Power Rankings: Which contenders are do or die down the stretch?

Astros, Dodgers, Yankees remain on top of power rankings (1:27)

Mark Teixeira explains why he ranks the Astros above the Dodgers and Yankees, while Tim Kurkjian says the Braves belong in the top five. (1:27)

We've seen the Dodgers challenged for the top slot but never unseated for very long. And this week's clean sweep of first-place votes suggests not just that L.A. is No. 1 going away, but also that it might take an epic dive not unlike the 1-16 pratfall the Dodgers started stumbling into two years ago today to see them dislodged. The Yankees and Astros might have to satisfy themselves with jockeying for the American League's top team; and the Braves and Twins -- both likely division winners -- might be able to round out the top five the rest of the way.

Where things get interesting is in the races very much still being run, particularly the wild-card races in both leagues. The A's, Indians and Rays might all be among baseball's 10 best teams -- certainly according to our voters in the rankings -- but there are just two AL wild cards, which means one of those teams will miss out on October's play-in postseason game. Similarly, the Mets, Brewers and Phillies are all clinging to contention, but can they keep up with the Nationals and Cubs (or Cardinals) in the wild-card pack? And with the Cubs running neck-and-neck with the Cards in the National League Central, the NL postseason picture figures to go down to the wire.

As far as big moves up or down this week, the largest single gain was made by the Braves, who moved up three to regain a spot in the top five. The biggest decline was seen by the Indians, who fell four spots while suffering a setback for the rehabbing Corey Kluber and losing Jose Ramirez to a wrist injury.

For Week 19, 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: 86-46
    Week 20 ranking: 1

    Will Smith continues to solidify his hold on the starting catcher job, hitting .280/.373/.719 in August with seven home runs and 16 RBIs in 15 games started. Joe Kelly continues to be a bright spot out of the bullpen, with no runs allowed in August and a 1.59 ERA with a .153 average allowed over the past two months. Remember, Kelly had a dominant postseason for the Red Sox last year. He can run hot and cold, but maybe he is getting in an extended groove that bodes well for October. -- David Schoenfield

    ICYMI: How Kenley Jansen is dealing with his suddenly hittable cutter

  2. Houston Astros
    2019 record: 85-47
    Week 20 ranking: 3

    It is highly likely that the AL Cy Young race will come down to Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Not only are they 1-2 in strikeouts, but they are also top-10 in ERA and among the leaders in wins and WHIP. Verlander, for all his success and Hall of Fame career path, has won the award only once, with Detroit in 2011, and finished second three times. Cole, eight years younger, has received Cy Young votes in two seasons; this will be the third. It has not been that long since an Astro won the award (Dallas Keuchel, 2015), but this is an exciting race between teammates to watch. -- Eric Karabell

    ICYMI: Who should bid big on FA Gerrit Cole?Insider

  3. New York Yankees
    2019 record: 85-47
    Week 20 ranking: 2

    Aaron Judge's home run in Saturday's loss to the Dodgers was not only his third in five games, but also the Yankees' 58th of the month, tying the major league record shared by the 1987 Orioles and 1999 Mariners. Gleyber Torres leads the way with 12 in the month so far (including four two-homer games), and Gio Urshela has added seven. -- Schoenfield

    ICYMI: Yanks, Dodgers have a lot on the line over the next three weeksInsider

  4. Minnesota Twins
    2019 record: 79-51
    Week 20 ranking: 4

    The Twins took a chance on injured right-hander Michael Pineda with a two-year deal before the 2018 season, knowing he would miss a year working his way back from Tommy John surgery. There were few expectations for 2019, but Pineda, who has lost only once in two months, ranks second on the team in quality starts and could end up leading the way in WHIP. Pineda's strikeout rate pales in comparison to that of his final Yankees years, but the Twins would be in some trouble without him. -- Karabell

    ICYMI: What are the Twins' top HR achievements?

  5. Atlanta Braves
    2019 record: 80-52
    Week 20 ranking: 8

    With a 6-0 week, the Braves extended their winning streak to eight, cooling off the red-hot Mets with a sweep at Citi Field, including a pair of 2-1 victories (14 innings on Friday). The Braves have won or tied nine series in a row, including winning five of six games versus the Mets and two of three against the Dodgers, Twins, Nationals and Phillies. Mark Melancon did allow a run on Sunday, but he has done a better job of late in the closer's role, with four saves and one win in his past five appearances. -- Schoenfield

    ICYMI: Hamilton says joining Braves 'like Christmas'

  6. Oakland Athletics
    2019 record: 74-55
    Week 20 ranking: 6

    In the first 51 years that the A's played in Oakland, just two shortstops achieved seasons of 5.0 WAR or more, with Bert Campaneris doing so four times during the Big Green Machine's dynasty years and Miguel Tejada doing so once (2002). Marcus Semien's getting there this year puts him in rare company, a testament to not just his value as a hitter but also his hard work to make himself into a solid major league shortstop. -- Christina Kahrl

