MLB Power Rankings Week 20: Where all 30 teams stand as September looms

August is nearly history, and the 2021 MLB playoff picture is starting to come into focus ahead of September's stretch run.

Are the rampaging New York Yankees-- a newly minted member of our top five -- making a case for being the best team in baseball? How far have the struggling San Diego Padres fallen as theSan Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgerscontinue to dominate the NL West? Can the Milwaukee Brewers stand up to the rest of the National League's best?


Here is what our eight-voter expert panel decided based on what they have learned over the course of the 2021 season so far. We also asked ESPN baseball experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 20 observation based on what they have seen recently for all 30 teams.

Previous rankings: Week 19 | Week 18 | Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 |Week 11 |Week 10 |Week 9 |Week 8 |Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 |Week 4 |Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Opening Day



1. San Francisco Giants


Record:82-44

Previous ranking:1

Is there a cooler story in baseball right now than whatBrandon Belt,Buster PoseyandBrandon Crawfordare doing together? Belt, Posey and Crawford have been teammates on the Giants' infield for roughly a decade, and now, as they approach their mid-30s, they're leading an improbable run to another potential championship. Entering play on Wednesday, Belt (33), Posey (34) and Crawford (34) had combined for a .910 OPS with 101 extra-base hits, 53 of them homers. Between them, they had compiled 9.6 FanGraphs wins above replacement. -- Gonzalez



2. Los Angeles Dodgers


Record:80-47

Previous ranking:2

Lost within a star-studded lineup but deserving of some praise isAJ Pollock, who made what Dodgers manager Dave Roberts described as a "game-saving catch" by robbingManny Machadoof a go-ahead home run on Tuesday night in San Diego and hit the deciding homer in the 16th inning on Wednesday. Pollock has been moving around a lot better in the outfield this season, but it's his bat that has really stood out of late. In his first 34 second-half games, as the Dodgers have made an inspired push for their ninth consecutive division title, Pollock is batting .351/.390/.527, providing some much-needed production for a lineup that has been withoutMookie Bettsand hasn't been getting much fromCody Bellinger. -- Gonzalez



3. Tampa Bay Rays


Record: 79-48

Previous ranking:3

The Rays continue to roll, holding on to their lead in the American League East. The team activated designated hitterNelson Cruzoff the COVID-19 list, and the slugger promptly hit a tie-breaking two-run double for Tampa Bay against the Phillies while also manning first base for the first time in his career. Cruz could prove to be an offensive game-changer for the team as it heads down the stretch. -- Lee



4. Milwaukee Brewers


Record:78-49

Previous ranking:5

Milwaukee just keeps motoring along in first place but got some bad news withFreddy Peraltabeing placed on the injured list with a sore shoulder. If their Big Three starters are vulnerable in any way heading into the playoffs, the Brewers are a much different team. Same goes for the lineup when it comes to shortstopWilly Adames, who left Tuesday's contest with quadriceps discomfort. Keeping healthy is a major concern for Milwaukee over the final five weeks.-- Rogers



5. New York Yankees



Record:74-52

Previous ranking:9

The panic of the early season for Yankees fans seems like a distant memory as their surging team continues to climb up the standings with help from unlikely contributors such as shortstopAndrew Velazquez, who's not only provided a spark of energy since filling in forGleyber Torres, but is impacting the New York lineup as a hometown kid. The team also expects to getDomingo German,Corey Kluber,Luis SeverinoandMichael Kingback in the rotation before the end of the season.-- Lee



6. Houston Astros


Record: 75-52

Previous ranking:4

Alex Bregmanreturned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing more than two months with lower body issues. During his absence, his replacements at third base combined to rank 15th in OPS. Not bad. The most often used replacement was Abraham Toro, who hit .228/.294/.402 in his place but was dealt at the trade deadline to Seattle for high-leverage relieverKendall Graveman. After Toro's departure,Aledmys Diazbecame the starter at the hot corner and his production is what kept Houston's overall numbers solid. Diaz hit .325/.365/.538 over 24 starts at third during Bregman's absence.-- Doolittle



