Welcome to the month of August, the second to last month on baseball’s regular season calendar. We are now roughly two-thirds of the way through the season (each team has played over 100 games), the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, and playoff races are about to heat up. With that in mind, this is the perfect time to release a comprehensive, full 30-team power rankings. My rankings typically stray from the pack in terms of which teams are generally accepted as contenders or not. I do enjoy stirring up controversy, however, so I am not about to go and alter my rankings based on what the experts say.
A lot has changed since I published my first set of power rankings over two months ago. Besides the passing of the trade deadline, there have been injuries to key pitchers (Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw), players returning from suspension (Dee Gordon), and even a mass-exodus of White Sox throwback jerseys (you know who I’m talking about). Some teams have met my expectations, some have exceeded them, and a few have severely disappointed. Without any further hold-up, lets get to it. Below I have provided the current standings as of this article’s writing, followed by my power rankings.
30. Atlanta Braves, No change from May Rankings
I am going after some low hanging fruit here. It is well-known that the Braves are a team in the middle of a massive rebuild. As such, they remain on pace for a 101-loss season as well as in line for the number one overall pick in next year’s amateur draft. That’s not all bad, as their is another team wayyy down this list that is having plenty of success after undergoing their own rebuild. They may not compete in 2016 or even 2017, but a club with a farm system as loaded as Atlanta’s should not remain in the NL basement for long.
29. Minnesota Twins, No change
I hate to put it in such simple terms, but the Twins are bad. They shouldn’t be this bad, but they are. While the Braves are openly in the middle of a rebuild, the Twins are more quietly waiting for their top prospects to reach at least some of their potential. From Jose Berrios (5 starts, 8.57 ERA) to Byron Buxton (.567 OPS), Minnesota has quickly realized just how much time it takes for prospects to adjust to the big leagues. Max Kepler has been the exception, but that is really just offsetting the disappointing performance of Byung-ho Park. Furthermore, thanks to a smaller payroll, their pitching has been bad for years. Despite last season’s stunning first half, it will probably take a little time before the Twins find themselves back in contention.
28. Oakland Athletics, -2
The Athletics were already having a bad season, and now they’ve traded away their number one starter in Rich Hill as well as a superb right fielder in Josh Reddick. With a small-market payroll and both guys being free agents at the end of this season I don’t blame Oakland for making a deal while they could, especially given the quality of the return. But with so many types of competitive balance rules taking place in the league today, you have to start wondering when, if ever, Billy Beane is going to do manage to achieve the main goal of any baseball team: win a World Series Championship.
27. Cincinnati Reds, No Change
Like the Braves, the Reds recognized the impending free agencies of some of their stars and decided to move on from them while they could still receive something in return. That started last season with Johnny Cueto, and has continued with Jay Bruce at this year’s trade deadline. It is probably a smart move to stockpile some youngsters, as the Cardinals are always competitive while the Cubs have a young, loaded roster of their own. The Pirates sit third in the standings with a talented roster as well. The best case scenario for the Reds would be to tank this year, stock their farm, and work towards building a team that can maintain long-term success down the road.
26. Milwaukee Brewers, +2
How can a team that traded their top two relief pitchers and their all-star catcher move up in the rankings? It has more to do with the other teams in the league than with the Brewers themselves, because beating out the Braves, Twins, Reds and Athletics isn’t much to be excited about. Like some of the teams before them though, Milwaukee has been losing the correct way (if there is a correct way); they are in the midst of rebuild that has netted them some very good MLB-ready prospects. It shouldn’t be long before we start hearing names like Orlando Arcia on a regular basis.
25. San Diego Padres, -2
When A.J. Preller took over at the start of the 2015 off-season, he went to work constructing what he believed would be a playoff contending roster. Fast forward to today, and the team has turned in the other direction. Initiating a rebuild could not have been easy for Preller, but it was the right move. Leading up to the trade deadline, the Padres took advantage of the strong sellers market and moved on from Drew Pomeranz and Andrew Cashner, receiving strong returns for both (though there has been controversy of late regarding medical records). Most notably, they managed to acquire Anderson Espinoza from the Red Sox, a kid from Venezuela who has the potential to turn into a top-of-the-rotation arm in three to four years from now.
24. Philadelphia Phillies, +1
I talked more in-depth about both the Phillies’ and Braves’ rebuilds here, but essentially, the Phillies finally did what was expected of them and moved on from their aging core. The rebuilding efforts for this team, however, look to be moving quickly, as they are already getting production from many of their younger pieces, specifically Vincent Velasquez, Odubel Herrera, and Maikel Franco. With a loaded farm and plenty of payroll capacity remaining, the Phillies may find themselves back in contention as early as 2017 should the front office decide to make some bold moves this off-season.
