MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (08/29/17)
MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers
As we end August and approach the last month of regular season baseball, we're back with another edition of Risers and Fallers for this week's Power Rankings. Our Power Rankings are developed using players on the active depth chart, which causes fluctuation week-to-week based on injuries and who is in and out of the lineup. To see a full description of how our Power Rankings are created, as well as this week's full list of rankings, please visit MLB Rankings - 8/28/17.
The Dodgers remain the best team on the planet and have held their #1 spot for over a month. Their 91-38 record is still staggering to look at, but you have to think they'll start coasting here pretty soon with a 12.5 game advantage for best record in the majors and the postseason just one month away. The Cubs jump up to #2 after their 5-game win streak last week, but still have some work to do with just a 2.5 game lead in the NL Central. The Top 10 remains pretty stagnant outside of the Chicago movement, but the Diamondbacks do move up two spots to #7 after winning 6 of 7. Paul Goldschmidt now officially leads the team in every offensive category while Zack Greinke sits atop the NL in wins with 15. They have a 5-game lead on the field in the NL Wild Card, so a September collapse is about all that can stop them from reaching the postseason. Every division besides the AL East and NL Central are essentially locked up, but both wild card races should present exciting finishes, especially in the American League. Without much else to discuss in our Top 10, let's focus on the Cubs, who moved up five spots in this week's rankings.
Top 3 Risers
Chicago Cubs - #7 up to #2
The Cubbies jump up in our rankings this week after taking five straight last week against the Blue Jays and Reds. They reached 10 games over .500 for the first time all season during that stretch and enter Tuesday at that mark with a record of 70-60. Milwaukee and St. Louis remain within five games of the division lead, and each will square off against Chicago seven more times this season. Therefore, the Cubs will have direct control over their role in the division heading down the stretch. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have led the way for the Cubs' league leading offense in August, each batting over .330 with at least a .560 slugging percentage, but Rizzo has done the majority of run producing with his 26 RBIs against Bryant's 12. Javier Baez has been an impact player on offense and defense alike, as he leads the club in homers and stolen bases on the month while making some spectacular plays on defense. Jake Arrieta is having his best month of the season as well, as he's 3-1 with a 1.44 ERA and just one home run allowed in the month. Mike Montgomery has been huge in their rotation as well, making spot starts and relief appearances while holding a 1.73 ERA on the month. Chicago will determine their destiny down the stretch, and we expect them to hang on and win the NL Central.
Milwaukee Brewers - #18 up to #15
Milwaukee is the team most likely to challenge Chicago for the division, as they face half the deficit of the Cardinals at just 2.5 games. They're 9-4 in their last 13, including winning 2 of 3 from the Dodgers and Rockies on their recent west coast swing. With only seven games remaining against non-NL Central teams, the Brewers are another club that will determine their own destiny. Zach Davies has really stepped up for their staff in August, as he's allowed just a 1.95 ERA and 0 homers in 32.1 innings this month. His 15 wins this season are tied with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw for the best mark in the NL. Neil Walker has already proven to be a valuable addition to the lineup in his 12 games with the club. He leads the club in average and OBP in August, and has posted a BB/K ratio of nearly 2.0 in the month. Cory Knebel remains dominant at the end of games, as he hasn't allowed a run in the month of August while notching 11 saves along the way. Milwaukee probably has a better chance of catching the Rockies in the wild card race, but this team has shown its resiliency and ability to outperform expectations, so I won't count them out in the Central.
Minnesota Twins - #27 up to #18
After moving four games under .500 with a loss to the Rangers on August 5th, the Twins are 15-7 and currently find themselves as the second wild card team in the American League. It's crazy how things change in a month, as the Twins became sellers at the deadline and were looking towards the future. Minnesota's offense has exploded in August, sitting at third in the majors in runs scored and second in home runs with 46. They have five players batting .300, five players with 19+ RBIs, four players with 7+ homers, and three players slugging .600 or more in the month. Byron Buxton has had the best month of his young career, filling the stat sheet with 8 homers, 8 stolen bases, 22 runs, 21 RBIs, and two triples. Their pitching has also been above average in August, sitting at 10th in the majors with a collective 3.87 ERA. Four starters have pitched at least 27 innings this month, including Bartolo Colon and Ervin Santana who have both notched a complete game. Minnesota can look forward to bolstering the rotation with Hector Santiago and Adalberto Mejia currently on rehab stints, which will undoubtedly help down the stretch.
Top 3 Fallers
Baltimore Orioles - #10 down to #13
The Orioles are a surprise faller this week as they enter Tuesday night on a five-game winning streak. Their offense has really carried them recently, as they've scored the second most runs in August and 40 in their five wins. They lead the majors in home runs, average, slugging, and OPS in August. Contributions have come from all over the lineup, but Tim Beckham and Manny Machado have led the way. Beckham is putting up a historical month, batting .386 and slugging .667, but the history comes in because Beckham is closing in on the Orioles' record for most hits for a calendar month, set by Cal Ripken Jr. The month of August appears to be an exception for Baltimore, however. Three of the previous four months have ended with Baltimore in the bottom half in runs scored, and they haven't ended a month inside the Top 19 in team ERA (currently 11th in August). After their current home-stand ends next week, the Orioles will play 15 of 22 games on the road to close out the season, and they have the worst road record of any team in the AL Wild Card race at 27-39. I expect the Orioles to come back down to earth soon, and like four teams to reach the playoffs in the AL Wild Card before Baltimore.
Kansas City Royals - #17 down to #19
It's hard to imagine a worse August for the Royals. They entered the month six games over .500 and are currently two games under .500, with four consecutive losses totaling a score of 32-0. The Indians held them scoreless in their series in Cleveland as they grabbed a strangle hold of the AL Central, and KC currently sees seven teams ahead of them in the AL Wild Card race. After seeing their Wild Card hopes at 22.8% a week ago, they've dropped down to just 14.4%. It's been a struggle for them all over the diamond. They enter Tuesday with the worst collective ERA in August at 6.08, and have the fifth-fewest runs scored in the month. The troubles on the field seem to have traveled off as well, as LHP Danny Duffy was arrested with a DUI on Sunday night. Jason Vargas and Ian Kennedy have been absolute gas cans this month, combining for a 1-8 record and 14 home runs allowed, leading to an ERA of 7.11 for Vargas and 9.57 for Kennedy. KC is in danger of finishing the month 10 games under .500 and can't wait for the calendar to read September 1.
San Francisco Giants - #21 down to #27
This just hasn't been the Giants year, plain and simple. Buster Posey now finds himself injured with a bone bruise and inflammation, causing their sharp drop in our rankings this week, and may find himself alongside two of the Giants' best players on the DL in Brandon Belt and Johnny Cueto. In a league that's turned into what seems like a home run contest, the Giants find themselves on the outside looking in, and I mean a few feet outside. They're dead last in the majors with 103 home runs on the season, with the league average at 166 and the Astros on top with 203. 77 MLB Players have more home runs than their team leader, Brandon Belt, who has 18, and nearly 120 players rank ahead of Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, who each enter Tuesday second on the team with 12. In order to compete in the modern game, San Fran will have to do a roster overhaul over the next few seasons if they want to get back to their recent World Series form.