MLB Power Rankings Week 19: Who are biggest risers and fallers?

Thursday, August 10, 2023

With a little less than two months of regular-season baseball left to play, the postseason picture is slowly starting to take shape.

While certain teams look like they're getting closer to punting on the season -- such as the Angels, who dropped six spots in our standings this week -- others are making a push that, if sustained, could catapult them into playoff contention -- like the Mariners and Cubs.

With that said, a lot can change over the course of a couple months -- or even week-to-week. Who are the biggest movers, whether rising or falling, in Week 19 of our power rankings?

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 and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 18 | Second-half preview | Preseason rankings

1. Atlanta Braves


Previous ranking:1

The Matt Olson RBI machine continues. His bases-loaded walk Tuesday gave him an RBI for the 11th consecutive game, setting a franchise record. (The MLB record is 17, held by Ray Grimes of the 1922 Cubs). The walk also gave Olson his 100th RBI -- in just 111 games, putting him on pace for 146. The last players to reach 140 RBIs were Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard in 2009, when both knocked in 141. Olson is still likely behind teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. and the Dodgers' Freddie Freeman in the MVP discussion, but a 50-homer, 140-RBI season is going to get some strong support. -- Schoenfield

2. Baltimore Orioles


Previous ranking:2

The Orioles just keep building momentum. Their first playoff berth since 2016 is increasingly looking like a sure thing, and they're on trajectory to win the franchise's first American League East crown since 2014. And if they can hold onto the No. 1 AL seed, they'd enter the playoffs as a prime candidate to break a 40-year pennant drought. That was last accomplished by the World Series champion 1983 Orioles, who were recently honored at Camden Yards. In terms of regular-season success, this edition of the O's has a chance to eclipse that team, which won 98 games. Baltimore hasn't had a 100-win team since the days of Earl Weaver, when it won an even 100 in 1980. The 2023 team remains roughly on pace to crack the triple-digit club for the first time since that season. -- Doolittle

3. Texas Rangers


Previous ranking:3

Max Scherzer's debut late last week was a good one after he gave up some early runs to the White Sox. He lasted six innings total, flashing signs of the electric Scherzer as he struck out nine batters, his most in a month and one off a season high. He followed that up with another solid outing against the A's this week. Jordan Montgomery's first start as a Ranger was also a good one as he beat the Marlins.

The two pitchers are the boost Texas needed while it rests Nathan Eovaldi, who has been great all season. Adolis Garcia had another good week at the plate, hitting .400 while driving in four to increase his season total to 89.The Rangers haven't given up the AL West yet and they may not -- they've pushed back every time the second-place Astros have threatened Texas' standing atop the division. -- Rogers

4. Los Angeles Dodgers


Previous ranking:6

Remember May 5, when the Padres beat the Dodgers in their first meeting of 2023 -- on the heels of upsetting them the prior October -- and displayed a crying meme of Clayton Kershaw on their scoreboard? The Dodgers weren't happy about that. Not one bit. Since then, they've beaten the Padres eight times in nine games, including three of four in San Diego this weekend. The Dodgers have now won 31 of their last 38 regular-season games against the Padres, at a time when the rivalry was seemingly brewing in the National League West. Then again -- the Padres will always have the 2022 NL Division Series. -- Gonzalez

5. Tampa Bay Rays


Previous ranking:5

Brutal news for the Rays this week. While it's still uncertain whether Shane McClanahan, who was placed on the injured list last week with forearm tightness, will require surgery, manager Kevin Cash told reporters Tuesday that it's unlikely we'll see the ailing on the mound again this season. Thus, he'll join Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen in the out-for-the-season Rays rotation club. That re-frames the Rays' deadline acquisition of Aaron Civale.

