MLB Power Rankings: Braves, Astros move on up; Blue Jays, Padres in free fall

By Zach Buchanan, Nick Groke and Stephen Nesbitt

Like the Cardinals, Astros, burnt ends and the fourth Mad Max movie, some things are worth waiting for. The barbecue should take hours to do correctly. “Fury Road” came out 30 years after “Beyond Thunderdome.” And the Astros and Cardinals needed six weeks to finally show up this season.

We are now more than 25 percent through this season. Some teams are still finding their way, and others are ready to find a third gear. Some needed a while to get off the line and others are hitting their stride. But all of them are looking for that one kick to push them into new territory.

Shout-out to Keith M., who took top honors as our commenter of the week for his biting observation that it is “definitely reigning comity in here.” Kudos to Keith for his totally sincere take that wasn’t at all sarcastic and for having a good vocabulary.

All of us are still waiting for more comity in this world. Meanwhile, let’s take stock of baseball’s hierarchy this week by zooming in on one thing each team is still waiting for that might take them to the next level.

Record: 34-14
Last Power Ranking: 1

Truthfully, the Rays regulars have almost all been clicking on all cylinders these past two months. They have no star who has yet to find his footing, no should-be ace scuffling in a slow start. They are powered by a mishmash of Yandys, Randys, Wanders, Harolds and Lowes, and somehow they are still standing despite rolling out half a rotation. But we are here to pick nits. And so I will say, like a real hard-hitter, “Gosh, their backup catcher … yikes.” Yes, Francisco Mejía is batting .211 with a .590 OPS. He is doing what he did last year, just a little worse. Same with Manuel Margot. Great defense, OK hitter. So there, we knocked the Rays’ bench. That’s about it. A couple other hitters have come back to earth this month (Brandon Lowe, Wander Franco, Christian Bethancourt), along with the Rays’ win/loss record, but the way they clicked from Day 1 this season, they’re certainly capable of doing it again any day now. — Stephen Nesbitt

Record: 29-17
Last Power Ranking: 3

OK, I’m stumped. I have scrutinized the Rangers roster up and down and I’m having a hard time picking out someone important who is underperforming in a meaningful way. Sure, Jacob deGrom is out with an injury, but terrific pitching interrupted by stints on the injured list is kind of what you expect, right? Almost every lineup regular is turning in above-average offensive production. Unsurprisingly, the Rangers are scoring the most runs per game in MLB. What, am I going to pick on Robbie Grossman? He may be the weak spot in left field, but he’s actually performing better than he did a year ago. Starting pitchers Martín Pérez and Andrew Heaney are carrying mediocre ERAs, but those numbers are inflated by a few rough outings. Perhaps this explains a lot about the Rangers — aside from a few key injuries, almost everything is going well and very little is going poorly. — Zach Buchanan

Record: 29-17
Last Power Ranking: 4

It’s too early to truly be concerned about Michael Harris II. Right? Right?? RIGHT??? Through 25 games in his rookie season, Harris was batting .330 with a .900 OPS, so seeing him below the Mendoza line is a little jarring. Harris, who missed three weeks in April with a lower back strain, has a .171/.253/.256 triple slash, with just five extra bases and four steals so far in 2023. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year has struggled against righties in general and against fastballs in particular. But it does seem like things should start clicking. With as consistently as Harris barrels baseballs, factor in an abnormally low .213 BABIP and improved walk and strikeout rates this season and I’m betting his surface numbers will come around before long. But, if not, the slow start will soon be sounding alarm bells. — SN

