Power Rankings: Can anyone challenge the Evil Empire?

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Winning 18 of 21 games has a way of turning heads, and this week it convinced almost all of our voters to give the Yankees the nod as our No. 1 for another week. The lone holdout kept faith with the reigning champs, even though the Astros remain rooted in the No. 3 spot behind the Yanks’ traditional rival for AL East — and now MLB — dominance over in Boston. All three teams remain rooted in place this week, and most of the top 10 remained pretty close to where they’ve been. But MLB’s top third did get one bit of notable turnover with the Phillies displacing the Indians as the NL East now has three teams among the highest echelon.

In doing so, the Phillies made the week’s biggest gain in the rankings, moving up five places to crack the top 10. But they were not the only team to take an impressive step up — the Twins and Pirates both make three-rung jumps in the black to liven up both leagues’ Central Division races.

The biggest declines came from the Giants and White Sox, who both fell four places in our rankings. While the Sox at least have the promise of a better future after already going in the tank and accumulating a rich haul in prospects in last season’s teardown, time might be running out for San Francisco’s graying roster in the city by the Bay.

This week, our panel of voters comprises David Schoenfield, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, Bradford Doolittle and Sarah Langs.

Week 5 rankings | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Preseason

Record: 28-12
Week 5 ranking: 1

Everything is clicking for the Yankees right now. Aaron Judge has been a run-producing machine of late, driving in at least one run in seven consecutive games to tie his career-high streak. The team has rolled behind its high-powered offense; since April 21, New York has scored six runs per game, second best in baseball, en route to a 19-3 record. The pitching has looked strong as well: The team’s 2.88 ERA in that span is third best in baseball. — Dan McCarthy, ESPN Stats & Information


Record: 28-12
Week 5 ranking: 2

Hanley Ramírez appears to have found his power swing. After a stretch of 19 games without a home run, his longest drought since 2016, Ramirez hit three home runs in a four-game span. Chris Sale got another no-decision in his last start despite an excellent outing. In five starts without a decision this year, Sale has a 1.69 ERA, 44 strikeouts and seven walks; Boston is 2-3 in those games. — McCarthy


Record: 26-16
Week 5 ranking: 3

The Astros started their week off right by walloping the A’s 16-2 on Monday, thanks in large part to a 6-for-6 day by George Springer. It was just the second six-hit game by an Astros player (the other was by Hall of Famer Joe Morgan), and the first in a nine-inning game. Springer saw his batting average jump from .264 to .292 in that game alone. — Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information


Record: 24-16
Week 5 ranking: 5

Teams are pitching around Mike Trout even more than usual. He leads all players in walks this month, but that approach might not work for long. Justin Upton has been red-hot hitting behind Trout, homering in a career-high four consecutive games last week. Andrelton Simmons also ranks among the league leaders in hitting and Shohei Ohtani continues to impress at the plate with five homers. Perhaps most impressively, Ohtani is 7-for-7 with five extra-base hits and a 3.429 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position. — Paul Casella, ESPN Stats & Information


Record: 24-16
Week 5 ranking: 4

With a National League-best 3.16 staff ERA (second only to the Astros in MLB), pitching has carried the Snakes this far, but the return of Steven Souza Jr. from the DL promises to provide Arizona with some offensive punch beyond A.J. Pollock‘s early slugging exploits and David Peralta‘s performance in the leadoff slot. Will strength in numbers in the lineup help Paul Goldschmidt get something better than the diet of low-and-outside he has seen so far? — Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com


Record: 22-16
Week 4 ranking: 7

Not everything is going great in St. Louis. The Cardinals’ bullpen didn’t have a great week — since last Monday, the relievers posted a 4.91 ERA (23rd in the majors) with a 1.36 WHIP. As a team, the Cards also had a minus-10 run differential last week, which ranked tied for 20th in the majors. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information


Record: 21-16
Week 5 ranking: 6

The Cubs scored five runs total in their first three games in May, which was the end of a down period for their offense. The offense is averaging 6.1 runs per game in May now, and a huge part of that is the return to prominence of Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras. Both have OPS totals north of 1.000 in May, along with 15 extra-base hits between them. — Kenneth Woolums, ESPN Stats & Information


Record: 24-18
Week 5 ranking: 10

Bryce Harper continues to struggle this season. This has been a pattern for him the past few seasons. He hit .345 with a 1.519 OPS and 4.8 at-bats per home run in his first 10 games of the season but is hitting just .207 with a .780 OPS and 15.9 at-bats per home run since. Again, this is a pattern for him. In 2017 and 2016, he hit .343 with a 1.207 OPS and 9.4 at-bats per home run in March and April, then hit .263 with a .832 OPS the rest of the year with 21.6 at-bats per home run. — Langs


