This will be our second-to-last edition of the Rotoworld MLB Power Rankings for 2018, with next week’s column serving as a look ahead to the postseason and a look behind for all of the non-contending teams. Thanks for reading along all year.
There are still some races to be decided over this final week of the regular season, with the National League Central and National League West titles both still up for grabs and the National League Wild Card race hinging largely on the outcomes of those two divisions.
Maybe the rankings will see more movement in our final offering …
1. Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 1
The Red Sox beat the Orioles 6-2 on Monday night at Fenway Park to set a new all-time franchise record for wins in a single season and clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Nathan Eovaldi started that game and racked up a season-high 10 strikeouts over five innings of one-run ball. The 28-year-old right-hander, who was acquired from the Rays on July 25 for pitching prospect Jalen Beeks, has registered a 3.46 ERA and 44/12 K/BB ratio over 52 innings in a Red Sox uniform and could be asked to make a start in the upcoming ALDS. Boston will open postseason play next Friday at Fenway Park against either the Yankees or A’s.
2. Houston Astros
Last Week: 2
The Astros swept a three-game weekend series against the Angels and beat the Blue Jays 5-3 in Monday night’s series opener in Toronto to reduce their magic number for clinching the American League West to two. They’ll be crowned division champs with a win and an A’s loss on Tuesday. Charlie Morton’s shoulder issue is a concern, but with a rotation led by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole -- the first pair of teammates to each record 250 or more strikeouts in a season since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling of the 2002 Diamondbacks -- this club looks poised for another deep postseason run. Houston is currently lined up to face Cleveland in the ALDS.
3. New York Yankees
Last Week: 3
The Yankees beat the Rays 4-1 on Monday night at Tropicana Field as eight relievers combined to throw a two-hitter. This team is headed to the American League Wild Card Game, though it’s still up in the air as to whether New York or Oakland will host it. The Athletics sit just 1 1/2 games back in the AL Wild Card standings entering play on Tuesday. A big concern right now for the Yankees is the present and future status of shortstop Didi Gregorius, who suffered cartilage damage in his right wrist on a slide into home plate on Saturday. He said Monday that he thinks he’ll be able to return before the end of the regular season, but that seems overly optimistic.
4. Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 4
The Athletics clinched a berth in the American League Wild Card Game with a 7-3 victory over the Mariners on Monday night in Seattle and celebrated a bit more raucously than you might expect for a team that still mathematically has a chance of claiming the American League West title. But that’s a longshot -- they’re 4 1/2 games back of the Astros entering play Tuesday -- and it’s easy to understand the exuberation given what the A’s have accomplished this season, specifically in the second half. They are the first MLB club in the last 30 years to reach the playoffs despite having the league’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
5. Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 5
The boom-or-bust offense continued for the Cubs in Monday’s series opener against the Pirates, a 5-1 loss. Chicago has scored eight or more runs 34 times this season, the most in the National League, and yet they have also been held to one or zero runs 36 different times this year. Kris Bryant continues to experience fatigue in his left shoulder, an issue that dates back to June, and is batting just .256/.330/.360 with one home run over his last 97 plate appearances. Addison Russell was placed on administrative leave last week following more allegations of domestic abuse by his ex-wife. Chicago’s lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central is down to 1 1/2 games.
6. Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 6
The Brewers took two of three from the Pirates over the weekend and earned a big 6-4 victory over the Cardinals in Monday night’s series opener in St. Louis to move within 1 1/2 games of the Cubs for first place in the National League Central standings. Christian Yelich was removed from Sunday’s series finale in Pittsburgh after taking a pitch off his right elbow, but he showed no ill effects from the plunking on Monday, tallying two RBI between a seventh-inning groundout and a ninth-inning double. The 26-year-old outfielder is batting .365/.430/.734 with 21 home runs, 19 doubles, and 55 RBI over his last 60 games. He could very well be your National League MVP.
7. Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 7
The Indians clinched their third straight American League Central title over a week ago but there has been no let-up since, as they took two of three from the Red Sox this past weekend and blanked the White Sox 4-0 on Monday night behind another stellar Corey Kluber start. The ace right-hander now has 20 wins on the season to go along with a 2.83 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 216/32 K/BB ratio in 210 innings. He figures to work Game 1 of the ALDS next week against the Astros. And it’s looking like Trevor Bauer could be a member of the ALDS rotation, or at least a prominent piggyback reliever. He returned to action on Friday after missing six weeks with a fractured fibula.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 8
The Dodgers have won six of their last seven games and nine of their last 12 to grab the lead in the National League West standings and maintain it. Hyun-Jin Ryu has been brilliant since returning in mid-August from a severe left groin strain, boasting a 1.93 ERA and 50/3 K/BB ratio in eight starts covering 46 2/3 innings. He also rattled off three hits in the Dodgers’ 14-0 rout of the Padres on Sunday, matching a career high. And how about Walker Buehler? The 24-year-old right-hander posted a career-high 12 strikeouts in his last turn through the Los Angeles rotation and is sporting a 1.58 ERA and 79/18 K/BB ratio over his last 10 starts covering 62 2/3 innings.
9. Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 9
The Braves have won five straight games, including a 5-3 victory over the Phillies on Saturday that officially clinched Atlanta’s first National League East title since 2013. Mike Foltynewicz started that clincher and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, ultimately earning his 12th win of the year and lowering his season ERA to 2.88. The Braves trotted out a hangover lineup in Sunday’s series finale against Philadelphia but still managed a 2-1 victory behind a Lane Adams home run and five solid innings from Anibal Sanchez, who’s now sporting a 2.96 ERA. Atlanta has an outside shot at claiming the top overall seed in the National League postseason picture.
10. St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 10
The Cardinals took care of business this past weekend against the Giants, earning a three-game home sweep, but they fell 6-4 to the Brewers on Monday night and currently hold just a half-game lead over the Rockies for the second National League Wild Card spot. St. Louis has two more games against Milwaukee and will then finish the regular season with a three-game set against the rival Cubs at Wrigley Field. This team’s incredible second-half turnaround under new manager Mike Shildt could easily end on a sour note. Matt Carpenter, who looked like a legitimate MVP candidate in August, is batting just .182 with a .579 OPS so far in September.
11. Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 11
The Rockies swept a three-game weekend series in Arizona before obliterating the Phillies by a score of 10-1 on Monday night at Coors Field. Trevor Story returned to action in that rout of the Phils after missing just a week of action with tenderness in his right elbow and hit two doubles. It was originally reported that he might have UCL damage, which is a diagnosis that often leads to Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. The budding star is batting .289/.344/.552 with 33 home runs, 42 doubles, 102 RBI, and 26 stolen bases. Colorado sits just a half-game back of the second NL Wild Card spot and 1 1/2 games behind the Dodgers for first place in the NL West.
12. Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 12
Tampa Bay is 16-6 in September after going 17-10 in August. It’s not going to lead to a postseason spot, which is why the Rays aren’t getting more love in these Rotoworld MLB Power Rankings, but this second-half surge has been spectacular to watch. Tommy Pham, acquired from the Cardinals on July 31 for three prospects, has led the way offensively with a scintillating .344/.439/.616 batting line in 148 plate appearances since the trade. He’s racked up 17 extra-base hits, including five triples, and has scored 28 runs in 33 games. The 30-year-old outfielder will be under the Rays’ control through the 2021 season via salary arbitration.
13. Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 13
Seattle fell 7-3 to Oakland on Monday night and had to watch as the Athletics celebrated the clinching of a postseason berth at Safeco Field. The Mariners had an 11-game lead on the A’s in the American League Wild Card standings back on June 15, but they went 10-13 in July, 12-16 in August, and are 10-11 so far in September. The longest active postseason drought in Major League Baseball will continue for a 17th year. That’s also the longest active postseason drought across the four major sports in North America. But, hey, our sincere congratulations go out to longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez for officially becoming a United States citizen.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 17
Jameson Taillon continued his tremendous second-half showing on Monday night at Wrigley Field as the Pirates played spoiler against the Cubs with a 5-1 victory. Taillon worked seven innings of one-run ball against the leaders of the National League Central and is now 9-2 with a 2.12 ERA and 79/18 K/BB ratio in 85 innings (13 starts) since July 12. He’ll wrap up his regular season with a road start against the Reds on Saturday. The 26-year-old cancer survivor figures to get the Opening Day nod for Pittsburgh in 2019. Also notable is that July 31 trade acquisition Chris Archer turned in one of his best outings of the year last week versus Kansas City.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 14
The Diamondbacks spent 125 days in first place this year and they sat atop the National League West standings as recently as September 1, but the club has gone 5-17 this month and dropped eight of its last nine games. Arizona was officially eliminated from postseason contention after a 2-0 loss to the Rockies on Sunday. As the focus turns to the offseason for the Snakes, they’re faced with losing Patrick Corbin, A.J. Pollock, and Eduardo Escobar to free agency, among others. Corbin figures to command the largest contract of that bunch as a 29-year-old left-handed starter with a 3.23 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, and 242/47 K/BB ratio in 195 innings this season.
