1. St. Louis Cardinals (Last week #1)
This past weekend the Cardinals became the fastest team to 50 wins since the 2005 Chicago White Sox (who later went on to win the World Series). Also over the weekend they showed the road to a NL Central crown still runs through St. Louis with a sweep of the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals have shown they’re far and away better than any other team in baseball. St. Louis owns a +95 run differential, which is 29 runs better than the next closest team. They got one of their most reliable starters back from the DL this week in Lance Lynn, and he turned in a fine performance against the Marlins. He is just one of the many injured Red Birds expected to return in the coming weeks. It is hard to imagine how good this team will be once they are all healthy. The Cardinals will continue their home stand this week with series against the White Sox and Padres.
2. Kansas City Royals (#3)
The Royals have slowly separated themselves from the rest of the American League during the past couple of weeks. They are 6-4 over their last 10 games, fresh off a four-game win streak, which was just broken last night by a talented Astros squad. KC owns 5.5 game lead over the Minnesota Twins. The AL Central seems to be the Royals’ division to lose with the play of the Twins and Tigers of late. Kansas City has a tough week ahead of them as they continue their series with arguably the AL’s second best team in the Houston Astros, and then they will take on the second place Minnesota Twins over the weekend.
3. Houston Astros (#6)
One of the best stories in baseball continues to be the surprising success of the Houston Astros. The Astros currently hold the second best record in the American League at 45-34 and a four-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I wrote a few weeks ago how Carlos Correa should give the ‘Stros offense a shot in the arm, and he certainly has. Since being called up on June 8th Correa is hitting .318 with five homers and 15 RBIs while playing stellar defense. He has thrust himself into the middle of the Rookie of the Year conversation. He and the emergence of George Springer to go along the consistency of Jose Altuve give Houston three dynamic and versatile offensive pieces. The Astros will take on the AL’s best in the Royals this week and then they’ll end the week with a three-game series at Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates (#2)
After starting the week out on the wrong foot by dropping two of three to the Reds, the Bucs wrote the ship by taking two of three over the Atlanta Braves. The Pirates have the misfortune of being the same division as the Cardinals because even with a record of 42-33, they are still nine games out of first place. If they were in any other division they would either be first place or a game or two out of first. That just speaks volumes to how good the Cardinals are. I believe the Pirates will be one of the two wildcard teams in the National League. I think they have a great pitching staff and would be scary to face in a short series, especially with the emergence with of Gerit Cole. Pittsburgh will go on the road for a quick three-game series against the Tigers. Then they’ll come home for a 10-game home stand where they will wrap up the first half with series against the Indians, Padres and the first place Cardinals.
5. Washington Nationals (#10)
The Nationals are on the verge of running away with the NL East. One more hot week, and you can forget about the Mets in that division. Over this past week the Nats saw their seven-game winning streak come to a halt after a loss to the Phillies on Sunday evening. Max Scherzer is looking like he’s worth every single penny of that seven-year $210 million contract he signed in the offseason. With all due respect to Zack Greinke and Gerit Cole, Scherzer has been the best pitcher in the National League this season. With all the injuries and mishaps the Nats have experienced so far this season, it would be amazing to see where they would be if they didn’t have Scherzer. The Nats own a 10-5 record when Scherzer starts and he owns a 1.79 ERA with 130 strikeouts over 110.1 innings. He has been great. Bryce Harper has arguably ben the MVP of the NL so far by single handedly carrying a beaten and battered Nationals lineup. Harper is hitting .339 with 24 homers and 59 RBIs thus far and a slugging percentage of .715. The Nats will look to stay hot this week as they take on NL East rival, the Atlanta Braves. Then they will come home for a weekend showdown series with the San Francisco Giants.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers (#5)
7. San Francisco Giants (#9)
8. Baltimore Orioles (#13)
9. Tampa Bay Rays (#4)
10. Toronto Blue Jays (#8)
11. New York Yankees (#7)
12. New York Mets (#17)
13. Chicago Cubs (#11)
14. Detroit Tigers (#15)
15. Minnesota Twins (#14)
16. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (#19)
17. Texas Rangers (#13)
18. Arizona Diamondbacks (#18)
19. Atlanta Braves (#16)
20. San Diego Padres (#22)
21. Cincinnati Reds (#20)
22. Cleveland Indians (#21)
23. Seattle Mariners (#23)
24. Boston Red Sox (#25)
25. Chicago White Sox (#26)
26. Oakland Athletics (#27)
27. Colorado Rockies (#28)
28. Miami Marlins (#24)
29. Milwaukee Brewers (#29)
30. Philadelphia Phillies (#30)
Offensive Top Performer
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
Last Week’s Stats: 7 HRs, 14 RBIs, .391
The conversation for best third basemen in the National League begins with Arenado. Arenado is not only a premier hitter, but he can throw some leather. He had a great week by blasting seven homers and knocking in 14 RBIs. Not to knock Matt Carpenter (leads NL 3B voting) of the Cardinals, but Arenado should start the All Star Game for the National League. For the season he’s hitting .290 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs. He’s been a bright spot for the Rockies in what has been a subpar season thus far.
Pitching Top Performer
Zack Grienke, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week’s Stats: 1-0, 11 Ks, 13.1 Innings
Greinke is currently in a stretch where he has not allowed a run in his last three starts. He has been nothing short of dominant as he leads all of Major League Baseball with an ERA of 1.59. In a staff that includes Clayton Kershaw its hard to believe that anyone could be better than him, but Greinke certainly has outperformed Kershaw by far this year. Greinke will look to extend his scoreless streak this week in a Fourth of July start against the Mets.
Follow Bobby on Twitter @RENorell_III