AJC’s MLB power rankings: National League has three clear favorites

Philadelphia Phillies' Bryson Stott, left, and Brandon Marsh, right, dump water and candy on Whit Merrifield after winning a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Monday, May 6, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Philadelphia Phillies' Bryson Stott, left, and Brandon Marsh, right, dump water and candy on Whit Merrifield after winning a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Monday, May 6, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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.

There’s an increasingly clear picture of the standings as we get closer to mid-May. Here’s how the AJC views MLB’s top 10 teams:

1. Philadelphia Phillies (+1)

The Phillies look like baseball’s best team right now, which is a far cry from their slow starts of the past. They’ve played a lighter schedule, but still, they’ve mostly dominated through it. Their pitching is superb – no one possesses a better trio than Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez currently – and the lineup looks like its October self in May. The Braves could have a legitimate challenger in the National League East.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (+3)

The Dodgers just completed a perfect homestand, sweeping the Braves and Marlins. Rookie outfielder Andy Pages looked like a star against the Braves. And Shohei Ohtani, of course, looked like a $700 million man. Blake Treinen’s return should boost a bullpen that’s needed reinforcements. They’re 14-2 in their past 16 games. If the other NL West teams don’t become more consistent soon, it appears the Dodgers will cruise to another division title.

3. Baltimore Orioles (-)

The Orioles took three of four from the Yankees and swept the Reds. They remain the best team in the American League, though their offense has hit a cold spell recently. A bigger long-term concern: Former Braves closer Craig Kimbrel already has blown four saves. Folks in Baltimore will be talking about acquiring relievers over the next few months.

4. New York Yankees (-)

The Yankees are fresh off another series win over Houston, but they get edged by the Orioles here. How about the Yankees’ bullpen: Its 2.99 ERA is the second lowest in MLB. The team’s three biggest offseason additions – Juan Soto, Marcus Stroman and Alex Verdugo – all have made a positive impact.

5. Atlanta Braves (-4)

The Braves had a tough Western trip, going 1-5 against the Mariners and Dodgers, including getting swept at Dodger Stadium. But they rebounded nicely with a two-game sweep of Boston back home. There’s no panic here, but the Braves’ trip drops them behind some of these other clubs who’ve played better recently.

Chris Sale looks like a phenomenal acquisition, owning a 2.95 ERA through seven starts after tossing six scoreless with 10 strikeouts against his former club, the Red Sox. The Braves’ offense is sluggish still, though. Marcell Ozuna is doing much of the heavy lifting. This team won’t look its best until its core hitters find their footing again.

6. Cleveland Guardians (-)

The Guardians remain our highest-ranked AL Central team, but others are coming. Braves fans saw a little of Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase when they visited Truist Park, but his start has been underappreciated. He has a 0.47 ERA with 11 saves in 20 appearances.

7. Minnesota Twins (NR)

Welcome to the 2024 season, Minnesota. The Twins have won 15 of 17, surging back into relevance and closing in on the Guardians for first place in the surprisingly respectable Central. The offense has undergone a remarkable turnaround, from looking inept to demolishing the Mariners’ brilliant pitching. We’ll see if it’s just a hot streak or sign of what’s to come, but the Twins are back in the picture.

8. Texas Rangers (NR)

Entering Friday, the Rangers had scored 12 or more runs in three of their past six games. They’re back atop the AL West despite a lengthy list of injuries. Among the Rangers sidelined: Josh Jung, Wyatt Langford, Justin Foscue, Josh Sborz, Nathan Eovaldi, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. This team should hit its stride later in the summer.

9. Kansas City Royals (+1)

Seth Lugo is one of the better offseason additions by any club. He has a 1.74 ERA in eight starts, providing exactly what the Royals needed. Bobby Witt Jr. remains the game’s least-known superstar: The 23-year-old is leading the Royals’ resurgence by hitting .318 with a .944 OPS. He signed an 11-year deal in February, so he’ll be the face of the Royals for a very long time.

10. Chicago Cubs (-2)

The Cubs take the final spot here ahead of the Brewers since they have a recent head-to-head series victory, but both clubs have played like equals to this point. The Cubs come to Atlanta on Monday, but they’ll be playing without former Braves shortstop and metro Atlanta native Dansby Swanson, who’s on the injured list with a right-knee sprain. It’s unfortunate for the Cubs, especially since they were getting healthier with outfielders Cody Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki returning from the IL.