MLB Power Rankings Week 19: Is there a new top team in the AL?

Thursday, August 18, 2022

What's going on with the Yankees?

Whatever it is, their nosedive has been good news for the Astros, who this week surpass the Bronx Bombers as our top team in the American League. Meanwhile, the Mets continue to outshine the Yankees in New York, though the Dodgers remain the top dog in the National League -- and all of baseball -- as we hit mid-August.

Will it stay this way down the stretch?

Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we've seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Jesse Rogers, Joon Lee and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 18 | Second-half preview | Preseason rankings

1. Los Angeles Dodgers


Previous ranking:1

The Dodgers boast the best winning percentage and the best run differential in the sport, but they are not devoid of issues. Their starting rotation is deep but also full of questions, with Walker Buehler set for season-ending elbow surgery and Clayton Kershaw still rehabbing a back injury. And the ninth inning is unsettled. Craig Kimbrel blew a save opportunity in extra innings in Milwaukee on Tuesday, bringing his ERA to 4.57, his WHIP to 1.55 and his strikeout percentage to a career-low 29.5%. He recovered -- just barely -- while closing out a one-run game on Wednesday, but his overall performance has been a concern. -- Gonzalez

2. Houston Astros


Previous ranking:4

Remember when it seemed like Alex Bregman was having a down season? That was less than two months ago. Through June 19, Bregman was hitting .218/.337/.373 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 64 games. Since then, Bregman has mashed to the tune of .315/.404/.556 with nine homers and 36 RBIs in 49 games. This is nothing new for Bregman, who has typically gathered momentum the deeper we get into a season. For his career, Bregman has an .841 OPS before the All-Star break and .931 after it. His two best months have been August (.995) and September (.889). As good as Bregman has been since his slow start, the best might be yet to come. -- Doolittle

3. New York Mets


Previous ranking:2

Right when Mets fans were starting to feel good about things, they lost 13-1 and 5-0 in the first two games of their four-game series against the Braves -- and saw Carlos Carrasco go down with a lat strain (he should be out 3-4 weeks) on Monday, then Taijuan Walker leave Tuesday's game after two innings with back spasms. Carrasco had been 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA over his previous five starts. The early exits exposed the lack of depth at the bottom of the Mets' pitching -- R.J. Alvarez made his first major league appearance since 2015 in relief of Walker -- and suddenly that sizable lead against the Braves doesn't look so safe. David Peterson should replace Carrasco in the rotation, and if Walker has to miss time, it'll be Trevor Williams. -- Schoenfield

4. New York Yankees


Previous ranking:3

The scuffling Yankees continue to scuffle, with players like Aaron Hicks, Josh Donaldson(whose walk-off grand slam Wednesday was a much-needed exception) and Gleyber Torres all struggling at the plate. New York is also trying to find consistency at the back end of its bullpen with Clay Holmes getting hit hard and now going on the injured list, and with manager Aaron Boone looking toward Aroldis Chapman and Scott Effross as potential solutions for late-inning relief. The injuries are piling up too, between Holmes,Giancarlo StantonandMatt Carpenter.-- Lee

5. Atlanta Braves


Previous ranking:5

The big news was the eight-year, $72 million extension for Michael Harris II, just 71 games into his major league career. The deal includes team options for 2031 and 2032 and now gives the Braves an incredible long-term core of Austin Riley (signed through 2033), Harris (2032), Matt Olson (2030), Ronald Acuna Jr. (2028) and Ozzie Albies (2027). Harris has been worth 2.9 WAR in those 71 games -- or about six wins over a full season. His defense and baserunning give him a high floor, and so far pitchers haven't figured out how to exploit his aggressive tendencies at the plate (10 walks, 65 strikeouts, 41% chase rate). If he learns to take a few walks -- and he's just 21 years old -- Harris has a chance to become one of the best all-around players in the game. -- Schoenfield

6. St. Louis Cardinals


Previous ranking:6

A series win over Milwaukee kept St. Louis in front of its division rivals, where it'll likely be for the rest of the season. Other than a weekend series against the Braves, the Cardinals' schedule won't allow them to hit the skids for more than a game or two here or there. St. Louis does need to improve on the road as a big test is coming in Chicago, where the Cardinals play a five-game series next week. The Cubs usually don't lay down against their arch rival. -- Rogers

