Home Featured 8/24 MLB Power Rankings: Bats powering White Sox and Padres, Blue Jays make a big jump

8/24 MLB Power Rankings: Bats powering White Sox and Padres, Blue Jays make a big jump

by Chris Brown

The trade deadline is just one week away, meaning the final stretch of the MLB season is just around the corner. It’s hard to believe given that we’ve been discussing the start of the season and stressing how small the sample sizes are. But that’s what happens in a 60-game season: The first weeks turn into the final stretch in the blink of an eye. 

Teams are working to evaluate where they stand as they near the halfway mark, so let’s do the same. Each Monday during the 2020 season, 110 Sports is breaking down where things stand with power rankings of all 30 teams. Let’s get right to this week’s installment:

30) Pittsburgh Pirates | 7-17 | Last week: 30

This past weekend, the Pirates won consecutive games for the first time this season and ended up sweeping the Brewers. It’s hardly a needle-mover though. Top trade chip Keone Kela is dealing with forearm tightness, which could affect his availability leading up to next week’s trade deadline.

29) Seattle Mariners | 11-19 | Last week: 29

The Mariners have won three games in a row, but they were all against the floundering Texas Rangers. With an unbelievable .583 average and 1.677 OPS over his last eight games, outfielder Kyle Lewis continues to prove he could be a cornerstone player for the franchise for years to come. He remains one of the few bright spots for a team that could sell off pieces in the next week.

28) Boston Red Sox | 9-20 | Last week: 27

This past weekend, the Red Sox became the first team in baseball to tally 20 losses. Despite a recent three-game winning streak, Boston has still lost 11 of its last 14 games and on Aug. 21 dealt closer Brandon Workman and fellow reliever Heath Hembree to the Phillies for right-hander Nick Pivetta and minor league pitcher Connor Seabold. The team will insert Pivetta into its rotation in the hopes he can help them improve upon a 5.89 starters ERA this season. Boston’s season can generally be summed up by this Alex Verdugo GIF, though.

27) Los Angeles Angels | 9-20 | Last week: 25

What a disappointing season it has been for the Angels, who have lost nine of their last 11 games and sit in the cellar of the AL West, below even the Mariners. The team is among a number of clear sellers ahead of the trade deadline according to a recent report. There’s just not much more to say. At least one L.A. team has been successful this season, I suppose.

26) Kansas City Royals | 11-17 | Last week: 26

Trevor Rosenthal (1.59 ERA, 15 K in 11.1 IP) is pitching like a lockdown closer again and looks like one of the more intriguing bullpen arms likely to be on the market. Mike Matheny’s team has dropped five of its last seven games and sits at the bottom of the AL Central. 

25) Detroit Tigers | 11-15 | Last week: 24

The Tigers called up three of their top six prospects this past week, including pitcher Casey Mize, the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. While Mize showed some real talent in his first start, becoming the first Detroit pitcher with seven or more strikeouts and zero walks in his big league debut, the Tigers have still continued to regress following a strong start, losing 10 of their last 12 games. They remain in striking distance for a playoff spot for now, but I’m not counting on that to continue.

24) Texas Rangers | 10-17 | Last week: 20

Last week the Rangers jumped up to 20th in these rankings after winning seven of their last nine games. Since then, the team has dropped seven straight. The Rangers’ .659 OPS in August is the third-worst in baseball and their 5.65 team ERA in the month is the fourth-worst. Not great.

23) San Francisco Giants | 14-16 | Last week: 28

I certainly didn’t see this coming: the Giants have now won six straight and are just two games under .500. Top prospect Joey Bart, the projected successor to Buster Posey behind the plate, is off to a strong start at the plate and in the field. Bart became just the 10th Giants player since 1901 with an extra-base hit in each of his first two major league games. Infielder Wilmer Flores, an underrated player for a few years now, is hitting .306/.337/.541 with seven homers. Finally, a tip of the cap to the key figure on two San Francisco World Series teams, Hunter Pence, whose time with the organization has come to an end.

22) Baltimore Orioles | 14-14 | Last week: 17

The Orioles salvaged what was a rough last week with two victories against the Red Sox to end the weekend, pulling the team back to .500. Outfielder Anthony Santander has continued to show his incredible start is not a fluke, extending his hitting streak to 18 games on Sunday. The team also promoted top prospect Ryan Mountcastle, who’s started strong with a .333 average, three walks and two doubles in his first three games. I’m still expecting regression to continue, but there’s no ignoring that this team is in the playoff hunt approaching the midway point of the season.

21) New York Mets | 12-14 | Last week: 22

The Mets won three games against the Marlins this past week before two positive COVID-19 tests led to the postponement of four games. Dominic Smith (1.179 OPS in August) has been on a tear, and with the fourth-best team OPS in baseball, the Mets lineup does pack a punch. But their rotation struggles have only continued with David Peterson (shoulder fatigue) on the IL and Steven Matz (9.00 ERA) demoted to the bullpen.

