There’s a time for reflection in every season and I think we’ve reached it. As the year draws to a close, what will be your lasting impression of 2017? Will it be the Indians’ memorable late-season surge, the Diamondbacks’ return to relevancy or perhaps Giancarlo Stanton’s epic home run binge? Or maybe it was the Dodgers’ unstoppable midseason stretch that caught your eye.
For me, 2017 will go down as the year of the rookie. I can’t think of a year in recent memory where rookies dominated on such a wide scope. Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger were the standouts, but there were countless others that impressed. Rhys Hoskins has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball since his call-up last month while Oakland’s Matt Olson has also put himself on the map with a stellar second half (.301 with 18 homers since the All-Star break). The Cardinals are a long shot for the postseason but if they somehow sneak in, Paul DeJong (.283, 22 HR, 57 RBI) will be to thank. The AL East has been rookie central with Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Trey Mancini all playing giant roles for the respective clubs. Even lesser-known names like Parker Bridwell and Matt Davidson have had their moments.
If 2017 and its rolodex of young talent has taught us anything, it’s that the game is in good hands and should be for a long time. On that note, let’s roll through the Power Rankings.
1. Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 1
Cleveland’s American League record 22-game winning streak finally met its end Friday in a 4-3 loss to Kansas City. On the plus side, the Indians clinched the AL Central, winning consecutive division titles for the first time since 1998 and 1999. Corey Kluber’s second-half stats belong in a museum. He’s gone 10-1 with an outrageous 1.92 ERA, an 11.81 K/9 and a .175 BAA since the All-Star break.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 3
After taking the league by storm in the first half, a slumping Alex Wood will be pitching for his postseason rotation spot down the stretch. He took care of business in his last start Friday against Washington (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 8 Ks, 1 BB) but still sports a disappointing 4.07 ERA since the All-Star break. Cody Bellinger tagged his 38th homer on Sunday, which ties the National League rookie record. Pretty good for a guy who only expected to be a September call-up this year.
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3. Houston Astros
Last Week: 4
Make it four wins in a row for Justin Verlander including three straight since coming over from the Tigers in a trade on August 31. Among AL starters (minimum 40 IP), only Corey Kluber has posted a lower second-half ERA than Verlander (2.04). George Springer has slumped to a .254 average since the All-Star break, though he did homer in Sunday’s win over the Mariners. The Astros clinched the division over the weekend, giving them their first AL West title.
4. Washington Nationals
Last Week: 2
Stephen Strasburg’s scoreless streak ended Sunday against the Dodgers, but his winning streak didn’t. The right-hander has won four straight and leads the majors with a 0.72 ERA in the second half. Ryan Zimmerman matched a career-high by slugging his 33rd homer on Sunday and needs one more RBI to reach the century mark, a threshold he hasn’t hit since 2009. With the division wrapped up and Bryce Harper on the mend (he took BP on Sunday), the Nats are in excellent shape for the postseason.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 5
The best home run hitter in baseball isn’t who you think it is. J.D. Martinez has homered once every 9.83 at-bats this season, a better rate than both Aaron Judge (once every 11.5 at-bats) and Giancarlo Stanton (once every 10). Left-hander Robbie Ray ran his winning streak to five with Friday’s triumph at San Francisco. Ray now ranks sixth in the majors in ERA (2.74) and second in K/9 (12.28) behind Red Sox ace Chris Sale.
6. Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 6
Another week, another six-hour game for the Red Sox, who labored through a 15-inning marathon Friday night at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox have a clear knack for winning all-nighters, going 14-3 in extra innings this year. David Price tossed a pair of scoreless innings Sunday in his first regular season relief appearance since 2010.
7. Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 8
The dreaded World Series hangover gripped Chicago in the first half but now the Cubs are playing with some fire in their bellies, even if that means getting into it with home plate umpire Jordan Baker (looking at you, John Lackey and Willson Contreras). Addison Russell returned from a foot injury over the weekend while Jake Arrieta made it through a successful bullpen session on Saturday. That will help their chances in October, but the Cubs have to get there first. They hold a 3.5-game lead over the second-place Brewers with 13 games to go.
8. New York Yankees
Last Week: 7
Luis Severino has spun a breathtaking 1.29 ERA during his three-start unbeaten streak. For the year he’s 13-6 with a 2.93 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, a .206 BAA and a 10.64 K/9. Some years that would be enough to win the Cy Young Award, though this year he’ll likely finish a distant third behind Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. Meanwhile Didi Gregorius has caught fire by slugging three homers with eight RBI over his last four games. His 24 homers are tied for the most by a shortstop in club history.
9. Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 9
By most measures, this has been the worst statistical season of Carlos Gonzalez’s career. But at least he’s ending it with style. CarGo has gone nuclear this month, batting an eye-popping .388 with five homers and 13 RBI over 49 September at-bats. Overall he’s hit .307 in the second half after struggling to a .221 average before the break. Strong pitching has never been the Rockies’ MO, but Jon Gray might be the man to change that narrative. He’s been living large over his last five starts, going 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA during that span.
10. Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 12
Byron Buxton gave Toronto the business last weekend, batting .438 for the series (7-for-16) with a walk-off homer on Thursday night. Here’s something freaky. Kyle Gibson posted a 5.07 ERA over 147 1/3 innings last year. This year he’s delivered the exact same ERA with the same number of innings. His K/BB (1.89 in 2016 versus 1.88 this season) and WHIP (1.56 last year and 1.55 in 2017) are also quite similar.
11. Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 10
Eric Thames may not be hitting for average (.235 AVG since the All-Star break), but his home run stroke is as strong as ever. He’s put on a clinic over his last five games, slugging three homers with five RBI during that span. Neil Walker got busy with a grand slam in Friday night’s win over the Marlins. Overall, he’s slashed .279/.410/.488 since arriving from the Mets in a trade last month.
12. St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 11
The Cardinals face long playoff odds but they’d probably be out of it already if not for Jose Martinez. The 29-year-old rookie (call him a late bloomer) has cruised to a .379 average this month and is now slashing an impressive .310/.374/.527 for the year. Adam Wainwright, who has spent the past month nursing an elbow injury, will pitch out of the bullpen down the stretch. He’s no stranger to the late innings—Wainwright was the Cardinals’ closer when they won it all in 2006.
13. Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 13
Tyler Skaggs went almost five months between victories, but it was worth the wait. He was unstoppable in last week’s win over Houston, limiting the first-place ‘Stros to three hits over seven shutout frames. Luis Valbuena has managed just 30 hits in 141 at-bats since the All-Star break for a .213 batting average. Exactly half of those hits have traveled over the fence.
14. Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 15
Nelson Cruz is the fine wine of hitters—he gets better with age. The 37-year-old leads the American League with 110 RBI, which also happens to be a career-high. James Paxton got rouged up in his return from a strained pectoral muscle on Friday night (1 1/3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER at Houston), losing for the first time since June 27.
15. Texas Rangers
Last Week: 14
Adrian Beltre was expected to miss the rest of the season with a strained calf but made a surprise return as the Rangers’ DH last week. Willie Calhoun’s adjustment to the big leagues hasn’t gone as smoothly as the Rangers had hoped. The 22-year-old has managed just one hit in 13 at-bats since joining the club last week. Joey Gallo hit his 38th home run on Sunday and it wasn’t a cheapie. Watch him send this ball into orbit.
16. Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 17
Jason Vargas erased Cleveland’s 22-game winning streak on Friday night, but that’s about the only thing he’s done right in the second half. The left-hander has struggled to a brutal 7.11 ERA since the All-Star break. Danny Duffy racked up eight strikeouts over five innings in his return from the disabled list on Sunday but couldn’t get the win. That’s been a theme for him, as he’s won just one of his last six starts and eight of 22 for the season.
17. Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 16
It’s probably too late for the Orioles—they hold a 0.1 percent chance of making the postseason—but at least Ubaldo Jimenez is finishing the year on a high note. The 33-year-old snapped a six-start winless streak by notching 10 strikeouts in Sunday’s win over the Yankees. J.J. Hardy is back after missing three months with a broken wrist but will have to settle for a backup role behind breakout star Tim Beckham.
18. Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 18
Kevin Kiermaier has blasted three homers over his eight-game hitting streak, though he’s also fanned 12 times in 36 at-bats during that stretch. Alex Colome leads the majors with 45 saves but took it on the chin Friday night, blowing a three-run ninth-inning lead in a game the Rays lost in extra innings. Jake Odorizzi’s 1.65 September ERA is his lowest for any month this season.
19. Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 21
It was pouring home runs in Minnesota last weekend and Josh Donaldson, aka Bringer of Rain, supplied most of them (five homers in four games). He leads all American League hitters with 21 second-half homers. Marco Estrada, who endured a 12-start winless streak earlier this year, extended his unbeaten streak to six with Saturday’s win over the Twins.
20. Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 22
Ozzie Albies had a 13-game hitting streak snapped Saturday against the Mets. The 20-year-old from Curacao has hit a respectable .282 with 21 RBI since arriving in the big leagues last month. This year has been a learning experience for left-hander Sean Newcomb. He’s won just three of 17 starts, though his 9.64 K/9 is highest among Braves starters.
21. Miami Marlins
Last Week: 19
Marcell Ozuna went for the Golden Sombrero last week at Philadelphia but has fared better since then, going seven for his last 13 including 4-for-5 in Monday night’s win over the Mets. He ranks fourth in the majors but only second on his own team with 113 RBI. After going deep again on Monday night, Giancarlo Stanton has now slugged 29 homers since the All-Star break. That’s more than he hit all of last season (27).
22. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 20
The Pirates aren’t catching any breaks right now. Monday’s loss to the Brewers was their sixth straight while Starling Marte (finger) and Ivan Nova (calf) have both been hampered by injuries in the last week. If there’s any good news to report in Steel City, it’s that Andrew McCutchen has rediscovered his home run stroke by mashing three round-trippers over his last seven contests. McCutchen’s 26 homers this season are his most since 2012 when he went for a career-high 31 long balls.
23. San Diego Padres
Last Week: 23
Wil Myers has been far from perfect this year—his unsightly .242 batting average would attest to that—but give the man credit for topping 20 homers and 20 steals for the second year in a row. Hunter Renfroe wasted no time in his return to the majors on Monday, going deep for his 21st homer in a win over the Diamondbacks. Rookie Dinelson Lamet is winless in his last five starts despite compiling a masterful 2.51 ERA over that span.
24. Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 25
Matt Olson has flexed his power muscles by swatting 14 homers over his last 20 games. In fact, his last five hits have all been home runs. Not bad for a guy who was down in the minors as recently as last month. Moustache enthusiast Daniel Mengden wasn’t messing around against the Phillies. He spanned nine scoreless innings for his first career shutout on Friday night.
25. New York Mets
Last Week: 24
Jacob deGrom set a career-high by notching his 15th win Saturday against Atlanta. Among NL starters, only Max Scherzer has fanned more hitters than deGrom this season (228). So much for a happy ending. Matt Harvey has been a disaster since coming off the disabled list, going 1-3 with a 13.19 ERA over his last four starts.
26. Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 26
Connecticut native Sal Romano pitched a gem in his last outing Saturday against Pittsburgh, limiting the Bucs to five hits over eight shutout innings. He’s been brilliant this month, twirling a 1.45 ERA over three September starts. Not to be outdone, Robert Stephenson blanked the Pirates over six innings of one-hit ball in Sunday’s series finale. The Reds will be without key setup man Drew Storen for the foreseeable future now that he’s headed for Tommy John surgery.
27. Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 27
Jeimer Candelario struggled in his stint with the Cubs earlier this year (.152 AVG with 12 strikeouts in 33 at-bats), but he’s flourished as a Tiger, hitting a robust .351 in 17 games for his new club. Matt Boyd fell one out shy of his first no-hitter Sunday against the White Sox, losing it on Tim Anderson’s double to right field. The win was Boyd’s first since July 29.
28. Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 28
It’s been a predictably bleak year for the White Sox but better times are ahead. Avisail Garcia has given Chicago a look into the future by hitting .500 (17-for-34) with 10 RBI over his last eight games. His .373 average in the second half (minimum 100 plate appearances) leads the major leagues. Yoan Moncada has also caught fire for the Pale Hose. He’s hit .394 over his last seven games while boosting his season average from .182 to .227.
29. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 30
Rhys Hoskins recently became the fastest player in MLB history to reach 18 home runs. It’s a pretty obscure record, but I doubt Phillies fans are complaining. Aaron Altherr made SportsCenter by walloping a grand slam off Clayton Kershaw on Monday night. It was the first grand slam ever allowed by Kershaw.
30. San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 29
The Giants plan to exercise Matt Moore’s $9 million option for 2018, a curious decision given his alarming 5.39 ERA, which ranks last among NL starting pitchers. Buster Posey has never been Mr. Power but it’s still a bit troubling that he hasn’t homered since August 8. Pablo Sandoval was hoping a change of scenery would do him some good following a failed stint in Boston, but he’s actually fared worse since returning to San Francisco, batting an ugly .185 across 37 games for the Giants.
Biggest Jump: Braves, Blue Jays, Twins2
Biggest Drop: Marlins, Nationals, Pirates2