Power Rankings: Indians eye bigger prize than regular-season No. 1

Indians hold top spot in power rankings (1:22)

Mark Teixeira, David Ross and Tim Kurkjian break down the last power rankings of the regular season, and which teams could have big impacts in the playoffs. (1:22)

For weeks, the voters have been absolutely certain about who this year's No. 1 was. Where previous selections like the Astros early on or the Dodgers up into September ultimately faded and fell back, the Indians never let go of that unanimity among our voters once they achieved it. The Tribe's late-season rally didn't just put the American League Central race away for good, it ultimately earned them the best record in the AL, and the simply fun distinction of being this year's final No. 1 club.

The rest of the top 10 in our rankings wavered just slightly in the season's final week. The Twins moved into the top 10 while also clinching the AL's second wild-card slot, in part by finishing the second half by scoring more runs after the All-Star break than they had in the first half (in 14 fewer games), while allowing 138 fewer. That's some serious Bartolo Colon magic, plus a whole lot of Byron Buxton and other home-cooked goodness. The other tweak within the league's best was the Diamondbacks' move up another slot, putting the AL East's dynamic duo of the Red Sox and Yankees in the shade on the season's final lap.

Further down in the rankings, you'll find plenty of in-season also-rans who had their moments. The Brewers and Cardinals slipped from top-10 consideration only at the very end, while challenges by the Mariners, Royals, Rangers and Orioles all ultimately came up short, here with the voters as well as in the standings. With the season completed, the field of 30 is down to 10, and soon eight. Those excused first can get a head start on making stronger runs for top honors -- and perhaps some postseason glory -- next season.

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

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1. Cleveland Indians

Record: 102-60
Week 25 ranking: No. 1

The Indians made history with their in-season winning streak, now they just have to win 11 more games to earn the Tribe's first World Series title since 1948. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez keyed an offense that scored the Indians' most runs since the high-injection offense of the Naughty Aughties back in 2006. But the real breakthrough was on the mound, where Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer broke through with big years, joining ace Corey Kluber to give Cleveland a decisive starting pitching edge. Now the challenge is whether a rotation-enabled Indians team can surpass last season's short-staffed run to a World Series loss in seven games. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

2. Houston Astros

Record: 101-61
Week 25 ranking: No. 2

Everybody's favorite bottom-up rebuild scaled heights only one Astros team ever reached by winning 100 or more regular-season games -- just four years after losing 111 -- and the front office sent a message about its commitment to win more still by trading for Tigers ace Justin Verlander at the end of August. The team is still stocked with prime talent under club control for years yet and Verlander will be around for two more years, so there's this October's shot to win it all, and then there's a bid to build a dynasty to dominate the AL West for years to come still to come. -- Kahrl

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 104-58
Week 25 ranking: No. 3

Will the real Dodgers please stand up? The same team that got to 91-36 and invited questions of whether they'd set the all-time single-season record for wins suffered a 1-16 stumble, and their 12-6 finish came with the benefit of beating up on the hapless Giants and Padres. They'll face much better in the postseason, when their year-long roster juggling won't be a factor within the short series. Will the Dodgers' best 25 take the wild-card winners'? When any club starts from Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager, you can believe it. Now it's on Dave Roberts' team to make it real. -- Kahrl

4. Washington Nationals

Record: 97-65
Week 25 ranking: No. 4

Max Scherzer's health being in any sort of question is obviously a major issue. His availability is a necessity if the Nationals want to win Dusty Baker his first World Series (only Gene Mauch has more years managed in the World Series era with no titles). Scherzer is looking for a defining postseason moment. He has a 4.56 ERA in his past four postseason starts and the most recent memory is that he couldn't get through the seventh inning of Game 5 of last year's National League Division Series. Right now the Nationals just hope he's healthy enough to pitch in such a game. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

