1. Tampa Bay Rays (+1, 35-25, 1st in AL East)
This Week: vs. NY Mets (3), vs. Miami (3)
Not a bad ending to the week with a sweep of the Marlins in Miami to remind Florida who the best team in the Sunshine State really is. The Rays have been winning games mostly without any help from their offense throughout the year, but Ben Zobrist may be turning it around. Over the last week, he’s hit .304 with two home runs. Should the team get better play from their super utility man to partner with Matt Joyce and B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay becomes more about just pitching.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (+4, 39-22, 1st in NL West)
This Week: vs. LA Angels (3), vs. Chicago White Sox (3)
Outside of the six-pitcher no-hitter the Seattle Mariners somehow managed to twirl against the Dodgers this week, the team was bashing everything. They swept the Phillies for four, and won the final two in Seattle. And, all the while, they’ve done it without Matt Kemp (DL) and Andre Ethier (2 for his last 26). That’s fine, since apparently Jerry Hairston Jr. and Bobby Abreu are offensive studs recently. How long that lasts, well, nobody really knows.
3. Washington Nationals (+0, 35-23, 1st in NL East)
This Week: @ Toronto (3), vs. NY Yankees (3)
A three game sweep in Boston, even if the Red Sox aren’t at full strength, is still impressive. While Stephen Strasburg gets all the headlines nationally, its Gio Gonzalez that is leading the league’s most dominant starting rotation. His 8 wins are tied for 2nd in the National League, and he sports a 2.35 ERA with 89 strikeouts, second behind Strasburg’s 92. Long story short, those two at the top of the rotation will keep the Nationals in first place.
4. New York Yankees (+3, 34-25, 2nd in AL East)
This Week: @ Atlanta (3), @ Washington (3)
After a completely wasted start against the Los Angeles Angels, Saturday’s performance against the Mets (6.1 innings, 6 Ks, 2 runs) marked two straight strong performances for Phil Hughes. If Hughes proves this recent string of success is more than just a flash in the pan, with the Yankees ability to hit long balls, they’ll be more than just another playoff team moving forward.
5. Atlanta Braves (+7, 34-26, 2nd in NL East)
This Week: vs. NY Yankees (3), vs. Baltimore (3)
There is no team in baseball this season that is more prone to extended hot or cold streaks than the Atlanta Braves, and I just don’t see that changing. After losing eight consecutive games two weeks ago, the Braves rattled off six straight last week before falling to the Blue Jays on Sunday. If there is any rain to pour on the Braves’ parade, Tim Hudson missed his scheduled start this weekend. The last thing this team needs is another injury to their de-facto ace, especially when Julio Teharan continues to prove he’s not ready for Major League action.
6. Texas Rangers (-6, 35-26, 1st in AL West)
This Week: vs. Arizona (3), vs. Houston (3)
It was a very strange week for the Rangers. They dropped three of four in Oakland, and were almost no-hit by rookie Jarrod Parker. Then, they turned around and took two of three against the Giants. Yeah, that makes sense. The only bad news for the Rangers this weekend? Though he looked brilliant in his return to the rotation, Alexi Ogando left Sunday’s game against the Giants early with a strained groin. Should he miss extended time due to injury, the team would be down both their young flamethrowers and already skipping a start by Yu Darvish. Trouble?
7. San Francisco Giants (+4, 34-27, 2nd in NL West)
This Week: vs. Houston (3), @ Seattle (3)
San Francisco is running out four starting pitchers that are having near All-Star caliber seasons this year. Tim Lincecum is not one of those four starting pitchers. 2012 might be a lost season for Lincecum, plain and simple. Between his struggles and the swirling stories painting the team beyond disappointed with Pablo Sandoval’s work ethic, its easy to forget this team is having a strong first half of their season. As long as Angel Pagan (.321/.359/.470 with 12 steals) and Melky Cabrera (league-leading .364 average) continue to perform, this team will score runs. Lots of them.
