Drew Silva

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MLB Power Rankings: Week 24

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

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The final three weeks of the regular season are always a blast -- arguably more interesting than the postseason because of the amount of teams still in the fight.

It looks like the playoff spots in the American League are all but accounted for, but check out the National League, where the Central and West divisions are fully up for grabs and the Wild Card race could very well come down to the final day.

This week’s edition of the Rotoworld MLB Power Rankings reflect all of the potential chaos …

1. Boston Red Sox

Record: 98-46

Last Week: 1

The Red Sox lost the first two games of their three-game weekend series against the Astros before winning in walk-off fashion on Sunday night, with Mitch Moreland delivering an RBI single to left field in the bottom of the ninth. J.D. Martinez slugged his 40th home run of the season in that one and drove in four of Boston’s six runs. The 31-year-old slugger has an outside shot at winning the first true Triple Crown, encompassing all players from both leagues, since Mickey Mantle did it in 1956. Martinez currently ranks second in batting average (.331) behind teammate Mookie Betts (.342), second in home runs (40) behind Khris Davis (41), and first in RBI (121).

2. Houston Astros

Record: 90-54

Last Week: 2

The defending World Series champions have won eight of their last nine games and nearly swept the Red Sox this past weekend at Wrigley Field. Alex Bregman is batting .356/.453/.652 in 161 plate appearances since July 31. His season OPS is up to .959 and he currently leads all major leaguers in extra-base hits, helped by his 30 home runs and 49 doubles. The sky would seem to be the limit for how good the 24-year-old third baseman can be. Justin Verlander struck out 10 batters over seven innings to earn a win Monday in his first game back at Detroit’s Comerica Park. The veteran right-hander is 15-9 with a 2.72 ERA and 258/35 K/BB ratio in 195 innings.

3. New York Yankees

Record: 90-54

Last Week: 3

The Yankees won two of three over the weekend at Seattle’s Safeco Field and then earned a 7-2 victory in Monday night’s series opener against the Twins, with Gary Sanchez delivering three hits, including a mammoth 460-foot home run in the top of the sixth inning. It was his first three-hit game since April 16. Sanchez has been one of the biggest fantasy busts of the 2018 season, but the power-hitting 25-year-old catcher can get hot in a hurry and is certainly capable of making noise down the stretch and into the playoffs. New York is currently three games up on Oakland for the top American League Wild Card spot. Aaron Judge (wrist) is finally taking batting practice.

4. Oakland Athletics

Record: 87-57

Last Week: 4

Oakland took two of three from the Yankees last week before earning a three-game weekend sweep against the Rangers. Injuries have killed the Athletics’ rotation depth, but the early-August acquisition of Mike Fiers continues to pay big dividends. The veteran right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.94 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 35/6 K/BB ratio in 33 2/3 innings (six starts) since the A’s plucked him away from the Tigers for a pair of minor leaguers. Ramon Laureano has stacked up a couple years' worth of highlight-reel plays in center field and is getting it done with the bat too, boasting a .292/.373/.539 slash line through his first 102 plate appearances as a major leaguer.

5. Chicago Cubs

Record: 83-60

Last Week: 5

Around a couple of rainouts, the Cubs have dropped three consecutive games, including a 3-2 loss to the hard-charging Brewers on Monday night at Wrigley Field. Chicago’s lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central is down to just one game, and the Cardinals sit just 3 1/2 back. Kris Bryant went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored in his first game back from the disabled list on September 1, but he’s batting .250 with a .678 OPS in 29 plate appearances since. The star third baseman, who’s been battling a left shoulder issue since June, last homered back on July 20. He has 11 home runs and a career-low .845 OPS in 85 total games this year.

6. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 83-62

Last Week:

Milwaukee has won four straight, including a big 3-2 victory over the Cubs on Monday night at Wrigley Field that moved the Brewers to within one game of first place in the National League Central standings. Lorenzo Cain had four hits in that one and is now batting .311 with a .403 on-base percentage in 553 plate appearances this season. Throw in his excellent defense in center field and the impact he makes as a baserunner, and you can put together a strong case that he should be one of the favorites for National League MVP. Christian Yelich has stayed hot too, with a .354/.409/.667 batting line over his last 259 plate appearances dating back to July 8.

7. Cleveland Indians

Record: 81-63

Last Week:

Cleveland lost in walk-off fashion on Monday night at Tampa Bay, with Corey Kluber lasting just 1 2/3 innings in one of the worst outings of his career, but Jose Ramirez continued his campaign for American League MVP honors in the defeat, hitting a double and stealing two bases. He owns a tremendous .972 OPS with 37 home runs, 98 RBI, 32 stolen bases, and 97 runs scored in 141 games this season, and he’s played plus defense at third base. The 25-year-old will shift over to second base on Tuesday night with August 31 waiver trade deadline acquisition Josh Donaldson taking over at the hot corner. Jason Kipnis will work into the mix in center field.

