MLB Power Rankings: Who is No. 1 at the season’s halfway point?

MLB Power Rankings: Who is No. 1 at the season’s halfway point?

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 Oakland Athletics impress our voters enough to move into the top spot the San Francisco Giants grabbed last week? How high did the Milwaukee Brewers climb after opening up a sizable NL Central lead? And how much love did our experts show the Washington Nationals after a red-hot month?

Here is what our eight-voter expert panel decided based on what they have learned in the first two-plus 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 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. San Francisco Giants

Record: 50-29
Previous ranking: 1

If the Giants are to win the NL West — a circumstance few could have predicted at the start of the year — they might have to figure out a way to win close games against the Dodgers. The Giants have lost six of nine against their longtime rivals this season, though five of those losses — including these past two at Dodger Stadium — have been decided by three runs or less. The two teams will face one another seven more times before the end of July. — Gonzalez


2. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 49-31
Previous ranking: 3

After watching his Dodgers get swept in San Diego, then come back home and get no-hit by the Chicago Cubs, Dave Roberts noted that his team was “embarrassed.” What followed was five consecutive wins, the last two against the first-place Giants. Kenley Jansen closed out both of those games to continue a resurgent season in which he has posted a 1.38 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and 20 saves in 22 chances. The key has been an effective slider to offset his cutter — off a grip suggested to him by former Dodgers pitcher and current broadcaster Orel Hershiser. — Gonzalez


3. Houston Astros

Record: 48-33
Previous ranking: 2

Houston charged back into first place in June, led by franchise stalwarts Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve and veteran Michael Brantley, who showed once again why he’s one of baseball’s best unsung hitters. But for all the recent production by the Astros’ name-brand offensive stars, perhaps the most exciting development deep in the heart of Texas was the play of Myles Straw. Entering the last day of the month, Straw was hitting .341/.426/.447 in June while tearing up the basepaths. Straw’s 1.3 fWAR in June trailed Correa (1.9) and Altuve (1.6) but was the 10th-best total in the AL. — Doolittle


4. San Diego Padres

Record: 49-33
Previous ranking: 5

Dinelson Lamet has been shut down once again because of a forearm issue, but 21-year-old left-hander Ryan Weathers proved capable of taking down a major league rotation spot earlier this season. Of similar importance: Drew Pomeranz, one of the team’s most important relievers, has returned after a seven-week absence because of a shoulder impingement, a major boost for a bullpen that has been especially taxed this season. — Gonzalez


5. Boston Red Sox

Record: 50-31
Previous ranking: 8

Boston swept the New York Yankees over the weekend, with a highlight performance on Sunday against Gerrit Cole, after dropping two of three against the Tampa Bay Rays. While the rotation is seeing some early contributors, like Garrett Richards, come back down to Earth — making the return of Chris Sale feel all the more urgent — the bullpen continues to impress with strong performances from Rule-5 pick Garrett Whitlock, Josh Taylor, Hirokazu Sawamura, Adam Ottavino and closer Matt Barnes. — Lee


6. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 47-34
Previous ranking: 6

Wander Franco — the game’s top prospect — impressed in his MLB debut, going 2-for-4 with a homer and a double against the Red Sox, but has struggled since as he tries to adjust to big-league pitching. Third baseman Joey Wendle continues to string together a strong season, leading all Rays position players in bWAR. — Lee


7. Chicago White Sox

Record: 47-32
Previous ranking: 4

With injuries mounting for the White Sox, the trade rumor mill has been buzzing, with Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Eduardo Escobar one name linked to Chicago. Escobar’s defensive metrics as a second baseman over the course of his career are better than his overall fielding results, but he’s no Ryne Sandberg at the keystone. At the plate, Escobar is a low-contract, semi-patient power threat who has generally produced with players on base over his career. The problem is that the White Sox, as currently constructed, might need someone who is more proficient at finding his way onto the bases than he is at clearing them. — Doolittle


8. Oakland Athletics

Record: 48-34
Previous ranking: Oakland dropped two of three to San Francisco, but is still in the heart of the American League wild-card conversation. Outfielder Mark Canha — second among the team’s position players in bWAR behind Matt Olson — recently hit the injured list with a left hip strain, leaving a hole in the team’s leadoff spot and diminishing its versatility in the outfield. — Lee


9. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 48-33
Previous ranking: 12

Milwaukee took command of the NL Central in June by taking advantage of the soft part of its schedule. The trade for Willy Adames has added an offensive catalyst and a leader in the clubhouse. Keston Hiura hit .353 last week and has also helped turn Milwaukee into the division’s team to beat since his return from Triple-A. — Rogers