7. San Diego Padres


Previous ranking:8

The Padres were dealt an unimaginable blow on Friday, when Fernando Tatis Jr. was handed an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Tatis was in the final stages of his recovery from a wrist injury, and the Padres were starting to dream about a devastating lineup trio of Tatis, Manny Machado and Juan Soto. No more. Instead, Ha-Seong Kim will continue to get everyday playing time at shortstop, where he is providing premium defense but can't come close to matching Tatis' impact offensively. -- Gonzalez

8. Philadelphia Phillies


Previous ranking:9

Bryce Harper took 60 swings on the field Monday as he looks to return from his broken thumb, and while the Phillies haven't announced a specific rehab schedule yet, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network that a Sept. 1 return is "a realistic goal." Harper's elbow ligament injury suffered before the broken thumb will still limit him to DH duties. Meanwhile, the Phillies continue to play well, other than getting shut out in back-to-back games against the Mets (dropping them to 4-11 against them). They'll get their final crack against New York in the regular season with four games this weekend, including a Saturday doubleheader. -- Schoenfield

9. Toronto Blue Jays


Previous ranking:7

The Blue Jays haven't been able to take advantage of the recent slide in the Bronx. Interim manager John Schneider slid shortstop Bo Bichette down to seventh in the batting order, the lowest the former top prospect has ever started in a big league game. Bichette's struggles this season encapsulate so much of Toronto's season: sky-high expectations that, so far, haven't been met. -- Lee

10. Seattle Mariners


Previous ranking:12

The "easy" part of the Mariners' schedule didn't get off to a great start as they lost two of three in Texas, but they responded with back-to-back big ninth innings against the Angels. On Monday, a ridiculous series of Angels mishaps on defense led to four runs and a 6-2 victory (Carlos Santana's walk on a 2-2 pitch also helped!). On Tuesday, the Mariners broke open a 3-2 lead with five runs, including Julio Rodriguez's first home run since returning from the IL. The bullpen continues to dominate, and since the All-Star break, Seattle's top seven relievers all have an ERA of 3.00 or lower. You can add Chris Flexen to that group as well, as he will pitch out of the bullpen as the team elected to keep George Kirby in the rotation. -- Schoenfield

11. Tampa Bay Rays


Previous ranking:10

Tampa Bay is leaning heavily on its pitching staff to carry the team, with Drew Rasmussen providing the recent highlight by taking a perfect game into the ninth inning on Sunday. The offense is eagerly awaiting the returns of Wander Franco, Harold Ramirez and Manuel Margot from injury as the offense needs some help, with several players hitting below the Mendoza line. -- Lee

12. Milwaukee Brewers


Previous ranking:11

A terrible week at the plate sank Milwaukee's chances of moving back past the Cardinals. The Brewers scored just seven runs in a three-game series loss to St. Louis, finishing with a .177 batting average and .511 OPS over a seven-day period ending Tuesday. Only the Yankees had a worse batting average over that span. Rowdy Tellez has been a find, slugging .667 in August while becoming as dangerous as anyone in the lineup. -- Rogers

13. Cleveland Guardians


Previous ranking:15

Cleveland fans might have noticed an interesting thing in our most recent edition of Awards Watch. That is, Andres Gimenez was very close to overtaking Jose Ramirez on the AXE leaderboard listed in that update. Then Gimenez went out and hit a clutch three-run homer to beat Detroit in the first game of a doubleheader on Monday and added a two-run shot in Game 2. Thus Gimenez has surpassed Ramirez in the AXE system as the most valuable Guardian this season. Clutch homers are a big part of it. According to Fangraphs, Gimenez's six homers in high-leverage spots this season are more than any other hitter in the big leagues. His 17 high-leverage runs created are five more than any other hitter. In other words, Gimenez is having a special season, and it just keeps getting better. -- Doolittle

14. Minnesota Twins


Previous ranking:13

The Twins have been treading water for two months now. The pattern was good enough to keep them atop the AL Central for the most part, until all of a sudden the Guardians and White Sox started stringing together some wins. Minnesota might rue its inability to create separation in the division when it had a chance, but there is no time for that now. Instead, the Twins have to right their ship for the stretch run, and fast. To do that Minnesota must find answers to a run prevention unit that has been in a backpedal since early July. A beginning would be to get new closer Jorge Lopez going. Lopez has been just OK since he was acquired from Baltimore at the trade deadline, and the Twins need more than that, as late-inning option Emilio Pagan has been unreliable. Pagan has allowed a .684 OPS in low-leverage spots, but when the more crucial high-leverage situations have arisen, that OPS has ballooned to .900. -- Doolittle

