Welcome to the inaugural weekly installment of MLB power rankings. I love doing Power Rankings. I like to think of them as “standings with a twist”. Teams records are of course important, but they aren’t the only thing that matter. If I believe a team is playing better than another team that currently has a better record, I’ll rank them ahead. If I just think a team is better than another team with a better record, I’ll rank them ahead. It’s basically just my version of who the best 10 teams in the league are, plain and simple. If you want to read about teams in the order of their record, go be boring somewhere else and look at the standings. Feel free to disagree and let me know why, that’s why I do this kind of thing.
1. San Francisco Giants
Record This Week: 5-1
The days of sitting around and wondering when Gabe Kapler and the San Francisco Giants will come back down to earth are long gone. This team is for real, and they have shown no signs of slowing down. Trading for Kris Bryant from the Chicago Cubs has given the team some much needed star power, and although the power hasn’t really been present too much in San Francisco so far, he has still swung a good bat.
The team is very strong from a pitching standpoint and has an unbelievable bullpen. They have bullpen pitchers with ERA’s of 1.80, 2.77, 2.37, 3.00, 2.88, 3.89, 1.76, 3.77, and 2.25. That has to be refreshing for Manager Gabe Kapler given what he was given to work with during his time in Philadelphia. With all of that depth, they are going to be an extremely difficult team to beat in a long series come October. Their bullpen is why I still have them over the Dodgers, who they currently hold a 4-game lead over.
The Giants had another very good week, albeit against some underwhelming competition. At the end of the day a divisional rivalry is a division rivalry, and the Giants took care of business. They had a rare 2 game home series with the Arizona Diamondbacks to begin the week and took both of those games. They then welcomed in the Colorado Rockies and won 3 out of 4 in that series. Good teams win the games they’re supposed to, and the Giants did just that. Up next they will take on the New York Mets for 3 games to start next week before a 3-game series with their Bay Area rival, the Oakland A’s.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Record This Week: 5-1
While the Giants have been the better of the two teams so far in 2021, there’s a very strong argument to be made that the Dodgers will change that when all things are said and done. After trading for RHP Max Scherzer and INF Trea Turner, the Dodgers have one of the most talented lineups in the history of the league on paper as they look to win their second straight title. They have made the World Series in 3 out of the last 4 years and could very well make that 4 out of the last 5 come October.
Los Angeles and San Francisco are the clear best two teams in the league, and it really is a shame one will have to play in a wild card game where anything can happen. I wouldn’t be opposed to Major League Baseball reconstructing their playoff system, though I will say the one game playoff has been wildly entertaining. I think a 3-game series for the Wild Card would be a better alternative and still be packed with drama, but that’s a conversation for another day. However you want to slice it, the Dodgers just haven’t quite done enough to leap into the top spot yet.
The Dodgers matched every move the Giants made this week, going 5-1 as well. They had a little bit more of a difficult route to take, as they had to go on an East Coast trip and play two teams fighting for a division title. They started off with the Philadelphia Phillies, and won the first two games in a rain filled Citizens Bank Park before dropping the Thursday afternoon business person’s special. They wrapped up their weekend with a Sunday Night Baseball win to complete a 3-game sweep over the New York Mets, and capped off a very productive week. They’ll take on the Pittsburgh Pirates for 3 games to start off this week before a 4-game rematch with the New York Mets.
3. Houston Astros
Record This Week: 4-1
Say what you want about the cheating scandal, but I’m just so over it. This might not be the popular opinion, but I’m just done hearing about it. They obviously weren’t the only team doing it, they were just the only team that had a bitter, ex-player rat them out. They’re being heavily watched by every single team, and yet they still rake. I’m just here to talk about baseball and move on.
While the Astros may not have the best record in the American League, they are the team I believe has the best talent and is the most well rounded. Every single starter in their rotation has an ERA under 3.51. Even without Justin Verlander, they have still been able to have massive success. They have a good, but not great bullpen, so they traded for Kendall Graveman from the Seattle Mariners to help with that. They also have 6 hitters with an OPS over .830, which is absolute insanity. One of the starters, when healthy, who isn’t over that number is 3B Alex Bregman. He’ll be fine.
Houston did not have as many games as some other teams as they had rest days on Monday and Thursday, but they still handled their business. They got things started with a quick 2 game set at home with the Colorado Rockies and handled them rather easily. Then they traveled to Los Angeles to take on their division rival Angels, and they took the first 2 before dropping the final game on Sunday afternoon. Overall, they did what they had to do and didn’t really change much about their spot one way or another. They’ve got 4 games in Kansas City to get things going next week, followed by 3 against divisional rival Seattle.
4. Tampa Bay Rays
Record This Week: 3-3
The defending American League Champions are avoiding a World Series appearance hangover in the best way possible as they are currently on top of the standings yet again. For the first time in what feels like a long time, the Rays went out and made a big move to go after a big name bat in the form of Nelson Cruz. They needed some extra oomph in that lineup, and he is just what the doctor ordered. For a team that is generally built around pitching, defense, and contact hitting, he gives them a new element that they have desperately craved.
