Labor Day weekend is now over, and with the stretch run about to begin in Major League Baseball the latest TBOH Power Rankings become even more relevant.
We are now beginning the final four-week stretch run in Major League Baseball, and here at TBOH this marks a great time to take a look at who has emerged as the top postseason contenders.
The last time that I released my MLB Power Rankings was two months ago, as July was about to open and the dog days of summer were just beginning.
Those two long, hot summer months have revealed some teams as true playoff, Pennant, and World Series contenders. A few others who looked strong in late June have plummeted out of contention, or are struggling to remain barely alive.
One of those teams is the defending World Series champions, the two-time defending American League champion Kansas City Royals, who were ranked 7th as July was set to begin.
Losers of five of their last nine games, the Royals are just five games over the .500 mark, and have fallen 8.5 games behind the first place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central Division, and are four games back in AL Wildcard race. They have also fallen out of my rankings.
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Another team riding high at the beginning of July was the very team who our Philadelphia Phillies are meeting right now, the NL East rival Miami Marlins, who were in the #10 spot of my rankings two months ago.
The Marlins suffered the crippling injury to slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, and have fallen below the .500 mark and five games out in the NL Wildcard race. Two months ago, the Fish controlled the 2nd NL Wildcard spot.
The Top Five teams as July opened were, in order, the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Nationals. All of those clubs have survived the summer, and return to this post-Labor Day edition of my MLB Power Rankings.
As always, the 10-6 spots are presented in a countdown capsule format just below. Click through the slideshow to view the teams coming in the top five spots.
10. NEW YORK METS: overcoming devastating losses to starting pitching ace Matt Harvey in early July and veteran 3rd baseman and team leader David Wright at the end of May, the defending NL champions have gotten hot. New York has run off a dozen wins over their last 16 games, seven in the last ten, and has pulled back within a single game of an NL Wildcard spot. Yoenis Cespedes continues to lead their offensive attack, supported by Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. Big trade acquisition Jay Bruce has really not paid much in the way of real dividends yet. If he can get it together, he could prove a difference maker down the stretch. Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, ageless Bartolo Colon, reliever Addison Reed, and closer Jeurys Familia lead a Mets’ pitching staff that remains elite. Because of that recent hot streak, and their status as defending league champions, I’ve ranked the Mets ahead of both of those NL Wildcard teams, neither of whom will appear on this list. However, both the Saint Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants remain legit playoff contenders as well.
9. BALTIMORE ORIOLES: when the last Power Ranking was released, the O’s were riding a seven-game win streak that had moved them 5.5 games up in the AL East race. But over the summer, the starting pitching troubles began to somewhat catch up with Buck Showalter‘s squad. The result is that they have fallen into 3rd place, two games out in the division, into a tie for the final AL Wildcard spot, and from 4th down to 9th in my current ranking. Moving Dylan Bundy into the starting rotation may prove a master stroke. The righty ran off four wins in August, and then won his first September start as well. The healthy return of Chris Tillman, now on the DL with shoulder discomfort, is going to be a must if the Orioles are to remain in the playoff hunt. Of course, having one of the game’s top bullpens never hurts, and the O’s have just that. They remain here largely due to their powerful offense, which includes the booming bats of Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, and Pedro Alvarez.
8. DETROIT TIGERS: the Tigers are sort of the American League version of the Mets. A perennial contender that appeared to be just muddling along for much of the summer, they have gotten hot at the right time. Winners of 11 of their last 14 games, Detroit has moved into a tie with the Orioles for the 2nd AL Wildcard spot, and they remain in striking distance of Cleveland in the AL Central race, just 4.5 games back with still seven games remaining between the two clubs. Veteran bats Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler continue to set the offensive pace, while veteran Justin Verlander has been joined by rookie Michael Fulmer in a strong 1-2 starting pitcher punch. Anticipated successful September returns of Jordan Zimmermann to the starting rotation and Nick Castellanos to the lineup could make all the difference in a postseason berth, or near-miss frustration.
7. BOSTON RED SOX: the Bosox join the Mets and Tigers as teams who were not in the Top 10 of my rankings two months ago, but who have joined the contending party with a strong summer of play. Boston sits in 2nd place today in the AL East, but just a game back in that race. They are the top AL Wildcard team, but just a game up on two teams in that race. So there is little separating the Beantowners right now from a division championship, or missing the playoffs altogether. Big Papi David Ortiz is going out with a statement, joining fellow veterans Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez in powering an offense that includes a few of the most exciting young offensive talents in the game today in Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, and Xander Bogaerts. Now they have added to that group with top prospects Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi, though the latter is currently on the DL. This is all about the starting pitching. Can David Price, Rick Porcello and company hold up down the stretch? This is one team that really could have used a big trade deadline pitching acquisition. Instead, they held on to all of their kids. That may prove genius, or may prove to be their 2016 demise.
6. TORONTO BLUE JAYS: that makes three teams from the AL East Division in the bottom half of my current Top 10 overall. Those three, Toronto, Boston, and Baltimore, are separated by just two games in the standings after five full months of play. The Blue Jays went 56-33 at one point after a cold start to the season had left them below the .500 mark in late April. However, they are also going through a bit of a rough patch right now, having dropped four of their last six. Josh Donaldson is once again an AL MVP contender, and Edwin Encarnacion remains one of the league’s top run producers. Veterans Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, and Russell Martin have each had uneven seasons, but have shown flashes of their past when healthy. A strong, healthy finish from that trio, and the Jays could win this division going away. But that’s iffy. The rotation has been buoyed this year by a career season from lefty J.A. Happ and the emergence of youngster Aaron Sanchez. Joining the ‘uneven performance’ crowd are starting pitchers Marcus Stroman and R.A. Dickey. As with the bats, hot finishes by those pitchers could also make a real difference.
Next: TBOH POWER RANKING: TEAM #5