20. Milwaukee Brewers (6-5 record; -14 run differential)
Christian Yelich’s recent DL trip isn’t good news. Neither is the news that Corey Knebel will miss at least six weeks with a left hamstring injury. Both players are integral to any success the Brewers success in 2018. The offense needs to step up despite a 6-5 record. The -14 run differential doesn’t imply the warm, fuzzy feelings everyone was expecting from the Brewers in 2018.
19. Kansas City Royals (3-5 record; -4 run differential)
Let’s be honest for a moment: if the Royals even reach .500 on the season, it should be viewed as a success. That said, this Kansas City team has performed generally alright thus far. The pitching staff is in the middle of the pack. The offense needs work, though. A 76 wRC+ in their first eight games doesn’t inspire much confidence. But the Royals do reside in the AL Central. The Indians are struggling right now and the Twins could backslide. Plus, there are the rebuilding Tigers and White Sox. The Royals could sneak away with a few more wins in this division than perhaps any other in baseball.
18. San Francisco Giants (4-5 record; -5 run differential)
Same old story with the Giants that we’ve seen in recent years: little offense and quality pitching. The lineup, in particular, hasn’t looked like a contending one with an 80 wRC+ in 340 plate appearances. The two notable offseason additions, Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, have posted an 8 and 70 wRC+, respectively. Not good. On the other hand, the pitching staff has performed admirably despite injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardizja. Johnny Cueto has looked like his old self and Ty Blach has produced adequate results. Look out for Derek Holland if his ERA (4.09) starts to look more like his FIP (1.94).
17. Detroit Tigers (4-5 record; +4 run differential)
Like the Royals, the Tigers may benefit somewhat from residing in the AL Central. Three of the five teams in the division are rebuilding, and the Indians are currently struggling to start the season. While the losses will likely abound for Detroit, the pitching staff has shown potential with a 3.39 ERA/3.34 FIP in their first nine games. But the offense has been lackluster early on with a 77 wRC+. Once the pitching staff starts to experience a bit of trouble, the Tigers will come back down to earth. If they don’t, well, the credit will likely reside with the pitchers.
16. Philadelphia Phillies (4-5 record; +3 run differential)
Gabe Kapler had a less-than-stellar debut as a major league manager. A few of these goofs deserve the criticism. However, this Phillies’ team has talent. Lots of young talent. The addition of Jake Arrieta, despite the well-known velocity decline since 2015, brings another reliable starter to a group that features Aaron Nola. The offense has been slightly above average with a 104 wRC+. Rhys Hoskins, Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera, and Scott Kingery have gotten to fine starts. Even Maikel Franco has shown a bit of the promise he is known for as a hitter. The question is how long can this type of performance last while they await Carlos Santana to start hitting like he is capable of again?
15. Minnesota Twins (4-4 record; +6 run differential)
There is a lot to like about the Twins. The pitching staff, bolstered by Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi, should enable this unit to be a quality one. Currently, Minnesota has the ninth-best pitching in ERA (3.38). The offense has some bright spots early on, especially Joe Mauer, Eduardo Escobar, and Miguel Sano. Brian Dozier continues to remind people with his four home runs and 181 wRC+ in his first 38 plate appearances of his presence.
14. St. Louis Cardinals (4-6 record; 0 run differential)
The Cardinals, otherwise known as the team who can produce above-replacement talent from prospects you’ve never heard of before, hasn’t exactly have the best start. A 4-6 record isn’t terrible, but not great. At the same time, the NL Central is awfully competitive thus far. The Pirates have looked solid. The Cubs are, well, the Cubs. The good ones, mind you. Milwaukee may be hampered with injuries, but talent abounds there. If the Reds can ever figure out the rebuild, they wouldn’t be a pushover. The offense could be better from .302 wOBA, and likely will improve. The pitching staff is stuck in the middle now, but they could also improve as the season goes along. Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty are two names to watch this summer.
13. Cleveland Indians (5-5 record; -3 run differential)
Let’s see, the Indians pitching staff has been a solid bunch (3.19 ERA/3.90 FIP), yet the offense has been downright dreadful (.244 wOBA; 51 wRC+). The pitching staff’s quality hasn’t been a question. Yet, the offense’s best hitter, in terms of wRC+, has been Edwin Encarnacion (100 wRC+), and he has an .171/.275/.429 batting line. Honestly, the offense will turn itself around soon. That’s the hope, anyway. And once it does, the Indians should have no problem reclaiming their spot atop of the AL Central.
12. Washington Nationals (5-5 record; -3 run differential)
The Nationals have the reverse problem of the Indians. Washington’s offense has been a productive one with a .337 wOBA. Alas, the pitching staff has been in the bottom third in ERA (4.35) despite the second-highest strikeout rate (29%) in baseball. However, the Nationals’ FIP is nearly one whole run less than their ERA, so you may see correction there soon. Regardless, this start hasn’t been optimal in the last season of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy’s contract.
11. Los Angeles Dodgers (3-6 record; +2 run differential)
Despite the noticeable velocity worry surrounding closer Kenly Jansen, the Dodgers pitching staff has been solid early on this season. Like a few of the preceding teams in this (useless) ranking, the offense has been a problem. Only a 65 wRC+ in their first 368 plate appearances. Outside of the lowly Marlins, the Dodgers’ lineup has produced only a .293 slugging percentage and a .079 ISO. The team’s best hitter in wRC+ has been catcher Yasmani Grandal at 151. Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Enrique Hernandez, Logan Forsythe, and Joc Pederson have been in an early season funk. This slow start shouldn’t mean much, however, as the Dodgers’ offense will almost surely pick up their play in the coming weeks.