MLB Power Rankings Week 20: Where every team stands in the last week of August

Nick Castellanos, Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Canha ESPN

The dominance of the Dodgers has continued as we enter the last week of August, with Los Angeles on pace for 112-plus wins on the season.

In the battle of New York, the Yankees showed signs of life by sweeping the Mets in a two-game series, though the Astros still have a healthy three-game lead over them for the top spot in the American League. The Mets, meanwhile, will turn to the division race and attempt to lock up the title over the surging Braves.

Things are also beginning to heat up in St. Louis, as Albert Pujols tries to reach 700 career home runs, Paul Goldschmidt vies for the elusive Triple Crown title and the Cardinals jockey for a division title for the second time since 2015.

Where do all these top teams stand before the fight for a postseason berth really ramps up in September?

Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we've seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Jesse Rogers, Joon Lee and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 19 | Second-half preview | Preseason rankings

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 85-37

Previous ranking: 1

There's hot, and then there's the current Dodgers. Coming off a 10-1 victory over Corbin Burnes and the Brewers on Tuesday, they put their run differential at plus-100 for the second half. They're an astounding 39-9 since the start of July, have won 18 of 22 games this month, and their magic number to clinch a division title is already just 19. The Dodgers, with an eight-game lead* the No. 1 seed in the National League, have to go only 14-25 the rest of the way to secure 100 wins. To tie the regular-season record of 116 wins, set by the 2001 Mariners and the 1906 Cubs, they have to go 30-9. Unlikely, but not necessarily out of reach for this team. -- Alden Gonzalez

2. Houston Astros

Record: 79-45

Previous ranking: 2

Rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena has enjoyed an excellent debut season in the aggregate, but after establishing himself as a Rookie of the Year candidate early, Pena has gradually slid behind several other rookies. His defense has remained steady, and with Houston featuring so much offense around him, perhaps that's good enough. At the All-Star break, he ranked fourth among shortstops with minus-eight defensive runs saved. That figure is now minus-12, and he's still fourth among shortstops. The offense, however, has fallen off badly behind an over-aggressive approach. Pena is hitting just .224/.259/.366 since June 1. His chase rate for the season ranks in the top 20 among 145 qualified hitters. It's been an exciting debut for Pena, but he still has work left to do. -- Bradford Doolittle

3. New York Mets

Record: 79-46

Previous ranking: 3

The two-game sweep at Yankee Stadium hurt, but of their next 23 games, 20 of them are against losing teams (the exception being three games at home against the Dodgers). How about Francisco Lindor in the MVP discussion? OK, it's tough to look at anyone other than Goldschmidt right now, but Lindor is seventh in the NL in WAR. He's missed just one game and has hit .318 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs since the beginning of July. He's on pace to drive in 100 runs for the first time in his career. Finally, Jacob deGrom through his first four starts has 37 strikeouts, one walk and .138 average allowed. Alas, the Mets are just 2-2 in his starts. -- David Schoenfield

4. Atlanta Braves

Record: 77-48

Previous ranking: 5

Have they built the Vaughn Grissom statue yet at Truist Park? In his first 14 games, the 21-year-old rookie hit .420/.463/.660 with three home runs, 10 RBIs and 14 runs. The Braves went 12-2 in those games. He's the 31st player in the wild-card era (since 1995) to hit .400 through his first 14 games (minimum 40 plate appearances) -- a list that includes Pujols and Corey Seager, as well as Jeff Francoeur, who did it for the Braves in 2005 (and many others you haven't heard of). It will be interesting to see what the Braves do with Grissom once Ozzie Albies returns. He has started taking batting practice as he returns from his broken foot. -- Schoenfield

5. New York Yankees

Record: 76-48

Previous ranking: 4

There's hope once again in New York. The Yankees are inching away from the panic button after winning three straight games with a victory against the division-rival Blue Jays and two against the Subway Series-rival Mets. Aaron Judge continued his home run tear against the Mets, hitting two moon shots in two games. As the Yankees slowly come back to health with the return of Giancarlo Stanton imminent, Judge will need to be a consistent force in the lineup. -- Joon Lee

6. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 71-52

Previous ranking: 6

The Cardinals roared into first place and haven't looked back, extending their lead over the Brewers in the NL Central to five games. Goldschmidt might be the season's MVP, but Pujols' chase for 700 career home runs is the story in baseball this month. The two players shared player of the week honors as the latter one hit .526 with four home runs. St. Louis pitching produced a 1.80 ERA over a seven-day span through Tuesday. Add it all up, and it equals a seven-game win streak. -- Jesse Rogers

7. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 66-55

Previous ranking: 9

The Blue Jays are slowly making their way back into contention after weeks of struggling, playing well against the Yankees and Red Sox. The offense is starting to find some consistency, with pitchers like Ross Stripling stepping up while the team moved struggling starter Yusei Kikuchi to the bullpen. If Toronto catches fire at the right time, it will be a force to be reckoned with in October. -- Lee

8. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 67-55

Previous ranking: 11

Tyler Glasnow could be returning to Tampa Bay sooner than later as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, making him an addition that could push this deep Rays team into the World Series conversation, especially as players like Wander Franco and Manuel Margot come back from the injured list. The Rays activated Margot, but Franco experienced a setback in his rehab assignment, leaving Tampa Bay to eagerly await his return to the lineup. -- Lee

9. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 68-55

Previous ranking: 8

Rookie Bryson Stott's overall stat line doesn't impress, but after playing sporadically the first two months of the season (and hitting .123), he's pretty much been in there every day since the beginning of June and has hit .261/.321/.424 since June 1. The former first-round pick is now the regular shortstop after the release of Didi Gregorius and is certainly a defensive upgrade. He looks like the long-term solution at a position the Phillies had struggled to fill since the end of the Jimmy Rollins era in 2014. -- Schoenfield

10. San Diego Padres

Record: 68-57

Previous ranking: 7

Padres players received what they described as some much-needed clarity on Tuesday, when Fernando Tatis Jr. spoke to them about his positive test for a performance-enhancing substance. The thought was that this might allow the Padres the closure to move on and get in gear. That's the hope, at least. The lineup, now certain to be without Tatis for the full season, has yet to click in the wake of general manager A.J. Preller's impressive additions before the trade deadline. The Padres have scored three runs or less in eight of their past nine games. And now Juan Soto is dealing with a back issue. -- Gonzalez

11. Seattle Mariners

Record: 67-56

Previous ranking: 10

As the Mariners battle for the wild card, the offense continues to struggle to score runs. Two keys: Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford. Santana is starting to lose some playing time, and it feels like the best Seattle lineup has Jesse Winker at DH (his left-field defense is absolutely atrocious) and Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore platooning in left field. Crawford had a huge April, but has an OPS under .600 since then and rarely drives the ball (one home run in his past 89 games). Still, he's batted fifth or sixth much of the time in August, and while he takes some walks and puts the ball in play, it's probably time to move him down in the order. -- Schoenfield

12. Cleveland Guardians

Record: 65-56

Previous ranking: 13

Steven Kwan began the season as the newest sensation in baseball after going 10-for-15 over his first five big league games. By the end of the first week in June, it seemed as if the league had quickly figured Kwan out, as he hit .197 over 36 games, dropping his season average to .248. But if you forgot about Kwan, it's time to remember him, as he's not just re-adjusted to the game's highest level. In many ways, he has come to typify the young Guardians with his defense and wizardry with the bat. Since that .248 low point, Kwan has hit .323/.385/.413 over 68 games with strong defensive metrics. Kwan isn't likely to catch Seattle's Julio Rodriguez or Baltimore's Adley Rutschman in the AL's Rookie of the Year race, but he may have cemented himself as a strong No. 3. -- Doolittle

13. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 65-57

Previous ranking: 12

Milwaukee has been in a bit of a free fall. Losing two of three to the Cubs over the weekend didn't help matters. The backend of the pen has been shaky while the offense continues to wobble as well. Lefty Eric Lauer is at least doing his part to keep the Brewers in the playoff race with a strong month that included a five-inning shutout performance against the Dodgers on Monday. That helped lower his ERA to 2.16 in August. -- Rogers

14. Minnesota Twins

Record: 62-59

Previous ranking: 14

As the Twins' season has slowly unraveled, there has been increasing scrutiny on an offense that was expected to power a Minnesota return to contention. Between injuries and underperformance, the attack has fallen short, and this has led to a spotlight on the so-so season by high-priced acquisition Carlos Correa.

