1. New York Yankees (58-38) (Last Week: 2)
I’ll lament more on Ichiro in the blurb on Seattle, but I think trading for him was a nice pickup for the Yanks. Outfield depth has been a minor issue all season as Raul Ibanez, who is a noted butcher with the glove, has been forced to play in the outfield most of the season with Brett Gardner on the DL. With the news that Gardner would be out for the season, this was a logical move and they didn’t give up much to get him. I doubt D. J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar are going to change the fate of the season in Seattle. Ichiro provides a plus glove along with some speed on the base paths. His bat isn’t what it used to be, but he’ll be a good fit hitting late in that stacked order. This, along with the Detroit/Miami trade that occurred at the same time, was a true win/win for both teams, which doesn’t happen too often any more.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Seattle 3, Boston 3)
2. Texas Rangers (57-38) (Last Week: 1)
It’s a good thing C.J. Wilson got out of Texas when he did, because the Rangers’ pitchers have been dropping like flies this season. Colby Lewis’ season ending elbow surgery is only the latest in a rash of injuries that have bugged the defending AL champs’ rotation. Roy Oswalt recently missed a start because of tightness in his back, Derek Holland missed a few weeks on the DL earlier in the campaign, and Neftali Feliz and starter/reliever Alexei Ogando have spent most of the season on the DL. It’s hard to imagine that the team wouldn’t trade for a big name starter to anchor this depleted rotation. It’s ultimately pitching that wins you ballgames and I’m not sure if the Rangers can fend off the Angels without making a move to improve their starting pitching.
(Upcoming Schedule: Boston 3, CHI White Sox 3)
3. Washington Nationals (56-39) (Last Week: 3)
Injuries haven’t been kind to the Nationals this season. After knocking out Mike Morse during spring training, the injury bug was passed along to Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, and now Ian Desmond. Hell, you could say that injuries are what will end up sidelining Stephen Strasburg for the last month of the season and beyond, due to that stubborn innings limit (which is preposterous in a playoff hunt). But even with the bumps and bruises, the Nats still find themselves sitting pretty atop the NL East by 4.5 games and all but eliminated the Mets from contention after blowing up their bullpen multiple times in the later innings. This team has done a wonderful job navigating through the injuries and should be able to keep themselves afloat until playoff time.
(Upcoming Schedule: at NY Mets 3, at Milwaukee 4)
Hit the jump for the rest of Christian’s power rankings…
4. San Francisco Giants (54-42) (Last Week: 9)
Is Big Time Timmy Jim back to being an elite pitcher? I’m doubtful, but his last two starts would indicate that he’s getting back on track quite nicely. It’s important to take these numbers with a grain of salt, as he’s been pitching against the Astros and the Phillies, but 15 IP, 2 ER, and 17 Ks is fantastic. If he does put it together again, there’s not a doubt in my mind that the Giants are playing in the NLCS. A combo of Cain, Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Bumgarner is better than any rotation a contender could throw out there. Things are definitely looking up in San Francisco right now.
(Upcoming Schedule: San Diego 3, at Los Angeles 3)
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (54-41) (Last Week: 5)
There isn’t any bigger reason for Pittsburgh’s success than Andrew McCutchen. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: This guy is a franchise-changing player. He has all five tools and has maximized each of them, which has lead to their success this season. If he isn’t the MVP (22 HR 66 RBI .373/.429/.642), I don’t know who is. I mean, the guy’s WAR is already at 5.2 and it’s only the end of July. What more can he do?