5. Chicago Cubs

Record: 92-70
Week 25 ranking: No. 5

Talk about adjusting your standards: Should anyone be disappointed that Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber hit "just" 91 home runs this year? Absolutely not, even in a record-setting season for home runs, and if Willson Contreras hadn't missed a month, the Cubs could have had a quartet delivering an average of 30 homers apiece. If the front office keeps them together, they're only getting started on a slugging romp that might start knocking the bricks loose in Wrigley in the years to come. -- Kahrl

6. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 93-69
Week 24 ranking: No. 7

While it's easy to note that this year's D-backs owe much to their former front office's moves -- signing ace Zack Greinke in particular -- credit first-year GM Mike Hazen's crew as well. Getting both Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte in the Segura trade with Seattle gave both the rotation and middle infield critical in-season depth, while getting J.D. Martinez from the Detroit will end up ranking among the most productive midseason deals ever after his 29 homers for Arizona. -- Kahrl

7. Boston Red Sox

Record: 93-69
Week 25 ranking: No. 6

The Sox won back-to-back division titles for the first time ever, but it's a tough road for Boston to get back to the World Series for the first time since 2013. They're +450 to reach the World Series, according to the oddsmakers, putting them third in the AL behind the Indians and Astros. They'll go on the road to Houston, where the likely Game 1 matchup will be Chris Sale in his postseason debut against a red-hot Justin Verlander. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

8. New York Yankees

Record: 91-71
Week 25 ranking: No. 8

If it feels like the Yankees arrived a bit early this year, that would be correct. The Yankees' Opening Day lineup had an average age of 29.1 years old. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, that's the youngest Opening Day lineup for a Yankees playoff team since 1976, when they were 27.8 years old. That 1976 team made it to the World Series and was swept by the Reds. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

9. Colorado Rockies

Record: 87-75
Week 25 ranking: No. 9

While Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon might split voters' sympathies for any Rockies when it comes to the MVP award, they may not be Colorado's only contenders for major hardware outside the postseason. Working with the youngest pitching staff in Rockies history (averaging 27.0 years old, lower even than the 27.1 from their expansion debut in 1993), first-year Rockies manager Bud Black steered them through a rookie-dependent rotation early while working around the absences of Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson and Chad Bettis, also using a record six different relievers in 60 or more games apiece. The 2010 NL Manager of the Year may well have earned his second such award with his deft touch with managing a pitching staff at altitude. -- Kahrl

10. Minnesota Twins

Record: 85-77
Week 25 ranking: No. 12

The Twins are headed to the American League wild-card game to face the Yankees, against whom their playoff past is not particularly encouraging. They're 2-12 all-time in the playoffs against the Yankees. But in a one-game playoff, anything can happen. With them starting Ervin Santana likely against Luis Severino, it's worth noting in the history of the wild-card game (five years), the team that starts the more-experienced starting pitcher by career starts to that point has won eight of the 10 wild-card games. The two exceptions are the 2014 Giants, who won behind a shutout from Madison Bumgarner (the Pirates started Edinson Volquez) and the 2016 Blue Jays, who started Marcus Stroman opposite Chris Tillman and won the game in extras. -- Langs

11. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 86-76
Week 25 ranking: No. 11

Yes, there's an "oh what could have been" feeling to this season, given the way it ended, but there's so much for Brewers fans to feel positive about. At the top of the list is that they have a legit MVP candidate in Travis Shaw and a potential ace in Chase Anderson, even though both are late bloomers. They also have a dominant closer in Corey Knebel, end-of-the-season results notwithstanding. The tricky thing for the Brewers is knowing what they are. If the front office feels the numbers of those three can be replicated, they can surround them with complementary talent. If not, they have some work to do, especially in their starting rotation. -- Simon

12. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 83-79
Week 25 ranking: No. 10

If you had said before the season that Tommy Pham would be a six-WAR player, you probably would have pegged the Cardinals as a playoff lock. But in the end, they were not as good as the sum of their parts. They were 24-29 in one-run games and had a penchant for blowing multiple-run leads, which had to have been demoralizing. Among their priorities for the offseason will be finding a new closer and figuring out how Dexter Fowler's defense in center field declined so dramatically. -- Simon

13. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 80-82
Week 25 ranking: No. 15

The Rays' MVP in 2017 was their defense, and that's more than just Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. They led the league in defensive runs saved, improving the caliber of their infield considerably. No team got more value out of their shifts than the Rays and a large part of that was moving Brad Miller off shortstop in favor of Tim Beckham and then Adeiny Hechavarria. Their presence also made Evan Longoria better, because it meant he had less ground to cover and could thus man his position in the manner many know he could. This team knows how to save runs, but now its issue is scoring them as the Rays ranked among the worst in the majors in runs scored. -- Simon

14. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 80-82
Week 25 ranking: No. 14

The Angels have finished below .500 in consecutive seasons for the first time under Mike Scioscia, who began managing the team in 2000. After coming up short in a run at the second wild card, they will continue to try to build around Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons, who combined for almost 14.0 WAR this season and are both under club control through 2020. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

15. Seattle Mariners

Record: 78-84
Week 25 ranking: No. 16

The Mariners haven't reached the postseason since 2001, the longest active drought in MLB. Their pitchers spent a combined 1,114 days on the disabled list this season, the most of any team. As a result, Seattle used 17 different starting pitchers, the most of any team since the 2006 Royals. -- Hembekides

16. Kansas City Royals

Record: 80-82
Week 25 ranking: No. 17

This Royals team had a fantastic run together, but with many of their core players poised to get large free-agent deals this offseason, the run is likely over. The Royals should still be a good team next year, but without all of their stars taking a hometown discount or a major infusion of talent, making the playoffs again will be a tall order. -- Bonzagni

17. Texas Rangers

Record: 78-84
Week 25 ranking: No. 13

Beyond second-guessing the Darvish trade and whether it cost the Rangers a shot at the postseason, the Rangers must now rebuild a pitching staff that ranked last in the majors in strikeout rate while also facing the prospect of losing staff ERA leader Andrew Cashner as a free agent. Can they field a winner in 2018, the last season that Adrian Beltre is under contract, or will their future be defined by slugfests and sporadic solo shots (and more frequent strikeouts) from Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor? -- Kahrl

18. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 76-86
Week 25 ranking: No. 20

The Blue Jays finished with 86 losses, their most since losing 88 games in 2013. Rebounding from that year, the Jays won nine more games in 2014 than 2013, and then made back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016. This time around, they scored just 4.3 runs per game, the second-fewest in the American League this season. -- Langs

19. Miami Marlins

Record: 77-85
Week 25 ranking: No. 19

The Marlins have finished above .500 six times in franchise history, but none since 2009. That's the season before Giancarlo Stanton debuted. But by many measures, the individual results of the 2017 Marlins can be considered successes, considering Stanton's 59 home runs, Marcell Ozuna hitting 30-plus homers with 100-plus RBIs, and Dee Gordon notching 200 hits and 60 steals for the second time in a season. -- Langs

20. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 75-87
Week 25 ranking: No. 18

When Buck Showalter took over the Orioles in 2011, they'd had a losing record in 10 of their prior 11 seasons, including six straight. They had a losing record in 2011, but then they turned it around, posting a .500-or-better record each season from 2012-16. That streak ended this season, but will it usher in major changes this winter? -- Langs

21. Oakland Athletics

Record: 75-87
Week 25 ranking: No. 21

Slugging feats from Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman may have propelled the A's to a top-four finish in home runs, but that was in a homeriffic season. Perhaps the most promising development in the A's strong second half (36-37) was their improvement from MLB's worst defense via defensive runs saved to posting positive numbers after the break. Their young pitching staff didn't make progress, but better defensive help could help them turn the corner. One big offseason question about that defense: Should Marcus Semien stay at shortstop? -- Kahrl

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 75-87
Week 25 ranking: No. 23

