Power Rankings: How far can first-half surprise teams rise?

At the midseason break, we can't be too surprised to see that the Dodgers check in at No. 1. Not only did they get four of five first-place votes, they've polled at No. 1 in each of the past six weeks, and in the top slot in 10 of 14 weeks during the regular season. The only other team to rank at No. 1 since Opening Day is the Astros, with the Yankees -- recipients of a first-place vote this week -- ranking as the club most likely to break up those two teams' stranglehold on the top slot in our Power Rankings.

That isn't very surprising, but several teams put up numbers in the first half that provided a significant surprise, so as we take a breather from regular-season action, we should credit them. The biggest surprise has been the Rangers, who were ranked No. 25 during our preseason poll but have cracked the top 10 and reach the break at No. 13. They're a surprise challenge for an American League wild-card slot. And just as big a surprise might be the Twins, ranked No. 17 in our preseason polling but leading the AL Central race and clocking in at No. 4, having jockeyed around in the top five for the past nine weeks. And you can add the low-budget Rays to this group. They were ranked No. 13 before the season but are at No. 6, having gotten as high as No. 2 in three different votes.

In contrast, some teams might be the other kind of surprise. The Cubs were among the week's biggest losers in the voting, falling three spots down to No. 10, second only to the drop of the Rockies, who fell four spots. This week's big gains were made by the Indians, who moved up four spots to return to the top 10. The Nationals' big rebound also continued, as they moved up another three spots to almost reach the top 10.

For Week 14, our panel of voters was composed of Bradford Doolittle, Christina Kahrl, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian and David Schoenfield.

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1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2019 record: 60-32
Week 13 ranking: 1

It's good to see Max Muncy named as a replacement on the All-Star team, after he just missed last season (he participated in the Home Run Derby). Entering the break, he ranked 12th among National League position players in FanGraphs WAR and fifth in Baseball-Reference WAR. His versatility remains a huge key, as he has started at least 19 games at second base, first base and third base. -- David Schoenfield

ICYMI: Sizing up the Dodgers' place in the standings

2. New York Yankees

2019 record: 57-31
Week 13 ranking: 2

Domingo German had a promising return from the injured list, allowing one run with no walks and six strikeouts in six innings in a win over the Mets. That helps the rotation depth, but the Yankees might look to trade for a starter. The rotation ranks sixth in the American League with a 4.22 ERA and seventh in wOBA allowed. -- Schoenfield

ICYMI: Sabathia invited to All-Star Game

3. Houston Astros

2019 record: 57-33
Week 13 ranking: 4

The Astros' pitching staff has had a rough month, mostly a result of injuries. There also has been a strange flip-flop in performance between Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. Cole had a 4.11 ERA through 11 starts, roughly coinciding with Verlander's 2.16 start over 13 outings. Since then, Cole has been a lights-out 2.05 while Verlander has slumped to 4.81. The scary thought: What happens when (or if) Houston's staff gets healthy and the dominant versions of Cole and Verlander show up at the same time? -- Bradford Doolittle

ICYMI: Why Alex Bregman could win the HR Derby

4. Minnesota Twins

2019 record: 56-33
Week 13 ranking: 3

While an impressive offensive showing has keyed Minnesota's fantastic first half, ace Jose Berrios deserves credit as well. Not only is Berrios, 25, on his way to his second consecutive All-Star Game, but in a season with offense up across the league, he has shaved nearly a run off his 2018 ERA, with a greatly reduced walk rate. Berrios has pitched more aggressively, worried less about strikeouts, and improved his efficiency. He should get some AL Cy Young votes, too. -- Eric Karabell

ICYMI: How the Twins built their best team everInsider

5. Atlanta Braves

2019 record: 54-37
Week 13 ranking: 5

Freddie Freeman completes a monster first half at .309/.394/.584 with 23 home runs and 68 RBIs. He already has matched his home run total from 2018 and should be a lock to pass his career high of 34 set in 2016 (the only season he has reached 30). He'll be heading to his fourth All-Star Game and second straight start at first base. -- Schoenfield

ICYMI: Prospect Pache has future All-Star upsideInsider

6. Tampa Bay Rays

2019 record: 52-39
Week 13 ranking: 6

It wasn't that long ago that the Rays held a sizable lead over every other club in the majors in team ERA. That number keeps rising, though, and just as Tampa Bay has slid back into the pack of wild-card hopefuls in the AL, so too has the run prevention regressed. As the team that puts more emphasis on its bullpen than any other, by definition the Rays are more dependent upon depth. But their well of arms has run dry of late. With reliever Jose Alvarado out for the near term with an oblique injury, the nontraditional Rays might hit the trade season with a decidedly traditional need: a starting pitcher who can at least soak up some innings. -- Doolittle

