How they rank: May 9

In contrast to last week, players whose early starts will be hard to maintain. Last rankings in parentheses; stats through Monday’s game:

  • 1. N.Y. Yankees (3): The Yankees received prospects for Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran last year, but the trade that’s most benefited them this year is J.R. Murphy for Aaron Hicks. The latter, a lifetime .230 hitter, is batting .342 with six homers, 16 walks, five steals and an 1.105 OPS. The former is batting .262 — in AAA.
  • 2. Washington (1): Ryan Zimmerman has hit 13 home runs — only two fewer than he hit in 345 more plate appearances last year — and his 1.334 OPS is more than twice as much as the .624 he finished last year with.
  • 3. Houston (2): Marwin Gonzalez has played five positions, and homered at four of them. The nine he’s hit are just four fewer than his career high (13 last year) and his .686 slugging percentage is 284 points above his career .402. If there was a Ben Zobrist award for best versatile player, Marwin is the early favorite.
  • 4. Baltimore (4): Trey Mancini has 10 home runs in first 86 major-league plate appearances, seven of them good for 20 RBIs. This puts him in a tie for 10th for HRs by a former Notre Dame player, but he’s got a ways to go to catch the leader — Carl Yastrzemski with 452. Diamondback A.J. Pollock is the active leader with 41.
  • 5. L.A. Dodgers (7): Rookie Cody Bellinger has been a Dodger for a little more than two weeks and he’s second on the team with five home runs. His career is certain to last longer than his father, Clay, who was a utilityman, mostly with the Yankees, from 1999-2002. Clay’s timing was good for a couple of World Series rings, though.
  • 6. Cleveland (6): Indians’ bullpen leads MLB in ERA (1.79), slugging percentage against (.271), OPS against (.554) and home runs allowed (2, both by Dan Otero, who allowed just two home runs in 70.2 innings last year). It’s a good thing, because the Indians’ touted starters are 26th in MLB and last in the AL in ERA at 4.86.
  • 7. Colorado (9): The Rockies spent $70 million on Ian Desmond with the notion of making him a first baseman, not realizing they already had one. Mark Reynolds is batting .321, slugging .661 and has 11 homers. Even better, he’s fanned only 27 times in 124 plate appearances, which may sound like a lot. But a strikeout every 4.6 plate appearances is well below his career average of a strikeout every 3.2 plate appearances.
  • 8. Chicago Cubs (5): The Cubs lost Chapman to free agency, but may have replaced him with someone better. Wade Davis has allowed two singles, two doubles and four walks in 14.1 innings, fanning 18 and saving all seven games he had a chance to. Since the start of 2014, Davis has a 1.09 ERA, compared to Chapman’s 1.79.
  • 9. St. Louis (11): Jedd Gyorko is batting .337 and has 15 extra-base hits and a 1.043 OPS, but only 13 RBIs. Wherever Gyorko bats, nobody hits well in front of him. All six of Gyorko’s homers have been with the bases empty, a year after he hit 30 homers — 18 solos — and knocked in just 59 runs.
  • 10. Boston (10): Chris Sale has a 1.92 ERA and leads MLB with 73 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched. Yet he’s 3-2 for the team which led MLB in runs scored last year. The Red Sox have scored 32 runs in Sale’s seven starts — 17 of them on Sunday. The Red Sox scored 10 runs in the ninth inning Sunday, long after Sale had departed, or just five fewer than they had scored for Sale in his first six starts.
  • 11. Arizona (8): Zack Greinke said he wasn’t going to talk about his velocity after a March start where he didn’t top 90 mph. “I’m not going to answer velocity questions every time the whole season. I mean, you’ve got to pick and choose your times you ask me about that,” he said then. Greinke has fanned 47 in his first 43.2 regular-season innings and no one’s asking any more.
  • 12. N.Y. Mets (18): All the injuries have hurt, but the opportunity for Michael Conforto has been a welcome salve. Conforto leads the Mets in walks with 15, average at .325 and OPS at 1.040.
  • 13. Cincinnati (21): Zack Cozart has a career .250 average in 2,426 at-bats, but he’s hitting 101 points higher than that and slugging (.588) almost 200 points above his career .393 mark. A .427 average on balls in play has helped.
  • 14. Minnesota (13): Ervin Santana has been among the best pitchers in baseball, aided by a measure of good fortune. Santana is 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA and has allowed just 21 hits — six of them homers — in 47.2 innings. Santana’s .126 average against on balls in play leads MLB by 56 points (Dallas Keuchel is second at .182).
  • 15. Milwaukee (14): There’s no way Eric Thames could replicate his success from Korea, and he’s not. He’s bettering it. Thames is batting .328 with 12 homers and a 1.170 OPS, comparable to his .321/427/679 when he hit 40 homers last season. Still a ways to go to match his .381/497/790, 47-homer 2015 in Korea.
