Power Rankings: Cubs, Dodgers challenge the AL's power trio

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With the resumption of action after All-Star Week, there's already some major movement in the Power Rankings. But not among the game's elite, where the Astros and Red Sox are still splitting the first-place votes, with Houston still holding a one-vote advantage. The Yankees are locked in as the best team behind them, but the Cubs and Dodgers look like they're getting stronger and ready to perhaps put a National League team or two into the front three in the weeks to come.

Real movement came lower down in the top 10, where the Braves and A's climbed up to push out the Mariners and Diamondbacks. The Braves made the single biggest gain of the week, moving up five slots in the rankings. The A's and Cardinals made the next-largest move, each gaining three places over their rankings at the break.

The biggest decline was suffered by the D-backs, who tumbled five spots as they stumble through their latest bad patch, but they weren't the only team whose fortunes are on the wane. The Brewers, Angels, Rays and Padres all dropped by three spots, reflecting how narrow the margin is between teams at every point of the pack.

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

Week 15 Rankings | 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 | Preseason

1. Houston Astros

Record: 66-36
Week 15 ranking: 1

Last season the Astros won 101 games and their first World Series title, earning Best Team honors at the ESPYs on Wednesday. This season Houston entered the second half on pace to win over 100 games again; no team has had back-to-back 100-win seasons since the Cardinals in 2004-05, and no American League team has done it since the Yankees from 2002 to '04. -- Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information


2. Boston Red Sox

Record: 70-31
Week 15 ranking: 2

As we look toward the trade deadline, the Red Sox could stand to improve at second base, catcher and in the rotation. Boston second basemen have a .644 OPS this season, which ranks 25th in the majors. Catcher has been even worse: a .597 OPS, which ranks 27th, and a .226 batting average. Overall, Red Sox starting pitchers rank well, but if we break it down, Red Sox starters not named Chris Sale or Eduardo Rodriguez have a 4.35 ERA this season. That's not necessarily a number a team would want to rely on for a third starter and beyond in the postseason. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information


3. New York Yankees

Record: 63-34
Week 15 ranking: 3

Starting pitching should remain a focus for the Yankees at the trade deadline. Luis Severino is having a Cy Young-level season, with a 2.31 ERA. But beyond that, New York's rotation hasn't been quite on the same level. All other Yankees starters have combined for a 4.58 ERA. CC Sabathia is the only other starter to make 10 or more starts for them with an ERA under 4.00 this year. And for all of the team's power, one position that hasn't had much to show for it is first base. Yankees first basemen have a .690 OPS, which ranks 26th in the majors, ahead of only the Orioles, Angels, Mets and Royals. -- Langs


4. Chicago Cubs

Record: 58-40
Week 15 ranking: 4

With the trade deadline approaching, the Cubs don't have many needs. There's a reason they have the NL's best record and best run differential. Where Chicago will need help is in the bullpen, simply to help deal with the lack of innings the team has gotten from the rotation. At the break, Cubs starters ranked 20th in MLB in innings per start. While recent playoffs have downplayed the importance of rotation innings, they still matter in the regular season. -- Kenneth Woolums, ESPN Stats & Information


5. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 55-44
Week 15 ranking: 5

The Dodgers already boast one of the best offenses in the NL, second only to the Cubs in wOBA, but they owed a lot of that to surprises like Max Muncy and Matt Kemp. Maybe those two keep it up down the stretch, maybe they don't, but penciling in Manny Machado every day should more than cover for any regression. With a stack of rehabbing pitchers due back soon, outside of jamming the phone lines to make life difficult for their rivals, the Dodgers might be able to sit out the rest of the trade deadline. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com


6. Cleveland Indians

Record: 54-44
Week 15 ranking: 6

Trading for a pair of Padres relievers might answer the Indians' biggest need at the deadline, but the cost was steep, and they still have other areas of concern. Indians outfielders have put up a combined .698 OPS, easily the worst of any contender and 25th in MLB. With Bradley Zimmer out for the year and Lonnie Chisenhall out until at least September, the Tribe should be shopping for outfield help. -- Kahrl


7. Atlanta Braves

Record: 53-43
Week 15 ranking: 12

Some teams have clear needs. Take the Braves, who entered the second half with a 4.24 bullpen ERA, 19th in MLB. The only team in playoff position with a worse bullpen ERA entering the second half was the Indians, who addressed that by trading for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. A shutdown reliever could really help Atlanta, which ranked 23rd in bullpen ERA when the team had a lead entering the second half. -- Woolums


8. Oakland Athletics

Record: 57-43
Week 15 ranking: 11

Getting Jeurys Familia from the Mets for loose change is a great start, but the A's are the rare contender who might need to trade for not just one but multiple starting pitchers. A bid for October might work with Trevor Cahill or Edwin Jackson or Brett Anderson or Frankie Montas as the No. 5 starter, but that's four of Oakland's front five right now. Could Familia be part of a move to the A's adoption of the Rays' "opener" strategy? -- Kahrl


9. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 55-43
Week 15 ranking: 9

The Phillies were rumored to be one of the top two teams to finish as runners-up for Machado, along with the Brewers. Now they'll look elsewhere to bolster their infield and relief pitching. Phillies shortstops are hitting just .236, which ranks 27th in the majors; their .630 OPS ranks 28th. That's where Machado would've helped, given that his defense at SS hasn't been Gold Glove caliber. As for that bullpen, their 4.02 ERA ranks 17th in the majors. -- Langs


10. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 56-45
Week 15 ranking: 7

The Brewers finished the first half on a six-game losing streak, their longest of the season, to push them 2½ games out of first place. The second half won't make things any easier -- 25 of Milwaukee's first 28 games to open the second half, including its first 17, are against teams that finished the first half at or above .500. -- Nitzberg


11. Seattle Mariners

Record: 60-40
Week 15 ranking: 10

For the Mariners, the question remains: How long can they continue to win close games and rely on what many people in baseball might call luck? They have the most saves of any team in the majors -- which means they've won the most games that have come down to save situations. And they've won 26 one-run games, five more than any other team. They have a .684 winning percentage in one-run games, which is second in the majors behind the Phillies. Their starters' ERA ranks 15th in the majors. Perhaps that's worth bolstering in anticipation of the luck running out? -- Langs


12. Colorado Rockies

Record: 53-46
Week 15 ranking: 13

The Dodgers might have Machado, but they don't have the hottest-hitting shortstop since June 1 -- the Rockies do. Trevor Story has posted a 1.035 OPS in that time to rank among MLB's top 10. And with sabermetric whipping boy Ian Desmond cranking out a .957 OPS in that span as well, Colorado's offense is getting help from more than just usual suspects Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. With the Rockies on a 15-4 run, they're right back in the hunt for a playoff slot. -- Kahrl


13. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 54-46
Week 15 ranking: 8

There might not be a J.D. Martinez trade to make this year to shore up the offense and help the Snakes escape their latest slide in the standings. They have to hope that A.J. Pollock keeps raking since his return from the disabled list, but they could also use a snap back for Jake Lamb's bat -- he has put up just a .677 OPS since returning from the DL in May. -- Kahrl


14. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 50-49
Week 15 ranking: 17

What a streak it was for Matt Carpenter. He had a span of 12 consecutive hits all going for extra bases, the longest such streak by a Cardinals hitter since 1900. He broke a tie with Mark McGwire when he recorded extra-base hit No. 12. He has generated that large quantity of extra-base hits thanks to six straight games with a home run, two games shy of tying the MLB record held by Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr. What's more impressive is he extended the streak to six straight in a game he entered on a double switch. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that's the longest home run streak to be extended in a game in which the player did not start. -- Langs


15. Washington Nationals

Record: 49-49
Week 15 ranking: 14

Bryce Harper's .214 batting average was the worst in the first half for any position player to start an All-Star Game since Terry Steinbach in 1988, according to Elias research. Steinbach capped that poor first half by winning All-Star Game MVP, while Harper went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in the All-Star Game. But Harper got his moment under the lights Monday, becoming the third player to win the Home Run Derby in his home ballpark, joining Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990. Will that be enough to propel him to a strong second half in his contract year? -- Langs


16. San Francisco Giants

Record: 51-50
Week 15 ranking: 18

Saturday night's Giants-A's matchup is likely to be remembered as "The Chair Game," but it's worth noting a streak that came to an end long before the ninth inning. Madison Bumgarner failed to complete five innings in a regular-season start for the first time since April 11, 2015 -- a stretch of 89 straight starts. That streak was the longest active one in the majors entering Saturday, according to Elias. It was also the longest such streak by a Giants pitcher since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893, also courtesy of Elias research. -- Langs


17. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 51-49
Week 15 ranking: 19

The Pirates don't have any significant free agents coming up at the end of the season. They also don't have much money committed to next year's roster, so they might be quiet at the trade deadline. Ivan Nova might be the team's most valuable bargaining chip, as he has thrown 458⅔ innings since the start of 2016 with a 4.18 ERA and carries a $9.2 million salary for 2019. -- Woolums


18. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 50-50
Week 15 ranking: 15

The Angels have a .517 win percentage since Mike Trout's first full season in 2012, and while that ranks eighth in MLB in that span, Trout has been to the playoffs once and hasn't won a playoff game. If the Angels want that to change in the next few seasons, they're going to have to make serious adjustments to a roster that will see Ian Kinsler, Garrett Richards, Jim Johnson and others hit free agency this offseason. -- Woolums


19. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 50-49
Week 15 ranking: 16

Entering the weekend, the Rays were closer to the playoffs than the Angels despite their roster collectively costing around what the Angels pay Trout and Albert Pujols combined. The Rays may be better than just about any organization at building a competitive roster out of seemingly nothing, which will make how they handle Chris Archer and Wilson Ramos all the more interesting. Tampa Bay is committed to maximizing its return for Archer, who at this point is more a cost-effective No. 3 starter than a top-of-the rotation arm. -- Woolums