ICYMI: Rays' Lowe out of ASG, replaced by Yanks' Torres

7. Boston Red Sox

2019 record: 49-41
Week 13 ranking: 8

With Xander Bogaerts added as a replacement to the All-Star Game, the best player based on first-half stats not to make it in either league is probably Rafael Devers. He's also one of the most improved hitters in the game, cutting his strikeout rate from 24.7% to 15.9% while hitting more line drives and fewer pop-ups. If he can improve his chase rate, the 22-year-old could become one of the game's elite hitters and enjoy many All-Star trips in the future. -- Schoenfield

ICYMI: Eovaldi to pitch in relief when back from IL

8. Oakland Athletics

2019 record: 50-41
Week 13 ranking: 9

With the announcement that Matt Chapman, the A's home run leader this season, is replacing Christian Yelich in the Home Run Derby, it's worth noting that at some point you'd expect Khris Davis or Matt Olson will get into the Derby at some point in the future. From 2017 to 2019, Davis ranks eighth in the majors in home run percentage and Olson 11th, and Davis leads baseball in home runs over that time with 107. -- Kahrl

ICYMI: A's land top July 2 international prospectInsider

9. Cleveland Indians

2019 record: 50-38
Week 13 ranking: 13

He may be 33 years old, but Carlos Santana is having a career year in just about every measure, checking in at the break with career-best rates in average, OBP and slugging. The switch-hitter is putting up a .400 wOBA from both sides of the plate while ranking second in the AL (.400), only behind some guy named Trout. The one mark he might struggle to reach is a career high in home runs; he'll need 16 in the second half to get there. -- Kahrl

ICYMI: Carrasco being treated for leukemia

10. Chicago Cubs

2019 record: 47-43
Week 13 ranking: 7

The addition of Craig Kimbrel has done little to clear up the general malaise surrounding the Cubs. Kimbrel will hopefully continue to ramp up from his late start, but his stuff hasn't been Kimbrel-like so far. According to Statcast, his working four-seamer velocity is down two full clicks over his career norms and batters have taken advantage: He's allowing an average 94.8 mph in exit velocity. Opponents have barreled 36.4 percent of Kimbrel's offerings -- six times the big league average. There's nowhere to go but up for the decade's best reliever. -- Doolittle

ICYMI: Now what? Back-to-back meetings produce back-to-back losses

11. Washington Nationals

2019 record: 47-42
Week 13 ranking: 14

A strong finish for the Nats heading into the break, as they cleaned up on cellar dwellars, going 10-2 against the Marlins (6-0), Tigers (2-1) and Royals (2-1). They held those weak-hitting offenses to two or fewer runs in eight of the 12 games. Max Scherzer over his past nine starts: 7-0, 64 IP, 40 H, 9 BB, 94 SO, 3 HR, 0.84 ERA. Unfortunately, he won't pitch in the All-Star Game because of back stiffness (although he should make his next start). -- Schoenfield

ICYMI: Scherzer out of All-Star Game with back injury

12. Milwaukee Brewers

2019 record: 47-44
Week 13 ranking: 12

The Brewers' offense has become a problem, with an attack abundant with patient power hitters short on contact hitting to balance it out. Milwaukee has hit .224 over the past four weeks, partly a result of bad ball-in-play luck and partly because there are just too many strikeouts in the lineup. It will be interesting to see if recently recalled shortstop prospect Mauricio Dubon, a career .301 hitter in the minors, can have an outsized impact on the Brewers' offense. But if he does, can Milwaukee's average-ish defense do without a full-time presence from no-hit regular Orlando Arcia? -- Doolittle

ICYMI: Cannonball! Yelich pelts boats in Derby practice

13. Texas Rangers

2019 record: 48-42
Week 13 ranking: 10

Scoring runs has not been much of a problem, but getting second base production has. Rougned Odor is striking out a career-high rate and showing few signs of returning to stardom or even his 2018 stats, which featured a .253 batting average and career-best .326 on-base percentage. One replacement option could be Willie Calhoun, a second baseman in the minors who has been working out at his old position. The Rangers have outfield depth, and Calhoun might be the answer at second base. -- Karabell