8. Atlanta Braves

Record: 80-64

Last Week: 8

Atlanta won three of four over the weekend in Arizona and topped the Giants 4-1 in Monday night’s series opener at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Sean Newcomb started that one and allowed just one run on three hits over six innings while moving to 12-8 on the season and lowering his ERA to 3.82. Ozzie Albies had two hits and scored two runs, giving him 95 runs for the year. The Braves’ bullpen has been a little shaky lately, but Arodys Vizcaino’s expected return on Friday should help. He had a 1.65 ERA in 32 2/3 innings before landing on the disabled list July 14 with a right shoulder injury. This team is five games up on first place in the NL East.

9. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 80-64

Last Week: 9

The Cardinals dropped the first two games of their three-game weekend series against the Tigers before winning 5-2 on Sunday behind another strong start by John Gant, who scattered two runs over 6 2/3 innings to lower his season ERA to 3.16. St. Louis then earned a big 8-7 victory over the Pirates on Monday night, with Matt Adams belting a go-ahead three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning. Entering play on Tuesday, the Cardinals are two games up on the second National League Wild Card spot and 3 1/2 games back of the Cubs for first place in the National League Central. They will close the season with a three-game set at Wrigley Field.

10. Colorado Rockies

Record: 79-64

Last Week: 10

The Rockies have won seven of their last nine and are currently a game-and-a-half up on the Dodgers in the National League West standings as they seek their first division title in franchise history. German Marquez was terrific Monday in a 13-2 rout of the third-place Diamondbacks, striking out 11 batters over seven innings. He now has 195 strikeouts in 171 1/3 innings this year. The last six starting pitchers to record 200 or more strikeouts at age 23 or younger: Luis Severino, Jose Fernandez, Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, and Yovani Gallardo. And how about Trevor Story? His second-half surge could lead to NL MVP consideration.

11. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 78-66

Last Week: 11

The Dodgers took two of three from the National League West-leading Rockies over the weekend before falling 10-6 to the lowly Reds in Monday night’s series opener at Great American Ball Park. Entering play on Tuesday, Los Angeles is a game-and-a-half back of Colorado for first place in the division and two games behind the Cardinals in the hunt for the second National League Wild Card spot. That’s despite a +128 run differential, the best in the National League. Kenley Jansen has been sharper lately, though he did not travel to Denver due to lingering concerns over his heart condition. He’s expected to have another heart procedure this winter.

12. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 79-64

Last Week: 14 

Ji-Man Choi hit a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday night against the Indians as the Rays won their fourth game in a row. They’re now 25-11 since August 1 and 17-3 since August 19. In a different division, in a different league, we might be talking about a postseason-bound Tampa Bay team. But as it stands here on Tuesday afternoon, the Rays are 18 1/2 games back of the first-place Red Sox in the American League East and 7 1/2 games behind the Athletics for the second American League Wild Card spot. Rays pitchers have combined for a 3.68 ERA this season, which currently ranks fifth-best among all major league teams.

13. Seattle Mariners

Record: 79-64

Last Week: 12 

The Mariners dropped two of three to the Yankees over the weekend and are now 24-33 since July 4, one of the worst records in Major League Baseball over that span. Entering play on Tuesday, the M’s sit 10 1/2 games back of the Astros for first place in the American League West standings and 7 1/2 games behind the Athletics for the second American League Wild Card spot. The postseason dream is probably dead for this team, and the frustration boiled over into a clubhouse brawl last week. Kyle Seager, often celebrated for his consistent offensive production, holds a career-low .215 batting average and .265 on-base percentage in 138 games.

14. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 76-68

Last Week: 13 

With their 13-2 blowout loss to the Rockies on Monday, the Diamondbacks are now 2-7 in September and 23-24 since the All-Star break. They’ve fallen 3 1/2 games back of first place in the National League West standings and four games out of the hunt for the second National League Wild Card spot. The bullpen, which was great in the first half, has suddenly begun to collapse here in the most crucial stretch of the season. Brad Boxberger and Archie Bradley have surrendered a combined 29 runs in 32 1/3 innings since July 20. Yoshihisa Hirano, signed to a two-year, $6 million contract this winter out of Japan, might be the new closer in Arizona.

15. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 74-68

Last Week: 15

Since sweeping a four-game set from the Marlins at the beginning of August, the Phillies are 11-20 and haven’t won a series. As it stands here on Tuesday afternoon, they are five games back of the Braves for first place in the National League East standings and also five games behind the Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot. Oh, and Monday’s series opener against the Nationals had to be postponed because the infield at Citizens Bank Park was not covered during a torrential downpour over the weekend. This was looking like it could be a magical season in Philadelphia, but it’s now headed toward a pretty disappointing finish.

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Drew Silva is a baseball editor for Rotoworld and also contributes on NBC Sports' Hardball Talk. He can be found on Twitter.
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