In reality, this is a representative season for Correa, even as we assume that his ceiling in any given season is MVP candidacy. He's struggled with injuries, which is nothing new, but his 125 OPS+ is only six points shy of the 131 he put up for the Astros in 2021. His defensive metrics are positive but down from his Platinum Glove campaign a season ago, and he's on pace to post around 4.4 WAR. Not bad, but for $35.1 million, the Twins were hoping for something closer to that MVP ceiling. -- Doolittle

15. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 64-58

Previous ranking: 15

Gunnar Henderson's arrival in Baltimore appears to be impending as the young Orioles have nothing to lose this year, exceeding all expectations. The team is just a few games out of a playoff spot even after the trades of Trey Mancini and Jorge Lopez at the deadline, leaving Baltimore looking up at just the Rays, Mariners and Blue Jays in the wild-card race. Henderson could be the spark that brings Baltimore over the top as it tries to make a push for October. -- Lee

16. Chicago White Sox

Record: 62-61

Previous ranking: 17

In dire need of middle infield help in the wake of Tim Anderson's injury, the White Sox passed on veterans Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons when they hit the market, but moved quickly to pick up Elvis Andrus when he was set adrift by Oakland. Andrus, who turns 34 this weekend, put up a 97 OPS+ with minus-6 defensive runs saved during his final season with the Athletics.

One interesting aspect of the acquisition is the question of what happens to Andrus when Anderson returns. He has appeared in 1,877 games in the field as a big leaguer and has never appeared at a defensive position other than shortstop. Still, with the White Sox clinging to hopes of a spirited finish even as core players like Anderson, Yasmani Grandal and Michael Kopech keep hitting the injured list, that's an issue manager Tony La Russa will worry about later. -- Doolittle

17. San Francisco Giants

Record: 61-61

Previous ranking: 16

The Giants have basically been treading water this month and still find themselves within reasonable distance of the final wild-card spot in the NL. But their playoff odds are down to just 2.9%, and this season can't be looked upon as anything other than a disappointment. The question, long term, is whether the Giants simply underperformed, or if they regressed to the mean after a 107-win 2021 season that surprised many outsiders. Mike Yastrzemski, in particular, is someone who warrants close examination. The 32-year-old outfielder broke out during the COVID-19-shortened season and looked like a fixture in their next phase, but he produced an adjusted OPS of only 106 last season and is batting only .211/.310/.377 in 2022. The only qualified hitter with a lower OPS in the second half has been Myles Straw. -- Gonzalez

18. Boston Red Sox

Record: 60-63

Previous ranking: 18

The injuries keep holding this Boston team back, with Enrique Hernandez, Trevor Story and Chris Sale all out. Nathan Eovaldi and Eric Hosmer also both hit the injured list, so Boston's playoff hopes for the season are fading quickly. Things have gotten bad enough that Bobby Dalbec is playing shortstop. The energy is low in Boston right now, even without the question of what will happen to Xander Bogaerts looming over the future of the club. -- Lee

19. Texas Rangers

Record: 56-67

Previous ranking: 19

Did the Rangers get a boost from their managerial change? Texas had one of its better series wins of the year under interim manager Tony Beasley when it won three of four on the road in Minnesota over the weekend. Pitching was the name of the game for the Rangers as they gave up a total of just six runs in the series. That success on the mound helped them to a 5-2 over the past seven games while compiling a 2.18 ERA. -- Rogers

20. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 56-66

Previous ranking: 20

The D-backs are navigating another forgettable season, but Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen continue to be bright spots, combining to go 6-0 with a 1.27 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP and a 4.19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 85 innings since the All-Star break. Gallen and Kelly, the latter of whom pitched six scoreless innings in Wednesday's loss to the Royals, are both on the books through 2025 and have solidified themselves as solid rotational building blocks for the foreseeable future. -- Gonzalez

21. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 52-71

Previous ranking: 22

Arte Moreno announced his plans to potentially sell the team on Tuesday, near the end of his 20th year as the Angels' owner. The hope is that a fresh face could correct some of the flaws in Moreno's ownership tenure -- namely, according to various people throughout the industry who have spoken on the subject in recent years: meddling in baseball-operations decisions, most notably for high-priced contracts that have backfired; refusing to exceed the luxury-tax threshold; and not placing enough importance on putting the proper infrastructure in place to maximize scouting and player development.

