Rich 10 MLB rankings (Sep. 21-27)

And so, the final week of the MLB regular season is upon us. 

With a handful of games remaining, the playoff picture is getting clearer and clearer by the day. Some teams have already clinched a bid. Other teams are on the verge. Then, of course, there are the fringe clubs clawing for a taste of postseason action. Finally, there are the rebuilding clubs giving prospects a cup of coffee in preparation for next season. 

With the postseason closer than ever, here is the 10th installment of Rich 10 MLB rankings. 

10. Cleveland Indians (29-24) 

Previous ranking: 9

Record over past week: 3-3

At this point, everyone knows about Cleveland’s pitching potency. Even without Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber (who is an American League Cy Young contender), Zach Plesac (who pitched an immaculate inning Friday) and Carlos Carrasco are still formidable enough to give any opposing rotation a run for its money. The shot in the arm (no pun intended) for Cleveland, though, might come in the form of Jose Ramirez. The 28-year-old infielder is showing reminiscence to 2017, where he tallied an on-base plus slugging (OPS) of .957. Ramirez’s .942 OPS this season has helped give Cleveland’s offense a necessary boost to supplement the elite pitching. Should Cleveland make a deep postseason push, they will need Ramirez to continue his torrid production with the lumber. 

9. Atlanta Braves (31-22) 

Previous ranking: 8

Record over past week: 3-3

Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies are definitely rising stars on this team. Yes, Marcell Ozuna was a nice offseason pickup. However, when it is all said and done, Freddie Freeman is the heartbeat of the offense and the face of the team. In fact, the franchise first baseman is playing like a surefire contender for the National League Most Valuable Player Award. The 31-year-old is currently slashing .346/.464/.634 with a career-high 1.097 OPS. If this does not raise eyebrows, well, listen to this – Freeman currently has more walks (40) than strikeouts (34). In today’s ever-increasing strikeout game, Freeman is putting more emphasis on the eye as opposed to the swing. It is surely paying off. 

8. New York Yankees (31-22) 

Previous ranking: N/A

Record over past week: 5-1

For a moment, the Yankees looked like a dead team walking. However, the script instead flipped, as business is booming for the Bronx Bombers. Despite losing 10-2 to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, the Yankees have won 10 of their past 11 games. More importantly, the offense is beginning to clobber opponents into submission, as the team scored 59 runs over the past week. In case you are not keeping tally, that is an average of 9.8 runs a game. Although injuries have been a concern once more this season, the Yankees are still thriving. With a playoff ticket punched, the team will look to continue its hot stretch during a critical four-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays Monday through Thursday. They will then close out the regular season with a three-game bout against the surprisingly pesky Miami Marlins. 

7. Minnesota Twins (33-22) 

Previous ranking: 5

Record over past week: 3-4

One significant piece to Minnesota’s potential postseason success puzzle is no one other than the “Bringer of Rain” himself. Josh Donaldson, despite having injury spells this season, has started to scorch the baseball off of the barrel, as the power hitter is slashing .286/.444/.571 over his past seven games. Should his bat continue to rake it, the Twins will have a significant advantage in the playoffs. The question at this point, however, is whether Minnesota can overcome their postseason kryptonite in the New York Yankees. Should they play them, we shall find out. 

6. Chicago Cubs (31-22)

Previous ranking: 7

Record over past week: 3-2

Despite losing the Sunday matchup against Minnesota, Chicago looks poised to pick up a playoff spot. The nearly certain realization, however, does not come without its hitch – an oblique injury for reliever Rowan Wick (who had a 3.12 ERA in 19 relief appearances this season) could keep the righty out of action for the remainder of the baseball campaign, postseason included. The Cubs will attempt to juggle around their bullpen to find the right combination over their last seven games against the Pittsburgh Pirates and inter-city rival Chicago White Sox. 

5. Oakland Athletics (33-20) 

Previous ranking: 6

Record over past week: 4-3

Another year and another postseason berth for the Athletics. After clinching their third-straight postseason spot in as many years, Oakland will look to get their early-round jitters off of their chest and make a deep run. In order to do that, Jake Lamb will need to fill the shoes of star third baseman Matt Chapman, who will miss the rest of the season after undergoing hip surgery. So far, so good for Lamb, as he is currently slashing .364/.417/.727 with a 1.144 OPS in six games with Oakland. Yeah, yeah, small sample size, but that has never stopped the “Moneyball” mantra Oakland has lived by. They will hope their philosophy of low-payroll players and homegrown stars will pay off this postseason. Time for the real work to begin.

4. San Diego Padres (34-20)

Previous ranking: 2

Record over past week: 3-3

Clutch hits from Wil Myers, Mitch Moreland and company helped vault the Friars over the Seattle Mariners in extra innings Sunday evening. The victory, however, was not any regular run-of-the-mill win. It clinched a postseason berth for the Padres and snapped their 14-year playoff drought. The youth, veterans, star power and trade acquisitions are all there. San Diego has built what they wanted to build. Now, it is time for the Friars to pit their roster against the best of the best. The sky is the limit. Now, it is time to prove it. 

3. Chicago White Sox (34-19) 

Previous ranking: 3

Record over past week: 4-3

After taking three out of four games against the Twins, the South Siders lost a series against the surging Cincinnati Reds. Despite the rare series loss, the White Sox clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2008 after defeating Minnesota, 4-3, Thursday. To only add to the festivities, 2020 first-rounder Garrett Crochet powered 100-plus mph fastballs in a 1-2-3 debut Saturday evening. With the debut, Crochet has the honors of being the first 2020 draftee to reach the MLB level. In total, you have a postseason berth and a budding youngster showing out. What more can the White Sox ask for? Well, perhaps a 2020 World Series victory, I guess. 

2. Tampa Bay Rays (35-19) 

Previous ranking: 4

Record over past week: 5-2

The x-factor for Tampa Bay might just be cranking into gear in preparation for the postseason. Ryan Yarbrough, after missing time with a groin injury earlier in the season, was activated from the Injured List (IL) Sep. 8 and has slowly but surely regained his stride. In two games started over the past week, the lengthy southpaw pitched 12.2 innings, struck out 13 batters and allowed only three earned runs. As a utility pitcher who can open, start or relieve a game, Yarbrough will be pivotal toward the success of Kevin Cash’s pitching strategy during playoff action. The Rays close out their regular season with a three-game slate at Citi Field against the New York Mets, followed by a three-game homestand against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (38-16)

Previous ranking: 1

Record over past week: 5-2

You will be sorely disappointed if you wanted a spoiler sitting atop these rankings. With the best record in all of MLB, it is only natural for the Dodgers to sit in the pole position this ranking installment once more. The grand prize Los Angeles seeks, though, is not regular-season success. They want World Series success. At this stage, everyone knows Los Angeles has the talent to come out as the remaining team standing. Should they fulfill their goals, it will be time for certain homegrown players to step up. Cody Bellinger, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and company, all eyes are on you. 

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