Stan 'The Fan' Charles' MLB Power Rankings
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
Including games on July 8
1. New York Yankees (4-3 since July 2, 52-33 overall) -- This marks the Yankees' fifth consecutive week on top for me. This past week was representative of what makes them so tough. After losing the first two of the week in Tampa and trailing late during the series finale, New York came back and won that one and then took three out of four at Fenway.
2. Los Angeles Angels (4-3, 48-38) -- The Angels are on a seesaw ride, which figures to last until deep into September. The Angels' offense has truly hit stride, with Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout doing a fairly good impersonation of the Yankees' Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris from yesteryear. The surprising weak link is a starting staff that is backtracking, with Dan Haren on the disabled list, and Ervin Santana in the Twilight Zone.
3. Texas Rangers (2-4, 52-34) -- Although I have Texas a tick behind the Angels, the bottom line is that the Rangers have an ample supply of young talent, which can net them a starting pitcher of the likes of Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels. Mike Napoli's dismal season is a head-scratcher.
4. Washington Nationals (4-2, 49-34) -- With so much having gone right in Washington this season, combined with the Phillies' collapse, it's both impressive and nerve-racking for those with a Natitude that Davey Johnson's gang leads the Braves and Mets by just 4 and 4.5 games, respectively. It could be an interesting race from here to the wire, with the key players perhaps being general managers Mike Rizzo (Nationals), Frank Wren (Braves) and Sandy Alderson (Mets).
5. Chicago White Sox (5-1, 47-38) -- Time will tell, but the Kevin Youkilis acquisition is paying huge early dividends. His winning pedigree was greatly needed to help the confidence of this evolving team. It looks as if the AL Central will boil down to a two-team battle between the Sox and Tigers, and maybe three if Cleveland can sustain its first-half success. It should be a fascinating fencing match.
6. Cincinnati Reds (4-3, 47-38) -- Dusty Baker's team stumbled a bit into the break, going just 9-11, to fall into second place. Still, who would have thought that a series in early August between the Pirates and Reds would really have an impact on the pennant race in 2012?
7. Detroit Tigers (5-2, 44-42) -- It's been a long time since a one-two punch like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder has been on full display. But, the rest of the lineup has been wanting for a large portion of the first half. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta and outfielder Brennan Boesch come to mind as essential pieces, and GM Dave Dombrowski will pick up a second baseman. Pitching-wise, Justin Verlander has been only very good, not great, and Max Scherzer now becomes the pivotal arm.
8. Tampa Bay Rays (4-3, 45-41) -- The Rays are still players at the break, but GM Andrew Friedman will know the precise moment to move from buyer to seller. The team's financial situation necessitates it be able to quickly change course. The length of Evan Longoria's absence has been a killer, with yet another setback causing yet another reset for his return -- now closer to Aug. 1.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates (6-1, 48-37) -- With A.J. Burnett and James McDonald having 19 wins between them, and a bullpen that is the best in the National League, it's no wonder the Pirates have gotten on a roll. Pittsburgh's offense is slowly building up some chemistry with Andrew McCutcheon turning into a legitimate MVP candidate. Don't underestimate the significance of the recent return of Jeff Karstens to the rotation. The Pirates are ready to go for it, and that means they are in on Justin Upton and Carlos Quentin.
10. Boston Red Sox (1-6, 43-43) -- Manager Bobby Valentine battled and battled to build a team in his image, and three weeks ago, it looked as if it had all worked to perfection. Then, new third baseman Will Middlebrooks went down, followed by second baseman Dustin Pedroia. At the end of the day, the Red Sox have battled through their maze of injuries only to find that their starting pitching is severely lacking.
11. St. Louis Cardinals (5-2, 46-40) -- Even with first baseman Lance Berkman having only 40 at bats and star right-handed pitcher Chris Carpenter having been out the entire season, the Cards have remained within hailing distance of the leaders. They'll get Berkman back next week, but no such luck with Carpenter, who is out for the season after undergoing surgery. The club could use another starter, but an even bigger need may be to reshape this bullpen.
12. New York Mets (3-3, 46-40) -- The Mets could use a veteran catcher, and the rumor is that GM Sandy Alderson is targeting the Rockies' Ramon Hernandez. No word about whom Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd would aim for in return. The baseball world keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop on the team Bernie Madoff couldn't take down. Don't hold your breath for that collapse; this team has developed some real buoyancy in the credibility department.
13. San Francisco Giants (1-5, 46-40) -- The Dodgers stumbled, and just as the Giants' momentum was going to allow them to roll out to a big lead, the same thing happened to the team by the bay. Now, San Francisco is locked in a dance with the Dodgers. Both teams will be looking to make moves to gain the upper hand. The Giants have no idea what to do with one-time superstar pitcher Tim Lincecum.
14. Los Angeles Dodgers (3-4, 47-40) -- Center fielder Matt Kemp didn't do much in the Home Run Derby in Kansas City, hitting only one. But, he still remains on pace to return immediately after the All-Star break. The Dodgers have missed his presence, especially with recent injuries to outfielder Andre Ethier and shortstop Dee Gordon. The Dodgers still seem short in the runs-scored department. GM Ned Colletti will try to track down some offense, especially at the corners.