There are two huge questions for the Pirates this offseason: which direction will Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole go? Marte looked like something closer to his old self at season's end (.312/.363/.442 in his last 39 games) and not like the player who was hitting .239 on Aug. 13. Though it is interesting (given his PED suspension) that his hard-hit rate dropped to just 9 percent in this hot stretch. Cole was largely inconsistent. His home run rate tripled from two seasons ago. A 2.74 ERA over a seven-start stretch in July and early August was followed by a 5.04 ERA in his last nine starts. -- Simon

23. Atlanta Braves

Record: 72-90
Week 25 ranking: No. 22

This offseason, the Braves need to add some power to their lineup. They were top-five in batting average in the NL in 2017, but bottom-five in homers, extra-base hits and runs scored. Shoring up the bullpen should also be a major priority. If they can do that, and if Julio Teheran gets back to his 2016 form, they could challenge for a wild-card spot next season. -- Bonzagni

24. New York Mets

Record: 70-92
Week 25 ranking: No. 26

Here's a simple and ugly way to sum up the Mets' season. Of their top eight pitchers in games started, seven had an ERA of at least 5.00. From that end, this season was a debacle defined by injuries and bad decisions, which often went hand-in-hand, but at least Noah Syndergaard now knows the importance of MRIs. The 2018 Mets are a team in need of certainty and a front office/on-field staff that are in sync on how to best get through to younger players, particularly a pitching staff whose confidence has gone from sky-high to significantly shaken. -- Simon

25. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 68-94
Week 25 ranking: No. 25

The Reds have lost at least 90 games in three consecutive seasons for the first time since doing so in five straight years from 1930-1934. They did so even as Joey Votto led the National League in OBP for the sixth time in the past eight seasons, joining Barry Bonds and Rogers Hornsby as the only players to accomplish that feat. -- Hembekides

26. San Diego Padres

Record: 71-91
Week 25 ranking: No. 24

The Padres didn't have high expectations coming into the season, so it's tough to call this year a disappointment. They're stuck in the best division in baseball, and it seems like the Dodgers, D-backs and Rockies should be good teams for the foreseeable future. On top of that, the Giants have the resources to turn things around after a dreadful 2017. Their long-term rebuild faces a steep slope as far as a return to contention. -- Bonzagni

27. Chicago White Sox

Record: 67-95
Week 25 ranking: No. 28

The White Sox posted their worst record since 2013 and drew their lowest attendance since 1999, but a few bright spots emerged. Avisail Garcia enjoyed a breakout season, posting the best batting average (.330) of any White Sox player since Frank Thomas in 1997. Rookie Lucas Giolito allowed two runs or fewer in five of his seven starts and looks poised to anchor what will likely be among the youngest rotations in MLB next season. -- Hembekides

28. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 66-96
Week 25 ranking: No. 27

The Phillies announced last week that Pete Mackanin would not return as manager in 2018, despite the team's second-half improvement. Philadelphia went 37-38 in the second half after entering the All-Star break with the worst record in MLB (29-58). Rhys Hoskins hit 18 home runs as a rookie, the most by any player in any season to play 50 or fewer games. -- Hembekides

29. San Francisco Giants

Record: 64-98
Week 25 ranking: No. 29

A 98-loss season was not the follow-up to an NLDS loss that the Giants were hoping for. That many defeats tied with the Giants' 1943 season for second-most in franchise history. They avoided the ignominy of 100 losses, which has happened just once in their history (1985). This is the first time since 2007 that the Giants finished in last place in the NL West; 2007 was manager Bruce Bochy's first season with the Giants, and Barry Bonds' last, a year that transitioned from Bonds to Tim Lincecum. Perhaps this season will mark a transition to another new phase of Giants baseball. -- Langs

30. Detroit Tigers

Record: 64-98
Week 25 ranking: No. 30

The rebuild is on in Detroit, and it has been a long time in the making. GM Al Avila managed to replenish a depleted farm system and get a lot of money off the books, but don't be surprised if the Tigers continue to be active in the trade market this offseason. It might be a rough couple of years on the field for Detroit, but if we learned anything from the Astros, things will turn around if you stick with a plan. -- Bonzagni