(Upcoming Schedule: CHI Cubs 3, at Houston 4)
6. Detroit Tigers (52-44) (Last Week: 14)
The only team as hot as Oakland right now is the Detroit Tigers. Winners of 13 of their past 15 games, the Tigers have ascended back to first place in the AL Central and are becoming the team that many envisioned coming out of the offseason. The pitching was absolutely superb over their past five starts, as Rick Porcello (8 IP, 0 ER), Max Scherzer (7 IP, 1 ER, 9 K), Justin Verlander (8 IP, 2 ER, 6K) and Doug Fister (8 IP, 1 ER, 10 K) put on a pitching clinic. And more help is on the way too, as the Tigers sent prized prospect pitcher (+1 for alliteration) Jacob Turner, catching prospect Rob Brantly, and reliever prospect Brian Flynn to Miami for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. They do lose some pretty good future players, but the Tigers philosophy is win now and this moves fits that strategy perfectly. Sanchez is the pitching depth the Tigers desperately needed, with an arm that can miss bats at a rate above eight strikeouts per nine innings. And Infante (.287/.312/.442) fills the black hole that was second base (.201/.286/.276) for the Tigers. He may not be an All-Star, but he fills a major need for a team that was getting zero production out of that spot. This move all but guarantees a playoff birth for the Tigers, but what they want is a World Series. Time will tell if this move gets them there.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Cleveland 3, at Toronto 3)
7. Los Angeles Angels (53-44) (Last Week: 4)
Though it was nice for the Halos to gain a game on division rival Texas during their weekend series victory, it has to be concerning how bad Ervin Santana has been this season. He was rocked for six runs in less than two innings and has the third worst ERA among all American League pitchers at 6.00 (leading luminaries such as Jeremy Guthrie and Jake Arrieta). He was fantastic in his last season (3.38 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) that included a no-hitter, but he’s really trailed off since then and has made starting pitching a huge need at the deadline. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Angels were present at Josh Johnson’s last start for Miami, so that could be a nice trade target.
(Upcoming Schedule: Kansas City 3, Tampa Bay 3)
8. Cincinnati Reds (56-40) (Last Week: 7)
The Reds have rebounded really well from the loss of Joey Votto and his torn meniscus that landed him on the DL for the next three or four weeks. Luckily for the Reds, that’s probably the best surgery a player can have on his knee, as anything else near that joint (i.e. ACL, MCL, etc.) is bad news bears. But they’ve won each of their three series since the break and appear to be finding ways to win games in the absence of an MVP candidate like Votto. The Reds’ pitching staff has been especially good this month, posting a 2.61 ERA, which is good for third in all of baseball.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Houston 3, at Colorado 3)
9. Oakland Athletics (51-44) (Last Week: 20)
I really liked what Oakland was doing before the season even began, getting maximum value for Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Andrew Bailey. But I thought that would make them a good team in three years. Oakland, however, has shocked the world with a team of scrappy young guys and a Cuban defector that ties the whole thing together. Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, and Josh Reddick have all been fantastic additions by subtraction as a result of the aforementioned trades and have bloomed in Oakland. While Yoenis Cespedes is in the lineup, the A’s are 39-24, thus showing the genius of Billy Beane for inking him during the offseason in one of the least Moneyball-like deals in a long while. Their American League best 3.37 ERA along with Cespedes turns this team from a cellar dweller to a legitimate contender. This team, in my opinion, is the best story in baseball.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Toronto 3, at Baltimore 3)
10. Los Angeles Dodgers (53-44) (Last Week: 6)
Who would’ve thought that returning the best player in baseball would rejuvenate a lineup? Well, everybody, I guess. But it’s still remarkable how much Matt Kemp means to this offense. He’s been raking since his return, batting .366 with a .981 OPS and has lead the team on their current five game winning streak. He’s missed way too much of the season to be considered and Andrew McCutchen has been really, really good, but Kemp should be in the MVP running every single season.
(Upcoming Schedule: at St. Louis 4, at San Francisco 3)
11. Atlanta Braves (53-44) (Last Week: 12)
Their historic nine run comeback in Washington last weekend was a good message to the rest of the league that they’re still in this thing. And when the whole Ryan Dempster situation is sorted out (he wasn’t happy that he heard about a trade from the media first) and he’s wearing a Braves uniform, they should be even more dangerous to a Nats team that’ll lose their ace at the end of August. If Dempster is half as good as his 2.11 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, Atlanta should be set for a September playoff run.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Miami 3, Philadelphia 3)
12. Chicago White Sox (51-45) (Last Week: 8 )
It pains me to say that the end is near for the White Sox. After a shocking run that put them at the top of the division for most of the season, it appears all but over with after being swept by the Tigers. I know they’re only one game out of first, but I see no way the Tigers, who are firing on all cylinders right now, give up this lead, especially after their deal with Miami on Monday. That doesn’t mean a wild card spot would be out of the question, however, as they’re only a half game out of the final spot. They will need better a better performance from Kevin Youkilis to stay in contention, who only had one hit in the Detroit series, albeit a home run.
