MLB Power Rankings Week 7: Can anyone catch the White Sox at the top?

MLB Power Rankings Week 7: Can anyone catch the White Sox at the top?

The Chicago White Sox haven’t slowed down one bit since taking over our No. 1 spot in Week 6, but they are hardly the only team playing well heading into this edition of our MLB Power Rankings.

How high did strong stretches from the San Diego Padres, Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants move them on our list? What did our voters make of the Los Angeles Dodgers showing signs of turning the corner? And how much did their best stretch of 2021 so far help the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays this week? Meanwhile, just how far did getting no-hit for the second time this season drop the Seattle Mariners?

Here is what our eight-voter expert panel had to say based on what we’ve seen in the first month-plus of the season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 7 observation for all 30 major league teams.

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1. Chicago White Sox

Record: 26-16
Previous ranking: 1

Nick Madrigal hit his first home run Monday, going deep off J.A. Happ in Minnesota. Yermin Mercedes continues to hit over .360 with power. Billy Hamilton still can’t hit, but he has been putting on a defensive show in center field while filling in for the injured Luis Robert. With Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease dealing, the rotation goes one through five. And the White Sox have baseball’s best record and highest-scoring offense. Everything about this team is fun, with the possible exception of its manager. –Doolittle


2. San Diego Padres

Record: 27-17
Previous ranking: 6

The Padres lost Fernando Tatis Jr., Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer and Jurickson Profar to COVID-19 protocols and still swept the first-place Cardinals over the weekend. Profar returned earlier in the week, and Tatis and Hosmer were activated Wednesday. That should give a jolt to the offense and help a pitching staff that has been the best in the sport. The Padres’ bullpen has been especially good, but it went into Wednesday’s game leading the majors in innings pitched. And that’s an area the Padres have been especially banged up. The Padres will soon need more consistent length from their starters. — Gonzalez


3. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 25-18
Previous ranking: 3

The Dodgers have suffered an assortment of injuries to key players, but the most recent might be the most significant, with Corey Seager suffering a fractured hand that might keep him out about eight weeks. Seager’s absence makes Gavin Lux the everyday shortstop, which isn’t so much of a problem if he keeps hitting the way he has recently, but it is if he begins to slide again. With Max Muncy getting more time at second base, Seager’s injury will also make Albert Pujols the first baseman more often than the Dodgers might have anticipated when they first signed him. — Gonzalez


4. Boston Red Sox

Record: 26-18
Previous ranking: 2

Boston currently sits near the top of the American League standings, but its own division race keeps tightening up. The offense continues to lean on J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers for production at the plate, while the rotation’s best ERAs currently belong to Nick Pivetta (3.16) and Martin Perez (3.40), with Eduardo Rodriguez (4.70) and Nathan Eovaldi (4.50) struggling to establish a consistent footing early in the season. — Lee


5. San Francisco Giants

Record: 27-16
Previous ranking: 7

The three best rotation ERAs in the majors reside in the National League West, and it’s the Giants — not the Dodgers, not the Padres — who are pacing the sport. Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood have been particularly great, but potentially their best arm — Tyler Beede, a former first-round pick making his way back from Tommy John surgery — is currently building himself back up in Triple-A. Beede should be there soon, which makes you wonder if the Giants might hang around all year. — Gonzalez


6. Houston Astros

Record: 25-18
Previous ranking: 10

After missing nearly the entire 2020 season, Yordan Alvarez has quickly reminded everyone that he is one of the most feared hitters in baseball. The thing that marked his Rookie of the Year season in 2019 was across-the-board dominance. He’s doing it again. Through Tuesday, Alvarez was hitting .346 overall, .346 at home, .345 on the road, .364 against righties, .329 against lefties and .348 in high-leverage situations. No matter how you split it out, Alvarez seems to have no weaknesses. — Doolittle


7. Oakland Athletics

Record: 26-18
Previous ranking: 8

Oakland always seems to find diamonds in the rough, and so far Cole Irvin represents the prize jewel. After posting a 6.75 ERA in 19 games across two seasons for the Phillies, Irving currently sports the best ERA in the Athletics’ rotation with a 3.02 mark across 47 2/3 innings in eight games. From an offensive standpoint, Matt Olson and Ramon Laureano are leading the way with 10 dingers apiece. — Lee


8. New York Yankees

Record: 23419
Previous ranking: 5

Gerrit Cole has posted a Cy Young-caliber 2.03 ERA and 0.78 WHIP with 85 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings pitched so far this season, and both Corey Kluber and Domingo German are making strong contributions as well. German missed the 2020 season due to a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy after an investigation into suspected domestic violence, but returns in 2021 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in seven starts. Kluber, meanwhile, sports a 2.86 ERA after authoring a no-hitter against the Rangers on Wednesday night. — Lee


9. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 23-18
Previous ranking: 13

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is making a clear statement that he has arrived and is a force to be reckoned with. After a 2020 campaign during which he slashed .262/.329/.462 with nine homers in 60 games, the 22-year-old first baseman looks like one of the best hitters in the sport, batting .327/.441/.612 with 11 homers in 41 games. — Lee


10. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 25-19
Previous ranking: 9

Watch out for these Rays, as they’re creeping back up the division standings. The rotation continues to ride on the success of Tyler Glasnow, who looks like a legitimate Cy Young contender early in the season, posting a 2.35 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP with 85 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings pitched across nine games so far this season. — Lee


11. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 25-18
Previous ranking: 4

Getting swept by the Padres brought them down a notch, but the Cardinals still lead the NL Central thanks, in part, to Nolan Arenado. St. Louis’ big offseason addition led all hitters in baseball in OPS over the last week. Sometimes it can take a whole year or longer for newcomers — even star players — to feel comfortable with their new teams, but Arenado is already among the leaders in several offensive categories. — Rogers


12. New York Mets

Record: 20-17
Previous ranking: 11

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Taijuan Walker ever since he underwent Tommy John surgery while with Arizona back in 2019. This season, he has proved to be one of the offseason’s most astute pickups for a Mets rotation with a lot of injury-related flux. Walker has kept his ERA in the low 2s while giving up just one homer over 44 innings during his first eight starts. In Bill James’ starting pitcher rankings, Walker has jumped 22 spots to No. 45 since the season began. — Doolittle


13. Cleveland Indians

Record: 23-18
Previous ranking: 12

During a season in which injuries seem especially plentiful, Cleveland’s superpower has been simply keeping its players on the field. The finger injury suffered by primary catcher Roberto Perez is the only impactful health setback the Indians have had to endure so far. According to the injury data at Spotrac, Cleveland has placed only two players on the IL since the start of the season. Every other team has placed at least eight players on the IL, with the Padres topping the charts at 23. — Doolittle


14. Atlanta Braves

Record: 20-23
Previous ranking: 15

What’s wrong with Atlanta? Is it all injury-related? So far, the Braves have not shown the same kind of mojo they displayed in previous seasons. They’re down more than a run per game from last year with Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson and Ehire Adrianza among those who have struggled. — Rogers


15. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 22-21
Previous ranking: 16

The Phillies’ bullpen continues to be enigmatic. Jose Alvarado leads the relievers in WPA but has a K%-BB% of just 2% because of a sky-high walk rate. Sam Coonrod has been very good, but of the other four relievers with an average leverage index over 1.0, all of them have negative WPAs. Thus you have a weird dynamic in which Philly actually ranks a respectable 10th in bWAR from its relievers but 28th in WPA. They’ve pitched well in spots, but not often enough when it matters most. Now, with JoJo Romero headed for Tommy John surgery, it might be time to start exploring external options. — Doolittle


16. Chicago Cubs

Record: 21-21
Previous ranking: 17

The Cubs are on a nice run this month, climbing above the .500 mark for the first time in a while before Wednesday night’s loss to the Nationals. Led by a new-look offense that is no longer so homer-dependent, they’re winning some games they used to drop — but an up-and-down rotation might prevent them from going on a big run. Kris Bryant has been the most consistent player on the team, with closer Craig Kimbrel not far behind. — Rogers


17. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 21-22
Previous ranking: 14

Getting Christian Yelich back should be a huge boost for a team that has struggled mightily at the plate. Milwaukee hit just .212 with a .652 OPS over the past week while dropping series to the Cardinals and Braves. Yelich returned from a bad back on Tuesday, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, but at least he made it through the game. The Brewers need him. — Rogers


18. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 19-22
Previous ranking: 22

Nick Castellanos is on fire, compiling a 1.587 OPS over the past week, while first-year player Jonathan India is also hot. It hasn’t translated to a run for the Reds, as they continue to hover around the .500 mark. Their 5.73 ERA over the past seven days heading into Wednesday doesn’t help matters. — Rogers


19. Miami Marlins

Record: 19-23
Previous ranking: 19

This Marlins season is all about the future, and a big part of that future is Jazz Chisholm, the middle infielder with the blue hair and the rare talent. Chisholm was activated off the injured list on Sunday and two days later became the only player in the pitch-tracking era, which dates back to 2008, to hit multiple home runs off 100 mph pitches. Through the first 89 plate appearances of his age-23 season, he was slashing .308/.382/.577. — Gonzalez