Before, it looked like Civale would be the final piece of the Rays' playoff rotation, but as the fourth hurler in that pecking order, a spot that doesn't always see much action at playoff time. Now Civale is not only a central figure in the Rays' postseason outlook, but Cash will need the veteran righty to keep producing as Tampa Bay tries to ensure that it'll be in the playoff bracket at all. -- Doolittle

6. Houston Astros


Previous ranking:4

In an AL universe that did not include Shohei Ohtani, Astros star Kyle Tucker would have played himself into the MVP conversation. Tucker has been surging for some time now, but his campaign reached a crescendo Tuesday when he bashed a go-ahead grand slam off Orioles closer Felix Bautista in a 7-6 win. Tucker's sterling play is nothing new, but let's not forget that for a while there, it looked like he might be headed for a down season. But a three week-ish dip around Memorial Day ended, and he's been as prolific as anybody since then.

Over his last 48 games, Tucker has hit .331/.416/.618 with 162-game paces of 199 hits, 41 homers and 152 RBIs. A chunk of this spree unfolded while the Astros were floundering on offense overall with Yordan Alvarez on the IL. How much has that meant to Houston's season? Consider Baseball Reference's AL leaderboard for championship probability: Tucker (3.7%), Corey Seager/Chas McCormick (3.1%), Ohtani (2.4%). Tucker has lapped the field. -- Doolittle

7. Toronto Blue Jays


Previous ranking:7

Yusei Kikuchi took the L in a hard-luck 1-0 Blue Jays loss to Cleveland on Tuesday, then Toronto turned the tables with a 1-0 win of its own the following night behind Kevin Gausman.The nail-biters extended what has become a prolonged run of standout run prevention for the Jays. Toronto's 3.27 ERA since the All-Star break is the top mark in the big leagues. During that span, only the Guardians have a better rotation ERA 92.59 to 2.92 for Toronto). Gausman's gemwas the eighth time in 14 games that Toronto allowed just a single run. This, incidentally, has happened without Alek Manoah quite yet recapturing his consistency and while Hyun Jin Ryu is still rounding into form after coming off the IL. The Toronto rotation looks poised for a big finish to the season. -- Doolittle

8. Philadelphia Phillies


Previous ranking:8

The standing ovations given to Trea Turner have been a nice twist. Now we'll see if he can turn his season around. He did go 7-for-19 with four doubles and a home run in his first five games after the ovations began -- although the Royals and Nationals aren't the sternest of pitching tests. But it shouldn't all be on Turner's shoulders. The Phillies are just eighth in the NL in runs and they just lost Brandon Marsh for about three weeks. One thing is for sure: The Phillies won't lose anything on defense with Johan Rojas in center field. Indeed, in the games when Marsh and Rojas both were in the lineup, it was Rojas in center with Marsh in left. -- Schoenfield

9. Seattle Mariners


Previous ranking:19

The four-game sweep of the Angels not only was the team's fifth straight series win -- all against teams in the playoff race -- but it lifted the Mariners over the Angels, Red Sox and Yankees in the wild-card race, just behind Toronto for the No. 3 seed.The dramatic blow was Cade Marlowe's grand slam in the ninth off Carlos Estevez in the first game of the series, turning a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 victory. After sweeping the Angels, Logan Gilbert followed up with a masterful 12-strikeout performance in a 2-0 win over the Padres, setting a career high for strikeouts and game score. -- Schoenfield

10. San Francisco Giants


Previous ranking:9

They're not universally regarded as one of the best rotation duos in the sport, but perhaps Logan Webb and Alex Cobb should be. The two have combined to make 45 starts and post a 3.35 ERA in 271 innings this season, acting as a steady presence for a starting rotation that has battled its fair share of uncertainty beyond them. Take Webb and Cobb out, and the Giants would have a starters' ERA of 4.95 going into Wednesday. Webb and Cobb will have to continue carrying the load if the Giants hope to separate themselves from a crowded wild card field the rest of the way -- or perhaps even win the NL West. -- Gonzalez

11. Milwaukee Brewers


Previous ranking:11

Milwaukee had a wild week at the plate, scoring 26 runs in two wins but just eight total in losing two of three games to the Pirates. It's part and parcel to the inconsistent offense Milwaukee has displayed all year. But let's not bury the lead here. The return of Brandon Woodruff is as important as any development for this team. After missing most of the season with an arm injury, Woodruff pitched well in a loss to the Pirates on Sunday, giving up two runs on four hits over five innings while striking out nine and not issuing a walk. If the Brewers win the NL Central, it'll be on the strength of their pitching staff, and now they have a huge weapon to unleash for the final two months of the season. -- Rogers

