MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (07/18/17)

By Mark Dankenbring @MarkDank


MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers


With baseball underway once again after the All-Star Break, we welcome you back to another edition of Risers and Fallers for this week's MLB 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 our MLB Rankings.

The Astros reclaim the top spot in our rankings for the first time in several weeks, jumping over a Dodgers team who has done nothing but impress over the last month. Houston seems to be the clear-cut favorite in the AL, while the Dodgers and Nationals appear to be on a collision course for the NLCS as Washington has bolstered their bullpen and doesn't appear to be finished making moves. The Nats take over the third spot in our rankings this week from the Indians, who are still atop the AL Central, but hope they can separate themselves from the pack as we enter late July. The Chicago Cubs jump up a few spots to #6 this week as they've won four in a row to start their second half, and might've found the kick start they needed in Jose Quintana, who threw seven scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts in his first outing with the Cubs. We added a few new teams to our Top 10 this week, including the Tampa Bay Rays, who will be our first featured team as they moved up three spots to #10.



Risers

Tampa Bay Rays - #13 up to #10

The Rays enter Tuesday having won three of their first four second half games and are just two games behind the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East. Tampa Bay enjoyed most of their success on the offensive side of the ball in the first few months of the season, but the story in July has been their pitching. They enter Tuesday with an 8-4 record on the month, thanks to a 3.65 team ERA and .224 opponent's batting average over that span. The Rays have hung on in the close games as well, as they've notched six saves in July, the most of any club. Alex Cobb has had a great season for them behind Chris Archer, as Cobb has really found his stride over the last five weeks, posting a 4-1 record and 2.19 ERA in seven starts since June 9th. Logan Morrison's career year has continued after the All-Star Break, as he's already hit two homers and driven in four runs. The Rays are in great position to make the playoffs out of the AL, and will undoubtedly be in the Wild Card race no matter what happens in the AL East race.

Detroit Tigers - #16 up to #13

Detroit continues to fluctuate in the middle of our rankings, and finds themselves moving up to #13 this week. Even with their struggles, the Tigers remain just six games back in the AL Central and five games back in the Wild Card race. Their offense has been solid all season, even without the usual prowess of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, who have struggled all year. Justin Upton leads the team in WAR at the moment, as he leads the team in RBIs and runs scored, and sits in second in home runs and stolen bases. He's been the best run producer for Detroit, largely due to his .361 average with runners in scoring position. Detroit's struggles have primarily come on the mound this season, where they hold the 5th worst team ERA at 4.80. Their starters have been mediocre, but the real issue comes from the bullpen. Their 4.99 bullpen ERA is 3rd worst in the majors as they've blown 17 saves, good enough for 4th worst in the majors. If Detroit has any hope of making the playoffs, they'll need their stars in Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander to really turn it up a notch and play inspired baseball for the next two months.

Atlanta Braves - #25 up to #22

Atlanta opened the second half by sweeping the Diamondbacks at home, pushing them to a .500 record for the first time since they were 6-6. They lost last night to the Cubs to drop one game under, but the Braves are in a solid spot in the NL Wild Card race as they sit just seven games back in fourth place. Freddie Freeman picked up on his historic season since returning from injury, moving across the diamond on defense but still feeling at home in the batter's box. His slugging percentage remains over .700 at the moment, which not even Aaron Judge can say, and his 1.150 OPS is second to only Mike Trout. Ender Inciarte has solidified himself as one of the best players in baseball, as his 2.4 WAR is Top 40 in the league and alongside players like Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Smoak. His 64 runs scored ranks 10th in the majors, and he is Top 30 in the majors as well with a .307 average entering Tuesday. Atlanta doesn't have anyone to anchor their rotation down the stretch, but are showing success as a young team that we didn't expect for a couple seasons. They are still in rebuild mode, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them move Matt Adams at the deadline for a few more pieces, as they'll need some more arms if they want to compete in the next few seasons.

Fallers

Cleveland Indians - #3 down to #5

Without major movement in this week's rankings, the Indians find themselves as a featured team after dropping just two spots this week. After finishing 5th in runs scored a season ago, Cleveland is still searching for their offensive rhythm, as they sit right in the middle at 15th this season. They've struggled to hit the ball out of the ballpark thus far, sitting in the bottom 10 in homers, but even last year they finished in the bottom half of the league in home runs. One of the main reasons for their struggles has to be Jason Kipnis, who has struggled when healthy this season. After back-to-back stellar offensive seasons, Kipnis' numbers are down across the board. His average, OBP, SLG, and wOBA are all down over 40 points. His hard contact is down considerably as well, with most of the difference being added to his soft contact percentage, as 19.8% of his batted balls have been for soft contact, over 4% higher than any other season is his career. The Indians are still atop the AL Central thanks to their pitching staff, which is 4th in the majors with a 3.85 team ERA and tied with the Dodgers for the major league lead in shut outs with nine. Corey Kluber is a top five pitcher in the league this season, and with Carlos Carrasco not too far behind, the Indians have a great 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation. The real question for Cleveland will be who falls in line after Kluber and Carrasco, as Danny Salazar has struggled to stay healthy and productive, while Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin both carry ERAs over 5.50 into Tuesday. I wouldn't be surprised to see Cleveland add another arm to bolster their rotation, as they just need to make it five or six innings before turning it over to one of the league's best bullpens.

Texas Rangers - #9 down to #12

The Rangers are another team we've seen featured a lot this season, as they continue to fluctuate week to week. They're all but finished in the AL West as the Astros retain their commanding 15.5 game lead on the pack, but they're just 2.5 games back in the AL Wild Card at the moment. Their offense continues to put up runs even though they have the third worst collective average in the majors, as they're third in the league in homers with 139, and have eight players with 11 or more on the season. Their pitching staff has been underwhelming this season, however, as Yu Darvish is the only starter with an xFIP under 4.60, while their bullpen is second in the majors in blown saves and 6th worst in bullpen ERA. Their rotation is nearly healthy with the return of Cole Hamels, and A.J. Griffin's return is on the horizon as he continues to make rehab starts in AAA. Texas has a talent filled roster that is nearly fully healthy, but they need to start pitching better and making more contact on the offensive side of the ball if they want to make the playoffs via the AL Wild Card.

Colorado Rockies - #12 down to #17

The story with the Rockies all season has been surrounding their rotation, and with Tyler Anderson and now Tyler Chatwood both on the disabled list, their staff becomes a little thinner and more vulnerable. Rookie Kyle Freeland is also coming off a 126-pitch outing in an attempt for a no-hitter, so it will be interesting to see his performances after such a workload. Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado remain two of the best players in major league baseball, as they've both surpassed a 3.0 WAR on the season, but don't have a whole lot of help as the next closest position player is at 1.1 WAR for the season. One of the disappointments in the last couple months has been Mark Reynolds, who started the season batting .301 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs thru 54 games, but has hit just .263 with three homers and 12 RBIs in his last 31 games. They desperately need his bat in the middle of the order if they want to make the playoffs. Greg Holland has remained rock solid at the back end of their bullpen, as he's converted 29 of 30 save opportunities thus far. The Rockies have gotten to this point because of their rotation, so if they want any shot at making the postseason, their rotation is going to have to continue to succeed and carry them into October.