Power Rankings: Red Sox, Cardinals, Indians surging at the deadline

As a matter of record and unanimous results from our voters, we head into the final hours before the trade deadline with only two things that are completely certain: The Dodgers are the best team in baseball, and the Tigers are the worst team in baseball. But we're seeing some familiar contenders rally and rise of late, and it's shaking up the rankings even as they consider shaking up their rosters.

The Red Sox won three of four from the Yankees over the weekend, enough to turn heads and remind folks that the defending world champs have every intention of being there in October. The Cardinals, having missed out on the postseason three years running, have soared into a first-place tie in the National League Central. And the Indians, having won the American League Central three years running, are not about to concede this year's title to the Twins, narrowing Minnesota's lead to just two games.

That trio of teams made key gains, the Red Sox making the largest jump in our rankings this week by moving up five spots and cracking the top five. The Indians almost got there themselves, inching up to No. 6. And the Cardinals moved to the front of the NL Central's pack by reaching No. 11, fueled by Paul Goldschmidt homering in six straight games.

Not everybody gets to move up, of course. The Yankees fell to No. 3 after losing that big series with the Sox. The Cubs were the biggest losers of the week after some epic defeats in Milwaukee, tumbling four spots and falling out of our top 10 for the first time since Week 3 of the season.

For Week 17, our panel of voters was composed of Bradford Doolittle, Christina Kahrl, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian and David Schoenfield.

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  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

    2019 record:69-38

    Week 16 ranking:1

    With the demotion of Austin Barnes to Triple-A and the promotion of Will Smith, look for Smith to carry the bulk of the catching duties moving forward. He celebrated his return to the majors Saturday by going 3-for-3 with a home run, two doubles and six RBIs, and has seven extra-base hits in his limited time in the majors. Barnes was hitting .196/.288/.328, and backup Russell Martin's line is.217/.341/.280, so Smith could be a significant offensive upgrade at catcher -- he was hitting .269/.381/.605 at Triple-A.-- David Schoenfield

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  2. Houston Astros

    2019 record:68-39

    Week 16 ranking:3

    The Astros still hope to get something from top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley, who missed June because of shoulder fatigue and has struggled during his rehab assignment starts in the low minors. At least Whitley cut down on the walks in his most recent outing for High-A Fayetteville, as he issued only one free pass. He walked six in his previous start. Why does Whitley matter for 2019? The Astros still lack rotation depth, though perhaps three starters is enough in October and Whitley debuts and then contributes in the postseason bullpen. -- Eric Karabell

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  3. New York Yankees

    2019 record:67-38

    Week 16 ranking:2

    The Yankees have given up five or more runs in nine consecutive games for an average of 9.3. This horrid stretch followed a period during which New York had given up five or more runs only once in 14 games (and that was just five runs). Still, here's the trend that suggests the Yankees will trade for a starting pitcher, especially with CC Sabathia landing on the injured list because of knee inflammation -- rotation ERA by month: April, 3.50; May, 4.07; June, 5.75; July, 6.38.-- Schoenfield

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  4. Minnesota Twins

    2019 record:64-41

    Week 16 ranking:4

    Not all Twins are supplying power. Infielder Luis Arraez, known for his hit tool through the minors, has played regularly for the big club this month at three infield positions as well as left field, and continues to hit well over .300 and with more walks than strikeouts on the season. Arraez is better defensively at third base than Miguel Sano, and gives the team options within the lineup. He might not earn Rookie of the Year votes, but the 22-year-old has surely aided a power-packed offense. -- Karabell

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  5. Boston Red Sox

    2019 record:59-48

    Week 16 ranking:10

    The surge of Boston's offense over the past month and a half can be traced in large part to manager Alex Cora inserting Rafael Devers into the No. 2 hole. Since June 25, when Devers took over the second spot in Boston's lineup, he's second in MLB in average (.381), OPS (1.201) and runs (31), while leading the majors in RBIs (34) and extra-base hits (27) over 27 games since. As a team, the Red Sox lead baseball in average (.312), OPS (.916) and runs per game (7.3) since the move. -- Steve Richards