12. Minnesota Twins


Previous ranking:20

Are the Twins peaking -- finally? Minnesota's 9-3 win on Monday in Detroit provided a number of high points on its schedule to date. The victory pushed the Twins to a season-best six games over .500 and gave them their biggest lead so far in the AL Central (5 games) and their first five-game winning streak of 2023. During that streak, the Twins' offense sprang to life as they outscored opponents 34-12. Maybe, just maybe, the Twins' one-step-ahead, one-step-back season is finally behind them, though they did drop back-to-back games to Detroit to snap the streak. Their division rivals better take their shots while they can: Minnesota's last intra-division game is Sept. 17, another gift from the new scheduling formula. -- Doolittle

13. Chicago Cubs

Record: 59-56

Previous ranking:17

A weekend series win over the mighty Braves was another confidence boost for a surging Cubs team. A lot of that surge is because of center fielder Cody Bellinger, who may not be a finalist for MVP come season's end but will get some down ballot votes. He continued his torrid second half by hitting over .500 so far in August, including a big home run in a one-run win over the Mets on Tuesday. After a weekend series against the Blue Jays, the Cubs have a light schedule until a showdown with the Brewers at the end of the month. Could Chicago be in first place by then? It's entirely possible. -- Rogers

14. Boston Red Sox


Previous ranking:10

If you expected more from the 2023 Red Sox and are wondering why you haven't gotten it, a look at their payroll might tell you all you need to know. The top-paid player, pitcher Chris Sale, has produced 1.0 bWAR during another injury-ravaged season and hasn't started at all since June 1. The second highest paid BoSox, shortstop Trevor Story, just made his season debut Tuesdaybecause of injury problems of his own. (He's gone 0-for-8 with six whiffs during his first two outings.) Through it all, Boston has managed to stay on the right side of .500 and a hot streak away from a wild-card slot. Now, as Story regains his regular-season sea legs, Sale is slated to return from his shoulder woes Friday. It's been a rough going but with the Red Sox finally getting whole, better days might be just around the corner. -- Doolittle

15. New York Yankees


Previous ranking:15

Coming into the season, the veteran-laden Yankees rotation looked like as good a reason as any to predict that the 2023 Bombers would snap their pennant drought. Alas, as the season reaches the dog days, that group -- beyond Cy Young candidate Gerrit Cole -- has become a font of disappointment and disarray. Since the beginning of July, New York ranks 28th in rotation ERA, better only than Pittsburgh and Washington. This has occurred despite Cole's 2.70 ERA and a WHIP (0.84), bettered only by Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes, during that span. The non-Cole Yankees starters have gone 7-11 with a 6.57 ERA and a .893 OPS allowed since the start of July. -- Doolittle

16. Cincinnati Reds


Previous ranking:12

A six-game skid dropped Cincinnati into third place in the NL Central as the Cubs took three of four last week to top the Reds in the standings. Their pitching settled down against the Marlins after getting walloped at Wrigley Field, but it's been their normally potent offense that has struggled recently. They hit just .203 over a seven-day span ending Tuesday, fourth worst in baseball over that timeframe. Joey Votto went 4-for-21, though all four hits were home runs. Elly De La Cruz also only had four hits, compiling a .174 batting average for the week.

The young Reds could be showing some cracks, but a boost on the mound is coming. If Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo can have a strong finish, the NL Central race will be very interesting. Cincinnati needs more overall consistency to make that happen. -- Rogers

17. San Diego Padres


Previous ranking:18

The Padres have basically spent the entire season flirting with a .500 record before falling off, only to inevitably circle back -- a constant tease from a star-studded team that should be so much better. It happened again recently. The Padres had a chance to get to .500 for the first time since May 11 on Sunday, then they lost back-to-back games to the Dodgers and Mariners to put together a four-game losing streak. The Padres' uphill climb continues. And it will get significantly harder now that one of their best pitchers, Joe Musgrove, will be out until at least the middle of September -- or perhaps for the rest of this season -- because of shoulder inflammation. -- Gonzalez

18. Arizona Diamondbacks


Previous ranking:13

The D-backs find themselves in a free fall. On Tuesday night, they suffered their seventh consecutive loss and fell to .500 for the first time since April 7. Since the start of July, they're 8-24, during which they've batted .227/.302/.366 and pitched to a 5.33 ERA, making them a bottom-three offense and pitching staff for a span of five and a half weeks. The D-backs are still very much in this, but they need to turn it around fast.

