Cubs

Final 2015 MLB Power Rankings: Kansas City takes the crown

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Final 2015 MLB Power Rankings: Kansas City takes the crown

We'll admit it, we were wrong to doubt the Kansas City Royals.

In our preseason power rankings, we had the then-defending American League champs ranked No. 20 -- one spot behind the New York Mets, whom the Royals knocked off in five games to win their first World Series since 1985.

But the Royals swept the White Sox to begin the season and never stopped winning, going 95-67 in the regular season, storming back to beat the Astros in the ALDS and muting Toronto's power to reach the World Series. There, Kansas City became the first American League Central team to win the World Series since the White Sox in 2005. And in the process, hopefully every Royals player and staff member earned free Z-Mans for life from Oklahoma Joe's.

With that, CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz bring our 2015 MLB power rankings to a close. We'll see you next spring.

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 | Week 23 | Week 24

Rank Team
Last ranking Comment
1 5

Eric Hosmer’s hair-on-fire game-tying score in Game 5 perfectly summed up the world champs: Aggressive and never giving up. It also helped this team had the highest contact rate (81.9%) of any team in 2015, which was an antidote to the Mets’ power pitching.

2   6

What a miracle season for the Mets, who made it just three wins away from a championship despite entering the season with very little expected of them. A core of young pitching will help keep them competitive for years to come, but Daniel Murphy is about to become a free agent (and we know he won't hit like that forever) and Yoenis Cespedes is not expected to re-sign, either.

3 3

The American League’s most exciting team — seriously, that Jose Bautista bat flip was awesome — deserves plenty of credit for reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1993. But the drama with departed GM Alex Anthopolous is ridiculous, and leaves this franchise in limbo entering the offseason.

4   4

Cubs-Mets NLCS next year is an extremely popular prediction, but it's so much fun to think about a rematch, especially with another year under the belt for Cubs' young hitters and Mets' young pitchers.

5 1

They might've won 100 games, but they limped into the playoffs and were upstaged by the Cubs and Mets in the NL side of the postseason bracket. Of course, they'll be right back in the thick of things next season because they're the Cardinals.

6 2

A great team had just one game to try to beat the best pitcher in the universe and crack the playoff bracket, but they will get another shot to contend in 2016.

7 11

The franchise thought to still be in rebuilding mode surprised everyone by making aggressive deadline moves, reaching the playoffs and pushing the Royals to the brink of elimination in the ALDS. Fix the bullpen and this is a team that’ll contend for years in the AL West.

8 8

They may lose Zack Greinke, but the core pieces are still there and they have plenty of $$ to toss at the top free agents like David Price.

9 9

Won a thoroughly mediocre division thanks to an August/September surge. Cole Hamels wasn’t a one-year rental, either; he’s under team control through 2019.

10 7

Credit the late-career renaissances of Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran for pushing the Yankees into the AL Wild Card game.

11 11

They win World Series every two years, so you can already pencil them in as 2016's champion.

12 10

Totaled 18.3 WAR from its position players (18th in MLB) despite having Mike Trout (9 WAR, 2nd in MLB).

13 14

A team with the best player in the NL (Bryce Harper) and some of the best pitchers in the game (Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer) shouldn't be too far from contention, no matter how disappointing the end of the 2015 season was.

14 13

Valiant effort to finish over .500 and make a legitimate push for a wild card spot. Continuing this success into 2016 won’t be an easy task, though.

15 15

Biggest win of the season was probably trading away Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.

16 17

They were right there in the AL Wild Card race the morning of Aug. 20, then lost 15 of their next 18 games.

17 19

Somewhat concerning is Evan Longoria’s regression during his prime: Has a pedestrian .744 OPS since the start of 2014 with 43 home runs; had an .870 OPS with an average of 27 home runs per season from 2008-2013.

18 18

Young core of position players will make this team a popular "sleeper" pick as a contender in 2016. They just need to add some pitching.

19 16

Big-money offseason acquisitions Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez combined for -2.8 WAR, while Wade Miley and Rick Porcello failed to stabilize a bad starting rotation.

20 21

Entered the year as our No. 1 American League team. Adding Nelson Cruz to the middle of the lineup, despite how well he hit the ball, turned out to not help much.

