Guardians fourth in latest Power Rankings

2:03 AM UTC

This was the week when every team in baseball reached the midway point of its season. When you hit the midway point, it is difficult to argue “small sample size” any longer. Maybe your team is a little better than it has played. Maybe your team is a little worse. But halfway through is a time when you definitely can’t kid yourself any longer. This is close to who you are. Can you be better? Of course. But you’re over the hump now: By definition, every team, the rest of the way, is running out of time.

These rankings, as always, are compiled from rankings from contributors whose names you can find at the bottom of this (and every) piece, but the words are mine. If you dislike the rankings, yell at all of us. But if you dislike the words, feel free to yell at me.

1. Phillies (previously: 2).Season high: 1 | Season low: 8That the Phillies are without Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto and are still ranked No. 1 speaks to how resourceful this team is: Many people consider the Phillies more top-heavy than they actually are. This is, after all, a team with six players who made it to the next round in All-Star balloting: Schwarber, Realmuto, Brandon Marsh, Alec Bohm, Nick Castellanos and Trea Turner, plus Harper, who earned an automatic starting role as the NL’s leading vote-getter. Sure, Phillies fans turn out at the ballot box, but none of those guys are unreasonable choices either. It’s no wonder Phillies fans believe this might just be the year.

2. Orioles (previously: 3).Season high: 1 | Season low: 5The Orioles lost their fifth in a row at the beginning of last week and responded by, well, winning their next four. If you were wondering what was different, check out the pitching lines during each stretch:

Five-game losing streak: 0-5, 7.71 ERA

Four-game winning streak: 4-0, 1.80 ERA

Yeah, that’ll do it!

3. Dodgers (previously: 4).Season high: 1 | Season low: 6We had an absolute classic Mike Petriello piece on this week, in which Mike – one of the best baseball writers on earth, if you ask this particular baseball scribe – made the seemingly counterintuitive argument: Is Shohei Ohtani underrated? I am persuaded by his argument. Here’s the key paragraph: “Ohtani has improved his hard-hit rate from 54% to 61%; he’s cut his strikeout rate from 24% to 20%. He is, with three games left in June, likely to end up with the second-best month of his career. [Ed. Note: This did end up happening.] He owns the longest home run anyone has hit this season, a 476-foot homer (which, yes, had the benefit of being hit at Coors Field). With 25 homers and 16 steals through 82 team games, he’s got at least a chance of putting up a 50/30 season, which has never been done before.” Ohtani somehow gets better every time you look at him.

4. Guardians (previously: 5).Season high: 3 | Season low: 21Steven Kwan watch! He went 1-for-4 on Sunday to land at .368 for the year. He still doesn’t have enough plate appearances to appear atop leaderboards, but he’s very close: He’s at 252, just two short of the 254 he needs. In a week, he should have enough at-bats: Let’s see what his average is then.

5. Yankees (previously: 1).Season high: 1 | Season low: 7The Yankees plummeted from our top spot last week all the way to fifth this week, which will happen when you lose 11 of your last 17 games. But if you were looking for reasons to still believe, Sunday gave them to you. Juan Soto shook off a right hand bruise to get on base three times, Aaron Judge homered and Gerrit Cole looked terrific. The Yankees have stars, and Sunday, they played like stars. They’ll do that a lot.

6. Brewers (previously: 6).Season high: 5 | Season low: 19Jackson Chourio remains the youngest player in baseball. As you might expect from the youngest player in the sport, he got off to a slow start as he figured out how incredibly difficult this game of baseball is. But boy has he figured it out. He has been the Brewers’ best hitter for a month, and heading into Sunday, in his last 22 games, he had put up a slash line of .324/.365/.559. We are going to see him play in a lot of All-Star Games.

7. Mariners (previously: 7).Season high: 6 | Season low: 21This could be a truly historic season for the Mariners, who have famously not won the AL West since 2001. But they need to stop waiting around for the rest of the division to get its act together. While the Rangers are doing their part by deeply struggling, the Astros have been surging, and the Mariners are providing them with an opening: With their loss on Sunday, they have dropped eight of their past 11 games, with their division lead shrinking to just 3.5 games. Look out, Mariners fans: You may have missed your chance to breathe easy.

8. Braves (previously: 9).Season high: 1 | Season low: 9Here’s a little shoutout to Charlie Morton, who, with a win over the Pirates on Saturday, became the 22nd pitcher since the Rays and Diamondbacks joined the league to get a win over every team in baseball. He got that final win over the Pirates, the team he pitched for from 2009-15. The other three active pitchers who have done it? Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander.