    ICYMI: Is Matt Chapman the key to the A's stretch run?Insider

  7. Tampa Bay Rays
    2019 record: 76-56
    Week 20 ranking: 7

    Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times did a thorough rundown of the staggering number of impact injuries the Rays have battled this season. The bad news kept rolling in this week, with rookie of the year candidate Brandon Lowe being moved to the 60-day injured list, ending his season, and high-leverage reliever Jose Alvarado returning to the IL, this time with elbow inflammation. For all the attention the Yankees have received for overcoming injuries, what the Rays have done is even more impressive, especially given the disparity in payroll. The Rays have gotten at least 0.5 WAR from 24 players this season, the most in baseball. The Yankees rank fifth with 21. -- Bradford Doolittle

  8. Washington Nationals
    2019 record: 73-57
    Week 19 ranking: 9

    With an impressive weekend sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley -- 9-3, 7-2 and 7-5 in 11 innings on Sunday -- the Nationals completed a 6-1 road trip to Pittsburgh and Chicago. They've won 11 of 13 and hold a sturdy four-game lead over the Cubs in the wild-card race. FanGraphs now gives them a 98% chance to make the postseason. Juan Soto in August: .298/.410/.679, nine home runs, 25 runs scored in 21 games. -- Schoenfield

    ICYMI: Nats score court win over O's in running TV spat

  9. Cleveland Indians
    2019 record: 76-55
    Week 20 ranking: 5

    Losing Jose Ramirez for perhaps the rest of 2019 to a broken hamate after he redeemed his slow start doesn't make the Indians' quest to catch the Twins or win a wild card any easier. Splitting the hot corner duties between veteran Mike Freeman and Taiwan's Yu Chang won't be crippling, but the big stretch-run performances from Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes and Oscar Mercado couldn't be more timely. -- Kahrl

    ICYMI: Indians learn sometimes little things make the difference

  10. St. Louis Cardinals
    2019 record: 71-58
    Week 20 ranking: 11

    The Cardinals picked up five wins in the past week, including a key two-of-three over the Brewers, and they enter this week's opening series at those same Brewers holding the lead in the NL Central. Jack Flaherty has recently recaptured his form as the team's most dominating starter, winning his past four decisions while owning a major-league-leading 0.73 ERA in his eight starts since the All-Star break. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

  11. Chicago Cubs
    2019 record: 69-61
    Week 20 ranking: 10

    You recall that before Nicholas Castellanos was dealt from Detroit to Chicago, he groused a bit about the dimensions of Comerica Park. Well, he certainly has taken to Wrigley Field. Castellanos hit .262/.310/.405 with three homers and just 11 RBIs in 49 games this season in Detroit. In his first 11 games at Wrigley Field, he matched his Comerica Park total of three homers and drove in nine runs while slashing .438/.438/.771. In fact, if you count his earlier games at crosstown Guaranteed Rate Field, Castellanos is hitting .431/.446/.778 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 17 games played in the Windy City. Chicago, apparently, is his kind of town. -- Doolittle

    ICYMI: How the Cubs' bullpen could be a strength down the stretch

  12. Boston Red Sox
    2019 record: 70-62
    Week 20 ranking: 12

    As Boston holds on to a position in the wild-card race by the skin of its teeth, the much-maligned bullpen is playing a key role. From Aug. 5, when Boston snapped an eight-game losing streak, through Sunday, Red Sox relievers had the best ERA in baseball (2.63). Since Aug. 12, they've been even better, with a 1.55 ERA, a 3.2% home run/fly ball rate and 11.5 K/9 IP. And they've been needed, as the members of the depleted rotation have averaged fewer than five innings per start. -- Steve Richards

    ICYMI: After Sale injury, the Sox are (basically) toast

  13. New York Mets
    2019 record: 67-63
    Week 20 ranking: 13

    J.D. Davis hit .175 for last season's Astros in 42 games, so his inclusion in a five-player trade with the Mets in January -- with four other minor leaguers -- seemed rather innocuous. How does it seem now? Davis has been one of the top NL hitters since the All-Star break and certainly a Mets regular, thriving at the plate and acting passable in left field, despite a limited history outside the infield. Third base is available for the Mets next season, and Davis, who could end up with more than 20 home runs and a .300 batting average, seems primed to handle it. -- Karabell

    ICYMI: Are the Mets already in playoff mode?

