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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
San Francisco begins yet another week with the best overall record in baseball and the No. 1 spot in these rankings. Alex Wood returned from the COVID-19 injured list on Saturday and worked three perfect innings on 37 pitches against the Braves as the Giants won that game 2-0 and wound up taking two of three from Atlanta. Kevin Gausman will get the ball on Tuesday for the start of a big three-game series versus the Padres. He’s showing a 2.78 ERA and 10.7 K/9 in 30 outings this year.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 2
It is sort of amazing that the Dodgers have yet to be able to fully leapfrog the Giants in the National League West. The defending World Series champs are 33-11 since the beginning of August but have made up only two games in the standings in that span. Still, they’re certainly knocking on the door, currently just one game back of San Francisco leading into a favorable six-game road trip through Colorado and then Arizona. Those teams that have combined for a season total of 181 losses.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 4
They fell 5-2 to the red-hot Cardinals on Monday, but it’s pretty much a given that the Brewers will be crowned NL Central champions before the end of this week. Willy Adames is back from the IL, having sat out 15 days due to a lingering quad injury. The high-energy 26-year-old shortstop boasts a .291/.371/.523 batting line with 17 home runs, 51 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 89 games since Milwaukee acquired him from Tampa Bay in May. And the Brewers are 60-29 in those 89 games.
4. Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 3
Tampa Bay has fallen into a bit of a lull here in mid-to-late September, but the AL East title is not going to slip away and maybe Shane Baz can inject some new life into the pitching staff as the playoffs draw near. The talented 22-year-old earned a win in his MLB debut on Monday night against the Blue Jays after yielding just two hits -- both solo homers -- over five innings of work. He had registered a 2.06 ERA and 113/13 K/BB ratio in 78 2/3 frames this summer between Double-A and Triple-A.
5. Houston Astros
Last Week: 5
Having achieved four straight series wins, and with their 10-0 rout of the Angels on Monday, the Astros are currently seven games up on first place in the AL West with only 12 games to play. They hold the best run differential of all AL teams at +211 and are only behind the Dodgers (+249) for the top overall run differential in the majors. Carlos Correa is batting .329 with a .949 OPS across his last 88 plate appearances dating back to August 28. He’s tallied 17 RBI in 17 games this month.
6. Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 6
Carlos Rodon left his start Monday against the Tigers after only three innings due to renewed soreness in his throwing arm and White Sox manager Tony La Russa later acknowledged to reporters that the team is concerned. Chicago has run away with the AL Central and should officially secure the division title within the next few days, but another absence for Rodon could loom large with October fast approaching. He’s posted a stellar 2.47 ERA with 181 strikeouts in 127 2/3 frames this year.
7. Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 7
Robbie Ray had pitched to a 1.85 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and 46/3 K/BB ratio in 34 innings (five starts) this season against the Rays before he surrendered three runs on seven hits and two walks over just 4 2/3 frames in a 6-4 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday night. Still, the Blue Jays are in control of the second American League Wild Card spot as of Tuesday afternoon, having won 20 of their last 28 games dating back to August 23. It’s the best record of any MLB team over that span.
8. Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 8
Boston rattled off five straight wins last week against the Mariners and Orioles and will enter Tuesday night’s series opener versus the Mets with a grip on the top American League Wild Card spot. Not exactly a firm grip, but a grip nonetheless. Chris Sale was activated from the COVID-19 injured list this past Friday and worked five innings of one-run ball in a 79-pitch start. The ace left-hander is 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in 30 innings (six starts) since returning from Tommy John elbow surgery.
9. New York Yankees
Last Week: 9
This has been a year of great frustration for the Yankees, but they are only a half-game behind the second AL Wild Card spot entering play on Tuesday after winning 4-3 against the Rangers on Monday night. It was their 53rd win by one or two runs this year. The only season in franchise history that featured more such wins was 1961. Luis Severino (elbow, shoulder) is back on the active roster for the first time since 2019 and could prove to be a valuable contributor in long relief.
10. St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 15
Jon Lester, on Monday night at Milwaukee, became just the sixth left-handed pitcher in the Wild Card era to reach 200 career wins, joining Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer, Andy Pettitte, Mark Buehrle, and CC Sabathia. Lester has been a surprisingly excellent trade deadline addition for the Cardinals, who are suddenly three games up on the second NL Wild Card spot and carrying a nine-game winning streak. That’s the longest winning streak for any St. Louis team since 2004. Devil magic, y’all.
