Following our reset of the SI power rankings format coming out of the All-Star break, this is my first time taking on this task by myself. As you may come to learn over my weeks at the wheel, I’m not much for intros. You’re just here for the rankings, so let’s get to it.
30. Arizona Diamondbacks (Last Week: 30)
29. Texas Rangers (LW: 27)
Texas’s active 12-game losing streak is the third-longest in the majors this season, behind only Arizona’s 17-gamer and Baltimore’s 14-gamer. The Rangers have scored just 20 runs against 80 runs allowed during the skid, which includes defeats by the scores of 14–0 (to the Tigers), 10–0 and 10–2 (to the Blue Jays). At least they snapped a streak of 99 innings without holding a lead Sunday, the longest in the majors since the Houston Colt .45s endured a 102-inning streak in 1963. Let’s dig a little deeper on just how poorly the Rangers have opened Globe Life Field, which has played like a pitcher’s park in its debut season to deepen the issues of Texas’s toothless offense.
Batting average isn’t en vogue anymore, but the fact that no Ranger is batting above .260 is still telling of this offense’s dearth of production. Joey Gallo is the only hitter with at least 50 at bats and an OPS above .800 following the decline of rookie All-Star Adolis García, who’s slashed .185/.241/.296 with two home runs in 87 plate appearances since June 29. Gallo, who’s pumped up his trade value by rediscovering his power stroke over the past month, is actually the only hitter with at least 35 at bats and an OPS above even .700 over the last month. Other than the passable Nate Lowe, not a single veteran acquired over the offseason has panned out. Khris Davis was released last month. Brock Holt and Charlie Culberson look like toast. David Dahl has found life away from Coors Field quite difficult and justified Colorado’s surprising nontender of him last offseason, slashing .221/.255/.338 with four homers in 59 games.
On an even playing field, the pitching may actually be worse, even though the surface-level stats have been aided by Texas’s defense-friendly confines. Rangers pitchers have accumulated the least fWAR (2.6) of any AL team. Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy have been the only bright spots in the rotation and bullpen, respectively, similar to Gallo’s place on offense. If Texas does trade Gallo and/or Gibson before Friday’s deadline, I’d place the Rangers as the favorites to end up with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft.
28. Baltimore Orioles (LW: 29)
27. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: 28)
26. Minnesota Twins (LW: 24)
25. Kansas City Royals (LW: 26)
24. Colorado Rockies (LW: 25)
23. Miami Marlins (LW: 23)
22. Detroit Tigers (LW: 22)
21. Washington Nationals (LW: 21)
A weekend sweep at the hands (talons?) of the Orioles in the Beltway Series may have served as the final nail in the coffin for Washington’s season. Such a disastrous result may have been avoided if Max Scherzer hadn’t developed triceps discomfort taking batting practice (bring DHs back to the NL!). Despite Scherzer’s late scratch over the weekend, the injury isn’t expected to make him miss his next start. But it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he’s pitched his last game for Washington, which seems outlandish to consider.
Before the Nationals had probably made the short trip back to D.C. from Baltimore, a report emerged about a Mets plan to pry Scherzer from their division rivals. GM Mike Rizzo may sooner sell his World Series ring than trade Mad Max to a division rival, and the Mets probably know that. But with his team eight games out of first place in the NL East and their playoff odds at 1.7%, per FanGraphs, it would behoove Rizzo to explore trading his ace before his free agency this winter. Washington’s farm system is among the worst in the game and could use the sort of return Scherzer would fetch—from a division rival or elsewhere.
Even the best prospects to emerge from Washington’s system in recent years haven’t lived up to the hype. Carter Kieboom, whose sheen has faded after 48 disconcerting games in the bigs over three seasons, is back up for another shot after the injury of fill-in third baseman Jordy Mercer, who took over for Starlin Castro (on administrative leave over domestic violence charges). The 23-year-old hasn’t exactly performed well at Triple A Rochester this year, slashing .236/.376/.385 with five home runs in 44 games. Washington would love for him to run away with the starting job after he failed to do so in each of the previous two spring trainings. Victor Robles, another youngster who hasn’t lived up to his potential at the plate, recently lost the starting center field job and is now in a timeshare with Andrew Stevenson. After an encouraging 24-game major-league stint in 2018 that saw him record an .874 OPS, Robles has a .689 OPS with 21 home runs over 1,080 plate appearances. Both are running out of time to capitalize on their opportunities in the nation’s capital.
20. Chicago Cubs (LW: 20)
19. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 18)
18. Los Angeles Angels (LW: 19)
17. Atlanta Braves (LW: 17)
16. Cleveland (LW: 15)
Cleveland needed to burst out of the break against a trio of playoff contenders in Oakland, Houston and Tampa Bay to rationalize buyer status at the deadline. Instead, the team went 4–6 to fall nine games back in the AL Central, and five games back in the wild-card chase with four teams to jump over to reach the one-game playoff. I maintain GM Mike Chernoff should just get what he can for José Ramírez right now if owner Paul Dolan isn’t going to sign off on any big-ticket free-agent signings over the next couple of seasons.