(Upcoming Schedule: Minnesota 3, at Texas 3)
13. St. Louis Cardinals (50-46) (Last Week: 11)
I’ve generally put a good amount of stock into a team’s run differential. If they have a differential of about 70-80, they should be set to roll in whatever division they find themselves in. But the Cardinals are finding a way to buck that trend. They’ve put up an NL-best +84 differential, yet can’t manage to climb out of third place in the top-heavy NL Central. St. Louis has everyone in the NL outscored by more than 20 runs, but the runs haven’t been spread out very well apparently, so they find themselves six games back of Cincinnati for first place. Two things will happen with this team: A. The run differential balances out and shows that St. Louis is an just an above average team or B. St. Louis’ record begins to match up to the run differential and they earn a playoff berth.
(Upcoming Schedule: Los Angeles 4, at CHI Cubs 3)
14. Baltimore Orioles (51-45) (Last Week: 13)
This may be the most fraudulent team with a winning record in all of baseball. I was skeptical for most of the season, but I had to give them some love and put them in the top 10 for a while because their record was really, really good and they were winning games. But alas, it was only a mirage as the Orioles have now lost their wild card spot. Kudos to them for hanging on to it for this long, but their 4.60 rotation ERA simply doesn’t allow them to win baseball games on a consistent basis. I don’t read much into their series victory of Cleveland, mostly because the Baltimore RAVENS could have beaten the Indians in a baseball series this weekend. These birds have begun their decent south as often happens at the end of July.
(Upcoming Schedule: Tampa Bay 3, Oakland 3)
15. Toronto Blue Jays (48-47) (Last Week: 18)
I’m not sure how to really evaluate the Jays’ ten player trade with the Astros that brought back luminaries like Brandon Lyon and J.A. Happ to Toronto. That’s of course because I don’t think any player in that trade will ever make too big of an impact in Major League Baseball as long as they live. Happ isn’t much better than Aaron Laffey and Brett Cecil, but he’s a young arm who has a little bit of potential left over, so I guess you never know. But this team is still in the wild card hunt, so don’t be surprised if the Jays make another move to bring in an arm and hold that rotation over until Brandon Morrow returns.
(Upcoming Schedule: Oakland 3, Detroit 3)
16. Tampa Bay Rays (49-47) (Last Week: 15)
I don’t even think the Rays know what the Rays are going to do at the trade deadline this month. With the uncertainty surrounding Evan Longoria and the overall struggle the offense has seen this season, I don’t think I’m the only one questioning whether this could be a playoff team. They have a team batting average (.232) that ranks third worst in all of baseball and don’t have that Joe Maddon-inspired mojo they’ve had in years past. Though I don’t think they should sell the farm, moving James Shields would bring in a good haul while not crippling any immediate chances they have to win. That’s a good deal if I’ve ever heard of one.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Baltimore 3, at LA Angels 3)
17. Cleveland Indians (48-48) (Last Week: 16)
The Indians have confirmed that they, like most things from Cleveland, aren’t that good. I kid of course, because I have a soft spot in my heart for all Rust Belt cities, but the Indians are terrible on both sides of the baseball. The offense could only manage nine runs in four games against an Orioles team that’s essentially busing in complete strangers to fill holes in their rotation. And the pitching, well I can’t say I’m surprised that a rotation with Derek Lowe (yup, he’s still in baseball), the ever-inconsistent Justin Masterson, and Ubaldo (no description necessary) is struggling to the tune of a 4.73 ERA, which is bad enough for 26th in the majors.
