<
>

Sunday's power rankings

5/17/2015

1. Shelby Miller, Atlanta Braves: Miller may have lost his no-hitter with two outs in the ninth, but there’s no shame in “settling” for a second shutout in three starts as this latest win helped put the exclamation point on the proposition that Miller is becoming a big league ace with the Braves, starting now.

2. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: Harper’s white-hot May continues, as he clouted his ninth homer of the month and 14th of the season in the Nationals' 10-5 romp over the Padres. At this point, the question isn’t whether Harper is improved at the plate, it’s whether he’s the straw who stirs the drink for the Nationals, giving a good team the potential for greatness as he comes into his own. For everyone who skipped worrying about instant gratification and stayed on the Bryce Harper bandwagon all along, points to you. Get ready to enjoy the ride, it should be a tremendous decade or more.

3. Justin Upton, San Diego Padres: The Padres may have lost to the Nationals, but in terms of individual performance Upton had the bigger ballgame over Harper, homering twice, singling and drawing a walk. That gets Upton to 10 homers on the season, but perhaps what’s especially impressive is that he’s now hit eight of them in stingy Petco Park. Whatever ultimately becomes of the Padres’ big-offense, no-D design in the outfield, you can bet that Upton’s looking like a man bound for big money as a free agent this coming offseason.

4. Mike Wright, Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles’ rotation is a proper conundrum. It isn’t like there’s a slam-dunk choice for staff ace -- the guy you might have pegged for that was Chris Tillman on the strength of his last 11 turns down the stretch last season, when he went 6-1 with a 2.14 ERA. But Tillman has struggled this season (6.34 ERA, 5.42 FIP and just two quality starts in seven), and had to miss Sunday’s turn with lower back stiffness. But who would they use in his place?

Kevin Gausman is on the shelf with a bum shoulder, top prospect Hunter Harvey has a bum elbow and Dylan Bundy isn’t pitching all that well at Double-A, so rather than have the usual suspects at hand, the O’s reached into their farm system and fished out Wright, a 2011 third-rounder standing 6-foot-6 capable of dealing reliable mid-90s heat that he seems to have harnessed more effectively this year. In his big-league debut against the Angels, Wright struck out Mike Trout with a 98-mph fastball in the first inning and took a shutout into the eighth. This doesn’t necessarily simplify the O’s rotation picture, but between Tillman’s back (and ineffectiveness) and Bud Norris’ bronchitis (and ineffectiveness), they have to be happy to see that Wright just expanded their list of options.

5. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants: Belt, who entered the series with no home runs on the season, hit his third homer in three games in a 9-8 victory against the Reds as the Giants busted out for 30 runs over the past three days. While some of that is the benefit of getting to hit in the Gap, Belt’s initial power outage helped exacerbate the Giants’ season-opening lack of power. Seeing Belt bust out should, in addition to getting Hunter Pence back, make a huge difference in the weeks to come.

Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.