MLB Power Rankings: Is the Royals' surge too little too late?

Many of us wrote the Royals off. I say "us" because I'm accountable and I definitely thought they had no chance at the playoffs just a few weeks ago. I mean, was it really that egregious? They were 51-58, 11 games out in the AL Central and 9 1/2 out of the second AL wild card.

I'd guess that even many Royals fans considered their team a non-contender.

Instead, they've gone out and won 14 of their last 16 games.

Were we too early, or were they too late? Because that was an awfully big hole they dug for themselves at a late point in the season.

The AL Central is still off the table (there I go again, right?) at 8 1/2 games, but look at that wild-card race. Four out. They can swing that. Maybe.

It doesn't seem likely. Between the Royals and that last playoff spot (currently in the Orioles' powerful hands) are the Mariners and Tigers while the Astros are only a half-game behind the Royals. The Yankees are only one back, even.

So it's already a tall order and the schedule doesn't help, either. Of the Royals' 37 games left, 20 come against teams with winning records and 11 of those 20 come on the road, where the Royals are 25-39 this season. It's not ridiculously difficult, but several teams in the wild-card race have much easier schedules. And, again, the Royals need to make up four games while leaping over a small handful of teams. They are still standing with their backs against the proverbial wall.

Even in 2014, when the Royals won 89 games and grabbed a wild card, they were 70-55 and leading the AL Central at this point. Last year they were 77-48 and had a 13-game lead in the Central.

So while this group has done a lot, they haven't been in this situation and emerged as a playoff team before.

Then again, haven't we learned to never count out the Royals by now? I have. I've learned my lesson. While it's still unlikely they make the playoffs, I won't again this season say they are done until the situation is beyond grave. We've just seen too much from this group to behave otherwise.

Please feel free to contact me with comments either on Twitter (@MattSnyderCBS) or via email: matt.snyder@cbs.com. These are posted on Wednesdays. Don't be the person who screams about the rankings the following Monday. Be better than that.