The downfall of Cleveland’s rotation has been the story of its season, and Triston McKenzie has been its poster child after enduring a rough go of it to follow up on a promising debut last season. But on Sunday the lanky 23-year-old flashed the potential that makes him such an eye-catching talent, holding the Rays to two runs over six innings with six strikeouts and an increased reliance on his knee-buckling curveball, which seems like a recipe for success.
As a side note, I dig the new Guardians nickname. I was not familiar with the Guardians of Traffic statues, but they look sufficiently cool and intimidating to be the focus of the rebrand. Plus, they’re right outside Progressive Field and are the only public Art Deco monuments in Cleveland. As much as I was rooting for a rebirth of the Spiders, considering the 1899 Spiders recorded the worst season in baseball history, it could’ve resulted in some bad mojo to go back down that road.
15. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 14)
14. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 13)
13. Seattle Mariners (LW: 16)
12. New York Yankees (LW: 12)
11. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 9)
10. New York Mets (LW: 11)
After New York’s rotation was in crisis mode over the past couple of weeks, the storm is beginning to calm. Reinforcements have arrived in the form of Rich Hill (acquired from Tampa Bay) and Carlos Carrasco, who made his third rehab start with Triple A Syracuse on Sunday, and appears set to make his Mets debut. A silver lining of all the injuries sustained by Mets pitchers is the opportunity presented to Tylor Megill, a 2018 eighth-round pick who’s shined in six starts and is “here to stay,” according to manager Luis Rojas.
These are the Mets, though, so all that good news was offset a bit Friday when David Peterson broke his foot while walking through the clubhouse, potentially ending his season. The southpaw was enduring a sophomore slump, but New York could use all the rotation depth it can get. I warned of second-half regression coming for Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker. So far, Walker has proven me right by allowing six runs in consecutive starts. Stroman, on the other hand, one-hit the Reds through eight innings in his last start. Can’t call ‘em all.
A rare five-game series against the Braves in Queens this week could serve to bury a similarly hobbled Atlanta club in the NL East race or give the division’s three-time defending champs new life. Could Jacob deGrom return this week to provide a boost?
9. Oakland A’s (LW: 10)
8. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 8)
7. San Diego Padres (LW: 5)
6. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 6)
5. Boston Red Sox (LW: 7)
4. Chicago White Sox (LW: 2)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 1)
2. San Francisco Giants (LW: 4)
The Giants responded to Dodgers catcher Will Smith’s walk-off home run last Tuesday with two ninth-inning comebacks of their own in Los Angeles to take three of four from their rivals in what may have been the series of the season. During the Dodgers’ eight-year chokehold on the NL West, they’ve had position players pop up out of nowhere to excel at the plate. With former Dodgers executive Farhan Zaidi leading San Francisco’s baseball operations now, however, San Francisco has done a similarly fantastic job of finding diamonds in the rough. LaMonte Wade Jr., Thairo Estrada and Jason Vosler were among the heroes against L.A. last week. It seems likely contributions from the players on the fringe of the rosters will end up making the difference in the NL West race.
Don’t mistake this team as just some scrappy collection of slap hitters, though. The Giants lead the majors in home runs (151), a remarkable accomplishment for a National League team. They also lead the NL in OPS (.764). It’s been a group effort as several veterans have been banged up throughout the season; Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt and Tommy La Stella are all currently injured. Crawford and Mike Yastrzemski are San Francisco’s only two hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. But eight players have hit at least 10 homers, and two more have hit nine. Nine hitters have at least 150 plate appearances and a wRC+ above 100, meaning they’re better than league average.
The pitching has been just as impressive, if not more. San Francisco’s 3.31 ERA trails only that of the Dodgers, with both the rotation (3.31 ERA) and the bullpen (3.32 ERA) possessing nearly identical marks. Johnny Cueto’s 4.09 ERA is the highest among San Francisco’s regular starters. Kevin Gausman has started to show some cracks after he was the most dominant pitcher in the league this side of Jacob deGrom in the first half—he allowed a season-high six runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Pirates on Saturday—but the Giants still have to feel better about him as a Game 1 playoff starter than they ever could have imagined in spring training. (He also deserves some slack after his first start of the second half was pushed back when his wife was briefly hospitalized with pregnancy complications.) Righty submariner Taylor Rogers and lefty Jake McGee have been a solid one-two punch alternating the closer’s job, though Rogers’s five blown saves and low strikeout rate (26 strikeouts in 46 innings) indicate a potential Achilles heel.
But for a team practically no one expected to qualify for the playoffs, the Giants have very few apparent weaknesses to address before the trade deadline. Up next this week is another series against the Dodgers, this time at Oracle Park. That they’re in a position to put the defending World Series champions in a five-game hole in the divisional race in late July is nothing short of remarkable.
1. Houston Astros (LW: 3)
More MLB Coverage:
• What Should the Yankees Do as the Trade Deadline Looms?
• Inside Alex Cora’s Second Chance After Scandal
• Rays Find New Sense of Urgency to Heat Up AL East Race
• Trade Deadline Roundtable: Let's Make a Deal