MLB Power Rankings: How All 30 Teams Stack Up 1 Month from Spring Training

Are there any sweeter words in the dead of winter than "spring training"?

While we're still roughly a month removed from players making their way to their respective preseason camps in Arizona and Florida, a slow-moving free-agent market should make for a busy final month of the offseason.

For now, it's time for an updated look at how all 30 teams stack up.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Offseason rankings are not meant to be a prediction for the year ahead. Instead, they are a look at how teams would stack up with their current rosters if the season started today.
  • These rankings will be updated several more times until the start of the 2018 campaign, so if your favorite club is lower than you would like, there is still time for improvement.
  • A perfect example of this is the Boston Red Sox. If they add the impact power bat most are expecting them to land before the offseason comes to a close, they will undoubtedly climb in the rankings.

Included for each team is an overview of their offseason to date and what to expect going forward as well as a preliminary rundown of what the 25-man roster might look like if the season started today.

Players listed in bold indicate newcomers. Players listed in italics are not on the 40-man roster. An (R) next to a player indicates his rookie status is intact.

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MLB Power Rankings: How All 30 Teams Stack Up 1 Month from Spring Training

Are there any sweeter words in the dead of winter than "spring training"?

While we're still roughly a month removed from players making their way to their respective preseason camps in Arizona and Florida, a slow-moving free-agent market should make for a busy final month of the offseason.

For now, it's time for an updated look at how all 30 teams stack up.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Offseason rankings are not meant to be a prediction for the year ahead. Instead, they are a look at how teams would stack up with their current rosters if the season started today.
  • These rankings will be updated several more times until the start of the 2018 campaign, so if your favorite club is lower than you would like, there is still time for improvement.
  • A perfect example of this is the Boston Red Sox. If they add the impact power bat most are expecting them to land before the offseason comes to a close, they will undoubtedly climb in the rankings.

Included for each team is an overview of their offseason to date and what to expect going forward as well as a preliminary rundown of what the 25-man roster might look like if the season started today.

Players listed in bold indicate newcomers. Players listed in italics are not on the 40-man roster. An (R) next to a player indicates his rookie status is intact.

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Bleacher Report’s Updated Farm System Rankings at the Start of 2018

There's still a lot of the MLB offseason left, but it's time for an updated look at the MLB prospect landscape.

A handful of blockbuster deals have taken place since we last updated our farm system rankings following the conclusion of the 2017 MiLB season.

We'll likely update and tweak the rankings a few times before Opening Day, but the following will serve as a baseline for offseason prospect talks going forward.

The following factors helped determine the rankings of players and teams:

  • Potential (Player): Potential trumps production a lot of the time, especially in the lower levels of the minors and with recent draft picks. Skill set and overall tools are often a better indication of what kind of player a guy will be.
  • Talent (Player): As for guys in the higher levels of the minors who are close to breaking through at the big league level, production and current talent are the determining factors, as these players are viewed as more complete products.
  • Overall Depth (Team): Having one or two elite prospects is great, but having a deep farm system from top to bottom is the way to build a sustainable contender. The overall depth and level of talent were the biggest factors in ranking each team.
  • High-End Talent (Team): That being said, there is a difference between a prospect who has a chance of making an impact at the big league level and a prospect who could be a star. Elite prospects served as a tiebreaker of sorts when two teams were close in the rankings.

We've incorporated a tier system to help differentiate between levels of talent. Here's a quick explanation: 

  • Tier 1: Prospects who have an elite skill set and legitimate All-Star potential. These are the guys who would receive consideration for a spot on leaguewide top-100 prospect lists.
  • Tier 2: Prospects who have a good chance of becoming at least a contributor at the MLB level. This is where most prospects on the following list will fall.
  • Tier 3: Prospects who profile as fringe MLB contributors or young prospects who are still too raw to project any higher. Having one of these players ranked among your top 10 prospects is a good indication of a thin system.

Along with an updated list of the top 10 prospects for each team, you'll also find some general analysis on each team's top prospects and the outlook of the farm system as a whole.

A player must not have passed the rookie-eligibility limits (130 AB, 50 IP, 45 days on roster) to be eligible for inclusion in these rankings.

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Bleacher Report’s Updated Farm System Rankings at the Start of 2018

There's still a lot of the MLB offseason left, but it's time for an updated look at the MLB prospect landscape.

A handful of blockbuster deals have taken place since we last updated our farm system rankings following the conclusion of the 2017 MiLB season.

We'll likely update and tweak the rankings a few times before Opening Day, but the following will serve as a baseline for offseason prospect talks going forward.

The following factors helped determine the rankings of players and teams:

  • Potential (Player): Potential trumps production a lot of the time, especially in the lower levels of the minors and with recent draft picks. Skill set and overall tools are often a better indication of what kind of player a guy will be.
  • Talent (Player): As for guys in the higher levels of the minors who are close to breaking through at the big league level, production and current talent are the determining factors, as these players are viewed as more complete products.
  • Overall Depth (Team): Having one or two elite prospects is great, but having a deep farm system from top to bottom is the way to build a sustainable contender. The overall depth and level of talent were the biggest factors in ranking each team.
  • High-End Talent (Team): That being said, there is a difference between a prospect who has a chance of making an impact at the big league level and a prospect who could be a star. Elite prospects served as a tiebreaker of sorts when two teams were close in the rankings.

We've incorporated a tier system to help differentiate between levels of talent. Here's a quick explanation: 

  • Tier 1: Prospects who have an elite skill set and legitimate All-Star potential. These are the guys who would receive consideration for a spot on leaguewide top-100 prospect lists.
  • Tier 2: Prospects who have a good chance of becoming at least a contributor at the MLB level. This is where most prospects on the following list will fall.
  • Tier 3: Prospects who profile as fringe MLB contributors or young prospects who are still too raw to project any higher. Having one of these players ranked among your top 10 prospects is a good indication of a thin system.

Along with an updated list of the top 10 prospects for each team, you'll also find some general analysis on each team's top prospects and the outlook of the farm system as a whole.

A player must not have passed the rookie-eligibility limits (130 AB, 50 IP, 45 days on roster) to be eligible for inclusion in these rankings.

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Ranking the 20 Most Impactful Moves of the MLB Offseason So Far

Snail's pace doesn't quite do this year's MLB free-agent market justice.

That almost guarantees an exciting January on the hot stove, with guys like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Jay Bruce, Greg Holland, Addison Reed and Todd Frazier all still sitting in free agency.

There could also be a few more blockbuster trades made before pitchers and catchers begin reporting—looking at you, Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yet, despite the slow-moving offseason, there have still been plenty of significant transactions since the World Series concluded.

As a status check of sorts, we've decided to rank the 20 most impactful deals of the MLB offseason.

Expected contributions to a contender, overall acquisition cost and a team's remaining offseason plans all played a role in determining the rankings.