8. Baltimore Orioles (+1, 34-26, 3rd in AL East)
This Week: vs. Pittsburgh (3), @ Atlanta (3)
If not for some guy named Josh Hamilton, we’d be talking about Adam Jones as the American League’s best all-around center fielder. Jones ranks in the top 10 in the AL in batting average, home runs, runs, steals, slugging and OPS. He’s a near lock for an All-Star game appearance, and he’s proving to be quite the leader for the surprising-yet-very-real young Orioles squad.
9. Chicago White Sox (-5, 33-27, 1st in AL Central)
This Week: @ St. Louis (3), @ LA Dodgers (3)
What’s the most surprising part of the White Sox season? Is it Paul Konerko’s .365/.447/.614 with 12 home runs? Or Adam Dunn bashing 20 home runs before the half way point after his anemic offensive season last year? Is it Chris Sale emerging as arguably the American League favorite in the Cy Young race? I have no idea. All I know is that there is no chance the White Sox are fading out of this race any time soon, especially with the weak competition in the AL Central right now and the struggles of the Detroit Tigers.
10. Cincinnati Reds (+0, 32-27, T-1st in NL Central)
This Week: vs. Cleveland (3), @ NY Mets (3)
He’s human! Aroldis Chapman has now allowed earned runs in his two most recent appearances. Who would’ve thunk it? While the bullpen takes maybe a slight step backwards, its still Joey Votto who will keep the Reds at the top of the standings. With Matt Kemp injured and David Wright looking more and more human, is there anybody establishing their case for NL MVP more so than Votto at this point? I didn’t think so.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates (+7, 32-27, T-1st in NL Central)
This Week: @ Baltimore (3), @ Cleveland (3)
No player is more important to a team than Andrew McCutchen is to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nobody needs more of a reason why than Sunday, when the Pirates knocked off the Royals 3-2. How’d they do it? McCutchen went 2 for 3 with a double, home run, 3 RBI and a stolen base. Yeah, he makes the team go. But, while he gets a lot of the credit and it is much deserved, nobody should overlook the season pitcher James McDonald is having (5-2, 2.39 ERA, 73 Ks). Also, does A.J. Burnett really have 6 wins this year? How about that…
12. Cleveland Indians (+4, 32-27, 2nd in AL Central)
This Week: @ Cincinnati (3), vs. Pittsburgh (3)
The Indians do very few things remarkably, but they do enough to be better than the three teams below them in the American League Central. They seize opportunity when they have it. They pitch reasonably well, despite have a few clunkers from time to time. Ubaldo Jiminez put together a strong start his last time out, and Jason Kipnis continues to produce in the middle of the Cleveland order. Not to mention, Asdrubal Cabrera is quietly putting together another strong season. At this point, it would be more surprising than not for the Indians to fall off the table and not compete for a playoff spot, even if the Angels continue to trend upwards.
13. Los Angeles Angels (+1, 32-29, 2nd in AL West)
This Week: @ LA Dodgers (3), vs. Arizona (3)
Speaking of those Angels, I guess it was a little early to pronounce this team dead, huh? I think Albert Pujols is starting to understand American League pitching. In April, he posted .217/.265/.304 with only 0 home runs. In May, he started to put things together, putting up a .263/.309/.491 with 8 home runs. In his first week-plus in June, he’s now at .333/.417/.630. If he gets it together, plus Mike Trout continuing to be the best rookie in baseball (yeah, I said it!) and Mark Trumbo continuing to smash, this becomes exactly the team a lot of people thought they would be in the preseason. Oh, and they’re doing it right now without Jered Weaver. Yikes.
14. Toronto Blue Jays (+1, 31-29, 4th in AL East)
This Week: vs. Washington (3), vs. Philadelphia (3)
The good news: Brandon Morrow’s All-Star case, Ricky Romero continuing to show he’s a top lefty, Joey Bats’ resurgence and Edwin Encarnacion’s dream season continues. The bad news: Kyle Drabek still seems lost and the Blue Jays still play in the AL East, stuck behind the Rays, Orioles and Yankees. There is still a very good chance the Blue Jays can remain in the playoff picture deep into the season, but they’re going to need more depth out of their starting rotation to go along with their beyond dangerous line-up.