10. New York Mets

Record: 41-35
Previous ranking: 9

Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil returned from the IL, but the offense continues to struggle and ranks next to last in the majors in runs per game, 26th in OPS and 28th in isolated power. While Pete Alonso has hardly been the biggest problem, his struggles at home are noteworthy as he’s hit just one of his 12 home runs at Citi Field. — Schoenfield


11. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 41-37
Previous ranking: 14

Toronto is a contender for a wild-card spot and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a leading candidate for the AL MVP trophy. Having George Springer back should bolster the Blue Jays’ lineup further, though he has yet to find his footing at the plate since returning from injury. — Lee


12. Chicago Cubs

Record: 42-39
Previous ranking: 10

A brutal month on the schedule comes to an end for the Cubs, who faltered badly in the final days. After throwing a combined no-hitter against the Dodgers last week, they went on to lose their next six games, including blowing a seven-run lead in Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Cubs are injured and simply have too many holes — starting with their rotation which averages under five innings per start — so this might be enough for them to decide to deal away veterans at the trade deadline. — Rogers


13. Cleveland Indians

Record: 42-35
Previous ranking: 11

Cleveland’s sagging offense has gotten a pair of jolts from in-season call-ups. Former Marlin Harold Ramirez has hit for average and power while moving around the outfield. Also, perennial prospect Bobby Bradley seems intent on sticking in the big leagues this time around, putting up an .889 OPS over his first three weeks as Terry Francona’s regular first baseman. Now, Cleveland has to replace right fielder Josh Naylor, who suffered a gruesome leg injury early in the week. Increasingly, the AL Central race looks like it’s going to come down to whether or not Cleveland can fill its injury voids more effectively than Chicago. — Doolittle


14. New York Yankees

Record: 41-39
Previous ranking: 13

The panic alarms are sounding again in New York after the team dropped three games against the division rival Red Sox, with general manager Brian Cashman saying that the team could potentially find itself in a position to subtract at the trade deadline instead of add. And that was before Wednesday’s crushing loss to the Angels. On the bright side: After a slow start to the season, second baseman DJ LeMahieu is heating up at the plate. — Lee


15. Washington Nationals

Record: 40-38
Previous ranking: 20

Kyle Schwarber’s home run on Tuesday was his 16th in 18 games, tying Sammy Sosa (1998) and Barry Bonds (2001) for most home runs ever over an 18-game span. He’s just the seventh player with 16 home runs in one calendar month (Sosa and Mark McGwire did it twice). Oh, no coincidence: The Nationals went 14-4 over those 18 games and climbed over .500 for the first time since starting 1-0. — Schoenfield


16. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 39-40
Previous ranking: 18

Cincinnati continues to plod along as your quintessential .500 team. Nick Castellanos has remained hot — and an MVP candidate — while Jesse Winker has cooled off. As those two go, the Reds offense goes. The Reds are a bat and arm short of making a run in the NL Central. — Rogers


17. Atlanta Braves

Record: 38-41
Previous ranking: 16

It was a tough week for Atlanta. The Braves announced Mike Soroka had again torn his right Achilles tendon, apparently while just walking into the clubhouse. That means another surgery, which could push him out for all of 2022 as well. Then Tucker Davidson was transferred to the 60-day IL due to his forearm inflammation. In the meantime, Kyle Muller is getting a chance in the rotation and allowed one run and just two hits over nine innings in his first two starts. — Schoenfield


18. Seattle Mariners

Record: 42-39
Previous ranking: 15

It will be difficult for J.P. Crawford to crack an All-Star team with Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Bo Bichette and Tim Anderson playing the same position, but he’s been outstanding once again in the field and is on his way to a second straight Gold Glove. Crawford also is having his best year at the plate with an OPS+ over 100. He’s hit over .300 since moving to the leadoff spot and over .300 with runners in scoring position. — Schoenfield


19. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 39-41
Previous ranking: 17

Shohei Ohtani reached for a 2-2 curveball from Nestor Cortes in Tuesday’s seventh inning and flew out to the center-field warning track at Yankee Stadium. He had just missed what would have been his third home run of the night. Instead, he settled for five home runs in a stretch of five games and 11 of them over his last 13 games — all while continuing to be a very effective starting pitcher. The only thing standing in the way of an MVP for Ohtani might be the success of the team that surrounds him. Mike Trout can certainly relate. — — Gonzalez


20. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 37-41
Previous ranking: 21

