MLB Power Rankings (7/5 Week 14): The Return of Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, and Albert Pujols
It’s been a while since we ranked up baseball’s best teams, but it’s time. Plenty has changed in baseball since our last MLB power rankings. The New York Yankees get their #2 pitcher back from the DL this week, and Derek Jeter returned from his calf injury. The Boston Red Sox are 8-1 against New York this year, but struggle against the rest of the league. The Phillies lost Roy Oswalt but continue to cruise, and the rest of the top ten is incredibly cluttered. Albert Pujols is back from injury weeks ahead of schedule and could help lift the Cardinals from the above-average masses.
1. New York Yankees (50-33): The Yankees have the best record in the American League, which is the more competitive league from top to bottom. Derek Jeter returns to the lineup, so game-changing errors from Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez should be a thing of the past. Phil Hughes returns as well, and if the 18-game winner from last year can be effective, the Yankees suddenly have one of the deepest rotations in baseball. That’s great news, considering it’s one of the most injury-ravaged bullpens in baseball.
2. Philadelphia Phillies (54-32): The Phillies are dominating the National League and are by far the most impressive NL squad. They have some bullpen issues and lack a real closer, but the starting rotation is still the best in baseball. If they can find some more consistent hitting, they’ll find their way to the top.
3. Boston Red Sox (49-35): If only the Red Sox could play the Yankees every game. They’re 8-1 against our top squad, but two back in the loss column for the division lead. Boston has a fearsome, but top-heavy lineup and a decent pitching rotation. Josh Beckett has been incredible this year, but John Lackey is awful and the rest of their starters are having average years.
4. Atlanta Braves (50-36): One of only three teams with 50 wins, the Braves are playing better than their lineup would indicate. Jayson Heyward is struggling since returning from injury, Alex Gonzalez is hitting .240, Freddie Freeman is still learning, Dan Uggla is having a horrible year, and the outfield is very young. The Braves do it with pitching – Jurjjens, Hanson, Lowe, Hudson. Isn’t that how the Giants won the World Series last year?
5. San Francisco Giants (48-38): Life’s good when the Arizona Diamondbacks are your biggest threat. The Giants still have the dominant rotation that won the World Series last year and Brian Wilson is a solid closer. If they hit even a little, they’ll keep winning.
6. Tampa Bay Rays (47-38): The Rays are the third best team in their division, so they’ll likely never crack the top five. They won’t make the playoffs in front of the Yankees or Red Sox, so they’re really only a threat to play spoiler against teams in other divisions. David Price is struggling, the lineup is okay, and Kyle Farnsworth is the closer. I’m unimpressed.
7. Milwaukee Brewers (45-41): After the top five, it gets very blurry. The Brewers can mash with Weekes, Fielder, and Braun. They’ve got a decent pitching rotation, but they’re inconsistent on the road. They just dropped five of six to the Yankees and Twins.
8. St. Louis Cardinals (46-40): Albert Pujols is a machine, and appears to be weeks ahead of schedule in his recovery. However, Chris Carpenter hasn’t been the ace that St. Louis needs in the absence of Adam Wainwright. Average pitching, no closer, and a depleted lineup makes the Cardinals NL Central lead a mystery.
9. LA Angels (45-41): They’ve won eight of their last 10 to take over the top spot in the AL West. The Rangers certainly aren’t going away any time soon, but the Angels the hottest team in baseball right now. Vernon Wells is producing, and while the lineup is old it’s been effective enough to back Weaver and Harden.
10. Texas Rangers (45-41): Texas isn’t the same team that pitched their way to the World Series last year with Cliff Lee, but they can still hit. Michael Young has done well as a DH / utility man.
11. Cleveland Indians (45-38): Are the Indians for real? Maybe. It could also be a product of an underachieving AL Central. The Twins had a disastrous start, the Tigers and White Sox continue to hover around .500, and the Royals are the Royals. I’m not sure if this will last, but here’s hoping.
12. Detroit Tigers (45-41): The Tigers are finally catching up to the Indians in a battle that I hope will last all year. Can the Indians keep pace with a loaded Tigers team the rest of the way? Will Detroit make a move at the deadline to give Martinez and Cabrera some support?
13. Arizona Diamondbacks (46-40): Why not? Their young lineup explodes from time to time, and the pitching has been decent. While Josh Collmenter’s deception seems to have been figured out, if they can survive JJ Putz’ trip to the DL, maybe the Dbacks can hang.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates (44-41): The Pirates are 1.5 games back for the division lead. Could this be the year the Pirates add at the trade deadline? One good move could make them a contender, and they’ve certainly got the prospects to do it.
15. Cincinnati Reds (43-43): In that very same division, the Reds are three games back. They’ve got one of the most productive lineups in the National League, but their pitching staff continues to underachieve as they fail to string together wins.
16. New York Mets (43-42): K-Rod is on pace to exceed his “games closed” clause that guarantees him an option worth a quarter of next year’s predicted payroll. Jose Reyes probably isn’t sticking around in 2012, so the Mets might as well move him and get something in return. Carlos Beltran is in the same boat, and if Jason Bay’s contract were movable you could count him out as well. This team won’t contend past the trade deadline.
17. Chicago White Sox (43-43): The White Sox still haven’t put it together. They’ve got a decent lineup, decent pitching, and a decent record. They’re average, .500, and boring.
18. Washington Nationals (43-43): Their new coach doesn’t quite have them playing as well lately, as they’ve won just four of their last ten. The Nats have a decent team, and this is better than most people hoped when the season began.
19. Toronto Blue Jays (42-44): Am I the only one who misses Kyle Drabek?
20. Colorado Rockies (41-44): Remember when they were the best team in baseball a few months ago?
21. Seattle Mariners (42-43): Ichiro is just about the only reason to watch this team. Maybe Felix Hernandez too, but the King might be moved to a contender before the deadline.
22. Oakland Athletics (38-48): My brother’s Little League team hits better than these guys, but their pitching makes them a threat to pull a 1-0 upset on anyone in baseball.
23. Minnesota Twins (37-46): Holy shit! Are the Twins relevant again? They’re one more huge win streak away from contending in the Central.
24. Baltimore Orioles (36-46): I wanted to believe in this team so badly, but ultimately the AL East is too powerful for this young group of pitchers.
25. San Diego Padres (39-47): Who will Heath Bell finish the season with? The Yankees?
26. Florida Marlins (38-47): It’s a shame they can’t win games anymore because there’s nothing like an 80 year old guy smoking a cigar on the bench. I blame Hanley Ramirez… no – I blame Derek Jeter.
27. LA Dodgers (37-49): Well, at least they found a way to pay their players’ salaries.
28. Chicago Cubs (35-51): It looks like another year of curses and losing for the Cubs.
29. Kansas City (34-51): Joakim Soria is the closer again and everything is back to normal for the Royals – including the losing.
30. Houston Astros (29-57): Can they get to thirty wins?
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