  14. Philadelphia Phillies
    2019 record: 67-62
    Week 20 ranking: 14

    The Phillies continue to struggle to find productive leadoff hitters after Andrew McCutchen tore a knee ligament nearly three months ago. Speedy Scott Kingery had a .605 OPS in the role, but he has thrived later in the lineup. Cesar Hernandez has seen his walk rate plummet from recent seasons. Rhys Hoskins still draws myriad walks, and he could end up leading the league, but he has struggled to hit in any role since the All-Star break. Look for manager Gabe Kapler to continue experimenting. -- Karabell

  15. Milwaukee Brewers
    2019 record: 67-63
    Week 20 ranking: 15

    Even though he has been out with a lat injury and struggled for most of the season, it was a bit of a shock when the Brewers cut bait with Opening Day starter Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin's ERA (5.79) was a huge spike from his 3.50 mark last season, and his FIP suggests that unsightly figure was well earned. But Chacin has seen a BABIP spike over 2018 (.250 to .308). Also, while lots of pitchers have seen an increase in the percentage of their fly balls that have left the yard, it has been an acute problem for Chacin, with his rate going from 9.3% to 18.3%. All of this happened even though Chacin's Statcast metrics are basically identical to what they were a season ago. He is a free agent after the season, so perhaps the Brewers just thought the well-liked righty was unlikely to return this season. If he can get healthy, though, he could help another team. -- Doolittle

    ICYMI: How Yelich gets Milwaukee to OctoberInsider

  16. Arizona Diamondbacks
    2019 record: 65-66
    Week 20 ranking: 16

    The masters of mediocrity, the Diamondbacks had a 3-3 week and sit at 65-66 for the season. They've hit a bit of a wall offensively, failing to reach double figures in hits in any of their past seven games and totaling just 42 hits in that span. -- Richards

  17. San Francisco Giants
    2019 record: 65-65
    Week 20 ranking: 17

    Giving credit where credit is due: If you were worried about what the Giants were going to get from the Opening Day outfield of Steven Duggar, Connor Joe and Michael Reed, you didn't need to worry for long, as Farhan Zaidi added Kevin Pillar, Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson for organizational detritus and negligible expense. In an era when every front office is smart, Zaidi achieved useful upgrades to keep a fading dynasty interesting for one last season before the inevitable teardown. -- Kahrl

    ICYMI: Sandoval needs TJ surgery, out for rest of 2019

  18. Cincinnati Reds
    2019 record: 60-69
    Week 20 ranking: 18

    A 14-0 drubbing on Saturday at the hands of the Pirates -- who entered the day 9-30 since the All-Star break -- dropped the Reds to a season-worst 10 games back in the NL Central. If the Reds are to rally back into the playoff race -- their wild-card deficit is 8½ games -- they're going to need a big performance in their Labor Day weekend series at the division-leading Cardinals and continued excellence from a rotation that ranks eighth in ERA this year (4.08). All-Star Sonny Gray has been especially strong, posting a 1.44 ERA since July 1, good for third in the majors. -- Cockcroft

  19. Texas Rangers
    2019 record: 64-68
    Week 20 ranking: 19

    Mike Minor (somehow) still has a shot at the AL ERA title, sitting fifth at 3.17. But he'll want to take advantage of his two starts against the Angels and Mariners this week, as 20 of the Rangers' 24 games in September are against teams either headed for the playoffs or fighting to get there (Yankees, Rays, A's, Astros, Red Sox). -- Richards

  20. Los Angeles Angels
    2019 record: 63-70
    Week 20 ranking: 20

    The race for being the second-most valuable Angels hitter remains quite interesting! Designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, despite no defensive value, could end up with 3 WAR. Infielder David Fletcher, the contact-hitting leadoff option, also could do it. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons provides awesome defensive value, though injuries have held him back this year. Anyone else? Outfielders Kole Calhoun and Brian Goodwin have been productive. If only Tommy La Stella could have stayed healthy. -- Karabell

  21. San Diego Padres
    2019 record: 60-69
    Week 20 ranking: 21

    The Padres have struggled to find any sort of consistency from the top of their lineup since Fernando Tatis Jr.'s injury on Aug. 13, and their .332 wOBA combined from their Nos. 1-2 hitters ranks 20th out of 30 teams. Luis Urias could soon get a look in either spot, having put up a .386 on-base percentage in his 20 games in the month of August. -- Cockcroft

  22. Colorado Rockies
    2019 record: 58-73
    Week 20 ranking: 23

    Road struggles have done the Rockies in yet again, as they've won just five of 26 games away from Coors Field since July 1. Fortunately for them, they'll enjoy a seven-game homestand this week, but at this stage of the season, auditions for key roles on next year's squad are squarely in their sights. Antonio Senzatela was moved back into the rotation on Sunday, and Tim Melville, who tossed seven innings of one-run ball on Wednesday in his first start, are both expected to get longer looks in the coming weeks. -- Cockcroft