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11. Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 12
Oakland rolled to five straight wins last week in Kansas City and Anaheim before falling 4-2 to the visiting Mariners on Monday. Another hot streak is a must for the A’s, who are one of five teams contending for the two AL Wild Card spots with very little time to make up ground. Chris Bassitt’s anticipated return on Thursday could provide a significant real-life and emotional boost. He’s been sidelined since August 17 after suffering multiple facial fractures when he got struck by a comebacker.
12. Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 10
Kyle Seager went 3-for-4 with three RBI on Monday night as the Mariners topped the division-rival Athletics by a score of 4-2. Seager is cruising toward the first 100 RBI season of his career at age 33 despite a fairly underwhelming .211/.289/.442 overall batting line in 620 total appearances. That kind of mimics the general aesthetic of this particular Seattle team, which is still technically alive in the crowded American League Wild Card chase even with a run differential of -60.
13. Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 11
Atlanta had lost four straight games versus the Rockies and Giants before earning a 3-0 shoutout victory over San Francisco on Sunday and rolling to an 11-4 rout of the Diamondbacks on Monday. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Braves are three games up on the Phillies for first place in the NL East with less than two weeks left in the 2021 regular season. Adam Duvall is riding a career-best 16-game hitting streak, and eight of his 18 hits have been home runs. He leads the NL in RBI with 107.
14. Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 13
Cincinnati has fallen three games behind the Cardinals in the hunt for the second National League Wild Card spot and might simply run out of time to make up enough ground, even with an advantageous rest-of-season schedule. Jesse Winker lasted just one day back on the active roster before re-injuring his intercostal muscle. If this proves to be a season-ender for Winker, he finishes with a .305/.394/.556 batting line, 24 home runs, 71 RBI, and 77 runs scored across 110 games played.
15. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 17
Bryce Harper has gone hitless in back-to-back games for the first time since August 18-19, but the 28-year-old outfielder is putting together a truly historic second half for the Phillies as they look to make a late charge at the NL East title. Harper, going back to the All-Star break, has slashed .347/.481/.743 in 262 plate appearances. Since the first All-Star Game in 1933, the only players to hit .350/.480/.750 or better in the second half: Ted Williams, Manny Ramirez, Barry Bonds, and Ryan Howard.
16. San Diego Padres
Last Week: 14
This may be a mind-boggling note for the more casual baseball fans out there, but the Padres hold the worst record of any National League team since August 11 at 10-24. They were 17 games above .500 on August 10 and are only three games above .500 here on the afternoon of September 21. Following the weekend series sweep at St. Louis, there were reports from multiple outlets suggesting that manager Jayce Tingler has lost the clubhouse and could get canned at the end of the year.
17. New York Mets
Last Week: 16
That successful Subway Series versus the Yankees feels like it happened ages ago -- not last weekend -- as the Mets followed it up by losing five straight to the Cardinals and Phillies. Entering play on Tuesday, they are six games back of the Braves for first place in the NL East and 7 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the second NL Wild Card. Jacob deGrom (elbow) is throwing off a mound again, but whatever possible impact he might make would almost certainly be too little too late.
18. Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 19
Jose Ramirez was named American League Player of the Week for September 13-19 after going 10-for-20 (.500) with two home runs, two doubles, seven RBI, one stolen base, and 10 runs scored in a span of six games, of which Cleveland won four. The 29-year-old third baseman is sporting a .905 OPS with 35 homers, 96 RBI, 24 steals, and 103 runs scored in 139 games on the season and could be headed for his fourth career top-three finish in the American League MVP balloting.
19. Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 20
Miguel Cabrera’s chase for 3,000 career hits will probably have to be delayed until 2022 after he made an early exit from Monday’s series opener against the White Sox -- a 3-2 victory for Detroit -- due to what’s being labeled as back tightness. It doesn’t sound like an overtly serious issue, but the veteran slugger needs 21 more hits and there are only 11 games remaining on the 2021 schedule for Detroit. Good news or bad news: Cabrera is under contract through 2023 at a total of $64 million.
20. Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 18
In what might have been his final pitching appearance of the year, Shohei Ohtani struck out 10 batters over eight efficient innings on Sunday versus the A’s. That leaves him with a 9-2 record, 3.28 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 146 strikeouts in 123 1/3 innings (22 starts) this season. And he has also registered a .945 OPS with 44 home runs, 94 RBI, 23 stolen bases, and 93 runs scored in 143 games as the Angels’ primary DH. All due respect to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but Ohtani is your 2021 AL MVP.
21. Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 21
Colorado just earned seven wins on a nine-game excursion through Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Washington, which qualifies as the team’s most successful road trip since May 2017. Had the Rockies won eight of those nine games, it would have been their best road swing since 2009. They are 26-20 since mostly sitting tight at the July 30 trade deadline. But, yes, it probably would have been far wiser in the long term to deal away impending free agents Trevor Story and Jon Gray for prospects.
22. Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 22
Kansas City swept a doubleheader in Cleveland on Monday, highlighted by Salvador Perez cranking his 46th homer of the year in the early tilt. That’s a new single-season home run record for a player who has made a minimum of 75 percent of his starts at the catcher position. Perez also mashed at a high level during the condensed 2020 campaign and now boasts an .890 OPS (135 OPS+) with 57 dingers and 147 RBI over his last 187 games played. It’s never-before-seen stuff from a backstop.
23. Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 23
Their seven-game winning streak came to a halt on September 6 and the Cubs have since dropped eight of their last 11 games against the Reds, Giants, Phillies, and Brewers. But let’s give a celebratory nod here to Patrick Wisdom, who slugged a 430-foot drive over the center field fence on Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee for his 27th home run of the year. That’s a new single-season home run record for a Cubs rookie, surpassing the 26 bombs that Kris Bryant hit out in 2015.
24. Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 24
After dropping two of three to the Blue Jays over the weekend, the Twins have lost eight of their last 11 games. And unless they go 8-4 or better over their final 12 games versus the Cubs, Jays, Tigers, and Royals, they’ll finish with at least 90 losses for the 10th time in the last 25 years. They’ve managed 90-plus wins just once since 2011. It’s a grim overall picture for a club that captured the AL Central title during the truncated 2020 campaign but is suddenly sitting in last place in 2021.
25. Miami Marlins
Last Week: 25
Jazz Chisholm went yard twice and scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Marlins earned an 8-7 victory over the Nationals on Monday. His first home run traveled 427 feet to right with an exit velocity of 107.0 mph, and the second went 415 feet to center and came off his bat at 110.4 mph. The young infielder is up to 17 homers in 112 games on the season, and he’s already recorded 22 steals. Is there enough time left for Jazz to make this a 20-20 campaign?
26. Washington Nationals
Last Week: 26
This will still go down as a highly disappointing season for Tanner Rainey, who’s showing a 7.07 ERA, but the hard-throwing 28-year-old reliever is doing his best to salvage what’s left. He struck out the side in the ninth inning of Monday’s extra-innings loss to the Marlins and has now punched out each of the last 15 batters that he has faced going back to his final handful of appearances at Triple-A Rochester. Rainey is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2022, so the Nats have a decision to make.
27. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 28
The swashbuckling Buccos nearly pulled off their first series sweep of the season this past weekend in Miami before falling 6-5 in extra innings on Sunday. They also lost 9-5 to the Reds on Monday despite being up 5-0 after the top of the third inning. Do we need to talk about Ke’Bryan Hayes? The young third baseman is batting just .254/.317/.367 with five home runs in 90 games this year. He put up a .376/.442/.682 slash line with five homers over his first 24 major league games in 2020.
28. Texas Rangers
Last Week: 27
A.J. Alexy had a historic start to his career with the Rangers, allowing just two hits over 11 scoreless innings while becoming the first rookie in the modern era to work five-plus frames while yielding one or fewer hits in each of his first two MLB outings. But reality has seemingly set in for the 23-year-old righty, who got blown up for six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings on September 13 against the Astros and then surrendered four earned runs in 3 1/3 frames Monday in a loss to the Yankees.
29. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 29
How high will Daulton Varsho go in fantasy drafts next spring? Maybe within the top-100 picks? The catcher-eligible 25-year-old hit his second triple of the year in the Diamondbacks’ loss to the Braves on Monday and is slashing .299/.352/.605 across his last 160 plate appearances dating back to July 20. He’s tallied 10 home runs, 26 RBI, and 27 runs scored in that 45-game span, which works out to 36 homers, 94 RBI, and 97 runs when extrapolated out to 162 games. He can scoot too.
30. Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 30
John Means sure embraced the spoiler role on Monday night, contributing 6 2/3 scoreless innings to the Orioles’ eventual 2-0 shoutout of the host Phillies, who are trying to make up ground in both the NL East and NL Wild Card races. It was the first road shutout thrown by any 100-loss team in the last five years, and the first time that the O’s had shut out any opponent in any location since the middle of July. Means is finishing the year strong, now with a 3.25 ERA in 138 2/3 total frames.