Record: 31-16
Last Power Ranking: 6

It would’ve been cool to see Jorge Mateo continue his meteoric rise this month, but in reality, the Orioles weren’t counting on guys like Mateo in 2023. They were expecting an immediate impact from their top prospects like Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez. Instead, it’s been a rough transition for those two, even as the surging Orioles have accumulated the second-best record in baseball. Henderson is batting .192 with a .685 OPS in everyday playing time, and Rodriguez has a 6.21 ERA through eight starts. There are silver linings, to be sure. Henderson is getting on base at a good clip. Rodriguez now has more solid starts than bad, with a few blowups skewing the ERA. But they’ve also looked a lot like, well, rookies. And if the Orioles are to do better than stay in the playoff conversation, if they’re going to chase down the Rays, it’ll likely be because Henderson and Rodriguez got a firm foothold and found their groove. — SN

Gunnar Henderson (Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Record: 29-19
Last Power Ranking: 2

When the Dodgers trade for a guy, the general expectation is that guy is suddenly going to get way better. (See, to a certain extent, Jason Heyward.) Miguel Rojas has been the opposite. Acquired from the Marlins for shortstop prospect Jacob Amaya — who is starting to hit in Triple A, by the way — Rojas was set to fill a Trea Turner-sized hole at shortstop. The 34-year-old has been a good defender, but he’s been terrible at the plate with a .494 OPS. Rojas has never been a league-average hitter in any full season, and certainly no one expected him to hit like Turner, but his offensive numbers are just plain ugly.

Of course, the Dodgers are scoring the most runs in the NL — their big problem is pitching injuries, not pitching underperformance — so maybe getting Rojas to hit would be unfair to everyone else. — ZB

Record: 27-19
Last Power Ranking: 11

Yes, the Astros, with their below-average offensive production, need Alex Bregman’s talent to float back into his body. It’s worth noting, though, that Bregman is coming off a good week and hasn’t been nearly as much of a drain on the lineup as another fixture. The guy who truly got Monstar-ed is first baseman José Abreu, who owns a .534 OPS, worse than even Martín Maldonado’s. I could throw a whole bunch of numbers at you, but this gets the point across.

Jose Altuve is back, which should help the Astros at the plate, but Abreu is still batting in the heart of the lineup. Until manager Dusty Baker drops the struggling veteran – or benches him — the (admittedly surging) Astros will be waiting for him like Godot. And if you’re familiar with the Samuel Beckett play, you know that Godot never arrives. — ZB

Record: 29-20
Last Power Ranking: 9

The answer to this prompt would have been Aaron Hicks had he not been designated for assignment Saturday, but there are a few others getting a lot of run for the red-hot Yankees and not contributing with the bat:

  • Oswaldo Cabrera: .203/.258/.312, 3 HR, 10 BB, 28 K, 5 S
  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa: .198/.258/.302, 2 HR, 6 BB, 14 K, 4 SB, 2 CS
  • Kyle Higashioka: .191/.247/.368, 3 HR, 5 BB, 24 K

These are lower than typical numbers for Kiner-Falefa and Higashioka, but they were known commodities as glove-first guys. After Cabrera broke into the majors with a .740 OPS (109 OPS+) in 44 games last season, there was hope he’d help both ways. But through 42 games this season, that hasn’t been the case. He’s lugging around a .570 OPS and looking at a lot of blue on his Statcast page. Also worth noting: Josh Donaldson hasn’t played enough to say the Yankees are waiting for his bat to show up; right now they’d settle for him showing up healthy at all. — SN

Record: 25-22
Last Power Ranking: 7

Less than two weeks ago, Carlos Correa was hitting just .185 — and hearing boos. “I’d boo myself, too,” Correa said. Since then, he’s hitting better, with an .873 OPS over that stretch to raise his batting average to .206. He’s inching back into form. But here’s the rub: The Twins are treading water, in control of the AL Central but just three games above .500. They’re currently shorthanded. They’re … fine. And fine isn’t good enough. At some point, if they’re serious about this season, the Twins will need to reach another level. They won’t get there by going 2-4 in a week as they did after a trip through Los Angeles and Anaheim last week. They’ll get to another level behind their stars. And Correa is their brightest. “When I get right,” Correa said, “when we get right as a team, then we’re going to be playing better baseball.” He knows what’s up. — Nick Groke

Record: 27-20
Last Power Ranking: 10

Things are mostly going well with the Arizona offense. By bWAR, the Diamondbacks’ top six players are all hitters. Arizona had a couple dead spots in the outfield, but has the prospect depth to flip those guys out for replacements like Dominic Fletcher and Pavin Smith, both of whom are hitting well. Arizona has similar prospect depth in the rotation, but the results there have not been as good.

