AJC’s MLB power rankings: Yankees, Phillies step ahead of everyone else

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge hits a two-run double against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge hits a two-run double against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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.

Can anyone catch the Phillies and Yankees? They’re establishing themselves as clear favorites with summer getting started – but that means, of course, there’s a long way to go. Here are our top 10 teams this week:

1. New York Yankees (-)

The gasps you heard Thursday evening were coming from New York, where Juan Soto left a game early with forearm discomfort and will undergo further testing. But the Yankees clearly have played the best among all American League teams. Rookie Luis Gil, filling in for Gerrit Cole: A 1.82 ERA in 12 games, making him an option to start for the AL in next month’s All-Star Game.

2. Philadelphia Phillies (-)

ESPN’s Jeff Passan, in his trade deadline preview, mentioned the Phillies as a suitor for big-name outfielders such as Luis Robert and Randy Arozarena. Lead executive Dave Dombrowski hasn’t hesitated to strike blockbuster deals over his Hall of Fame career, and with his team so beautifully positioned, it would make sense to swing for the fences this summer.

3. Cleveland Guardians (-)

The Guardians’ bullpen has been superb, striking out 9.03 hitters per nine innings, third best in MLB. Cleveland is fifth in runs scored, too, which is impressive considering the lineup isn’t loaded with All-Stars like the Braves, Dodgers and Phillies. Expect Cleveland to target another bat next month and possibly another starting pitcher given its injury issues.

4. Baltimore Orioles (+1)

The Orioles split four games in Toronto, which included pitching prospect Cade Povich making his debut. The bullpen has been better, and Craig Kimbrel had eight consecutive scoreless outings before an ugly appearance in a loss June 5. As trade talks come to the forefront, this might be the most interesting team because it possesses the assets to land anyone available it desires. The Orioles have a logjam at spots that could make some younger players expendable.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers (-1)

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported the Dodgers are seeking upgrades to the bottom of their lineup. That makes sense; the offense steeply drops off after the heavy hitters. Infielder Max Muncy was shut down following a setback as he tried working his way back from an oblique strain, and there’s no timetable for his return. Meanwhile, starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw is facing hitters and considered “ahead of schedule,” per manager Dave Roberts.

6. Seattle Mariners (+3)

The Mariners swept the Angels and took two of three from the Athletics since our last check-in, helping them increase their AL West lead. This remains a frustrating offense at times, though it’s started cutting down on the strikeouts (to be determined whether that lasts). Julio Rodriguez in his last 12 games: .326 with an .889 OPS. He’s hit three of his five homers this season in that span.

7. Milwaukee Brewers (-)

Can you believe the team that lost its acclaimed manager (Craig Counsell) and traded its Cy Young-contending ace (Corbin Burnes) holds a 5-1/2-game advantage in the NL Central? It was more than that before the Phillies swept Milwaukee this week, but nobody else in the Central has played consistently enough to threaten this team yet. The Cubs define average, while the Cardinals’ winning spurt hasn’t changed their fortunes much. The Pirates are increasingly exciting but probably a year away from truly contending (they’re seven games back Friday).

8. Atlanta Braves (-)

The Braves are still trying to find an offensive rhythm. Every time it appears they’ve found it, they seem to take a step back the next day. If a 2022 situation is going to repeat itself in this division, the Braves will need to play significantly better while the Phillies cool off from their historic pace. The Braves want to catch the Phillies – obviously – but some fans have argued perhaps the wild-card route, without the layoff, is the preferred path. It’s a fair discussion and one that will dominate the October headlines if multiple teams with byes are again eliminated in the division series.

9. Kansas City Royals (-3)

The Royals are 3-7 in their past 10 games with a difficult slate ahead that includes the Mariners, Yankees and Dodgers. How the team manages this stretch will be crucial to how the rest of the summer unfolds. General manager J.J. Picollo mentioned in an interview with the New York Post that they have some underperformances in the outfield, so perhaps that’s a hint where the team will look by the trade deadline.

10. Minnesota Twins (-)

The Twins are completely hopeless against the Yankees, something we’ve learned over a couple of decades now. But this is a good team; just not one, to this point, that comes close to Cleveland. Rival teams are hoping for a Twins dip because they have several players who could appeal on the trade market, including outfielder Max Kepler, who has an .804 OPS over the past two seasons. But with the AL West disappointing and the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays unable to separate themselves, it looks like the Twins should remain firmly in the wild-card race.