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MLB’s All-Time Free-Agent Contract Rankings, Position-by-Position

In honor of the hotbed of MLB activity that is the annual winter meetings, we've decided to take an all-encompassing look back at the best free-agent signings in MLB history.

MLB free agency as we know it today stretches back to Curt Flood challenging the reserve clause in 1969 and pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally becoming the first official free agents after the 1975 season.

That means there is more than 40 years worth of contracts to sift through in search of the best of all time, and the end goal was to whittle it down to the five best free-agent signings at each position.

Before we proceed, let's go over the selection process.

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Keep or Chuck?: 1 Player Each MLB Team Has to Make Final Decisison on ASAP

MLB teams are still in the preliminary stages of shaping their rosters for the upcoming season as the winter meetings start Sunday and we're still several months from the start of spring training.

Despite that fact, there is still at least one player from each team who already finds himself on the roster bubble.

Whether it's a player who is out of minor league options, an obvious trade candidate, someone who could soon be pushed out by an up-and-coming prospect or something else altogether, the following players find themselves at a crossroads with their current organization.

     

An asterisk indicates that a player is out of minor league options.

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Surprising MLB Names Who Could Be Available in 2017-18 Offseason Trade Frenzy

A potential Giancarlo Stanton trade has been the big story of the MLB offseason to this point and for good reason. It's not every day the reigning MVP finds himself on the trade block.

Who else might be on the move this offseason?

Starting pitchers Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole, Julio Teheran, Michael Fulmer and Jake Odorizzi are no strangers to trade rumors and the same goes for relievers Zach Britton, Alex Colome and Brad Hand.

On the position-player side of things, no one should be surprised when guys such as Josh Donaldson, Jose Abreu, Andrew McCutchen, Ian Kinsler, Billy Hamilton, Cesar Hernandez and Nick Markakis pop up in trade rumors.

We're going to dig a bit deeper, though.

Ahead is a look at seven less obvious names who could be available in this winter's inevitable trade frenzy.

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Ranking the 2017 MLB Free-Agent Class by Position

The 2017-18 MLB free-agent class is one of the weaker groups in recent years, but we'll still see plenty of impact talent on the move this offseason.

As always, some positions are stronger than others.

It's a good year to be in the market for corner infield help, but if you're looking for a middle infielder it's slim pickings.

Keeping with that theme, what follows is a position-by-position breakdown of the upcoming free-agent class with each position ranked from thinnest to deepest.

Players were broken into four tiers to better illustrate the overall talent level at each position:

  • Tier 1: All-Star-caliber players. The cream of the crop, only 12 players received a Tier 1 grade.
  • Tier 2: Above-average players. These guys are solid bets to land a multiyear deal and a starting job.
  • Tier 3: Replacement-level players. Safe bets to receive guaranteed MLB money, but they will likely have to settle for one-year deals.
  • Tier 4: Organizational depth. Players who will likely have to settle for a minor league deal and a spring training invite to try to play their way onto a roster.

Demand also played a part in the rankings. In other words, there are more viable starting pitching options available than potential everyday catchers, but there's also a far greater demand for rotation arms that likely won't be filled.

At any rate, this was simply meant to be a different way to look at this year's free-agent crop.

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MLB Players Who Deserve a Raise After the World Series

In the simple economics of baseball, a good season is no guarantee of a raise.

Unless a player is eligible for salary arbitration or entering free agency, he's essentially at the mercy of his current contract or subject to the league minimum salary.

With the World Series set to begin on Tuesday night, we decided to take a look at a few notable players who will be playing for a raise in this year's Fall Classic.

It's safe to say all of these players are underpaid at this point relative to their current market value.

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Picking the All-Time Postseason Hero for Every MLB Team

The beautiful thing about the MLB postseason is that anyone can be a hero.

Just look back at the New York Yankees' storied history.

Alongside names like Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, we've seen the likes of Bucky Dent, Don Larsen, Jim Leyritz, Luis Sojo, Bobby Richardson and Brian Doyle play the part of playoff hero.

With that in mind, we set out to name the biggest postseason hero in the history of each MLB franchise.

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World Series 2017 Odds: Breaking Down the Chances of All 8 Remaining Teams

There might be no greater fool's errand than trying to predict the MLB postseason.

But that has never stopped us before.

Rather than a full round-by-round breakdown, we're going to take a more broad approach here and lay down odds for each of the eight Division Series participants' chances of winning the World Series.

Each team's biggest strengths and weaknesses were highlighted to provide some context to those odds and give a preview of sorts for the month ahead.

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Dark-Horse Candidates to Be 2017 MLB Postseason Heroes

The MLB postseason presents a golden opportunity for under-the-radar players to become household names if they can shine on the national stage.

Look no further than last postseason, when Javier Baez stole the show for the Chicago Cubs with a handful of clutch hits and one defensive highlight after another.

Every team has established stars that even the casual baseball fan is familiar with.

Ahead, we've taken a look further down the rosters of each of the 10 teams currently positioned to make the playoffs and identified one player from each who could emerge as a postseason hero in 2017.

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MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand with 1 Week Left

As the final week of the MLB regular season gets set to begin, seven of the 10 postseason tickets have been punched.

The second wild-card spot in both leagues and the NL Central title are still up in the air, and the second NL wild-card berth, in particular, is one that could come down to the wire.

That will lead us into another thrilling month of playoff baseball, starting with the AL Wild Card Game on Oct. 3 and the NL Wild Card Game on Oct. 4.

As the Oakland Athletics proved last week, there's still time for teams below the playoff line to climb significantly in these rankings. Teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners also proved the opposite, falling hard.

Just remember these rankings are fluid and teams rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it keeps climbing—it's as simple as that.

Here's a look at where all 30 teams stand:

  Updated Rankings  
1 img Indians (98-58) img
2 img Astros (95-60) img2
3 img Nationals (94-61) img2
4 img Red Sox (91-64) img2
5 img Dodgers (99-57) img2
6 img D-backs (90-66) img2
7 img Cubs (87-68) img
8 img Yankees (86-69) img
9 img Twins (82-74) img2
10 img Brewers (82-74) img1
11 img Rockies (84-72) img1
12 img Cardinals (81-74) img
13 img Athletics (72-83) img7
14 img Rays (76-80) img4
15 img Royals (76-79) img2
16 img Angels (77-78) img3
17 img Blue Jays (73-83) img2
18 img Rangers (76-79) img2
19 img Mariners (75-81) img5
20 img Orioles (75-82) img5
21 img Braves (70-84) img
22 img Padres (70-86) img
23 img White Sox (63-92) img1
24 img Marlins (73-82) img4
25 img Pirates (71-85) img1
26 img Phillies (62-94) img1
27 img Reds (66-90) img4
28 img Mets (66-89) img3
29 img Giants (61-95) img1
30 img Tigers (62-94) img1

        

American League Playoff Picture

As we enter the final week of the regular season, much of the drama has disappeared from what was a season-long battle for the second American League wild-card spot.

