MLB Power Rankings: Week 21

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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

Holding down the No. 1 spot yet again, the current leaders of the National League West are 15-5 in August after taking four of six from the Mets and A's last week. This could very well wind up being the Giants’ most successful overall month of the 2021 campaign, which is a shot across the bow to anyone who has called their stay at the top of the standings a fluke. They've logged 80-plus wins through 124 games for just the second time since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 2

Even as the Giants keep delivering series wins, the Dodgers have managed to close the gap a bit, rising to just 2 1/2 games back of San Francisco for first place in the NL West. The defending World Series champions have won nine of their last 10 games and 13 of their last 15. And it looks like they’re going to get some important pieces off the IL here soon. Julio Urias (calf) will start Tuesday’s series opener at San Diego and Mookie Betts (hip) could be activated as early as Thursday.

3. Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 3

Tampa Bay swept a four-game series from the Orioles to begin last week’s slate and then won two of three against the White Sox over the weekend. Wander Franco sort of faded out of the headlines following his electric MLB debut on June 22, but you might want to check back in on the young shortstop. He has the longest active on-base streak of any major leaguer at the moment and is batting .329 with a .973 OPS, 12 extra-base hits, 19 RBI, and 21 runs scored over his last 20 games.

4. Milwaukee Brewers
Record: 76-49
Last Week: 5

Milwaukee jumped into the top five last week and is now into the top four after winning four of six against the Cardinals and Nationals. This team is 14-6 in August and currently 7 1/2 games up on the Reds for first place in the NL Central. Christian Yelich had just one home run in 145 plate appearances since June 26 before going deep twice as part of a six-RBI game on Saturday. He then added another two hits and an RBI on Sunday. If this is the beginning of a hot streak for Yelich, look out.

5. Houston Astros
Last Week: 4

Even having dropped four of their last five games played versus the Royals going back to the beginning of last week, the Astros maintain their lead in the AL West and are about to get healthier as a whole. Alex Bregman (quad) has resumed his minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Sugar Land and Jose Urquidy (shoulder) struck out six batters over three scoreless innings last Thursday in the Florida Complex League. Kyle Tucker (COVID-19 protocols) is due back Tuesday.

6. Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 6

They’ve lost four of their last five games and are just 11-10 in August after falling 2-1 to the Blue Jays on Monday, but the White Sox don’t have all that much to worry about. Even with this slight fade, their stronghold on the AL Central title remains fully intact. One thing to maybe keep an eye on is the health of Tim Anderson. He has been in and out of the lineup -- mostly out -- over the last handful of days due to leg fatigue. Again, though, the Pale Hose have the luxury of finding their stars extra rest.

7. New York Yankees
Record: 73-52
Last Week: 9

The winning streak ran to 10 on Monday night in Atlanta as the Yankees topped the Braves by a score of 5-1. Having heard all the chatter about losing playing time to New York’s trade-deadline additions, Luke Voit went out and won AL Player of the Week for August 16-22. He is 13-for-26 (.500) with three home runs, three doubles, and 13 RBI over his last eight games played, forcing manager Aaron Boone’s hand to keep him in the lineup on a regular basis. Bring on the beefy Bronx Bombers.

8. Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 7

Travis Shaw belted a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning of Monday afternoon’s makeup game against the Rangers as the Red Sox managed to pull out a series win -- just their second series win since late July. They are 8-12 in August and only one game up on the Athletics for the second American League Wild Card spot. Matt Barnes, who had been so steady all summer as Boston’s locked-in closer, is showing a ghastly 18.69 ERA (9 ER, 4 1/3 IP) over his last seven appearances.

9. Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 8

The three straight bullpen meltdowns don’t sit well, but the loss of Chris Bassitt might be the most problematic recent development for this A’s team. He took a 100 mph comebacker off his face last week in Chicago and is scheduled to undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair a tripod fracture in his upper right cheekbone. It’s likely to be a season-ending procedure. Bassitt, 32, had pitched to a 3.22 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 154/35 K/BB ratio through 151 innings (25 starts) this year for Oakland.

10. Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 12

Their nine-game winning streak was snapped by the visiting Yankees on Monday night, but the Braves can still boast a 17-4 record dating back to July 31. They were four games back of first place in the National League East standings at the beginning of August and are now suddenly 4 1/2 games ahead. Granted, those nine straight victories came against the Orioles, Nationals, and Marlins. Atlanta will have to tangle with the Giants and Dodgers after concluding this series versus New York.

11. Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 13

Cincinnati did lose two of three to the Cubs to begin last week’s slate before rebounding in a major way to sweep a four-game set from the Marlins. Vladimir Gutierrez started Sunday’s series finale versus Miami and struck out eight batters across seven innings of one-run ball, surrendering only a walk and three hits in the Reds’ eventual 3-1 victory. Gutierrez is the first Reds pitcher to log six consecutive starts of six-plus innings while allowing two runs or fewer since Mat Latos in 2013.

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12. San Diego Padres
Last Week: 10

In a fairly abnormal move from a contending team in late August, the Padres fired pitching coach Larry Rothschild on Monday, naming bullpen coach Ben Fritz as his interim replacement. Desperation has set in for the Friars amid a 2-9 skid. During that skid, the pitching staff as a whole has posted a 5.91 ERA. That includes Jake Arrieta’s predictable mess of an outing last Wednesday at Colorado, where he allowed five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings before exiting with a hamstring injury.

13. Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 11

Entering their series opener against the White Sox on Monday night, the Blue Jays had lost seven of their last nine games versus the Tigers, Nationals, Mariners, and Angels. They did manage to defeat Chicago thanks to a strong start from Alek Manoah and some promising relief work, but the playoff picture sure looks cloudy right now for Toronto. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Jays are 11 games back of the Rays for first place in the AL East and 4 1/2 games behind in the AL Wild Card hunt.

14. Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 16

Ty France again played the role of hero on Monday in Oakland, cranking a game-tying solo shot in the top of the ninth inning as the Mariners went on to win 5-3. France also hit a game-tying blast in the ninth inning Sunday versus the Astros, followed by a go-ahead run-scoring single in the 11th. He is the first player in Mariners history with a game-tying homer in the ninth inning or later in back-to-back games. And he’s the first MLB player in general to pull that off since Hanley Ramirez in 2008.

15. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 14

The eight-game winning streak that kicked off the month of August for the Phillies and launched them to the very top of the NL East standings kind of feels like it happened a lifetime ago. They’ve lost eight of their last 12 to suddenly fall 4/12 games behind the division-leading Braves. Alec Bohm, the runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2020, was optioned out to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Sunday, having batted just .245/.302/.342 over his first 407 plate appearances this season.

16. St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 15

Hope is fading for the Cardinals, who are 12 games behind the Brewers for first place in the NL Central standings and 4 1/2 games back of the Reds for the second NL Wild Card spot. But let’s give a tip of the cap here to Adam Wainwright after he struck out nine batters over eight scoreless frames in a dominant outing Sunday afternoon against the Pirates. The veteran right-hander holds a 3.10 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 150/39 K/BB ratio through 162 2/3 innings (25 starts) this year at age 39.

17. Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 18

Cleveland climbed back to the .500 mark with a three-game weekend sweep of the Angels, including a 3-0 victory in the Little League Classic on Sunday night in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Amed Rosario popped a two-run homer in the first inning of that one and then later added two singles, ultimately finishing 3-for-4. The 25-year-old infielder, who was acquired in the Francisco Lindor trade, boasts a .402 batting average and 1.081 OPS over his last 94 plate appearances since July 31.

18. New York Mets
Last Week: 17

It’s probably over for the Mets, who have lost eight of their last 10 games to fall 6 1/2 games back of the Braves for first place in the National League East and seven games behind the Reds for the second National League Wild Card spot. Jacob deGrom (elbow, forearm) was transferred to the 60-day injured list on Friday, so he won’t be eligible to return before mid-September. Not that the ace right-hander has been making much progress anyway. An early shutdown may be in order.

19. Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 19

There is finally some encouraging news on the status of Mike Trout. He participated in on-field workouts all last week and then told reporters Saturday that he is close to heading out on a minor league rehab assignment. Trout suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right calf more than three months ago on May 17, when the Angels were only six games back of first place in the AL West standings. Here on August 24, they are 11 1/2 games back in the AL West and nine back of the second AL Wild Card.

20. Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 20

Miguel Cabrera slugged the 500th home run of his career on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre in Toronto, becoming the 28th player in MLB history to reach that particular milestone. Cabrera is also now just 45 hits shy of 3,000, and he’s up to 591 career doubles with a lifetime .311 batting average. He could finish as only the third AL/NL player with 500-plus homers, 3,000-plus hits, 500-plus doubles, and a batting average above .300. The other two? Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

21. Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 21

Antonio Senzatela turned in a strong start on Monday night at Wrigley Field, scattering one run on five hits and two walks across six innings, but the bullpen threw it all away as the Rockies fell 6-4 to the cubs and watched their road record for the year drop to 14-46. Compare that to their home record of 43-22. The overall batting splits are just as bonkers. At home, Rockies hitters hold a combined .840 OPS. Away, a .608 OPS. Best of luck to the next front office in figuring out this Coors Field thing.

22. Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 26

Daniel Lynch battled through five innings of one-run ball as Kansas City pulled off a 7-1 win on Monday night against the Astros. Maybe because they didn’t tear it all down at the deadline, the Royals have won seven of their last eight games and are 19-13 since July 20. Still, they probably should have done a bit more selling. Lynch deserves some love, though. Since being recalled on July 25, the young lefty is 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA and a .227 opponents’ batting average in six starts.

23. Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 23

Kenta Maeda has been placed on the IL and may be headed for a full-on shutdown after making an early exit from his start Saturday versus the Yankees due to right forearm tightness. He was sent for an MRI, the results of which should be made available ahead of Tuesday’s series opener in Boston. Maeda finished second for the AL Cy Young Award last season, but the 33-year-old has struggled to a disappointing 4.66 ERA and 1.30 ERA across 106 1/3 innings (21 starts) here in 2021.

24. Miami Marlins
Last Week: 22

Miami will carry a seven-game losing streak into Tuesday night’s series opener against the Nationals, having been swept by both the Braves and Reds last week. But you might want to tune in for Wednesday’s game versus Washington, when top pitching prospect Edward Cabrera will make his highly-anticipated MLB debut. He had registered a 2.93 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 92 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings this summer between Low-A Jupiter, Double-A Pensacola, and Triple-A Jacksonville.

25. Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 24

Willson Contreras could be activated off the injured list as early as this Friday, when the Cubs embark on a five-game interleague road trip through the South Side of Chicago and then Minnesota. That would allow the 29-year-old catcher to be eased into action out of the DH spot as he completes his recovery from a right knee sprain. One of the few remaining players on this roster who carries significant trade value, Contreras seems sure to be aggressively shopped over the offseason.

26. Washington Nationals
Last Week: 25

The now-rebuilding Nationals may have found something in Lane Thomas, the outfielder they acquired from the Cardinals in the trade deadline deal for veteran left-hander Jon Lester. The soon-to-be 26-year-old was never able to carve out a regular role in St. Louis, but he is 9-for-15 with five walks and three extra-base hits (two doubles, one triple) through his first six games with Washington. Thomas even batted out of the leadoff spot on both Saturday and Sunday at Milwaukee.

27. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 27

As the Bucs play out the string on yet another year of tanking -- and possibly lose Gregory Polanco in a waiver claim, good luck following that story -- David Bednar looks to be emerging as a future fantasy relief stud. He could even hold quite a bit of value the rest of the way this season. The 26-year-old right-hander converted his second save in as many tries on Monday against the Diamondbacks and now owns a 2.44 ERA and 63/16 K/BB ratio in 51 2/3 total innings with Pittsburgh.

28. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 29

Daulton Varsho stayed hot in Monday night’s 6-5 loss to the Pirates, cranking a second-inning solo shot off right-hander Wil Crowe. The catcher-eligible outfielder appears to be coming into his own in a hurry at age 25, boasting a .351/.435/.784 batting line across his last 86 plate appearances dating back to July 20. Varsho has put up 15 extra-base hits (eight homers, six doubles, one triple) with 18 RBI and 18 runs scored over 25 games in that span. He’s certainly on the fantasy map now.

29. Texas Rangers
Last Week: 28

Adolis Garcia was the frontrunner for 2021 American League Rookie of the Year honors at the midway point of this season, but the 28-year-old outfielder went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in the Rangers’ extra-innings loss to the Red Sox on Monday and is slashing just .183/.231/.365 with 45 strikeouts over his last 33 games (134 plate appearances) since the All-Star break. The betting markets currently have Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena as the heavy favorite to claim the AL ROY award.

30. Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 30

Make it an 18-game losing streak for the O’s. That’s right, EIGHTEEN consecutive losses. But there will hopefully be brighter skies ahead in the coming years. For just the second time since began compiling its own updated prospect rankings in 2004, both the top position player prospect and the top pitching prospect are in the same system -- the Orioles’ system. Fast-rising catcher Adley Rutschman is No. 1 overall and 21-year-old right-hander Grayson Rodriguez is No. 8.