MLB power rankings for July 2022
We're just a week out from the All-Star Game and every club has played at least half of its games for 2022. So what better time for a mid-season check-up and my first edition of MLB power rankings for 2022?
The way I see it, there are six tiers of teams at this time. There are the front-runners, the World Series contenders, flawed competitors that are working through kinks who could soon become World Series contenders, bubble teams, the teams that are down but not out, and the clear deadline sellers. Each team could move up or move down from the tier I currently have them in by the next time I update my power rankings (likely in August). These rankings are merely a snapshot of where these teams stand right now. In fact, I expect some to move up and some to move down by the next power rankings I release. There are some teams that I would buy stock in, and others I would sell now, while I can. All records and stats are that of July 8.
1) New York Yankees (60-23, 14.5 game-lead in AL East, +176 Run Differential) — How can you NOT put the Bronx Bombers on top? They have baseball's best record, despite playing in baseball's toughest division. 14.5 games separate the distance between them and the next best team in the AL East. To put that into perspective, there's a slimmer margin between the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers and the dismal Pittsburgh Pirates (12.5 games). A season ago, the Yankees were 29th in Defensive Runs Saved (-41). After shaking up their roster and bringing in plus-defenders Jose Trevino, Rafael Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson, the impact has been felt: the Yankees are first in DRS in 2022 at 57, a +98 difference from a year ago! They have the best record in baseball to show for it.
Executive Brian Cashman seems to have assembled the perfect alchemy of his team. When I watch the Yankees night in and night out, I see a team that gets up for every game, can hang 10+ runs on any given night, and a team that looks like they're having a blast while doing so. It will be interesting to see what Cashman does at the deadline, because I myself would be slightly hesitant to mess with what seems to be a near-perfect mix.
2) Houston Astros (54-28, 13 game-lead in AL West, +93 DIFF) — The Astros have had the Yankees' number for the better part of the last half-decade. But could this year be different? It certainly could be. They recently split a 4-game series in New York, and played a singular makeup game in Houston which the Astros took. The Astros own a 3-2 edge. Their pitching has been remarkable, and their offensive performance has established validity to their recent success, which will be forever stained by controversy.
The World Series Contenders
3) Los Angeles Dodgers (53-29, 6 game-lead in NL West, +146 DIFF) — Let's make one thing clear. Though the Yankees and Astros have established themselves as "front-runners", this is far from a two-team race. The Dodgers are once again the class of the National League, even with Walker Buehler on the 60-day DL and despite being without Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw for extended periods. Tony Gonsolin is pitching like a Cy Young, and could get the start at Dodger Stadium in the All-Star Game next week.
4) New York Mets (52-31, 3.5 game lead in NL East, +74 DIFF) — The Mets were running away with the division, and though the Braves have since closed the gap, the Mets have still played very well without Jacob deGrom. Max Scherzer's return is coming at the right time, as this division race looks like it could be a photo finish.
5) Atlanta Braves (49-35, 3.5 GB in NL East, +60 DIFF) — The Braves are back, and with Ronald Acuna Jr. returning to right field, they look much better than they did a year ago at this point. It's amazing how they continue to maximize on players and get stellar contributions from players like 23 year-old Spencer Strider (2.60 ERA), who has been excellent pitching out of both the rotation and the bullpen this season.
6) San Diego Padres (48-36, 6 GB in NL West, +49 DIFF) — Two weeks ago, the Padres were tied for the NL West lead with the Dodgers. Suddenly, they're six games back. That happened quickly. The Padres are 4-9 over their last 13. There's still more than enough time to right the ship, but the Padres have yet to put together a full, competitive 162-game season in the AJ Preller era. The Padres got off to a nice start in 2019, but ended up finishing 70-92. The club put together a fantastic 2020, albeit a COVID-shortened 60-game season. Despite being 15 games above .500 entering August, the Padres finished 79-83 in 2021. We'll make note of this skid, but for now, take a look at the greater picture. For the first two and a half months of 2022, they were right there with the Dodgers in a pretty competitive division.
Working Through Kinks, But Strong Competitors
7) Tampa Bay Rays (45-37, 14.5 GB in AL East, +25 DIFF) — The Rays and Red Sox both appear to be getting ready for takeoff. The Red Sox are hot right now and it feels like Tampa is about to go on a run of their own. The Rays have taken both series' between the division foes thus far, including snagging 2 of 3 in Boston earlier this week, so we'll give them the edge for now.
8) Boston Red Sox (45-38, 15 GB in AL East, +52 DIFF) — On May 8, Boston was 10-19. Over the last two months, they're 35-19 and have been one of the best clubs in baseball. Michael Wacha has been a revelation for them (2.69 ERA through 70.1 IP this season).
