MLB Power Rankings: 1 thing to watch for each team as season winds down

L to R (Getty Images): Icon Sportswire/Icon Sportswire/Thearon W. Henderson

Welcome to the 12th and final edition of theScore's MLB Power Rankings for the regular season. Here we look at one thing to watch for each team in the final weeks.

1. San Francisco Giants

Dustin Bradford / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
97-53 7-3 +181 1 (-)

Not only are the Giants continuing to defy every expectation as they zoom toward the postseason, but they have a legitimate MVP candidate in Brandon Crawford. The shortstop is San Francisco's engine, ranking inside the top 10 in every slash category while playing fantastic defense up the middle. Crawford's one of baseball's more underappreciated shortstops, and a strong finish for him and the team could do wonders for his MVP case.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
96-54 8-2 +249 3 (+1)

The defending champions are in the playoffs, but it's hardly time for this club to rest - not when the rival Giants are still ahead of them. Chasing down San Francisco for the NL West crown and earning a bye to the NLDS make every Dodgers game worth watching over the final two weeks. There's plenty to root for on the individual side of things, too, including Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler's dueling Cy Young pushes, Clayton Kershaw trying to round into form before October, and Max Muncy putting the finishing touches on a potential MVP season.

3. Tampa Bay Rays

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
92-58 4-6 +172 2 (-1)

There are a lot of reasons to watch the Rays down the stretch, including Shane Baz's major-league debut Monday and Tampa Bay pushing to win back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history. However, the most intriguing story will be Wander Franco's return and his on-base streak. The rookie shortstop is expected to play on Sept. 21, which gives him enough time to break Frank Robinson's record.

4. Milwaukee Brewers

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
91-58 7-3 +136 6 (+2)

With the NL Central title all but officially locked up, Corbin Burnes' Cy Young push is the big story for the Brewers during this final stretch. Burnes is Scherzer's primary competition for the award, and he's making this a tough choice for voters. He leads the NL in FIP, strikeouts per nine innings, homers per nine, and walks per nine. He also ranks third in strikeouts and second in ERA and WHIP. Burnes should get at least two more regular-season starts to pad his resume, and those outings will be appointment viewings.

5. Houston Astros

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty
Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
88-61 7-3 +201 5 (-)

The Astros, who are powering toward another AL West title, are the enemies of baseball. But the sign-stealing scandal seems to be well behind them heading into the playoffs. Houston's offense is firing on all cylinders with Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Kyle Tucker red-hot. The pitching, led by Lance McCullers Jr. and Rookie of the Year candidate Luis Garcia, is doing its share too. Watch the Astros over these last two weeks because this isn't a team you want to sleep on come October.

6. Chicago White Sox

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
85-64 5-5 +145 7 (+1)

With the AL Central almost locked up, Chicago has delivered on its promise as one of baseball's most exciting young teams. The White Sox can reach the 90-win plateau for the first time since 2005 if they win five of their last 13 games.

7. Toronto Blue Jays

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
84-65 7-3 +177 14 (+7)

A lot is going right for the Blue Jays. They're winning, in playoff contention, and possess one of baseball's most entertaining teams. While the options may feel unlimited in Toronto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and his race to become MVP at just 22 years old is must-see TV. The slugger leads the AL in nearly every offensive category but has stiff competition from two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who's having a campaign never before seen in baseball.

8. Boston Red Sox

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
86-65 7-3 +74 9 (+1)

Bobby Dalbec was a big reason the Red Sox managed to stay afloat during their COVID-19 outbreak. The rookie first baseman has been dialed in lately, hitting .319/.413/.812 with nine homers since Aug. 26. Who knows where Boston would be right now without him. Dalbec's continued emergence is another reason Red Sox fans should be tuning in nightly.

9. New York Yankees

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
83-67 5-5 +23 4 (-5)

While Joey Gallo's sudden emergence has been fun, Yankee fans should turn their attention to the neck-and-neck race between Gerrit Cole and Blue Jays' Robbie Ray for the AL Cy Young. The two pitching studs are involved in one of the tightest award races in recent memory. Cole was likely holding a slight edge before he was torched by the Indians for seven earned runs on Sunday. This appears to be a dead heat.

10. Oakland Athletics

Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
82-67 7-3 +69 11 (+1)

Don't look now, but the AL wild-card race is even busier after Oakland finished the weekend with its fifth straight win. The Yankees are in a tailspin, but the Red Sox and Blue Jays are riding high, so the A's path to the postseason isn't easy. They have seven games remaining against the Mariners, three versus the Astros, and three against the Angels, whom they just swept. Seattle has stumbled lately but seems to have Oakland's number this year after winning eight of 12 meetings. With the stakes this high, every game is a must-watch.

