Power Rankings: Royals, Indians pick up the pace

On the cusp of the trading deadline, things are definitely shaking up in the rankings, even with the Astros and Dodgers splitting the first-place votes between them. While the AL East and NL West have taken turns as baseball's strongest divisions, this week saw the AL Central's top tandem make big moves to change up the top 10. The Indians vaulted up four slots to No. 4 on the strength of a nine-game win streak, while the Royals refuse to give up on their last chance to win with most of the talent that won the World Series in 2015, and moved up four spots, as well, to reach No. 10. The reigning champs also made a move within the top 10, ascending two more spots, as their strong second-half run suggests they're far from ready to surrender the brass ring.

But where several familiar contenders made their moves up, several teams made equally dramatic declines. The biggest surprise might be that the Red Sox tumbled five slots to No. 9 -- perhaps the lesson there is that it's bad luck to create drama with a Hall of Famer. But they weren't alone in their stumble, as Pirates, Braves and Tigers all suffered four-slot drops, and the Twins endured a three-rung decline as they fade from the AL Central race.

This week's voters are Bradford Doolittle, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, David Schoenfield and Mark Simon.

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1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 74-31

Week 16 ranking: No. 1

The Dodgers' championship drought goes back to 1988, not quite as epic as last year's Cubs title, as far as overcoming a historical millstone, but enough to make you think the front office, in spending a quarter of a billion dollars, is more than aware of the opportunity the Dodgers have to protect their bid by trading for pitching with staff ace Clayton Kershaw on the shelf for a month. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

2. Houston Astros

Record: 68-36
Week 16 ranking: No. 2

With the AL West as good as won, the Astros have to be evaluating their team with an eye toward October. With Lance McCullers Jr. already struggling (9.64 ERA and 2.30 WHIP in July) since he came back from the DL, how much should they be worried about Dallas Keuchel's first start coming off the DL? Keuchel's abbreviated three-inning outing featured a lot of losing batters on full counts and hard-hit balls. Will it encourage them to shop for starting-pitching help? -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

3. Washington Nationals

Record: 61-41
Week 16 ranking: No. 3

The Nationals' outfield depth took a hit with injuries to Jayson Werth and Michael Taylor. Without much depth at the top of the farm system, they needed a player who could fill in without hurting them. Enter 26-year-old Brian Goodwin, a 2011 first-round pick. Goodwin has performed at a level close enough to Taylor's that certain shortcomings in his game are forgivable. In the meantime, 28 extra-base hits in 200 at-bats make him a valuable bench bat in October. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

4. Cleveland Indians

Record: 57-46
Week 16 ranking: No. 8

The Indians' season-best, nine-game win streak (snapped Sunday) rebuilt the AL Central lead they squandered earlier in July. Now the question is whether they'll pull up again instead of breaking away. One positive sign is that Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Bradley Zimmer are among the hitters who powered the streak, snapping their slumps. If the Tribe sees more of that from them, they'll be hard to catch. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 60-45
Week 16 ranking: No. 5

While the D-backs hope that co-ace Robbie Ray recovers fully and quickly from being hit in the head by a line drive (forcing him onto the seven-day DL for a concussion), they also just lost Chris Owings to a broken finger. They can take some solace in the quick thunder trade pickup J.D. Martinez has provided in his brief time with Arizona -- five of his first seven hits for the Snakes have been home runs. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

6. New York Yankees

Record: 56-47
Week 16 ranking: No. 6

All of a sudden, the Yankees have won nine of their past 12 games, including a six-win streak. Their only longer winning streak this season was an eight-game streak back in April. Brett Gardner has two walk-off hits in three days: He had the walk-off home run on Thursday, then another walk-off hit on Saturday. He's the first Yankees player to have a walk-off hit in two games of the same series since Gardner himself did so in 2013 against Tigers. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

7. Chicago Cubs

Record: 56-48
Week 16 ranking: 9

The Cubs have found their groove since the All-Star break, thanks to a trio of starting pitchers returning to form. Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta each received Cy Young votes last season but combined for an underwhelming 4.25 ERA prior to the All-Star break. They're 5-0 with a 2.13 ERA since as the Cubs look poised to break away from the competition in the NL Central. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

8. Colorado Rockies

Record: 60-45
Week 16 ranking: No. 7

By notching his 33rd save as a Rockie on Sunday, closer Greg Holland closed to within eight of tying the franchise's single-season record (41, set by Jose Jimenez in 2002). He's just two behind the men tied for second (Huston Street, 2009, and Shawn Chacon, 2004). With two months left to play and given manager Bud Black's careful handling, it won't just be the Rockies' rookie rotation setting records this season. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