I go back and forth between the Rays and the Astros on a daily basis. I lean towards Houston because I feel like the starting pitching is a wash between the two and the Astros bats scare me more than the Rays bullpen does. There’s a reason these teams faced off in the ALCS last year, and they very well could again. The Rays traded Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres, let Charlie Morton walk in free agency to the Atlanta Braves, and lost Tyler Glasnow to an elbow injury, and STILL haven’t skipped a beat.
The Rays had a very bizarre week, to say the least. They started off with the Boston Red Sox, the team that is chasing them in the standings. They did take 2 of 3 at Fenway Park, but they gave up 20 runs in their one loss. They traveled to Minnesota next to take on the lowly Twins and dropped 2 of 3 games there. Obviously not the ideal scenario for Tampa Bay, but they still hold a 3 game lead in their division and the top spot in the American League. They get to take on the last place Baltimore Orioles for 4 games to begin their week, and then a fascinating 3-game series with the Chicago White Sox begins.
5. Chicago White Sox
Record This Week: 2-4
Did somebody say the Chicago White Sox?
The White Sox hold a 10-game lead over the 2nd place Cleveland Indians, so it’s looking more and more likely that we see the White Sox come October. This team has had some brutal injuries to work through including Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez getting banged up early, but they’ve finally gotten both of them back and they’ve been starting to heat up.
Chicago has an elite starting rotation, and an arguably even more elite bullpen after trading for Craig Kimbrel. Now, they are having their offense start to take shape again. They have as much of a chance as anyone in this American League race, and at this point are pretty much playing for seeding in the first round. I’ll take a lap around State College in my underwear if they don’t win the AL Central. Nobody needs to see that.
The White Sox may not have had an incredible week, but they certainly made some headlines. They beat the New York Yankees in the first annual “Field of Dreams” game on Thursday night on a walk-off HR from Tim Anderson. They dropped 2 out of 3 against the Minnesota Twins as well as the Yankees, but I have a lot of confidence they will start to settle in with many of their stars coming back and become a legitimate threat in this race. They have a very tough week ahead of them as they have 4 games with the Oakland A’s, before that series with the Tampa Bay Rays. This feels like a real “measuring stick” type of week for the South Side.
6. Milwaukee Brewers
Record This Week: 6-1
Is there any team that is currently leading their division that gets talked about less than the Milwaukee Brewers? The Brew Crew have opened up an 8-game lead on the 2nd place Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central, and have been playing excellent ball all year round.
Their offense is good but not elite, but they have several starting pitchers that can dominate on a daily basis. Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Fredy Peralta all have ERA’s under 2.30. That is without a doubt the best 1-2-3 punch this season in all of baseball. You can argue whether you think they are the most talented 1-2-3 in the league, but it is a fact that they have performed like the best this season. Milwaukee has a shutdown bullpen led by Josh Hader and Devon Williams, and they made very underrated moves in trading for Willy Adames from the Tampa Bay Rays and Eduardo Escobar from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Brewers had a busy week of road divisional games, including 2 rainouts that subsequently turned into 2 doubleheaders. They were not fazed in the slightest as they swept the depleted Chicago Cubs in 4 games, and then rebounded from a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the final 2 games of the series. Winning 6 of 7 on the road against divisional opponents is very impressive under any circumstances. They’ll continue that road divisional run as they head to St. Louis for a 3-game set with the Cardinals, before returning home to host the Washington Nationals for 3 games. This division race could be over by September.
7. Oakland A’s
Record This Week: 4-2
The San Francisco Giants are not the only Bay Area baseball team that is hot right now. I think a Bay Area World Series would be awesome for the game, but it’s a little too early to get into those conversations yet. What I can say is that even though the A’s still trail the Astros in the division by 2.5 games, they have been playing some great baseball of late. And man do they look good in their uniforms, regardless of which ones they are. Not a single bad one in the bunch.
The A’s were dealt a big blow after CF Ramon Laureano was hit with an 80 game suspension following a positive drug test, but oddly enough they were prepared for that as they had recently traded for Miami Marlins CF Starling Marte. They also made some nice depth moves by grabbing INF Josh Harrison and C Yan Gomes from the Washington Nationals. They could use some extra bats as Matt Olson has by been their only real consistent hitter all season long, as he has 30 HR’s, and no one else has over 16. They’ve been carried by pitching as all 5 starters in Oakland’s rotation have an ERA under 4, which allows them to be in every game.
