I've spent most of the morning trying to refresh my set of MLB fantasy baseball power rankings. Of course, even a casual baseball fan could skip ahead to the obvious conclusion.
The Tampa Bay Rays are crushing everything in their path.
Imagine that all 30 clubs are playing in their own 5x5 roto league. The Rays demolish almost every category. Tampa Bay currently slots first in runs scored, homers, RBI and batting average. The pitching staff has the most wins, the best ERA and the tidiest WHIP.
Tampa Bay's only lacking categories are saves — that's what happens when you win big so often — and strikeouts. They're 17th in handshakes and 20th in whiffs. Otherwise, this is a steamroller.
There's no guesswork with the No. 2 team either: the Atlanta Braves. Tampa Bay has a big lead over Atlanta, but the Braves are comfortably ahead of everyone else. The Braves have the second-best offense (using the 5x5 scoring method) and the third-best staff. They're filling out our fantasy rosters nicely.
Let's jump into the commentary portion of the show. Here's how I rank all the teams for their fantasy utility, starting with the least-useful team and moving down to the juggernauts. I've considered stats and team ranks, but there's also some special sauce in the mix.
You need a little art with your science. You need to add a little soul, a little swing.
First the good news: The A's rank second in steals, and they're middle of the pack in home runs. Category juice is always welcome. But they're bottom-five in every other category and dead last in four of the pitching categories. Slugging outfielder Brent Rooker has been a find off the waiver wire, a classic out-of-nowhere late bloomer. But Oakland baseball remains the saddest song in MLB.
The Nats were profiled as the worst team in the NL back in March, and so far they've fit the suit. Maybe Lane Thomas can take the leadoff job and run with it. Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore have shown flashes in the rotation.
28. Detroit Tigers
Detroit ranks sixth in WHIP and middle-of-pack in ERA, something I never saw coming. Eduardo Rodríguez has bounced back nicely — perhaps he'll be traded midseason — and when closer Alex Lange is needed, he usually comes through. The offense did nothing for the opening two weeks but has been better of late. Maybe there's a ray of hope for Motown sports fans before the Lions open summer camp.
27. Colorado Rockies
It's so strange to see the Coors-aided Rockies be this mediocre for fantasy purposes. Everyone knows you can't trust Colorado pitching, but the offense ranks outside the top 10 in all five roto categories. There isn't a current Rockie batter inside the top 100, though Kris Bryant and Elías Díaz have been useful.
Salvador Pérez and Vinnie Pasquantino are currently out kicking their spring ADPs, and while it's frustrating to see Bobby Witt Jr. slashing .228/.269/.424, his category juice (six homers, 12 steals) is saving his season, albeit not justifying the first-round pick some overzealous managers spent. The pitching staff is competitive in strikeouts, but everything else is a mess.
25. Cincinnati Reds
I talked myself into this lineup all spring, and I fell in love (relatively speaking) with the top of the rotation. Thus far, the admiration has not been repaid — the Reds are bottom-five in wins, ERA, WHIP and home runs. At least Nick Senzel might be assembling a post-hype season.
Please burn 90 percent of what I wrote about these guys two months ago. Injuries are a big part of the story, but there's plenty of underperformance, too. Earlier in the week we talked about Lance Lynn — is it time to drop him?
23. Miami Marlins
The pitching is above code, and the offense at least provides steals and respectable average. The power and run production is a mess, though. Jazz Chisholm is having the same season Witt is having: a hacking strikeout mess held afloat by a bunch of steals and a handful of homers.
Here's another case where the secondary players have been useful, but the team doesn't have a lot of obvious fantasy offerings — only five Pirates are currently rostered in more than 50% of Yahoo leagues. Bryan Reynolds was locked up long-term, but closer David Bednar might be an unnecessary extravagance if the Pirates don't stay in the NL Central race.
The staff is good already, and it's likely to get better, with Triston McKenzie close to a return and the organization stocked with interesting young arms. But the offense will hurt your eyes; the Guardians are competitive in stolen bases but rank 29th in average and dead last in the other three categories. This roster shape is screaming for a trade — one of their arms for someone else's bat. I still think Cleveland can win this gettable division.
