Which surging AL squad broke into the top 3?

Another week has gone by in the 2022 MLB season and it seems no one will be able to top the Yankees. However, the Astros are certainly trying.

Houston will cap off a nine-game stretch against New York teams with one more against the Yankees on Thursday night. It won six of those first eight games, beating the Mets four times and the Yankees twice. Will this surging Astros team be able to further entrench itself among the top clubs in the majors?

Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we’ve seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 11 | Preseason rankings

Record: 56-20

Previous ranking: 1

The Yankees and Astros played one of the best series of the season over the weekend, splitting four games. The Yankees won the first on Aaron Judge‘s walk-off hit and then the finale on his walk-off three-run homer. In the third game, three Astros pitchers combined for a no-hitter — the first time the Yankees had been no-hit since 2003 … another combined no-hitter by the Astros. And if you’re going to challenge the single-season record for wins, you find ways to win like the Yankees did on Monday against the A’s, when two catcher’s interference calls in the same inning against Oakland’s Sean Murphy led to the go-ahead rally in the sixth inning. –– Schoenfield

Record: 47-27

Previous ranking: 4

Given the narratives surrounding the Yankees and star slugger Judge, it’s clear that as we approach midseason, Judge is the front-runner in the early AL MVP race. But on sheer merit, the Astros’ Yordan Alvarez continues to close the gap. Alvarez’s continued hot hitting has already brought him even with Judge from a numbers standpoint, with the lefty masher leading in the major slash categories, holding a 20-plus-point bulge in OPS+ and similar clutch indicators. Judge’s sole statistical edge is in positional value, as Alvarez has DH’d in more than half his appearances. Narrative aspects being equal, Alvarez might well be seen as the current leader in a race that is just starting to take shape and has more hopefuls than just Judge and Alvarez jockeying for position. — Doolittle

Record: 46-28

Previous ranking: 3

Daniel Hudson, who had emerged as their setup man, suffered a season-ending ACL tear over the weekend, joining Walker Buehler and Blake Treinen among the list of important Dodgers pitchers dealing with long-term injuries. Andrew Heaney and Mookie Betts are also on the injured list. And key members of L.A.’s lineup — namely, Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger — are struggling. The Dodgers are still finding ways to win games at an impressive rate, but they are clearly not at their best right now. And they will undoubtedly need reinforcements before the trade deadline. — Gonzalez

Record: 47-29

Previous ranking: 2

Edwin Diaz is having one of the greatest strikeout seasons ever for a relief pitcher. Heading into Wednesday’s series finale against Houston (which the Mets lost), he had struck out 48.3% of the batters he’s faced. If he gets to 50 innings, that would be the fourth-highest strikeout rate in history, behind Aroldis Chapman (52.5% in 2014) and two Craig Kimbrel seasons (2012 and 2017). That doesn’t mean he’s been invincible, however, as he’s 16 for 19 in save chances and has a 2.12 ERA. Still, he’s certainly worthy of All-Star consideration and there is a good chance the players will vote him in as one of the top three relievers in the league. — Schoenfield

Record: 44-32

Previous ranking: 6

Kenley Jansen will miss a couple of weeks after landing on the IL due to an irregular heartbeat, a condition he has dealt with throughout his career. Jansen, who had surgery in 2012, hasn’t sat out time since 2018, when he missed 12 days. The Braves expect him back after his 15-day IL stint is up. All-Star candidate A.J. Minter picked up his first save of 2022 on Tuesday in Jansen’s absence, while 2021 closer Will Smith remains a ninth-inning option as well. The bullpen has been a strength all season, with a top five ERA in the majors. — Schoenfield

Record: 46-31

Previous ranking: 5

Fernando Tatis Jr. was cleared Tuesday to ramp up his defensive work and could be a couple of weeks away from beginning a hitting progression. If all goes well, the Padres’ star shortstop could return at some point around late July or early August. But that’s still a ways away. The Padres need to keep winning without him in order to keep pace in the hyper-competitive National League West. They’ve dropped seven of their past 12 games, but Manny Machado is seemingly on track to return from his ankle injury very soon. — Gonzalez