7. Chicago White Sox


Record: 73-55

Previous ranking:6

The White Sox have played more games against sub-.500 teams than any other team in the majors, going 52-29 for a .642 winning percentage. Part of what good teams do is beat up on bad teams. Failure to do so can put a team in a bad spot. Ask the Padres, who are breakeven against losing teams this season and find themselves fighting for their playoff lives. For the White Sox, the flip side is where the concern lies. It means that they've played the fewest games against teams at .500 or better (47). Worst, they've gone just 21-26 in those games. Among the AL's other top contenders, only the Athletics have a larger disparity in winning percentage against good and bad teams. Does any of this mean anything in terms of October probabilities? It will be up to the White Sox to prove that it does not. -- Doolittle



8. Atlanta Braves


Record:68-58

Previous ranking:11

The Yankees snapped Atlanta's nine-game winning streak by winning two straight. Now the Braves are in the middle of a quirky two days off before a tough slate of games: the Giants at home, the Dodgers on the road and four games in Colorado (where the Rockies are actually good).Max Friedhas quietly had a great August (4-0, 0.67 ERA in four contests, including a shutout of the Orioles). He is 9-4 with a 2.70 ERA and .228 average allowed since June 6. -- Schoenfield



9. Boston Red Sox


Record: 72-56

Previous ranking:8

Boston slipped to third place in the division for the first time since early April. Top prospect Jarren Duran did not provide the offensive spark that the team hoped and was sent back to Triple-A. While the return ofChris Saleoffers a glimmer of hope for the rotation, the bullpen continues to face its share of struggles. Boston hopes thatTanner Houckcan provide a boost for the pitching staff, whileKyle SchwarberandTravis Shawcan provide a lift to the offense. -- Lee



10. Oakland Athletics



Record: 70-57

Previous ranking:7

The loss ofChris Bassittwith facial fractures after he was hit by a line drive will be a big loss. Bassitt was the team's best starting pitcher, posting 3.4 bWAR, a 3.22 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 154 strikeouts in 151 innings this season. If Bassitt doesn't return, Oakland will face a much steeper road towards making its mark in the playoffs. -- Lee



11. Cincinnati Reds


Record:69-59

Previous ranking:13

Losing two of three to the Cubs didn't help the Reds' playoff chances, but following that up with a four-game sweep of the Marlins more than made up for it. Cincinnati won't catch Milwaukee in the NL Central, but the Reds have taken command of the second wild card as San Diego is reeling. Whatever mojo the Padres are missing, the Reds have an abundance of it. Their formula for winning continues to be at the plate more than on the mound, something which might catch up with them in October. But for now, it's working, as the top of their lineup is as good as any in the NL.-- Rogers



12. Toronto Blue Jays


Record:66-59

Previous ranking:12

Toronto finds itself a step behind the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays in the race in the AL East, but pitcherRobbie Raycontinues to build a case for the Cy Young award. Ray currently leads American League pitchers in bWAR at 5.1 while posting a 2.79 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 178 strikeouts in 145.1 innings pitched. -- Lee



13. San Diego Padres


Record: 68-60

Previous ranking:10

The Padres played the Dodgers for the first time since June 23 on Tuesday, which provided an interesting reference point. On that date, the Padres completed a sweep of the Dodgers. The city of San Diego was in a frenzy and the fans were beginning to think this might finally be the year their team wins it all. But in the 49 games between the Dodgers series, the Padres somehow went only 23-26. Their pitching is a mess, their offense can't keep up, the division is out of sight and now the Padres are fighting just to hold on to the final playoff spot in the National League. -- Gonzalez



14. Seattle Mariners


Record:69-58

Previous ranking:16

Ty France played the hero in back-to-back games with game-tying home runs in the ninth inning as the Mariners won both games, including an 11-inning win over Houston that pushed their record in extra-inning games to 12-4.Drew SteckenriderandPaul Sewaldcontinue to lock up games late as the two free-agent pickups have combined to go 13-5 with a 2.18 ERA and 13 saves. Yes, that's the same Paul Sewald who went 0-13 in relief for the Mets in 2017-18. -- Schoenfield



