On the local scene, the Orioles are playing as well as we could have hoped for after 16 games, considering that six of those games came against the New York Yankees and three against the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately, there are no real teeth in any part of the batting order, but it's great to see Trey Mancini looking like the long-term keeper we hoped he'd turn into.
The Orioles have had lots of bad luck with injuries to Mark Trumbo, Richard Bleier and Alex Cobb, all of whom just happened to be three potential targets of contending teams. Overall, the brain trust is doing a lot right in the early stages of what will be a tough three-year slog.
Close by, the Washington Nationals are off to a .500 start at 7-7. Something always seems missing with the Nats, but this is not a case of missing Bryce Harper. The culprit is a moving target, mostly the bullpen. However, it's going to be incumbent upon manager Davey Martinez to figure it out and fix whatever "it" is, because the division is too loaded for the Nats to have an identity crisis.
The big stories this week are the return of Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw and whether the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians can be good enough to contend all season. The Yankees' "Mash" unit season is very challenging for the big team in the Bronx, and the Red Sox simply have to get something out of ace left-hander Chris Sale. An 0-3 record and a 9.00-plus ERA won't cut it for long.
Here are the rest of the rankings and comments on my Top 10:
1. Tampa Bay Rays (12-4, No. 2 last week): It's very early, but this Rays club is stamping itself as ready for prime time.
2. Houston Astros (11-5, No. 5): The Astros sensed it was put-up time and went in to play the red-hot Mariners and swept them. They killed two birds with one stone.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (9-6, No. 10): The Cardinals were at home last week and didn't just stay with the big, bad Dodgers. Manager Mike Shildt's team swept a four-game series against the National League champs.
4. Milwaukee Brewers (10-6, No. 4): The Brewers stayed this high in the rankings because other teams around them had their own troubles. Milwaukee will soon get back late-inning reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who can satisfy the need for a high-leverage arm.
5. New York Mets (9-6, No. 9): The Mets are in the top five in part due to the value of ace right-hander Jacob deGrom, but he has stumbled in two straight starts. Their stay at this perch won't last long without deGrom still stamping himself as top starter.
6. Atlanta Braves (9-6, No. 14): I kept reading and believing how bad an offseason general manager Alex Anthopoulos had. Maybe he knew something we didn't.
7. Boston Red Sox (6-10, No. 6): The first 11 games can't be undone, but lefties Eduardo Rodriguez and David Price had gems this weekend. Now comes Sale in the Bronx April 16. It doesn't get bigger than this despite it being only mid-April.
8. Seattle Mariners (13-5, No. 11): This is a pretty lofty perch for a team in the reimagining game. I still don't see the starting pitching being good enough for serious playoff contention.
9. Los Angeles Dodgers (9-8, No. 1): From the way they were playing going into this past week, winning one of their last seven games was a pretty remarkable bummer. They get Kershaw back this week, and surprisingly, they may need him a lot more than I thought they would.
10. Philadelphia Phillies (9-5, No. 7): The good news is they got a glimpse of top-tier Jake Arrieta. The bad news is most of the rest of the rotation isn't looking like it's ready for serious contention.
11. Washington Nationals (7-7, No. 8)
12. New York Yankees (6-9, No. 3)
13. Minnesota Twins (8-4, No. 13)
14. San Diego Padres (11-6, No. 16)
15. Oakland Athletics (10-9, No. 20)
16. Chicago Cubs (5-9, No. 17)
17. Los Angeles Angels (8-7, No. 22)
18. Cleveland Indians (8-7, No. 12)
19. Pittsburgh Pirates (8-6, No. 19)
20. Detroit Tigers (8-7, No. 18)
21. Colorado Rockies (4-12, No. 15)
22. Cincinnati Reds (5-9, No. 28)
23. San Francisco Giants (7-10, No. 27)
24. Texas Rangers (7-7, No. 26)
25. Chicago White Sox (5-9, No. 23)
26. Kansas City Royals (5-10, No. 25)
27. Arizona Diamondbacks (7-9, No. 21)
28. Toronto Blue Jays (5-11, No. 24)
29. Miami Marlins (4-12, No. 29)
30. Baltimore Orioles (6-10, No. 30)