Record: 42-33

Previous ranking: 7

This is a big week for the Blue Jays, who are scheduled for eight games against the division-rival Red Sox and Rays. And it’s already off to an eventful start. On Tuesday, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. delivered the walk-off single to cap Toronto’s ninth-inning comeback. On Wednesday, Guerrero was held back by teammate George Springer during a benches-clearing incident after Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta drilled Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk in the elbow. Worth noting here: Guerrero has begun to get hot this month, batting .294/.384/.587 with nine home runs. Given the depth in the Blue Jays’ lineup — further heightened by Kirk’s breakthrough season — that’s a troubling sign for the rest of the American League East. — Gonzalez

Record: 43-33

Previous ranking: 11

With one day remaining in June, the Red Sox are 20-6 this month, outscoring teams by a combined 44 runs. In that stretch, they have gone from four games under .500 to 10 games over, thrusting themselves in the heart of the wildcard race with the red-hot Yankees continuing to run away from the division. Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts are putting together MVP-caliber seasons, but their starting rotation has been carrying them lately. And two of their most important starters, Garrett Whitlock and Chris Sale, are nearing their returns, though Whitlock could begin as a bullpen option. — Gonzalez

Record: 43-35

Previous ranking: 8

The latest injury to Jack Flaherty is another blow to a pitching staff that has taken hits over the past two seasons. It means St. Louis is more than likely to head into trade season with one goal in mind: Healthy arms. Last year, that produced J.A. Happ and Jon Lester. Expect the Cardinals to search for bigger fish this time around. They are neck and neck with the Brewers for first place in the NL Central — and both teams could use a boost from the trade market. — Rogers

Record: 44-33

Previous ranking: 10

Milwaukee held its own during a tough part of its schedule — splitting a four-game series against the Cardinals, winning two of three games against the Blue Jays and then completing a two-game series sweep of the Rays. The Brewers’ offense, which has been volatile over the course of the season, had a strong week, leading all of baseball in OPS and including 13 home runs over a six-game span. Rowdy Tellez had four of them, giving him 15 for the season. — Rogers

Record: 40-34

Previous ranking: 13

NFL coaching legend Bum Phillips once said this about one of his peers: “Don Shula can take his’n and beat your’n, or he can take your’n and beat his’n.” The modern MLB equivalent of the timeless quote would be the Rays. The latest example is former Tiger and current Rays masher Isaac Paredes. Acquired from offensively-starved Detroit for outfielder Austin Meadows, who is another player whom the Rays “fixed” upon bringing him into the fold, Paredes was hitting .215/.290/.302 during his 57-game big league career at the time of the deal. At present, Paredes is one of baseball’s hottest hitter. Sporting a 1.071 OPS since Memorial Day, Paredes has increased his career homer total this season from two to 12 and has a 2022 OPS+ of 161. — Doolittle

Record: 40-34

Previous ranking: 9

The Giants have played basically .500 baseball over the past two months, and in June, Carlos Rodon and Logan Webb played a big hand in keeping their collective heads above water. Rodon and Webb, the two linchpins of this rotation, combined for a 1.63 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 16 walks in 66⅓ innings this month. The Giants’ rotation is finally whole again, with Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Cobb rejoining it in recent weeks. — Gonzalez

Record: 43-35

Previous ranking: 12

In one of the more stunning news items of the 2022 season, the Twins learned this week that pitching coach Wes Johnson is leaving the team to accept the same position with LSU at the college level. Minnesota plucked Johnson from the SEC to begin with, hiring him away from his job as head coach at Arkansas in 2018, but this decision rates as a shocker. The hyperactive Johnson quickly earned a reputation in the majors as a top-level pitching guru with a special ability to help second-chance pitchers and prospects alike get better. Every time the Twins acquired a pitcher, that hurler would invariably express excitement about working with Johnson. Minnesota will fill Johnson’s role from within, so hopefully that will be enough continuity that the Twins’ run at the AL Central title is not disrupted. — Doolittle

Record: 39-37

Previous ranking: 15

Obviously, Bryce Harper‘s broken thumb that required surgery and will keep him sidelined indefinitely — the Phillies aren’t putting any timetable on his return, other than saying they hope he returns again this season — is one of the bummer moments of the season. He was once again putting up MVP-type numbers at the plate. An offense that is fifth in the NL in runs per game will need to find someone to replace Harper’s output. One side effect is the Phillies can now move Kyle Schwarber or Nick Castellanos to DH and improve their outfield defense. Trade possibilities might include Andrew Benintendi of the Royals, a Gold Glove winner in 2021, who is hitting around .300. — Schoenfield