14. St. Louis Cardinals

2019 record: 44-44
Week 13 ranking: 16

Injuries to Jordan Hicks, Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina during the past two weeks have set the Cardinals back, and they had only one player earn more than 2.0 WAR in the season's first half: All-Star Paul DeJong (2.7). They joined the Giants (0), Mariners (0) and Blue Jays (1) as the only teams that can claim that few or fewer. Despite this, the team didn't lose ground in the playoff race during that two-week span. -- Cockcroft

ICYMI: Cards play it safe, put Carpenter back on IL

15. Colorado Rockies

2019 record: 44-45
Week 13 ranking: 11

A five-game losing streak knocked the Rockies from a share of the lead for the NL wild card to two games back, and the team's offense, which has struggled mightily on the road all year, was a big reason. This team has the majors' worst wOBA (.279), OPS (.655) and strikeout rate (28.0% of their trips to the plate) in road games for the season. All-Star Charlie Blackmon, a .233/.267/.378 road hitter in 2019, has the majors' widest home/road wOBA split of any batting title-eligible hitter. -- Cockcroft

16. Philadelphia Phillies

2019 record: 47-43
Week 13 ranking: 15

The Phillies continue to permit a startling number of home runs and could sail past the National League record ... before September! Last season's Phillies allowed 171 home runs; only six big league teams allowed fewer. The current Phillies could pass that mark later this month. Blame Bryce Harper all you like, but with six Phillies having already given up double-digit home runs -- matching the team's 2018 total -- it is the pitching staff that has been a bigger issue. -- Karabell

ICYMI: How many teams are still in the postseason race?

17. Cincinnati Reds

2019 record: 41-46
Week 13 ranking: 19

A key series win against the Brewers at one point during the past week brought the Reds within 3.5 games of first place, their narrowest margin since April 11, and it gave the team either a series win or split against every divisional opponent since April 26-28 (15-10 record in those games since). Sonny Gray's eight-shutout-inning masterpiece last Monday set the pace for the Reds' pitching, as the team now has won five consecutive (and eight of the past nine) starts by the National League All-Star. -- Cockcroft

18. Arizona Diamondbacks

2019 record: 46-45
Week 13 ranking: 17

Arizona has been maddeningly streaky, complicating the problem of how to evaluate the odds of a wild-card push. Like 80% of the National League, the Snakes remain within spitting distance of a postseason slot, though their path has been pockmarked by inconsistency. This may simply be the consequence of a lack of depth. The Diamondbacks' drop-off from their top three healthy starters is dramatic, and as their key bullpen arms struggle, the team hasn't been able to cycle in quality options to fend off losing skids. -- Doolittle

19. Los Angeles Angels

2019 record: 45-46
Week 13 ranking: 18

With All-Star infielder Tommy La Stella out for the next two months with a fractured tibia, the Angels promoted prospect Matt Thaiss and should give him a chance at regular playing time at third base. Thaiss, a first-round pick in the 2016 draft from the University of Virginia, is a patient, left-handed hitter with emerging power. La Stella, of course, was providing far more power than expected, but perhaps Thaiss can help mitigate his absence. -- Karabell

ICYMI: Heaney honors Skaggs with first pitch

20. Pittsburgh Pirates

2019 record: 44-45
Week 13 ranking: 21

Josh Bell continued to lead the Pirates' surprisingly potent offense into the break, with the team winning 13 of its final 20 first-half contests to pick up 5.5 games in the standings. Bell concluded the half as the majors' leader in RBIs (84), tied for fourth best in home runs (27) and one of only three hitters with at least a .300 batting average and 25 homers (joining Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich). -- Cockcroft

ICYMI: Why Josh Bell will win the HR Derby

21. San Diego Padres

2019 record: 45-45
Week 13 ranking: 20

Buyers or sellers? That is the question. The Padres entered the break only 2.5 games back in the NL wild-card race, but that was with a record that placed them one game beneath .500. The answer might come quickly once the games resume, as the Padres are set to play six of their first nine games of the second half against teams ahead of them in the standings. -- Cockcroft

22. Chicago White Sox

2019 record: 42-44
Week 13 ranking: 22

Being a White Sox fan the past couple of years means that even as you watch your team for any signs of sustainable hope, you also have to keep an eye on who is advancing through the minor league system. With Friday's news that center fielder Luis Robert will move on to Triple-A Charlotte after the Futures Game, Chicago's future puzzle gradually falls into place. Robert is just one of Chicago's outfield prospects, joining big league rookie Eloy Jimenez and fellow prospects Luis Alexander Basabe, Blake Rutherford, Micker Adolfo and others. That's a good thing because since 2017, roughly the start of this rebuild, the White Sox outfield ranks 28th in the majors with 4.2 WAR. -- Doolittle

