1. St. Louis Cardinals (Last Week #1)
There is not much more you can say about the Cardinals other than they are the best team in the game. Their big offseason acquisition, Jason Heyward, is finally starting to heat up. After a slow start to the season Heyward is hitting .320 with four homers and 13 RBIs through his last 30 games. The Cards had another solid week last week as they went 4-3 in games against the Twins and Phillies. St. Louis will finish off its road trip this week with a three game set in Miami against the Marlins. Then the Cardinals will come home to Busch Stadium where they are 26-7 (best home record in MLB) this year to take on their fierce division rival, the Chicago Cubs.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (#3)
Despite getting swept by the Nationals during the weekend, the Pirates move up to No. 2 this week’s power rankings. Not only are the Pirates getting great efforts from their pitching staff, but also their big offensive pieces are finally starting to come alive. Josh Harrison, last year’s breakout star, has been on a torrid pace through his last 30 games. He is hitting .339 with 18 RBIs, 16 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .373. His emergence at the top of the order is no coincidence with the Pirates recent success. Andrew McCutchen is back to MVP-like form after a slow start as well. He’s hitting .351 with four homers, 20 RBIs, 17 runs scored and an on-base percentage of 415 through his last 30 games. The Bucs will look to get back on a hot streak this week, as they will play host to the Reds and Braves at PNC Park.
3. Kansas City Royals (#6)
For the first time in a few weeks the Royals are back in the top five of the power rankings. Kansas City has opened up a 3.5 game lead on the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central after the two teams were neck and neck for so long. If you look at the Royals closely, it is kind of amazing how good they have been with all the injuries to their pitching staff they have suffered. Three of the five starters who were in the opening day rotation are on the disabled list for KC, but Chris Young and Joe Blanton have filled in admirably for Ned Yost’s pitching staff. The Royals are scheduled to get Danny Duffy back from the disabled list this week, and he is set to start on Wednesday against the Mariners. He should provide a boost to what already is a very good team. Kansas City will go on a West Coast road trip this week with stops in Seattle and Oakland to take on the A’s.
4. Tampa Bay Rays (#8)
Although the Lightning lost the Stanley Cup to the Blackhawks last week, Tampa Bay still can hang its hat on the play of the Rays. Perhaps the most surprising story in baseball this season is the Rays. Tampa Bay is a team that has been decimated by injuries, but still is on top of the AL East. They are playing without four of their five starting pitchers who were scheduled to start the season in the rotation. Not only are the Rays playing with a patchwork pitching staff, they are also playing with a patchwork lineup. Aside from Evan Longoria it is hard to name one player in the Rays lineup and, yet the Rays are still in first place in the AL East. Chris Archer has stepped into the ace role of the starting rotation and thus far is having a Cy-Young caliber season. He is 8-4 with a 2.18 ERA and 116 strikeouts. He, Chris Sale and Dallas Kuechel have to be the three favorites to start the All Star Game for the American League. The Rays have won eight of their last 10 games and will look to stay hot this week with home series with the Blue Jays and Red Sox.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers (#2)
The Dodgers had a real tough week by losing three of four to the Rangers and two of three to the Giants. For whatever reason the Dodgers have had a really hard time against the Giants this season and because of that they are probably happy they won’t face them until late August. Expect the Dodgers to be active as the trade deadline approaches. They are in dire need of another starter to go with Zack Grienke and Clayton Kershaw. I would not be surprised if they are right in the middle of the Cole Hamels sweepstakes. The Dodgers will look to get back on track this week as they head out for a road trip against the Cubs and Marlins
6. Houston Astros (#7)
7. New York Yankees (#4)
8. Toronto Blue Jays (#5)
9. San Francisco Giants (#9)
10. Washington Nationals (#12)
11. Chicago Cubs (#13)
12. Baltimore Orioles (#17)
13. Texas Rangers (#15)
14. Minnesota Twins (#10)
15. Detroit Tigers (#14)
16. Atlanta Braves (#19)
17. New York Mets (#11)
18. Arizona Diamondbacks (#20)
19. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (#16)
20. Cincinnati Reds (#23)
21. Cleveland Indians (#21)
22. San Diego Padres (#18)
23. Seattle Mariners (#24)
24. Miami Marlins (#25)
25. Boston Red Sox (#26)
26. Chicago White Sox (#22)
27. Oakland Athletics. (#28)
28. Colorado Rockies (#27)
29. Milwaukee Brewers (#29)
30. Philadelphia Phillies (#30)
Pitching Performer of the Week
Max Scherzer – Pitcher, Washington Nationals
Last Week’s Stats – 18 innings, 0 earned runs, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, 26 strikeouts.
I think Max Scherzer is a pretty obvious pick for performer of the week. Last week Scherzer threw a no-hitter (which was almost a perfect game) and would have thrown two no-hitters if it weren’t for a broken bat single by Carlos Gomez of the Brewers last Sunday. It is not unrealistic to think that Scherzer could throw two no-hitters in a row (something that has only been done once by Johnny Vader Meer in 1938) as he faces the worst offense in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies. So far it looks like money well spent by the Washington Nationals.
Offensive Performer of the Week
George Springer – Right fielder, Houston Astros
Last Week’s stats – .452 (14-31), 4 HRs, 5 RBIs, 8 Runs scored, OBP .469
I had trouble picking between Springer and Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox because both had amazing weeks, but in the end Springer’s power numbers helped put him over the top. His four homers last week were tied for second most and his eight runs were good for third most in the league. Springer hasn’t just been on fire over the past week, but he’s been on fire for the past month. He has raised his batting average by 70 points in the past month and has given the Astros something more than just a guy who just hits home runs and strikes out a lot.
Follow Bobby on Twitter @RENorell_III