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  6. Cleveland Indians

    2019 record:62-43

    Week 16 ranking:7

    The Indians have narrowed the Twins lead in the AL Central , and one key factor in that rise has been Shane Bieber becoming the staff ace in the absences of Corey Kluber (shelved since May 1) and Carlos Carrasco (May 30). Since June 1, Bieber has seven quality starts in his past 10, two against the Twins (both won by the Tribe), and he's second to only Max Scherzer in wOBA allowed while ranking among MLB's top 10 in strikeout rate. -- Christina Kahrl

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  7. Atlanta Braves

    2019 record:62-44

    Week 16 ranking:5

    Adam Duvall was an All-Star in 2016 with the Reds when he hit 33 home runs, but after hitting .205 in 2018, he had spent all of 2019 in Triple-A, where he hit .259/.349/.582. With rookie Austin Riley continuing to struggle, Duvall was called back up Saturday and went 3-for-5 with a home run in his 2019 debut. Riley remains on the active roster, but with Nick Markakis out because of a fractured wrist, look to see Duvall in left, Ender Inciarte in center and Ronald Acuna Jr. in right. Duvall was a Gold Glove finalist last season, so at the minimum he projects as a defensive upgrade on Riley. -- Schoenfield

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  8. Tampa Bay Rays

    2019 record:60-48

    Week 16 ranking:11

    One thing the Rays reminded us of this past week was that if there is an angle to be played, they will play it. You had rookie utility player Michael Brosseau pitching the ninth inning of a five-run game to preserve the bullpen one night, then manager Kevin Cash blowing the mind of beleaguered umpire Angel Hernandez with his fancy substitution patterns a couple of nights later. The trouble for Tampa Bay is that these tiny percentage plays aren't going to cut it in a playoff race populated with high-quality teams. This week's deadline has become even more important to the beat-up Rays given the news that ace Blake Snell would be lost for several weeks -- at least -- because of an elbow procedure. -- Bradford Doolittle

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  9. Oakland Athletics

    2019 record:60-47

    Week 16 ranking:6

    Folks already know about Ramon Laureano for his famed throwing arm, but his hitting this summer is turning heads as well. He's second in MLB in wOBA this month, and still in the top 10 if you start from June 1. One key? He has boosted his launch angle to over 15% these past two months, but is still spraying enough balls to all fields with authority that his BABIP has remained the same even as he's hitting significantly more fly balls. Symptom of a new approach or the live ball, he has become a key bat in the lineup. -- Kahrl

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  10. Washington Nationals

    2019 record:56-49

    Week 16 ranking:9

    One of the keys to the Nationals' turnaround has been Anibal Sanchez. Through his first nine starts, the veteran starter was 0-6 with a 5.10 ERA. He turned things around May 29 when he tossed six scoreless, one-hit innings against the Braves, and after giving up one run against the Dodgers on Friday (although the Nats eventually lost the game), he's 6-0 over his past 10 starts with a 2.58 ERA and has held batters to a .210/.264/.344 line. -- Schoenfield

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  11. St. Louis Cardinals

    2019 record:56-49

    Week 16 ranking:13

    A four-game sweep at Pittsburgh helped propel the Cardinals into first place alone for the first time since May 6. Paul Goldschmidt, who enjoyed a six-game home run streak (snapped Sunday), has contributed in a big way to this offense that has hit 29 homers since the All-Star break, second most in the NL. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

  12. Chicago Cubs

    2019 record:56-49

    Week 16 ranking:8

    As we close in on the trade deadline, the range of possible outcomes for this season's Cubs seems as wide as it did on Opening Day. Just when it looked as if Chicago was finally finding its stride and taking control of the NL Central, an ill-timed offensive funk dropped the Cubbies out of first place. With another full week of games against the Brewers and Cardinals ahead, Chicago could enter the final third of the season as a front-runner, or it could be stuck in third place. Everyone from the front office to the playing field in Chicago is entering a crucial stretch. -- Doolittle

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  13. Milwaukee Brewers

    2019 record:56-51

    Week 16 ranking:14

    After a brutal stretch of pitching, Milwaukee continues to hang in a close division race by taking more than its share of close games. The Brewers are 11 games over .500 in games decided by two or fewer runs, the driving factor in why they're a few games over .500 despite a negative run differential. While that's a rickety foundation on which to mount a playoff run, the Brewers' record is what it is. And what the close wins have bought them is an opportunity; if general manager David Stearns can add a couple of key pieces to his pitching staff before the deadline, everything the Brewers sought to accomplish this season remains possible. -- Doolittle