The New York Yankees became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth on Saturday, and with a 4.5-game lead in the wild-card standings, they look like a safe bet to be hosting the Wild Card Game.

"It's great, but it's just the beginning for this team," rookie slugger Aaron Judge told reporters. "We've just got to keep working. We're not done yet. This is just the beginning. We've got a lot of goals for this team, a lot of stuff that we want to do. This is just the beginning, getting a chance to be in the postseason. Now we've got to keep it rolling and finish out strong."

After a brutal month of August, Judge has returned with a vengeance in September, posting a 1.267 OPS with 11 home runs and 23 RBI in 94 plate appearances.

Technically, the AL East title is still up for grabs. However, the Yankees are five games behind the rival Boston Red Sox with seven games to play, so avoiding the winner-take-all game looks like a long shot at best.

As for the second wild-card spot, the Minnesota Twins enter the week with a 4.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels.

It's been a rough month for a number of teams who were clinging to wild-card hopes at the start of September.

  • Los Angeles (8-13, -11 run differential)
  • Kansas City (11-12, -16 run differential)
  • Texas (10-12, -21 run differential)
  • Tampa Bay (9-12, -16 run differential)
  • Seattle (9-13, +2 run differential)
  • Baltimore (7-16, -53 run differential)

As a result, the biggest question on the AL side now appears to be: Can the Cleveland Indians (98-58) hold off the Houston Astros (95-60) for the best record and home-field advantage?

They're not playoff-bound, but a tip of the cap to the Oakland Athletics.

After sweeping the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers last week, they're now 14-8 with a plus-28 run differential in the month of September.

It won't be enough to salvage a winning record, but it's a positive jumping-off point for a rebuilding club.

          

National League Playoff Picture

While the AL side of the playoff bracket is essentially decided, there's still plenty left to play for in the National League.

First off, what we do know.

The Los Angeles Dodgers (99-57) and Washington Nationals (94-61) have both repeated as division winners and will be hosting games in the NLDS.

With a win on Sunday, the Arizona Diamondbacks also clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2011. They hold a six-game lead in the wild-card standings, so it's a safe bet that Chase Field will be playing host to the Wild Card Game.

That leaves a pair of three-team battles for the NL Central title and No. 2 NL wild-card spot.

Let's start in the NL Central.

The Chicago Cubs have a 5.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers after taking three of four over the weekend at Miller Park.

That puts the Cubs' magic number at two, and with a 10-2 record in their last 12 games, they look poised to claim the division title once again.

The more compelling race is for that final wild-card slot.

The Colorado Rockies are clinging to a two-game lead over the Brewers, while the St. Louis Cardinals are still alive as well at 2.5 games back.

Here's how those three teams will finish out the season:

  • Colorado: 3 vs. MIA, 3 vs. LAD
  • Milwaukee: 3 vs. CIN, 3 at MIL
  • St. Louis: 4 vs. STL, 3 vs. MIL

The Rockies have gone 4-7 in their last 11 games, so that gap could close quickly if they continue to struggle.

There's still potential for a three-way fight heading into the final day of the regular season Sunday, and that's exactly what was envisioned when the second wild card was added in 2012.

            

MVPs of the Week

AL MVP: SP Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

Stats: W, 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K

The AL Cy Young race isn't over quite yet.

Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber is still the clear front-runner as he leads the AL in ERA (2.27) and WHIP (0.86) while going 10-1 with a 1.39 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and a 101-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his last 11 starts.

After a dominant start against the Baltimore Orioles last week, Chris Sale is the only other qualified AL pitcher with an ERA under 3.00 (2.75) and a WHIP under 1.00 (0.95).

His advantage comes in the strikeout department, as his 13th and final punchout on Wednesday gave him an even 300 for the season—the first time since Pedro Martinez in 1999 that an AL pitcher reached that mark.

"That's special. We all know that's about as good a company as you can get," Sale told reporters. "Just appreciative of it. It's fun. Being here and having that name thrown around is special to me; I don't take it lightly. He's one of the best to ever step on that mound. To be in the same sentence as him is pretty crazy to me."

Both pitchers will likely make one final regular-season start this coming week to put the finishing touches on their case.

        

NL MVP: LF Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins

Stats: 10-for-20, 1 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R

Giancarlo Stanton casts a pretty massive shadow, so it's not surprising to see Marcell Ozuna flying under the radar in a breakout offensive season.

The 26-year-old ranks among the NL leaders in batting average (.308, ninth), OPS (.921, 13th), hits (181, fifth), home runs (36, third), RBI (118, fourth) and WAR (5.5, ninth).

"Giancarlo's had a terrific second half and really taken off," manager Don Mattingly told reporters in August. "But if you look at the whole season, Marcell's probably been the most consistent."

A career-best 9.6 percent walk rate has allowed him to become a complete hitter, and under team control through the 2019 season, he's arguably a more valuable commodity than Stanton and his bloated contract.

Will the Marlins consider flipping Ozuna this winter in a fairly weak market for impact bats? We shall see.

              

Stats of the Week

Let's dive into some of the better nuggets from around the league.

We'll start with Clayton Kershaw, who made some history with his 200th strikeout of the season.

That's decent company.

Then we have Jose Abreu joining some exclusive company of his own.

And we'll throw in Khris Davis for good measure.

With an 11-4 win on Saturday, the Cleveland Indians became the first team in more than 100 years to go 28-2 over a span of 30 games.

They join the 1884 St. Louis Maroons, 1884 Providence Grays, 1887 St. Louis Browns, 1891/92 Boston Braves, 1897 Boston Braves, 1880 Chicago Cubs, 1906 Chicago Cubs and 1916 New York Giants, according to Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN).

And we'll end with Aaron Judge, who is now one home run shy of the single-season rookie record.

He has seven games left to break the record, all of which will be played at Yankee Stadium. Judge has hit 29 of his 48 home runs at home.

He's also hit nine against the Toronto Blue Jays, the team the Yankees will host to close out the regular season. That's the second-most against any team this season, trailing only the Orioles (11).

Methinks Big Mac might be in trouble.

        

Must-See Upcoming Matchup

Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals (Friday-Sunday)

Who would have guessed this would be the must-watch series on the final weekend of the regular season?

These two teams will both be scoreboard-watching at Miller Park to see how the Rockies' series with the Dodgers is going, as Colorado still controls its fate with a two-game lead over the Brewers and a 2.5-game lead over the Cardinals in the wild-card standings.

However, that's a paper-thin margin of error and it won't take much for this final series to mean everything.

The Brewers hold a 9-7 advantage thus far in the season series, despite a minus-10 run differential, while the Cardinals are 3-2 since the All-Star break.

With a day off Monday ahead of a three-game series with the last-place Cincinnati Reds, the Brewers will have a chance to realign the starting rotation for that final series.