15. Philadelphia Phillies



Record:63-63

Previous ranking:14

TheRanger Suareztransition to starter has gone even better than expected. He has a 2.11 ERA over five starts. He went 6 innings and 99 pitches against the Rays on Tuesday, allowing one run, but left with a no-decision. He started 82 of his 94 career games in the minors, so he knows how to navigate through a lineup and he continues to induce soft contact with primarily a sinker/changeup/four-seamer mix (and a few sliders). -- Schoenfield



16. St. Louis Cardinals


Record:64-61

Previous ranking:15

If the Cardinals had any hopes of getting hot and stealing a wild-card spot, it came to an end withJack Flahertyreturning to the injured list. Their fans did get some good news asYadier Molinasigned up for another season but that won't distract from an underachieving year -- though injuries to its pitching staff are the No.1 reason St. Louis isn't closer in the hunt to return to October.-- Rogers



17.Cleveland Indians


Record:62-62

Previous ranking:18

The Indians' rotation has been a major disappointment this season due to a combination of injuries and underperformance. The news lately has been much better, stoking hopes that the starters will again be the cornerstone of Cleveland's hopes to return to contention in 2022. Young startersTriston McKenziehad given up just one run and three hits over his past two starts before landing on the IL on Wednesday, whileCal Quantrillhas a 2.50 ERA over his past three outings.Zach Plesachad a nice outing on Aug. 13 against Detroit, but he is still trying to find consistency. Meanwhile, the injured front of the Cleveland rotation --Shane BieberandAaron Civale-- are both trending toward returning to action before the end of the season.-- Doolittle



18. New York Mets


Record:61-65

Previous ranking:17

Well, that got ugly in a hurry. After a walk-off win on July 31, the Mets were four games up in the NL East. Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Giants dropped them to 6-17 in August and 7 games behind the Braves. They've averaged just 3.3 runs per game in the month while hitting just .223. With the season in disarray, it's almost time to start thinking ahead to 2022 and what to do about impending free agents such asMichael Conforto,Marcus Stroman,Noah SyndergaardandJavier Baez. Oh, and don't forget: Robinson Cano will be back on the books at $20.25 million! -- Schoenfield



19. Los Angeles Angels


Record:63-65

Previous ranking:19

If there is a silver lining inMike Trout's prolonged calf injury it's that it has provided the Angels with an opportunity to give both of their highly rated outfield prospects,Brandon MarshandJo Adell, some seasoning at the major-league level. It's still clear that they need it, too. Adell and Marsh have combined for 75 strikeouts, 17 walks and just two home runs in 217 plate appearances. The Angels desperately need both of them to develop, either to provide relatively low-cost production to offset their payroll or to help them access top-flight pitching on the trade market. -- Gonzalez



20. Detroit Tigers



Record:61-67


Previous ranking:20

Baseball fans in general and Tigers fans in particular got bad news last week with the passing of longtime Detroit catcher Bill Freehan. Freehan was a key member of the strong Detroit teams during the 1960s and 70s, which included the 1968 World Series win over St. Louis. Over the past few years, the St. Louis battery ofAdam Wainwrightand Molina have gotten a lot of attention for the duration of their partnership, which is at 298 games started together through Wainwright's last outing. That's the fourth-highest total among all batteries in baseball history. Atop that list is Freehan and Mickey Lolich, who paired up as a battery for the Tigers 324 times between 1963 and 1975.-- Doolittle



21. Kansas City Royals


Record:56-70

Previous ranking:25

It's hard to believe that theDaniel Lynchthe Royals have seen since the All-Star break is the same pitcher who floundered during three his first three big league starts early in the season. During that shaky debut in May, Lynch went 0-2 with a 15.75 ERA and 1.274 OPS allowed. He reemerged in the K.C. rotation after the break and a return stint to Triple-A to work some things out. In six outings since then, he's gone 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA and .655 OPS allowed. Quite a turnaround and a terrific development for the player who entered the season as the consensus top pitching prospect in the Royals organization.-- Doolittle



22. Colorado Rockies


Record:58-69

Previous ranking:23

C.J. Cronhas a history of being a very streaky hitter, and at the moment, the Rockies' first baseman is scorching hot. Cron has a 20-game on-base streak, a stretch in which he's raised his OPS for the season to .905. Cron, 31, settled for a minor league contract after playing in only 13 games during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season but has set himself up for a much better payday this coming offseason. -- Gonzalez