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  14. Arizona Diamondbacks

    2019 record:53-53

    Week 16 ranking:12

    Arizona continued its season-long slow dance with mediocrity this past week, although going 3-3 against the Orioles and Marlins actually has to be considered worse than mediocre. Since the middle of May, the D-backs have been within three games of .500, either above or below, for all but two days when they were four games over the break-even mark. Now that's mediocrity. -- Richards

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  15. Los Angeles Angels

    2019 record:55-52

    Week 16 ranking:15

    The organization counted on improvement from second-year right-hander Jaime Barria, but so far, the native of Panama has failed to deliver. Barria was 10-9 with a 3.41 ERA and an ordinary strikeout rate as a rookie, but he enters this week with a 6.63 ERA over 38 innings, and none of his outings stretched more than five innings. Barria's rookie peripherals showed someone fortunate with some of his success, but the team is desperate for decent innings and Barria, scheduled to face the Tigers and Indians this week, needs to perform better. -- Karabell

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  16. Philadelphia Phillies

    2019 record:55-50

    Week 16 ranking:16

    The Phillies presumed they were getting a significant catching upgrade when they traded Jorge Alfaro and top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez to Miami in February for J.T. Realmuto. While Realmuto played in his second consecutive All-Star Game and has been a defensive stalwart, the offensive production between him and Alfaro is a bit too similar. The Phillies need more offense and Realmuto might fail to reach his numbers from last season, when he played half his games in a renowned pitchers' park. -- Karabell

  17. Texas Rangers

    2019 record:53-53

    Week 16 ranking:18

    It seems the Rangers' bubble might have burst -- they're 5-11 since the All-Star break, including an eight-game losing streak, and have fallen 6 games out of a wild-card spot. The good news: The timing couldn't have been better for Jon Daniels and the Texas front office, which can comfortably go into sell mode with the trade deadline looming (we think). -- Richards

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  18. San Francisco Giants

    2019 record:54-52

    Week 16 ranking:17

    How incredible and improbable has the Giants' run been? According to Elias research, they have already tied MLB's single-month record for extra-inning wins with seven in All-Star break-shortened July, and the month isn't out yet. That sort of one-month miracle might be what keeps Madison Bumgarner in a Giants uni, torching any number of pundits' deadline expectations. -- Kahrl

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  19. Cincinnati Reds

    2019 record:48-55

    Week 16 ranking:19

    A pair of victories in Milwaukee probably won't be enough to keep the Reds from being deadline sellers, as they're seven games back in the division and the NL wild-card race after going 6-9 to begin the second half. Yasiel Puig, one of the team's best hitters in the month of July with a .387 wOBA, seems a particularly likely name to be moved. -- Cockcroft

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  20. New York Mets

    2019 record:50-55

    Week 16 ranking:23

    While leadoff hitter Jeff McNeil continues to battle for a batting title and a .400 on-base percentage, many forget that Brandon Nimmo achieved the latter in 2018. Nimmo, out since late May with a bulging disk in his neck, led all Mets in OBP and OPS last season, but has a mere 161 plate appearances in 2019. Perhaps the Mets would be a fourth-place club regardless, but if Nimmo, who could return the lineup in August, joins McNeil atop the lineup, it would sure be interesting. -- Karabell

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  21. Colorado Rockies

    2019 record:49-57

    Week 16 ranking:22

    Another road series loss dropped the Rockies to last place in the NL West and a season-worst 19 games back in the division race during the middle of the past week. Colorado's MLB-worst-in-July pitching staff (6.90 team ERA) has been largely behind the team's struggles, but it doesn't help that Nolan Arenado has just a .285 wOBA with three extra-base hits since the All-Star break. -- Cockcroft

