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MLB Power Rankings: Who is No. 1 before the All-Star break?

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With the season’s halfway mark arriving in the coming days, the teams at the top of our MLB Power Rankings have started to separate themselves from the pack while those at the bottom might already be thinking about next year as the trade deadline approaches.

Did the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros or San Diego Padres impress our voters enough to move into the top spot the San Francisco Giants grabbed two weeks ago? How far have the Cleveland Indians fallen after going 1-9 in their past 10 games? And have the scorching-hot Cincinnati Reds impressed our panelists enough to make a leap?

Here is what our eight-voter expert panel decided based on what they have learned in the first three months of the 2021 season. We also asked ESPN baseball experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 12 observation based on what they have seen recently for all 30 teams.

Previous rankings: 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 | Opening Day

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 53-34
Previous ranking: 2

One can’t talk about the Dodgers without bringing up the ongoing sexual assault investigation into Trevor Bauer, whose side has denied the allegations. The Dodgers don’t know when — if ever — he’ll return. And now, with Clayton Kershaw landing on the injured list with inflammation in his left forearm, a team that went into the season with an excess of starting pitching will have a shortage of it to begin the second half. Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin are the only healthy starters at the moment, and Urias has already exceeded his previous career high in innings. Perhaps eventually another spot can be filled by David Price, who would have to be stretched out after sitting out the 2020 season and spending all of 2021 in a bullpen role. Another option could be top prospect Josiah Gray, who is building himself back up after a shoulder injury. More likely: The Dodgers will have to find a starting pitcher before the trade deadline. –Gonzalez

2. Houston Astros

Record: 54-33
Previous ranking: 4

Houston appears to be catching fire again after a head-scratching blip of five losses in six games to the Tigers and Orioles. While the Astros’ previous hot streak was fueled by the offense, last week (5-1 entering Wednesday) featured sparking work by Houston’s up-and-down bullpen. During the spree, Astros relievers allowed two runs in 20 innings (0.90 ERA) with 26 strikeouts and just four walks while converting all four save opportunities. If Houston could ever get all of its units functioning at the same time, the Astros might yet run away from the Athletics in the AL West. It’s way too early to think about this, but we’ll do it anyway: The leaders in run differential in their respective leagues are the Astros and the Dodgers. That rematch would be … interesting … if it were to happen in late October. — Doolittle

3. San Francisco Giants

Record: 54-32
Previous ranking: 1

Nothing captures the Giants’ resurgent season better than their All-Star Game representatives: Buster Posey, voted as the NL’s starting catcher upon recapturing some of his prime form; Brandon Crawford, Fernando Tatis Jr.’s fitting backup after a splendid first half on both sides of the field; and Kevin Gausman, who was cut by two different organizations and has emerged as an ace. Posey and Crawford are 34. Gausman is 30. All of them have either come into their own or tapped into a version of themselves that appeared to be gone forever. –Gonzalez

4. Boston Red Sox

Record: 54-34
Previous ranking: 5

Boston continued to cement its place among the best teams in baseball with the most wins in the sport. That success so far this season reflects in the team’s All-Star selections, with shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Rafael Devers selected as starters in addition to starter Nathan Eovaldi, closer Matt Barnes and designated hitter J.D. Martinez tallying as the team’s five, the highest of any team in baseball. — Lee

5. San Diego Padres

Record: 51-38
Previous ranking: 5

There were concerns about his left shoulder, questions about his defense, a handful of frustrating starts and stops in the midst of that, but with the All-Star break approaching, Fernando Tatis Jr. is making a legitimate case for the NL MVP Award. As of Wednesday morning, he led NL position players with 4.2 FanGraphs wins above replacement while also pacing the league in homers (27), stolen bases (19) and OPS (1.070). Recently he has also turned in some jaw-dropping defensive plays, most notably an amazing double-jump to secure a leaping catch on Tuesday. — Gonzalez

