Power Rankings: NL's postseason scramble provides last-week drama

American League continues to top Power Rankings (1:24)

Mark Teixeira, David Ross and Tim Kurkjian evaluate the top teams in Major League Baseball and debate if the Cubs and Dodgers deserve a nod. (1:24)

The final week of the season sees an interesting problem arise in the rankings. All of the races left to run are in the National League, but the American League's top teams have once again crowded out the contenders from the Senior Circuit because the five AL playoff teams hold the top five slots, with the hard-charging Rays making a surprise entry into the top 10 on the strength of their 16-5 record in September. The Astros still command the most respect from our voters, getting four of five first-place votes, even as the Red Sox pursue a rare 110-win season.

The AL's dominance aside, the drama belongs to the NL. The Dodgers pushed past the Cubs in the rankings for the first time since Week 18 of the season, making this just the second time since Week 7 that the Cubs were not the top team in the NL for our voters. With the Dodgers running up a 14-7 record this month, they're back in the driver's seat to win the NL West but face a final week on the road to clinch it. The Brewers' odds of catching the Cubs in the Central might be diminishing, but at No. 3 among NL teams, their wild-card bid is looking strong.

The Braves will have to settle for having the good fortune of clinching their division early. As with the Indians in the AL, will having more than a week to line things up for the division series give the Braves an advantage in the postseason? Clinching those division flags early hasn't earned either team extra credit in the rankings.

The biggest moves up in the rankings belong to the Rays, advancing two spots, a leap matched by the Pirates and Blue Jays. The biggest declines this week were also two spots, with the Cubs, Rockies and Reds being the victims.

This week, our panel of voters is composed of David Schoenfield, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, Bradford Doolittle and Sarah Langs.

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1. Houston Astros

Record: 98-57
Week 24 ranking: 1

The Astros' pitching staff has been great all season and leads the majors with 1,628 strikeouts. They've already smashed the single-season record of 1,614 strikeouts set by the Indians last season. The Astros are paced in strikeouts by Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, who are the first pair of teammates to each record 250 or more strikeouts in a season since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling for the Diamondbacks in 2002. -- Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information

2. Boston Red Sox

Record: 105-51
Week 24 ranking: 2

The Red Sox bullpen has been criticized over the past month. After entering September with the sixth-ranked bullpen ERA in baseball (3.44), Boston's back end has struggled of late, especially getting to Craig Kimbrel. Red Sox relievers have combined for a 4.34 ERA since Sept. 1, 16th in MLB. If you remove Kimbrel's and Steven Wright's contributions (zero earned runs over 18 IP), the bullpen ERA rises to 5.48 this month. Boston will need more than two reliable relievers if it wants to make a strong push in the postseason. -- Dan McCarthy, ESPN Stats & Information

3. New York Yankees

Record: 95-60
Week 24 ranking: 3

The legend of Luke Voit is beginning to grow in the Bronx. Since the start of September, Voit has seven home runs in 18 games, tied for fourth in baseball this month. The biggest test for new Yankees players is how they perform in rivalry games with the Red Sox. Since his acquisition in August, Voit has hit .357 with three home runs against Boston, both tops on the team. Voit will serve as a powerful bat for the Yankees as they head to the AL wild-card game. -- McCarthy

4. Oakland Athletics

Record: 94-62
Week 24 ranking: 4

Khris Davis notched his seventh multi-homer game of the season on Saturday to pad his MLB lead in home runs (45 and counting), while moving him into a tie for most multi-homer games for Oakland in a season, joining Jose Canseco (1990) and Mark McGwire (1987). If he has one more multi-homer game in the season's final week, Davis will tie the Oakland record of eight, set by Reggie Jackson back in 1969. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