Ideally, they'd be able to lineup some combination of Chase Anderson (24 GS, 11-4, 2.81 ERA), Zach Davies (32 GS, 17-9, 3.84 ERA) and either Brent Suter (13 GS, 3-2, 3.29 ERA) or Brandon Woodruff (7 GS, 2-2, 3.76 ERA).

The loss of Jimmy Nelson to a season-ending shoulder injury earlier this month remains a major blow.

As for the Cardinals, they don't have the luxury of a day off as they host the rival Cubs for a four-game series.

John Gant started on Sunday in place of fellow rookie Jack Flaherty and went three innings. One of those two would be in line to take the ball on Friday, followed by Luke Weaver and Carlos Martinez.

Expect both pitching situations to be fluid with the season hanging in the balance.

            

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and accurate through Sunday.

Looking for someone to yell at about where your favorite team was slotted in the latest rankings? I'll meet you in the comments section.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand with 2 Weeks to Go

Four teams have punched their tickets to the MLB playoffs, but there's plenty left to be decided with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Who will win the AL East and NL Central titles? Can the Colorado Rockies and Minnesota Twins—two teams that lost a combined 190 games a year agohold on to claim the final wild-card spots in their respective leagues? Or will we finally see Mike Trout in October for just the second time in his career?

Those are the burning questions that have yet to be answered as we come down the homestretch.

Just remember these rankings are fluid and teams rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.

Here's a look at where all 30 teams stand:

  Updated Rankings  
1 img Indians (93-57) img
2 img Dodgers (96-53) img2
3 img D-backs (87-63) img
4 img Astros (91-58) img1
5 img Nationals (90-59) img3
6 img Red Sox (85-64) img
7 img Cubs (83-66) img2
8 img Yankees (82-67) img1
9 img Brewers (79-70) img1
10 img Rockies (82-68) img
11 img Twins (78-71) img1
12 img Cardinals (77-72) img1
13 img Angels (76-73) img
14 img Mariners (74-76) img2
15 img Orioles (73-77) img1
16 img Rangers (73-76) img1
17 img Royals (73-76) img
18 img Rays (73-77) img
19 img Blue Jays (70-80) img3
20 img Athletics (66-83) img1
21 img Braves (67-81) img
22 img Padres (66-83) img2
23 img Reds (66-84) img3
24 img White Sox (60-89) img3
25 img Mets (65-84) img
26 img Pirates (68-82) img3
27 img Phillies (58-91) img2
28 img Marlins (69-80) img4
29 img Tigers (62-87) img1
30 img Giants (58-93) img

        

American League Playoff Picture

The Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros both punched their tickets to the postseason over the weekend, and they are separated by just 1.5 games for the best record in the American League.

Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox are considered a playoff lock by FanGraphs. The AL East rival New York Yankees are as close as you can get, with a 99.9 percent chance of reaching October.

With a four-game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the wild-card standings and a six-game cushion for a playoff spot, the Yankees have their sights set on chasing down the Red Sox who have seen their AL East lead whittled down to just three games.

The Twins enter the week with a 69.2 percent chance of claiming a playoff spot, as they hold a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels, whose chances sit at 25.5 percent.

Beyond those three teams battling for the two wild-card spots, everyone else can be considered a long shot at this point, as last week finally brought some clarity to what has been a crowded AL wild-card picture.

The Seattle Mariners (4.5 GB, 2.3 percent), Kansas City Royals (5 GB, 1.8 percent), Texas Rangers (5 GB, 0.6 percent), Tampa Bay Rays (5.5 GB 0.5 percent) and Baltimore Orioles (5.5 GB, 0.3 percent) are all technically still alive, but time is not on their side.

As far as head-to-head matchups are concerned, the Yankees and Red Sox have already finished playing each other this season, and the same goes for the Angels and Twins.

However, the Yankees and Twins are set to meet for a three-game series, starting on Monday.

Despite an 8-8 record in September, the Twins have a plus-24 run differential, as their offense has been firing on all cylinders and averaging 6.2 runs per game during that span.

Could we see two of the game's most electric young pitchers, Luis Severino and Jose Berrios, face off in the AL Wild Card Game?

         

National League Playoff Picture

The Los Angeles Dodgers joined the Washington Nationals in clinching at least a spot in the playoffs last week, and their magic number to wrap up the NL West title sits at four games.

They won't close the 9.5-game gap in the standings, but the Arizona Diamondbacks are considered a lock to make the playoffs by FanGraphsno small feat considering they lost 93 games just a year ago.

If they can survive the winner-take-all play-in game, Arizona figures to be a tough draw for anyone on the NL side of things. They have a terrific starting rotation and a high-powered offense led by NL MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt and deadline addition J.D. Martinez, though the bullpen is a bit of a question mark.

That leaves the NL Central title and the second wild-card berth still up for grabs.

The Chicago Cubs helped their cause considerably with a weekend sweep of the rival St. Louis Cardinals, and they enter the week with a four-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers and a six-game advantage over the aforementioned Cardinals.

The Cubs and Brewers will meet for a four-game series at Miller Park, starting Thursday, that could decide the NL Central champion.

Assuming the Cubs can hold on and capture another division crown, the Cardinals and Brewers will be left battling with the Colorado Rockies for the final NL spot.

The Rockies are heavy favorites, with an 86.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, while the Brewers (11.1 percent) and Cardinals (4.7 percent) are lagging considerably behind.

The Rockies will play three straight non-contenders (the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins) before closing things out at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals and Brewers both have a series left against the Cubs before wrapping up the regular season head-to-head in St. Louis.

It's going to take a lot breaking right for those final three games to matter for both teams.

              

MVPs of the Week

AL MVP: SP Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

Stats: 2 GS, 2-0, 15.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 19 K

Better late than never.

After months of scouring the starting pitching market and debating whether to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal—going all the way back to the winter meetingsthe Houston Astros swung a trade to acquire Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 31.

Three starts is obviously a small sample size, but he's looked like that missing piece who could push the Astros over the top in their pursuit of a title.

  • Sept. 5 (@SEA): W, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
  • Sept. 12 (@LAA): W, 8.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
  • Sept. 17 (vs. SEA): W, 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K

The 34-year-old Verlander is 7-5 with a 3.39 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 112 strikeouts in 98.1 career playoff innings, and slotting him alongside incumbent ace Dallas Keuchel gives Houston the one-two punch to make a deep October run.

Tip of the cap to Corey Kluber (2-0, 16.0 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 17 K) and Matt Boyd (1-1, 14.0 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K), who were both brilliant as well as two-start pitchers last week.

       

NL MVP: RF J.D. Martinez, Arizona Diamondbacks

Stats: 10-for-23, 3 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R

Remember back in 2015, when Yoenis Cespedes joined the New York Mets at the trade deadline and transformed their offense, leading some to pitch him as a legitimate NL MVP candidate despite spending just two months in the league?