15. Baltimore Orioles


Previous ranking:14

Baltimore subtracted at the trade deadline but is still hanging in the wild-card race. General manager Mike Elias hinted at top prospect Gunnar Henderson potentially making his major league debut at some point in the near future. Henderson is having a monster season in the minor leagues, hitting .301/.423/.546 with 18 homers between Double-A and Triple-A. Between Henderson and catcher Adley Rutschman, the future is becoming the present in Baltimore. -- Lee

16. San Francisco Giants


Previous ranking:16

Perhaps the Giants are trending toward a late run at a playoff spot. The team that famously did not trade Carlos Rodon has captured eight wins in its last 11 games. Seven of those wins, however, have come against teams that are way out of postseason contention. The Dodgers, a team the Giants have struggled mightily against this season, could provide some major help. L.A. has four games remaining against the Brewers and nine games remaining against the Padres -- the two main teams the Giants are chasing for the final wild-card spot in the National League. -- Gonzalez

17. Chicago White Sox


Previous ranking:17

For all the ups and the more frequent downs the White Sox have put their fans through during this disappointing season, Chicago reached the middle of August playing its best baseball of the season. With the Twins taking a step back from their early-season success and the Guardians matching the White Sox step for step, the AL Central is set up for a rollicking, three-team race to the finish over the last six weeks of the season. The matter might well be decided with head-to-head encounters, beginning with Chicago's three-game series in Cleveland this weekend. The White Sox have another series against the Guardians in September, as well as three remaining series against Minnesota. All told, a third of the White Sox's remaining games are against their key division rivals. -- Doolittle

18. Boston Red Sox

Record: 59-59

Previous ranking:18

Boston received a boost from Michael Wacha's return from the injured list after he allowed one walk and two hits over seven shutout innings in a 3-0 victory over the Yankees. Tommy Pham has also been a big boost for the lineup from the leadoff spot since coming to the team from Cincinnati, hitting .281/.305/.526 with three homers in his first 13 games. -- Lee

19. Texas Rangers


Previous ranking:19

Firing manager Chris Woodward was anything but shocking after the Rangers continued to underachieve with him as their leader. The Rangers did one better on Wednesday, dismissing team president Jon Daniels as well. No one was expecting Texas to run away with the AL West, or even easily earn a playoff berth, but there were too many noncompetitive days from a team that can boast .500-ish talent. Add the offseason signings of Marcus Semien and Corey Seager and the Rangers must have been thinking a 75-80-win season was realistic. It's not. -- Rogers

20. Arizona Diamondbacks


Previous ranking:20

Christian Walker, mentioned in trade rumors leading up to the Aug. 2 deadline, has been one of the sport's hottest hitters this month, batting .362/.424/.759 to lift his season OPS to .805. The 31-year-old first baseman is controllable through the 2024 season. If he stays, he'll join a lineup featuring Ketel Marte and a promising young outfield, to go along with what has proved to be a decent starting rotation. The D-backs have a long way to go to catch up to the Dodgers and Padres -- and perhaps also the Giants -- but they have nonetheless made strides since last year's 110-loss season. And they might be a few pieces from making things interesting as soon as next year. -- Gonzalez

21. Chicago Cubs


Previous ranking:24

There might have been question marks about his ability to stay healthy entering the season, but they might have overshadowed the fact that shortstop Nico Hoerner is a winning player and a really good hitter. Hoerner had an OPS over 1.100 last week while seeing his batting average vault over .300. He's a throwback, using the whole field while providing just enough pop to keep the opponent honest. -- Rogers

22. Los Angeles Angels


Previous ranking:22

Some much-needed good news for the Angels: Mike Trout, out since July 12 with a back issue, took a handful of live at-bats against an organizational pitcher from Angel Stadium on Monday and is hopeful of returning to the lineup on Friday. Trout was OPS'ing .967 with 24 home runs in 79 games before landing on the injured list, putting up his typical MVP-caliber numbers. Having him back, in a lineup featuring Shohei Ohtani, will make the Angels must-watch TV for the stretch run, even if they're out of playoff contention once again. Given the uncertainty this winter, it might be the last time we see Ohtani and Trout together. -- Gonzalez

