MLB first-quarter grades: Mets, Yankees, Padres get an ‘A’ through 40 games; Mariners, Reds have failing marks

The Diamondbacks are coming off their roughest stretch of the season, having lost six in a row against the Dodgers and the Cubs. It happens. Overall, the Diamondbacks are probably fine being .500 — even if that means being closer to the National League West’s basement than its penthouse. Grade: C We think the Braves may have taken the wrong lesson away from last season. You don’t have to spend the first half digging a hole you can climb out of down the stretch, guys. The defending champions are below .500, but there’s no sense getting too panicked. We do wish the Braves would elevate Spencer Strider into a more meaningful capacity; he’s pitched too well and has too much promise to serve as a low-leverage arm. Grade: C It speaks to the impossibly low standards at the big-league level set by Mike Elias’ front office that someone can look at this Orioles roster and remark, “hey, better than expected.” This remains, after all, a last-place team going nowhere fast. Still, the Orioles have a competent outfield and have — through some combination of skill, luck, and installing a canyon in left field — polished some pitchers, including Tyler Wells and Félix Bautista. Grade: D The Red Sox have been one of the biggest disappointments in the majors this season. It was reasonable to expect them to compete for another playoff spot. They’ve been much better lately, but they’ve still spent the most of the season to date trying to beat out the Orioles for fourth place. These grades are descriptive, not predictive; we suspect the Red Sox will play much better from here on, but there’s no real way around it, this has been a misfire of a year so far. Grade: D It wasn’t realistic to expect this Cubs team to compete, but they did essentially sport an even run differential (-2) through 40 games. There have also been enough bright spots — be it Seiya Suzuki, Willson Contreras, or the entire bullpen — to give them a decent grade. Grade: C The White Sox are lucky to be where they are in the standings based on their run differential and the larger circumstances surrounding their roster. To wit, they’ve received poor play from Yasmani Grandal and José Abreu; and they’ve mostly been without Lance Lynn and Eloy Jiménez. (Plus Tony La Russa has had some, uh, adventures managing the bullpen.) Usually, we reserve passing grades for teams who are playing well, either in general or relative to expectations; we considered giving the White Sox a B on the grounds that things could’ve been a lot, lot worse, and they should thank their stars for being in a good position to make a run. Eventually, we settled on a C instead. Grade: C The Reds have played better as of late, winning series against the Brewers, the Pirates, and the Guardians. They still have a miserable record, owed to a 3-22 start, and the implementation of a draft lottery means they aren’t guaranteed the No. 1 pick should they remain in the basement. We’ll give them credit for fighting back, but there’s no way around giving them the lowest possible grade. Grade: F The Guardians felt like a perfectly average team entering the season, and so it’s no surprise that they’re sitting in the middle of the American League Central with a run differential that’s close to even. There’s only one grade that fits the aesthetic, but we won’t quibble with anyone who wants to bump them to a B. Grade: C. The Rockies are hanging around .500 so far, but we don’t expect that to continue. They have the worst run differential in the National League West, and their record to date is a product of having the majors’ second-highest winning percentage in one-run games. It was unreasonable to think of this team as a contender, so our advice to Rockies fans is to enjoy the (relatively) good times for what they are. Grade: C This was supposed to be the Tigers’ year to rise up the standings. Instead, the only thing they appear likely to compete for is last place in the American League Central. Injuries have been the story in Detroit so far, but there’s a few sides to that dynamic. Yes, injuries tend to be viewed as examples of “luck,” either good or bad; still, Detroit’s have, at minimum, exposed that this roster lacked depth. Better days should be just around the corner, if only because it’s not like things can get much worse. Grade: F You have to tip your cap. The Astros lost Carlos Correa to free agency and it hasn’t mattered. Rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña has been phenomenal, as has most of Houston’s lineup. On the other end of the experience spectrum, Justin Verlander has shown no rust after undergoing Tommy John surgery at his advanced age. The Astros didn’t have a splashy offseason by any means, but they didn’t have to; this is still a highly competent roster that should remain in the thick of the American League pennant race. Grade: A It hasn’t been a fun spring in Kansas City. The offense has underperformed by such a wide margin (including Bobby Witt Jr. and Salvador Perez) that the typically loyal Royals fired their hitting coach last week. The pitching staff hasn’t been much better, with only Daniel Lynch and Brad Keller emerging among their various young starters. There’s plenty of time left to put a better foot forward, but it’s unclear if the Royals are up to the challenge. Grade: D You can pick some nits with this Angels team — for instance, they’re getting next to nothing offensively from their middle infield — but, for our money, it’s just nice to see Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani surrounded by a respectable roster. We think the Angels would’ve been thrilled to be sitting this close to the top of the American League West a quarter of the way through. As such, they get an A. Grade: A It’s reasonable to have Dodgers fatigue. They’ve been a constant presence in the National League playoffs since 2013, and it doesn’t appear that’s changing anytime soon. Still, you can’t deny this team is loaded. They have given 10 players at least 50 plate appearances and only two had OPS+ below 90; and that they had given 13 pitchers at least 11 innings, and only one has an ERA+ below 100. This team is absurd. There’s no other way to grade them but to give them the top mark. Grade: A The Marlins have played better ball this season than their sub-.500 record indicates. They have a +17 run differential despite their 18-22 record. What’s the cause for the disconnect? Miami is 5-12 in one-run contests this season. You figure that evens