16. Washington Nationals
Last Week: 16
Bryce Harper reached 100 RBI for the first time in his career with a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the fourth inning of Monday night’s 7-3 victory over the Marlins. The 25-year-old outfielder will be looking to set records on the free agent market this winter. One thing to watch for over this final week is whether Juan Soto can do enough to wrestle away 2018 National League Rookie of the Year honors from Ronald Acuna of the Braves. Soto hit his 21st home run of the season on Monday and boosted his OPS to .922 in 111 games played. Compare that to 26 home runs and a .926 OPS in 105 games for Acuna. That’s a race that will likely go down to the wire for voters.
17. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 15
The Phillies got blown out 10-1 on Monday at Coors Field as their losing streak extended to five games. They are 15-30 since August 5, when they had the second-best record in the National League. They’ve also fallen back to .500 for the first time since April 10. The big focus for the Philadelphia front office this winter will be adding offense, as the team currently ranks 22nd in the majors in runs scored (663) and 28th in batting average (.236). The second-half fade of Jake Arrieta also has to be a concern. He signed a three-year, $75 million deal in March and posted a 3.23 ERA in the first half, but the veteran righty holds a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts since the All-Star break.
18. Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 18
The Angels lost five straight games last week against the A’s and Astros before winning in walk-off fashion Monday night against the Rangers. Shohei Ohtani belted his 21st home run of the season in that win over Texas. It was a 428-foot first-inning solo shot that had an exit velocity of 112.9 mph, making it the hardest-hit home run of his rookie campaign. The 24-year-old two-way star might be facing Tommy John surgery this winter, which would keep him off a mound until 2020, but he continues to show that he can be a high-impact DH with a stellar .925 OPS through his first 347 major league plate appearances. He’s the favorite for AL Rookie of the Year.
19. New York Mets
Last Week: 19
Jacob deGrom padded his National League Cy Young Award resume on Friday, striking out eight batters over seven innings of one-run ball in a 4-2 win over the Nationals. He’ll carry a 1.77 ERA into his final start of the season this Thursday versus the Braves. The ace right-hander has racked up 259 strikeouts in 209 innings this year for a career-high 11.2 K/9. Flying under the radar is the late-season resurgence of outfielder Michael Conforto, who drove in three runs in Sunday’s series finale against Washington, an 8-6 victory. The 25-year-old has registered a 1.004 OPS with eight home runs and 27 RBI in 22 games since the calendar flipped to September.
20. San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 20
Monday brought the end of an era in San Francisco, as general manager Bobby Evans was let go after spending 25 years in the Giants organization -- four of them as the team’s GM. The Giants are also removing Brian Sabean from his role as head of baseball operations, with CEO Larry Baer telling reporters that he will seek a “next-gen” candidate to lead the franchise and report directly to ownership. “The game has changed and evolved a lot,” Baer said. “We’ve had a lot of consistency here, which I think has served us really well ... but nothing goes forever. We have to have somebody that’s going to present the blueprint for the next five to 10 years of Giants baseball.”
21. Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 21
Rowdy Tellez arrived in the major leagues on September 4 to very little hype after posting a relatively underwhelming .765 OPS over 112 games this season at Triple-A Buffalo, but the 23-year-old former top prospect got off to a hot start with Toronto and has kept it going, boasting a .365/.377/.712 batting line with three home runs, nine doubles, and 12 RBI over his first 53 major league plate appearances. Tellez could be the first baseman of the future for the Blue Jays. Lourdes Gurriel is another exciting youngster north of the border. He and his older brother, Yuli Gurriel of the Astros, both slugged two home runs in the same day last Friday.
22. Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 22
The Twins will close out a disappointing 2018 with a seven-game homestand against the Tigers and White Sox. That includes a day-night doubleheader on Friday versus Chicago. Expect ovations at Target Field for Joe Mauer, who has told reporters that he is considering retirement. The 35-year-old native of St. Paul, Minnesota is a shadow of the player who won American League MVP honors in 2009 with a .365/.444/.587 batting line, and he hasn’t fully lived up to the eight-year, $187 million contract extension he scored the following spring, but Mauer will go down as one of the greatest players in franchise history and he deserves some love on the way out.
23. Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 23
The Reds lost the final three games of their four-game weekend series at Marlins Park and scored just one total run across those three defeats. Joey Votto went 1-for-14 in that four-game set in Miami and is currently sporting the lowest batting average (.284) and OPS (.840) of his 12-year major league career, if you exclude his injury-shortened 2014 campaign. He’s also managed only 12 home runs in 140 games this season despite playing in one of the more power-friendly home parks in the majors. The veteran first baseman, who just turned 35 years old on September 10, is still owed more than $132 million on a contract that will run through the 2023 season.
24. Texas Rangers
Last Week: 24
Joey Gallo needs just one more home run to reach back-to-back 40-homer campaigns, and he has six more games to pull it off. The last Rangers slugger to accomplish that feat was Alex Rodriguez. That’s about the only thing to look forward to over this final stretch of the regular season for Texas, unless you’re into managerial searches. The Rangers fired skipper Jeff Banister on Friday after four seasons at the helm. He won American League Manager of the Year honors in 2015 and led the Rangers to a second straight American League West title in 2016, but the team went 142-172 under his watch between the 2017-2018 campaigns.
25. Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 25
Victor Martinez appeared in his final major league game on Saturday and beat out an infield chopper before getting removed for a pinch-runner. “I think that's the perfect way to get my last hit,” the longtime Tigers designated hitter told reporters afterward. “I had to work for it, and I had to grind it out. That's what my career has been about.” Martinez wanted to go out on his own terms in front of the home fans at Comerica Park, and the Tigers will play their final six games on the road in Minnesota and Milwaukee. The 39-year-old played parts of 16 seasons in the major leagues, tallying 2,153 career hits, 246 career home runs, and 1,178 career RBI in 1,973 games.
26. San Diego Padres
Last Week: 27
Bryan Mitchell was one pitch away from his first career complete game and first career shutout on Monday night against the Giants before issuing a two-out walk to Gorkys Hernandez. The 27-year-old right-hander ultimately threw 8 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out seven, in a 5-0 victory for San Diego. Acquired from the Yankees in an offseason trade, Mitchell will be looking to nail down an Opening Day rotation spot next spring. It figures to be a wide-open competition given that San Diego starters have combined for a 5.17 ERA this year, which ranks 28th among all major league teams. There are sure to be a number of new faces in the mix.
27. Miami Marlins
Last Week: 26
Sandy Alcantara looked to be emerging as a bright spot for the Marlins’ future as he went 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA over his first three major league starts, but in his last two turns through the rotation, the 23-year-old right-hander has surrendered nine earned runs on 13 hits and 11 walks over just eight innings. He’ll look to finish on a more positive note in his final regular-season outing this weekend at Citi Field against the Mets. As noted by NBC Miami, this year the Marlins became the first major league team to draw fewer than one million fans since the 2004 Montreal Expos, who moved to Washington, D.C. the following season. Derek Jeter and Co. face a tough road ahead.
28. Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 28
2018 was supposed to bring a significant leap forward for the rebuilding White Sox, but it has not played out that way. Top pitching prospect Michael Kopech underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last Tuesday, after making just four major league starts. Top outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez was denied a September callup due to service time concerns. Yoan Moncada currently holds a .705 OPS, 45 points lower than his rookie season. And while shortstop Tim Anderson has registered a career career-high 20 home runs and 26 stolen bases this year, but he enters play Tuesday with a weak .243 batting average and .284 on-base percentage.
29. Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 29
If the Royals lose four of their final six games -- a distinct possibility with this team -- they’ll match the worst record in franchise history. But there are some positive things happening right now in Kansas City from a fantasy perspective. Like the emergence of shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, who has batted .287 with an .808 OPS, 27 extra-base hits, and 26 stolen bases in 69 games since his promotion from Triple-A Omaha on June 17. And the continued contributions of Whit Merrifield, who is one of only two American League players to record 50-plus extra-base hits and 30-plus stolen bases in each of the past two seasons. The other is MVP candidate Jose Ramirez.
30. Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 30
The Orioles haven’t won consecutive games since managing a surprising three-game sweep of the Blue Jays in late August. With their 6-2 loss to the Red Sox on Monday night at Fenway Park, the O’s matched the franchise record for most losses in a single season set by the 1939 St. Louis Browns. It sounds like ownership is prepared to part ways with manager Buck Showalter, whose contract is expiring, though reports have suggested that general manager Dan Duquette might get an extension to oversee what will have to be a massive rebuild. The entire roster needs a makeover, as the Orioles currently rank dead-last in team ERA (5.17) and 27th in runs scored.