11. Atlanta Braves

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
77-70 4-6 +98 8 (-3)

With the Phillies charging, the Braves' stranglehold atop the NL East is no longer secure. Freddie Freeman, the reigning NL MVP, is the glue holding the offense together since Ronald Acuna Jr.'s season-ending injury. Freeman, a free agent this winter, is slashing .332/.400/.534 across 58 games during the season's second half. While a new contract remains possible, or even likely, there's an off-chance that the final stretch of the campaign is Freeman's last in Atlanta.

12. St. Louis Cardinals

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
79-69 9-1 +3 15 (+3)

In what once looked like a highly disappointing season after acquiring All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals are playing their best baseball and on the verge of a playoff berth. While getting Jack Flaherty back in some capacity is exciting, the suddenly gelling offense is what's propelling the team to October. Tyler O'Neill (28) and Paul Goldschmidt (26) could join Arenado (32) in reaching 30 home runs this campaign, marking the first time since 2004 that a Cardinals lineup featured three hitters who reached the milestone.

13. San Diego Padres

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
76-73 2-8 +46 12 (-1)

The current tailspin is coming at a suboptimal time, but the Friars aren't out of the wild-card race even after getting swept by the Cardinals over the weekend. Fernando Tatis Jr. is still the straw that stirs the drink. Even if this season is having its share of sour notes, Tatis is just one home run away from becoming the fifth Padres player to hit 40 in a season and first since Adrian Gonzalez in 2009.

14. Cincinnati Reds

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
77-73 3-7 +23 10 (-4)

Cincinnati is in the thick of the wild-card race, but it won't be an easy finish. Jesse Winker is sidelined again, putting more pressure on Nick Castellanos and Joey Votto to keep raking over this final run of games. The upcoming schedule will work in the Reds' favor. Just two of their last 12 contests are against contenders, and they still face the lowly Pirates six times. While they're in a bit of a hole, it's hardly a deep one. As long as they keep hitting, Cincinnati has a path to October - if it chooses to take it.

15. Philadelphia Phillies

Cody Glenn / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
76-73 5-5 -10 17 (+2)

Philadelphia looked dead in the water before the middle of last week. A reeling Braves squad and the Phillies winning four of their last five games has turned it into a race in the NL East. In addition to their playoff prospects, the club also has Bryce Harper's run at a second MVP trophy to get excited about. While he may never quite match his superhuman 2015 season, this has been the closest he's come. He's hitting .313/.428/.624 with 33 home runs and 13 stolen bases with a 174 wRC+ while accruing 6.3 fWAR. He's simply one of the best all-around players in the game.

16. Seattle Mariners

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
80-69 5-5 -62 13 (-3)

Seattle's season isn't over, but it's getting close to midnight. If the Mariners are going to make what would be an epic run to end the longest active postseason drought in the four major sports, it'll have to start Monday against the A's, who they're chasing in the wild-card race. If nothing else, the team's fans can enjoy the thrill of meaningful September baseball for the first time in a while, for as long as that excitement lasts.

17. Cleveland Indians

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
73-74 5-5 -12 16 (-1)

The Indians' season is over, but there's still one thing to look forward to down the stretch as closer Emmanuel Clase has a great shot at taking home the AL Rookie of the Year prize. The hard-throwing right-hander owns a 1.41 ERA and has converted 23 of 27 saves thanks to a devastating cutter, which might be the best pitch in the majors.

18. Detroit Tigers

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
72-78 7-3 -56 20 (+2)

Miguel Cabrera hit his 500th career home run last month, but can he reach 3,000 hits before the campaign is over? Miggy needs 21 knocks over Detroit's final 12 games to accomplish the feat, which isn’t impossible but should be tough to do. Tigers fans will be tuning in to see if one of the greatest hitters of his era can reach the milestone.

19. New York Mets

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
73-77 3-7 -20 18 (-1)

In what devolved into a rough season in Queens, the Mets will welcome right-hander Noah Syndergaard back as early as next weekend. While he likely won't carry a starter's workload, Thor could serve as a reliever or opener depending on the need. A free agent at season's end, this might be farewell for the former All-Star, and he could bring a ray of sunshine to an otherwise disappointing campaign.

