AJC’s MLB power rankings: Orioles leap to No. 1, Braves looking better

Baltimore Orioles' Ryan O'Hearn runs to second base after hitting a double during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Pamela Smith)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Baltimore Orioles' Ryan O'Hearn runs to second base after hitting a double during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Pamela Smith)

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.

Who’s separating themselves as we draw closer to late June? Our top 10 teams this week:

1. Baltimore Orioles (+2)

The Orioles leap to No. 1 after winning a series in the Bronx, which pulled them to within a game of the Yankees in the American League East. One encouraging aspect of that series was Cedric Mullins, who had the go-ahead hit in the 10th in one game and homered in another. Mullins (and fellow outfielder Austin Hays) has endured a difficult season, which has led some to view the O’s as a team in the outfield market despite their depth (which includes players such as Heston Kjerstad and Kyle Stowers).

2. New York Yankees (-1)

The Yankees didn’t like the Orioles hitting Aaron Judge. They hit Gunnar Henderson a day later, which contributed to their loss. The revived Yankees-Orioles rivalry is good for baseball. There were some old-school levels of hate shown over those three days, with the teams and fans. This division race should go down to the wire.

3. Philadelphia Phillies (-1)

Trea Turner is back, though the Phillies still will be down J.T. Realmuto for the foreseeable future. Bryce Harper (first base) and Alec Bohm (third base) are comfortably leading the All-Star balloting at their positions. They’re obviously not stacked against each other, but imagine being told months ago that Bohm would have more votes than Shohei Ohtani in the initial returns. In fact, only Harper and Mookie Betts have earned more fan support among National League players.

4. Cleveland Guardians (+1)

Steven Kwan is hitting .396 through 46 games, meaning perhaps he’ll finally get the recognition he’s deserved. Braves fans might remember Tanner Bibee after he stifled their team. He has 23 strikeouts over his past two outings (11-1/3 innings). Expect to see the Guardians pursue a starter and outfielder in the coming six weeks.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers (-)

The Dodgers have lost MVP frontrunner Betts and co-ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto for a lengthy period. It adds further intrigue to their deadline plans. Will they try to acquire a shortstop who ultimately bumps Betts to second base when he returns? Will they add another starter? Clayton Kershaw is on a rehab assignment, but it’s impossible to say what he’ll provide whenever he rejoins the Dodgers.

6. Seattle Mariners (-)

The Mariners have a plethora of position-player prospects and some seemingly expendable major league-ready pitching, so they should be popular at the trade deadline. They’ve won seven of 10, which is a major development in the bad AL West. The Astros and Rangers still can’t get close to .500 – they were five and six games under, respectively, on Thursday – while Seattle continues to build upon its lead. The Mariners should be thinking bigger than the AL West at this point.

7. Milwaukee Brewers (-)

If the White Sox trade budding starter Garrett Crochet, this might be the best fit. The Brewers have the farm system to appease Chicago, and Crochet won’t be expensive for a while, which always appeals to Milwaukee. The Brewers have overcome quite a bit to obtain such a large lead in the NL Central. That includes an underperformance thus far from free-agent addition Rhys Hoskins, who’s hit .220 with a .727 OPS. If he can spark one of his hot streaks, this club becomes even more menacing.

8. Atlanta Braves (+1)

The Braves’ 5-1 homestand gives hope that they’re emerging from a six-week slumber. The offense showed life – especially third baseman Austin Riley, who homered three times after having only three home runs entering the homestand – and the pitching remains the team’s backbone. In Atlanta-era Braves history, only two starters have equaled or outdone Reynaldo Lopez’s 1.57 ERA through his first 14 outings: Greg Maddux (1.41, 1994) and Tom Glavine (1.57, 2002).

9. Minnesota Twins (NR)

If Royce Lewis can stay healthy for a significant stretch, he’ll make his case as a top-20 player in the sport. In 15 games, he’s hitting .377 (20-for-53) with a 1.377 OPS. He has nine homers and 13 RBIs over that time. His team, meanwhile, looks formidable and is surging in the AL Central, though the Guardians haven’t surrendered too much ground. Carlos Correa is hitting .308 now after dipping to .247 on June 5.

10. Boston Red Sox (NR)

The Red Sox have won eight of 10, continuing their surprise season that’s put them in the heart of the AL wild-card race. Pitching was supposed to be this club’s undoing, yet its rotation has carried it for much of the year. Tanner Houck deserves an All-Star nod next month. He owns a 2.14 ERA in 15 starts, striking out 94 while walking 17.