9. Boston Red Sox

Record: 57-49
Week 16 ranking: No. 4

The Red Sox have hit a rough patch. They dropped out of first place in the AL East during the weekend for the first time in over a month. Starter David Price is back on the DL, and the offense has been slumping since the All-Star break. But Chris Sale is a still a stud, and the bullpen has been great, so this is likely just a bump in the road in what should remain a tight division race. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

10. Kansas City Royals

Record: 55-48

Week 16 ranking: No. 14

The Royals have the best record in the AL since the calendar flipped to June. But the Indians got their act together around that time, too, so Kansas City has yet to get back on top of the AL Central. Melky Cabrera should provide an offensive boost to an outfield that has been among the least productive in the majors, but by itself that won't be enough to catch the Indians. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

11. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 55-52
Week 16 ranking: No. 10

The Brewers have faded, losing 11 of their past 14 games while getting swept in a four-game series in Pittsburgh and suffering that blowout loss against the Nationals in which they allowed eight home runs. Brent Suter has been one bright spot, coming from the bullpen to make five starts in July and posting a 1.50 ERA with 25 strikeouts and five walks. -- John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information

12. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 54-52
Week 16 ranking: No. 11

Each of the losses the Rays suffered against the Yankees was crushing, not just for impact in the standings and for what could have been with a few small breaks, but because of what's ahead. The Rays next head to Houston for four games with the Astros. When they return home on Friday, a nine-game homestand with the Brewers, Red Sox and Indians awaits. They might look back on being one out away from beating the Yankees last Thursday and failing to finish the job as the turning point of their season. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

13. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 52-53
Week 16 ranking: No. 13

Welcome to the road trip that could break the Cardinals' season. It starts with three games with the Brewers and ends with two against the Royals as part of their home-and-home matchup. The middle might be the bigger concern -- three games with the Reds, against whom the Cardinals are 3-7. Scooter Gennett might have the four-homer game to his credit, but Scott Schebler is the Cardinals crusher. His slash line is .520/.613/1.160 with four home runs in 25 at-bats against them. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

14. Seattle Mariners

Record: 53-53
Week 16 ranking: No. 15

As the Mariners try to hang around .500 and stay in the race for a wild-card slot, they might not make a major trade on top of the multiple smaller deals general manager Jerry Dipoto has pulled off. But they might have found at least one big upgrade in-house -- Kyle Seager has been one of baseball's hottest hitters since the All-Star break, raking for a 1.078 OPS as he rebounds from a poor start to his season. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

15. Texas Rangers

Record: 50-54
Week 16 ranking: No. 17

Now that Adrian Beltre has his 3,000th hit to add another bullet point to an already slam-dunk case for the Hall of Fame, Rangers fans can white-knuckle their way through Monday anticipating what they might get for ace Yu Darvish in a deadline deal, or if their team will cling to its quasi-contender status despite losing series to the Marlins and Orioles last week. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

16. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 51-54
Week 16 ranking: No. 12

For all their flaws, the Pirates were two games out of first place on July 21. But then Gregory Polanco went on the disabled list and the team faltered, with consecutive series losses to the Rockies, Giants and Padres. The offense wilted, scoring three runs or fewer six times in seven games. The team is caught in a bind: The Pirates aren't bad enough to end the season with a top-five draft pick, and they're not good enough to say, "We're one or two players away from being a division leader." Monday could be an interesting day for their front office. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

17. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 50-54
Week 16 ranking: No. 21

Kevin Gausman threw 8 ⅔ scoreless innings on Saturday, needing Zach Britton for just one out in the ninth. Gausman appears to be back on track from his mid-July struggles (when he allowed 13 earned runs in two starts over seven total innings pitched). He has gone at least six innings and allowed one earned run or none in each of his past three starts. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

18. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 51-55
Week 16 ranking: No. 21

Conventional wisdom would suggest the Angels should be sellers from here on out -- they're already 5.5 games out of second wild card -- but their upcoming schedule could change their odds. They open up a nine-game homestand on Tuesday against the Phillies, Athletics and Orioles, teams that are a combined 46 games under .500. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

19. Minnesota Twins

Record: 50-53
Week 16 ranking: No. 16

Regardless of whether they play meaningful baseball in October or not, 2017 should be remembered in Twins lore as the season of Sano. A Home Run Derby finalist and just 24 years old, Miguel Sano has shown his power this season. He has 24 home runs in 96 games this year; he hit 25 home runs in 116 games all of last season. What's more, his 67 career homers in his first 291 career games are tied with Albert Pujols for most by any Dominican-born player in his first 291 career games. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