20. Los Angeles Angels

Harry How / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
72-77 3-7 -75 19 (-1)

Shohei Ohtani has been a transcendent factor since Mike Trout's calf injury, and maybe even before that. It briefly looked like he would be limited to hitting for the remainder of the calendar, but the Angels reversed course as he took the mound Sunday and struck out 10 batters while matching a career-high eight innings pitched. Ohtani is putting the finishing touches on a season that has never been seen in MLB before, and it may very well result in him winning the AL MVP.

21. Colorado Rockies

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
70-79 7-3 -43 21 (-)

This might be the last few weeks Rockies fans get to enjoy Trevor Story in a Colorado uniform, so they should give him their full attention. Story has been incredible for the club since debuting in 2016, posting a .865 OPS with 157 home runs and 99 steals. The two-time All-Star is likely leaving the rebuilding club in free agency after the season.

22. Kansas City Royals

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
67-82 5-5 -99 22 (-)

It's been a campaign for the ages for Salvador Perez. The Royals stalwart has hit 45 home runs, tying Johnny Bench's single-season record for a catcher - and that's no small feat for any backstop, let alone one who plays in cavernous Kauffman Stadium. Regardless of what happens from here, Royals fans can sit back and enjoy counting Salvy splashes the rest of the way.

23. Miami Marlins

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
63-86 5-5 -44 26 (+3)

Sandy Alcantara might be the most underrated starter in the majors and gives Marlins fans a reason to watch down the stretch. Miami's ace ranks third in innings pitched, ninth in fWAR, 10th in ERA, and 11th in FIP among qualified NL starters after flirting with a no-hitter earlier this month. The 'Sandman' should make two more starts this season, giving him a chance to become the first Marlins starter to reach 200 innings since Mark Buehrle in 2012.

24. Chicago Cubs

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
67-83 3-7 -122 23 (-1)

Patrick Wisdom has been one of the best stories this season. Wisdom, who turned 30 last month, was finally given a shot to play every day and ran with it, turning in a solid rookie campaign. The late-blooming third baseman is firmly in the conversation for NL Rookie of the Year, posting 27 homers and a .834 OPS. He's helped fill the offensive void after the Cubs traded Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Wisdom is worth rooting for down the stretch of an otherwise forgettable season in Chicago.

25. Minnesota Twins

Mark Blinch / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
65-85 3-7 -113 25 (-)

If you like the long ball, give the Twins a try down the stretch. Minnesota ranks second in the AL in home runs - even after trading Nelson Cruz - thanks to powerful sluggers like Miguel Sano, Josh Donaldson, and Jorge Polanco. Polanco leads the club with a career-high 31 blasts and is quietly having an exceptional campaign (34 doubles, 90 RBIs, .845 OPS).

26. Washington Nationals

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
61-88 3-7 -83 24 (-2)

This is an easy one. Juan Soto is having an otherworldly second half that could land him in the record books. The Nationals star has a chance to become just the fifth player in MLB history to post an on-base percentage above .530 in the second half of a season, potentially joining Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, and Rogers Hornsby. Soto has posted a .525 OBP with 66 walks since the All-Star break.

27. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
56-93 6-4 -205 27 (-)

The Pirates narrowly missed out on completing their first series sweep of the year after falling to the Marlins in a stunning extra-innings comeback Sunday. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh enters consecutive series with Cincinnati and Philadelphia as one of the hottest teams in baseball and will look to spoil the Reds' and Phillies' playoff hopes. Hey, it’s not much, but it’s something to look forward to.

28. Texas Rangers

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
55-94 4-6 -176 28 (-)

Outfielder Adolis Garcia has been one of the few reasons to tune into Rangers games this summer, and he recently tied Pete Incaviglia for the franchise rookie home run record with his 30th blast. Despite Garcia going deep only once since the start of September, it seems like a matter of when, and not if, he'll take hold of the milestone.

29. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
48-101 3-7 -201 29 (-)

It's been an unbelievably difficult season for the D-Backs, but one bright spot emerged late in the year. Henry Ramos finally got the call this September after 11 seasons in the minors. The 29-year-old has made the most of his chances, tallying a homer, six hits, and six RBIs over his eight games in the majors thus far. For teams who don't have much to play for, it's always rewarding to see dreams come true for guys like Ramos after so many years of hard work.

30. Baltimore Orioles

Rob Carr / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change)
47-102 2-8 -276 30 (-)

Win or lose, the lowly Orioles will play a huge role in determining the playoff fields in both leagues. Three of Baltimore's final four series are against contenders in Philadelphia, Boston, and Toronto. If they finish strong, the Orioles will not only put a dent into the plans of two AL East rivals, but they might even stay under 110 losses.

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MLB Power Rankings: 1 thing to watch for each team as season winds down
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