21 22

The slow starts of Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera, and the August implosion of Jeff Samardzija, crippled any hope the White Sox had of making the playoffs via a mediocre wild card race.

22 20 They won the offseason before 2015 and wound up with a wildly disappointing campaign. Expect them to be a lot more under the radar this winter and bounce back with a solid 2016. Because baseball works that way.
23 23

Did well to get Daniel Norris from Toronto in the David Price deal, but is there enough talent here to make one more playoff run?

24 24

If they get a full year of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, anything can happen. Oh yeah, and they don't have their GM running the show from the dugout, either, so that's gotta help.

25 26

Trading away Josh Donaldson looks like one of the biggest busts of the Billy Beane era.

26 27

After everything went right for the Brewers for the first four months or so of 2014, they've come crashing back to Earth the last 14-15 months. Milwaukee's luck will likely even out a bit in 2016, but they still only have a handful of core pieces still around.

27 25

Full-on rebuild mode for the Rockies, who traded away Troy Tulowitzki in the middle of the season and will probably shop Carlos Gonzalez this winter, too.

28 29

Made a couple nice strides in their complete overhaul, but they're still a few years away from contending.

29 28

Votto had a bounceback campaign, but the rest of the core had disappointing seasons or have been shipped out, so 2016 looks bleak.

30 30

Hey, at least it seems like they actually understand that in order to turn things around, they need to tear it all down. Wouldn't shock anybody if they were the worst team in baseball again next season.

A messy night at Wrigley Field ends without a pitch being thrown

A messy night at Wrigley Field ends without a pitch being thrown

The NLCS rematch will have to wait another day.

Mother Nature and the power at Wrigley Field care not for your excitement about a "big series" between the Cubs and Dodgers.

Thunderstorms rolled over the North Side of Chicago, where the Dodgers ended the Cubs' postseason run 8 months ago. 

On top of that, the power at Wrigley Field was not cooperating with the lights down the right field line going out for hours during the rain delay. 

The lights came back on at one point before again going out again roughly a half hour before Monday night's game was officially called. After a delay stretching almost three hours, word finally filtered out just before 10 p.m. the game would be postponed a day.

The Cubs and Dodgers will make the game up as part of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday at Wrigley Field with the first game starting at 12:05 p.m. and the second at the regularly scheduled time of 7:05 p.m. Tyler Chatwood will start the first game for the Cubs with Mike Montgomery slated to go Game 2.

As of 10 p.m. Monday night, the Cubs were unsure what caused the power issue at Wrigley Field but were working on fixing the problem ahead of Tuesday's scheduled doubleheader.

The evening started with the tarp being rolled onto the field by the Cubs grounds crew roughly an hour before scheduled first pitch with a forecast calling for a 100 percent chance of rain.

Only a light rain fell until a downpour began around 8:15 p.m.:

That lasted only about a half hour before the grounds crew came back out around 8:45 p.m. to partially remove the tarp and attempt to get the field ready to play.

The only issue at that point was the light and a sinister forecast.

"It takes 45 minutes to get the field ready to play," said Julian Green, Cubs director of communications. "So once you take that tarp off, you saw them putting the chalk lines down, getting ready.

"We wanted to be ready — even in the face of rain — if the lights came back on, we wanted to make sure we could play baseball, even if it was a limited window of opportunity."

As of 11 p.m., that second bout of rain had yet to materialize, but the lights issue also wasn't corrected and play on the field would've been impossible.

Fans lingered throughout the stadium for nearly three hours before an official conclusion came down. The Cubs kept the same announcement on the right field video board about the weather delay while the left field video board displayed the Brewers-Pirates and other MLB games.

This is the only trip to Chicago the Dodgers make throughout the 2018 season so the two teams and Major League Baseball did all they could to try to get a game in and avoid any issue where these two teams would have to play on a mutual off-day later in the year. 

The Cubs were in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 17 days without a day off. They're still on that same schedule, though now with an unexpected day off Monday and a doubleheader Tuesday.

The Cubs are no stranger to postponements this season as wacky weather has continued to hamper this MLB season.

"Not only for the Chicago Cubs, but Chicago in general, this has been a really interesting spring and summer season," Green said. "We're taking our licks just like everybody else is.