20. Kansas City Royals

Record: 20-22
Previous ranking: 26

Now that the Royals snapped their 11-game losing streak, it’s fair to wonder: Are they more the team that ran out to baseball’s best record 25 games into the season? Or are they the team that went into the tank for nearly two weeks against mostly divisional opponents? The answer, of course, is somewhere between those two extremes. The Royals are a few games under .500 as we head toward the latter days of May, which is about where they projected to be before the season. The route they took to get there, however, is not one anyone could have foreseen. — Doolittle


21. Washington Nationals

Record: 17-22
Previous ranking: 22

Most of the talk centers on this year’s class of free-agent shortstops, but what about next year’s, when Trea Turner is scheduled to hit the open market? Turner is very underrated in a world of Francisco Lindor, Fernando Tatis Jr. and free-agents-to-be like Carlos Correa, Trevor Story and Corey Seager. But he was worth a combined 8.3 FanGraphs wins above replacement from 2018 to 2019, had a park-adjusted OPS of 163 in 2020 and is on a 40-homer pace in 2021. — Gonzalez


22. Seattle Mariners

Record: 21-23
Previous ranking: 20

The Mariners called up top prospect Jarred Kelenic, and through six games, the dynamic outfielder hit just .160/.192/.360 with a homer and two doubles, getting a taste of the jump from the minor leagues to the majors after hitting .370/.414/.630 in Triple-A Tacoma. One of the few bright spots in a lineup that got no-hit for the second time in 2021 this week is Mitch Haniger, who is hitting .253/.316/.556 with 12 homers in 41 games so far this season. — Lee


23. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 18-24
Previous ranking: 24

The Angels were getting MVP-level production from Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani and still began this week with the second-worst run differential in baseball. Now Trout has a Grade 2 strain of his right calf, an injury that will probably keep him out until after the All-Star break. Angels manager Joe Maddon hopes his team can stay afloat while Trout is out, and then he would be “one of the best August acquisitions in history.” That won’t happen unless they pitch significantly better. — Gonzalez


24. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 18-26
Previous ranking: 23

The D-backs were getting some nice contributions offensively, but three of their everyday players — Carson Kelly, Christian Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera — hit the injured list recently, joining Kole Calhoun. The D-backs simply don’t have the depth to stay afloat without them in the NL West. They began May with 13 losses in a span of 17 games. — Gonzalez


25. Texas Rangers

Record: 19-26
Previous ranking: 25

A six-game losing streak dropped the Rangers into the AL West cellar with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Astros cementing a bad week. Over a seven-day period, ending on Tuesday, first baseman Nate Lowe had the lowest batting average (.053) among all qualified players, highlighting some of the team’s struggles. — Rogers


26. Minnesota Twins

Record: 14-27
Previous ranking: 21

Minnesota has not pitched well this season, full stop. But if there is one area that has been particularly troublesome, it has been the collective inability of the Twins’ staff to keep the ball in the park. Minnesota has given up more homers than any other team in baseball, with an average of just over a dinger and a half per contest. The Twins are on pace to allow more than 250 homers this season, which would easily be the most in franchise history. There is some hope for the good kind of regression: The Twins’ collective HR/FB% (12.6) is 2% above the big league average. — Doolittle


27. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 17-25
Previous ranking: 27

In addition to Cedric Mullins and John Means, the revelation of reliever Cesar Valdez represents one of the team’s few bright spots this season. After a 2020 campaign during which he pitched in nine games with a 1.26 ERA and 0.70 WHIP, Valdez has continued the momentum with a 2.81 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 16 innings pitched across 15 appearances. — Lee


28. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 17-25
Previous ranking: 28

The Pirates have cooled off after something of a surprising start to 2021 and now rank last in the NL in run differential and runs per game. — Rogers


29. Colorado Rockies

Record: 15-29
Previous ranking: 29

We knew the Rockies were going to be bad, but their struggles on the road are so prolific that it’s actually impressive. After being swept by the Padres, the Rockies had dropped 17 of 19 games away from Coors Field. In that stretch, they had been outscored by a total of 54 runs. 54 runs! That’s hard to do. — Gonzalez


30. Detroit Tigers

Record: 17-26
Previous ranking: 30

The Tigers aren’t going anywhere this season, though it should be noted that they’ve stayed ahead of the cellar-dwelling Twins in the AL Central for several days now. In any event, a baseball game can always be special in and of itself, even if the postseason-chase context of it is minimal. Thus it was a thrill for any Detroit fan who was able to stay up late to watch Spencer Turnbull toss the eighth no-hitter in team history on Tuesday night at Seattle. It had been just over 10 years since the last Tigers no-no: Justin Verlander’s second no-hitter for the Tigers on May 7, 2011. — Doolittle