Power Rankings: New rivals boost AL's dominance

A's land in surprising spot in Perez's power rankings (1:37)

Eduardo Perez and Tim Kurkjian compare their top five teams through Week 19 of the MLB season. (1:37)

With the Red Sox on pace to win 115 games, it's no surprise that they are once again the unanimous No. 1 choice of our voters this week. But that doesn't mean things haven't gotten interesting among those teams poised to challenge for the top slot if they continue their own hot streaks in the weeks to come. Between the Indians ascending into the top five while pounding their opponents and the Athletics reaching No. 6 after winning three-quarters of their past 48 games to make a race of things with the reigning World Series champion Astros, things are certainly getting interesting as we approach the last quarter of the regular season.

The Indians' move into the front five wasn't the only major move in the rankings this week. Beyond the Indians' ascension, the Braves and Phillies both moved up two slots as the National League East race sees both teams running neck-and-neck while bouncing the Brewers from the top 10.

And in perhaps the biggest surprise of the week, the Dodgers fell three spots from the top five -- is that the uncertainty of their bullpen with Kenley Jansen on the shelf, their failure to bust out and break away after adding stars such as Manny Machado and Brian Dozier, or all of the above? With the Diamondbacks and Rockies both looking to push the Dodgers down several pegs, you can see L.A.'s slip of three spots as the start of falling further if it doesn't finally live up to expectation.

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

Week 18 Rankings | Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | 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. Boston Red Sox

Record: 85-35
Week 18 ranking: 1

After another four-game sweep over the weekend, the Red Sox sit 50 games over .500 with the same number of losses as the Orioles have wins. Chris Sale was dominant in his return from the DL on Sunday, striking out 12 batters over five innings, limiting Baltimore to just one hit. Over his past six outings, Sale has 66 K's over 37 innings, allowing just five walks and a minuscule 0.26 ERA. Despite the missed time, Sale still holds the AL strikeout lead at 219, five more than Trevor Bauer. -- Dan McCarthy, ESPN Stats & Information

2. Houston Astros

Record: 73-46
Week 18 ranking: 2

The Astros are the last team in the majors to use just five starting pitchers this season, but the injury to Lance McCullers Jr. could potentially change that. However, thanks to a number of off days, the Astros can keep their current four starters on regular rest and go without a fifth starter until Aug. 21 if they so choose. Whoever does fill the void will have to keep up with a rotation that leads the majors in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts this season. -- Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information

3. New York Yankees

Record: 74-43
Week 18 ranking: 3

Since Aug. 1, Giancarlo Stanton leads the Yankees in OPS at 1.132 and has smashed six home runs, tied for the MLB lead with Matt Carpenter. The Yankees have needed Stanton's bat in the absence of both Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. On Aug. 9, Stanton hit a home run with an exit velocity of 121.7 mph, the hardest-hit homer in the Statcast era (since 2015). The Yankees will need him to continue to produce if they want to hold off the surging Athletics for a home game in the AL wild-card game. -- McCarthy

4. Cleveland Indians

Record: 66-51
Week 18 ranking: 6

The Indians are suffering something worse than losses as they tear through a weak second-half schedule -- they're getting more banged up. DH Edwin Encarnacion landed on the DL with a hand contusion, CF Leonys Martin is out with an undisclosed illness that sounds serious and Bauer's Cy-worthy season took a literal lump when he took a line drive off his ankle in Saturday's win over the White Sox. Cleveland's biggest goal is to reach the postseason healthy enough to punch with the AL's power teams; this isn't helping. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

5. Chicago Cubs

Record: 68-49
Week 18 ranking: 5

Javier Baez has been getting some MVP buzz recently, and it's well deserved. He has already set career highs in home runs, RBIs and stolen bases among other categories. He leads the Cubs outright in hits, home runs and stolen bases this season. The only other Cubs to lead the team in all three of those categories outright in a season? Sammy Sosa (twice), Ryne Sandberg (twice) and Ernie Banks -- pretty good company. -- Nitzberg