Record: 23-16
Week 5 ranking: 14

Odubel Herrera cannot be stopped. He’s leading the NL with a .360 batting average. It’s early, but the last Phillie to win the batting title was Richie Ashburn in 1958; Ashburn (twice), Chuck Klein, Lefty O’Doul and Sherry Magee are the only Phillies players to win a batting title. Ashburn’s most recent title came with a Phillies team that went 69-85. — Langs


Record: 24-15
Week 5 ranking: 9

While Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. deservedly have gained a lot of attention for the Braves’ resurgence, Freddie Freeman deserves a lot more attention than he has been getting for his part in bringing them back. Freeman is top five in MLB in OPS (1.020) and leads first basemen in OPS, batting average (.331), runs (29) and extra-base hits (21). — Woolums


Record: 20-19
Week 5 ranking: 8

You can’t really blame the offense any more for the Indians’ failure to break out beyond .500; over the past four weeks they’re second in MLB in runs scored per game (5.6). Unfortunately, the pitching staff chose this same time to struggle, giving up five runs per game, with the bullpen especially scuffling with an MLB-worst 6.38 ERA in that span. Nobody’s excused from that failure — from closer Cody Allen to long reliever Dan Otero, almost every reliever not named Andrew Miller has had issues. — Kahrl


Record: 24-17
Week 5 ranking: 11

The Brewers are at the top of the NL Central standings, but to stay there they are going to need to start beating someone other than last-place teams. The Brewers are 12-1 against the Reds (5-1), Marlins (4-0) and Padres (3-0). Add in 2-0 against the Royals and they are an MLB-best 14-1 against teams below .500 this season. They’ll be tested the rest of this month, as 13 of their remaining 16 games in May are against winning teams. — Nitzberg


Record: 22-17
Week 5 ranking: 12

Two weeks ago, this space focused on the Mariners’ starting rotation having the worst ERA in the majors. Last week, it commended James Paxton for responding with a 16-strikeout gem. He upped the ante last Tuesday, tossing a no-hitter against the Blue Jays. Making the historic moment all the more special, Paxton became just the second Canadian to throw a no-hitter and the first to do so in his native Canada. — Casella


Record: 16-24
Week 5 ranking: 15

Getting Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe back in the lineup this week will help, but blame early season injuries all you like, beyond them other flaws in the Dodgers’ initial design are coming to light. The bullpen has tied with the Twins to give up an MLB-worst 23 home runs, and closer Kenley Jansen has been unable to consistently overpower hitters and prove that his early struggles are behind him. — Kahrl


Record: 22-19
Week 5 ranking: 13

The Rockies outscored their opponents 31-14 while rattling off six straight victories to start May, only to promptly follow that up with a three-game losing streak. Regardless, they are locked in a tight battle with the Diamondbacks atop the NL West. They will have plenty of chances to create further separation from their other three NL West foes, as 15 of their next 18 games come against the Padres, Giants and Dodgers. — Casella


Record: 23-17
Week 5 ranking: 19

Before a Mother’s Day loss to the Giants, the Pirates had won their previous five games. The team has gone up and down all season, with multiple losing streaks lasting four games or longer and multiple winning streaks of five games. A lot of that inconsistency is a product of the rotation, which has nearly as many scoreless outings (seven) as it does outings of five or more runs (nine). — Woolums


Record: 21-20
Week 5 ranking: 16

Yangervis Solarte has been a welcome addition to the Blue Jays. The veteran infielder is off to a hot start, leading Toronto in home runs and RBIs. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays are going to need some help from the starting rotation. May 1 marked the last game in which Toronto had won two in a row; the starters have a 6.47 ERA and an MLB-worst 1.77 WHIP since. — McCarthy


Record: 19-18
Week 5 ranking: 18

The Mets won Friday in Philadelphia in particularly dramatic fashion. Michael Conforto hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the ninth inning off Hector Neris for his first career go-ahead home run in the ninth inning or later. It was the Mets’ first win when trailing entering the ninth inning since Sept. 22, 2016, which was also against the Phillies. The Mets had lost 96 straight such games. — Langs