"Our plan is to play baseball tomorrow and make sure we can accomodate fans as best as possible. So fans who have tickets to tonight's game will be able to use them for tomorrow."

How the Cubs are trying to help Kris Bryant out of his slump

How the Cubs are trying to help Kris Bryant out of his slump

Whatever Kris Bryant does from here, it's just frosting on the cake that is his legacy.

That's one way to look at the lasting impact of a guy like Bryant, who morphed from "The Chosen One" as the No. 2 overall pick. He's lived up to the hype from Day 1, has a Rookie of the Year and NL MVP Award in his trophy case and — most importantly of all — led the Cubs to their first World Series championship in 108 years.

A slump in May and June of 2018 won't tarnish that legacy.

But you can also forgive Cubs fans if they're growing a little antsy with their stud player. 

Just rest easy that he's growing a little antsy, too.

After chronicling his "temper tantrums" and actually admitting he gets so angry he is prone to breaking bats in frustration (still find that really hard to believe) last week, Bryant still isn't quite over his slump.

Maybe he's just simply trying to do too much right now.

"Kris is fine," Jon Lester said. "I mean, I think anytime you have a guy like that, he's got such high expectations not only of himself but the other people outside of the baseball world.

"I think he feels that — he feels pressure from his teammates, he feels pressure from himself and he wants to perform and he wants to do well every night. When he doesn't, it seems like he just keeps adding on. The rock on his back gets a little bigger every time."

As recently as May 22, Bryant was hitting .303 with a 1.007 OPS.

But since then — a span of 21 games — he's hitting just .241 with a .316 on-base percentage and .310 slugging percentage, good for a .627 OPS. More alarming than anything, he's struck out 28 times in 87 at-bats, taking a step back in the area he has made the most improvement in since breaking into the league in 2015.

The power has been an issue for even longer. Bryant just recently went a month without a homer before sending one into the bleachers Friday night at Busch Stadium.

Still, since May 15, he has only 8 extra-base hits (7 doubles and that 1 homer) in 27 games.

The struggle is real right now, but that hasn't stopped the Cubs from going 17-11 during Bryant's dip in power.

GM Jed Hoyer reiterated again that Bryant is the last guy the Cubs worry about in the big picture.

"The way he runs the bases, the way he plays defense, I feel like he's contributing to wins even when he might be struggling at the plate a little bit," Hoyer said Monday evening. "With guys like him, I always look at it and think to myself — that means a hot streak is right around the corner.

"I said that about Anthony [Rizzo] in April when he was struggling and he's been great since May 1. I think Kris will have the same kind of turnaraound. With him, it's just a matter of when he breaks out.

"Over the course of the season, every great player goes through one or two big slumps. We're in a strange sport where even the greatest players are not slump-proof. He'll get out of it and we'll all reap the benefits when he does."

Even with the struggles, Bryant ranks 23rd among position players in WAR (Fangraphs) with 2.3, pacing the Cubs in that category. That still puts him on pace for a roughly 6-WAR pace, which would be his lowest throughout his MLB career but is still very clearly elite.

In an effort to get him back to the "KB" we've seen so much over the last four years, Joe Maddon has twice resorted to bumping him to the top of the lineup, including Monday night's game against the Dodgers.

Maddon is hoping a move to the leadoff spot will reinstill in Bryant's head that he doesn't need to be a power hitter to help the team win.

For right now, it works. After all, Bryant is still tied for 9th in baseball in OBP (.389). 

"You really do start trying too hard," Maddon said. "You try to force things as opposed to letting them come to you. Especially a power guy that's not hit home runs in a bit. My take on power guys is that it normally is cyclical. They'll get it for a while, then they'll get away with it, then it comes back."

Like Hoyer, Maddon talked up Bryant's abilities as a "winning player" in every other area of the game even when he's not going yard. That includes his daily hustle and effort.

"When a guy like him goes through this moment, I want him to focus on that — not homers," Maddon said. "He probably hears that way too much about the power situation and I'm really not interested in that. 

"Put him back in the leadoff spot for the reasons I just said — he can help win a game in so many different ways and I want him to just focus on that. ... He needs our support; he's gonna get it. I just put him in that top spot to readjust how he's thinking and that's all."