15. New York Mets (-7, 32-39, 3rd in NL East)
This Week: @ Tampa Bay (3), vs. Cincinnati (3)
Yeah, that was not the end of an already tough week I had in mind. They team blew two straight late leads against the Yankees on the way to getting swept in the Bronx. The road doesn’t get any easier, as the Mets have to play two division leaders over the next week. The key to the Mets turn around? Finding offense from the Anemic Three (Jason Bay, Ike Davis and Andres Torres). At this point in time, there is no way Torres should be seeing playing time over Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Scott Hairston, depending on the pitching match-up. That, and there really isn’t any pitcher Jason Bay should be facing. If Matt den Dekker wasn’t another lefty bat, there is a chance the Mets would be calling him up from AA in the relatively near future. As for Davis, just have to suck it up and deal with it. He’s too good defensively, and there is no better offense to either play first base or right field, if you wanted to move Lucas Duda.
16. Miami Marlins (-10, 31-29, 4th in NL East)
This Week: vs. Boston (3), @ Tampa Bay (3)
No team fell more spots in this week’s Power Rankings, in large part because they didn’t win one game last week. They were swept by the Rays and the Braves. One day, they weren’t pitching. The next, they weren’t hitting. It is a complete team effort during their current six-game losing streak. The road doesn’t get any easier, even if they get the Red Sox on another one of their down swings. Ozzie Guillen has to right the ship quickly before this gets out of hand in South Beach.
17. Arizona Diamondbacks (+3, 30-30, 3rd in NL West)
This Week: @ Texas (3), @ LA Angels (3)
Arizona’s riding high, sporting a nice five game win streak thus far. Big reasons for the D’Backs rise to respectability? Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill coming back into form at the top of their rotations. There have been a lot of calls for Trevor Bauer to be promoted to be big club to help the team’s quest to the top, but getting Cahill (16.1 IP, 2 wins, 12 Ks, 1.10 ERA in last two starts) and Kennedy (19 Ks in 13.2 IP to go with 2 wins) back on track quiets the calls.
18. St. Louis Cardinals (+1, 31-30, 3rd in NL Central)
This Week: vs. Chicago White Sox (3), vs. Kansas City (3)
The Cardinals are a funny team. The separate parts of the team are performing exceptionally well, including potential All-Stars Carlos Beltran (18HR and 46RBI), Yadier Molina (career-best .330 average) and Lance Lynn (9 wins, 2.66 ERA). Yet, the team continues to falter, dropping to third in the NL Central and getting mixed results from their team as a whole. Its a little baffling right now, but I don’t see their slump lasting that much longer. They’re too good of a team…right?
19. Boston Red Sox (-6, 29-31, 5th in AL East)
This Week: @ Miami (3), @ Chicago Cubs (3)
If not for the Atlanta Braves, the Red Sox would be the front-runners in the streakiest team in baseball crown. David Ortiz is doing all he can to keep the offense afloat, but he’s going to need help eventually. What would really help this team: if they got healthy. I mean, have you seen their outfield lately? It’s just a little unfair to expect Boston to be near the top of the standings when they’re down to the likes of Scott Podsednik, Darnell McDonald and Ryan Sweeney.
20. Milwaukee Brewers (+4, 28-32, 4th in NL Central)
This Week: @ Kansas City (3), @ Minnesota (3)
Ryan Braun is a great hitter. Zack Greinke is a great pitcher. The shame is that this team is getting very little from their other parts. You would expect a starting rotation that includes Yovanni Gallardo and Shaun Marcum to be better than in the bottom third of the league in most major categories, including 25th in ERA and 29th in WHIP. You’d also expect somebody, anybody, to be hitting better than .260 besides Braun and Norichika Aoki. Until then, the Brewers will remain under .500.
21. Detroit Tigers (+0, 28-32, 3rd in AL Central)
This Week: @ Chicago Cubs (3), vs. Colorado (3)
Well, at least the Tigers proved that Aroldis Chapman was healthy. If there were ever a week to get the team back on track, its facing lower-division competition from the National League. They do have Austin Jackson back of the DL, so maybe things are actually turning around in Detroit. You can’t count the Tigers out, not when they play in the AL Central. There is still time for them to turn this ship around.