Record: 38-34

Previous ranking: 14

Since we last checked in, the Guardians have changed modes. And not in a good way — though Wednesday’s four-run 10th inning to shock the Twins 7-6 certainly helped. Cleveland went from one of baseball’s hottest teams, with a spree of 17 wins in 21 games, to one of the coldest, with six losses in eight games entering Thursday. Briefly grabbing sole possession of first place after beating Minnesota last week, the Guardians are once again looking up at the Twins in the division race. The biggest issue during the sudden tumble was offense, as the Guardians managed just 13 runs during the first seven games of the downturn. Cleveland’s overall offensive percentages were the worst in baseball during the slump but the real killer was clutch hitting. — Doolittle

Record: 36-38

Previous ranking: 19

The division may be out of reach but the Rangers are slowly playing their way back into the wild-card race. They took over second place in the AL West — thanks in part to the Angels’ collapse — but across the board, Texas is playing better baseball than it was earlier this season. Last week, the Rangers ranked in the top 10 in both OPS and ERA. It helped them record five wins over eight days, including two series victories, before falling to the Royals on Wednesday. Adolis Garcia had another good week, hitting two home runs and producing an OPS over 1.000. — Rogers

Record: 35-39

Previous ranking: 16

Last season, the White Sox finished fifth in the AL in runs per game and fourth in OPS+. Given the number of in-their-prime and still-improving hitters in the mix, it wasn’t unrealistic to expect even more from them in 2022. Instead, Chicago is currently struggling in both marks among AL teams. Injuries have certainly played a role. Beyond that, the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s is a virtual disappearance in secondary skills, such as drawing walks and hitting for extra bases. This season’s team batting average is largely the same as last year (.256). However, last season, Chicago ranked seventh in the AL in secondary average. This season, it doesn’t crack the top 10. — Doolittle

Record: 34-40

Previous ranking: 18

If the Marlins are going to make a run and get back into the wild-card or NL East race, now is the time. Of their next 35 games, starting with Friday’s series at Washington, only 10 are against winning teams (seven against the Mets and three against the Phillies). But the Marlins just haven’t been able to put together any type of extended streak — one seven-game win streak in April, one five-game streak in early June, but only one other is longer than two games. Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez have been a great 1-2 punch, but the rest of the rotation has continued to disappoint or battle injuries. Max Meyer, the third overall pick in 2020, is back in the Triple-A rotation after missing a month. Maybe it’s time to give him a shot. — Schoenfield

Record: 37-41

Previous ranking: 17

How sad are the Angels? On Tuesday night, Mike Trout stood in center field and tried to show his pitcher, Elvis Peguero, that he was tipping his pitches, pointing out something obvious that seemingly nobody else on the Angels had realized. Trout homered that night, as did Shohei Ohtani, who accumulated nine total bases by himself, and yet the Angels lost in blowout fashion. Typical. This franchise seems as if it is headed nowhere once again, despite the efforts of two of the sport’s greatest, most transformational talents. Sad is the only word that feels appropriate. — Gonzalez

Record: 36-41

Previous ranking: 21

As Jesse Winker (seven games), J.P. Crawford (five games) and Julio Rodriguez (two games) appeal their suspensions from Sunday’s big brawl against the Angels — needless to say, a lukewarm Mariners offense already missing Ty France will struggle without those three — Jerry Dipoto replaced the injured France by acquiring Carlos Santana from the Royals. After a terrible first two months, Santana has an OPS around 1.000 in June thanks to his usual high walk rate. Also helping keep the team afloat of late is Robbie Ray, who has a 0.67 ERA over his past four starts, allowing just two runs in 27 innings (he leads the AL in innings pitched). — Schoenfield

Record: 35-42

Previous ranking: 23

Baltimore was the talk of baseball for a moment after securing its first winning month since 2017. The Orioles pitched lights out in taking three of four in a series win in Chicago over the weekend. In fact, of the five pitchers that took the mound in Friday’s 4-1 win over the White Sox, all five have been designated for assignment by a previous team. With a small payroll, manager Brandon Hyde is doing wonders in the toughest division in the game. — Rogers

Record: 34-42

Previous ranking: 20

The D-backs lost five consecutive games last week and totaled only 11 runs in the process. For the month of June, their offense has posted a .637 OPS, third-lowest in the majors. They have the lowest batting average on balls in play this month, potentially a sign that they’ve been unlucky, but they also have the lowest line-drive percentage. — Gonzalez

