MLB Power Rankings: NL Central has MLB's three best teams


MLB Power Rankings: NL Central has MLB's three best teams

The Cubs are having their best season in years and enter the week with their magic number for clinching a wild card berth at five. But unless something changes with this weekend's critical series against Pittsburgh, they're the third-best team in the National League Central -- which is far less a knock against the Cubs and more a compliment to baseball's best division. It's certainly led to an interesting wild card race, much better than the mediocre hellscape of the race for the American League's No. 2 wild card spot.

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay with us every Monday from here through October for a fresh set of rankings.

Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21 | Week 22

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

Looks like the young Cubs are getting under their skin...

2   3

Survived a late-season lull and now look to be charging toward closing out the No. 1 wild card spot.

3 5

Had a chance to sweep Cardinals in each of last two series - would've represented a four-game swing in the division and Cubs would've been just two back right now.

4   3

 They're three wins away from eclipsing their 2014 total and there's panic in Kansas City over a mediocre September. #BaseballTown

5 4

Can effectively clinch their first division crown since 1993 with a huge three-game home series against the Yankees starting Monday night.

6 7

Cubs were really hoping the Dodgers could take care of some business behind Greinke, Kershaw at home against the Pirates, but it didn't work out that way.

7 6

This Matt Harvey stuff is stealing attention away from the Mets' incredible turnaround.

8 8

If they don't win this three-game series at Rogers Centre, should probably start aligning their rotation for the wild card game.

9 9

They're 30-17 since Aug. 1 and could lock up the division with a series win in Houston this weekend.

10 10

How strange is this: They have the most home wins (50) and fewest road wins (29) of any American League team.

11 11

Bad injury news continues with Brandon Belt's concussion and reports Joe Panik is going to be shut down for the season.

12 14

 Bryce Harper is awesome, but this team is just not going to make the playoffs. Matt Williams may only have two weeks left as a big-league manager.

13 13

They're within striking distance (2.5 games) of Houston entering a make-or-break three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

14 14

Dropped three of four to the Angels over the weekend, but it seems like every time this team is counted out, they come right back.

15 15

Four games back with 13 to play is a tall order.

16 20

They're 12-6 in September. Where was this when it mattered?

17 16

Lost in their September collapse is Chris Davis' huge rebound season: .264/.360/.558, 43 home runs, 4.7 WAR.

18 19

It's kind of a shame we won't see David Ortiz (.270/.353/.544, 35 HR) in the playoffs for the second straight year.

19 18

Kevin Kiermaier has 8.7 WAR in 250 career games. Defense has real value, folks.

20 17

Paul Goldschmidt since Aug. 1: .244 average, six homers, .799 OPS.

21 21

Jose Abreu worked through some Year 2 turbulence to have a nice season that keeps him on his same career trajectory, which is very good.

22 22 Can an aging, veteran team make one more run next year or is it too late for this group?
23 23

Let's stay positive here: Matt Kemp homered again Sunday.

24 26

Sadly, their highlight of the season came in spring training when Will Ferrell debuted for them.

25 25

Jose Fernandez since returning from biceps injury: 15 K, only 2 ER in 10.2 IP.

26 27

Joey Votto: 1.018 OPS, but "he doesn't get paid millions of dollars to walk!" Right, Reds Twitter?

27 24

Just stay home, Matt

28 28

The Jose Reyes experiment (.261 AVG, .675 OPS) isn't working out so hot, eh?'

29 30

They swept the Phillies with three straight 2-1 victories. Doesn't mean anything, just kinda cool, ya know?

30 29

Not sure we've ever seen a player benched for "pouting" before.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.