23. Colorado Rockies


Previous ranking:23

One of the bright spots for the Rockies has been Brendan Rodgers' turnaround. The 26-year-old second baseman was batting a head-scratching .078/.172/.098 by the end of April but is since slashing .314/.362/.481. His .898 OPS since the All-Star break ranks 29th among the 171 qualified hitters during that stretch. Rodgers has talked about a growing recognition of how opposing pitchers are attacking him, recently telling "Guys are starting to push me off the plate a little bit, then go away. I'm starting to figure it out." -- Gonzalez

24. Miami Marlins


Previous ranking:21

After allowing four runs in a loss to the Phillies to see his ERA creep over 2.00 for the first time since late May, Sandy Alcantara responded with seven scoreless innings to beat the Padres and lower his ERA back down to 1.92. Lowest ERA in Marlins history for a qualified starter: Kevin Brown's 1.89 in 1996. Alcantara has also averaged 7.2 innings per start. If he makes another eight starts and averages the same 7.2 innings, that gets him to 231 innings, which would be the most in the majors since Clayton Kershaw threw 232 in 2015. Yes, that makes him the clear Cy Young front-runner. -- Schoenfield

25. Kansas City Royals


Previous ranking:26

Hall of Fame résumés never mention Player of the Week awards, but you've got to start somewhere and Royals rookie Vinnie Pasquantino has suddenly emerged as baseball's hottest hitter. At least that's what the metric for measuring hot hitters at said as of Wednesday. There must be something to it because on Monday, less than two months after his big league debut, Pasquantino was named AL Player of the Week. The hot streak goes back further than that. Through Wednesday, Pasquantino had a 1.145 OPS over 15 August games, when his 38 total bases ranked fourth in all of baseball. This is more good news during a Royals season that began in bleak fashion and seems to brighten with each passing week. -- Doolittle

26. Cincinnati Reds


Previous ranking:25

Cincinnati's performance at the Field of Dreams was more of a nightmare as the Reds sleepwalked through most of the game, finally scoring a couple of runs late before succumbing to the Cubs 4-2. The Reds just don't have the firepower, post-trade deadline, as they averaged less than three runs a game last week. Young players like outfielder Jake Fraley are getting opportunities now. He and shortstop Kyle Farmer had good weeks at the plate. -- Rogers

27. Pittsburgh Pirates


Previous ranking:27

Pirates: There have been some bright moments but also many struggles for a myriad of rookies the Pirates have debuted this season. Oneil Cruz is struggling right now, going 1-for-his-last-14 heading into games on Wednesday. Second baseman Tucupita Marcano was just 4-for-18 during that time frame as well. Pittsburgh's season is going to be looked back upon with mixed reviews. Have the Pirates identified pillars outside of Ke'Bryan Hayes? It remains to be seen. -- Rogers

28. Detroit Tigers


Previous ranking:28

There was big news for the Tigers last week when team CEO Christopher Ilitch announced that Detroit was parting ways with GM Al Avila. Lists of possible replacements for Avila in Detroit have sprung up all over the internet since that announcement, and those lists grew by one this week when the Rangers fired longtime lead executive Jon Daniels. Could Daniels fit a Detroit organization in need of systemic updates? Could Ilitch try to capture the same kind of success that occurred after his father hired another experienced GM in Dave Dombrowski two decades ago? Perhaps, if manager A.J. Hinch is on board, and Daniels is on board with working with Hinch. Seems like an idea worth exploring.-- Doolittle

29. Oakland Athletics


Previous ranking:29

JP Sears, the main player Oakland received in the Frankie Montas trade, has been solid through two starts, allowing two runs over 10.1 innings pitched. Meanwhile, standout starting pitcher Paul Blackburn has been shut down for the rest of the season with a finger injury. -- Lee

30. Washington Nationals


Previous ranking:30

On the bright side, Patrick Corbin is tied for the major league lead with 24 starts. The bad news: Everything else. He's 4-16 with a 6.96 ERA and leads the majors in a whole bunch of categories: losses, runs, earned runs and hits among them. He has pitched 116.1 innings and the Nationals have played 118 games, so he doesn't quite qualify for the ERA board, but if he did, his 6.96 ERA would be the second worst ever for a qualifier (Les Sweetland had a 7.71 ERA for the 1930 Phillies). Corbin's ERA+ of 56, however, would be the worst ever. Other notes: The last pitcher to lose 20 games was Mike Maroth of the 2003 Tigers. And since Corbin tied for the league lead in losses last season, the last pitcher to lead his league in losses in consecutive years: Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, who did it four straight years with the Braves from 1977 to 1980. -- Schoenfield

Related Video