(Upcoming Schedule: Detroit 3, at Minnesota 3)
18. Boston Red Sox (48-49) (Last Week: 17)
This is the latest the Red Sox have been under .500 since 2001. That should not only speak to how bad they’ve been this season, but also how dominant they’ve been for the past decade. This is a highly successful franchise and though they may not be a playoff team right now, I see them roaring back at some point to grab a wild card spot. The most talented teams don’t always make it to the World Series, but they almost always get back to the playoffs and I don’t see a team with multiple guys who have the talent to win MVPs missing out on the playoffs in consecutive years. Something does need to be done about the pitching as Beckett and Lester look more like a circus act than a dominant duo of aces. But mark my words, Boston will be alive and well come the beginning of September. Don’t count them out yet.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Texas 3, at NY Yankees 3)
19. Arizona D-Backs (48-48) (Last Week: 19)
I’d like to say a quick thank you to the fantasy gods for allowing me to pick up Jason Kubel in two of my three fantasy leagues this year. I liked him to become a thorn in the side of National League West pitchers, much like he did for years in the AL Central. But I didn’t expect him to be this good. Kubel ranks fourth in the NL with 21 homers, tied for first with 71 RBI, and is putting up a very impressive .297/.368/.577 line this season. He’s been really, really good proving not only to be a fantastic fantasy league pickup, but also a very good baseball pickup for the D-Backs, who are only 4.5 games out of a wild card spot.
(Upcoming Schedule: Colorado 3, NY Mets 4)
20. New York Mets (47-49) (Last Week: 10)
I normally don’t endorse drops this far, but the Mets have been extra bad since the break, losing nine of their first ten games after the break. Johan Santana, who was just placed on the DL with an ankle injury, has given up 19 earned runs in 12.2 innings during the month of July and doesn’t look like the same guy who threw a no hitter against St. Louis. And the Met bullpen? Well, they’ve managed to blow four of these games in the late innings and have a league worst 5.16 ERA. That’s not gonna take you very far, if you want my honest opinion.
(Upcoming Schedule: Washington 3, at Arizona 4)
21. Milwaukee Brewers (44-51) (Last Week: 21)
About everyone not named Ryan Braun is potentially on the trading block in Milwaukee. Rumors have begun to spread that even newly signed third baseman Aramis Ramirez has drawn interest from the Dodgers (via CBS Sports) and Corey Hart’s name has begun to fly around in the trade market. Greinke rejected the Brew Crew’s latest offer for an extension, so it appears he’s on the move as well. Hopefully they can cook some delicious brats over their massive fire sale.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Philadelphia 3, Washington 4)
22. Miami Marlins (45-51) (Last Week: 22)
I don’t often give the Marlins much of any credit on here, but they should be commended in the Sanchez/Infante for Turner deal noted in above in the snippet about the Tigers. They gained a close-to major league ready pitcher who could one day anchor that rotation, along with highly rated catching prospect in Rob Brantly, whom one scout said projects higher than Jacob Turner (via Danny Knobler). It’s a good move that does nothing to hurt Miami in the short term, as Sanchez was going to walk after this season anyways and Infante isn’t exactly an All-Star at second base. And this was also the first trade of draft picks by major league teams, which is somewhat of a historic and interesting mark that we could see more of in the future.
(Upcoming Schedule: Atlanta 3, San Diego 3)
23. Philadelphia Phillies (43-54) (Last Week: 25)
I’m sorry, but the illusion that some in Philadelphia have that this can be a team that’ll compete in September is a pipe dream. They just aren’t that good. As evidenced by last night, Roy Halladay just doesn’t have it this year. Howard and Utley came back a month too late and can’t be relied on in the future to be healthy for 162 games. The Phils need to talk to Victorino and Hamels, tell them that they’ll talk in the free agency, and send them off to replenish their decrepit farm system that is finally paying the price for the Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt deals. Maybe they can get those two FA’s back and have some sort of a future on the farm and it’ll work out well for everybody.
