

The Rangers lost two of three at home to the A’s, which is dreadful. They drop in these rankings thanks to the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately mindset, but ultimately they’ll be OK. Cornerstones Corey Seager and Marcus Semien are playing well. Michael Lorenzen will join the rotation soon. While a 7-6 start is middling, the Rangers’ plus-20 run differential ranks best in their division and fourth in the majors.

10. Chicago Cubs (NR)

If you don’t know Christopher Morel, it’s time to learn about him. He slugged 26 homers last season, but has looked like a more complete hitter early in 2024. Shota Imanaga has started his MLB career with 10 scoreless innings (two starts). The Cubs took a series from the Dodgers, but followed by losing two of three in San Diego, a series that included a game in which they blew an eight-run lead. That won’t overshadow the many positives here. It’s very, very early, but the NL Central has improved.