"We play with intensity and energy with a certain swagger," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo told reporters after Tuesday's game. "I haven't seen that in a while." -- Gonzalez

19. Miami Marlins


Previous ranking:16

Eury Perez returned to the rotation Tuesday after his exile to the minors to preserve his innings and was a little rusty, allowing four runs and two home runs in 4 innings, although he did strike out seven. He didn't pitch for 20 days and then made two abbreviated appearances of 45 and 63 pitches in Double-A before his return. He's now thrown 94 innings across the majors and minors after throwing 78 innings in 2021 and 77 last year. The Marlins' caution for the 20-year-old sensation is certainly understandable and it will be interesting to see how hard they push him down the stretch. He threw 78 pitches in his return and has topped 90 just twice in his 12 starts, so that may be close to his limit, which will keep his innings down. -- Schoenfield

20. Los Angeles Angels


Previous ranking:14

The Angels made the bold move of not only holding on to Ohtani before the trade deadline but supplementing their roster with pending free agents like Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk. Then they proceeded to lose seven consecutive games, their playoff odds dropping from nearly 20% to less than 2% in that stretch. Oh boy. The Angels wanted to make the playoffs in what could be their final year with Ohtani, but at the very least they wanted to get to September -- play meaningful games down the stretch for the first time in six years. Mike Trout could be back from his hamate fracture within the next couple of weeks, but the Angels' season might essentially be over by then. -- Gonzalez

21. Cleveland Guardians


Previous ranking:21

Jose Ramirez's fight with Tim Anderson -- and his resulting three-game suspension (pending appeal) -- didn't exactly come at a good time, with the offense struggling. They have gone nine straight without scoring more than four runs, losing seven of those. Monday's loss was especially tough as Gavin Williams pitched a brilliant game with 12 strikeouts and one hit allowed over seven innings, only to see the bullpen blow a 1-0 lead. His game score of 86 was the best by a Cleveland starter since Triston McKenzie tossed eight shutout innings with 11 K's on Aug. 15, 2021. -- Schoenfield

22. New York Mets


Previous ranking:22

One excuse I've heard about the Mets' sorry season was that they had so many players in the World Baseball Classic that they were never able to gel as a team in spring training. While Edwin Diaz's injury was obviously devastating, that rationale overlooks that the Mets actually got off to a good start at 14-7. They were still just 3.5 games back June 2 -- and that's when the season turned. They got swept at home by the Blue Jays and then got swept in Atlanta and suddenly they were 8.5 games behind the Braves. The Braves took off from there and the Mets never recovered. Don't blame the WBC. -- Schoenfield

23. Pittsburgh Pirates


Previous ranking:24

Pittsburgh may be playing out the string, but Bryan Reynolds is not. Reynolds hit three home runs last week while compiling an OPS over 1.200. After a little bit of a slow start to his season, his numbers are in line with the back of his baseball card. He won't reach his career high of 27 home runs that he set last season, but a 20-homer year isn't out of the question. He'll be a leader for a Pirates team that's hoping to be in the race for longer than a couple months next year. They'll need some better pitching, but they should have a decent offense in 2024. -- Rogers

24. Detroit Tigers


Previous ranking:25

Miguel Cabrera's career began just over 20 years ago with a game-ending, two-run jack off Al Levine to win an extra-inning game for the Marlins against the cross-state rival Rays. That was his first career hit and homer, one that traveled an estimated 491 feet. It was, suffice to say, an auspicious beginning to a Hall-of-Fame career.