(Upcoming Schedule: Milwaukee 3, at Atlanta 3)
24. San Diego Padres (41-57) (Last Week: 27)
I love the direction this team is heading. They have a really good group of young guys (Yasmani Grandal, Cameron Maybin, Alexei Amarista, and sometime soon, Jedd Gyorko) to pair up with some vets they’re looking to keep beyond this season (Carlos Quentin and Huston Street). And their farm system will greatly benefit when they move Chase Headley to a contender as the market for power-hitting third baseman is especially small this year. If they move the fences in at Petco, this could be a contending team in three or four years (or next year if they follow Oakland’s model).
(Upcoming Schedule: at San Francisco 3, at Miami 3)
25. Kansas City Royals (40-55) (Last Week: 23)
There has to be a way to move Jeff Francouer so the highly touted Wil Myers can make his entrance into the big leagues. Frenchie isn’t nearly as good this season (.245/.283/.371) as he was last season (.285/.329/.476), but that’s a good bat and glove to be coming off of the bench for a contender and could land a useful prospect or two. Myers has shown he’s clearly ready as he’s be the toast of AAA for months now. It’s about time we see him with the big club and learn if he can replicate that performance against the game’s best.
(Upcoming Schedule: at LA Angels 3, at Seattle 4)
26. Chicago Cubs(39-56) (Last Week: 28)
No matter the hold up in the deal that would send Ryan Dempster to Atlanta for prized pitching prospect Randall Delgado, the Cubs will move him and likely Matt Garza in this rebuilding fiesta. I’m still curious why there isn’t more activity centered around Alfonso Soriano, whose 18 homers, 56 RBI, and .271/.322/.494 line could really help some power-needy teams at the deadline. At worst he could net a couple mid-grade prospects and I see division rival Pittsburgh as a perfect fit if the Justin Upton deal doesn’t happen (and it appears that it won’t) and the Cubbies eat some of the contract.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Pittsburgh 3, St. Louis 3)
27. Seattle Mariners (42-56) (Last Week: 26)
As mentioned earlier, Ichiro is now a New York Yankee. The only American franchise he had ever been associated with cut their losses after he requested a trade elsewhere. I can’t really fault the guy, as he hasn’t been on a legitimate contender in Seattle for over a decade. But there’s no doubt that it’ll be strange to see Mr. Suzuki suit up for a team other than the M’s. Seattle doesn’t really lose much in this deal as Ichiro (.261/.288/.352) isn’t the player he once was. The great bat speed has all but worn out and he hasn’t really shown any plate discipline as evidenced by the downright bad OBP. This move allowed Seattle to save face in the offseason by not having to resign him and gave Ichiro the opportunity to win a championship. Really a win-win in my opinion.
(Upcoming Schedule: NY Yankees 3, Kansas City 4)
28. Minnesota Twins (40-56) (Last Week: 24)
Mmmmm, I do love myself some back hair, Mauer style. Probably the highlight of the season with this edition of the Twins.
(Upcoming Schedule: at CHI Sox 3, Cleveland 3)
29. Colorado Rockies (36-59) (Last Week: 29)
It’s bad enough that the Rockies PR people coined this of all seasons “The Year of the Fan.” But they aren’t even letting the fanbase show their frustration. I weep for you, Denver.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Arizona 3, Cincinnati 3)
30. Houston Astros (34-63) (Last Week: 30)
I can’t fault the Astros for trading away every recognizable player (Carlos Lee, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, etc.) from a hapless baseball team. New GM Jeff Luhnow is taking the appropriate strategy and bottoming this team out so they can be good in the future. Will consecutive 100 loss seasons or a team consisting of characters named Brett Wallace or J.D. Martinez get them any revenue from ticket sales? Probably not. But for the long term viability of this team, especially since they’re moving to the ultra-competitive AL West, Luhnow is doing all the right things to build this thing into a contender.
(Upcoming Schedule: Cincinnati 3, Pittsburgh 4)