MLB Power Rankings: Week 17

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Welcome to the NBC Sports EDGE MLB Power Rankings, a weekly feature that will run every Tuesday through the end of the 2021 regular season. These rankings are not fantasy-driven in any way, though I do tend to sprinkle in fantasy-relevant nuggets here and there. Who’s hot, who’s not, who to watch -- that sort of thing. Send any and all complaints to me on Twitter: @drewsilv.

Please believe me when I tell you that I do not hate your team.

1. San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 1

It’s tempting to drop the Giants a spot or two, especially after they lost two of three to the Pirates over the weekend, but they still hold the best record in baseball and can greatly improve their position at the top of the NL West standings in a three-game series against the Dodgers that will get underway on Tuesday night at San Francisco’s Oracle Park. They took three of four from Los Angeles last week at Dodger Stadium. The season is growing late, and the Giants simply haven’t budged.

2. Houston Astros
Last Week: 3

Looking past Monday’s brutal loss at Seattle, the American League West-leading Astros have mostly been on a roll in July and could get Alex Bregman (quad) back on the active roster before the end of this week, assuming all goes well on his minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Sugar Land. The biggest need for Houston ahead of Friday’s trade deadline is probably high-leverage relief help. Craig Kimbrel would make a lot of sense, but there are several other options out there.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 2

The defending champs are 3-5 over their last eight games against the Giants and Rockies. Mookie Betts is currently on the IL with a hip issue that has apparently been bothering him for much of the year. And then there is this Los Angeles Times story on the Trevor Bauer situation, wherein beat reporter Mike DiGiovanna writes that “a majority of players” on the Dodgers’ roster do not want Bauer to return to the club “under any circumstances” amid his ongoing sexual assault investigation.

4. Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 7

It’s sort of old news by now -- no pun intended -- but the Nelson Cruz acquisition could prove to be a real differentiator in the American League East race. The 41-year-old designated hitter is a set-it-and-forget-it piece for Rays manager Kevin Cash and already strutted his stuff with a pair of home runs in the club’s three-game weekend series at Cleveland. Cruz is up to 21 homers on the season and carries an .909 OPS. As a whole this year, Tampa Bay hitters have combined for a .719 OPS.

5. Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 6

Enrique Hernandez earned American League Player of the Week for July 19-25 after batting .400 with three homers, four doubles, a triple, nine RBI, and eight runs scored in a span of six games versus the Blue Jays and Yankees. And the Red Sox won five of those six games to maintain the top spot in the AL East. They also beat the Jays again on Monday night courtesy of some late-inning heroics. Chris Sale (elbow) might only be two rehab starts away from joining the rotation.

6. Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 4

Chicago has lost four of its last five games, including a 4-3 heartbreaker on Monday night against the Royals during which Eloy Jimenez (pectoral) made his 2021 regular season debut but finished 0-for-4 with a strikeout. All is well, though, as the White Sox still woke up Tuesday with a very comfortable lead on first place in the American League Central standings. And their five-man rotation is healthy and intact, which is something that truly sets them apart among contending clubs.

7. San Diego Padres
Last Week: 5

Falling out of the top five, the Padres lost the final two games of a four-game weekend series against the Marlins and are now just 9-11 in July. But they did make a nice splash on Sunday evening in acquiring Adam Frazier from the Pirates. Frazier, who should officially join San Diego’s active roster ahead of Tuesday’s series opener against the A’s, had slashed .324/.388/.448 through 428 plate appearances this season for Pittsburgh. He can play second base and the corner outfield.

8. Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 8

The first-place Brewers just took two of three from the White Sox and will now look to pad their lead in the NL Central standings with a bit of an easier slate. They get the Pirates, a team they’re 7-3 against this year, for six of their next nine games. And the other three are against the Braves, who have yet to climb above the .500 mark at any point this season. Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta can make for a highly dangerous three-headed monster come October.

9. Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 9

Oakland lost the final three games of a four-game weekend series versus the Mariners and must now try to right the ship in a tough two-game set at San Diego. James Kaprielian will get the ball in Tuesday’s opener as he continues to make a late run at possibly claiming the 2021 AL Rookie of the Year Award. And the A’s will have a new high-leverage reliever in tow, having landed lefty Andrew Chafin from the Cubs on Monday night. He boasts a 2.06 ERA in 43 appearances this year.

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10. New York Mets
Last Week: 12

Jacob deGrom began a throwing program late last week and could soon head out on a one-start minor league rehab assignment, putting him on track to potentially return to action in early August. Even as the Mets look to make a number of pre-deadline upgrades to solidify their spot at the top of the NL East, they’ll need a healthy deGrom to be a real World Series challenger. The ace right-hander had dominated to the tune of a 1.08 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, and 146/11 K/BB ratio through 92 innings.