20. Minnesota Twins

Record: 44-53
Week 15 ranking: 20

From the start of 2016 to the 2018 All-Star break, the only second basemen with a higher OPS than Brian Dozier's .841 are Daniel Murphy and Jose Altuve. Second basemen with a higher ISO than his .239? None. Better home run percentage than his 5.1? None. This is an elite bat at the position who put up second-half OPS marks of .990 and .985 the past two seasons. Dozier could be a sneaky Machado-level acquisition. -- Woolums


21. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 46-52
Week 15 ranking: 22

Thirteen games out of the wild-card race? Woe Canada, time to start breaking down the roster for parts, but set your expectations low. J.A. Happ isn't a front-three starter for many contenders, and Josh Donaldson is still hurt and also won't command a huge return as a two-month rental. Seunghwan Oh might yield something -- he's affordable, controllable through 2021 and holding right-handed hitters to a .463 OPS. Deadline forecast: lots of Grade C prospects. -- Kahrl


22. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 43-56
Week 15 ranking: 21

While the Reds could deal key players and get a lot at the deadline, it might make sense for them to hold onto their core and actually try to win in the next couple years. After an abysmal 3-15 start under Bryan Price, the team enters the week 40-41 under Jim Riggleman. If they wanted to spend the money, the Reds might be a few pitchers away from being able to compete in the NL Central. -- Woolums


23. Texas Rangers

Record: 42-58
Week 15 ranking: 23

For the Rangers, the trade deadline is about selling. Three years after he was dealt following his no-hitter for the Phillies at Wrigley Field, Cole Hamels' name is cropping up in trade rumors again. That year, he had a 3.64 ERA through 20 starts at the time he was traded. This season, he has a 4.36 ERA through 19 starts. Of course, he was 31 then. Another name that could attract interest is reliever Keone Kela, who has a 3.18 ERA for the Rangers and is 23-of-23 in save opportunities this year. -- Langs


24. Detroit Tigers

Record: 42-59
Week 15 ranking: 25

After an 11-game losing streak put an end to a surprise run for the Tigers, the team will look to make some moves in the next week to shore up its future. While top players like Michael Fulmer and Nicholas Castellanos are unlikely to go anywhere, the likes of Francisco Liriano, Mike Fiers and Leonys Martin might all be wearing new uniforms come August. -- Nitzberg


25. New York Mets

Record: 40-56
Week 15 ranking: 26

The Mets are sellers this year, and we've already seen them trade Familia for not much return: two lower-level minor leaguers and international bonus-pool money. Does the willingness to trade Familia mean that other, potentially more valuable pieces will be on the move, too? It's a very different move for the Mets to trade Familia rather than a Noah Syndergaard or a Jacob deGrom, whose names have been wrapped up in rumors for the past few months. In his seven-year Mets career, Familia posted a 2.66 ERA with 123 saves, including a 51-save All-Star season in 2016. -- Langs


26. Miami Marlins

Record: 43-58
Week 15 ranking: 27

Will they or won't they? The Fish don't have to trade J.T. Realmuto, and it should take a huge deal to pry the catcher away, but he would provide an answer for any contender behind the plate through 2020. However, not every contender might prioritize catching over its other needs at the deadline -- will the Red Sox, Brewers or Diamondbacks be willing to pay the price in prospects? -- Kahrl


27. San Diego Padres

Record: 41-61
Week 15 ranking: 24

The Padres have the hardest strength of schedule in the NL in the second half, with an opponents' win percentage of .528, and they'll have to navigate the rest of the season without two of their top relievers after trading Hand and Cimber to the Indians. However, they should be excited about the future after receiving catcher Francisco Mejia, No. 5 on Keith Law's midseason prospect rankings, in return. With Mejia, the Padres have three of the top six prospects on Law's list. -- Nitzberg


28. Chicago White Sox

Record: 34-64
Week 15 ranking: 28

Even for a team in the midst of a rebuild, there isn't much about the White Sox's 33-62 showing in the first half that can be considered a success. Their .348 win percentage in the first half was the third worst before the break in franchise history, and worst since 1948. That said, there is optimism for the second half, as we could potentially get a glimpse of Eloy Jimenez (No. 3 on Keith Law's midseason prospect rankings) and Michael Kopech (No. 9). -- Nitzberg


29. Kansas City Royals

Record: 30-68
Week 15 ranking: 29

The Royals struggled in the first half, allowing the most runs in the league (530) while also scoring the fewest (337). They are the fifth team to do so at the break and first since the 1988 Orioles, who lost 107 games. The Royals' minus-193 run differential at the All-Star break was the worst in franchise history and tied for the sixth worst by any team since the first All-Star Game in 1933. -- Nitzberg


30. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 28-72
Week 15 ranking: 30

How low can the Orioles go? Baltimore was already on pace for 46 wins entering the second half before trading Machado to Los Angeles for a package headlined by outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz (No. 49 on Keith Law's midseason prospect rankings). Thanks to being in the stacked AL East, the Orioles entered the second half with the hardest remaining schedule in the majors, with a combined opponents' winning percentage of .536. -- Nitzberg