2016 Week 24 MLB Power Rankings

— -- The top three teams in the rankings --  Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers -- remained unchanged this week. But there was some movement elsewhere in the top five, with the Red Sox moving up two spots to No. 4 and the hard-luck Cleveland Indians dropping a spot to No. 5. After they looked like one of the AL's most dangerous teams for much of the season, the Indians have been hit hard by injuries, as they lost pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco (broken finger) in recent weeks. Cleveland is still on its way to the playoffs, but the path to the franchise's first title since 1948 got a lot bumpier.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, seem to be headed in the right direction as the playoffs near, finishing the week with a sweep of the New York Yankees and increasing their lead in the AL East to three games.

This week's voters are Jim Bowden of ESPN Insider, Eric Karabell of ESPN Fantasy, Tim Kurkjian of ESPN, David Schoenfield of the SweetSpot Blog Network/ESPN.com and Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Most of the team comments come courtesy of the SweetSpot Blog Network.

Past rankings: Week 23Week 22 |  Week 21 |  Week 20Week 19Week 18Week 17Week 16Week 15Week 14Week 13Week 12Week 11Week 10 |   Week 9Week 8Week 7Week 6Week 5Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Preseason

1. Chicago Cubs

Record: 94-55
Week 23 ranking: No. 1

All of the Cubs' focus now is on preparing for the playoffs. One part of that would be getting Jake Arrieta back as close to his form from last year as possible before the postseason gets underway. In his past six starts Arrieta has struggled some with command, walking 21 guys in 37 1/3 innings. -- ESPN.com

2. Washington Nationals

Record: 88-61
Week 23 ranking: No. 2

Trea Turner continues to play like Superman, with a .355/.377/.590 line and 27 steals in 31 attempts. Among NL batters with 250 plate appearances, only teammate Daniel Murphy has a higher OPS. The only knock against him is a 49-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but that should improve, in part, because pitchers will become more careful in pitching to him.  -- David Schoenfield ( @dschoenfield), SweetSpot

3. Texas Rangers

Record: 88-62
Week 23 ranking: No. 3

With the Rangers closing in on 90 wins for the fifth time in seven seasons, the focus will be on setting up the pitching staff for success in the playoffs. After Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, there are numerous questions in both the rotation and the bullpen.  -- Brandon Land ( @onestrikeaway), One Strike Away

4. Boston Red Sox

Record: 85-64
Week 23 ranking: No. 6

The Red Sox's rotation has pitched to a sturdy 3.81 ERA this month (through Saturday), but the bullpen has been outstanding, with an incredible 1.06 ERA that is ahead of the next-best team by nearly a full run. Dominant performances from Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa have the bullpen's K/9 at 11.69 in September.  The bullpen was great again Sunday, giving up no runs in 5 1/3 innings. --  Ryan P. Morrison ( @ryanpmorrison), Inside the 'Zona

5. Cleveland Indians

Record:  86-63
Week 23 ranking: No. 4

The Indians continue their march toward the playoffs despite injuries first to starter Danny Salazar and, on Saturday, to Carlos Carrasco, who has been one of the stalwarts of the rotation.  -- Susan Petrone, It's Pronounced Lajaway

6. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 84-65
Week 23 ranking: No. 5

The Dodgers haven't lost two in a row since the end of August. After allowing more than five runs per game last month, Dodgers pitching is yielding less than three runs per game in September. --  Diane Firstman ( @dianagram), Value Over Replacement Grit

7. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 81-68
Week 23 ranking: No. 7

Toronto opened the month two games up in the division, but the offense has dried up. The Jays are ranked last in the AL with 55 runs scored in September.  -- Diane Firstman ( @dianagram), Value Over Replacement Grit

8. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 82-67
Week 23 ranking: No. 8

The Orioles would have preferred to fare better than a split in their series against the Rays. But they'll settle for being a couple of games back of Boston in the AL East as they prepare for a pivotal, four-game series at home against the Red Sox. With only two weeks left in the season, this is the Orioles' best chance to make up ground in the division.  -- Matt Kremnitzer ( @mattkremnitzer), Camden Depot