11. New York Yankees
Last Week: 11

New York went 9-3 between July 4-21 and carried some momentum into a big four-game weekend series versus the arch-rival Red Sox before losing three of those four games. Per the Playoff Odds page at Baseball-Reference, the Yankees currently have just a 13.1 percent chance to advance to the postseason and a 0.4 percent chance to win the 2021 World Series. FanGraphs, a bit more optimistically, has them at a 36.3 percent chance to make the playoffs and 3.2 percent to win it all.

12. Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 10

The suddenly-tumbling Blue Jays blew a late lead at Fenway Park on Monday night and have now dropped five of their last six games while sliding 10 1/2 games back in the American League East and 4 1/2 games behind in the crowded hunt for the second AL Wild Card spot. By the time the Jays move back to Toronto on Friday -- which also happens to be the day of the trade deadline -- there might not be quite as much buzz about this being a postseason-worthy club.

13. Seattle Mariners
Record: 55-46
Last Week: 15

They just took three of four from the A’s this weekend and then pulled off a thrilling 11-8 comeback win over the Astros on Monday night. As it stands here on Tuesday afternoon, the Mariners sit only one game back of the second American League Wild Card spot despite a run differential of -49. How is this happening? Well, they’re 23-8 in games decided by one run and 46-13 when they score four runs or more. A little luck, timely hitting, and some surprisingly steady high-leverage pitching.

14. Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 13

Nick Castellanos is expected to resume baseball activities on Tuesday as he recovers from a fracture in his right wrist, but the Reds -- having lost seven of their last 10 games -- might be fully out of the hunt by the time the All-Star outfielder returns to the active roster. Castellanos was batting .329/.383/.582 with 18 home runs, 29 doubles, 59 RBI, and 59 runs scored through 86 games when he landed on the IL on July 20. Keep in mind that he has an opt-out for after this season.

15. Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 14

We can probably stick a fork in the Indians -- soon to be renamed the Guardians -- who have gone 7-15 since June 28 while falling 8 1/2 behind the White Sox for first place in the American League Central standings. They’re only five games back of the second AL Wild Card spot but will have trouble even closing that gap in the ongoing absence of staff ace Shane Bieber. He was transferred to the 60-day injured list on Sunday as he continues to work through a right shoulder strain.

16. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 16

If the Nationals wind up doing a trade-deadline firesale of sorts, we can look back at Andrew McCutchen’s three-run walk-off homer from Monday night as at least a partial impetus. That comeback win put the Phillies only 3 1/2 games behind the Mets for first place in the National League East standings while also serving to drop the Nats a full 8 1/2 games back. Philly faces some interesting internal debates in the leadup to Friday after a mostly mediocre first four months of play.

17. St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 18

Harrison Bader went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI on Sunday against the Reds as the Cardinals managed to avoid a three-game sweep. Bader missed the first four weeks of the 2021 season because of a right forearm strain and then sat out all of June after fracturing a rib on a diving catch attempt in late May, but the rangy 27-year-old center fielder has posted an impressive .289/.358/.507 batting line over 41 games when healthy. And the Cards are 23-18 in those 41 games.

18. Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 17

Shohei Ohtani on Monday became the first pitcher to have a hit, an RBI, and a stolen base in an American League ballpark since Minnesota's Luis Tiant on April 26, 1970 versus Detroit. And he did it all in the first inning of the Angels’ eventual 6-2 victory over the Rockies. Still, it’s hard to see this team going anywhere fast in the ongoing absence of both Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. Trout (calf) has yet to ramp up baseball activities and Rendon (hamstring) is at least two more weeks away.

19. Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 19

Still stagnating under the .500 mark following Monday’s doubleheader split with the Mets, the Braves have to at least consider doing a bit of selling before Friday, right? Charlie Morton would surely draw a lot of interest in a trade market that isn’t exactly flush with high-level starting pitching. The 37-year-old left-hander was signed to a one-year, $15 million free agent contract over the winter and has pitched to a strong 3.65 ERA, 1.135 WHIP, and 130/40 K/BB ratio in 111 innings this season.

20. Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 20

Javier Baez was held out of Chicago's’ starting lineup on Monday night against the Reds due to a bruised heel, but he came off the bench in the bottom of the ninth inning and barely broke into a trot after smacking a walk-off RBI single to center field, preferring a row-your-boat motion toward Cincinnati reliever Amir Garrett. Could that have been El Mago’s final memorable moment in a Cubs uniform? The 28-year-old impending free agent is said to want $200 million in a contract extension.