6. Oakland Athletics

Record: 70-48
Week 18 ranking: 7

The A's are on a 36-12 tear that has brought the AL West lead back within reach. But can they sustain that pace? Khris Davis leads the AL in home runs hit since July 1 (14), and Davis and Matt Chapman are both cranking out OPS marks north of .990 in that span. Trade pickup Mike Fiers arrives having posted the third-best ERA in the AL over that time (2.58, trailing just Sale and Bauer). And after Ramon Laureano's epic throw on Saturday, maybe anything is possible. -- Kahrl

7. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 64-55
Week 18 ranking: 4

The Dodgers' accumulation of All-Stars generated headlines, but it has not yet overpowered the competition in the NL West, and losing their closer, Jansen, to an irregular heartbeat until September suggests Los Angeles might have overlooked one crucial area to significantly shore up so far. The bullpen's limitations became Obvious Huge Problem No. 1 after three straight one-run losses to the Rockies over the weekend -- all suffered by the bullpen. -- Kahrl

8. Atlanta Braves

Record: 64-51
Week 18 ranking: 10

Rookie phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. displayed his entire five-tool skill set in a single game against the Nationals on Aug. 8, going 2-for-5 with a home run, stolen base and a home run robbery. With Acuna and Ozzie Albies now routinely batting first and second, the Braves boast one of the most dynamic tops of the order in baseball. -- Evan Wildstein, ESPN Stats & Information

9. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 65-52
Week 18 ranking: 11

The Phillies will be in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Sunday for the Little League Classic against the Mets at Bowman Field. Scott Kingery, who's 24 years old, played in the Little League World Series in 2006 with the team from Ahwatukee, Arizona. The team also featured his twin brother, Sam, and was managed by his father, Tom. They lost to the Georgia team that went on to win it all. In a 2016 interview, Kingery cited it as "the first time I ever had to sign autographs and do interviews." Safe to say there will be a few more of those for him to do on Sunday. -- Langs

10. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 65-54
Week 18 ranking: 8

Slugger Paul Goldschmidt usually gets the most attention among the Snakes' hitters, but left fielder David Peralta has been raking since the break, leading baseball with a .392 average, while his 1.006 OPS at home ranks among MLB's top 10 for hitters doing the most damage in their home park this season. He has already clouted five home runs in August, including a walk-off big fly in the bottom of the 14th last Monday against the Phillies, his second homer in that game. -- Kahrl

11. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 67-54
Week 18 ranking: 9

A lot has been made of the new faces the Brewers acquired on offense at the deadline, but one they acquired in the offseason is doing the most damage as of late. Since the All-Star break, Christian Yelich is second in MLB with a .375 average, fifth in slugging (.729) and sixth in OPS (1.147). Yelich has 13 multihit games since the All-Star break, three more than anyone else in MLB. -- Nitzberg

12. Washington Nationals

Record: 60-58
Week 18 ranking: 12

It's hard to have a tougher loss than the one the Nationals suffered on Sunday. Leading 3-0 in the ninth with two outs and two strikes, Ryan Madson gave up a walk-off grand slam to David Bote. According to FanGraphs' win probability, the Cubs had just a 1.9 percent win probability after Ben Zobrist grounded out for the inning's first out, and 9.9 percent after Willson Contreras was HBP to load the bases to bring Bote to the plate. It was the second pinch-hit walk-off grand slam this season; Daniel Robertson of the Rays hit one against the Marlins on July 22. Before that, one hadn't been hit since Ike Davis' for the Mets on April 5, 2014. The last season with multiple pinch-hit walk-off grand slams was 1979, with one each by Roger Freed of the Cardinals and John Milner of the Pirates. -- Langs

13. Seattle Mariners

Record: 69-50
Week 18 ranking: 14

As a starter, Felix Hernandez has made six All-Star appearances, notched a pair of ERA titles and even won the 2010 American League Cy Young Award. Now, the Mariners are hoping he can add some career accomplishments out of the bullpen. After making each of his first 398 appearances in a starting role, Hernandez and his 5.73 ERA were moved to the bullpen last week. Seattle is hoping the move will pay immediate dividends as the club opens this week with a pivotal, three-game set against the Athletics. -- Casella

14. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 63-55
Week 18 ranking: 15

Dating to his three-homer game on July 20, Matt Carpenter has 12 home runs in his past 23 games, and has hit .338 with 28 home runs over a 75-game span through Aug. 8. Carpenter is the fourth player in Cardinals history with 28 home runs (or more) over a 75-game span of a season. Mark McGwire (three times), Jim Edmonds (2004) and Albert Pujols (three times) are the others, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Carpenter is the fifth player in the past 10 seasons to hit .330 or better with 28 home runs over a 75-game span of a season. Pujols (2009), Jose Bautista (2011), Miguel Cabrera (2013) and Aaron Judge (2017) are the others, also according to Elias. -- Langs

15. Colorado Rockies

Record: 63-55
Week 18 ranking: 13

This week, the Rockies finish up a stretch in which they played 28 consecutive games against postseason contenders to begin the second half of the season. That run comes to an end with a quick, two-game set in Houston against the Astros, followed by a pivotal, four-game series in Atlanta. As important as that matchup is with the Braves, the key to the Rockies' postseason chances could be the health of Nolan Arenado, who departed Friday's game after injuring his shoulder. -- Casella

16. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 61-58
Week 18 ranking: 16

The Pirates have cooled down since winning 11 straight games from July 11-24. The next two weeks could serve as a barometer for the rest of their season, as they face the Cubs, Braves and Brewers. Chris Archer has not yet provided the help the Pirates expected, allowing 20 baserunners across 9⅓ innings of work for his new club. -- Wildstein

17. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 59-60
Week 18 ranking: 17

For the second straight season, a trip to the disabled list has delivered a blow to Mike Trout's MVP chances. Trout hasn't played since Aug. 1 and has finished in the top four in MVP voting in each of his six full seasons. It's not all bad news for the Angels, as Shohei Ohtani completed a bullpen session over the weekend and Kole Calhoun continues his remarkable turnaround since returning from the disabled list in mid-June. -- Casella

18. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 60-58
Week 18 ranking: 18

Blake Snell's two starts since returning from the DL have been promising. Though held to fewer than 60 pitches in each contest, that did not stop him from delivering nine total innings of one-run baseball with nine strikeouts. This included five perfect innings against Toronto on Friday before leaving the game after 47 pitches. With the postseason already out of reach, the Rays will do whatever they can to protect Snell as a future ace. -- McCarthy

19. San Francisco Giants

Record: 59-60
Week 18 ranking: 19

The Giants retired Barry Bonds' No. 25 on Saturday to much fanfare. He won the 2004 NL MVP at 40 years old, making him one of two players in MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL history to win league MVP honors at age 40 or older. The other is Tom Brady in 2017, so it's fitting that Brady was part of a congratulatory video tribute to Bonds. So, too, were other Bay Area greats, such as Steve Kerr, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana and Stephen Curry. Bonds and his godfather, Willie Mays, are two of the most prolific players in Giants history, and now both their Giants numbers are retired. Mays is first in WAR, HR and All-Star appearances, while Bonds is second in each of those categories. -- Langs

20. Minnesota Twins

Record: 54-63
Week 18 ranking: 20

The fire sale continues, as the Twins shipped off Fernando Rodney to the A's Thursday. On the bright side, Minnesota is getting its first look at Tyler Austin, whom it acquired in the Lance Lynn deal. Austin mashed eight homers in 34 games for the Yankees this year and hit three in nine games for Triple-A Rochester since the trade, prompting his quick call-up. -- Wildstein

21. Texas Rangers

Record: 52-68
Week 18 ranking: 22

The Rangers have come out swinging since the All-Star break. They've scored double-digit runs seven times in 24 second-half games, the most in the majors and already more times than they did in the entire first half. The most recent occurrence was a 12-run outburst at Yankee Stadium on Friday, led by Ronald Guzman's three-homer performance. He's the only rookie in major league history to hit three homers in a game against the Yankees. -- Casella

22. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 52-66
Week 18 ranking: 21