The bottom three spots in the Arizona rotation are filled by rookies Ryne Nelson and Brandon Pfaadt along with pseudo-rookie Tommy Henry. They have a combined 5.81 ERA. Each has shown positive signs, but consistency is what a rotation needs. Arizona is 13-7 when Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly pitch, and 14-13 when anyone else does. The Diamondbacks are comfortable winners right now, but that’s a hard act to keep up when three-fifths of the rotation is so shaky. If those young pitchers don’t find their footing soon, it might be time for the Diamondbacks to reach even deeper into the farm system for, say, Blake Walston or Bryce Jarvis. — ZB

Record: 26-21
Last Power Ranking: 12

The Red Sox’s starting shortstop switching from Xander Bogaerts to Trevor Story to Kiké Hernández represented an obvious downgrade, but the results have been even worse than expected. Hernández’s hitting numbers, from the traditional (.298 OBP, .646 OPS) to the advanced (87.5 mph average exit velocity, 33.3 hard-hit percentage), are among the lowest of his career, and his defense has rated as worse than all but two position players in the majors: Amed Rosario and CJ Abrams. Bogaerts, meanwhile, is tied for first in the majors in Outs Above Average. On the pitching side, Corey Kluber is throwing slower and getting hit harder than ever. His start Sunday ended after seven outs and five runs, one earned. His ERA went down, from 6.41 to 6.26. Kluber’s strikeout rate entering Sunday’s start (18.4 percent) and ground-ball rate (30.7 percent) were both career lows, which helps explain how his home-run rate (2.52 per nine innings) is more than double his previous high. — SN

Record: 25-22
Last Power Ranking: 5

Bad week for the Blue Jays, and in Toronto, no less. They lost three of four to the Yankees, then were swept by the Orioles. The East is already on fire. As we stand, Toronto is a last-place team, but that’s deceiving. Yes, they are 5-12 in their division this season and they need to be better against those teams directly in front of them. But the new balanced schedule takes some of the sting away. The Jays are still a winning team. They just need more. And that more should come from George Springer, Toronto’s best underperforming player. Springer was an All-Star last year, but while he was about 33 percent above league average as a hitter in 2022, he’s now about 15 percent worse than league average. Quite a swing in the wrong direction. Nothing is especially alarming about his season; for example, he’s not striking out more than he normally does. And he’s suffering some bad luck (.252 BABIP). But Springer needs to be more impactful. The Blue Jays could really use an infusion from their right fielder. — NG

Record: 25-21
Last Power Ranking: 8

Big picture, the Brewers are 5-5 over the past 10 games and still on the winning side. But in the past week, they lost an alarming series to the Cardinals and another to the Rays. And despite the Pirates falling back to earth and the Cardinals playing like a Roomba in a sandbox, the Brewers failed to pull ahead in the Central. Milwaukee has fielded a very middle offense, exactly at the median by fWAR and slightly below average by wRC+. With a rookie-inflected lineup, that’s probably how it will stay for a while. What they need is for Corbin Burnes to go on a heater. It’s not fair to expect the Brewers’ ace to carry them. He can only pitch every five days or so. But that’s what aces do. In his last outing, Burnes struck out seven and walked just one over six solid innings. And yet the Brewers lost that game to the Cardinals. Maybe it’s too much to ask, but they need Burnes to be even better. What they have right now is a potential All-Star. What they’re waiting for is the Cy Young winner. — NG

