MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (09/05/17)
MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers
With September baseball officially underway and some great wild card races ahead of us, 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 - 9/4/17.
The Los Angeles Dodgers remain atop our rankings this week despite being in the middle of their first elongated losing streak of the season. They've lost 9 of 10 and have struggled offensively, scoring just 2.5 runs per game in that span. They still possess an eight-game lead on the field for home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and should be fine with just 25 games left to play. The Indians have re-inserted their name as the top team in the AL, winning 12 in a row and outscoring opponents 84-21 in those 12 games. They've shown what their offense and pitching staff is capable of, and all they can wish for now is to enter the postseason healthier than a season ago. The other noteworthy change in the top 10 comes from Houston, where they acquired veteran Justin Verlander to bolster their rotation heading into October. His first career start outside of a Tigers uniform will occur tonight against the Mariners with a five-game Astros winning streak on the line. With little action left inside the top 10, let's move on to our top risers of the week, where we'll find the red-hot Cleveland Indians leading us off.
Top 3 Risers
Cleveland Indians - #5 up to #3
While Cleveland moves up just two spots this week, they hurdled Houston and Boston to take over as the top seeded AL team in our rankings. According to MLB.com, they're the first team to have back-to-back seasons with 12+ game win streaks since 1970-71. They're strong in all facets of the game, so it's hard to hit on one part of their club, but the pitching is where it all begins for the Indians. They possess the league's second-best team ERA at 3.50 and have the most shutouts (16) of any team (league average is 7). Cleveland has also struck out the most batters of any team (1,353), which is 200 Ks more than the league average (1,131). Corey Kluber leads the AL in starters' ERA and finds himself in 2nd with 14 wins, while teammate Trevor Bauer is tied with Chris Sale atop the AL with 15 wins. Danny Salazar will make his first start off the DL tonight, and are now just waiting on Andrew Miller to return, who has no rush with the Indians 10 games up in the Central. On the offensive side of the ball, Jose Ramirez continues to lead the charge, leading the league with 47 doubles and sitting 13th in the majors in WAR. They await the return of Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley, but their offense looks great nonetheless. With the division essentially locked up, the Indians can start to focus on a World Series run for the second consecutive season.
Colorado Rockies - #16 up to #12
The Rockies have struggled over the last month, finishing 12-15 in August and starting September 1-3, but find their roster completely healthy for the first time in a while. Ian Desmond was activated last week, providing increased lineup versatility for Bud Black. The expanded rosters have helped bolster their young rotation as well, adding Jeff Hoffman from Triple-A and creating a six-man rotation. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon remain the engines of the offense and both sit in the top five in WAR in the NL, as Blackmon leads the NL in average and runs scored, and Arenado sits in 2nd in RBIs behind Giancarlo Stanton. They'll need support down the stretch, however, as they finished just 22nd in runs scored in August, their first time finishing outside the top 10 in a month all season. On the mound, Jon Gray will look to carry his success into September as he finished August with a 3-1 record in five starts, allowing just a 2.30 ERA and one home run in the month. If their starters can find success in September, they'll likely be able to hold onto their 1.5 game lead in the wild card, as they have a top 10 bullpen on the season. Colorado will have to rediscover their early season success soon, as they're in danger of losing a playoff spot to the Brewers and Cardinals.
Los Angeles Angels - #20 up to #13
Los Angeles became the proverbial favorite to lock down the second wild card spot after their acquisitions of Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips, and will welcome back another addition tonight as Garrett Richards makes his first start since April 5th. After starting August 51-55, the Angels have gone 20-12 to put themselves four games above .500 and a half game back in the AL Wild Card race. The addition of Upton will help their efforts against LHP, as he's posted some remarkable numbers against southpaws this season. He sits in the top five in home runs, RBIs, SLG, ISO, and wRC+ against lefties. The Angels are fifth-worst in the majors in wRC+ against LHPs, so Upton will add a dimension this lineup hasn't seen all season. While some of the holes on offense have been filled, I'm still worried about the Angels rotation and what it means for their longevity in October. JC Ramirez has the highest WAR of any starter at 1.2, which lands 95th among major league starters. They don't have anyone worth toeing the rubber in a pivotal wild card game, but luckily their bullpen has been outstanding this season. They're fourth-best in bullpen WAR (3rd worst among starters), so while a one-game playoff might be manageable, a series against the Red Sox/Yankees, Astros, and Indians likely wouldn't turn out in their favor.