Having already reached his career highs in homers and RBIs, Eugenio Suarez is quickly becoming a franchise cornerstone for the Reds, who already have him locked up through the 2024 season (with a 2025 team option). For the rest of this season, however, he can help the Reds play spoiler -- nine of Cincinnati's next 11 series come against teams in playoff contention. -- Wildstein, ESPN Stats & Information

23. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 53-64
Week 18 ranking: 23

The Blue Jays' longest winning streak at any point this season is just four games, and their longest losing streak at any point is five games. That lack of getting very hot or too cold has added up to another also-ran season. Aledmys Díaz has had a promising August, slugging .737 in 11 games, but Toronto's most promising player is not yet in the majors; Vlad Guerrero Jr. flourished in Triple-A over the last week, at one point homering in four consecutive games. -- McCarthy

24. Detroit Tigers

Record: 49-69
Week 18 ranking: 24

The Tigers dealt Mike Fiers to the A's last week. In his place, they started Jacob Turner, who made his MLB debut with the Tigers back in 2011 but is just 27 years old. Though Turner struggled on Tuesday, the Tigers might yet want to see what they have in the former ninth-overall pick from the 2009 MLB draft for the rest of the season. -- Nitzberg

25. New York Mets

Record: 49-66
Week 18 ranking: 25

It might be a disappointing season for the Mets, but there's an event coming up next weekend that should be fun. The Little League Classic is at Bowman Field in Williamsport on Aug. 19. That means a return to Williamsport for Todd Frazier and Michael Conforto. We all remember the image of Frazier on the field at Yankee Stadium next to Derek Jeter after Frazier's Toms River East team won it all in 1998. Conforto has some Little League World Series history of his own -- when he homered in the 2015 World Series, he became the third player to play in the Little League World Series, College World Series and World Series, joining Ed Vosberg and Jason Varitek, but the first to homer in all three. -- Langs

26. San Diego Padres

Record: 48-72
Week 18 ranking: 26

After letting Tyson Ross and Jordan Lyles go on waivers for nothing but salary relief, the Padres seem like they will be giving their young starters a chance down the stretch. It will be a tough test for the young Padres: According to Elias research, San Diego has one of the toughest remaining schedules in the NL. -- Nitzberg

27. Miami Marlins

Record: 48-71
Week 18 ranking: 27

The Marlins continued to overhaul their roster last week, sending first baseman Justin Bour to the Phillies. Bour had struggled to replicate his breakout 2017 campaign, hitting .227 this season and seeing his slugging percentage drop more than 100 points. The only players remaining on the roster from last season's Opening Day lineup are utilityman Derek Dietrich and catcher J.T. Realmuto. -- Casella

28. Chicago White Sox

Record: 42-75
Week 18 ranking: 28

You might note that the White Sox have gotten as many home runs from their middle infielders as their crosstown rivals have (31 apiece), but while Cubs second basemen and shortstops lead MLB with an .801 OPS, the Sox are 25th at .683. Right fielder Avisail Garcia has his version of this problem, as well -- he's slugging for a career-best .233 Isolated Power, but his career worsts in walk rate and BABIP add up to a big step back from his huge 2017 season. -- Kahrl

29. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 35-84
Week 18 ranking: 29

Baltimore has done what it can to salvage a very bad season by trading away its best pieces to retool its farm system. One of the players the Orioles could not move was Adam Jones, whom they've shifted to right field in favor of young center fielder Cedric Mullins. Over the four-game series against the Red Sox, Mullins hit .385 and scored four runs, including a three-hit game in his debut. His strong debut was not enough, as Baltimore still lost four straight to Boston. -- McCarthy

30. Kansas City Royals

Record: 35-82
Week 18 ranking: 30

The Royals entered the All-Star break with the worst starting-rotation ERA in the majors, at 5.37. It has improved since the break thanks in part to two unheralded rookies, Brad Keller and Heath Fillmyer. Fillmyer has a 2.91 ERA since the break and got his first major league win Wednesday by shutting out the NL-leading Cubs for seven innings. -- Nitzberg