9. San Francisco Giants

Record: 79-70
Week 23 ranking: No. 10

Buster Posey hit his 13th home run of the year off St. Louis lefty Jaime Garcia on Friday, exactly two months after he hit his 12th homer. The drought is over, but San Francisco remains in a fight with the Mets and Cardinals for an NL wild-card spot. -- Jeff Wiser ( @OutfieldGrass24), Inside the 'Zona

10. New York Mets

Record: 80-69
Week 23 ranking: No. 12

The Mets have won 11 of their past 14 games, are 20-7 in their past 27 contests and have won seven of their past eight series. They are 41-33 at home this season, including 12-3 in their past 15 home games.  -- Joe Janish ( @metstoday), MetsToday.com

11. Detroit Tigers

Record: 79-70
Week 23 ranking: No. 11

The 2016 Tigers have been hard to figure out, as they have looked at times like a playoff team. Splitting a series with the Twins and splitting a series with the Indians is just another example. Two games back in the wild-card race, the Tigers need a run of wins.  -- ESPN.com

12. Seattle Mariners

Record: 79-70
Week 23 ranking: No. 15

The M's won eight in a row before dropping the first two of a three-game set against the Astros. Seattle rebounded with a win Sunday, and the two AL West foes remain locked in a battle for the final wild-card spot. Felix Hernandez took an unsightly loss Friday and continues to scuffle. -- Jeff Wiser ( @OutfieldGrass24), Inside the 'Zona

13. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 78-71
Week 23 ranking: No. 13

It looked bleak after the Cardinals lost the first two games of the series against the Giants, but they won the final two, with rookie Alex Reyes throwing seven scoreless in his third career start and what felt like a must-win game for the Cards. The road trip continues this week with Colorado and Wrigley.  -- David Schoenfield ( @dschoenfield), SweetSpot

14. New York Yankees

Record: 77-72
Week 23 ranking: No. 9

The Yankees missed Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman this week. Pitching in his third straight game, Dellin Betances blew a three-run lead to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday. The overworked closer also blew a tie game to the Dodgers on Wednesday. Although the playoffs look a lot further away for the Yankees after a bad week, one bright spot was Masahiro Tanaka's seven-inning, one-run start against Boston, which bolstered his case for the AL Cy Young Award. --  EJ Fagan It's About the Money

15. Houston Astros

Record: 78-71
Week 23 ranking: No. 14

Doug Fister continues to fade badly down the stretch, including getting hammered Sunday with a chance for a big sweep in Seattle. He has a 7.85 ERA since Aug. 11, and the Astros have lost his past five starts, in which he has gone five innings once and less than five the other four times.  -- David Schoenfield ( @dschoenfield), SweetSpot

16. Miami Marlins

Record:  74-75
Week 23 ranking: No. 17

Monday marks the return of Wei-Yin Chen from the disabled list. He has been out for two months because of a sprained elbow. Jose Fernandez, who pitches against the Nationals on Tuesday, is 3-0 with a 1.42 earned run average against the NL East leaders this season. -- Diane Firstman ( @dianagram), Value Over Replacement Grit

17. Kansas City Royals

Record: 76-73
Week 23 ranking: No. 16

A five-game losing streak that included a brutal, four-game sweep at home to the A's, in which they were outscored 43-12, knocked the Royals out of the wild-card race. In the end, given that they've been outscored by 32 runs this season, they were fortunate to hang in there until mid-September.  -- David Schoenfield ( @dschoenfield), SweetSpot

18. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 74-75
Week 23 ranking: No. 18

The Pirates fought their way back to .500 on Saturday, then fell back below on Sunday. They'll need everything to go right to leapfrog the Cardinals, Mets or Giants for a wild-card spot. That looks a lot more difficult now, with Gerrit Cole shut down for the season with right elbow posterior inflammation. -- Ryan P. Morrison ( @ryanpmorrison), Inside the 'Zona

19. Colorado Rockies

Record: 72-77
Week 23 ranking: No. 19

The Rockies might finally be figuring out pitching at altitude. They've shut out opponents three times at Coors Field since Aug. 31. The latest instance occurred Saturday, as Jon Gray's 16 strikeouts and Game Score of 95 both set franchise records. Chad Bettis' two-hit, seven-strikeout shutout on Sept. 5 and Gray's performance are two of the five best games in Rockies history in terms of Game Score.  -- Richard Bergstrom ( @rbergstromjr), Rockies Zingers