To his credit, Moreno's teams were always within the top 10 in payroll. But those aforementioned issues are pointed to by many as the reason the Angels are already close to clinching their seventh consecutive losing season -- with no clear path to immediate contention in sight. -- Gonzalez

22. Miami Marlins

Record: 54-69

Previous ranking: 24

Not that the disappointing season is manager Don Mattingly's fault, but given that his contract is up and that the only winning and playoff season in seven years as manager came in the shortened 2020 season, it's starting to feel more and more likely that the Marlins will have a new manager for 2023. It's also fair to point out that young hitters simply haven't developed under Mattingly, as the offense continues to be a problem (14th in the NL in runs, last in walks, 13th in batting average). -- Schoenfield

23. Chicago Cubs

Record: 53-70

Previous ranking: 21

Chicago pitching has been outstanding since the All-Star break, compiling the second lowest ERA in baseball behind the mighty Dodgers. Lefty Justin Steele is making a name for himself after recording nine or more strikeouts in three consecutive home starts -- only the third lefty to ever do that at Wrigley Field. The other two hurlers? Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson. Steele has a 3.25 ERA in 23 starts as he's established himself in the league. -- Rogers

24. Colorado Rockies

Record: 54-70

Previous ranking: 23

Rockies first baseman C.J. Cron got off to a blistering start, the type that earned him an invitation to the All-Star Game. But his bat has noticeably slowed ever since, producing only a .177/.231/.319 slash line in the second half. In the midst of that, the Rockies have gone 11-21. They have other, bigger problems, of course, as Wednesday's 16-4 loss to the Rangers exemplified. -- Gonzalez

25. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 48-73

Previous ranking: 26

Even when Cincinnati gets a good outing out from a starter, it seems to go bad. On Monday, lefty Nick Lodolo took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Phillies only to give up four runs that inning before being knocked out. The Reds' 1-0 shutout by Lodolo a week ago -- a game that didn't get away -- seems like a distant memory as their staff compiled a 4.22 ERA since last Wednesday. -- Rogers

26. Kansas City Royals

Record: 50-75

Previous ranking: 25

It hasn't been that long since prospect hounds would debate about who the centerfielder of the future might be for the Braves. Cristian Pache or Drew Waters? Pache was the better glove, so maybe he sticks in center with Waters sliding over to left. Well, the answer to Pache or Waters is ... neither. Pache was dealt to Oakland over the offseason, Michael Harris II just signed a $72 million contract to be the Braves' center fielder of the present and future, and Waters just made his big league debut for the Royals.

Waters, picked up midseason for a compensatory draft choice (No. 35 in the recent draft), drove in the winning run against the White Sox on Monday with a bases-loaded walk. After posting a .698 for the Braves' Triple-A team, he boosted that to .940 after the trade, playing for the Royals Triple-A club in the same circuit. -- Doolittle

27. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 47-76

Previous ranking: 27

The Pirates and Reds are trading turns in last place in the NL Central as Pittsbugh has had issues with pitching lately. The Pirates' staff gave up 23 runs in a weekend series loss to the Reds. It's no wonder the team ERA ranked 27th over the past week as both its rotation and bullpen struggled. You know things are going bad when the Pirates lose 1-10 to Mike Minor of the Reds. Of course, Zach Thompson was on the losing end of that game, dropping him to an almost equally bad mark of 3-10 with a 5.51 ERA. -- Rogers

28. Detroit Tigers

Record: 47-77

Previous ranking: 28

The match between Tigers free-agent prize Javier Baez and Comerica Park appears to be a match made, well, let's just say it's not in heaven. Consider this slash line: .262/.300/.467. Baez has done better, but that's not bad, especially for a shortstop. Unfortunately, that's just what Baez has done on the road. At Comerica, Baez has hit a frightening .180/.229/.258 over 210 plate appearances. That's almost pitcher-hitting territory. Baez's .486 home OPS is the worst in Tigers home history among players with at least 200 plate appearances in the Motor City. Since 2000, when Comerica Park opened, the lowest such figure was the .565 OPS posted by James McCann in 2018. -- Doolittle

29. Oakland Athletics

Record: 45-79

Previous ranking: 29

The quest to keep the Athletics in Oakland seems to be a losing one as more reports emerge about the ownership group's interest in Las Vegas. Billionaire hotel magnate Phil Ruffin met with A's leadership, and negotiations seem to be gaining steam, with MLB seeking around $275 million to fund a new stadium. Last week, the Athletics drew 2,630 fans against the Marlins. -- Lee

30. Washington Nationals

Record: 41-83

Previous ranking: 30

A feel-good story for the Nats has been 30-year-old rookie Joey Meneses, who was called up after Josh Bell was traded and has provided some pop his first three weeks in the majors while hitting over .300. Originally signed by the Braves in 2011 out of Mexico, he also spent time with the Phillies, Red Sox and overseas in Japan. He's not really a building block for the future, but it's fun watching a guy like this take advantage of his cup of coffee and, who knows, maybe he'll get a shot next season if he keeps hitting. -- Schoenfield