Record: 51-35
Previous ranking: 8

On the morning of March 24, with about a week left in spring training, the carefully constructed everyday White Sox lineup figured to include Jose Abreu, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Adam Eaton and some kind of time-sharing arrangement at DH. You might also add Adam Engel to that mix as a semi-platoon partner for Eaton in right field. Over the past week, Grandal joined Madrigal, Jimenez and Robert on the IL, with only Madrigal’s return a known, and that’s because it won’t be this season. Meanwhile, Engel came off the IL, and to open up a spot on the active roster, Eaton was designated for assignment after hitting .201/.298/.344 over 58 games. The only thing that has gone according to plan for the White Sox hitters this season is this: Despite the constant shuffling, Chicago has raced to a big lead in the AL Central with an elite offense (No. 5 in runs per game) helping to lead the way. — Doolittle

Record: 51-36
Previous ranking: 7

Tampa Bay’s lack of All-Star representatives — with catcher Mike Zunino the only Ray heading to the All-Star Game — is emblematic of the team’s roster construction and why they’re successful as a team greater than the sum of their parts. Despite letting Charlie Morton go to the Atlanta Braves in free agency and trading away Blake Snell, the Rays remain one of the best teams in the American League. — Lee

Record: 52-36
Previous ranking: 9

Milwaukee keeps rolling as it followed up a sweep of the Cubs with a series win over the Pirates before a long winning streak was snapped with back-to-back losses earlier this week. Some in the game worried the crackdown on sticky stuff might impact Milwaukee’s rotation, but there has been little drop-off. For example, the Brewers compiled the third-lowest rotation ERA last week as they opened up a big lead in the NL Central. It’s theirs to lose from here on out. — Rogers

Record: 49-39
Previous ranking: 7

Oakland struggled in series against the Rangers and the Red Sox, but the team had already slipped a bit in May after a hot start in April. The Athletics bounced back in June with a strong month of performances. Oakland will need continued strength out of its rotation, which ranks second in baseball in quality starts and innings pitched, if it hopes to keep pace with the first-place Houston Astros and remain a factor in the AL wild-card race. — Lee

Record: 44-40
Previous ranking: 12

It’s easy to point toward Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette as the centerpieces of Toronto’s success so far this season, but the team continues to get strong performances out of rookies Alek Manoah (in the rotation) and Jordan Romano (out of the bullpen). None of the team’s All-Stars are pitchers, and the pitching staff could be a place at which the team looks to improve both ahead of the trade deadline and long term. — Lee

Record: 45-38
Previous ranking: 10

Will the Mets ever start hitting? Heading into Wednesday’s doubleheader, they ranked ahead of only the Pirates in runs per game, 26th in OPS, ahead of only the Marlins and Pirates in isolated power and ahead of only the Diamondbacks and Pirates in home runs. Kris Bryant certainly seems like a good fit in a trade as somebody who can play third base or the outfield. — Schoenfield

12. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 45-41
Previous ranking: 17

The Reds smelled blood in the water last weekend as they continued the Cubs’ losing ways with a three-game sweep of Chicago at home, each win by a single run. Cincinnati is now in second place thanks, in part, to a 22-12 record against NL central foes. Additionally, they’ll represent two-thirds of the NL starting outfield at the All-Star game as Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos were deserving choices. — Rogers

Record: 44-41
Previous ranking: 15

There have been a lot of questions surrounding this Yankees team. One week, the Yankees look like they’re moving past their struggles. The next week, fans start hitting the panic button after the team makes fundamental errors. The reality could be the boring answer: The Bronx Bombers might just be a .500 team that struggles to find an identity all season long. — Lee

14. Atlanta Braves

Record: 42-44
Previous ranking: 18

Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. are All-Star starters, Freeman for the third All-Star Game in a row, Acuna for the second. Ozzie Albies made it as a reserve, his second All-Star selection. With the Braves still mired under .500, it will be interesting to see what they do coming out of the All-Star break. If they don’t make a big push, they could look to trade players, most notably starter Charlie Morton, who would be an interesting fit for teams seeking a veteran starter who has performed in the postseason in the past. — Schoenfield