Martinez has been better in a similar situation this year.

A lot better.

  • Cespedes, 2015: 57 G, .287/.337/.604, 14 2B, 17 HR, 44 RBI
  • Martinez, 2017: 51 G, .289/.358/.732, 10 2B, 24 HR, 51 RBI

A .732 slugging percentage over 212 plate appearances and one home run every 7.9 at-bats is nothing short of outrageous in any situation.

Suffice to say, the 30-year-old has added some zeros to his free-agency asking price since joining the Diamondbacks.

To that point, Nick Piecoro of AZCentral Sports:

"Still, a panel of scouts and executives surveyed don't think Martinez will have any trouble securing a huge deal, drawing comparisons ranging from Hunter Pence’s five-year, $90 million contract to Justin Upton's six-year, $132.75 million deal. No one expects a deal as long as Jason Heyward's eight-year, $184 million, but Heyward's $23 million annual average value could be comparable, one scout said."

Not bad for a guy who was once outright released by the Astros.

              

Stats of the Week

Let's dive into some of the better nuggets from around the league.

We'll start with the best pitcher on the Washington Nationals right now, and we're not talking about Max Scherzer.

Since the All-Star break, Stephen Strasburg has gone 5-1 with a 0.72 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 62 strikeouts in 50 innings spanning eight starts.

The NL Cy Young race is shaping up to be the most compelling among the major awards.

A pair of rookie sluggers has taken the league by storm in the second half, as Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger have given way in the headlines to Matt Olson and Rhys Hoskins.

They won't close the gap in Rookie of the Year voting, but Hoskins (129 AB, 18 HR, 39 RBI) and Olson (169 AB, 21 HR, 40 RBI) have cemented their place as long-term pieces on a pair of rebuilding teams.

We've already talked plenty about Martinez, but here's another fun tidbit.

The others on that list: Greg Vaughn (1996, MIL/SD), Mark McGwire (1997, OAK/STL) and David Justice (2000, CLE/NYY).

The Yankees have made the playoffs just once in the past four seasons and haven't won a World Series since 2009, but this is still awfully impressive.

And finally, let's watch Joey Gallo demolish a baseball.

That's 85-grade power, folks.

        

Must-See Upcoming Matchup

Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees (Monday-Wednesday)

There's a good chance this will serve as a preview of the AL Wild Card Game.

The Yankees are still chasing the Red Sox for the AL East title, and the Twins' two-game lead over the Angels for the second wild-card spot is by no means insurmountable.

But if the season ended today, it would be these two battling it out for a spot in the ALDS.

The Twins will have their two best pitchers on the hill to kick things off, as Ervin Santana goes up against Jaime Garcia on Monday and Jose Berrios takes the ball against CC Sabathia on Tuesday.

Don't be surprised if those first two games are used as an audition of sorts for who would take the ball for the Twins in that potential one-game playoff.

Berrios held the Yankees to six hits and one earned run over 6.2 innings back on July 19. Santana will be facing them for the first time.

A strong start from Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday against Bartolo Colon could also give the Yankees reason for pause when considering who to start with the season on the line. The smart money is still on Luis Severino, though.

Once this series wraps, the Cubs heading to Miller Park for a four-game set with the Brewers that will carry plenty of playoff implications as well.

              

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and accurate through Sunday.

Looking for someone to yell at about where your favorite team was slotted in the latest rankings? I'll meet you in the comments section.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

New York Yankees: Ranking Potential Wild-Card Game Opponents

The New York Yankees have a three-game lead over the Minnesota Twins for the No. 1 American League wild-card spot and a five-game cushion overall for a playoff berth.

At the risk of counting our chickens before they hatch, it looks like a safe bet they will be playing in October, and FanGraphs agrees, giving them a 98.4 percent chance of reaching the postseason.

However, the second wild-card spot is still too close to call with five teams within four games in the standings.

Who from that group poses the biggest threat to the Yankees and who would they most like to face?

Ahead, we've broken down all five clubs and ranked them from least to most preferable opponent based on head-to-head performance, potential pitching matchups and other factors.

On the Yankees side, we're assuming it will be breakout ace Luis Severino taking the ball.

          

Note: The Baltimore Orioles (4.5 games back) and Tampa Bay Rays (five games back) are technically still in the wild-card running as well, but neither team has been playing particularly well of late and FanGraphs gives them a 1.3 and 1.8 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, respectively. As a result, they weren't included in this discussion.

Begin Slideshow

Re-Ranking All 30 MLB Farm Systems at the End of 2017’s MiLB Season

The 2017 MiLB regular season is over, and each league's respective postseason is already underway.

With that in mind, it seems like the perfect time for one final look at where all 30 MLB farm systems rank, as well as an updated look at each team's top 10 prospects.

The following factors helped determine the rankings of players and teams:

  • Potential (Player): Potential trumps production a lot of the time, especially in the lower levels of the minors and with recent draft picks. Skill set and overall tools are often a better indication of what kind of player a guy will be.
  • Talent (Player): As for guys in the higher levels of the minors who are close to breaking through at the big league level, production and current talent are the determining factors, as these players are viewed as more complete products.
  • Overall Depth (Team): Having one or two elite prospects is great, but having a deep farm system from top to bottom is the way to build a sustainable contender. The overall depth and level of talent were the biggest factors in ranking each team.
  • High-End Talent (Team): That being said, there is a difference between a prospect who has a chance of making an impact at the big league level and a prospect who could be a star. Elite prospects served as a tiebreaker of sorts when two teams were close in the rankings.

We've incorporated a tier system to help differentiate between levels of talent. Here's a quick explanation: 

  • Tier 1: Prospects who have an elite skill set and legitimate All-Star potential. These are the guys who would receive consideration for a spot on leaguewide top-100 prospect lists.
  • Tier 2: Prospects who have a good chance of becoming at least a contributor at the MLB level. This is where most prospects on the following list will fall.
  • Tier 3: Prospects who profile as fringe MLB contributors or young prospects who are still too raw to project any higher. Having one of these players ranked among your top 10 prospects is a good indication of a thin system.

We capped that with a quick rundown of each farm system and each team's MiLB Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year.

            

Note: Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins (114 AB), Cleveland Indians third baseman Yandy Diaz (123 AB) and New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith (109 AB) and shortstop Amed Rosario (117 AB) are technically still prospects, but since all four are in line to exceed the rookie-eligibility limit of 130 at-bats before the season is over, they were excluded from these rankings.

Begin Slideshow

MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand with 3 Weeks to Go

Which will come first, a Cleveland Indians loss or a Los Angeles Dodgers win?

That's not the question we expected to be asking with three weeks to go in the regular season, but it's become one of the biggest storylines as one team has rattled off 18 straight wins and the other is in a complete tailspin with 10 consecutive losses.

Big picture, both of those teams are going to be playing in October.