20) Philadelphia Phillies | 10-14 | Last week: 15

The Phillies are frankly wasting the incredible talent of Bryce Harper (1.162 OPS) and J.T. Realmuto (8 HR, 22 RBI) right now. The team has lost five of its last six games and has a bullpen ERA over 8.29 for the season. That’s not just bad, it’s absolutely appalling. As mentioned, the team acquired veteran relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to try to help the situation. But Workman blew a save in his very first appearance in yet another bullpen meltdown. There’s talent on this roster, make no mistake, but the Phillies need to get things going in a hurry.

19) Arizona Diamondbacks | 13-16 | Last week: 19

After surpassing the .500 mark for the first time this season, the D-backs have dropped five in a row, including being swept by the Giants. On the bright side, Zac Gallen is pitching like an ace despite not receiving a lot of national attention. The 25-year-old right-hander has tied the MLB record with 21 games allowing three or fewer earned runs to begin his career. 

18) Milwaukee Brewers | 11-15 | Last week: 16

The Brewers just got swept by the Pirates, the 30th ranked team on this list. That tells you a good bit about how things are going on its own. Craig Counsell’s team is still struggling to get anything going, with a team ERA of 4.79 and OPS of .677 in the month of August not helping matters. 

17) Miami Marlins | 11-11 | Last week: 21

The Marlins have cooled down significantly after their improbably competitive start, dropping seven of their last nine games. Despite this, the team still occupies a playoff spot, and according to a recent report Miami is looking to be a buyer at the upcoming trade deadline, with a focus on adding bullpen arms. The Marlins play over the next week will certainly be something to keep an eye on as Aug. 31 nears.

16) Washington Nationals | 11-14 | Last week: 18

The Nats have failed to make any real progress in pulling themselves above .500 for the first time this season, alternating wins and losses every game for the last week and a half. Stephen Strasburg is set to undergo season-ending surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, a big blow to the team’s greatest strength: its rotation. Despite this, GM Mike Rizzo recently indicated that adding to the rotation will not be a priority for the team at the trade deadline. Fangraphs gives the defending World Champions a 37% chance of making the playoffs. 

15) Cincinnati Reds | 11-15 | Last week: 12

It’s been 754 days since Sonny Gray gave up more than six hits in a start. Think about that for a second. We’re also getting to see the great version of Trevor Bauer this year, as the right-hander recently became the first pitcher in modern MLB history to strike out 40 batters and allow fewer than 10 hits over his first four starts of the season. His 0.68 ERA is the only mark in baseball below 1.00 among qualified pitchers. Despite having two of the frontrunners for the NL Cy Young Award and a sizable group of talented hitters, Cincinnati still hasn’t been able to get any traction this season. They’re still within close distance of a playoff spot, but I can’t keep making excuses for a team that’s just not getting results.

14) Colorado Rockies | 13-15 | Last week: 10

As fast as the Rockies became one of the hottest teams in baseball, they’ve now become one of the coldest, losing seven games in a row and 12 of their last 14 games. After early success, Colorado’s pitching staff has let it down recently, surrendering double-digit runs in three of its last five games and posting a 5.19 ERA in August. Nolan Arenado has seven home runs but is still struggling to get things going with a .218 batting average this season.

13) St. Louis Cardinals | 9-8 | Last week: 14

The Cardinals are 7-5 since returning to play following their COVID-19 outbreak and getting closer to full health with the returns of Paul DeJong and Yadier Molina, who tallied four hits on Sunday. The sample sizes are still small for this team, but a few encouraging signs: Paul Goldschmidt’s .485 on-base percentage and a team ERA (3.35) that’s the third-best in baseball. St. Louis has a busy schedule ahead, but figures to be in contention the rest of the way.

12) Toronto Blue Jays | 13-13 | Last week: 23

With six victories in their last eight games, the Blue Jays may be hitting their stride, and all of the sudden look like a somewhat probable playoff team. There is a glaring hole in the rotation behind Hyun-jin Ryu with injuries to top prospect Nate Pearson, Matt Shoemaker and Trent Thornton, something the team appears interested in addressing prior to the trade deadline.

11) Houston Astros | 15-13 | Last week: 9

After rattling off eight straight wins, the Astros got swept by the red-hot Padres this past weekend. Dusty Baker’s club is really banged up, with Justin Verlander, Roberto Ozuna, Alex Bregman and Yordan Álvarez among those sidelined. On a more positive note, Jose Altuve is heating up at the plate following a lousy start to the season, hitting .300 over his last seven games. And veteran outfielder Michael Brantley has been activated from the IL after dealing with right quad discomfort. 

10) Atlanta Braves | 16-12 | Last week: 8

Max Fried has continued to dominate, with his 1.32 ERA ranking third among all qualified starters in baseball. The rotation behind him is a different story, though, with the three other starters with four-plus starts all holding ERAs above 7.00. The team is surely looking forward to the return of Ronald Acuna (wrist inflammation), who could be activated from the IL as soon as Tuesday.

