Regular readers (all four of you) will be familiar with this exercise. I began it last week. These are power rankings, my best estimate of true, relative team quality, listed from last to first, with a breakdown of each team in a number of words equal to the number of games they’ve played to date. This project will get more expansive and descriptive as the season progresses, obviously. For now, it serves as a reminder of how little we really know about teams, less than a month into the year:

30. Houston Astros (7-15): Sixth in baseball with 26 homers, but dead last with a .274 team OBP. Thank goodness literally no one is watching, right?

29. Chicago Cubs (7-15): Impressive assemblage of fringe guys with upside. Now they just need legitimate everyday players to push those guys into more complementary roles.

28. Minnesota Twins (10-10): New Twins, same Twins story. Fewest strikeouts in baseball, second-fewest Quality Starts. Firm philosophy of plate patience is neat.

27. Chicago White Sox (11-11): Jose Abreu is their most impressive player, but he’s also still a complete unknown. Chris Sale’s injury drops them into these depths.

26. Colorado Rockies (12-11): Opposite of Cubs: They have an excellent top of the roster, but can’t support it with anything. Should explore trading Tulowitzki and Gonzalez.

25. Philadelphia Phillies (10-11): Their core is healthier, better than it was last year, or in 2012, but much too old to dream of 2011.

24. New York Mets (11-10): Hitting .216/.294/.308 as a team. That only pitching help is coming from within the organization is such cruel irony.

23. Miami Marlins (10-12): Somehow, their .263 team batting average is National League’s second-best. Still have some glaring holes, but beginning to balance with strengths.

22. San Diego Padres (10-12): Smart observers have felt they were underachieving for three years now. At this point, maybe we’re all just too sweet on them.

21. Arizona Diamondbacks (6-18): The truth is they’re a decent team playing as badly as they can. It feels much more sinister, though, like they should never win.

20. Seattle Mariners (8-13): There’s a whole lot of nothing where their starting rotation was supposed to be. Left their winter work incomplete.

19. Pittsburgh Pirates (9-13): Need to keep composure, as a group. Team was never as good as 2013 record, but should still compete. Free Gregory Polanco!

18. Baltimore Orioles (10-10): Seventeen of their first 20 games have been intradivisional. They’re 9-8 in those. That’s a great sign. Machado’s return imminent.

17. Kansas City Royals (10-10): Pitching has regressed, as expected, but they’re still pretty good. Offense is doing fine; no homers, but plenty of doubles.

16. Cincinnati Reds (10-11): Team had a nearly unprecedented run of pitcher health last two years. Paying back the baseball gods in 2014. Depth helps.

15. Toronto Blue Jays (11-10): The shape of their early success is strange, but they’re a better team than they showed last year. Health is key.

14. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (10-11): If Pujols’ resurgence proves real, they won’t miss Josh Hamilton too badly. Still, it’d sure be nice to have them both.

13. New York Yankees (12-9): Nova’s injury hurts them especially badly because of their lacking pitching depth. Infield will sink this team, though, not pitching staff.

12. San Francisco Giants (12-10): Tim Lincecum’s fascinating career derailment continues. Pitching staff is deeply diminished from a few years ago. Offense will have to carry club.

11. Milwaukee Brewers (16-6): They’re still hot. I’m still waiting for the cold streak that comes next for a team like this one. Hyper-aggressive team.

10. Texas Rangers (14-8): Color me extremely impressed by their weekend sweep in Oakland. That series felt like a late-summer one. Surviving vicious injury bug.

9. Detroit Tigers (10-8): A once-elite set of stars who are now, sadly, merely great, surrounded by still-crummy spare parts.

8. Cleveland Indians (10-11): Asdrubal Cabrera is their weakest link, has been fading for two years now. Francisco Lindor should come up sooner than later.

7. Boston Red Sox (10-12): Still able to beat you many different ways, but injuries are forcing them to field ‘B’ teams. And still, they’re real contenders.

6. Atlanta Braves (14-7): Big, inescapable mistake expenditures have forced them to lean on excellent scouting at edges of roster. That’s their best thing, though.

5. Washington Nationals (12-10): Unless they start clicking, they’ll start to fade back to the pack from here. So many question marks popping up for them.

4. Tampa Bay Rays (10-11): Keep wanting to push them down due to rotation attrition, but starters 6-8 for them beat 3-5 for lot of teams.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (13-9): Clayton Kershaw will be back soon! A.J. Ellis was a loss they could scarcely afford, but their schedule gives them some leeway.

2. Oakland Athletics (13-8): Depth, versatility, switch-hitters. Speed, power, movable bullpen pieces. Billy Beane is the best big-picture roster architect anywhere in baseball.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (12-10): Far from last year’s offensive juggernaut early on, but they’re out-pitching those problems for now. Bats should wake up this summer.

The entire AL Central is separated by 1.5 games. It’s too early to get excited or upset at much of anything. See you next week.

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