20. Chicago White Sox

Record: 72-77
Week 23 ranking: No. 20

James Shields has a 9.42 K/9 in three September starts and has held opponents to a .222 batting average thanks to a .206 BABIP. Why a 5.65 ERA on the month? Eleven walks haven't helped. With 74 walks on the season, Shields is on pace to eclipse last year's career high of 81 walks -- in far fewer innings. --  Ryan P. Morrison ( @ryanpmorrison), Inside the 'Zona

21. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 68-82
Week 23 ranking: No. 21

With it clear that they won't be playing into late October, the Brewers decided to shut down starting pitcher Junior Guerra. The 31-year-old rookie finished his season by hurling six shutout innings against the Reds. He was quite remarkable this year (9-3, 2.81 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 3.18 BB/9 and a 45.3 percent ground-ball rate) and has a strong chance of being Milwaukee's Opening Day starter come spring.  -- Gabe Stoltz ( @Stoltzy3), Disciples of Uecker

22. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 64-85
Week 23 ranking: No. 25

The Rays have been holding their own against tough divisional opponents all month. It bodes well for the future, but it remains difficult to look back at their 3-24 run from June 16 to July 16 and not wonder what might have been if they had been merely bad instead of horrific in that one-month stretch. --  Jason Hanselman ( @sandykazmir), The Process Report

23. Oakland Athletics

Record: 66-83
Week 23 ranking: No. 24

With two home runs Sunday, Khris Davis reached 40 for the season. Meanwhile, catcher Jacob Nottingham, the main prospect the Brewers got for Davis, hit .234/.295/.347 at Double-A.  -- David Schoenfield ( @dschoenfield), SweetSpot

24. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 67-83
Week 23 ranking: No. 23

It's hard to force a trade if one wasn't there, but the inability to flip Jeanmar Gomez at the trade deadline might end up being a missed opportunity. Since July 31, Gomez has gotten quite a bit worse, as he has allowed 13 runs and 26 hits in just 17 2/3 innings of work. Before the deadline, he'd given up 15 runs and 43 hits, but that was over 48 2/3 innings.  -- Richard Bergstrom ( @rbergstromjr), Rockies Zingers

25. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 65-84
Week 23 ranking: No. 22

Albert Pujols is up to 112 RBIs but is slugging just .456. The most recent player to drive in 110 runs while slugging less than .460 was Tony Batista in 2004, an infamous year in which he had a .272 OBP. Pujols has hit .317 with runners in scoring position but a lowly .222/.260/.389 with the bases empty.  -- David Schoenfield ( @dschoenfield), SweetSpot

26. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 63-86
Week 23 ranking: No. 26

It has been a rough season. Cincinnati has used a franchise-record 32 pitchers this year, and that collection of hurlers is three homers away from breaking the MLB record (241) for home runs allowed in a season. History in the making! --  Chad Dotson ( @dotsonc), Redleg Nation

27. San Diego Padres

Record: 62-87
Week 23 ranking: No. 27

San Diego dented the playoff hopes of the Giants by sweeping three in San Francisco last week. Wil Myers became the first player in franchise history to record 25 homers, doubles and steals in a single season. - - Diane Firstman ( @dianagram), Value Over Replacement Grit

28. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 63-86
Week 23 ranking: No. 28

Shelby Miller returned to the D-backs' rotation on Aug. 31 after a well-documented series of struggles. The situation remains ugly, as he has allowed 14 earned runs in 20 2/3 innings in his four starts since coming back to the majors, with his latest loss coming Saturday. --  Jeff Wiser ( @OutfieldGrass24), Inside the 'Zona

29. Atlanta Braves

Record: 58-91
Week 23 ranking:  No. 29

Since Matt Kemp joined the Atlanta lineup at the beginning of August, the Braves have gone 21-23 and are averaging more than five runs scored per game, compared to just 3.4 before Kemp arrived. The young pitching still needs improvement, as they've gone from giving up 4.7 runs per game before August to 5.6 since. -- Martin Gandy ( @gondeee), Chop County

30. Minnesota Twins

Record: 55-95
Week 23 ranking: No. 30

After getting swept over the weekend by the Mets, the Twins are now 3½ games ahead of the Braves for the worst record in baseball and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. - - ESPN.com