Record: 17-19
Week 5 ranking: 23

The Twins are 8-4 in May, trailing only the Yankees for most wins in the AL in that span. A big part of the Twins’ turnaround has been the emergence of Fernando Romero. Romero did not give up a run in his first two starts (both Twins shutout victories) before finally giving up his first run in a five-inning stint against the Angels on Sunday. — Woolums


Record: 19-21
Week 5 ranking: 21

Beyond a big year from Jed Lowrie, the A’s lineup isn’t cranking out runs as expected. Khris Davis has 11 home runs but has struggled to get on base, as have Matt Chapman and Matt Joyce, while Matt Olson has struggled to put anything together. However good you want to feel about the A’s being this close to .500 despite an injury-wracked rotation, if the bats don’t get going, it’ll be hard to stay here. — Kahrl


Record: 20-21
Week 5 ranking: 17

After winning seven of eight games, the Giants lost a season-high six in a row while hitting just .224 with a .642 OPS in that span while striking out 10 or more times five times. They’ve already struck out 10 or more times in 20 games this season. Their franchise high for such games is 47 in 2014. But maybe that isn’t such a negative indicator — they won the World Series that year. — Langs


Record: 16-22
Week 5 ranking: 20

The Rays came into the year with a patchwork rotation that featured only four regular starters. Ace Chris Archer was supposed to be the stopper who helped provide some excitement, but he has a 5.64 ERA over nine starts and is still without a double-digit strikeout game. One issue could be his slider, as hitters have a .460 slugging percentage against the pitch, well above his career average of .310 entering the season. — McCarthy


Record: 16-26
Week 5 ranking: 24

Cole Hamels provided a rare bright spot for the Rangers on Friday, limiting the Astros to just one hit over six scoreless innings. The bullpen finished off a one-hitter to give Texas back-to-back wins for only the second time this season. This is just the second time in the past decade that the Rangers have been in last place this late into the season. The other was in 2014 when they finished in the AL West cellar with a 67-95 record. — Casella


Record: 17-22
Week 5 ranking: 23

Detroit was projected to have the second-worst record in the majors at 68-94 by FiveThirtyEight entering the season, so the Tigers are beating expectations. However, they have played 25 games against teams with a sub-.500 record, tied for second-most in the majors, going 14-11 in those games while going just 3-11 against teams that were .500 or better at the time of the game. — Nitzberg


Record: 16-26
Week 5 ranking: 25

The Padres have had some bright spots on offense in rookies Christian Villanueva and Franchy Cordero, but the lineup on the whole has been lacking. The Padres are averaging 3.7 runs this season, the second-lowest mark in the majors. The main reasons? The Padres lead the majors in strikeout rate (26.6 percent) and have the lowest well-hit average (8.1 percent) in the majors. — Nitzberg


Record: 13-27
Week 5 ranking: 27

After a 10-run first inning Tuesday in which the Royals hit four homers off Dylan Bundy before an out was recorded, and Salvador Perez then hit a grand slam on Thursday, both feats against the Orioles, the Royals took over the MLB lead for first-inning runs with 39. Kansas City had hit two first-inning home runs all season entering the series, tied for third fewest in MLB. — Nitzberg


Record: 13-28
Week 5 ranking: 28

Manny Machado has been the lone bright spot for the Orioles this season. Machado is tied for the MLB lead in home runs and total bases, and he has as many walks as strikeouts, a rare feat on a team that leads the league in swing-and-misses. If the Orioles can find a buyer willing to pay a premium for four months of the young slugger, they could potentially reload a farm system that needs the help. — McCarthy


Record: 14-27
Week 5 ranking: 30

Since May 1, the Reds’ team ERA is nearly two full runs lower than it was prior (5.32). Even if it is just two weeks, the Reds are riding a six-game winning streak and are crawling toward respectability. If nothing else, while they are still well behind the other four teams in the division, the Reds seem to have responded to their dose of regime change from earlier in the season. — Woolums


Record: 14-26
Week 5 ranking: 29

What a difference a year makes. A year ago the Marlins got the benefit of an MLB-best .896 OPS from their outfielders. After trading away Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, those few Fish fans out there knew things would get worse, but an MLB-worst .609 OPS was probably below even their gloomiest expectations. — Kahrl


Record: 10-27
Week 5 ranking: 26

An already bad season just kept getting worse for the White Sox. They might have avoided a sweep and snapped a seven-game losing streak with Sunday’s victory over the Cubs, but they are still off to the worst start in franchise history. The Sox are also just 3-15 at home, while every other team has won at least twice as many home games as they have. — Casella



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