23. Arizona Diamondbacks, -8
The first real swing-and-a-miss for my May rankings, the Diamondbacks just have not lived up to even the lowest of expectations. Once thought of as a threat to the Giants and Dodgers in the NL West, Arizona has failed to challenge the Padres for fourth place in the division. Its not all bad though. Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin will be in line for major bounce-back campaigns in 2017, while A.J. Pollock will return to a lineup that already features Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, and an improving Yasmany Tomas. With Zack Greinke and a bunch of young pitchers also in-tow a reworking of the bullpen and some complimentary additions to the roster should have the team on the upswing as early as next season. For now though, fans will have to watch 10 other teams in the postseason for a little while longer.
22. Los Angeles Angels, +2
The Angels are another team that moved up in the rankings in large-part because of other teams failing to maintain their own spots in the rankings. As they try to take advantage of Mike Trout’s superstar production and the resurgence of Albert Pujols, LA’s pitching just hasn’t proved up to the task. Staff ace Garrett Richards continues to be plagued by the injury bug, also passing it along to former top-prospect Andrew Heaney. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson’s free agencies will open up some spending capacity after the season, but this winter doesn’t project to have the strongest free agent pitching class. Furthermore, the Angels’ farm system is one of the worst in the league, so it has been difficult for them to compete with other teams on the trade market. The offense will score enough runs to keep them around .500 the rest of the way, but this team has some serious long-term issues that need to be addressed.
21. Tampa Bay Rays, -2
Not much is new with the Rays; they continue to develop good young pitchers, but are unable to supplement them with consistent offensive production, leading the team to sell off rotation pieces at the trade deadline. This year, lefty Matt Moore was the guy on the move, being shipped to the San Francisco Giants in return for SS/3B Matt Duffy and a couple of prospects. While a 44-63 record is probably worse than most people expected, it shouldn’t be a major surprise. It is difficult to form a consistent winner when your team is consistently at the bottom of the league in terms of payroll, and if Chris Archer were pitching better, then the team may be closer to .500 than they currently are.
20. Colorado Rockies, +2
Thanks in part to Coors Field, the Rockies once again have one of the top offenses in the entire league. Unfortunately, the Coors Field affect continues to make it difficult for Colorado to develop or acquire any sort of pitching. Jon Gray and Tyler Chatwood have been good, but beyond those two the team doesn’t have much going for them in the rotation or pen. As a whole, the team isn’t terrible, but they still fall short of contention. The injury to rookie shortstop Trevor Story hurts as well, and leads me to believe that the team will finish in the 76-80 win range.
19. New York Yankees, +1
The Yankees have never had a losing record during my lifetime. I am 21, and their last losing season was in 1992. This means that Yankees fans have been enjoying a string of 23 straight winning seasons in the Bronx. This year for maybe the first time ever, New York was a seller at the trade deadline. While the front office may not have liked it, it was certainly well worth it. Now the Yankees look to be a better version of how I described the Phillies. They have one of the best, if not the best, farm systems in the league, as well as a whole lot of money to play around with over the next few seasons. So if that 23-season winning streak is going to come to in end, it would have to be in 2016, because its unlikely that it will happen any other time in the near future.
18. Kansas City Royals, -2
Entering each of the past three seasons, projections had the Royals pegged at being just about a .500 team, give or take a few games. For the first two seasons, Kansas City severely outperformed these projections, making it to two World Series and winning one. This season though, the projections have been right. Rather than sell at the trade deadline as they may have in the past, however, Dayton Moore decided to keep the roster intact. He explained that he feels the team deserves to try and battle through the slump they have been in. The playoffs may not be a possibility this year, but perhaps Moore will be rewarded in 2017 before stars like Eric Hosmer and Wade Davis reach free agency. If not, well then they could always trade guys away at next year’s deadline.
17. Chicago White Sox, -11
Ouch did I get this one wrong. The White Sox have a lot of talent on their roster, especially in the starting rotation. Unfortunately, there are, in fact, times where the parts (or pieces) are greater than the whole. Chris Sale would certainly agree (its too funny not to mention). Speaking of Sale, it was a wise move not moving him or Jose Quintana at the trade deadline. I would much rather go into this off-season looking for hitters than looking for an ace and a number two starter.
