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MLB power rankings: St. Louis Cardinals take flight with playoff race heating up

The 2021 Major League Baseball season rolls on as we are one-third of the way through a 162-game schedule, with the MLB standings delivering quite a few surprises.

Let’s dive into our latest MLB power rankings for the 2021 season with the MLB playoff race heating up as the final month on the MLB schedule approaches.

1. San Francisco Giants (1)

The San Francisco Giants might not have an NL MVP candidate, but a collective effort gives them one of the best lineups in MLB. San Francisco entered the weekend with the second-highest wRC+ (142) and the second-most runs scored (104). Pair that with an elite bullpen (2.75 ERA in September), there’s a great case this is the best team in MLB.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (2)

The Los Angeles Dodgers had a chance to erase San Francisco’s lead in the NL West, but some trouble in Cincinnati prevented that. Despite the results, Los Angeles remains the favorite to win the World Series. A postseason rotation with Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw, paired with the Dodgers’ lineup, feels wildly difficult to beat in a playoff series.

3. Tampa Bay Rays (4)

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Wander Franco is nearing a return and that will be a huge boost for the Rays’ World Series hopes. Tampa Bay can win without him in the regular season, especially when the likes of Brett Phillips keep delivering late-game heroics. The lone concern, in an AL playoff field that is loaded, how will the Rays’ rotation stack up in October?

4. Milwaukee Brewers (3)

The Milwaukee Brewers are headed to the playoffs, a sentence that became inevitable when the NL Central was practically decided over a month ago. Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta are an outstanding playoff rotation. But don’t look past a bullpen featuring Josh Hader, Devin Williams and multi-inning specialist Aaron Ashby.

5. Houston Astros (6)

Here come the Houston Astros. Alex Bregman is healthy and this team hasn’t lost a series since its matchup against the San Diego Padres to open September. Houston is taking advantage of its light schedule to end the regular season and it will carry them to an AL West title. Fittingly, the team right behind them in our MLB power rankings will likely be their ALDS opponent.

6. Chicago White Sox (5)

The Chicago White Sox hosted the Los Angeles Angels this past week and dropped the series. It’s not concerning from a playoff perspective, especially with the AL Central locked up, but it’s worth mentioning Chicago is 49-27 at home at 35-36 on the road. That could be a key factor if Houston hosts the ALDS in October.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Chicago White Sox
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

7. Toronto Blue Jays (7)

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Toronto Blue Jays have earned respect in MLB power rankings and are now viewed as a World Series contender. The Blue Jays entered the weekend with a +171 run differential, right behind the Rays, and an expected W-L record of 90-57. If Toronto hosts the AL Wild Card Game, this team will go on a run in October.

8. Boston Red Sox (8)

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no real justification for moving the Boston Red Sox up in our latest MLB power rankings. Boston can’t be trusted against World Series contenders. The recent results, a mediocre run differential (+66) and the questions about another COVID-19 outbreak are all to much to ignore. Really, the Red Sox should just hope that final series at Fenway Park (Sept. 24-26) kicks the Yankees out of the playoff hunt.

9. New York Yankees (11)

One step forward, one step back. The New York Yankees are perpetually giving fans hope for October baseball and seemingly crushing it days later. Recent winning streaks push New York back up, but they’ll slide back down and miss the playoffs thanks to a brutal stretch (@ Boston, @ Toronto, vs Tampa Bay) to end the season.

10. Oakland Athletics (12)

MLB: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Here come the Oakland A’s trying to climb back into the playoff hunt. Knocking off the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels gives them a shot, but the real shot challenge is ahead with the Astros and Seattle Mariners left on the schedule. Expect Oakland to drop in next week’s MLB power rankings and the blame will likely fall on a bullpen with a 7.44 ERA in September.

11. St. Louis Cardinals (13)

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals are suddenly penciled into the MLB postseason. From 69-68 to 77-69, an impressive stretch is injecting life into the fan base and clubhouse. The recent streak earns a small bump in our MLB power rankings and the Cards will soar much higher if they take a series in Milwaukee this upcoming week.

12. Atlanta Braves (9)

The NL West proved to cause some problems for the Atlanta Braves this past week. Losing to the San Francisco Giants is understandable, but dropping a series to the Colorado Rockies is a blemish on the Braves’ reputation. Atlanta still sits atop the NL East right now and could make up some ground if it takes care of the Diamondbacks and Padres, but that’s far from a guarantee.

13. Philadelphia Phillies (17)

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies blurb is devoted to Bryce Harper. The traditional stats (33 home runs, 1.053 OPS) are remarkably impressive, but they don’t capture what he is doing lately. Harper leads MLB in wRC+ (217), isolated power (.409) and FanGraphs WAR (4.2) since the All-Star Break. Keep in mind, no one is even close to matching him during that stretch. If the Phillies find a way into the playoffs, it’s because Harper carried this city.

14. Seattle Mariners (10)

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Kansas City Royals
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While the Seattle Mariners won’t snap their postseason drought, everyone with or rooting for the organization should be excited. Jarred Kelenic is on a tear to finish his first MLB season and the Mariners are likely going to finish with a record above .500 for the first time since 2018. Seattle’s future is exceptionally bright.

15. Cincinnati Reds (16)

The Cincinnati Reds at least showed some fight against the Dodgers, but the same can’t be said for what transpired in Pittsburgh. Upcoming series against the Pirates and Nationals are winnable, but we haven’t exactly seen this team perform as of late and it might cost them dearly.

16. New York Mets (15)

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the New York Mets for coming out this season. A team that once sat near the top of MLB power rankings has utterly collapsed and what transpired against the Cardinals and Phillies only made things worse. The organization is a mess, making it hard to trust the right moves being made this offseason.

17. San Diego Padres (14)

The confrontation between Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, capped off with being swept by the Cards, is the nail in the Padres’ coffin. San Diego needs leadership and it’s beyond obvious that isn’t coming from manager Jayce Tingler. There’s a lot of talent and injuries can be blamed, but a lack of competent management was the Padres’ problem this year.

18. Detroit Tigers (18)

19. Los Angeles Angels (19)

20. Colorado Rockies (21)

21. Cleveland Indians (20)

22. Kansas City Royals (23)

23. Minnesota Twins (25)

24. Miami Marlins (24)

25. Chicago Cubs (22)

26. Pittsburgh Pirates (28)

27. Washington Nationals (27)

28. Texas Rangers (26)

29. Baltimore Orioles (29)

30. Arizona Diamondbacks (30)