15. Baltimore Orioles (3-4, 45-40) -- Multiple flaws are beginning to be exposed. GM Dan Duquette may have to go for broke now. The rumor mill has the Orioles in on Zack Grienke, and they have admitted to discussions about lefty Wandy Rodriguez of the Astros.
16. Atlanta Braves (5-2, 46-39) -- With staff ace Brandon Beachy out for the year, and Jair Jurrjens seemingly unable to find his ace-like self, the Braves find themselves in the market for a big-time starter. Although Ryan Dempster seems a better fit here, watch them on Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels and Matt Garza. The Braves have to turn around the Nationals' 6-2 head-to-head advantage during their next series.
17. Cleveland Indians (4-3, 44-41) -- The Indians' starting staff has betrayed them; the top three of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe have been only okay. The offense can be formidable against right-handed pitchers, but can be tamed by solid left-handers. It's hard to see Cleveland hanging in with Chicago and Detroit.
18. Milwaukee Brewers (4-3, 40-45) -- Ryan Braun is really feeling his MVP oats right now. Although the Brewers haven't fallen off the cliff yet, GM Doug Melvin needs to see way better than 10-9 during the next 19 games, leading up to trading-deadline time. They will need to move Grienke at just the right time. Where they are in the standings may dictate what return they get.
19. Oakland A's (5-1, 43-43) -- Can GM Billy Beane make solid trades at buying time? His sell-off deals are the stuff of legend. You have to hand it to manager Bob Melvin, doing a Houdini act with the lineup. Brandon McCarthy's health the rest of the way could be key.
20. Toronto Blue Jays (3-4, 43-43) -- If ace Brandon Morrow hadn't gone down with that oblique injury, Toronto would have had a good shot at being right in the wild-card hunt. Left-handed Ricky Romero was unable to step his game up once the starters went down like flies. The Jays' offense can be downright scary, but they'll possibly be a seller, with first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion likely to be dealt for a nice return.
21. Miami Marlins (3-4, 41-44) -- Manager Ozzie Guillen has his boys competing. They pulled the trigger on a significant pre-All-Star deal, acquiring Carlos Lee from Houston, but turned around and lost Giancarlo Stanton (19 home runs, 50 RBIs). It's hard to think they'll gain necessary footing to climb without him.
22. Arizona Diamondbacks (3-4, 42-43) -- The Diamondbacks are the good news-bad news team of the majors this year. The good news is they're only four games behind the Dodgers, and 3.5 behind San Francisco. The bad news is they sound as though they are shopping Joe Saunders and Justin Upton. Maybe they know something we don't.
23. Minnesota Twins (3-4, 36-49) -- Everyone wants to pick the Twins' pocket, and acquire Josh Willingham, who is well priced and productive. The player most likely to be moved is former MVP Justin Morneau. His contract and lack of consistent productivity make him the man to go. The Dodgers could be a great fit here.
24. Kansas City Royals (2-5, 37-47) -- As often happens, teams built like the Royals have difficulty with their true ETAs. Starter Jake Odorozzi and right fielder Will Myers will be added to the mix shortly. Look for someone to bite on a package of left-handed pitcher Bruce Chen and right fielder Jeff Francouer. The return on the Melky Cabrera trade, namely left-handed pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, has been a disaster.
25. San Diego Padres (4-3, 34-53) -- At least the weather in San Diego is still great. The Padres are looking carefully at what they could get back for outfielder Carlos Quentin, relief pitcher Huston Street, third baseman Chase Headley and left-handed pitcher Clayton Richard.
26. Philadelphia Phillies (1-5, 37-50) -- They waited, then they waited some more for Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to come back. Although they held up better than expected for the first two months without their two stars, the Phillies have been just 9-23 during the last month. They'll be sellers now.
27. Seattle Mariners (2-4, 36-51) -- This lineup scares nobody. Like the Orioles of recent vintage, the cavalry of starters -- Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker -- is not on pace to add anything in 2012, and may in fact be more likely 2014 additions. It's turning into a mess.
28. Chicago Cubs (4-3, 33-52) -- A 9-4 run heading into the break must feel good for president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer. Getting rid of Alfonso Soriano, and to a lesser extent Ryan Dempster, for tangible future chips would feel even better.
29. Colorado Rockies (3-4, 33-52) -- Has it gotten bad enough to put GM Dan O'Dowd and manager Jim Tracy in jeopardy? Although a colossal failure like this doesn't help them, they'll still be in charge and shaping their near-future destiny with the next batch of deals.
30. Houston Astros (1-6, 33-53) -- The first of the Astros' trades clears the path for 20-year-old Jonathan Singleton to be their first baseman of the future. For Carlos Lee, the Astros' haul was a 2010 No. 2 pick by the Marlins, Rob Rasmussen and a one-time stud third base prospect in Matt Dominguez.
* Look for the next installment of Stan 'The Fan' Charles' power rankings Tuesday, July 24.
Posted July 11, 2012