Welcome to the Rotoworld MLB Power Rankings, a weekly feature that will run every Tuesday through the end of the 2019 regular season. These rankings are not fantasy-driven in any way, though I will include nuggets of more abstract fantasy advice here and there inside the individual team write-ups. Who’s hot, who’s not -- that sort of thing. Send any and all complaints to me on Twitter: @drewsilv. Please believe me when I tell you that I do not hate your team.
1. Houston Astros
Last Week: 1
Justin Verlander pitched the third no-hitter of his career on Sunday afternoon against the Blue Jays, striking out 14 batters along the way as part of a 2-0 victory. The following afternoon, in Houston's series-opening Labor Day matinee against the Brewers, Gerrit Cole racked up 14 strikeouts of his own in an eventual 3-2 extra-innings win. The Astros are the first team in the live-ball era to get 14-plus strikeouts from a pair of starting pitchers in consecutive games. Verlander and Cole have combined for a 2.68 ERA and 523 strikeouts in 369 1/3 total innings this season.
2. New York Yankees
Last Week: 2
The Yankees beat up on a couple of AL West teams last week, sweeping a three-game series at Seattle before winning two of three against the Athletics. They were then shut out by the Rangers on Monday -- the first shutout against the Yankees since June 30, 2018 -- but this team is currently tied for the best record in baseball and it sounds like Edwin Encarnacion is going to be activated off the IL ahead of Tuesday night's game versus Texas. Encarnacion, out since August 3 with a wrist fracture, has hit 30 home runs in 101 games this year between Seattle and New York.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 3
Top-ranked infield prospect Gavin Lux made his MLB debut on Monday night in Los Angeles and starred with two hits and three runs scored as the Dodgers partied their way to a 16-9 holiday win over the Rockies. The 21-year-old got the call to the majors after batting .347/.421/.607 with 26 home runs, 76 RBI, 10 stolen bases, and 99 runs scored in 113 games this summer between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He is expected to play regularly against right-handed opponents, at least until Max Muncy returns from a small fracture in his right wrist. And perhaps beyond that.
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4. Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 4
The Braves have won five straight games and 13 of their last 15 to keep the surging Nationals at bay in the NL East standings. Josh Donaldson and Dallas Keuchel are drawing most of the attention right now -- Donaldson slugged his 34th home run on Monday while upping his season OPS to .910 and Keuchel has posted a 1.08 ERA over his last four starts -- but the bullpen deserves some love too. Mark Melancon is up to eight saves with Atlanta after closing out Monday's 6-3 victory over the Blue Jays and Shane Greene has made 11 straight scoreless appearances.
5. Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 5
The Twins earned a 4-3 comeback victory over the Tigers on Labor Day and have now won eight of their last nine to move 5 1/2 games up on the Indians for first place in the AL Central. Minnesota set a new all-time record on Saturday for most home runs in a single season by any team, and that number will continue to climb with 25 games still to play. The combined team home run counter is at 269 after Ehire Adrianza went deep on Monday in Detroit. Max Kepler, who hit a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning Monday, is the clubhouse leader in homers with 36.
6. Washington Nationals
Last Week: 6
The Nationals got tamed by Noah Syndergaard and the Mets on Labor Day, falling 7-3, but they swept a three-game series from the Marlins over the weekend and have rattled off a 58-28 record since May 24. It was on May 23 that Washington fell to a season-worst 12 games under .500 at 19-31. This has been quite a turnaround, and the team currently has a 98 percent chance to advancing to the postseason according to FanGraphs' MLB Playoff Odds. Chasing down the Braves for the NL East title is a tall task, but the Nats are almost assured of claiming a Wild Card spot.
7. St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 8
Tasked with making up a rainout from back in early June, then getting hit with another rainout on Friday, and already facing a previously-scheduled afternoon tilt for Labor Day, the Cardinals played five games in about 52 hours between Saturday afternoon and early Monday evening. That's a tough ask of any team in any sport, but St. Louis has been on a roll since the All-Star break and kept that momentum going to earn four wins in three days. The Cards are 33-16 in the second half, after carrying a 44-44 record into the break. Look it up: Kolten Wong, right now, is this year's team MVP.
8. Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 10
Tommy Pham smacked a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning Monday as Tampa Bay beat the Orioles by a score of 5-4. It was the fifth win in a row for the Rays, who are currently a half-game up on the top AL Wild Card spot. Pham went 3-for-4 with a double, three RBI, and his 18th stolen base of the year in that Labor Day matinee versus Baltimore and is now just two steals away from his second career 20-20 season -- he slugged his 20th home run on Saturday. Since the Rays acquired Pham from the Cardinals last July 31, they are 99-64 in games he starts.
9. Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 7
Sean Manaea excelled Sunday in his first MLB start since undergoing major shoulder surgery last September, yielding just one hit -- and three walks -- over five scoreless innings against the Yankees. But the A's ultimately lost that one 5-4 due to poor bullpen work and they currently sit a game back of the second AL Wild Card spot. Maybe young left-hander Jesus Luzardo can help. He struck out 10 batters across six innings of one-run ball in his last outing for Triple-A Las Vegas and should join Oakland's active roster after making one start in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.
10. Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 9
If the Indians are going to stage one final push for the AL Central crown, that push must begin now. They have three more games this week against the White Sox, whom they bullied for an 11-3 victory on Monday, and then they will travel to Minnesota for a massive three-game weekend series versus the division-leading Twins. Those two teams meet again the following weekend for a three-game set in Cleveland. 5 1/2 games is the deficit that the Indians currently face. It's a steep mountain, but it is climbable, and they need to keep racking up wins anyway to keep their spot in the AL Wild Card mix.
11. Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 11
The Cubs scored zero runs in the final two games of their big three-game weekend series against the Brewers and were held scoreless through six innings of Monday's series opener against the Mariners. But they did eventually bust out versus Seattle, scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh as part of an eventual 5-1 victory. Kyle Hendricks started that game and lowered his season ERA at home in Wrigley Field to 1.77. There is some concerning iffiness, however, on the status of Yu Darvish. He was scratched from last turn in the rotation due to forearm tightness.
12. Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 12
The Red Sox had a couple days off last week and were also off on Labor Day, but they've played well when the schedule has called for it, winning four of their last five to remain somewhat relevant in the AL Wild Card hunt. They're fourth in those standings, 5 1/2 games back of the second spot that would secure a postseason berth. Chris Sale (elbow) is likely done for the year, but Boston did get David Price back on Sunday after a three-week absence related to a triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) cyst in his left wrist. He worked two scoreless innings in a 4-3 win over the Angels.
13. New York Mets
Last Week: 13
Noah Syndergaard had the worst start of his career last Wednesday versus the Cubs, yielding 10 runs -- nine earned -- in just three innings of work. But he roared back with a brilliant outing Monday afternoon against the division-rival Nationals, striking out 10 batters over seven scoreless frames as the Mets went on to win 7-3. New York also took two of three games from the division-rival Phillies over the weekend, yet a four-game deficit in the NL Wild Card standings is the reality this team faces. Thor needs to keep being Thor, and Marcus Stroman needs to glitz up the Stro Show.
14. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 14
Bryce Harper launched his 30th home run of the season and Rhys Hoskins slugged his 26th and 27th as the Phillies earned a 7-1 win over the Reds on Monday afternoon at Great American Ball Park. That came after they beat the Mets by a score of 5-2 on Sunday to avoid a weekend-series sweep. As it stands here on Tuesday afternoon, Philadelphia is 12 1/2 games back of first place in the National League East but only 2 1/2 games back of the second National League Wild Card spot. A lengthy winning streak would not only be nice but is also probably necessary.
15. Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 15
The Brewers managed to take two of three from the Cubs over the weekend, somehow spinning shutouts versus Chicago on both Saturday and Sunday. They carried that momentum into a daunting Labor Day matchup with the Astros and nearly pulled out another thrilling win courtesy of a Christian Yelich game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. But all that did was send the game into extra innings, and George Springer answered with a towering leadoff shot in the top of the 10th. This team is seven games back in the NL Central and four games back in the NL Wild Card race.