Top 3 Fallers
Pittsburgh Pirates - #11 down to #15
The return of Starling Marte six weeks ago was supposed to kick-start the Pirates and launch them towards a potential NL Central title or Wild Card at the least. Since his return, however, Pittsburgh is 21-23 and Marte has put up mediocre numbers, slugging .361 and posting an OPS under .700. Their team just can't stay healthy at the same time, as Gregory Polanco and Francisco Cervelli have struggled to stay on the field all season, while Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier currently find themselves on the DL with Harrison likely done for the season. Their rotation has been solid all year, as their top five starters all have a WAR between 1.8-2.5 through an average of 25 starts. The bullpen has been solid as well, but the Pirates struggles have come offensively. They sit in the bottom five in runs scored on the season, which can be attributed to their inability to hit extra base hits and home runs. They land above only the Giants in home runs and slugging percentage, as no one on the team is slugging above .500 on the season (42 MLB players currently above .500). Josh Bell would likely be NL Rookie of the Year if it wasn't for Cody Bellinger, as he leads the team in homers, RBIs, and slugging percentage. If the Pirates want to make the postseason next year, they'll have to address the offensive concerns as four of the five starters in the rotation are 26 or younger.
Seattle Mariners - #12 down to #17
The postseason vision is getting fainter in Seattle, as they're currently 2.5 games back in the AL Wild Card and see three teams between them and the Twins for the second wild card spot. They attempted to help their ailing rotation by adding RHP Mike Leake, who performed well in his first start with the Mariners, but Leake is a middle of the rotation arm at best. They face a tough remaining schedule, as 21 of 24 games will be played against teams currently above .500, including 13 of those games on the road. Their offense has really struggled since the beginning of August outside of Nelson Cruz, and with a rotation that features their top four starters on the DL, that is not a recipe for success. Jean Segura was able to break out of his 5-40 slump against the Athletics over the weekend, which will be a huge boost for Seattle at the top of the order, but they need everyone else to fall into place. Yonder Alonso has hit just three homers in 23 games with Seattle after clubbing 22 in 100 games in Oakland, and Kyle Seager finds his OPS down nearly 100 points from last season. We give them just a 7.1% chance to make the playoffs, and with a mangled rotation and underperforming offense, I don't see that number increasing much as the season winds down.
Minnesota Twins - #18 down to #22
Minnesota enters as the second-most likely team to make the playoffs at 31.4%, but find themselves dropping in our rankings this week. After finishing August with a 20-10 record, the Twins still have just a half game lead in the wild card and find six teams within three games. Despite their lackluster roster on paper, there isn't much to criticize regarding the Twins. Once again, I'll point to a rather weak starting rotation, but Jose Berrios and Ervin Santana are two guys I'd rather have in a wild card game than anyone on the Angels or Mariners rosters (outside of a healthy James Paxton). Their depth is questionable after those two, and the bullpen is up in the air as well. Matt Belisle enters Tuesday as the leading closer with just five saves this season, and they currently sit at 23rd in the majors in combined bullpen WAR. If Minnesota wants a shot at the playoffs, they'll need the offense to come close to its August production, where they finished 2nd in the majors in runs scored. If they can finish top ten in runs scored again in September and see some quality starts out of their rotation, they could definitely make the postseason as they have one of the easiest remaining schedules of the wild card teams.