MLB Power Rankings: Figuring out the season’s last big question

Yahoo Sports

There’s not too much to settle in Major League Baseball this September.

The way things are looking right now, all six divisions have a clear leader — the St. Louis Cardinals’ 4.5-game lead in the NL Central being the slimmest of any division leader, although by NL Central standards that’s actually quite a lot.

The wild card spots are up for grabs and will be interesting to watch in the final weeks of the season, but beyond that, the questions are a bunch of things that only matter for conversation. Even these Power Rankings have settled into an elite group of three teams at the top.

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The Astros, Yankees and Dodgers set the pace, the Braves are the clear No. 4 and after that? Well, that’s where the fun begins. There’s not a ton of distance between teams like the Twins, Indians, Rays, A’s, Nationals and Cardinals.

None of them have established themselves as a clear October threat. It’s easy to imagine the Nationals or the Rays going on a postseason run. It’s also just as easy to imagine them falling flat.

“Who’s next?” seems to be a worthwhile question this week. Is it the Rays, who have been quite good lately? Or is the Indians, who are loaded with talent but can’t ever seem to fully get on the right track? The Nationals? Also loaded with talent, but also with question marks.

At this point, figuring out which teams lead MLB’s second class of contenders might just be the season’s last big question. And I take aim at it in this week’s Power Rankings, along with how I see all 30 teams.

THE TOP 10

1. Houston Astros (94-50; last week: 1)

The Astros decided to mark the start of the NFL season by putting up three touchdowns against the Mariners on Sunday. In a true testament to their embarrassment of riches, the Astros scored 21 runs *and* Gerrit Cole had 15 strikeouts in eight innings.

2. New York Yankees (94-50; last week: 2)

For all the concern about the Yankees’ injuries, their rotation and what role Luis Severino might have when he returns, they keep winning. Three of their wins this week came with only one run allowed. The AL East is theirs. The question is how they’ll match up in October with (presumably) the Twins.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (93-52; last week: 3)

The Dodgers are gonna win the NL West this week. Giants fans will claim this weekend series win as a big thing, but the fact the remains that the path to a third straight World Series is right in front of the Dodgers. They have some pitching questions to answer, but all indications are, this a team that could finally win it all again.

4. Atlanta Braves (89-55; last week: 4)

The Braves made a strong statement by taking three of four from the Nats over the weekend, especially since they were relatively tight victories and their potentially volatile pitching help up quite well. They’ve got a nine-game lead in the NL East and their next 10 games are against the Phillies and Nats, which means they can put the division away with a bunch of wins.

The Rays have won 11 of their last 12 games. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images)
The Rays have won 11 of their last 12 games. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images)

5. Tampa Bay Rays (86-59; last week: 6)

The Rays have won 11 of 12 going back to Aug. 29. Granted, beating up on the Orioles and Blue Jays was part of that, but they also swept the Indians last week. Austin Meadows is on fire lately. Tyler Glasnow is back. The timing could be right.

6. Minnesota Twins (88-53; last week: 5)

The Twins lost two of the three to the Indians over the weekend. It didn’t dent their AL Central lead too much, but they need to spring back to life quickly. They’ve got three games next against the Nats, then visit Cleveland for three more. A strong showing and the division is all but theirs.

7. Cleveland Indians (83-61; last week: 10)

The Indians would have been better off they had not lost two of four to the White Sox before beating the Twins. Inconsistencies remain a problem. This week is the big one for them. They’ve got three against the Angels and then another series against the Twins. If they can’t make get within a couple of games of the division lead by then, the wild card is their best hope.

8. Oakland A’s (84-59; last week: 7)

All credit due to the A’s on their great season thus far, but you’re not gonna get a big boost this week for winning five of six against the Tigers and Angels. Astros are up next, let’s see what you got there.

9. St. Louis Cardinals (81-62; last week: 9)

The Cardinals haven’t lost a series in more than a month. The last one was Aug. 7 when the Dodgers swept them. They’re 23-12 since Aug. 1, which is how they’ve been able to climb atop the NL Central.

10. Washington Nationals (79-63; last week: 8)

The Nats pretty much blew their shot at taking down the Braves for the division title by losing three of four over the weekend. It’s a nine-game deficit now, but they have a three-game lead for the top NL wild-card and facing Max Scherzer in a one-game playoff sure seems like a daunting task.

NEXT UP

11. Milwaukee Brewers (74-68; last week: 13)

12. Chicago Cubs (76-66; last week: 11)

13. Arizona Diamondbacks (75-68; last week 15)

14. Philadelphia Phillies (74-68; last week: 14)

15. Boston Red Sox (76-67; last week: 12)

The Brewers swept the Cubs to insert themselves back into the wild-card convo. The D-backs are hot lately and within spittin’-distance of the Cubs in the wild-card race. The Phillies are just two games out, although it feels like a little more. The Red Sox? Well, firing Dave Dombrowski sent a clear message about their prospects the rest of the year.

IT’S NOT LOOKING GOOD

16. New York Mets (72-70; last week: 15)

17. Texas Rangers (72-73; last week: 18)

18. San Francisco Giants (69-74; last week: 16)

19. Los Angeles Angels (67-77; last week: 19)

20. Cincinnati Reds (67-77; last week: 21)

Only the Mets in this bunch have an outside shot of making the postseason, and that looks more unrealistic by the day. The rest of these teams? It’s yikesville. Mike Trout, as always, deserves better.

IT’S A WRAP

21. San Diego Padres (66-76; last week: 20)

22. Pittsburgh Pirates (62-81; last week: 22)

23. Chicago White Sox (63-80; last week: 23)

24. Colorado Rockies (60-84; last week: 24)

25. Seattle Mariners (58-88; last week: 25)

Most of these teams are exactly where most people thought they’d be, but ouch to those Rockies, who you’ll remember were a wild-card team last season. And unlike a few of these teams, they’re not even tanking.

THE CELLAR

26. Toronto Blue Jays (55-89; last week: 26)

27. Miami Marlins (51-91; last week: 27)

28. Kansas City Royals (53-91; last week: 28)

29. Baltimore Orioles (46-97; last week: 29)

30. Detroit Tigers (42-100; last week: 30)

The Tigers became the first team to hit the not-so-magical 100-loss mark. The O’s will be there soon. But just how bad are the Tigers? Their -283 run differential is more than 100 runs worse than the Marlins (-173), Royals (-151) and Blue Jays (-99).

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Mike Oz is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @mikeoz

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