9) San Diego Padres | 18-12 | Last week: 13

Boy oh boy, where to even begin. The whole Fernando Tatis swinging 3-0 with a big lead discussion is in the rearview mirror, but the 21-year-old’s incredible start certainly isn’t. The shortstop leads baseball in home runs (12), RBI (29), runs scored (29) and is tied for second in steals (6). The Padres have won seven games in a row with sweeps of the Rangers and Astros and are hitting home runs left and right. This past week, San Diego broke the MLB record with grand slams in four consecutive games and also became the first team in MLB history with five grand slams in a six-game span. The team is tied with the White Sox for the second-most home runs (55) in baseball this season and is also second in MLB in total runs scored (163).

8) Chicago White Sox | 17-12 | Last week: 11

Like the Padres, the White Sox are one of the most exciting teams in baseball right now. The team recently hit 27 home runs in a seven-game stretch, the most longballs in such a period in MLB history. First baseman Jose Abreu feasted on Cubs pitchers over this past weekend, hitting six home runs in the series, tied for the most by a player in a three-game series since at least 1913. He also tied an MLB record with home runs in four consecutive at-bats. Abreu now leads the AL with 11 homers and 28 RBI, outfielder Luis Robert has five home runs in his last seven games, outfielder Eloy Jimenez is up to nine home runs and shortstop Tim Anderson has a 1.063 OPS. Also, Lucas Giolitto, who’s struggled to begin the season, recently became just the third White Sox pitcher in the last 50 years with at least seven innings, 13 strikeouts, and zero runs in a start. So yeah, things are going pretty well.

7) Cleveland Indians | 17-11 | Last week: 7

Shane Bieber remains the clear AL Cy Young favorite following another sensational start this past week. The right-hander’s 65 strikeouts are the fourth-most of any pitcher through his first six starts of a season in the modern era (since 1900). Despite his dominance, Bieber was overshadowed by rookie Triston McKenzie, who struck out 10 batters while holding the Tigers to one run on two hits and one walk in his MLB debut, which was his first competitive start in nearly two years. Cleveland’s offense has remained relatively unimpressive, but their seemingly infinite supply of exciting arms makes them undoubtedly one of the better teams in the league.

6) Chicago Cubs | 17-10 | Last week: 5

The Cubs have slowed down following their sensational start, going 4-7 in their last 11 games, and Kris Bryant is sidelined with a finger sprain. On the bright side, Craig Kimbrel has improved after a disastrous start to the season, with four straight scoreless appearances, and left-hander José Quintana is close to his season debut. Yu Darvish has also kept up his sensational 2020 performance, going 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA in his last five starts. 

5) Minnesota Twins | 19-10 | Last week: 4

The injury bug has bitten the Twins recently, with catcher Mitch Garver, center fielder Byron Buxton and starter Jake Odorizzi landing on the injured list. That withstanding, Minnesota has won six of its last eight games thanks in part to the outstanding pitching of Kenta Maeda and turnaround from the previously struggling Miguel Sano, who’s slashing .462/.533/.885 over his last seven games. 

4) Oakland Athletics | 20-9 | Last week: 3

The A’s are still rolling. Oakland tallied its fourth walk-off win of the season on Sunday to expand its lead in the AL West to 4.5 games. Matt Chapman and Matt Olson have combined for 18 homers while other offensive contributions are coming from throughout the lineup. The A’s team ERA in August of 3.49 is the third-best mark in the American League and they trail only the Dodgers in runs scored this month.

3) New York Yankees | 16-9 | Last week: 2

The injuries continue to pile up for the Yankees, who are currently without Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring strain), Aaron Judge (calf strain), DJ LeMahieu (calf strain), James Paxton (flexor strain), Gleyber Torres (quad/hamstring strains) and Zack Britton (hamstring strain), among others. The good news is that Judge is expected to return to the starting lineup when the team resumes play on Tuesday (after their weekend series against the Mets was postponed following COVID-19 positives). Still, combine those significant losses with the fact the team got swept by the Rays last week to fall out of first place in the AL East and you see why I moved them out of the second spot in these rankings for the first time this year.

2) Tampa Bay Rays | 19-10 | Last week: 6

With Yonny Chirinos (Tommy John surgery), Brendan McKay (shoulder surgery), and Nick Anderson (forearm inflammation) hitting the IL in recent days, the Rays’ pitching depth is being tested. Despite those losses, though, Tampa Bay has been one of the hottest teams in baseball, winning 14 of its last 17 games, including a recent sweep of the Yankees, to move into first place in the AL East and second in these rankings. Second baseman Brandon Lowe is continuing to crush the baseball, with a barrel percentage and expected slugging percentage in the top 3% in MLB per Baseball Savant. Lowe is second in the American League in slugging percentage (.697) and third in OPS (1.095).

1) Los Angeles Dodgers | 22-8 | Last week: 1

The Dodgers became the first team in baseball to reach 20 wins and have been victorious in 11 of their last 12 games. Clayton Kershaw recently moved into second place on the Dodgers’ all-time strikeout list and has pitched to a 2.25 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 29 innings in 2020. Cody Bellinger is heating up at the plate with a .304 average and four homers in his last seven games, while Mookie Betts just became the first player in Dodgers history with two home runs and two steals in the same game. He’s tied for second in baseball with 11 longballs. The Dodgers’ run differential is +79. +79! Enough said.

Photo by Robert Rescot / Flickr

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