Record: 33-43

Previous ranking: 22

Kris Bryant, back with the team after dealing with lingering back issues, has played in only five games since April 25. The Rockies have played 60 games since then and have won only 23 of them, going from two games out of first place to 14 back in the NL West. Of course, this isn’t all on Bryant — the Rockies’ starting pitching, in particular, has been dreadful — but the former MVP certainly is not helping. Bryant, signed to a seven-year, $182 million contract over the offseason, has yet to hit his first home run as a member of the Rockies and is batting .267/.337/.320 through his first 86 plate appearances. — Gonzalez

Record: 30-45

Previous ranking: 24

The Pirates snapped a five-game losing streak Wednesday as a 5.00-plus ERA over the past seven days didn’t do them any favors. Mitch Keller allowed 14 hits and eight runs over nine innings. He has failed to establish himself as a productive big league starter. Meanwhile, Bryan Reynolds is getting hot, perhaps just in time for trade season. He hit four home runs last week. — Rogers

Record: 29-46

Previous ranking: 25

The Cubs took two of three games from St. Louis over the weekend and now have split the first eight games against their division rival. Nico Hoerner has come into his own, producing the highest OPS in the entire game over a seven-day span that ended on Tuesday. He went 12 for 20 at the plate with a home run and two walks in that time. He also proved he can play shortstop on an everyday basis this year. If he stays healthy, the Cubs have a really good player on their hands. — Rogers

Record: 29-45

Previous ranking: 27

The evolution of Miguel Cabrera at the plate has been fascinating, not necessarily in a good way, but that could be a way of looking at it. No matter what, we can at least say that Cabrera has retained much of his ability to get the bat on the ball and put line drives into play. He has flirted with a .300 average for much of the season and thus is bidding to reach that mark for the first time in a season since 2016, though that quest may be tough given an unlikely .400 BABIP. Still, Cabrera appears to be winning his bid to maintain a career .300 average. At the same time, Cabrera’s isolated power and secondary average marks this season are both about a third of his career norms. — Doolittle

Record: 26-48

Previous ranking: 26

Cincinnati continues to flirt with overtaking the Cubs for fourth place in the NL Central. That would be quite the accomplishment after starting the season 3-22. Rookie Graham Ashcraft keeps impressing as he tossed eight innings in his most recent outing, a 4-2 win over the Giants. His 3.27 ERA is one of the bright spots for the Reds this season. Jonathan India, last season’s rookie of the year, is off to a slow start, compiling an on-base percentage under .290 through 23 games. — Rogers

Record: 27-47

Previous ranking: 28

While the hand injury suffered by Salvador Perez is unfortunate, the silver lining is that it gives the Royals the opportunity to give rookie catcher MJ Melendez an extended look. Melendez has looked solid at the plate so far, with the plate discipline and pop he displayed in the minors starting to shine in the big leagues. His overall line is dragged down by a low BABIP and paucity of line drives, but the base of skills is there. Now Kansas City can see how Melendez handles a big league staff. Between the Perez injury and the Santana trade that opened the door at first base for Vinnie Pasquantino, the Royals continue to get younger. That’s a good thing. — Doolittle

Record: 29-49

Previous ranking: 29

Random fact of the day: Nelson Cruz has five top-10 MVP finishes in his career, which is more than a lot of Hall of Famers. After hitting .143 through May 3, Cruz has been pretty good since then, hitting around .300 over his next 48 games. That might give him a little trade value, although he’s not hitting with his usual 30-plus homer power. The trouble is finding a team willing to roster a full-time DH. Maybe the Phillies, with Harper injured. The Guardians and Mariners are near the bottom of the majors in DH OPS. The Mets haven’t been getting much from their DHs. — Schoenfield

Record: 25-52

Previous ranking: 30

Wednesday’s loss to the Yankees completed a three-game sweep in New York and dropped the Athletics to 5-20 in June with one game remaining — one of the worst months in franchise history, at least since the club moved to Oakland in 1968. (The 1979 team went 5-24 in June.) The A’s are last in the majors in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and attendance. The worst record for the A’s under Billy Beane was 68-94 in 2015, but this club looks poised to top that ineptitude. — Schoenfield

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