15. Cleveland Indians

Record: 42-42
Previous ranking: 11

The Indians’ bid to stay with the front-running White Sox in the AL Central race is sputtering after a disastrous week. Cleveland went into a doubleheader at Tampa Bay on Wednesday with a seven-game losing streak, during which the Indians were outscored by more than three runs per game. There is never just one reason for a thumping like that, but nevertheless, the first place you look is the starting rotation. Terry Francona and his staff have not been able to piece things together there in the wake of a wave of injuries. Beginning June 25, Indians starters went 1-9 over an 11-game span with a 10.18 ERA and zero quality starts while averaging fewer than four innings per outing. — Doolittle

Record: 45-32
Previous ranking: 16

Yusei Kikuchi is Seattle’s lone All-Star representative, and if he continues to pitch well, it sets up an interesting contract decision for the Mariners. They have an option to pick up four more seasons of Kikuchi at $16.5 million per season, running through 2025. If the Mariners decline that option, Kikuchi can exercise a $13 million player option for 2022. If the Mariners do exercise the option, they also owe the Seibu Lions an additional $7.95 million, so that’s a nearly $74 million commitment. Could they do better in free agency? — Schoenfield

Record: 44-42
Previous ranking: 19

Shohei Ohtani and Jared Walsh have basically carried the Angels’ offense while other key figures have battled injury, inconsistency or both. But lately, David Fletcher, their criminally underrated second baseman, has acted as a key spark plug. Fletcher is currently riding a 21-game hit streak and produced a base hit in his seventh consecutive plate appearance in Wednesday’s second inning. By that point, Fletcher had accumulated 35 hits in his previous 82 at-bats. It’s easy to see why an Angels lineup with Fletcher, Ohtani, Walsh and a healthy Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton would be scary for the rest of the league. That could materialize early in the second half. — Gonzalez

Record: 42-43
Previous ranking: 14

Trea Turner, Juan Soto and Kyle Schwarber are all first-time All-Stars, although Schwarber will miss the game after landing on the IL because of a hamstring injury. During his record-setting streak in which he hit 16 home runs in 18 games, Schwarber batted .348/.403/1.043. It’s good to see Turner finally make it. Since the start of 2018, he ranks 15th among position players in bWAR. — Schoenfield

Record: 43-44
Previous ranking: 13

It has gone from bad to worse as the Cubs lost 11 straight after throwing a no-hitter against the Dodgers on June 24. That changed the course of their season as they’ll certainly subtract from their team as the trade deadline approaches at the end of this month. Former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta isn’t likely to draw interest after back-to-back starts lasting less than two innings, but closer Craig Kimbrel and former MVP Kris Bryant should draw plenty. The latter player is off to a good start to the month. — Rogers

Record: 43-45
Previous ranking: 20

The Cardinals haven’t been a good team since Jack Flaherty went down with an injury, and according to Baseball-Reference, their luck factor has contributed to four extra wins. In other words, they should be even worse than their record indicates. The good news could simply be they get the Cubs this weekend and have a chance to be ahead of them in the standings at the All-Star break. — Rogers

Record: 41-43
Previous ranking: 21

Zack Wheeler and J.T. Realmuto are All-Stars, giving the Phillies two representatives for the first time since 2013, when Cliff Lee and … drumroll please … Domonic Brown made it. Bryce Harper merited consideration, although his 5-for-6 game on Tuesday, which raised his batting average 15 points, came after the All-Star selection. His low RBI total is somewhat explained by this: 14 of his 15 home runs have been solo shots. — Schoenfield

Record: 38-47
Previous ranking: 23

The Marlins continue to post a positive run differential — the best in the NL East. Unfortunately, the standings are determined by win-loss record and the Marlins remain in last place, thanks to a 9-19 record in one-run games, although they just took one-run games from the Dodgers this week. — Schoenfield