5. Cleveland Indians

Record: 87-68
Week 24 ranking: 6

The hope that the rotation makes this the Tribe's year is looking good heading into the postseason. Trevor Bauer returned to action Friday and threw 34 pitches without a hitch. During his absence, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger have more than picked up any slack, ranking second and third, respectively, in the AL in ERA since the All-Star break. That's without mentioning Corey Kluber, who has merely posted a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the second half. -- Kahrl

6. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 87-69
Week 24 ranking: 7

Walker Buehler looks like he's graduating to ace status after shutting down a pair of contenders -- the Cardinals and the Rockies -- his past two times out. Plus, he helped beat the Snakes at the start of the month. Buehler has allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his past 10 starts, the sort of performance that makes him an easy choice behind Clayton Kershaw for two turns per postseason series, as the Dodgers close in on clinching a postseason spot. -- Kahrl

7. Chicago Cubs

Record: 91-64
Week 24 ranking: 5

The Cubs' recent road trip to Arizona did a good job of summing up their season in two games. After the offense put up nine runs on Tuesday, it was held to none on Wednesday. The Cubs have been boom or bust, putting up eight or more runs 34 times this season, the most in the NL and fourth in the majors. However, the Cubs have been held to one or zero runs 35 times this season, tied for the most in the NL and second in the majors. -- Nitzberg

8. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 89-67
Week 24 ranking: 8

Christian Yelich did it again. The MVP candidate became just the fifth player in MLB history with multiple cycles in the same season, and the first to do so against the same team, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Yelich ranks in the top 10 in the NL this season in batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS, hits, runs, RBIs, extra-base hits, HRs and total bases, to name a few. -- Nitzberg

9. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 87-68
Week 24 ranking: 11

The Rays acquired Tommy Pham from a crowded Cardinals outfield at the trade deadline, and he has had an exceptional September. Over 19 games, Pham has hit .384, the second-best average in MLB. Pham has hit for power as well, adding 12 extra-base hits this month. Shockingly, five of those are triples; Pham had never eclipsed five triples in any full season entering this year. He has helped power a Rays offense that leads baseball in extra-base hits in September (86). -- McCarthy

10. Atlanta Braves

Record: 88-68
Week 24 ranking: 9

The Braves have continued their streakiness, and if they want to make it far into the playoffs, they are going to have to fix a serious walk issue. During their recent four-game skid, Braves pitchers walked 29 batters, including 14 in one game against the Nationals -- the most by any team in an MLB game this season. Both their starters and relievers rank in the bottom five in walk rate this season, so the problem is teamwide. -- Evan Wildstein, ESPN Stats & Information

11. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 87-69
Week 24 ranking: 12

What a turnaround for the Cardinals this year. As it stands now, they have a 79.5 percent chance to make the postseason, according to FanGraphs. At the end of Mike Matheny's last game as manager on July 14, that was just 21.0 percent, according to FanGraphs. But one point of concern is Matt Carpenter's play of late. He's hitting .178 in September, which ranks 141st out of 151 qualified hitters. His .561 OPS ranks 138th out of those 151. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

12. Colorado Rockies

Record: 85-70
Week 24 ranking: 10

It looks like the Rockies' dream season might fall a bit short. They spent time this season in first place and leading for a wild card-spot. It would've been something, as the team has never made the postseason in consecutive years. However, their playoff odds are 27.4 percent, according to FanGraphs. Through Sept. 13, the Rockies had a 1.5-game lead in the NL West, and their playoff odds were 68.9 percent, according to FanGraphs. -- Langs

13. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 79-77
Week 24 ranking: 13

Given how much the D-backs owed their strong first half to the bullpen makes the collective meltdown of their relievers in September that much more shocking. Snakes pen men have combined for an MLB-worst 6.12 ERA and 1.69 WHIP this month. In September, Brad Boxberger has suffered three losses while giving up runs in five of seven appearances, and key deadline addition Jake Diekman has put 14 of 26 batters faced on base, allowing nine to score. -- Kahrl