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  22. San Diego Padres

    2019 record:49-56

    Week 16 ranking:21

    Despite a 3-6 road trip that dropped them at one point to 18 games back in the division and seven back in the NL wild-card race, the Padres by all accounts might still be in the market for trade reinforcements. Their rotation seems a likely area of need, as it has generated only three quality starts since the break, getting one apiece from Cal Quantrill (July 14), Chris Paddack (July 17) and Joey Lucchesi (Friday). -- Cockcroft

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  23. Pittsburgh Pirates

    2019 record:46-59

    Week 16 ranking:20

    Getting swept by the Cardinals in their four-game series to begin the past week dropped the Pirates to last place and a season-worst 10 games out in the NL Central race. The offense simply hasn't been contributing aside fromStarling Marte, slugging .636 with five home runs in the second half. The rest of the Pirates have six homers combined. -- Cockcroft

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  24. Chicago White Sox

    2019 record:46-57

    Week 16 ranking:24

    There's not much in the way of positive developments going on here. Young rotation heads Lucas Giolito and rookie Dylan Cease (especially) are struggling. Foundation position players Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez are battling injuries. The Pale Hose have dropped 13 of 17 since the All-Star break and have been outscored by a stunning 42 runs during that stretch. With the Mets visiting this week, Chicago has a chance to send the turbulent New York squad over the edge. -- Doolittle

  25. Seattle Mariners

    2019 record:46-63

    Week 16 ranking:26

    Has Felix Hernandez pitched his final game for the Mariners? He's in the final year of his contract and was just moved to the 60-day IL to make room for Hunter Strickland on the active roster. Hernandez did throw 22 pitches of live batting practice as he continues to recover from a lat strain, but he hasn't pitched in a game since May 11. "I wasn't planning this," he told the Seattle Times. "I didn't see this picture in my head." He hopes to pitch again this season, admitting if he wants to pitch next season he needs go out and pitch again -- better, one hopes, than the 6.52 ERA he had when he landed on the injured list. -- Schoenfield

  26. Toronto Blue Jays

    2019 record:40-67

    Week 16 ranking:25

    Given Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s historic display during the Home Run Derby, one had to wonder if it would be a launching point for the stud-in-waiting. Through 15 games, he has had a slight bump in average (.298, up from .249 in before Derby) and slugging (.439, up from .413). But the biggest changes have been an increase in pull percentage (51.2% entering Sunday; was 39.1% before Derby) and a drop in soft contact (14.0%; was 22.4% before Derby). -- Richards

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  27. Miami Marlins

    2019 record:40-63

    Week 16 ranking:28

    He lives! Just when you might have given up on Starlin Castro -- he entered June with both his OBP and slugging percentage under .300 -- over the past six weeks he has strung together a .299/.322/.465 line that should at least keep Marlins fans entertained, if not quite enough to earn a trade out of Miami to a contender looking for help at second base before his 2020 option gets bought out and he becomes a first-time, 29-year-old free agent after 10 years in the majors. -- Kahrl

  28. Kansas City Royals

    2019 record:40-67

    Week 16 ranking:27

    With a hot stretch of play coming out of the All-Star break, the Royals seem intent on avoiding the 100-loss mark. While the cynical type might point out that all K.C. gets for such success is to drop a couple of spots in the 2020 amateur draft, at least you can say the Royals haven't thrown in the towel. The Royals generated some optimism with a strong finish last season, going 20-14 to close out the campaign, which had exactly zero carryover into this season, so perhaps they need to find a different formula. -- Doolittle

  29. Baltimore Orioles

    2019 record:35-70

    Week 16 ranking:29

    Much has been made of Baltimore's record pace for giving up home runs this season, but the O's can knock 'em out of the yard as well. They set a major league record Saturday with their 10th consecutive multihomer game, going 7-3 in that stretch. Leading the way was Trey Mancini, who had seven long balls to bring his season total to 24. -- Richards

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  30. Detroit Tigers

    2019 record:30-71

    Week 16 ranking:30

    The Tigers are 8-39 over the past two months, for an unimaginably bad .170 winning percentage. To put that into perspective, over a full season it would be the lowest winning percentage for a team since the infamous 1899 Cleveland Spiders (.130). If they maintain it through the rest of their season, the Tigers could lose 122 games, which would break the Mets' modern MLB record of 120, and finish second all time to those Spiders and their 134 defeats. -- Kahrl

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