  • 16. Detroit (15): The line to replace Francisco Rodriguez as closer begins with Justin Wilson, who’s fanned 22 in 13.2 innings and has a 1.32 ERA. Wilson has two saves in his career, but a .622 OPS against and 280 strikeouts in 271.2 innings.
  • 17. Chicago White Sox (12): The White Sox traded their closer, Addison Reed, after the 2013 season for young slugger Matt Davidson, who spent the next three seasons either injured or in the minor leagues but for two plate appearances last year. This year Davidson has been up for 67 plate appearances, homered five times, knocked in 15 runs and is slugging .574 (a 23/5 strikeout/walk ratio should serve as a blinking caution light.)
  • 18. Tampa Bay (22): Shortstop Tim Beckham was the first pick of the 2008 draft, and it’s taken him nearly a decade and Matt Duffy’s injury to become a regular. He’s hit six homers and is slugging .482, but’s he’s fanned 40 times and walked just 5. The Rays passed on in-state college star Buster Posey (Florida State) to take Beckham, and there won’t be enough home runs hit in 2017 to make up for that.
  • 19. Seattle (25): James Paxton allowed no runs in four of his six starts and had a 1.43 ERA before getting hurt; Mitch Haniger was hitting .342 with a 1.054 OPS before getting hurt. It’s been that kind of year for the Mariners.
  • 20. L.A. Angels (19): After 185 starts, Bud Norris may not make another. With Cam Bedrosian injured, the Angels turned to Norris to close. He has five saves, 22 strikeouts in 17 innings, a .528 OPS against and a 3.18 ERA — the lowest of a career with a lifetime mark of 4.49.
  • 21. Miami (16): Marcell Ozuna leads the Marlins in home runs (11, tied with Giancarlo Stanton) and RBIs (26), but he had a similar experience last year. Ozuna was an All-Star in the first half with 17 homers, .307 average and .892 OPS and then fell far in the second half with six homers, a .209 average and .609 OPS.
  • 22. Oakland (26): Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is no place to find your inner slugger, but Yonder Alonso, who has a career .733 OPS, has already tied his career-high in home runs with nine and has a 1.010 OPS.
  • 23. Texas (17): Joey Gallo is the Ryan Schimpf of the AL. He leads the Rangers in OPS (.820), home runs (10) and RBIs (21, tied with Nomar Mazara), but is batting below .200 at .194. His 50 strikeouts lead the team, but Mike Napoli’s 42 aren’t far behind.
  • 24. Philadelphia (20): Cesar Hernandez may be a bad base runner — he’s been thrown out stealing  23 times in 64 career attempts — but at least he’s on base. Hernandez is batting .333 this year — and slugging .496 — and .301 since the start of 2016.
  • 25. Pittsburgh (23): The Elias Sports Bureau says Ivan Nova (3-3, 2.14 ERA, 2 complete games, 1 walk in 42 innings) is the first Pirate with more complete games than walks in a 17-game span — the number of starts since Nova became a Buc — since Wilbur Cooper (1924).  Let the record show that Cooper, a Pirate for 13 seasons, won 20 games in four of his last five Pirate seasons, including 1924 when he had 25 complete games and won 20. He walked just 40 in ’24 in 268.2 innings, which for Cooper, was moderate usage. His 327 innings and 22 wins in 1921 led the NL.
  • 26. Toronto (28): From the Department of Misleading Info: On a recent Blue Jays broadcast, the announcers were extolling that Kevin Pillar was tied with Mike Trout for most hits by an AL centerfielder. This is, of course, because Trout has walked 17 times and Pillar nine, and Trout has 21 fewer at-bats. Still, Pillar’s .305 average and .843 OPS are way beyond career averages of .270 and .702.
  • 27. Atlanta (24): Freddie Freeman has received MVP votes in three of the last four seasons, but this year might be better than any of them. Freeman is batting .349 with 11 homers and a 1.224 OPS.
  • 28. San Diego (29): Trevor Cahill won 53 games as a starter in his first four seasons, but went to the bullpen after a 3-12, 5.61 2014 in Arizona. Starting again, Cahill is 3-2 with a 3.06 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 35.1 innings.
  • 29. Kansas City (30): Royals starting pitchers are No. 1 in MLB with a 3.26 ERA, mostly thanks to Jason Vargas (4-1, 1.89 ERA) and Ian Kennedy (0-3, 3.03). It hasn’t been enough to overcome an offense that is last in MLB with just 89 runs scored.
  • 30. San Francisco (27): Buster Posey is batting .363 and slugging .505 in the middle of the Giants’ order, and has six RBIs. He’s hit three homers — all solos, naturally — meaning he’s knocked in three other Giants in the 25 games he’s played.
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