14. Washington Nationals

Record: 78-78
Week 24 ranking: 15

Is this week the last of Bryce Harper in a Nationals uniform? His 184 home runs rank sixth in Nationals/Expos franchise history, and his 520 RBIs rank eighth. He has been walked 581 times, fourth in franchise history. He is one of three players in franchise history to win Rookie of the Year, along with 1970 Carl Morton and 1977 Andre Dawson. Harper also won the only MVP award in franchise history in 2015. -- Langs

15. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 78-77
Week 24 ranking: 14

The Phillies are officially out of postseason contention. But for a team that was considered to have arrived early by many accounts, it was a season to be proud of. One issue down the stretch was Aaron Nola. A worthy Cy Young candidate for most of the season, September was a nightmare for him. In his first 27 starts of the season, he allowed eight home runs total. In his past five starts -- all in September -- he has allowed nine home runs, more than doubling his season total. -- Langs

16. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 78-76
Week 24 ranking: 18

For all the worries about Chris Archer since his Pirates debut, he has been performing a little better, especially at home. He's coming off of one of his best starts of the season, allowing one run in seven innings at PNC Park, and he has performed markedly better at home since joining Pittsburgh, posting a 3.38 ERA as opposed to a 6.12 ERA on the road. Small gains matter for the Pirates, who have Archer under control through 2021. -- Wildstein

17. Seattle Mariners

Record: 85-70
Week 24 ranking: 16

The Mariners were eliminated from postseason contention on Saturday night, extending the longest active postseason drought in MLB, the NHL, the NBA and the NFL. It's at 17 seasons, with Seattle's last playoff appearance coming in 2001. The next-longest streak in baseball is the Marlins at 15, then the Padres at 12, and the White Sox at 10. -- Langs

18. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 75-81
Week 24 ranking: 17

Somehow, an Angels player turned in a triple-threat performance that hadn't been seen in the Modern Era -- and it wasn't Shohei Ohtani. On Thursday, catcher Francisco Arcia became the first player in the Modern Era (since 1900) to pitch, catch and hit a home run in the same day. Between Arcia, Ohtani -- who has hit 20 homers and struck out nearly 100 batters -- and Mike Trout, the Angels continue to be interesting despite another disappointing season. -- Wildstein

19. New York Mets

Record: 73-83
Week 24 ranking: 19

Jacob deGrom seems to have the NL Cy Young in hand by now. He has thrown 23 consecutive quality starts, the longest such streak in a season in MLB history, breaking a tie with Bob Gibson (1968) and Chris Carpenter (2005). He has 259 strikeouts, 20 more than in any other season of his career. He's likely to finish with a sub-2.00 ERA and 250-plus strikeouts. Only six previous times since the mound was lowered did a pitcher finish with a sub-2.00 ERA and 250 strikeouts. Five of the previous six times, that pitcher went on to win the Cy Young. The only one who did not was Tom Seaver in 1971 -- for the Mets. -- Langs

20. Minnesota Twins

Record: 72-83
Week 24 ranking: 20

The Twins get a nice long homestand to close out the season; they've posted a 43-31 record at home. That 58.1 win percentage would be their best since 2010, when they last made the ALDS. With Joe Mauer considering retirement after this season, this could be the last time Twins fans get to see their beloved star on the diamond. He's the only player in franchise history with an MVP and three Gold Glove awards. -- Wildstein

21. San Francisco Giants

Record: 72-84
Week 24 ranking: 21

The Giants' power outage from last season has carried over to this year, as it looks like no Giants player will hit 20 home runs this season. Evan Longoria leads the team with 16. The last Giants player with a 20-homer season was Brandon Crawford, with 21 in 2015. There have been 320 20-homer seasons since 2016, none by Giants players. Every other team has had at least six. The Dodgers have had 20, the most of any team. -- Langs

22. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 71-85
Week 24 ranking: 24