out at some point, and when it does, the Marlins could have more skin in the playoff chase than expected. Grade: B For the most part, everything is going to plan in Milwaukee. The Brewers lead the National League Central, and they again appear to have one of the game’s better rotations. “For the most part” is in that first sentence because the Brewers probably envisioned better things from Lorenzo Cain and Brandon Woodruff, who has had a few spotty starts. Overall, though, this is a good team that is playing to expectations. Grade: A Losing Chris Paddack for the season after five starts is a brutal development for the Twins, but overall there’s a lot to like about how they’ve played. Byron Buxton and Joe Ryan are strong candidates to make the All-Star Game, and you have to think Carlos Correa will eventually shift into a higher gear. The Twins will have to add a couple pieces at the deadline, but this has been a good season for them so far. Grade: A You have to give the Mets an A. They’ve weathered a number of injuries to their rotation, including the season-long absence of Jacob deGrom, and have not only maintained their spot at the top of the National League East, but have one of the best records in the NL overall. That’s essentially the best-case scenario given the circumstances, and it should leave Mets fans excited for what a healthy squad could (will?) look like later in the season. Grade: A There was fair reason to think that the Yankees were being underrated in the preseason — most projection systems had them as the best team in the American League East — but no one could have reasonably expected them to get off to this kind of start. Heaven help the AL if the Yankees can stay healthy and get Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks going. Grade: A There are few things that annoy us more than solid teams tearing down their rosters to save their owners some pebbles. The A’s traded away Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, and Chris Bassitt and made little effort to replace them. Of course this team is bad; it was always going to be bad. We’re giving them the lowest grade possible because Oakland’s fan base deserves better — and could’ve easily had better, had the organization’s priorities been in proper order. Grade: F The Phillies have been mostly as advertised coming into the year. They rank in the top 10 in runs scored and they boast an above-average starting five. That combination has helped the Phillies hide some of the less-impressive parts of the roster (e.g., the defense), though they still have a losing record. We do think they’ll make a run at a wild card spot. That’s about all that could’ve been asked of this bunch. Grade: C The Pirates are a sneaky “F” candidate. You wouldn’t think so, given they were in tied for third place in the National League Central as of Monday, but there are some nits to pick with this bunch that goes beyond their record. Foremost, they have the majors’ worst run differential, a metric that tends to be more predictive in small samples than won-lost record. Additionally, the Pirates continue to operate without either Oneil Cruz or Roansy Contreras in the majors. Cruz has scuffled in Triple-A, but he shouldn’t have been sent down in the first place; Contreras, meanwhile, has seen the majors this season, and has performed well in his appearances. We’re not sure why the Pirates haven’t handed him a rotation spot yet. Grade: D The Padres would’ve gladly taken this record at this point if you had told them they’d be without Fernando Tatis Jr.; that Blake Snell would’ve made just one start by now; and that Trent Grisham, and Wil Myers would each have OPS+ below 90. We will note that the Padres have benefitted from playing just 10 games against teams with winning records. You can play only the schedule you’re given, but dynamic helps to explain why the Padres are where they are in spite of all the above. Grade: A The Giants entered the weekend on a 96-win pace before getting swept by the Padres. That series is a concern, as is being in the same division as the Dodgers. Still, it’s been a strong start in San Francisco. Grade: A. The Mariners seemed to be in good position to end the longest playoff drought in the four major male American professional sports leagues entering the spring. So far, not so good — at least from a team-level perspective. They left Sunday in last place in the American League West, trailing even the Athletics. We think their best ball is ahead of them. Still, it’s fair to characterize the Mariners’ season-to-date as disappointing. Grade: F The National League Central will be a two-team race this season. The Cardinals have a superior run differential when compared to the Brewers, yet are stationed in second place by four games. Go figure. Water always stills, and you’d expect that to be the case here, too. (Oh, and while we didn’t factor them into their grade, some help has arrived in St. Louis in the form of Nolan Gorman; that should aid St. Louis’ attempt at running down the Brewers.) Grade: B The Rays have been overshadowed by the Yankees’ hot start, but Tampa Bay is on pace to win more than 90 games. Shane McClanahan continues to emerge as the next top-notch Tampa Bay starter, while the Rays have received enough from surprising sources (like Manuel Margot) to cover for Randy Arozarena’s sluggish start. Grade: A The Rangers spent a lot of money this offseason to add Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to their lineup. Semien has been surprisingly abysmal, but his poor play hasn’t changed the notion that this Rangers squad was unlikely to be a legitimate contender this season based on the rest of their roster. Grade: C The Blue Jays were a popular pick to win the American League East, and perhaps, eventually, the American League pennant. It’s fair to write they’ve disappointed on those grounds. The Blue Jays offense will eventually kick into high gear, we think, but all we can do is judge what we’ve seen, and this team hasn’t yet consistently resembled a juggernaut. Grade: C You can make the argument that the Nationals deserve an F. They have a poor record and run differential, after all, and they’ve made the blooper reel with some laughably bad fundamentals in recent weeks. We’re giving them a better grade than that because at least they still have Juan Soto and (for the time being) Josh Bell, and both Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray have shown reasons to be encouraged about their futures. Grade: D

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