Record: 25-23
Last Power Ranking: 15

There are some notable underperformers on the Angels roster — Aaron Loup, Tyler Anderson, Gio Urshela, Brandon Drury — but we can’t do this team and not talk about third baseman Anthony Rendon. The 32-year-old, who is currently out with a minor groin issue, actually has been one of the better hitters on the roster, carrying a 118 OPS+ entering Monday. But that’s still a shadow of what the Angels are paying him to be. The Angels dropped seven years and $245 million on him after 2019 thinking they’d be getting the guy who’d just finished third in MVP voting with a 157 OPS+. And they did get him … for one season. Rendon posted a .915 OPS in the shortened 2020 campaign, but barely played the next two years. When he did play, he was a shell of himself, batting just .235/.328/.381. His performance this year has been encouraging by comparison — before his injury, Rendon was batting .412 with a 1.041 OPS in May — but the Angels need him to do more than just show up if they’re going to keep pace as a supposedly three-superstar team in the AL West. They also need him to hang around a while. — ZB

Record: 25-23
Last Power Ranking: 18

I can say with a certain degree of confidence that, when healthy, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander will deliver good results for the Mets. I will say no such thing, however, about a handful of veterans currently populating the Mets’ lineup and bench. To oversimplify here, let’s say that if league-average OPS in 2023 is .728 (which it is) then residing in the .600s or below is a real bummer. And that’s where Eduardo Escobar (.685), Luis Guillorme (.591) and three of four outfielders — Starling Marte (.620), Mark Canha (.666), Tommy Pham (.664) — all reside. That’s not even counting those with fewer than 20 games played this season. For Steve Cohen and the Mets, the quickest path to first place is to get those bats back on track. Marte had three hits Sunday to bounce his batting average from a career-low .231 to still-a-career-low .245, and he also homered and hosed a former teammate from right field, so maybe he, like the Mets, is coming around. — SN

Record: 22-24
Last Power Ranking: 16

The Phillies are a strange team to try to explain statistically. They’re both one of the best pitching teams in the league (third-most valuable rotation in the majors by fWAR) and one that has allowed the 10th-most runs. They are the 13th-best offense by wRC+ and one that ranks 20th by runs scored. Watch them for more than one game at a time, and you may guess the Phillies have one of the best records in the NL and yet they’re in fourth place in their own division. Some of this will even out over time. But Philadelphia is already mortgaging their season in an alarming way. Their starting pitchers have thrown among the fewest innings in the majors this season, which in turn has taxed a bullpen that is missing Jose Alvarado. With Ranger Suárez now back in action, the Phillies are waiting for their starters to show up in full. “We need to get it going,” manager Rob Thomson said. “We really do.” — NG

Record: 22-24
Last Power Ranking: 13

“Can man survive on pitching alone?” our Corey Brock asked last week, and that gets to the heart of Seattle’s problem. The Mariners are waiting on nearly an entire offense to show up. Jarred Kelenic and Cal Raleigh are doing well, but so many others are scuffling. Kolten Wong is hitting .177. Teoscar Hernandez strikes out so often that he’s in danger of earning Titanium Strikeout Status, with free punchouts for life. “Seattle’s designated hitters have produced a collective .138 batting average,” Brock wrote last week. Most glaringly, reigning Rookie of the Year winner Julio Rodríguez is batting just .204.

Too long; didn’t read? Consult this handy flow chart. — ZB

Record: 24-22
Last Power Ranking: 17

There are a few hitters the Pirates wish would bring more with the bat — Ji Hwan Bae and Austin Hedges come to mind — but none of them were expected to produce in the way Ke’Bryan Hayes and Carlos Santana were. Santana, asked to clean up in the middle of the lineup, has just two homers and a .696 OPS for the second-place (but struggling) Pirates. Hayes doubled twice and tripled over the weekend to slightly better his slash line: .234/.290/.351 (.641 OPS) with one homer. Hayes, an incredible defender at third base, seems to have the right tools at the plate. He hits the ball hard, and his strikeout rate has improved this season, but he has been stuck for the past three seasons as a squarely below-average bat with mediocre OBPs and little pop. Hayes still has his believers that he’ll break out as a hitter, but so far this season they’re still waiting to be proven right. — SN

Record: 21-27
Last Power Ranking: 25

If not for the Astros’ torrid run recently, we’d be framing the Cardinals as the hottest team in baseball, winners of eight of their past 10 games. Nolan Arenado is hitting .439 with a 1.357 OPS over his past 10 games, with six home runs and 15 RBIs. It’s a ridiculous run of hitting that helped the Cardinals sweep the Red Sox, win two of three against the Brewers and three of four against the Dodgers. They are back on track, even if they have a ways to go before breaking even. The offense showed up, but St. Louis is still waiting for its pitching to get hot. Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty and Steven Matz still remain below league average by park-adjusted ERA. Only Jordan Montgomery has an ERA below 4.50. And collectively, the rotation ranks about 24th in the league. Somehow, all that panic about Willson Contreras didn’t ruin the Cardinals. But that doesn’t mean everything is tip-top with the team and their starting pitching. — NG

Record: 22-24
Last Power Ranking: 21

The Giants are a weird team of extremes, as Grant Brisbee explains. They are not rebuilding and they are not a juggernaut. But, judging by how they conducted their offseason, they do expect to win — which they have been doing more of lately. After leaving Carlos Correa at the altar, other teams might have said, “You know what, I need to take some time for myself,” but San Francisco got right back out on the market and made notable additions to its roster in the hopes of building out a winner.

But many of those additions have not produced. We’ll give Michael Conforto a bit of a pass, as he’s been roughly a league-average bat and missed all of last season. But Mitch Haniger is sitting on an OPS+ of 52. Sean Manaea, signed for two years and $25 million, can’t stick in the rotation and has the eighth-highest ERA of any pitcher who has thrown at least 20 innings this season. The Giants aren’t bad — and for once are producing homegrown talents like Casey Schmitt and Patrick Bailey — but if you’re going to build your team through free agency, you have to get those signings right. — ZB

Record: 21-26
Last Power Ranking: 14

What are we waiting for to show up in San Diego? How about the super-squad Padres team this offseason promised us? Like the free-spending Mets on the opposite coast, the Padres have a star-studded team playing several degrees below its own talent. This piece by Dennis Lin last week gets across the magnitude of the problem:

  • The franchise is on its fifth full-time manager since general manager A.J. Preller took over in 2014. It doesn’t seem to make a difference!
  • The Padres have already played 23 games in which they scored three or fewer runs. They have lost 21 of them.
  • They went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position in one game against the Royals to improve their season average in those situations.

Not hitting: Austin Nola, Trent Grisham, Nelson Cruz.

Not pitching well: Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove.

The boobirds have been out. “I would boo ourselves, too,” said Fernando Tatis Jr. — ZB

Record: 24-23
Last Power Ranking: 23

We’ll start with Jean Segura. Because for as hard as the Fish have worked to keep their heads above .500, they’ve had little help from Segura, who this past offseason signed a two-year, $17 million deal. He’s batting .204 with a .509 OPS — more than 200 points lower than any of his past seven seasons. He is swinging at everything and barreling almost nothing. Meanwhile, the Marlins’ catching situation is a mess. They have the worst OPS from the position in the majors this season, at .459. Jacob Stallings is batting .118 with a .340 OPS, and Nick Fortes has hit .211 with a .538 OPS. Add into the mix that shortstop Joey Wendle and outfielder Peyton Burdick are also both batting below .200 in small samples, and the Marlins have some significant holes in their lineup. — SN

Record: 20-26
Last Power Ranking: T-19

Rewind a week. The Cubs were coming off a rough stretch with series losses to the Cardinals and Twins. They were getting good contributions from several players, notably Dansby Swanson. And, at least statistically, their lineup is among the top 5 in the majors. The one hole in the order, at the time, was Seiya Suzuki. In his second year after moving from the Hiroshima Toyo Carp to the North Side, the Cubs were still waiting for him to break out. Then, in the past week, Suzuki raised his batting average by more than 30 points and his OPS by more than 100 points. And now, Suzuki, too, is hitting well above league average. “He’s in a good place,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “When he’s like that, you’re going to see our offense put up a lot of good numbers. He’s key in the middle of that order.” Unfortunately, the Cubs went 1-5 this past week, swept by the Astros and bested by the Phillies. Maybe they were waiting for somebody other than Suzuki to fix everything. — NG

Record: 20-26
Last Power Ranking: T-19

The Guardians are clearly not a bad baseball team. Ok, maybe it’s not immediately apparent, but it’s true. The league this year is made up of maybe five good teams, two demonstrably horrid teams and a flat circle of mediocrity in between. The Guardians are in that middle group. The fact that they’ve trended toward the bottom of the mid-range is immaterial. Sure, they are five games under .500 with a run differential now 34 runs below even. They’re also in a winnable division and it’s hard to imagine even Alan Trammell would claim the Tigers are better than the Guardians. So something is missing. In the past calendar week, the Guards went 1-5 and that series loss to the White Sox is borderline shameful, but they were swept out of New York by a total of just three Mets runs. This season, they’ve won as many as four games in a row and lost as many as three straight. They’ve scored as many as 12 runs and allowed as many as 11. When they find some consistency — if they can find some consistency — Cleveland will get right. — NG

Record: 20-24
Last Power Ranking: 22

Well, you might say the Tigers are still waiting on most of their lineup to figure things out. But these are the second-place Tigers we’re talking about, so show some respect. Let’s focus our attention on the bats. The only Tigers hitters who rate as above-average this season by OPS+ or wRC+ are Zach McKinstry, Riley Greene and Kerry Carpenter, who is currently injured. That’s not super-duper promising. But, again, I refer you to the standings. No one is counting on Miguel Cabrera to turn around his .459 OPS, but how about Jonathan Schoop (.565), Nick Maton (.616), Matt Vierling (.639), Javier Báez (.608) or Spencer Torkelson (.661)? Torkelson, Vierling and Maton all have shown encouraging signs at bat in this past week, and any (or all) of them starting to click regularly could be what keep these Tigers — No. 2 in the division, No. 1 in your hearts — interesting this summer. — SN

Record: 19-29
Last Power Ranking: 27

Nice week for the White Sox, after winning two of three against the Guardians and sweeping the lowly Royals. It was the kind of week that should be expected. Losing five of six to those two teams would have said more about their problems than winning all but one says about their merits. At a granular level, the Sox are trying to fix some pitching mechanics to get right, with Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease tweaking their motions for better results. This team, though, is beyond the tweaks. They are the third-worst team in the league! They’re looking down at the Royals and A’s, two historically bad teams. Maybe the Sox aren’t a good team, as constructed, but they shouldn’t be this bad. We are not here to lobby for cleaning house with the roster or even the front office. It just seems like the Sox are waiting for a big idea — any idea — for getting right, either this season or into the future. They are beyond the need for tweaks. — NG

Record: 19-27
Last Power Ranking: 24

I saw a recent article on a competitor’s site highlighting players receiving trade buzz, and one of the names listed was Reds outfielder Wil Myers. This prompted me to look up Myers’ numbers and … what? Teams want to trade for this guy? Why, do they owe Cincinnati a favor?

The Reds signed Myers to a one-year deal hoping they could flip him at the deadline like they did with Brandon Drury last year, but it’s not working. Myers is hitting .198/.258/.298. He hasn’t had a multi-hit game in nearly a month. For a guy wearing red, his Baseball Savant page is really, really blue. Myers has generally been a good hitter, but there’s a chance the 32-year-old has hit the downslope. His in-zone contact is a career-worst, as is his maximum exit velocity. He is striking out so damn much.