Rowdy Tellez has maintained his torrid pace at the plate since his promotion at the beginning of the month. After clubbing two home runs and two doubles in a series against the Rays last week, Tellez upped his slugging percentage to .725 since Sept. 1, third among hitters with at least 50 plate appearances this month. As fans await the debut of Vlad Guerrero Jr., Tellez has provided flashes of what a dynamic power duo they could be next season. -- McCarthy

23. Texas Rangers

Record: 66-89
Week 24 ranking: 23

Joey Gallo is putting the final touches on another great Three True Outcomes season, walking, homering or whiffing in 55.4 percent of his plate appearances, short of the all-time record he set last year (58.7 percent) but still likely to crack the all-time top 10. He also needs just one more home run to reach 40 in back-to-back campaigns, which would be the first time a Rangers slugger has done that since Alex Rodriguez homered 40 or more times in three straight seasons from 2001-03. Rafael Palmeiro homered 40-plus times in back-to-back years in '01 and '02. -- Kahrl

24. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 66-91
Week 24 ranking: 22

Joey Votto is on pace to finish with the second-lowest batting average of his career, ahead of only his injury-plagued 2014 season. However, it goes to show just how good of a hitter Votto really is. He can still reach 150 hits this season and become just the third Reds player to reach that plateau nine times. Only Pete Rose (15 times) and Vada Pinson (nine) have done that in Reds history. -- Wildstein

25. Detroit Tigers

Record: 63-93
Week 24 ranking: 25

We talked about Christin Stewart last week, but he made it impossible not to do so again. On Thursday, Stewart hit his first career home run off Jorge Lopez in the first inning and hit his second career homer in the very next inning. He's the first Tigers player to hit his first two career homers in the same game since 2006 and the first Tiger with two home runs in the first two innings of a game since Curtis Granderson in July 2009. -- Nitzberg

26. San Diego Padres

Record: 62-94
Week 24 ranking: 26

In a year full of injuries and trades, one constant in the Padres lineup has been shortstop Freddy Galvis. After playing in all 162 games for Philadelphia last season, Galvis has not only played in every game for the Padres this season but started them all as well, one of just two players in MLB to do so (joining the Braves' Nick Markakis). He is the only player to play in every game for his team the past two seasons. -- Nitzberg

27. Chicago White Sox

Record: 61-94
Week 24 ranking: 27

It would be easier to be enthusiastic about the state of the White Sox's rebuild if their young players were showing progress. But during the second half, the middle infield combo of Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada are combining for an OPS around .650, and Lucas Giolito's 5.24 ERA since the break -- though a marginal improvement on his first-half 6.18 ERA -- ranks 75th among 77 ERA qualifiers. -- Kahrl

28. Miami Marlins

Record: 62-93
Week 24 ranking: 29

The Marlins do have something to watch coming down the stretch. Their over/under this season closed at 64 wins, three lower than the next team (the Tigers with 67). The guy who can take them to that over is J.T. Realmuto, who, despite missing more than 30 games this season, is raising his value nicely, setting new career highs in home runs and RBIs, and he is on pace to post his best OPS as well. -- Wildstein

29. Kansas City Royals

Record: 54-102
Week 24 ranking: 28

Whit Merrifield has been arguably the Royals' best player the past two seasons, and he is the only player to record 30 steals and 50 extra-base hits in the AL in each of past two seasons, along with the Indians' Jose Ramirez. Merrifield might soon have company on his own team, though, as Adalberto Mondesi has 26 steals and 27 extra-base hits in 69 games this season. -- Nitzberg

30. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 45-110
Week 24 ranking: 30

The Orioles are one loss from tying their franchise record for a single season, which came when the 1939 St. Louis Browns compiled a 43-111 record. September has been an awful month for Baltimore, as the Orioles have yet to win consecutive games on their way to a 5-15 record in the month. Their worst month so far this season in terms of win percentage was June, when they went 6-20. The Orioles will be looking at a total reboot next season; 2018 has been a total loss. -- McCarthy