23. New York Mets

2019 record: 40-50
Week 13 ranking: 23

While many of the team's offseason moves have not exactly panned out, at least catcher Wilson Ramos continues to hit. Ramos, who signed a two-year contract with a team option for 2021, could threaten his career bests in games, home runs and runs batted in, and should easily get there in walks. Ramos did not get much love in the NL All-Star voting, but he has delivered a solid half-season. -- Karabell

ICYMI: Mets host Seinfeld bobblehead night

24. San Francisco Giants

2019 record: 41-48
Week 13 ranking: 24

Manager Bruce Bochy's last season in the dugout hasn't been packed with Giants highlights, but a stronger performance since May (19-14) has almost evened his career record in San Francisco at 1016-1017. That may be hard to sustain in the second half, however, with the Giants facing a trade deadline that should initiate the rebuilding cycle on general manager Farhan Zaidi's watch. Wherever Bochy's record winds up, though, he should be Cooperstown-bound. -- Kahrl

25. Seattle Mariners

2019 record: 39-55
Week 13 ranking: 25

Here's a bright spot: Mariners catchers are hitting a combined .282/.346/.496 heading into Sunday, ranking fourth in the majors with 21 home runs while driving in 52 runs. Another bright spot: Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn are making the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz trade look good, as both players represented the Mariners at Sunday's Futures Game. Kelenic already has 15 home runs in A-ball -- he said his goal before the season was more like 10 home runs -- while Dunn has a 3.82 ERA at Double-A with a 96 K's in 75⅓ innings. -- Schoenfield

26. Toronto Blue Jays

2019 record: 34-57
Week 13 ranking: 27

Though the Blue Jays entered the All-Star break with the majors' fourth-worst record (34-57), there were some first-half bright spots: Rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will represent the team in the Home Run Derby. Second-year player Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is a .336/.386/.697 hitter with 12 home runs in his past 30 games. And rookie catcher Danny Jansen, who struggled to the tune of a .170 batting average and .498 OPS through his first 57 games of the season, has batted .405/.421/1.027 with six home runs in his past 10 contests. -- Cockcroft

27. Miami Marlins

2019 record: 33-55
Week 13 ranking: 26

The still-rebuilding Marlins will need to be aggressive at the trade deadline to add anything of real value. Veterans such as Neil Walker or Sergio Romo might not garner more than Grade D prospects (if that) from contenders willing to settle. But the best Fish talents -- Brian Anderson and Jorge Alfaro in the lineup, or Caleb Smith and Trevor Richards in the rotation -- are already in the 26-27 age range, which doesn't suggest they'll be around for the next good Miami team. If they're on the block, Miami can be a deadline player. -- Kahrl

28. Kansas City Royals

2019 record: 30-61
Week 13 ranking: 28

After several underwhelming seasons featuring a sub-.700 OPS, franchise icon Alex Gordon surged to such a great start in 2019, hitting .301 with five home runs and a .939 OPS through April. However, Gordon could not keep it going, hitting a combined .263 with just five more home runs the next two months. With the Royals in rebuild mode, Gordon might be attractive to another franchise, or he might want to stay and retire a Royal. The next few weeks should be interesting. -- Karabell

29. Detroit Tigers

2019 record: 28-57
Week 13 ranking: 29

As bleak as the season has been so far, the Kitties reach the back end of the 2019 season with some major questions yet to be answered. Can Christin Stewart and Jeimer Candelario have strong second halves to settle into their lineup slots? Will JaCoby Jones build on a nice first half? And with closer Shane Greene's value at its highest, can GM Al Avila get maximum value for him at the trade deadline? -- Kahrl

ICYMI: Rebuilding Tigers give GM Avila extension

30. Baltimore Orioles

2019 record: 27-62
Week 13 ranking: 30

Bad teams don't yield much joy, but they do create opportunities for surprise players to shine. Renato Nunez is certainly the most surprising player to have 20 home runs at the break, while John Means has been getting a lot of mileage out of changing speeds to settle in as a rotation piece worth sticking with, even with a huge difference between his ERA (2.50) and FIP (3.93) suggesting he's not quite this good. -- Kahrl