It’s not going to kill the Reds if he doesn’t turn it around, but it sure wouldn’t hurt! (And anyway, the guy we’re all really hoping will show up is Elly De La Cruz.) — ZB

Record: 20-27
Last Power Ranking: 28

I’ve sung Keibert Ruiz’s praises around here as a breakout candidate and as an early-season positive for the Nationals, as he batted .281 with a .351 OBP in April. But the production has cratered in May, with Ruiz batting .167 with a .227 OBP, which actually improved significantly over the weekend with a single, double and homer against the Tigers. With his profile as a switch-hitting catcher with excellent bat-to-ball skills, Ruiz makes a ton of contact, but not a lot of hard contact — especially when he’s chasing. And that weaker contact is why his below-average BABIPs (.233 this year, .263 in the majors) don’t look so much like bad luck as they do his norm. Ruiz is mostly a singles hitter at this stage, and he rarely walks, so a prolonged slump like the one this month is capable of completely halting his offensive production. Ruiz isn’t the only Nationals player with middling offensive numbers so far this season, but he’s a central piece of the franchise’s future and it’s crucial for him to continue making progress. — SN

Record: 19-28
Last Power Ranking: 26

The Rockies were so pleased with their core over the past few seasons, they doled out contract extensions to Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, Ryan McMahon, Daniel Bard, Elias Diaz and C.J. Cron. And they signed Kris Bryant to a seven-year deal. Bit of an odd strategy considering they were no better than a 74-win team over the past four years and are currently a last-place squad. There’s just not a lot of room to work over the roster in free agency. They’re waiting for an infusion of rookies — namely, outfielder Zac Veen, the club’s top prospect. But here’s the tough part, and the Rockies aren’t alone in this way of dealing with prospects: If Veen makes his way to the majors later this summer, he’ll be joining a losing team, a team that needs him more than he needs them. That’s not an ideal situation for a young player. All of a sudden, you’re asking him to save the team. That’s an unreasonable demand. Ideally, Veen would get the space to find his way and figure out how to survive in the major leagues. That alone is incredibly difficult. But to be responsible for the future of the team, too? Not a fair request. — NG

Record: 14-34
Last Power Ranking: 29

When he’s out there collecting four hits in a game like he did Saturday — more like three and a half with that nubber to the pitcher, but he also smacked a well-hit double — Nick Loftin will start turning that gentle knock on the big-league door into a hard bang. If the Royals are content to wait for their No. 2 prospect, fans might not be. Loftin sits just outside the list of MLB’s Top 100 prospects, or just inside, depending on the wind. And he is probably the nearest, best minor-leaguer yet to join the Royals. As a do-it-all hitter, five-tool player and utility fielder, Loftin should have little trouble finding a spot on this Royals team. The key question is how to maximize his future. It’d be dumb to rush him into the bigs just for him to learn how to lose games. But keeping him in Triple-A Omaha in perpetuity is just as bad. Everybody, it seems, is waiting for Loftin to arrive. — NG

Record: 10-38
Last Power Ranking: 30

We could spend a lot of time clowning on the abject futility of the A’s — Jayson Stark has that in great detail if you desire it — but that feels like it’s missing the point we’re making here. If this week’s theme is about waiting for the real Slim Shady to stand up, these A’s aren’t helpful. Barely anyone on this roster has a track record!

So, we’ll take aim at the C-suite, where we’re waiting on competent executives to arrive. A brief rundown of recent events: The A’s announced a “binding” land deal in Las Vegas and abandoned it almost immediately. They then announced a new deal that would involve nearly $400 million in public funds, only for public officials to be like, “Uh, I don’t think we’re spending that much.” Owner John Fisher and president David Kaval built a bad roster on purpose. But this Vegas stuff is something they’re actually trying to get right— ZB

(Top photo: Ron Jenkins / Getty Images)

2023-05-22 16:18:39