9) St. Louis Cardinals (45-40, 2.5 GB in NL Central, +54 DIFF) — The Brewers may have a two-game lead over the Cardinals, but I'm still a believer in the Cardinals. The two teams have played three four-game series up to this point (two in Milwaukee) and split each of them. They're a dead-even 6-6 vs. each other. But the Cardinals have a better run-differential by 20 runs and a deep lineup I feel like I can trust. Having said all of this, I've been slightly disappointed by the performance of both clubs this season. A good team that plays 54 games vs. the lowly Cubs, Reds and Pirates should have one of the best records in the National League. There are four teams outside of the NL Central with better records than the Cards and Brewcrew. Just 12.5 games separate the Brewers and Pirates/Cubs.
10) Milwaukee Brewers (47-37, 2.5 game-lead in NL Central, +34 DIFF) — The Brewers' lineup bashes but doesn't hit for contact. Their rotation has taken a step backwards from last year, but remains effective. Their bullpen is lights-out. If the Brewers were to add a pair of difference-making bats to their lineup at the deadline, it would greatly raise their ceiling in my eyes. As constructed now, there isn't a big bat that I truly fear in the clutch with runners on base.
11) Toronto Blue Jays (45-39, 15.5 GB in AL East, +14 DIFF) — The darling team that seemingly everybody picked to win the American League this year is good, but not great. They took off in the second half of 2021, though. So perhaps they're going to go on a run of their own soon.
12) Philadelphia Phillies (44-39, 8 GB in NL East, +57 DIFF) — The Phillies are hot, but I'm still a skeptic. The club struggled vs. a tough schedule in May and feasted on a much more favorable schedule in June. They're still a poor defensive team (-21 DRS) and now could be without Bryce Harper for the remainder of the season. Still, it's worth noting that the Rob Thomson era is off to a great start (21-10) and the Phillies would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
13) Minnesota Twins (47-38, 4.5 game-lead in AL Central, +52 DIFF) — The Twins have a good team, but how much should we trust an AL Central champion come postseason? No AL Central team has won a postseason series since the Indians' World Series run in 2016. That's significant. It's difficult to judge how good AL Central teams are given their division. The Twins are 18-21 vs. teams with winning records.
The Bubble Teams
14) Seattle Mariners (42-42, 13 GB in AL West, +17 DIFF) — We often use the term "bubble teams" when referring to teams that are right on the fence of the NCAA Tournament field. Are they in, or are they out? In this case, we'll apply the term "bubble teams" to teams that are slightly outside of the postseason field right now, and their seasons could dramatically swing in either a positive or negative direction. The Mariners are a perfect example. After a rough May, pressure was starting to mount towards executive Jerry DiPoto and manager Scott Servais. The Mariners are starting to heat up: many of their promising young players are beginning to shine, and they've won 13 of their last 16. Julio Rodriguez is the runaway leader for AL Rookie of the Year. Earlier this week, he became the fastest player (81 games) in MLB history to reach 15+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases in his career. Ty France should be the AL's starting first baseman in the All-Star Game, and Logan Gilbert belongs in the game too.
I'm buying stock in the Mariners. Some of y'all may have sold early; that's fine. I'll buy. The Mariners are on the up and playing in perhaps the weakest division in baseball. Oh, and 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis is hoping to return by the end of the month. I haven't given up on him!
15) San Francisco Giants (41-40, 11.5 GB in NL West, +20 DIFF) — The Giants had a team that greatly overperformed last year to the tune of 107 wins. They're a quality team and could stay in the mix for a wild card spot, or they could choose to sell at the deadline. They're not far out right now, so I could really see them swinging in either direction. I thought they'd sell each of the last two years but didn't, so my guess is they make some moves and attempt to replicate a 2021 Braves-like run in the second half.
16) Cleveland Guardians (40-40, 4.5 GB in AL Central, -16 DIFF) — The Guardians have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2022 season, but is their luck starting to run out? Maybe. They haven't been playing their best baseball since their hot streak a few weeks ago. But just 4.5 games back of the division lead in the AL Central tells me that there's a lot of baseball still to be played. I wouldn't be surprised if they're a half a game out of first two weeks from now.
17) Baltimore Orioles (40-44, 20.5 GB in AL East, -20 DIFF) — The Orioles are just four games out of the final AL Wild Card spot. Last year, they won 52 games total. They're eight wins shy of matching their win total from a season ago, and it's only July 8. Who saw that coming? Baltimore is becoming one of my favorite MLB.tv watches on a nightly basis. Like Seattle, there are a lot of very intriguing young pieces. Starting pitchers Tyler Wells and Dean Kremer have shown a lot of promise.
18) Miami Marlins (39-42, 12 GB in NL East, +2 DIFF) — Sandy Alcantara is the best pitcher in baseball right now. The Marlins are another team I'd buy stock in. Maybe not for this year, but Baltimore and Miami are in a similar spot. Both teams are several years deep into a long-term rebuild, and now fans are starting to see the fruits of their labor. Despite playing in competitive divisions, both teams have taken a leap this year, and are on a nice trajectory heading into 2023.
Down, But Not Out
19) Chicago White Sox (39-42, 6 GB in AL Central, -45 DIFF) — The White Sox are the most disappointing team in baseball this season by a long shot. They're not out of it quite yet, but if their lackluster performance persists for another month, I would seriously consider selling at the deadline, if I was GM Rick Hahn. The Sox might want to follow the Yankees' blueprint for 2023: shake up the roster and improve defensively.
