Power Rankings: Prepping for stretch drive

Power Rankings: Prepping for stretch drive

Weekly rankings are as much about long-term prognostications as they are about tracking the progress of a team week to week. And this week's MLB Power Rankings largely reflect how a lot of teams fared at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and how that may set them up for the stretch drive.

The top five teams, for example, all have one thing in common: They seemingly did a lot to improve before the Trade Deadline passed last Friday. Still more in the top 10 -- the Giants and the Mets, for example -- also acquired strong reinforcements. This sets us up for what is looking to be a wild finish with several hotly contested division races likely to go down to the wire.

Biggest jump: The Padres just made our top 20 last week, coming in at No. 20. This week they've jumped four spots to No. 16, which may indicate that we agree with general manager A.J. Preller, who stood pat at the Trade Deadline, that the Padres' postseason pursuit may not be totally over. It's a long shot, no question, given San Diego's sub-.500 record and 6 1/2-game deficit in the National League Wild Card race. But they had won seven of 10 and four in a row entering Sunday -- when they lost to the Marlins -- so that's at least something.

Biggest drop: The Angels and Tigers each dropped five spots, but the Tigers' fall may be the more telling of the two. They were 15th last week, indicating nothing better than mediocrity, and they're 20th this week, which reflects their seller status at the Trade Deadline. The Angels are slightly more intriguing, because they're very much in the American League West race, but they have really struggled in the last week after briefly taking over first place in the division from the Astros.

The MLB.com voting panel's top five

1. Cardinals
The Cardinals obviously didn't need to do a ton at the Trade Deadline, but they did just enough, landing some bullpen reinforcements and a left-handed power-hitting outfielder/first baseman. That should be plenty to make sure the team is fresh and ready for an October push. August could be favorable as well -- the Cardinals are on the road this week, playing the Reds and Brewers, two teams that unloaded veteran talent at the Deadline.

2. Royals
The Royals nearly unseated the Cardinals for the top spot, but really, we pretty much see these two teams as interchangeable. Kansas City was already in the driver's seat in the AL Central before the Trade Deadline, then the front office shored up the one area that could have easily turned into a liability down the stretch -- the rotation. Johnny Cueto is a true ace and fills a huge need for a team with such a good chance to make another strong push through October.

3. Dodgers
The consensus in the aftermath of the dizzying three-team trade involving the Dodgers, Marlins and Braves was that the Dodgers got more out of the deal than the other two. They addressed their massive shortage of healthy starting pitchers and also added to a sometimes shaky bullpen. Considering the Dodgers have spent all season in either first or second place with so many glaring holes speaks well of their depth and their chances to reach the playoffs again.

4. Astros
The Astros were a game back in the standings when they hosted the second-place Angels early last week, but three days later they were again in first place after a convincing sweep. The Astros capped a 5-1 homestand by taking two of three from the D-backs, and they're entering the final eight weeks of the season having obtained two starting pitchers (Scott Kazmir, Mike Fiers) and a dynamic, run-producing center fielder in Carlos Gomez.

5. Pirates
The Pirates would be a first-place team in four other divisions, but in the NL Central, they have to settle, for now, for second place behind the mighty Cardinals. Still, they are humming along as a Wild Card favorite and were successful in reinforcing their pitching at the Trade Deadline. As they wait to hear what could potentially be crushing news about A.J. Burnett, they have quite a test in the next two weeks -- they play the Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals and Mets, all playoff contenders.

The rest of the top 20: 6. Yankees (4); 7. Giants (9); 8. Nationals (8); 9. Mets (12); 10. Angels (5); 11. Cubs (10); 12. Blue Jays (13); 13. Twins (11); 14. Orioles (16); 15. White Sox (18); 16. Padres (20); 17. D-backs (19); 18. Rays (14); 19. Rangers (17); 20. Tigers (15)

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.