21. Washington Nationals
Last Week: 21

All of a sudden, the Nats might be the most interesting and perhaps active seller in the leadup to Friday’s deadline. They’ve dropped 16 of 21 games this month, which is their worst stretch since 2010, the club’s last 90-loss season. Max Scherzer is reportedly open to waiving his no-trade rights to join a contender, and there was this tweet Monday from Jon Heyman of MLB Network suggesting that “everyone but Juan Soto is available.” Trea Turner should be generating huge interest.

22. Detroit Tigers
Record: 47-55
Last Week: 22

Miguel Cabrera belted the 495th home run of his career on Monday night against the Twins, a two-run shot that initially tied the game in the top of the sixth inning before the Tigers ultimately fell 6-5 in extras. It was Cabrera’s first home run since the calendar flipped to July and only his eighth home run in 317 total plate appearances this season, but the 500 milestone may just be within reach if the veteran slugger is able to stay healthy the rest of the way. He’s also 66 hits away from 3,000.

23. Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 24

It was nice to see Rockies manager Bud Black in the dugout on Monday night in Anaheim after he missed eight games as part of MLB’s COVID-19 and contact tracing protocols. Not to suddenly go rude, but he might be overseeing some ugly history down the stretch. Colorado is just 10-37 on the road this year and on pace to go 18-63 away from Coors Field. The worst all-time road record in a 162-game season is 17-64, shared by the 1963 New York Mets and 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates.

24. Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 23

The trade market for Taylor Rogers might have been dealt a big blow on Monday night when he made an early exit from Minnesota’s series opener against the Tigers because of a left middle finger sprain. Rogers owns a 3.35 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 59/8 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 innings this season to go along with nine saves. He has also held left-handed hitters to a .170 batting average and .185 on-base percentage. The southpaw is under control through 2022, so maybe the Twins now wait?

25. Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 26

Even just a week ago, it would have been silly to think that there might be a healthy trade market for Jorge Soler following his dreadful first half. But he has hit six home runs during the Royals’ current six-game winning streak, including back-to-back two-homer performances on Sunday and Monday. Soler is only the fifth player in Royals history with back-to-back multi-homer games, joining 2021 Salvador Perez, 2005 Mike Sweeney, 1977 Darrell Porter, and 1969 Ed Kirkpatrick.

26. Miami Marlins
Last Week: 25

Word around baseball is that the Marlins are willing to listen to trade offers for anyone who is not a starting pitcher. Starling Marte is sure to be their most coveted position player because of his dynamic offensive skillet and ability to play all three outfield spots. The 32-year-old impending free agent has slashed .303/.403/.452 with seven home runs and 21 stolen bases in 62 games this season. Jesus Aguilar, Adam Duvall, Yimi Garcia, and Dylan Floro are other names to watch.

27. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 27

Adam Frazier is already out the door, as is Clay Holmes, and closer Richard Rodriguez could be the next significant Pirates player to go. But there should also be heavy trade interest in starter Tyler Anderson. We’ll know something is in the works if he gets scratched from his scheduled outing in Tuesday night’s series opener against the Brewers. The 31-year-old left-hander has registered a 4.35 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 86/25 K/BB ratio across 103 1/3 innings (18 starts) this season.

28. Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 29

A little bump here for the O’s after they swept a three-game weekend series against the Nationals. They’ve now won six of their last eight games. John Means is not fully back to himself just yet after missing seven weeks due to a shoulder strain, but he did go 6 2/3 innings on Sunday versus Washington in an eventual 5-4 walk-off victory for Baltimore. When not on the IL, the 28-year-old lefty has rolled to a 2.94 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 73/14 K/BB ratio in 82 2/3 innings this season.

29. Texas Rangers
Record: 35-65
Last Week: 28

Make it 12 straight losses for the Rangers, who just got swept by the Astros in a three-game weekend series and are now a season-worst 30 games below .500. There’s been talk that Texas may try to sign Joey Gallo to a long-term contract extension rather than floating him for a possible deadline trade, but that could just be a form of posturing to drive up the asking price. Gallo has an .864 OPS with 24 home runs in 94 games this season and is maybe the top power bat on the market.

30. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 30

This has actually been a relatively successful month for the D-backs. They are 9-10 in July after going just 8-48 between May and June. But the damage is obviously done, and they’re sure to shed some talent before Friday’s trade deadline in an effort to carve out a brighter future. Eduardo Escobar, David Peralta, and Joakim Soria are almost certainly on the block. And maybe Arizona can find a taker on Madison Bumgarner and what’s left of his five-year, $85 million deal.