Biggest Movers
6 Royals
5 Pirates
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Cubs Addison Russell now has 19 homers and 82 RBI and has settled into the five-hole in the powerful Cubs' offense. He's silky smooth at short, too. So maybe he didn't deserve to start the All-Star Game -- he definitely didn't -- but he's a pretty damn good 22-year-old player. -- 82-45
2 Indians What an amazing series that was against the Blue Jays, when the Indians took two of three. All one-run affairs with late-inning drama. Playoff preview? Perhaps. Would be a great series. 1 73-54
3 Red Sox The hottest team outside Kansas City, the Red Sox have won 10 of their last 12. I strongly considered the number two spot for this bunch. 3 71-57
4 Blue Jays Russell Martin was having a miserable season at the plate for a bit. It almost bled into June, even. Through May 24, he was hitting .172/.243/.180 with one double and zero home runs in 136 plate appearances. Yikes. He's run that up to .249/.345/.413 with 14 doubles and 14 home runs. He even hit cleanup and was the DH on Tuesday night. Quite the rebound. 1 72-56
5 Nationals No, I'm not worried about the Stephen Strasburg elbow thing. Is that wrong? 3 75-53
6 Rangers Fun hypothetical: Imagine at this time last season telling someone that the Rangers could run out a Carlos Gomez, Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran outfield in 2016. 2 75-54
7 Orioles Mark Trumbo's gonna hit 50 homers this year, isn't he? -- 70-58
8 Mariners King Felix is "back" while James Paxton and Taijuan Walker have returned to the rotation. Time for that playoff run, Seattle. -- 68-60
9 Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez's power had already been ramping up before that three-homer rampage on Monday. A great sign moving forward for the offense. -- 71-57
10 Royals Yordano Ventura in his last eight starts? 2.64 ERA. Bueno. 6 67-61
11 Cardinals The Cardinals are 66-58. In 2011, they were 66-58. I'm not saying, I'm just saying ... 1 68-59
12 Tigers OK, Tigers. It's your time. The next eight games come against bad teams. Time to right the ship or sink. -- 69-59
13 Astros Big stretch coming up. After one more against the Pirates, the Astros have a six-game homestand against the Rays and A's. They probably need at least five of those. Then they have a three-game series against their nemesis, the Texas Rangers. The Astros are 2-11 against those Rangers this year. If the playoffs are in the cards, they need to turn that tide. 4 67-61
14 Yankees Gary Sanchez is only 23 and he's already sitting alone with the great Thurman Munson. Those are the only two Yankees catchers ever to win an American League Player of the Week award. It came in Sanchez's third week as a starter. -- 66-61
15 Marlins Going out and sweeping the Pirates in Pittsburgh after three losses to the Reds was nails. Given the injury issues, those three losses to the Reds really could have been the beginning of the end. Good on the Marlins for the bounce back. -- 67-61
16 Pirates Gregory Polanco entered the season a career .249/.316/.369 hitter. Sure, there was upside that hadn't been realized yet, but that's what we'd seen at the big-league level. The Pirates inked him to a five-year, $35 million deal with club options through 2023. Polanco is now hitting .278/.345/.503 with 29 doubles, 19 homers, 70 RBI, 67 runs and 11 steals. He looks like a star in doing so, too. Take a bow, Pirates front office. 5 65-61
17 Giants The Giants still have the worst record in baseball since the All-Star break and I completely and utterly refuse to give up on them. I'm digging my heels in here. Is that wrong? 4 70-58
18 Mets Matt Harvey out for the season, Zack Wheeler still not back from Tommy John surgery. Steven Matz now on the DL with a shoulder issue. Not to mention that Noah Syndergaard is pitching through bone spurs in his elbow. That's an awful of starts lost to injury from an incredibly talented group. -- 65-63
19 Rockies The Rockies got swept by the Phillies, came home and went 4-2 against the Nationals and Cubs and have now lost two in a row to the Brewers. Shoulder shrug emoji, activate. 1 60-68
20 White Sox A good sign for the young lefty in an inconsistent season: Carlos Rodon has a 1.46 ERA in his last four starts. 1 61-66
21 Phillies Your major-league leader in triples? Cesar Hernandez of the Phillies with nine. 2 59-69
22 Reds The Reds took three of four from the Marlins and split a four-game series with the Dodgers before beating the Rangers on Tuesday. Clearly, they are trying to wrestle away the title of "The Saboteurs" from the Twins. 2 54-73
23 Rays Many of us have long since established that pitcher wins and losses aren't good at being the primary indicator of pitcher performance. That being said, it's a bit depressing to see Chris Archer with 17 losses when we aren't even to September yet. 1 54-73
24 Athletics Lost season, lots of injuries and then Danny Valencia clocks Billy Butler in the locker room. That was the "our pets' heads are falling off!" moment of the year, right? 1 55-73
25 Brewers We've mentioned him before, but it's worth an update. Jonathan Villar was acquired last November from the Astros for minor-leaguer Cy Sneed. Villar has a .381 on-base percentage, 30 doubles and 50 steals. Talk about finding a long-term leadoff man on the cheap. Beautiful. 2 56-72
26 Padres Taking three of four from the Diamondbacks was huge in solidifying this lofty spot in the Official Power Rankings. 3 53-75
27 Diamondbacks Who had a healthy Paul Goldschmidt finishing third on the team in home runs? He led the team by 13 last year, but this time around he trails both Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb. 2 54-75
28 Angels They've lost 15 of their last 18 and I'm convinced that Mike Scioscia can't get fired. He could pull a George Costanza and try to get fired and it wouldn't happen. -- 54-74
29 Twins Call them "The Artists Formerly Known as the Saboteurs." They've lost their magic. 3 49-79
30 Braves The Braves are on pace to go 59-102. In franchise history, they've lost more games than that six times, though only once since settling down in Atlanta (the 1988 Braves were 54-106). -- 47-82
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered the last five World Series beginning with the epic 2011 Fall Classic. The former Indiana University... Full Bio

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