16. Pittsburgh Pirates, -4
While it would have appeared that the Pirates were sellers at this year’s trade deadline, I would actually call their actions a retooling effort. Sure they moved on from some of their more costly veterans, but outside of Mark Melancon, none of those guys were performing anyways. In return, Pittsburgh was able to bring in some more cost-controlled guys like Drew Hutchinson and Felipe Rivero, who can contribute now but who are also under team control for multiple more seasons. The Pirates have a good offense and plenty of promising pitching. They should still compete for the second-wild card spot while simultaneously developing a strong core for future playoff runs.
15. Houston Astros, +6
Key pieces like Dallas Kuechel and Colby Rasmus have under-performed, and they were unable to make any significant additions at the trade deadline, but this roster is still talented enough to battle for the second wild card spot. Despite their lack of trades, Houston is and will continue to benefit from a strong farm system that has already seen prospects like A.J. Reed and Alex Bregman make their Major League debuts. It will be an uphill battle the rest of the way, but don’t count this team out just yet.
14. Seattle Mariners, -11
As wrong as I was about the Chicago White Sox, I was equally incorrect about the success (or failure) of the Mariners. At 55-53 they are a good five to eight games behind where I expected them to be at this point in the season, and something still tells me that this team has fight left in them. A +34 run differential speaks to the fact that the production is there, it just hasn’t always come at the right time. The Mariners can pitch, and the Mariners can score. The last time I checked, that was a formula for winning baseball. Let’s see if Seattle can turn this around in the second half.
13. New York Mets, -9
If Matt Harvey were coming back, then the Mets would jump up quite a few spots, but Harvey isn’t coming back. Now, it sounds as if Lucas Duda may not make it back for the regular season either, and the addition of Jay Bruce has been somewhat offset by the placement of Yoenis Cespedes on the DL. I love everything about this team, but they just have not had much luck this season on the things they can’t control, and that could ultimately push them out of a playoff spot.
12. Miami Marlins, +6
Call me crazy, but I really like the current roster of the Miami Marlins. They may have one of the most productive outfields in the MLB, the most underrated catcher in J.T. Realmuto, second baseman Dee Gordon just returned from suspension, and the team added Andrew Cashner at the trade deadline to slot into the rotation behind Jose Fernandez. The bullpen isn’t great, but it does the job, and fans are jumping aboard the Ichiro Suzuki 3,000-hit hype train. These are some good times in Miami, which are few and and far between, so enjoy them while they last.
11. Baltimore Orioles, -1
I should qualify why I have the O’s in this spot, before I get shot or something. Buck Showalter is an OUTSTANDING manager. He always seems to get the most out of his roster regardless of the players on it. Likewise, the Baltimore offense is legit, as is their bullpen. The big issue I see is in the starting rotation. I continue to believe that Chris Tillman is pitching beyond his talent-level, and I am not going to be fooled by the addition of Wade Miley either, even if he is an upgrade over Ubaldo Jimenez. If you want a more specific/analytical explanation as to where the Orioles stand in the AL East, then take a look at this article on OTB. Maybe the Orioles can be the next coming of the Kansas City Royals, riding a mediocre pitching staff and a great bullpen to a championship. I though, am much more inclined to say that Baltimore will have fallen behind the Red Sox and Blue Jays by the time October rolls around.
10. Detroit Tigers, +7
Its about time. Following months of mediocrity, the Detroit Tigers are finally playing to their capabilities. An offense that includes Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos and Justin Upton is going to continue to produce, and will now be paired with a pitching staff that has seen a resurgence from Justin Verlander as well as the return of Jordan Zimmermann. And oh ya, stud rookie Michael Fulmer may just be the Tigers’ new ace.
9. Los Angeles Dodgers, -2
The Dodgers drop significantly in these rankings this time around, in large part because of the injury to Clayton Kershaw. The rest of the rotation had already been battling through injuries of their own, and the addition of Rich Hill won’t make up for the loss of the best pitcher in the league. If Kershaw is to miss the remainder of the season, then I can’t see a scenario where the Dodgers would be serious contenders for a World Series berth. Adding Josh Reddick to the offense will help, and first-year manager Dave Roberts has done a nice job, but there is only so much that a team can handle. Luckily, there is plenty of pitching coming up through the Dodgers’ system that should be slotting into the rotation at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, so the issue isn’t a long term one.