The more intriguing questions surround who will come out on top in a cluttered AL wild-card picture and a tight three-team battle in the NL Central.

For now, just remember these rankings are fluid and teams rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.

Here's a look at where all 30 teams stand:

  Updated Rankings  
1 img Indians (87-56) img
2 img Nationals (88-55) img3
3 img D-backs (83-60) img1
4 img Dodgers (92-51) img2
5 img Astros (86-57) img2
6 img Red Sox (81-62) img2
7 img Yankees (77-65) img
8 img Brewers (75-68) img1
9 img Cubs (77-66) img3
10 img Rockies (78-65) img3
11 img Cardinals (75-68) img3
12 img Twins (74-69) img2
13 img Angels (73-70) img1
14 img Orioles (71-72) img3
15 img Rangers (71-71) img1
16 img Mariners (71-72) img1
17 img Royals (71-71) img1
18 img Rays (71-73) img1
19 img Athletics (63-80) img5
20 img Padres (65-79) img
21 img Braves (64-78) img2
22 img Blue Jays (66-77) img1
23 img Pirates (67-77) img1
24 img Marlins (68-75) img5
25 img Mets (63-80) img1
26 img Reds (62-82) img1
27 img White Sox (56-86) img
28 img Tigers (60-82) img
29 img Phillies (54-89) img
30 img Giants (56-89) img

        

American League Playoff Picture

Another week is in the books, and there's still little in the way of clarity as far as the AL postseason picture is concerned.

The Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros are locks with 13-game leads in their respective divisions and magic numbers of seven to officially claim division titles, and they're both playing some of their best baseball right now.

While the Indians have rattled off an impressive 18-game winning streak, the Astros put together a seven-game streak of their own before getting swept by the Oakland Athletics over the weekend.

Those two would be overwhelming favorites to meet in the ALCS if the playoffs started today.

Meanwhile, the other three playoff spots are still completely up for grabs.

The Boston Red Sox have a 3.5-game lead in the AL East standings and figure to reach October in some capacity. They took care of business this past week with series wins over the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays and have an eight-game cushion for a postseason spot.

Beyond that, there are still eight teams within 3.5 games of a wild-card spot.

The New York Yankees are still in the driver's seat with a 3.5-game lead for the No. 1 spot and a 4.5-game cushion overall, and they picked up important series wins over two of the other wild-card contenders in the Baltimore Orioles (three games back) and Texas Rangers (2.5 games back).

For now, it's the Minnesota Twins who are still clinging to the second wild-card spot with a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels—who welcomed back former All-Star Garrett Richards on Tuesday for his first start since April 5.

The Kansas City Royals (2.5 games back) are still a .500 team and split a big four-game series with the Twins over the weekend, while the Seattle Mariners (three games back) and Tampa Bay Rays (3.5 games back) are also still very much in the mix despite losing records.

It could be a short ride in the playoffs for whomever emerges from the Wild Card Game if the Indians keep steamrolling people, but that doesn't take away from what's shaping up to be a thrilling battle to claim those final two postseason spots.

       

National League Playoff Picture

It's an odd feeling ranking the Arizona Diamondbacks ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgersa team they trail by nine games in the NL West standings.

That's a prime example of the difference between power rankings and regular standings.

The D-backs have gone 16-3 in their last 19 games with a pair of three-game sweeps over the Dodgers included in that impressive stretch.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have lost 10 in a row and 15 of their last 16.

With a 92-51 record, they're in no real danger of the missing the playoffs, but home-field advantage is quickly slipping away.

The Washington Nationals now trail them by just four games for the best record in the NL, and they crossed one item off the to-do list Sunday when they officially clinched the NL East.

"It is not easy to win baseball games at the major league level. It is not easy to win division championships," general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters. "To look at the amount of games that we've won, the amount of days we've been in first place, the amount of divisions that we've won, it's really mind-boggling to think about."

Clearly, they have loftier goals for 2017 than just a division title, as Rizzo added: "Look, I get it. We're not satisfied. We want to do more. We expect to do more."

Beyond those three teams, there are four contenders battling for two spots.

The NL Central is shaping up to be a dog fight right down to the season's final days, as the Chicago Cubs hold a narrow two-game lead over both the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brewers aided their cause considerably with a three-game sweep of the Cubs over the weekend, but they were also dealt a major blow when it was announced that ace Jimmy Nelson would miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.

The two teams that miss out on the NL Central title will have the Colorado Rockies to contend with for the second wild-card spot.

It looked like the Rockies might be falling out of the race with a shaky 8-17 stretch of games heading into last week, but they righted the ship with a series win over the Giants and a four-game sweep of the Dodgers.

Their lead over the Cardinals and Brewers stands at three games, so they still control their own destiny.

              

MVPs of the Week

AL MVP: 1B Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics

Stats: 10-for-28, 1 2B, 5 HR, 8 RBI, 8 R

The August trade of Yonder Alonso has given Matt Olson a chance at everyday playing time for the Oakland Athletics, and he's making the most of that opportunity.

A 37-homer season at the High-A level in 2014 made him one of baseball's top power-hitting prospects and the No. 3 overall prospect in the Oakland system heading into the 2015 campaign, per Baseball America.

However, his development had stalled a bit in the years since as he struggled to make enough consistent contact to tap into that plus raw power.

Now the 23-year-old is looking like a legitimate long-term piece with a .268/.351/.624 line that includes 17 home runs and 34 RBI in 168 plate appearances.

"This is the first real opportunity that he's gotten. Usually, he knows that at some point in time he's probably going back down but now he's going to get a significant opportunity," manager Bob Melvin told reporters last month. "Whether it's defensively or offensively, I think it was good that we brought him up when he was swinging the bat well and I think he's having a good year. He's been very impactful for us."

Olson already has six home runs in 10 games this month, and he'll have a chance to square off against fellow rookie slugger Rhys Hoskins when the A's head to Philadelphia this coming weekend.

       

NL MVP: OF J.D. Martinez, Arizona Diamondbacks

Stats: 12-for-28, 1 2B, 7 HR, 11 RBI, 8 R

J.D. Martinez has been an absolute beast since joining the Diamondbacks in July.

Over 187 plate appearances in Arizona, he sports a .269/.342/.701 line with 21 home runs and 45 RBI in 45 games.

"I don't know the history of baseball, but I think you can put him up there as one of the best midseason trades that's ever been made," D-backs reliever Archie Bradley told reporters. "The guy is incredible. Every homer is getting more expensive. Hopefully, he likes us a lot and wants to stay here."

He is, of course, referring to the fact that Martinez is set to reach free agency for the first time this coming offseason.

The 30-year-old will likely be the top offensive player on the market—depending on what Justin Upton does with his buy-out—and there's no question his late-season surge is adding to his asking price.

But first things first, he'll look to help the Diamondbacks go on a significant run this October.

         

Stats of the Week

Let's dive into some of the better nuggets from around the league.

The red-hot Indians have run their winning streak to 18 games and now have the 2002 Oakland Athletics and the infamous 20-game winning streak that was played out in the movie Moneyball within reach.

Fans outside of Cleveland might not remember that the Indians also put together a 14-game winning streak last season.

It's worth noting the 1935 Cubs lost in the World Series and the 1936 Cubs failed to make the playoffs, though it doesn't appear this year's Indians club is in any danger of missing out on the postseason.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers made some inauspicious history of their own as their puzzling late-season swoon continues.

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge finally seems to be snapping out of his second-half funk, and he joined some elite company with his 40th home run on Sunday.

Brewers starter Zach Davies picked up his 17th win of the season on Sunday, and with 19 games left on the schedule, he has a chance to be the most under-the-radar 20-game winner in recent memory.

A few other candidates for that title from the past 25 years:

  • Bill Swift (21-8, 1993)
  • Rick Helling (20-7, 1998)
  • Jose Lima (21-10, 1999)
  • Jon Lieber (20-6, 2001)
  • Esteban Loaiza (21-9 2003)
  • J.A. Happ (20-4, 2016)

Yes, wins are a terrible gauge of a pitcher's contributions, but 20 wins is still a revered accomplishment.

And finally, Matt Eddy of Baseball America wrote an interesting piece comparing Minor League Player of the Year Ronald Acuna to other teenage standouts over the years.

The entire article is worth a read to get an idea just how good the Braves outfield prospect has been this season. Among other notes, his 155 OPS+ is the ninth-best mark ever for a player under the age of 20 playing above the Single-A level.

Ahead of him on that list: Alex Rodriguez (twice), Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Jason Heyward, Gregg Jefferies, Justin Upton and Mike Trout. 

No prospect is ever a lock to be a star, but that's pretty good company.

        

Must-See Upcoming Matchup

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs (Friday-Sunday)

Does it get any better than September baseball at Wrigley Field against the rival Cardinals with the NL Central title up for grabs?

The Cubs and Cards haven't played each other since July 21-23 when the Cubs took two of three at home, but they'll face off seven times over the final three weeks.

So far, the Cubs are up 8-4 in the season series, despite a minus-four run differential.

Both teams have off days on Monday, so they'll have a chance to line up their rotations for the weekend, and the Cubs have already announced that they'll push veteran John Lackey back to start Friday's game in place of Mike Montgomery.

Jake Arrieta could also be in line to start one of the games, depending on his continued recovery from a mild hamstring strain suffered during his last start on Sept. 4.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals could potentially line up ace Carlos Martinez to start on Friday, with Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn to follow, depending on what they do coming out of the off day.

Regardless of who's on the mound, expect a playoff atmosphere at Wrigley this weekend.

                     

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and accurate through Sunday.

Looking for someone to yell at about where your favorite team was slotted in the latest rankings? I'll meet you in the comments section.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand with 4 Weeks to Go

This week's MLB power rankings are sure to ruffle some feathers on the West Coast.

If only it were the St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles or Toronto Blue Jays moving into the No. 1 spot, that would have been quite the pun.

Instead, it's the surging Cleveland Indians who have finally unseated the Los Angeles Dodgers after months in the top spot.

Whether it's a case of a 92-win team on autopilot, injuries to its two best players in Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager or just the inevitable bump in the road, they simply haven't looked like baseball's best team of late.

Aside from the shuffling at the top, last week also gave us some exciting news on the trade front as Justin Verlander (Astros) and Justin Upton (Angels) changed teams ahead of the waiver deadline.

For now, just remember these rankings are fluid and teams rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.

Here's a look at where all 30 teams stand:

  Updated Rankings  
1 img Indians (80-56) img3
2 img Dodgers (92-44) img1
3 img Astros (83-53) img
4 img D-backs (79-58) img1
5 img Nationals (82-54) img2
6 img Cubs (75-61) img2
7 img Yankees (73-63) img1
8 img Red Sox (77-60) img1
9 img Brewers (72-65) img1
10 img Twins (71-65) img1
11 img Orioles (70-67) img5
12 img Angels (70-67) img2
13 img Rockies (72-64) img2
14 img Cardinals (69-67) img1
15 img Mariners (69-68) img2
16 img Rangers (68-68) img3
17 img Rays (68-70) img
18 img Royals (67-68) img
19 img Marlins (67-69) img7
20 img Padres (62-75) img4
21 img Blue Jays (63-74) img1
22 img Pirates (65-72) img1
23 img Braves (60-75) img3
24 img Athletics (58-78) img2
25 img Reds (58-79) img
26 img Mets (58-78) img3
27 img White Sox (54-81) img
28 img Tigers (58-78) img
29 img Phillies (52-84) img1
30 img Giants (54-85) img1

        

American League Playoff Picture

There's a new sheriff in town, and it's the red-hot Cleveland Indians.

They enter the week riding an 11-game winning streak amid a stellar 20-4 stretch of games overall, and that's enough for us to finally have a new No. 1 team in these rankings.

The Tribe boast a staggering plus-84 run differential during that 24-game span, and they've built a comfortable nine-game lead in the AL Central standings in the process.

Corey Kluber took home Pitcher of the Month honors for August after going 5-1 with a 1.96 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 54 strikeouts in 46 innings.

Not to be outdone, it was a busy week for the Houston Astros as well.

They swept the Mets over the weekend and still hold a commanding 13.5-game lead in the AL West, but the bigger story came off the field as Justin Verlander was acquired in a blockbuster deal with the Detroit Tigers.

That came after several players on the roster were none too happy about the team's quiet July.

"I mean, I'm not going to lie, disappointment is a little bit of an understatement," ace Dallas Keuchel told reporters after the deadline came and went without a major addition. "I feel like a bunch of teams really bolstered their rosters for the long haul and for a huge playoff push, and us just kind of staying pat was really disappointing to myself."

Beyond those two teams, the entire American League is a crapshoot.

The Boston Red Sox had a chance to cement their place atop the AL East standings, but instead they dropped three of four to the rival New York Yankees over the weekend, and their division lead was trimmed to 3.5 games in the process.

That leaves the Yankees with a two-game lead for the No. 1 wild-card spot and a 3.5-game cushion for a playoff berth in general, but there are a number of teams still in the hunt.

The Minnesota Twins hold a 1.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles, who both improved their stock last week.

The Angels made a splash ahead of the waiver deadline as they added Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips to bolster the offense, while the Orioles swept another wild-card hopeful in the Seattle Mariners—who are now 2.5 games back.

Falling under the "not dead yet" category we have the Texas Rangers, who breathed some life into their playoff hopes with series wins over the Astros and Angels last week to pull within three games in the standings.

The Kansas City Royals (3.5 games back) and Tampa Bay Rays (four games back) spun their tires with 3-3 showings last week as they remain on the periphery.