9. Padres (previously: 12).Season high: 9 | Season low: 21This is the Padres team that their fans were promised last year. The Padres are quite simply the hottest team in baseball, winning nine of their last 11 after their loss at Fenway Park on Sunday. Even with all the changes from last year, one thing looks familiar of late: Manny Machado is their best hitter again. He has four homers in his past 11 games and is hitting over .400 in that time. Also, in case you wanted to feel old, Manny Machado, that former young Orioles prospect, turns 32 on Saturday.

10. Twins (previously: 10).Season high: 8 | Season low: 23You almost feel like you should whisper this whenever he’s doing well, lest your words cast an injury spell into the wind, but: Byron Buxton is raking again. Heading into Sunday, he was hitting .389 with 18 RBIs in his previous 15 games. He had also homered in four of his last five games. The Twins are just so, so different when he is healthy.

11. Royals (previously: 9).Season high: 6 | Season low: 24The Royals went 17-11 in both April and May this year, thus their 12-14 was their first losing record of the season. Don’t get too discouraged, Royals fans: That is still a better record over a full month than any month in 2023 other than their 14-12 September. Fun fact: That September 2023 was their first winning month since April 2021.

12. Red Sox (previously: 11).Season high: 11 | Season low: 22Jarren Duran had already established himself as one of the most exciting players in baseball, but June was the month he might have taken the leap to being the centerpiece of one of baseball’s signature franchises. He had a .362/.414/.610 slash line for the month heading into Sunday, stealing nine bases and hitting five homers. Kids all over New England are about to be wearing his jersey to school, if they’re not already.

13. Cardinals (previously: 13).Season high: 13 | Season low: 27Looking for a very quick-and-dirty shortcut to see if the Cardinals are going to win a particular game? See if they score first. After Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Reds, the Cardinals are 33-9 when they score first … and 10-31 when they don’t.

14. Astros (previously: 16).Season high: 6 | Season low: 26Their rain-delayed win over the Mets on Sunday assured them of the best record in baseball for the month of June, at 17-8. They are now only 3 1/2 games behind the Mariners, who probably should have taken the Astros out while they had the chance.

15. Mets (previously: 24).Season high: 10 | Season low: 25You can credit it to a team meeting, you can credit it to Grimace, you can credit it to them retiring Darryl Strawberry’s number, but the Mets’ wild success in the month of June isn’t all that complicated: They’re knocking the cover off the ball. Heading into Sunday, the Mets led the National League in batting average at .290, on-base percentage at .363, slugging at .517, and runs scored with 148. That will win you a lot of games.

16. Rays (previously: 18)Season high: 9 | Season low: 24The Rays have played better lately, winning 11 of their last 18 to crawl all the way back to .500. They haven’t been above .500 since May 20, and considering the state of the American League right now – and the Rays’ still-ugly run differential (minus 56) – you have to wonder if the Rays are making this little mini-push a wee bit too late.

17. Pirates (previously: 20)Season high: 9 | Season low: 25Paul Skenes is appointment television at this point, and arguably should be starting the All-Star Game, but let’s take a moment to pour one out for Bryan Reynolds’ hit streak, which ended at 25 games on Sunday. It was the longest streak in the big leagues this season and one of the 60 longest hit streaks of all time. The Pirates are in third place in the NL Central, by the way, and remain potentially an absolutely terrifying team to see in a short series, considering the three pitchers they’d be starting.

18. D-backs (previously: 14)Season high: 10 | Season low: 19Zac Gallen missed almost the entire month of June with a hamstring strain, a month that turned out to be the D-backs’ best of the season so far. So his return on Saturday was particularly encouraging, not just because he was excellent against the A’s, throwing six scoreless innings, but because he did it for a team that didn’t fall out of the race while he was gone. In fact: Quite the opposite.

19. Giants (previously: 19)Season high: 12 | Season low: 23The big story this week was the debut of top pitching prospect Hayden Birdsong, exactly the sort of young pitcher the Giants desperately need right now. If you’ll forgive me, though, the bigger deal for me is that Birdsong is the second person born in tiny Mattoon, Ill., to make the big leagues in 100 years … and that tiny Mattoon, Illinois is my hometown. I wrote my little ode to Birdsong, Mattoon and small towns in my Five Fascinations column this week.

20. Reds (previously: 21)Season high: 11 | Season low: 25As the Reds try to keep their heads above water, it should perhaps not be surprising that a franchise stalwart is helping them do so. Jonathan India, who has been mentioned in a lot of trade rumors these last few years, has helped spark the Reds offense, hitting a double in eight straight games, a franchise record. With TJ Friedl’s injury, he’s back in the leadoff spot in the order … and just in time.

