AJC’s MLB power rankings: Braves stumbling, but helped by National League’s mediocrity

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

The best teams are clear as most of baseball is jockeying for position in the dreaded middle. Here’s who we have as the top 10 teams this week:

1. New York Yankees (-)

Despite losing a home series to the Dodgers, the Yankees remain atop our rankings. The bullpen’s numbers are a bit deceiving – they could use another reliever – but the rotation and offense have been everything one could’ve hoped. Slugger Aaron Judge is on an all-time tear dating to last year, and he’s the favorite for American League MVP.

2. Philadelphia Phillies (-)

If the Phillies ultimately win the division – and we’ll mention as always, there’s a long way to go – it’ll be intriguing to see how this team handles itself in October after back-to-back years making a run as an underdog. With catcher J.T. Realmuto sidelined, the Phillies could add another backstop. They’re already expected to be heavily involved in the outfield market at the trade deadline. The Phillies come to Atlanta for a three-game series July 5-7.

3. Baltimore Orioles (+1)

The Orioles swept the Rays in Florida then won a series against the sputtering Braves. They remain within striking distance of the Yankees and have expendable position-player depth to help them add to their bullpen and rotation. Prospect Cade Povich, in his Camden Yards debut, pitched six scoreless innings against the Braves. Boy, does he look a lot like Max Fried.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers (+1)

Opposing fans are waiting for utility man Cavan Biggio, acquired from the Blue Jays after getting designated for assignment, to become the next Ben Zobrist or something just because it’s the Dodgers. That’s unlikely, but L.A. sure could use some offensive assistance. Just ask ace Tyler Glasnow. The Dodgers didn’t score a run with him on the mound in five consecutive starts before his latest outing at Yankee Stadium, which wound up one of his worst starts of the season.

5. Cleveland Guardians (-2)

Ever heard of David Fry? Here’s what he’s doing for the Guardians: Fry has hit .321 with a 1.017 OPS in 48 games while playing first base, third base, catcher and the corner outfield. No player better exemplifies Cleveland’s success. The Guardians could use another bat, and they need another starter. But this clearly is the best team in a legitimately solid division.

6. Seattle Mariners (-)

If the White Sox trade mega talented but oft-injured outfielder Luis Robert, this feels like the best landing spot because of the Mariners’ desperate need for offense and rich farm system that could satisfy the White Sox’s desires. This should be the year for Seattle to at least win the American League West. No one else has shown a semblance of consistency and the Mariners feel like they’re another good week from pulling away from the Rangers. They have to upgrade the offense by August.

7. Milwaukee Brewers (-)

Infielder Joey Ortiz, acquired in the Corbin Burnes deal with Baltimore, is hitting .285 with an .843 OPS. He’s established himself as a regular and isn’t even arbitration eligible for another couple of years. This is why the Brewers, despite their lack of resources, continue winning while the division rival Cubs and Cardinals lag behind. The Brewers look like they’ll be a postseason participant for the fifth time in seven years. Milwaukee is only a couple of games behind the Dodgers for the NL’s second-best record, which at season’s end would come with the reward of a bye that no one seems to like.

Kansas City Royals' Drew Waters at bat against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

8. Kansas City Royals (+1)

The Royals ran into the Yankees buzz saw, though they salvaged a win with a walk-off Thursday. A key road trip looms: Los Angeles, Oakland and Texas. While Kansas City is the best pleasant story of MLB, this team hasn’t had a surge that’s pushed Cleveland yet. But the fact it’s even a conversation is worth praise. Matt Quatraro will have a strong case for manager of the year. In other news, metro Atlanta prodcut and former Braves prospect Drew Waters was recalled recently. Waters was playing well at Triple-A and received the call-up after Hunter Renfroe’s injury.

9. Atlanta Braves (-1)

The Braves are staying afloat here, in part because most of baseball is mediocre-to-average. A dismal road trip (3-6) has left the Braves around nine games behind the Phillies (depending on what day you’re reading this). Can any of these young starters cement themselves in the rotation before the trade deadline? Spencer Schwellenbach’s last outing was his best, so perhaps he seizes the opportunity. We’ll continue kicking around trades here, but none of it matters if the core players aren’t performing. All eyes are on third baseman Austin Riley, who’s endured underperformance and injury in what’s been his most frustrating season.

10. San Diego Padres (NR)

The Padres are playing well, moving above .500 and looking worthy of a wild card. That’s a good zone to be in: The Phillies and Diamondbacks won the past two National League pennants as clubs positioned similarly, peaking at the right time after a fine-to-good six months. The Padres are a lock to make a trade – probably multiple – because general manager A.J. Preller is the most aggressive executive in MLB. San Diego already has been linked to coveted White Sox starter Garrett Crochet, though it could be tough to reach a deal there given what the Padres would need to relinquish.