    ICYMI: Gray lost for season with foot fracture

  23. Chicago White Sox
    2019 record: 60-70
    Week 20 ranking: 24

    The rise of righty Lucas Giolito accelerated this month, and just one season after he posted a 6.13 ERA, he is building a solid Cy Young case. Giolito now ranks fourth in the AL in WAR among pitchers and stands fifth in win probability added. He would need a strong finish and perhaps a poor stretch run from competitors such as Justin Verlander, Mike Minor and Charlie Morton, but you never know. He is on pace for 244 strikeouts, which would rank sixth in ChiSox history behind Chris Sale (first, with 274 in 2015) and four Big Ed Walsh campaigns. That's pretty good company. -- Doolittle

  24. Seattle Mariners
    2019 record: 56-75
    Week 20 ranking: 26

    It was good to see Felix Hernandez return to the mound on Saturday in front of the home fans. He threw an assortment of junk and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings against the Blue Jays, both on solo home runs. The rotation also saw the return of Justus Sheffield, who was promoted after dominating Double-A over the past couple of months. He allowed seven hits and three walks in four innings, throwing first-pitch strikes to just 11 of the 22 batters he faced. -- Schoenfield

    ICYMI: King Felix returns to action for M's

  25. Toronto Blue Jays
    2019 record: 53-80
    Week 20 ranking: 22

    Rookie Bo Bichette has reached base in 23 of his 26 career starts, as he has raised his slash line to .351/.388/.684. His 162-game averages figure to 249 hits, 87 doubles, 50 home runs and 118 runs scored. Dare to dream, Blue Jays fans. -- Richards

  26. Pittsburgh Pirates
    2019 record: 55-75
    Week 20 ranking: 25

    He survived the 2019 trade deadline as a Pirate, but closer Felipe Vazquez's infrequent usage has to be frustrating. Among qualified relievers, his 1.62 ERA is the third best in baseball, but he has had only four save chances in the team's previous 54 games, despite posting a 1.00 ERA when he has appeared during that time span. Whether he'll be back on the rumor mill as a trade candidate this offseason will be one of the Pirates' key decisions heading into 2020. -- Cockcroft

  27. Miami Marlins
    2019 record: 47-82
    Week 20 ranking: 27

    In the era of divisional play (or across the past 50 years since 1969), just six NL pitchers with 50 or more innings pitched have posted a worse ERA+ mark than Wei-Yin Chen's woeful 58. Two of them (Danny Jackson and Danny Coombs) saw their careers end on that note, and two of them (Micah Bowie and Mark Thurmond) were traded. Chen is owed $22 million next year, so his place as baseball's most expensive low-leverage mop-up man in Miami seems secure. -- Kahrl

    ICYMI: Anderson likely done for remainder of 2019

  28. Kansas City Royals
    2019 record: 46-85
    Week 20 ranking: 28

    Royals manager Ned Yost said he is planning to cut back on the workload of starter Brad Keller. Keller, 24, has mostly validated the Royals' excitement about him in his second season since being selected by Cincinnati from Arizona in the 2017 Rule 5 draft and then traded to Kansas City. Keller's 128 ERA+ the past two seasons ranks 10th in the AL among pitchers with at least 200 innings. He isn't a typical 2019-type of starter, with a fastball that averages 93.4 mph and a pedestrian strikeout rate. But Keller maintains an elite ground ball/fly ball ratio that helps keep the ball in the park and has resulted in 40 double plays since the beginning of 2018, tied for the most in the majors. -- Doolittle

  29. Baltimore Orioles
    2019 record: 43-88
    Week 20 ranking: 29

    The O's won two straight to split a four-game set with AL wild-card hopeful Tampa Bay and could have an even greater impact on the playoff hunt. Having won four of six on the heels of a brutal 1-13 stretch, Baltimore visits Beltway rival Washington, the NL wild-card leader, for two games this week, before tangling with the Rays again Sept. 2-4. As miserable as the past two seasons have been, there's at least something for the Orioles to play for. -- Richards

    ICYMI: O's claim dubious place in history with 259th HR allowed

  30. Detroit Tigers
    2019 record: 39-89
    Week 20 ranking: 30

    Watching Miguel Cabrera limp along has been another depressing note among many in the Motor City meltdown, but he is having his best month of the season in August, with single-month highs for 2019 in extra-base hits (7) and home runs (3). Even with his OPS+ below 100 across the past three seasons (it's at 98), he is still a lock in Cooperstown; so let's remember well that four-year run from 2010 to 2013 when he won a Triple Crown while his OPS+ was 178. -- Kahrl

    ICYMI: Are the 2019 Tigers even worse than Detroit's 119-loss team of 2003?