21. Rangers (previously: 15)Season high: 4 | Season low: 21The last thing in the world that the Rangers needed, considering all the injury issues they’ve had this season, was an injury to Corey Seager. It appears they dodged trouble, then, when X-rays did not show a fracture after he was hit in the wrist with a pitch Saturday night. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Rangers are down bad right now, eight games out in the AL West and in serious danger of being passed by the Angels.

22. Cubs (previously: 17)Season high: 8 | Season low: 22It is never a great sign when a team’s president of baseball operations sits down for an extended conversation with reporters before a game: It generally means things aren’t going well, and the natives are getting restless. Jed Hoyer handled himself well when he went through the ringer on Saturday, but it’s clear this Cubs rough stretch has lasted a lot longer than anyone expected it to. “It’s felt sort of like two weeks turned into four, turned into six, has turned into eight,” Hoyer said. “That’s the reality.” Basically, as Hoyer points out: The Cubs are running out of time.

23. Blue Jays (previously: 22)Season high: 8 | Season low: 23Maybe the Blue Jays are going to trade Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and maybe they’re not, but one thing is clear: He is making the best possible case for himself right now. He was a triple shy of the cycle on Saturday and, coming into Sunday, had six homers in his last eight games, as well as multiple RBIs in his last six games. This is the Vlad Jr. we saw in 2021 and have been waiting for since.

24. Nationals (previously: 23)Season high: 20 | Season low: 27The James Wood era begins in D.C. on Monday when the No. 3 overall prospect in the game makes his MLB debut against the Mets.’s Sam Dykstra has a comprehensive breakdown of what to expect from the outfielder, but the first thing to know is that he is big. He’s 6-foot-7: Only Aaron Judge and Oneil Cruz are position players who are that tall. That height comes with tons of power. Here’s the key line from Dykstra’s piece: “Among the 194 Triple-A players with at least 200 plate appearances this season, Wood tops the group with a 95.1 mph average exit velocity and 58.6 percent hard-hit rate. Only two qualified Major Leaguers have higher average EVs this season, and they’re among the best power hitters on the entire planet: Aaron Judge (96.9) and Shohei Ohtani (95.5).” Goodness.

25. Tigers (previously: 15)Season high: 7 | Season low: 24The roof has fallen in for the Tigers. They just finished a miserable June, going 10-17. The problem is the bats: The only teams with a worse OPS this year are the White Sox, Marlins and Pirates. In a month and a half, they have gone from four games back in the AL Central to 15.

26. Angels (previously: 26)Season high: 24 | Season low: 28The Angels notched something this week that has been in rare supply for them for a while: a winning streak. It ended at six on Sunday, and they finished June with a 15-11 record. That was better than the Braves, Yankees, Guardians, Twins and the defending champion Rangers. Oh, and: Mike Trout is coming back soon.

27. A’s (previously: 27)Season high: 20 | Season low: 30It’s not unreasonable if A’s fans are paying more attention to the farm system than they are to the big league team at this point, and they’re seeing something pretty special in top overall prospect Jacob Wilson. He returned from the IL this week and hit his first two Triple-A homers, raising his Minors stat line to an absolutely ridiculous .407/.451/.605 over 63 pro games.

28. Rockies (previously: 28)Season high: 27 | Season low: 29A few weeks ago, it looked like Ezequiel Tovar was about to blast off into the superstar realm that the Rockies have been predicting for him for a few years now. He instead ended up having a worse June than he did in May, taking a small step backward that you expect from young players but is still a hump you hoped he might have gotten over. Interestingly, he’s hitting for more power on the road than he is at home: He has three homers at Coors and nine elsewhere.

29. Marlins (previously: 29)Season high: 23 | Season low: 30You’re seeing Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s name start to show up in some trade rumor columns, so it’s important that he’s back to being healthy. He’s so healthy now that not only is he getting game-winning hits, he’s doing it after hopping on the Phillie Phanatic’s bike pregame and trash-talking the mascot. That sounds impressive, but let’s see him try it with Gritty.

30. White Sox (previously: 30)Season high: 28 | Season low: 30There is considerable debate as to whether the White Sox should trade Luis Robert Jr., how much a team should theoretically give up for him, how much you can trust his health, all that sort of business. But one thing you can’t doubt is that few people can do what he did on Saturday, hitting a monstrous 470-foot homer. Sure, it was at Coors Field. But 470 feet is 470 feet, man, wow.