20. New York Mets

Record: 48-55
Week 16 ranking: No. 22

On one hand, Sandy Alderson did well to get an established closer in AJ Ramos, who will come at a lower cost than most options on this offseason's free-agent market. Ramos will be in his walk year next season and thus determined to put himself in position to cash in, too. But the word "walk" has two meanings here. Ramos will bring back memories of Armando Benitez with his walk-the-tightrope (and the ballpark) approach to closing. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

21. Miami Marlins

Record: 49-54
Week 16 ranking: No. 24

The Marlins have been heating up, winning seven of their past 10 games. Adam Conley has been good in three starts since coming back from the minors, and rookie Chris O'Grady has allowed three runs or fewer in all four of his starts since coming up this month. It remains to be seen what will happen in the bullpen after the team traded its closer to a division rival, especially with 10 of their next 13 games coming against the Nationals and Rockies. -- John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information

22. Atlanta Braves

Record: 48-55
Week 16 ranking: No. 18

The Braves are struggling. The starters haven't been good, and nobody outside of Brandon Phillips has hit well in the second half. The schedule doesn't do them any favors in the near future -- they host the Dodgers this week, and then next week they have a seven-game road trip through St. Louis and Colorado. And their struggles against the Phillies continue; they've won only two of their 10 meetings this year. -- John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information

23. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 49-56
Week 16 ranking: No. 23

Marcus Stroman lost his cool this week, but his season has been strong. After a 4.37 ERA in 32 starts in 2016, he has a 3.08 mark through 21 starts this season. That number isn't far from his 3.31 career ERA entering 2016, which he'd accumulated in 157 ⅔ innings over the course of 2014 and 2015. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

24. Detroit Tigers

Record: 47-56
Week 16 ranking: No. 20

Justin Wilson and Alex Avila are drawing a lot of interest at the deadline. They'll net a good prospect or two, but the real issue for the Tigers in 2018 and beyond are their huge contracts for aging veterans. Some of those will be really difficult to get off the books, but Vernon Wells was seen as untradeable in 2011, and he was dealt, so there's a chance GM Al Avila could work some magic. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

25. Oakland Athletics

Record: 46-59
Week 16 ranking: No. 25

Should he be dealt, the summary of Sonny Gray's career with the Athletics: a 3.42 ERA, 44-36 record, 75 quality starts in 112 turns (and 65-for-90 outside of his injury-ruined 2016 season), and he's generating a career-best 20.9 percent clip for swinging strikes in 2017. Should a deal go down, fans of whichever team acquires the diminutive right-hander for the stretch run are in for a treat. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

26. San Diego Padres

Record: 47-58
Week 16 ranking: No. 28

The Padres had a great July, led by some big hitting from Cory Spangenberg and Manuel Margot. But slugger Wil Myers has had a disappointing season relative to what was expected from him, and the Padres are stuck in one of MLB's best divisions. San Diego has the youngest lineup in baseball, so at least the kids are getting a chance to play as part of general manager A.J. Preller's rebuilding effort. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

27. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 42-63
Week 16 ranking: No. 27

The Reds placed Zack Cozart on the DL with a strained left quad, interrupting the best season from a Reds shortstop since the Barry Larkin era. Fellow All-Star Joey Votto has continued to rake and on Saturday passed Justin Morneau for third-most home runs hit by a Canadian-born player (248). He now trails only Larry Walker (383) and Matt Stairs (265). -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

28. Chicago White Sox

Record: 40-62
Week 16 ranking: No. 26

The White Sox have traded a number of players with present value to build for the future, which has provided their fans a peek into what's to come. Most notably, 22-year-old Yoan Moncada has flashed plus tools since being promoted on July 19 despite coming around slowly offensively. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

29. San Francisco Giants

Record: 40-66
Week 16 ranking: No. 29

Giants fans likely measure a season's success in comparison to the Dodgers. The Dodgers haven't won a World Series since 1988, while the Giants won in 2010, 2012 and 2014. But this season, the Giants are almost as far behind the Dodgers as they've ever been. The Giants are 34 ½ games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. This is the first time since the end of the 1953 season that the Dodgers have held a 34 ½-game lead or larger over the Giants. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

30. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 38-64
Week 16 ranking: No. 30

The Phillies have rebounded in the second half, going 9-6 since the All-Star Break. Aaron Nola continues to shine, striking out at least seven batters and allowing two or fewer runs in seven straight starts, and his 1.49 ERA in that stretch is the fifth-best in baseball. The Phillies might be able to keep this run going a little bit -- only three of their next 24 games are against winning teams. -- John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information