The A’s started off the week by taking all 3 games in Cleveland against the Indians, winning the last game by a score of 17-0. It might as well have been a Browns game with that score. The A’s came back down to earth a little bit as their 7 game win streak came to an end after they dropped 2 of 3 against the Texas Rangers. They might have been a bit higher on this list if they steamrolled the Rangers, but for right now, 7 feels right. They will have 7 games against teams in my Top 5 this week with 4 against the White Sox and 3 against the Giants, as they look to continue their push for the AL West title, and at the very least hold onto their Wild Card spot. I have a feeling one way or another, they won’t be in this spot next week.
8. Boston Red Sox
Record This Week: 4-2
I’m still not 100% in on the Boston Red Sox, but man can these guys swing the bats. They traded for Kyle Schwarber who was banged up but had one of the best hot streaks in Major League Baseball history earlier in the year in Washington. After holding a division lead for the majority of the season, the Red Sox are now looking up at the Tampa Bay Rays who they trail by 3 games in the AL East. The Red Sox struggled massively in the previous week, and I’m sure Red Sox fans were starting to get close to hitting the panic button.
Their pitching staff as a whole is really concerning, and why I’m not sold on them making a deep playoff run. Nate Eovaldi is the ONLY Red Sox starting pitcher with an ERA under 4. That’s not going to cut it in October when you can’t slug yourself to every win when it starts to get cold and the pitching starts to get better. You can’t deny the Red Sox are a wildly entertaining team to watch, but I just don’t think they’re a team that has a title in store.
Boston started off the week with a crack at getting closer to the AL East lead as Tampa Bay came to Fenway Park, but they squandered that opportunity. They saved all the runs for one game as they won Game 2 by a score of 20-8, while losing the other 2. They had to capitalize on the last place Orioles coming to town, and their offense carried them as they scored 30 runs across 3 games to complete the sweep and get a little momentum going as they currently sit in the last Wild Card spot. A big 3 game series with the New York Yankees sets the tone for the week, and they’ll follow that up with a very winnable series at home vs the Texas Rangers.
9. New York Yankees
Record This Week: 4-2
Speaking of those New York Yankees, they’re still right in this thing as well. My preseason World Series pick has not quite lived up to the hype, but there is simply too much talent on this team to not be able to put it together. They have been ransacked by injuries and Covid cases, and they’re still not out of it. They are only 5.5 games out of first place and 2.5 back of the Wild Card with still over a month and a half of baseball to be played.
The Yankees decided to just send it at the deadline, trading for two lefty mashers in 1B Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs, and OF Joey Gallo from the Texas Rangers. You have to give them credit for playing to their strengths in their little league sized short porch in right field in Yankee Stadium. They also traded for Andrew Heaney from the Los Angeles Angels for pitching depth, and his Yankee career hasn’t exactly gotten started on the right foot. There’s a very good chance the Yankees look back and wonder why they didn’t make a harder push for a starting pitcher, but it’s hard to argue with the lineup they’ve been able to put together.
The headlines will be making jokes about the Yankees’ heartbreaking loss during the “Field of Dreams” game to the White Sox, but this was a very productive week for New York. They started off taking 2 of 3 in Kansas City against the Royals before doing the same exact thing against the White Sox. I’m sure they would have loved to win the game on that corn field in Iowa, but anyone in that clubhouse would tell you they would rather win 2 out of 3 in the series as opposed to taking that game. They will have a makeup game Monday against the Angels before a massive series with the Red Sox, then they’ll take on the Twins for 4 games to wrap up the week. All I can say is I wouldn’t mind seeing a Yankees/Red Sox Wild Card game, which we still have not seen under the current format.
10. Atlanta Braves
Record This Week: 5-1
No one seemed to want to run away with this NL East race, and the Atlanta Braves decided that they might as well try and do it themselves. The New York Mets have led this division for the majority of the year, and the Philadelphia Phillies even had a brief hold of the division for a few days. However, none of these teams are as hot as the Braves are right now.
The Braves have lost Ronald Acuña Jr., Huascar Ynoa, and Mike Soroka to injury, and Marcell Ozuna to a suspension this year. Instead of simply punting and preparing for 2022, they went for it at the deadline and remade their entire outfield as they traded for Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs, Jorge Soler from the Kansas City Royals, and former Brave, Adam Duvall, from the Miami Marlins. They truly believed that they had the best team in the division even with all the injuries, and right now they might have a legitimate argument. All 4 starting infielders for Atlanta now have 22 or more HR’s. Their starting rotation has been solid but nothing special, and their bullpen has been a lot better of late.
The Braves reclaimed the division lead after a big week from Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson. They took 2 out of 3 at home vs a Wild Card threat in the Cincinnati Reds, and then swept a 3 game road series in Washington against the Nationals to cap off the week. The Braves could extend their division lead even further this week with 3 games with the Marlins in Miami, and 3 games in Baltimore with the Orioles. This really is a coin flip between Atlanta, San Diego, and Seattle, but unfortunately, I don’t have a 3 sided coin so I just went with Atlanta.
Honorable Mentions: San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays