Power Rankings: Who will win final battles for NL wild cards?

Dodgers, Astros, Yankees the elite of MLB (1:27)

Ryan Howard and Tim Kurkjian discuss this week's MLB power rankings, with the Dodgers, Astros and Yankees in a class of their own. (1:27)

All season long, the Dodgers and Astros have been dueling for the top spot in our rankings, with the Dodgers winning out more often than not, having finished No. 1 in 16 of the first 23 weeks since Opening Day. But the Astros just won their eighth week at the top slot. Our voters aren't so sure they can hold it, though -- the Astros received only two of five first-place votes, with the Yankees gaining two more and the Dodgers the last. Could the Bombers sneak in and bust up the Astros-Dodgers reign atop our rankings in the final two weeks of the regular season?

Outside the shakeup at the top, this week's rankings didn't see many major changes. The Diamondbacks' three-spot slide was the biggest drop for any team, while eight teams notched a single-spot advance to tie for the largest improvement. This close to the end of the year, things seem pretty set -- except as far as the wild-card races are concerned.

The competition for wild cards will provide most of the drama during the season's remaining days. The fade of the National League's top wild-card seed, the Nationals, is hurting them here as well, as the Brewers and Mets have put the pressure on the Nats and Cubs among the NL's wild-card wannabes. Meanwhile, of the American League's trio of teams aiming to get to the play-in game, the A's and Rays have ceded nothing to the Indians as Cleveland tries to keep up before time runs out.

For Week 24, our panel of voters was Bradford Doolittle, Christina Kahrl, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian and David Schoenfield.

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  1. Houston Astros
    2019 record: 98-53
    Week 23 ranking: 2

    Give outfielder George Springer much credit. Everyone knew he had power, as he averaged 28 home runs over the past three seasons, but he also hit .269 in that span -- better than league average, but not special. This season, Springer has made major strides in his hard-hit percentage, and he is striking far more pitches inside the strike zone. Springer could also reach 100 runs scored for the fourth consecutive season, quite a feat since he has missed more than 20 games in each of the past three. He is one of the top leadoff hitters in the sport and we know what he can do in the World Series. -- Eric Karabell

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  2. Los Angeles Dodgers
    2019 record: 97-54
    Week 23 ranking: 1

    The Dodgers clinched their seventh straight division title, but the good news over the weekend was that Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu snapped mini-slumps with strong starts against the Mets. Kershaw gave up two runs and four hits in 6⅓ innings, and Ryu gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings -- lowering his MLB-best ERA to 2.35. He has given up zero runs in nine of his 27 starts and two or fewer 21 times. Gavin Lux also hit his first two major league home runs as he makes a bid for the postseason roster. -- David Schoenfield

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  3. New York Yankees
    2019 record: 98-53
    Week 23 ranking: 3

    The injury bug continues to strike. Gary Sanchez is out for at least a few days because of tightness in his left groin, and Edwin Encarnacion is out because of an oblique injury, with a hopeful return before the end of the regular season. Giancarlo Stanton comes back this week with limited time to ramp up for the postseason. Meanwhile, 36-year-old Brett Gardner continues to rake, with seven home runs in September. His total of 25 home runs is four more than his career high, and his .500 slugging percentage is well above his previous best of .428. -- Schoenfield

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  4. Atlanta Braves
    2019 record: 93-58
    Week 23 ranking: 4

    The Braves took two of three from the Nationals -- that's five of seven against their NL East rivals this month -- as Mike Soroka outdueled Max Scherzer on Friday with six one-hit innings, and Mike Foltynewicz continues to pitch his way into the postseason rotation as he gave up four hits and one run in six innings Saturday. Nick Markakis also returned from his fractured wrist and went 2-for-4, 4-for-5 and 1-for-4 in the three games. Ronald Acuna Jr. watch: He's at 39 home runs and 36 stolen bases after picking up two of each this week. -- Schoenfield

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  5. Minnesota Twins
    2019 record: 91-58
    Week 23 ranking: 5

    Catcher Mitch Garver continues to amaze. He will not accrue enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, but you will not find another player with 30 home runs in fewer than 300 at-bats this season. In a baseball world of extreme power, Garver leads the way in home runs per at-bat, topping sluggers such as Mike Trout, Joey Gallo and Christian Yelich. The Yankees' Gary Sanchez probably will lead all catchers in home runs this season, but Garver, who entered 2019 with seven big league homers in 387 career PA, is the brightest surprise at the position, and a key to Minnesota's postseason success. -- Karabell

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  6. Oakland Athletics
    2019 record: 90-60
    Week 23 ranking: 6

    With former All-Star closer Blake Treinen struggling badly enough to lose his ninth-inning gig, Liam Hendriks has come up big in the second half for the A's, notching 17 saves since the break while striking out an incredible 50 of 106 batters faced. If Treinen could only regroup from his command issues, the A's pen could be the sort of shutdown unit that helps a long-odds playoff team far exceed expectations. -- Christina Kahrl

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  7. Tampa Bay Rays
    2019 record: 89-61
    Week 23 ranking: 7

    The Rays' playoff push continues unabated even as the roster returns to a semblance of health. Tyler Glasnow has been dominant in short stints since returning from his long stay on the injury list. This week, Tampa Bay is expected to welcome back reigning AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, who is slated to start Tuesday against the Dodgers. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who has been out because of a bad back, returned to the starting lineup in a win against the Angels on Saturday. The returns couldn't be more well-timed: Not only are the Rays neck-and-neck with the A's in the race for the top wild-card spot, both with a growing buffer over the Indians, but the schedule turns mean. Tampa Bay has a two-game set at Dodger Stadium before flying home to face the Red Sox and Yankees at the Trop. -- Bradford Doolittle

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  8. St. Louis Cardinals
    2019 record: 83-66
    Week 23 ranking: 9

    An upcoming weekend series against the Cubs, whom they play in seven of their final 10 games, gives the Cardinals a chance to lock in an NL Central title. Cardinals pitching has been thoroughly dominant in September, leading the majors in ERA (2.86) and quality starts (nine). In the past 30 days, four of the Cardinals' five regular starters -- Jack Flaherty (1.38), Dakota Hudson (1.67), Michael Wacha (2.36) and Adam Wainwright (2.51) -- all have sub-3.00 ERAs. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

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  9. Washington Nationals
    2019 record: 82-66
    Week 23 ranking: 8

    The Nats finished 7-12 against the Braves -- and 7-12 against the Mets. Thank goodness for the Marlins (they're 13-3 against them). The Nationals' lead in the wild-card race is suddenly not such a lock as they're just 1½ games ahead of the Cubs and 2½ ahead of the Brewers. You know who's having a remarkable season? Howie Kendrick, who turned 36 in July. In a part-time role, he's hitting .336/.386/.559. He has hit .321 over the past three seasons. -- Schoenfield

  10. Cleveland Indians
    2019 record: 87-63
    Week 23 ranking: 10

    Getting swept in a doubleheader by the Twins on Saturday dealt a near-mortal blow to the Indians' AL Central hopes in a series not made any easier by closer Brad Hand's absence because of an arm injury. Salvaging a win from the series Sunday gave them a 10-9 lead head-to-head against the division leaders while keeping their wild-card hopes alive. Cleveland has to hope it keeps feasting on the Tigers in its opening series of the week after running up a 15-1 record over Detroit so far. -- Kahrl

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  11. Chicago Cubs
    2019 record: 81-68
    Week 23 ranking: 11

    Despite growing panic in Chicago and rampant speculation on the future of manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs have managed to cling to a playoff position, with both a division title or home-field advantage in the wild-card game still on the table. If one of those things happen, we might point to the club's decision to recall infielder Nico Hoerner from Double-A in the wake of injuries to Javier Baez and Addison Russell as the season-saving moment. Hoerner, 22, has added to this season's list of dazzling debuts in baseball with an OPS over 1.200 in his first week in the majors. He'll get a chance to further embed himself in the hearts of Cubs fans this week, as Chicago finishes out its home schedule with a three-game set with the Reds followed by a huge four-game series against the NL Central-leading Cardinals. -- Doolittle

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  12. Boston Red Sox
    2019 record: 79-70
    Week 23 ranking: 13

    With a huge offseason looming, the first order of business for the Red Sox, of course, is replacing Dave Dombrowski as head of baseball operations. Two obvious names with deep Red Sox ties can be crossed off fans' wish lists. Mike Hazen is off the board after the Diamondbacks GM signed an extension with the team last week. And Cubs GM Jed Hoyer probably isn't going anywhere either. Hoyer and his family bought a house on the North Side this summer and told the Chicago Tribune, "I didn't want [anyone] to think we're leaving. We're happy here and hope to be here for a long time." Theoretically a late-season meltdown that sees the Cubs miss the playoffs could lead to massive housecleaning at Wrigley, but that's highly unlikely. -- Steve Richards

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  13. Milwaukee Brewers
    2019 record: 80-69
    Week 23 ranking: 14

    The always-resilient Brewers have managed to stick in the thick of the NL wild-card chase even after losing reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich to a fractured kneecap. Their schedule is favorable, as Milwaukee hosts a pair of second-division clubs this week, San Diego for four games and Pittsburgh for three. The Brewers finish on the road against two more sub-.500 teams in Cincinnati and Colorado. According to rest-of-season schedule strength calculations at baseball-reference.com, Milwaukee has the easiest slate remaining among NL wild-card contenders. -- Doolittle

    ICYMI: Can Brewers keep wild-card hopes alive without Yelich?

  14. New York Mets
    2019 record: 77-72
    Week 23 ranking: 15

    Right-hander Marcus Stroman entered Thursday with one quality start in seven chances since arriving from the Blue Jays, then stymied the Diamondbacks with six innings of shutout ball until running into mild trouble in the seventh. It was his best outing as a Met, and Stroman surely will be tested this week with a start at Coors Field, and then figures to face the Marlins and Braves in the final week, and each game is critical. Stroman is among the bottom 20 for qualified starting pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings, and home runs have not been an issue, so he needs his defense behind him. The Mets need good innings. -- Karabell

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  15. Arizona Diamondbacks
    2019 record: 76-74
    Week 23 ranking: 12

    The D-backs seem to finally be out of the playoff conversation for good, but they made a big statement about their future by signing GM Mike Hazen to a contract extension, assuring he won't be leaving for a return to Boston to fill the Red Sox vacancy. Hazen has drawn a lot of praise for balancing being competitive in the present while building up the farm system for the future. Two Arizona assistant GMs, Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter, also have deep Boston roots and could be candidates for a position in Boston or elsewhere. -- Richards

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  16. Philadelphia Phillies
    2019 record: 76-72
    Week 23 ranking: 16

    Scott Kingery was one of the worst players to qualify for the batting title a season ago, producing a ghastly .605 OPS over 484 PA. His second season has gone considerably better, with more than 50 extra-base hits and an OPS more than 200 points better. He has done this despite starting 30 or more games at center field and third base, neither his primary position. Kingery is not drawing walks as once expected, but this more aggressive version rakes at pitches in the strike zone, and he is a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman should the Phillies move him there. This is a future All-Star. -- Karabell

  17. Texas Rangers
    2019 record: 74-77
    Week 23 ranking: 17

    A change of scenery has suited prospect Nick Solak, who was acquired by the Rangers from Tampa Bay for right-hander prospect Peter Fairbanks in July. The 24-year-old Solak, a second-round pick of the Yankees in 2016, made his big league debut Aug. 20 and has a slash line of .322/.433/.529 with 18 runs, 15 RBIs and four home runs, including one off Fairbanks last Thursday. -- Richards

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  18. Cincinnati Reds
    2019 record: 70-80
    Week 23 ranking: 18

    The Reds' elimination from postseason contention is unavoidable, but they've been focused on their 2020 auditions this September. Michael Lorenzen's experiment as a two-way player, à la Shohei Ohtani, has been interesting. Lorenzen has made a pair of starts in center field this month, is a .276/.333/.586 hitter in 64 plate appearances between this and last season, and has contributed a 3.12 ERA, six saves and 20 holds in his 69 appearances on the mound. -- Cockcroft

  19. San Francisco Giants
    2019 record: 72-78
    Week 23 ranking: 19

    Getting Johnny Cueto back in action was good to see, but it's also a reminder of the Giants' lasting commitments going forward. Cueto and battery mate Buster Posey are both signed through 2021 (with club options for '22), Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are also signed through 2021, and Evan Longoria through 2022. Salaries for those five players alone adds up to more than $91 million on the 2020 payroll, which might deter making free agent Madison Bumgarner at least a qualifying offer unless they find a taker for the last year of their commitment to Jeff Samardzija at $19.8 million. -- Kahrl

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  20. San Diego Padres
    2019 record: 68-81
    Week 23 ranking: 21

    Chris Paddack has significantly boosted his performance over the past couple of weeks, despite it being a time when he's being discussed as an imminent shut-down candidate. He hasn't given up more than one run while pitching at least 5⅓ innings in each of his past three turns, with his next outing -- and perhaps his last of 2019 -- set for Tuesday at Milwaukee. Paddack won't win the National League's Cy Young award, but he should steal some votes in the race and gives the team a bona fide future ace. -- Cockcroft

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  21. Los Angeles Angels
    2019 record: 67-82
    Week 23 ranking: 20

    It is hard to believe, but the Angels entered the weekend still lacking a pitcher with 100 innings pitch for them this season. How can that be possible? Well, injuries and poor performance have been a problem. Right-hander Trevor Cahill should get there in his middle relief role, and starter Andrew Heaney could if he remains in the rotation until season's end, but this highlights how pitching has let the club down in 2019. The team ERA could finish a run higher than the previous two seasons, when it was 4.15 and 4.20. Unfortunately, things might not be much better in 2020. -- Karabell

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  22. Pittsburgh Pirates
    2019 record: 65-85
    Week 23 ranking: 22

    After how poorly this team had performed with the bat immediately after the All-Star break, would you believe that since Aug. 24 the Pirates have been the NL's highest-scoring team? Since that date, the team boasts the majors' batting average leader in Kevin Newman (.429) as well as the No. 6 hitter in that same category in Adam Frazier (.382), with Newman chipping in 23 runs and 15 RBIs as well. -- Cockcroft

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  23. Colorado Rockies
    2019 record: 65-85
    Week 23 ranking: 24

    A strong week at Coors Field was a bit too little, too late for the already eliminated Rockies, but it did include another hot streak for Nolan Arenado. Arenado has belted six home runs in September alone, his current .315/.380/.595 slash lines would each set new personal bests if they stick, and he's within striking distance of his previous career highs of 42 home runs and 133 RBIs. -- Cockcroft

  24. Chicago White Sox
    2019 record: 65-83
    Week 23 ranking: 23

    The stakes might not be high at the moment for the White Sox, but after a season full of flashes, rookie Eloy Jimenez has settled into a nice groove down the stretch. Jimenez is hitting .333/.387/.684 in September, while cutting his strikeout rate to 19%. That has been a season-long trend for the young powder keg. Jimenez struck out at least 29% of the time in each of the first three months of the season, cut that to 25% by August and has continued that improvement this month. It's no coincidence that Jimenez has averaged a homer every 11.4 at-bats during September. -- Doolittle

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  25. Seattle Mariners
    2019 record: 61-88
    Week 23 ranking: 25

    Welcome to the majors, Kyle Lewis. Promoted from Double-A Arkansas, where the outfielder hit 11 home runs in 457 at-bats, he homered in his first three major league games -- only the second player in major league history to do so, after the Rockies' Trevor Story did it in 2016 (Story homered in his first four). The Mariners honored Ichiro Suzuki on Saturday with a special Mariners Franchise Achievement Award and Ichiro thanked the fans with a six-minute speech -- in English. "You welcomed me with open arms and you have never stopped," Ichiro said. -- Schoenfield

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  26. Toronto Blue Jays
    2019 record: 59-91
    Week 23 ranking: 26

    Rookie wunderkind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. might have hit the proverbial wall. He had the month of his season in August -- .341/.406/.571 for a .977 OPS that was more than 150 point higher than his next best month -- but has slumped badly in 11 September games, slashing .167/.217/.238. Even so, it has to be considered a successful debut season for Vladdy. -- Richards

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  27. Kansas City Royals
    2019 record: 55-95
    Week 23 ranking: 28

    The Royals need to finish over .500 the rest of the way to avoid their second straight 100-loss season and sixth in franchise history. The franchise record for losses -- 106 in 2005 -- appears to be safe, barring a complete collapse over the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, Kansas City confronts contenders the rest of the way, as the Royals get Oakland, Minnesota, Atlanta and Minnesota (again), in order. -- Doolittle

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  28. Miami Marlins
    2019 record: 52-97
    Week 23 ranking: 27

    With free agency probably around the corner for Starlin Castro -- the team has a $16 million option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout -- he has chosen the right time to heat up at the plate, hitting a team-best 13 home runs since the All-Star break. Since the entire roster has managed only 60 in the second half, he has been one of the few hitters to keep those unhappy few Fish fans entertained. -- Kahrl

  29. Baltimore Orioles
    2019 record: 49-100
    Week 23 ranking: 29

    We could focus on Baltimore reaching 100 losses for the second straight season, but we'd rather emphasize the positive, such as it is. How about Trey Mancini? In addition to hitting a career-high 32 home runs, the Orioles slugger has 11 opposite-field homers, second in the AL to New York's Aaron Judge. -- Richards

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  30. Detroit Tigers
    2019 record: 44-104
    Week 23 ranking: 30

    With Niko Goodrum probably shelved for the rest of the season, what little good news there might be from the lineup involves middle infielder Jordy Mercer (team-best .366 wOBA since the All-Star break) and a healthy Christin Stewart getting back out in left field and posting a .284/.343/.484 slash line in the second half. At 25, Stewart is one of the few guys in the lineup with a chance of playing for a future Tigers team above .500. -- Kahrl