How did the Phillies bullpen do over the past week, you ask? Well, it allowed runs in the seventh and eighth innings to lose 2-1 in the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets (and blew a 1-0 lead in the seventh in the second game, although the Phillies won in eight). The next day, the Mets won 4-3 with two runs in the ninth. On Monday, the Phillies led the Reds 4-2 and allowed 10 runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Yes, it was a lot easier for Joe Girardi when Mariano Rivera was around. — Schoenfield


21. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 40-41
Previous ranking: 19

St. Louis is playing a little better as the schedule softens up, but it’s going to take a significant run to get back into the race. Adam Wainwright turned in a strong performance in his last start and Nolan Arenado had a good week on both sides of the ball. — Rogers


22. Minnesota Twins

Record: 33-45
Previous ranking: 24

On Tuesday, the Twins dropped a tough 7-6 decision to the first-place White Sox in the first of 10 meetings left between Chicago and Minnesota before the trade deadline. With the White Sox and Indians both bedeviled by injuries — kind of like the Twins have been for most of the season — a pie-eyed Minnesotan might maintain hope for a miracle run back into contention during July. Barring that, a trade deadline shakeup might be in store for an organization well positioned to reload for 2022. — Doolittle


23. Miami Marlins

Record: 34-45
Previous ranking: 22

Mired in last place despite a positive run differential, the Marlins made the first of what could be several trades over the next month, sending reliever Adam Cimber and outfielder Corey Dickerson (and $2.65 million) to the Blue Jays for Joe Panik and minor league pitcher Andrew McInvale. The Marlins save a little money and get a potential relief arm in McInvale, a 24-year-old righty with some good strikeout numbers at Double-A and a low- to-mid-90s fastball. — Schoenfield


24. Kansas City Royals

Record: 33-46
Previous ranking: 23

Only the hapless Diamondbacks stood in the way of the Royals’ ending the month with baseball’s worst record in June. The starters posted an ERA north of seven. The bullpen blew two saves for every one it converted. The hitters finished 11th in overall batting average, but 25th in average with runners in scoring position. Other than that, everything was just fine. Kansas City completed a first-to-worst tumble that took exactly six weeks, during which the Royals went 17-32. July promises to be a time of positioning for 2022. — Doolittle


25. Detroit Tigers

Record: 36-45
Previous ranking: 25

The month of June proved to be encouraging for Tigers fans in a number of ways. Detroit entered its month-end doubleheader at Cleveland with a chance to finish with a winning record for the month. During that span, the Tigers climbed into third place, passing the Twins and Royals. Prospect Matt Manning reached the majors for the first time and held his own in two of his first three outings. And Manning joined a rotation that already included Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, giving Detroit its first glimpse at what it hopes will be Michigan’s best power trio since Grand Funk Railroad. — Doolittle


26. Texas Rangers

Record: 31-49
Previous ranking: 27

Texas is pitching well now and that bodes well for the front office heading into trade season. Kyle Gibson still has another year left on his contract but contending teams should be lining up with offers for the likely All-Star. Even Jordan Lyles and Mike Foltynewicz could draw interest as both have performed better over the past several weeks. — Rogers


27. Colorado Rockies

Record: 34-47
Previous ranking: 26

Quality starting pitching will be especially difficult to come by this summer, given the desire for teams — even non-contending teams — to hold onto their depth to combat the risks of injuries after a 60-game season. A pitcher like German Marquez, who came within three outs of a no-hitter on Tuesday and has allowed only one run over his last 23 innings, will be highly coveted before July 30. But he’s locked up through 2024 on a relatively team-friendly contract, and the Rockies would probably be hesitant to part with someone like that. — Gonzalez


28. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 29-50
Previous ranking: 28

Despite a little lull in Colorado over the past few days, don’t sleep on the Pirates. When healthy, their lineup is sneaky. Adam Frazier continues performing while Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds are heating up. Pittsburgh will be a team that trades away some players in July, but the Pirates can play the spoiler role as well as any last-place team in baseball. — Rogers


29. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 27-54
Previous ranking: 29

The Orioles lost their biggest trade chip — Freddy Galvis — to a quad strain that’s expected to keep him sidelined for around a month or two. Meanwhile, top prospect Adley Rutschman continues to impress at Double-A Bowie and will represent Baltimore at the 2021 Futures Game. — Lee


30. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 22-60
Previous ranking: 30

The D-backs finally snapped their road losing streak on Saturday, which ended with a record 24 in a row. With that out of the way, we can look forward to which of their players might move elsewhere. The first one to go could be Escobar, the veteran utility infielder who has reportedly been targeted by the White Sox. Many of his teammates will soon follow. — Gonzalez