Record: 40-47
Previous ranking: 25

Forget third place, the Tigers have suddenly set their sights on second place as their recent prolonged stretch of good play has coincided with Cleveland’s nosedive. Whenever you describe a hot streak that begins with a statistical lowpoint, you are by definition describing an improvement. Still, it’s stark to note that since the Tigers dropped to a season-worst 15 games under .500 on May 7, AJ Hinch’s crew has gone 30-23, the ninth-best record in baseball. Only the White Sox (33-22) have done better during that span among division opponents. With the roster increasingly populated by young players who figure to be around for a while, including Akil Baddoo, Jake Rogers, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Daz Cameron and Casey Mize, Detroit’s road back to relevance is looking a lot shorter than it appeared at the campaign’s outset. — Doolittle

Record: 37-50
Previous ranking: 27

Teams looking for quality starting pitching — and there seem to be even more of those than usual this summer — absorbed a major blow when Rockies manager Bud Black revealed recently that German Marquez is off the table in trade discussions. It makes sense, given the five-year extension Marquez signed at the beginning of the 2019 season, a deal that could keep Marquez in Colorado at a team-friendly rate through 2024. Jon Gray, a pending free agent with a 3.94 ERA in 80 innings this season, is not a bad consolation prize. — Gonzalez

Record: 35-50
Previous ranking: 22

With the Twins showing no sign of relinquishing their status as 2021’s most disappointing team, the buzz surrounding the possible trade of No. 1 starter Jose Berrios has picked up. If Derek Falvey and company decide to trade Berrios, it would be the kind of deal that tilts pennant races, as Berrios would likely headline a tepid group of starters who might be moved during the season. Berrios is making $6.1 million in 2021, with one more year of arbitration eligibility left after this season. For all of Minnesota’s troubles on the pitching side, Berrios ranks in the AL’s top 10 in ERA, strikeouts and innings. These combination of factors likely make a Berrios deal the one most likely to bring back multiple impact talents for a Minnesota team headed for a reshuffling, but not a rebuild. — Doolittle

Record: 36-50
Previous ranking: 24

The Royals have been one of baseball’s worst teams over the past few weeks, which is probably as much of a misleading indicator of their true talent as was April, when Kansas City put up baseball’s best record. Still, the slump dictates the direction GM Dayton Moore and his staff must take from here, which is to zoom in on building for the 2022 season. And it’s not so much the recent poor play that dictates that as it is that the best hope for surprise 2021 contention — a quick collective maturation of the Royals’ young starting pitchers — simply has not happened. Under Moore, the Royals have rarely traded valued players simply to exchange current production for hoped-for future production. But they have traded beloved quality veterans before during a season, including Mike Moustakas back in 2018. Kansas City is a team to watch as the deadline approaches, because the Royals have a young core, more young players on the way and quality veterans, such as Danny Duffy and Jorge Soler, who are nearing free agency. — Doolittle

Record: 34-53
Previous ranking: 26

Righty starter Kyle Gibson is one of the best storylines in baseball this season. HIs ERA+, going into his start on Wednesday, was an eye popping 227, 127 points above league average. He’s signed through next season, so if the Rangers do want to trade him, he should bring back a nice haul. He can help a team now and in 2022. — Rogers

Record: 32-54
Previous ranking: 28

Pittsburgh has done the Jekyll and Hyde routine lately, looking like formidable spoilers for a couple series then falling backward as they were swept in Colorado and lost three of four to the Brewers at home. Adam Frazier continues a steady season that will continue talk of him being moved before the trade deadline. His .396 on-base percentage will be attractive to teams looking for help near the top of their lineup. — Rogers

Record: 28-58
Previous ranking: 29

The Orioles surprisingly swept the Houston Astros but followed that up with three losses to the Los Angeles Angels. The team’s biggest bright spot remains the breakout season of outfielder Cedric Mullins, who was named to his first All-Star Game and owns 3.9 bWAR. — Lee

Record: 25-63
Previous ranking: 30

Eduardo Escobar, the D-backs’ lone All-Star Game representative, entered Wednesday with 18 home runs, a 106 adjusted OPS+ and 1.6 FanGraphs wins above replacement, with versatility at three infield positions and even platoon splits. He will be a free agent at season’s end, and the D-backs will undoubtedly be fielding a multitude of calls on his behalf. –Gonzalez


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