A.L. Power Rankings: Angels coming on strong
A.L. Power Rankings: Angels coming on strong
By Jimmy Toscano
CSNNE.com Red Sox Reporter
We're halfway through the season (technically, we're past that mark) as the American League playoff race starts to take shape. While some teams are rising up the standings, others are crashing. With the MLB trade deadline just about two weeks away, the next couple series will determine who's buying and who's selling. Let's take a look at the latest installment of the American League Power Rankings.
1. Kansas City Royals (52-34, last month: 1)
Hands down the best team in the American League at the All-Star break. No, they didn't have nine starters in the All-Star Game (thankfully), but they did send a total of seven players. It's not all good news, though, as Alex Gordon will be sidelined for eight weeks because of a strained groin. Great teams figure out a way though, and they've got a healthy lead on the Twins (4 1/2 games), and a huge one on the Tigers (9 games). This team is heading to the playoffs.
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (48-40, last month: 8)
Hot team alert! Hot team alert! I've been waiting months for the Angels to come around, and it looks like they're hitting their stride as the second half begins. It's almost like they looked at the standings and said, "Really? The Astros?" Winners of 11 of their last 14 games, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are carrying the offense. They could use another bat and some middle relief to really put it into drive the rest of the way.
3. Minnesota Twins 49-40, last month: 4)
The Twins split a series against the Royals, swept the Orioles, and took three of four against the Tigers to close out the first half of the season. Their second baseman, Brian Dozier, was almost robbed of an All-Star berth; instead, he hit a home run in it. Everything is coming up Twins, and with the Tigers in a bad place, the playoffs are looking more realistic. Unbelievable.
4. Houston Astros (49-42, last month: 2)
The Astros have lost six in a row and find themselves in second place in the A.L. West for the first time since April 18. That statement in and of itself is a bit of a miracle. The Astros? A division contender? It's true. And because of it, they're going to be buyers at the trade deadline. Perhaps a pitcher is heading their way. The Astros are set up for plenty of success in future seasons, with potential franchise cornerstones Carlos Correa and George Springer in the everyday lineup, and Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers on the mound.
5. New York Yankees (48-40, last month: 6)
Couple things here: Alex Rodriguez should have played in the All-Star Game. I don't know who's spot he takes, and I don't care; he should have been there. He's having a great year and will win Comeback Player of the Year. Loving the villain role he's playing. Also, the Stephen Drew Era looks to be finally over. Rob Refsnyder unloaded on a ball against the Sox that Drew would have topped for a ground out, launching it into the Monster Seats. The question is, do the Yanks have enough pitching to hold off the rest of the A.L. East? It's still any team's division.
6. Toronto Blue Jays (45-46 last month: 5)
The Blue Jays are currently fourth in the A.L. East, but they've got the offense to be first. Trailing the Yankees by 4 1/2 games, the Jays absolutely have to be buyers at the deadline -- and it's very obvious that they need pitching. Owners of the best offense in the A.L., the Blue Jays are 12th in team ERA. GM Alex Anthopoulos better figure it out, or a big opportunity could be missed.
7. Detroit Tigers (44-44, last month: 3)
Can't really sugarcoat the Tigers' problems heading into the second half of the year. They're staring at a nine-game division deficit and expected to be without one of the best players in the game, Miguel Cabrera, until mid-August because of a strained left calf. With the talent the Royals have, and the way the Twins are playing (they just beat the Tigers three out of four), their playoff chances suddenly look bleak.
8. Baltimore Orioles (44-44, last month: 9)
The Orioles went 3-10 to close out the first half, but, like the rest of the A.L. East, are still in the thick of things. And we're finally seeing the Manny Machado we had heard all about. So far, .298 with 19 home runs and 48 RBI. He's going to anchor that Orioles lineup for years to come. The Orioles were buyers last year, acquiring Andrew Miller for Eduardo Rodriguez. So we know Dan Duquette isn't afraid to make a short-term move.
9. Tampa Bay Rays (46-45, last month: 7)
A three-game sweep of the Astros going into the All-Star break softened the blow just a bit, but make no mistake: The Rays are crashing back to Earth. Prior to that, they'd lost 15 of 18 and saw their division lead vanish. Holding a half-game lead over the Blue Jays for second place in the A.L. East, it seems to be only a matter of time before they fall further down the standings.
10. Boston Red Sox (42-47, last month: 13)
It took until late June, but the Red Sox bats have finally started to come around. Not coincidentally, they're winning games more often than they have all year. Boston lost a big series against the Yankees to close out the first half, but, with a 6 1/2-game deficit in the A.L. East, you can't count them out yet. Let's see where things are at after road series against two of the A.L. West's best, the Angels and Astros.
11. Oakland Athletics (41-50, last month: 14)
It's a bit of a shock to see that the A's are the American League's worst team, record-wise, coming out of the All-Star break. But they've been in the cellar for much of the year, despite a plus-44 run differential. They're 8 1/2 games behind the A.L. West-leading Angels, who are playing great baseball, so unless they go on a big double-digit win streak, we're looking at a seller at the trade deadline. Scott Kazmir, pack your bags. Sonny Gray, you aren't going anywhere.
12. Texas Rangers (42-46, last month: 10)
Prince Fielder has had an excellent first half of the season - .339 average, 14 home runs, 54 RBI. So to watch him hack away in the Home Run Derby had to be a little nerve-racking for Rangers fans and fantasy baseball owners. Not that I own him in fantasy baseball . . . okay, okay, I do. WHY DID YOU DO IT, PRINCE?! Praying it doesn't mess with his second-half production.
13. Chicago White Sox (41-45, last month: 15)
The White Sox closed the first half of the season with a 9-3 run, but still trail the Royals in the A.L. Central by 11 games. The White Sox only allowed 27 runs over those 12 games, or 2.25 runs per game. That's going to make members of their staff even more enticing to actual playoff teams looking to bolster their pitching. I think Jose Quintana, if available, could be a great addition to any rotation not just this season but for the next few seasons.
14. Cleveland Indians (42-46, last month: 11)
According to Cleveland.com, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer became the first team in history to have have four starters reaching over 100 strikeouts before the All-Star break. As a team, they lead the Majors with 805 strikeouts. So why are they struggling? Well, aside from the strikeouts, their team ERA is 3.78, which is 13th in the Majors. And their hitting? That's where the real problem is. They rank 21st in runs and 20th in team batting average.
15. Seattle Mariners (41-48, last month: 12)
It's been a bad season for the Seattle Mariners, there's no way around it. After a sloppy loss to end the first half of the season, one local paper says that even if the team isn't playing for the playoffs, they're playing for manager Lloyd McClendon's job. So basically, Robinson Cano stinking it up this year (.251 AVG, 6 HR, 30 RBI) could get McClendon canned. Regardless, this is a disappointing bunch and they won't threaten the Angels or Astros in the standings.