       

National League Playoff Picture

It would have been easy to just leave the Los Angeles Dodgers in the No. 1 spot in these rankings for another week and call it a day.

After all, they still have nine more wins than any other team and an insurmountable 13.5-game lead in the NL West standings.

However, with Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager both sidelined and little of significance to play for over the final month, they don't look like baseball's best team right now.

After a 1-6 performance last week that included their first series sweep of the season at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks, they've now gone 1-8 with a minus-21 run differential in their last nine games.

Speaking of the D-backs, they followed up that sweep of the Dodgers by doing the same to a potential NL Wild Card Game opponentthe Colorado Rockies.

If we could play the arbitrary starting point game for a moment, Arizona has gone 12-1 in their last 13 games and Colorado is 4-9 during that same span. That recent performance is pretty clearly reflected in their current ranking.

The Washington Nationals have the NL East in the bag with the largest division lead in baseball at 15 games over a Miami Marlins team that was our biggest faller this week. They surged to No. 12 in the rankings a week ago amid a hot streak, but series losses to the Nationals and the last-place Philadelphia Phillies sent them tumbling back down.

So with the East and West division titles locked up, it will be the NL Central and the wild-card picture that's worth watching over the final month.

The Chicago Cubs have taken care of business against some lesser opponents of late with a 12-4 record in series against the Blue Jays, Reds, Phillies, Pirates and Braves.

However, that recent run of success is still only good enough for a 3.5-game lead in the standings over a Milwaukee Brewers team that simply won't go away.

A six-game losing streak in early August looked like the beginning of the end for the Brew Crew. Since then, they've gone 13-6 in their last 19 games to pull within a mere half-game of the Rockies for the No. 2 wild-card slot.

The St. Louis Cardinals (three games back) and Marlins (five games back) are both still within spitting distance of a wild-card spot themselves, though time is working against them at this point.

              

MVPs of the Week

AL MVP: 3B Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

Stats: 14-for-26, 6 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R

The Indians are baseball's hottest team and Jose Ramirez might be baseball's hottest hitter.

The 24-year-old saw his bat go ice cold during a 21-game stretch from Aug. 3 to Aug. 26 as he hit .160/.218/.247 and went homerless in 87 plate appearances.

He finally snapped out of it with a multi-hit game on Aug. 27, and he's now hitting .533/.548/1.233 with 12 extra-base hits in 31 plate appearances over his last seven games.

"I said he'll be fine, I told you he was a good hitter," manager Terry Francona told reporters. "And that's what good hitters do, they get to their level. Sometimes they do it in kind of unique ways or weird ways, but he's just a really good hitter."

When things are going right at the plate, luck is often on your side, as we saw during his two-homer performance on Sunday.

A tip of the cap is also due to Baltimore Orioles starter Dylan Bundy.

He turned in the best start of his career on Friday (9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 K) to wrap up an August that saw him go 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 36 innings.

       

NL MVP: SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

Stats: 1 GS, W, 9.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K; 2-for-4, HR

For all the attention heaped on Max Scherzer over the first few months of the season, Stephen Strasburg has begun to put together a compelling NL Cy Young case of his own.

The 29-year-old tossed his second career shutout against the Miami Marlins last week and also homered for the second time this season.

He's now 11-4 with a 2.90 ERA (fourth in NL), 1.07 WHIP (third in NL), 164 strikeouts (ninth in NL) and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings (fourth in NL).

"He's scary," teammate Jayson Werth—who faced him in a simulated game last monthtold reporters. "He's big. He hides the ball. It's explosive in the zone. Especially to a right-handed hitter—he ran one in on me, and I said, 'Oh, [expletive].' I don't know if I can even pick that up every time."

He added: "He's just a big, hairy, scary, furry animal out there."

The one-two punch of Scherzer and Strasburg should give the Nationals as good a chance as anyone of knocking off what will be a heavily favored Dodgers team come October.

         

Stats of the Week

Let's dive into some of the better nuggets from around the league.

We'll start with a Diamondbacks team that has gone from 93 losses a year ago to looking like one of baseball's best teams here in 2017.

What's been the key to that rapid turnaround? Starting pitching.

With four weeks to go, the Diamondbacks have a 3.53 starters' ERA this year, good for third in the majors. They ranked 29th in the majors and last in the NL with a 5.19 starters' ERA a year ago.

The Cubs, on the other hand, have relied far more heavily on their offensive firepower this season after boasting the best ERA in the majors a year ago.

With his 20th home run of the season on Wednesday, rookie Ian Happ became the sixth Cubs player to reach the 20-homer mark—a franchise record.

He joins Anthony Rizzo (31), Kris Bryant (25), Kyle Schwarber (24), Javier Baez (21) and Willson Contreras (21).

That over-the-fence power helped the Cubs to a MLB-leading 191 runs during the month of August, the most they've scored in August since 1930 (216 runs).

We already touched on what a huge week Jose Ramirez had for the Indians, and here's one more impressive note from his big day on Sunday.

The last Indians player with five extra-base hits in a game: Kelly Shoppach in 2008.

Surprising side note: Shoppach had an .865 OPS with 21 home runs and a 3.4 WAR that season.

And with that, we've reached both our Kelly Shoppach reference quota for the year and the end of this week's interesting stats.

Have a good Monday, everyone.

        

Must-See Upcoming Matchup

Justin Verlander's Houston Debut vs. Seattle Mariners (Tuesday)

The Astros have been circling the starting pitching market dating back to the winter meetings, and they finally pulled the trigger last week with the addition of Justin Verlander.

The 34-year-old didn't come cheap.

The Astros sent top-100 pitching prospect Franklin Perez, rising catching prospect Jake Rogers and high-ceiling outfielder Daz Cameron to Detroit in the deal, while also taking on $40 million of the $56 million left on his contract and including a player to be named later.

What are the Astros getting in return?

Verlander hasn't quite matched his Cy Young-caliber performance from a year ago, but he's been lights out of late, going 5-1 with a 2.32 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 62 innings while tallying eight quality starts in his last nine games.

He'll make his Astros debut Tuesday against Ariel Miranda and the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

It'll be the story of the day and perhaps the week in baseball as the Astros look to wrestle the title of AL favorites back from the streaking Indians.

           

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and accurate through Sunday.

Looking for someone to yell at about where your favorite team was slotted in the latest rankings? I'll meet you in the comments section.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

New York Yankees: 5 Bold Predictions for the Final Month of the Season

This was supposed to be a retooling season of sorts for the New York Yankees after they had turned their attention to bulking up the farm system in recent years.

Instead, they arrived as bona fide contenders a bit earlier than expected and quickly became buyers at the trade deadline—adding the likes of Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Jaime Garcia without gutting the farm system.

However, the postseason is still far from guaranteed as they battle to stick atop a crowded American League wild-card picture.

So, as we get set to begin the final month of the regular season, here are five bold predictions for the Yankees in September.

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