MLB Power Rankings: Three beasts battle for National League East supremacy

Heading into the season, there was basically a consensus among die-hard fans and pundits alike that the Nationals would win the NL East with relative ease and instead the success-level of their season would be judged on if they could finally get past the divisional round of the playoffs. Some (like me!) thought maybe the Phillies had a shot to be a sneaky wild-card contender and most thought the Braves were a year away. 

Here we are, past the halfway point on the schedule with most teams around 90 games played, and it appears the Nationals are really going to have their hands full if they want to even make the playoffs. Let's reassess the NL East. 

Phillies

They're surging again. 

The upstart Phillies had a rough stretch in early June, but they are rolling right now. They've won eight of their last 10 games and are 17-8 since June 9. They are now tied for first place. 

On the downside, the Phillies have only a plus-20 run differential and have only been in first place for four days. Still, you really only have to be in first place one day to make the playoffs, right? 

SportsLine projections have the Phillies finishing with 87 wins and a 41.2 percent chance of winning the East. 

Braves

The Braves have the best run differential of this trio (plus-68) and have spent the most time in first place (60 days). They haven't had a losing month yet and they have plenty of prospect currency with which they could make a big splash in front of the trade deadline if they wish. 

But ...

They are struggling right now. Visiting the Yankees and Brewers is tough, but still, the Braves just went 1-5 last week. They are just 7-10 since June 19 and that stretch includes series losses to the Orioles and Reds

SportsLine projections have the Braves finishing with 86 wins and a 37.4 percent chance of winning the East. 

Nationals

The Nats have only spent 16 days in first place, which is a major upset given expectations. They went 9-16 in June and despite having taken three of four in Miami to possibly get back on track, they are still just 8-18 since June 9. They've been the worst team in the NL in that stretch. 

Sure, the Nationals have been decimated by key injuries, but they have some guys healthy playing poorly as well. 

They also have good enough players to overcome this five-game deficit, should things start to go right with both injury and performance in the second half. 

SportsLine projections have the Nationals finishing with 85 wins and a 21.2 percent chance of winning the East. 

The projections seem to indicate a three-team race that heads to the final weekend of the season. I'm absolutely all for that. There's tons of fun in September, too. 

The Braves and Phillies play each other seven of the last 10 games! 

Also, the Braves face the Nats three times in September, just as the Nats face the Phillies three times.  

Biggest Movers
4 Brewers
4 Diamondbacks
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Red Sox Remember when they were terrible at hitting home runs? It was less than a year ago! 168-30
2 Yankees They're on pace for 108 wins and having to deal with James Paxton in the Wild Card Game. 162-33
3 Astros There seems to be a lot of arguing about how these top three are ordered every week. It really doesn't matter, guys. These are the three obvious juggernaut powerhouses in baseball. Rank them however you want. There's no wrong answer and they're going to sort it out in October. --64-35
4 Mariners No James Paxton in the All-Star Game is a joke. --58-39
5 Cubs Call them the Comeback Cubs. They've won eight of their last nine and all eight wins were of the come-from-behind variety. They're doing it without Kris Bryant and with a mediocre Anthony Rizzo, too. --55-38
6 Brewers They aren't going away. They had lost five of eight heading into this week, but just ripped off a 6-1 week. That's how it's been going. They answer bad stretches with good ones, like good teams do. 455-43
7 Indians Trevor Bauer is having an unbelievable season and is a deserving All-Star. Believe it or not, he has a better ERA and strikeout rate (by a lot) than Corey Kluber. --52-43
8 Phillies The return of Pat Neshek will provide a nice boost to the bullpen, which has given manager Gabe Kapler plenty of headaches. 153-42
9 Braves Rough week, but they get a day off and then the Blue Jays for two. Then the All-Star break isn't far off. I still believe. 352-42
10 Athletics The surge continues. Since June 15, the A's are an MLB-best 16-4. They trail the Mariners by 6 1/2 games for the second wild-card spot, though. 255-42
11 Dodgers The Dodgers crawled into a first-place lead (by .002, but it counts) and then lost two of three to the Angels. That kind of sums up the Dodgers' first half, right? Not being able to stay out of their own way despite being a very good team? --53-43
12 Diamondbacks The D-Backs have now lost seven of their last 10. Ebbs and flows, right? 453-44
13 Cardinals The Cardinals haven't missed the playoffs three straight seasons since 1997-99. That's a remarkable run, but it looks like it's coming to an end. John Mozeliak has never fired a manager since taking over as GM in 2007 (Tony La Russa retired after the 2011 season), but he needs to rid himself of Mike Matheny. 148-46
14 Rockies What a big week for the Rockies (5-1), especially sweeping the Giants. 451-45
15 Giants Last week I said things were looking up in the Bay Area. This past week, the Giants went 2-5. My bad (yes, I have that kind of power and it comes with great responsibility). 250-48
16 Nationals Taking three of four was a good sign, but it came against the Marlins. We need to see more before we believe it, right? 148-48
17 Angels VOTE FOR ANDRELTON! --49-48
18 Rays Blake Snell not being an All-Star is a joke. Hopefully he gets added as a replacement. 249-47
19 Pirates On May 17, the Pirates were only a half-game out from being the best team in the NL. Since then, they are 15-31. Ebbs and flows? No, that's an expected regression. They just aren't that good. --48-49
20 Reds Not many teams in last get three All-Stars, but they are deserving. Good for Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez on being such unlikely first-timers, too. --43-53
21 Blue Jays The Blue Jays were one of the most exciting teams in baseball in 2015. Now they are almost depressingly boring. --43-52
22 Rangers Among players 35 and older, Shin-Soo Choo legitimately had one of the best careers in a long time for someone who never went to an All-Star Game. He's going now. Good for him. --41-56
23 Twins Kyle Gibson is having a pretty good walk year. The Twins might actually get something in return for him after two years of having an ERA north of 5.00. --44-50
24 Padres Do yourself a favor and go check out the season reliever Kirby Yates is putting together at age 31. --40-59
25 Tigers Nick Castellanos is having his long-awaited breakout season and almost everyone else is mediocre or bad. --41-57
26 Marlins It's pretty surprising how a bad team can have this many worthwhile trading chips (J.T. Realmuto, Starlin Castro, Derek Dietrich and like half the bullpen for starters). --41-57
27 White Sox They are on pace to go 54-108 and actually have a 5 1/2 game lead over the worst record in baseball. --33-62
28 Mets The Mets went 2-3 last week against the Blue Jays and Rays. We'll call that a positive at this point. --39-55
29 Royals Get ready to say goodbye to Moose for a second time, Royals fans. --27-68
30 Orioles How has no one been fired yet? --28-69
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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