8. Texas Rangers, +3
Disclaimer: I could have easily rotated any of the following three teams between the six, seven, and eight spots on this list. I actually considered just labeling them all as teams 6-8. However, I feel that it is a cop-out, or risk adverse move, to put multiple teams in a tie for one spot, so I decided to order them accordingly. The Rangers are tied for the second highest winning percentage in the AL, and got even better by adding Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Beltran, and reliever Jeremy Jeffress at the trade deadline. They also have a nice one-two punch atop the rotation with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish (if he can stay healthy). Texas also hasn’t been challenged much by the other teams in their division, so an AL West title should be theirs by season’s end.
7. Toronto Blue Jays, +7
I probably would have made the Blue Jays the number 8 team, but with news of Aaron Sanchez remaining in the starting rotation for the remainder of the season, I gave them a slight bump. Toronto’s offense has been good, no surprise there, but their rotation has been better than expected, which has helped them to stay in contention for the division crown. The one area of need that could become the Achilles heel of this team down the stretch is the bullpen. If Sanchez is remaining in the rotation, then that means he will not be providing relief help as had originally been expected. Either way, it should be an exciting end to the season as the Orioles and Blue Jays battle with the next team on this list for the top spot in the AL East.
6. Boston Red Sox, +3
Having spent the past three days coming up with these rankings, I have found the Boston Red Sox to be the most difficult team to judge. I started them as low as 9th in the rankings, which is where I put them back in May, and now have them nearly tied with the Jays and Rangers in the 6 spot. Ultimately, I believe that a rotation of David Price, Rick Porcello, Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz, and Eduardo Rodriguez will have a 1-2-3 emerge down the stretch. The bullpen is strong, especially after some pre-deadline additions, and the offense remains one of the best in the league. The call-up of Andrew Benintendi should only add to this roster’s talent. They may be 3rd in the AL East right now, but at only 2 games back, they are poised to make a move in the standings.
5. St. Louis Cardinals, +3
Honestly, it doesn’t really seem to matter who is on the roster, the Cardinals always find a way to be productive. Like their spot in these rankings, St. Louis is 5th in the league with a +82 run differential. With any other team, it would be easy to point to injuries and over-performance as a reason to expect decline, but Mike Matheny, like Tony La Russa before him, has done a nice job getting the most out of his players. If they can get past the one-game wildcard play-in, then expect the Cardinals to make a run at another championship.
4. San Francisco Giants, +1
The Giants certainly have some questions with their offense, but overall they should be productive enough to supplement a pitching rotation led by Madison Bumgarner that is one of the best in the league. The additions of Eduardo Nunez, Matt Moore, and lefty reliever Will Smith only increase San Francisco’s chances of a World Series appearance. They will have to get through the Nationals and Cubs in a tough National League, but if any team has the ability to do so, it’s the Giants.
3. Cleveland Indians, +10
With the Indians, I could go ahead and talk about their great pitching staff, their outstanding shortstop Francisco Lindor, the acquisition of Andrew Miller at the trade deadline, or even the exceptional performance that they have gotten out of a not-so-exceptional batting order. Instead though, I think credit needs to be given to the manager, Terry Francona. Entering the season, there was plenty of speculation that the Indians would need to trade away one of either Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar in order to obtain an outfield bat that could provide production in place of the injured Michael Brantley. Instead, the front office made some minor additions and let Francona run with them. Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli have been much better than anticipated, Lindor continues to hit, and Francona is making the bold moves that need to be made at the right time. This week, he opted to utilize Andrew Miller in the 6th and 7th innings of a two-run game rather than saving him for the 9th. Well that decision paid off, as Miller was outstanding and the Indians’ offense heated up, ultimately leading Cleveland to a 9-2 victory. Francona has a great feel for the game, and that should greatly benefit his team in the playoffs.
2. Washington Nationals, No Change
I think a lot of people had learned to temper their expectations for the Nationals entering this season. For years it has been assumed that Washington would be the team to beat in the NL, only to fall short of expectations and fail to advance past the NLCS. This year, the Nationals have actually kept pace, challenging the Cubs as the team to beat in the Senior Circuit. Furthermore, their level of play is maintainable thanks to a rotation lead by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and a lineup built around Bryce Harper and the career-year production of Daniel Murphy. They are still the second best team in my opinion, but if the Cubs don’t stay on top of their game, then they could see themselves dropping down a spot at the hands of the Nationals.
1. Chicago Cubs, No Change
The Chicago Cubs have the 3rd most runs scored per game, the fewest runs allowed per game, and the best defensive UZR in the entire league. They also have the best record at 67-41, as well as the highest run differential at +176. Here is a link to Chicago’s current depth chart. The Cubs are the best team in the MLB, and you’d better believe it. Enough said.