Only seven of their players are over the 50% roster tag in Yahoo, though one of them is unquestioned ace Zac Gallen. Chasing buzzy rookies can often be a fool's errand, but Corbin Carroll has slightly beaten his spring ADP thus far.
The cumulative stats would slot them higher, but some of Milwaukee's contributions are coming from players who might not be automatic fantasy starts. I'd try to buy low on Willy Adames, if it's gettable for you.
18. New York Mets
They built an old pitching staff, and guess what? Old pitching staffs often get hurt a lot. The Mets are over the league mean in saves and steals — that's it. At least youngsters Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez look like they belong.
17. Minnesota Twins
Only the Rays have a better pitching staff by roto accumulation, and Minnesota has a few power hitters, but otherwise, the offense has been a disappointment. Don't tell the Twins about the new running order; they're dead last in steals and steal attempts.
Four of the offensive columns are above code, but only one of the pitching lines is. Will the team play better with a new manager? I suspect we're going to find out soon. At least no one is running away with this division; the Cardinals still have time to become relevant again.
They have a mere 30 runs in seven Bryce Harper starts, but I still see this lineup as a sleeping giant. Does Aaron Nola throw too many strikes? Is he destined to be one of those pitchers who usually does better with under-the-hood stats, as opposed to back-of-baseball-card ones?
14. Boston Red Sox
The offense has been a lot better — and a lot deeper — than I expected. But the pitching staff looks held together by scotch tape. Boston still might be a seller at the trade deadline.
The offense has been more fun than expected, with Thairo Estrada leading the way. The pitching staff is more roto-useful than the cumulative stats suggest because the non-rosterable guys are getting crushed. Closer Camilo Doval is in the circle of trust, as are three of the starters (Alex Cobb, Logan Webb, Anthony DeSclafani).
12. Seattle Mariners
They have the fourth-best pitching staff by roto-collected value, but the offense is in the bottom 10 in everything. To be fair, the home ballpark plays into this split. We're ready when you are, Julio Rodríguez.
11. Houston Astros
They had pitchers coming out of their ears in the spring, and it's a good thing — injuries have hit that position hard. The mediocre offense badly needs José Altuve back. If you got a spring discount on Yordan Álvarez, bully for you. Jeremy Peña has mildly outkicked his ADP.
Obviously, this is one of the most top-heavy fantasy rosters, but at least slugger Hunter Renfrow and closer Carlos Estévez have significantly topped expectations. Anthony Rendon's average has bounced back, but where's the pop?
A resurgent Juan Soto should perk up what has been a sluggish offense. The pitching staff has been good, not great, despite playing in a home park that still suppresses offense.
8. Chicago Cubs
The offense is above code in all five categories, and despite a lack of strikeouts, the pitching staff has massaging ratios. There's hope that the Cubs are ready to contend through the summer.
It's not as bleak as some might suggest, now that Aaron Judge and even Harrison Bader have returned. The second-best roto grabber on the staff has been a reliever no one has heard of: Ian Hamilton. Go after those K/BB lawnmowers early.
For all the young, exciting talent on this roster, no one saw Jorge Mateo pushing to the top of the 5x5 chart. We knew his category juice would play and the defense was sharp, but he has improved his approach and posted a plus average.
I'm afraid this staff might be doing it with smoke and mirrors, but the offense — tops in runs per game — has won me over. And now Corey Seager is ready to join the fun. Marcus Semien was another misplaced bargain all spring.
Every Clayton Kershaw start is a gift from the baseball gods. James Outman quietly has been the best 5x5 contributor on the offense. Miguel Vargas remains a hold or a buy, based on the solid K/BB ratio.
The raw stats would slop Toronto an eyelash lower, but you have to consider the ages and upsides of the big names in this offense. There's so much plausible upside in the YYZ.
2. Atlanta Braves
Bryce Elder's 1.74 ERA seems too good to be true — note the 1.11 WHIP and the ordinary strikeout rate — but he does induce ground balls more than 57% of the time, a great way to produce Houdini escapes.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
The spring projections for Randy Arozarena and Bobby Witt Jr. were remarkably similar, yet Arozarena's national ADP was 26 slots cheaper. Sometimes they give you gifts such as this — take advantage.