22. Philadelphia Phillies (-5, 29-33, 5th in NL East)
This Week: @ Minnesota (3), @ Toronto (3)
Its around this time of year we start determining which teams are for real and which teams are flashes in the pan. Its also only fair to point out which teams might be lost and to be forgotten. At this point, I’m almost certain Cliff Lee may, indeed, win a game. But, it won’t be until Chase Utley or Ryan Howard returns. And even when Utley returns, he may be too permanently hobbled to play second. Oh, and their bullpen is still lost and confused. As outrageous as it sounds, could we be hearing serious Shane Victorino/Cole Hamels on the market rumors? Anything is possible.
23. Seattle Mariners (+2, 27-35, 3rd in AL West)
This Week: vs. San Diego (3), vs. San Francisco (3)
Well, hey! How about that six-pitcher no-hitter the Mariners put together? The Mariners better hope Kevin Millwood gets healthy quickly, because he’s actually going to be one of the more sought after pitchers on the trade market this summer. After being named Player of the Week, Justin Smoak came back down to Earth last week, but this remains a make-or-break season for the slugging first baseman. Will the real Justin Smoak please stand up!
24. Houston Astros (+2, 26-34, 5th in NL Central)
This Week: @ San Francisco (3), @ Texas (3)
In what could’ve been an otherwise meaningless season for the Astros, the emergence of Jose Altuve is one of the nicer stories in the league. I don’t know if people realize that he could be the starting second baseman in the All-Star game this year. I’ll take “Things That Would’ve Gotten You Punched In Spring Training” for $400, Alex.
25. Oakland A’s (+2, 26-35, 4th in AL West)
This Week: @ Colorado (3), vs. San Diego (3)
After a strong start to the week, taking three of four from the Rangers which included a near no-no from rookie Jarrod Parker, things really went backwards when the Diamondbacks swept them away over the weekend. Its nice that the A’s still have strong pitchers in McCarthy, Milone and Parker, but as long as the offense remains rather dreadful, they’ll continue to struggle to win consecutively.
26. Minnesota Twins (+2, 24-35, 5th in AL Central)
This Week: vs. Philadelphia (3), vs. Milwaukee (3)
Silver lining recently for the Twins? Scott Diamond. I’m not sure where he came from, but you have to love the 5-1, 1.61 ERA in his first seven starts. Flash in the pan? Probably. But, there are few things to enjoy this season so far, so its time to just enjoy it and see what happens, Minnesota.
27. Colorado Rockies (-5, 24-35, 4th in NL West)
This Week: vs. Oakland (3), @ Detroit (3)
I could continue to dwell on the problems surrounding the Rockies, but I’m running out of steam. So, let’s just praise Carlos Gonzalez and say that the future is still bright for the Rockies, even if the 2012 season is lost. They’ll be fine. They have the right pieces to build around in CarGo, Tulo and maybe Wilin Rosario if he can prove that what he’s doing is sustainable.
28. Kansas City Royals (-5, 24-34, 4th in AL Central)
This Week: vs. Milwaukee (3), @ St. Louis (3)
The Royals have to face Zack Greinke this week for the first time after shipping the former Cy Young award winner to the National League. Outside of that, their not giving you any reason to pay attention to Kansas City until the first half of July. That’s when the All-Star game will arrive in Missouri. Until then, yeah. Wake me up when September ends (oh god, I’m quoting Green Day. Its way too late at night for this).
29. Chicago Cubs (+0, 20-40, 6th in NL Central)
This Week: vs. Detroit (3), vs. Boston (3)
I’ve been thinking out loud recently: should the Cubs and Mets swap Alfonso Soriano and Jason Bay? Would either team want to make that trade? I’ll have more on this later in the week. Oh, and the Cubs are on the verge of calling up Anthony Rizzo. ‘Til then, we’ll focus on who may not be with this team after the All-Star break.
30. San Diego Padres (+0, 20-41, 5th in NL West)
This Week: @ Seattle (3), @ Oakland (3)
At least they only have to play the lower-tier of the AL West this week? I don’t know. Look at the bright side, San Diego. You live in freaking San Diego. How can you be unhappy when you’re in San Diego? How, I ask?