AJC’s MLB power rankings: Braves rise after fantastic road trip

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.

It’s mid-April, and MLB teams are beginning to show us what they can – or can’t – be. Here’s how The AJC views the top 10 teams right now:

1. Atlanta Braves (+2)

What a road trip. The Braves went 5-1 in Miami and Houston, the latter of which was a sweep. The Braves almost lost the finale in South Florida before Marcell Ozuna, perhaps baseball’s best hitter in the early season, saved them with a homer. The finale against the Astros was a typical Braves comeback. Despite Spencer Strider’s injury and Max Fried underwhelming – and having catcher Sean Murphy and second baseman Ozzie Albies sidelined – the Braves keep humming along. The rotation bears watching as the season progresses, but the Braves have overcome multiple injuries to still outpace the rest of MLB thus far.

2. New York Yankees (-1)

The Yankees get leapfrogged by the Braves, but they’re doing just fine. They took two of three in Cleveland and salvaged the series finale in Toronto. The baseball world awaits Aaron Judge’s awakening; he’s hitting .183 through 19 games. The Orioles are coming, but we’ll leave the Yankees up here this week.

3. Baltimore Orioles (+1)

The Orioles just swept the Twins, and their 30 homers lead MLB as of Thursday evening. The rotation is flawed behind Corbin Burnes and Grayson Rodriguez because of injuries, so like the Braves, that’ll be something to follow in the coming months. This offense, however, is tremendous. The Orioles have more players than spots. The excess talent should make them a prime candidate to land the most coveted players on the market this July.

4. Cleveland Guardians (+2)

The always-overlooked Guardians won series against the Yankees and Red Sox this past week. There aren’t any household names on this team – though Jose Ramirez should be one – and that’s what makes it somewhat charming. How about first baseman Josh Naylor so far? He’s hitting .323 with a .972 OPS. The Guardians come to Atlanta during this homestand.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers (-3)

The Dodgers dropped out of the top three for the first time this year because they’ve lost three of their past four series. Most recently, the Nationals took two of three at Dodger Stadium. Still, Mookie Betts looks primed for an MVP run while Shohei Ohtani and Will Smith have been terrific (though Ohtani is 1 for his past 19 with runners in scoring position, which is a talking point in Southern California). No one is worried about this team, but they haven’t just ripped through the competition out of the gate. The rest of the National League West is thankful.

6. Milwaukee Brewers (+1)

The Brewers are the NL’s Guardians, really. It’s impressive this team has looked so competitive. It’ll have to overcome Christian Yelich’s absence because of a back issue; Yelich was off to a phenomenal start. While Milwaukee just dropped a series to the Padres, it took two of three from the Orioles beforehand. The Brewers have series against the Cardinals and Pirates coming, and that’ll play a role in shaping the NL Central as we approach May.

7. Philadelphia Phillies (+1)

The Phillies just swept the pathetic Rockies and have the (somehow) even worse White Sox this weekend. Ranger Suarez has a 1.73 ERA in four starts, including a shutout against Colorado. The Phillies’ rotation has a 2.54 ERA entering Friday, ranking second best in MLB. We’ll see if the Phillies are good enough to keep pace with the Braves through the summer, but this team once again looks like a dangerous postseason contender regardless.

8. Chicago Cubs (+2)

The Cubs just had a nice West Coast trip, rebounding from losing two of three in San Diego to take series in Seattle and Arizona. Losing outfielder Seiya Suzuki (oblique strain) for an estimated month hurts, especially since the Cubs have already been dealing with injuries, including to ace Justin Steele. Yet Craig Counsell’s group has stayed above .500. Cody Bellinger is showing signs of life, collecting a hit in four consecutive games after going hitless over the previous four. This looks like a division contender.

9. Kansas City Royals (-2)

The Royals lost a series to the rejuvenated Mets before beating the White Sox in two of three. Would you believe the Royals, at plus-40, have MLB’s best run differential? Let’s use this time to applaud Royals legend Salvador Perez. The 33-year-old catcher, the last remaining individual from the 2015 World Series winner, is hitting .324 with a .944 OPS through 18 games. Royals fans must love seeing the past (Perez) and future (Bobby Witt Jr.) thriving alongside one another. The rest of the lineup, though, could use some work for this team to reach those 2014-15 heights again. But this once-rudderless franchise is trending in the right direction.

10. San Diego Padres (NR)

If you watched the Padres’ series at Dodger Stadium, perhaps you noticed this team appears different from its past iterations. There’s a little more cohesion here, at least to this point. The Padres aren’t as talented as a year ago after losing Juan Soto, Blake Snell and Josh Hader, but maybe this group fits together better under new manager Mike Shildt. There are several teams that could’ve argued slotting here at 10, but we’ll give credit to the Padres.