At age 35, first baseman Jose Abreu will be a free agent this winter. Perhaps the Sox should consider shopping him at the deadline, so they can get something in return for him, and allow 24 year-old Andrew Vaughn to take the reigns at first base. Vaughn is a natural first baseman. This would give the Sox a chance to improve defensively by moving Vaughn out of the outfield.
20) Texas Rangers (37-43, 16 GB in AL West, +10 DIFF) — The Rangers are right around where I expected them to be, and they're on a trajectory to finish around where I expected them to finish (75 wins).
21) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (38-46, 17 GB in AL West, -14 DIFF) — Every year, people talk themselves into the Angels. I don't know why people haven't learned their lesson yet. Ohtani and Trout can only do so much.
22) Detroit Tigers (35-47, 10.5 GB in AL Central, -82 DIFF) — Winners of five straight, the Tigers are playing their best baseball thus far. They still have a steep climb in front of them to get back to .500, but Detroit is finally playing like the team many believed they would be this year.
The Deadline Sellers
23) Arizona Diamondbacks (37-46, 16.5 GB in NL West, -44 DIFF) — The Diamondbacks have improved significantly from a year ago, when they finished a league-worst 52-110. They're still far from the playoffs. Expect them to sell. Zach Davies and David Peralta will be nice gets for teams that don't want to pay top-dollar for Frankie Montas and Andrew Benintendi.
24) Colorado Rockies (36-47, 17.5 GB in NL West, -73 DIFF) — The Rockies are a below-average team, but Kris Bryant's return should give them a nice jolt. I expected Bryant to be an MVP candidate in 2022. He just hit his first home run of the season the other night, after missing over two months with a back injury. 8 games back of the Wild Card, I don't see the Rockies vying for a playoff spot in 2022, but Bryant is going to be a key guy to watch. Will he put the first three months of the season in the rearview, and return to All-Star form, or will his back problems nag for the remainder of the season, diminishing his performance and putting him back on the shelf? It will probably be a good indicator of what the Rockies have in KB for the next seven years.
25) Chicago Cubs (34-49, 12.5 GB in NL Central, -64 DIFF) — The Cubs were looking worse than Pittsburgh and Cincinnati until recently. Now, they're winners of their last four series, including road wins over the Cardinals and Brewers, and a home series against the Red Sox.
The Cubs will be clear sellers at the deadline. If the Cubs were keeping Willson Contreras, they would have extended him by now. David Robertson, Mychal Givens and Scott Effross are all tradeable bullpen pieces, and the front office will also have a chance to sell high on Ian Happ, who's having a career year, and might make the All-Star team. The Cubs are a long ways from competing and have a number of talented outfielders in their pipeline. It makes more sense to clear space and give rookies Seiya Suzuki, Nelson Velazquez and Christopher Morel everyday reps in the outfield. Jason Heyward could be designated for assignment at some point too.
The most encouraging sign for Cubs fans is that Nico Hoerner has remained healthy for most of the year and appears to be a franchise shortstop to build around. Hoerner leads all shortstops with 11 DRS and is hitting .300 with 7 steals.
26) Pittsburgh Pirates (34-49, 12.5 GB in NL Central, -131 DIFF) — The Pirates aren't good, but they're not horrible either. The Buccos won't contend, but the fans have enough reason to keep their TV's on. They locked up Ke'Bryan Hayes for eight years and recently called up Oneil Cruz. Cruz reminds me a bit of early-Yasiel Puig with his raw talent, strength and athleticism. He's a human highlight reel. In his major league premier, he clocked the hardest thrown infield ball on a throw to first base (96.7 mph). A 6-foot-7 shortstop? This guy is must-see TV!
27) Kansas City Royals (30-51, 15 GB in AL Central, -102 DIFF) — Andrew Benintendi will likely be the best outfielder available on the market. Just how long is this rebuild going to last, though?
28) Cincinnati Reds (29-54, 17.5 GB in NL Central, -103 DIFF) — Injuries will kill a team with no depth. That's the story of the 2022 Reds.
29) Washington Nationals (30-55, 23 GB in NL East, -130 DIFF) — The rebuild had to come eventually. After a remarkable eight-year run (2012-2019), the Nationals are back to reloading. DC fans were so blessed to have a competitive team for close to a decade, that they may have forgotten what the Nationals of the late-2000s looked like. The Nationals have a good chance of landing the no. 1 overall pick for the first time since they selected Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg with the no. 1 pick in back-to-back drafts in 2009 and 2010.
30) Oakland A's (28-56, 27 GB in AL West, -111 DIFF) — The A's haven't lost 100 games in a single season since 1979. Even when they're selling off parts, their team typically isn't horrible. Oakland has the worst record in baseball and is on pace to finish 54-108. Meanwhile, their most attractive trade piece — Frankie Montas — is out indefinitely with shoulder inflammation. The A's just can't catch a break.
If you missed it, catch my MLB All-Star selections!
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(Image via John Minchillo/Associated Press)