We don't know how it will end but we do know that it will end in a few weeks, presumably when the Tigers finish their season at home against Cleveland. There's no way to predict whether or not Miggy will exit the majors as loudly as he entered it, but he is showing no signs of going out with a whimper. Since Cabrera's early season numbers hit bottom (a .512 OPS on June 5), he's hit .319/.388/.420 over 37 games. The power is still lacking but it's not too late for one more slugging surge for the Detroit and Miami great. -- Doolittle

25. St. Louis Cardinals


Previous ranking:23

Will Adam Wainwright get to 200 wins? It's the Cardinals' mission for the rest of the season to get him there, but he's not cooperating. Over his last two starts, he's given up 11 runs in nine innings, including a three-inning stint against the Rockies over the weekend. Wainwright's stuff simply hasn't been that good all season but with only two wins to reach 200 and St. Louis out of the race, manager Oliver Marmol will give him every chance to reach that milestone before he retires. Offense isn't the problem and hasn't been all year. It's up to Wainwright to pitch himself into rarified air. Only 118 pitchers have ever won at least 200 games in their careers. -- Rogers

26. Washington Nationals


Previous ranking:27

The Nationals lost 107 games last year. The Mets won 101. The Mets spent a vault full of money. The Nationals are paying Stephen Strasburg (injured) and Patrick Corbin (5.03 ERA), but not really anybody else. It's now possible -- perhaps even likely, as the Mets play out the string with a depleted roster -- that the Nationals finish ahead of the Mets this season.

After last week's somewhat surprising demotion of Luis Garcia (he had a .599 OPS since his six-hit game in late May) and less surprising release of Corey Dickerson, the Nationals will give rookies Jake Alu and Blake Rutherford a chance to play down the stretch. Rutherford was a former first-round pick of the Yankees who the Nationals signed as a minor league free agent in the offseason. He had a .978 OPS in the minors. -- Schoenfield

27. Chicago White Sox


Previous ranking:26

A tumultuous week off the field last week gave way to three consecutive wins on it, as the White Sox took a weekend series over the Guardians and then followed that up with a win over the Yankees on Monday. None of that, however, can overshadow the overall performance of the team this year and the comments former pitcher Keynan Middleton made to ESPN on Sunday. He questioned the culture and accountability inside Chicago's clubhouse, which forced GM Rick Hahn and manager Pedro Grifol to publicly -- and clearly -- admit things were bad, though they refuted Middleton's specific statements. Chicago's makeover is far from over. -- Rogers

28. Colorado Rockies


Previous ranking:28

Austin Gomber pitched six scoreless innings in St. Louis on Sunday, dropping his bloated ERA from 5.68 to 5.40. It was significant in another way, given the pressure Gomber has felt to deliver as one of the centerpieces in the 2021 deal that sent Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals -- a deal that looks awful in retrospect.

He said he's finally at peace with the dynamic, telling "The last couple months, in talking to people and in finding myself, it's been easier to realize I'm never going to be Nolan Arenado, right? I could come here and throw a shutout every year, and it doesn't matter. I'm not going to be a Hall of Famer. I understand that. It's fine. So, just kind of removing those expectations for myself." -- Gonzalez

29. Kansas City Royals


Previous ranking:29

Bobby Witt Jr. just had a stretch that reminds us his high ceiling still exists, going 18-for-38 over nine games (.474) with four home runs, 17 RBIs and four stolen bases. He's now had back-to-back 20-homer, 30-steal seasons, the first player ever to do that his first two seasons, with a 30-30 season still in play for this year. He's at 3.0 WAR now and his defensive metrics -- a disaster last season -- are either spectacular (Statcast has him as the best shortstop in the game) or at least merely average (defensive runs saved). He's turning into a star -- and maybe a superstar if he can improve that OBP. -- Schoenfield

30. Oakland Athletics


Previous ranking:30

A miserable season received a rare highlight over the weekend, when the A's inducted their 2023 class of Hall of Famers and a combined 64,934 fans showed up to watch their team take both games against the crosstown rival Giants. It marked the first time many of their young players had played in front of such a boisterous home crowd, many of whom responded positively. Alas, it only improved the A's record to 32-80. And sadly, those fun afternoons of baseball in Oakland are quickly dwindling. -- Gonzalez

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