23. Minnesota Twins


Record:55-71

Previous ranking:22

Twins leadoff hitters this season collectively rank fifth in the AL with a .784 OPS. The two most frequent leadoff men for Minnesota have beenLuis Arraez, the primary choice for the role until late July, andMax Kepler, who has been the pick for most of the last month. Kepler was the Twins' main leadoff hitter in 2019 and 2020. They represent a stark contrast, one that might suggest what kind of offense the Twins want to feature going forward. Kepler has six homers from the top spot this season, while Arraez has none. Despite that, Arraez had a better slugging percentage in the role (.429 to .412) because of his on-base skills. Overall, Arraez is hitting .342/.396/.429 leading off, while Kepler is at .193/.295/.412.-- Doolittle



24.Washington Nationals


Record:54-71

Previous ranking:24

The Nationals ranked No. 20 in MLB.com's midseason farm rankings, up from No. 30 before the season. Keibert Ruiz andJosiah Gray, acquired in theTrea Turner-Max Scherzerdeal, are major reasons for the improvement, while Cade Cavalli is having one of the more impressive seasons of any minor leaguer starter, with a 2.37 across Class A and Double-A, with 151 K's in 98 innings. -- Schoenfield



25. Chicago Cubs


Record:56-73

Previous ranking:26

The Cubs tied a major league record by losing 13 consecutive home games by multiple runs, but snapped the skid with a walk-off home run against the Rockies on Monday.Rafael Ortegawon that game, and he had been one of the league's hottest hitters since the trade deadline before cooling off recently. He and other role players are getting a chance to play.Patrick Wisdomhit his 21st home run Wednesday. -- Rogers



26. Miami Marlins


Record:52-75

Previous ranking:21

The pitching has gone south in August as the Marlins have struggled to an 8-15 mark. They've allowed 10-plus runs in five games (they actually won one of those, 14-10) and five or more 13 times. Max Meyer, a 2020 first-round pick, has a 1.97 ERA at Double-A in 87 innings with solid-not-dominant peripherals (93 strikeouts, 35 walks) and hard-throwing Edward Cabrera has reached Triple-A. Keep an eye on southpaw Jake Eder, a fourth-round pick in 2020 out of Vanderbilt who has outpitched Meyer at Double-A. All three could compete for rotation jobs in 2022. -- Schoenfield



27. Texas Rangers


Record:44-82

Previous ranking:27

The Rangers finally found some offense since trading Joey Gallo asNate LoweandAndy Ibanezhad huge weeks. Ibanez went 11-for-21 over a seven-day span, while Lowe went 9-for-19. Perhaps Texas has found a couple of players with roles for next season as they build around rookieAdolis Garcia, who also had a good week at the plate, compiling a .966 OPS. Now they just need to unearth some pitching. -- Rogers



28. Pittsburgh Pirates



Record:46-81

Previous ranking:28

Pittsburgh had a decent week at the plate in winning four of five after getting swept by the Dodgers.Kevin Newmancompiled an OPS over 1.000 to help the cause as the Pirates' series win over St. Louis kept the Cardinals from gaining ground in the wild-card race. The Pirates will have plenty of chances to play spoilers in the final month of the season.-- Rogers



29. Arizona Diamondbacks


Record:43-85

Previous ranking:29

Amid a loss on Saturday, the D-backs got a positive outing fromZac Gallen, who dominated the Rockies with seven shutout innings, nine strikeouts and a walk. After giving up a combined nine runs over his previous two starts, Gallen realized that he was keeping his front shoulder too closed, which kept him from landing his breaking ball. That adjustment, he believes, played a big part in recapturing his form despite pitching in a very favorable hitting environment. The D-backs can only hope. If they are to regroup, Gallen needs to factor in heavily. -- Gonzalez



30. Baltimore Orioles


Record:39-86

Previous ranking:30

The Orioles snapped a 19-game losing streak on Wednesday, which was only two losses away from tying the American League record. Baltimore possesses one of the best farm systems in baseball, but the team will need several prospects to pan out to turn around this embarrassing direction for the franchise. -- Lee

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