MLB Power Rankings: Midseason Edition

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2013

MLB Power Rankings: Midseason Edition

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    Most of the teams around MLB will hit the midway mark in their 2013 seasons at some point in the week ahead, and the All-Star break is now just around the corner.

    It was a mediocre week for baseball across the league, as 18 teams went either 4-3, 3-3 or 3-4. There were a few notable exceptions, specifically the Rangers (6-1) and Blue Jays (6-0), who both shot up the rankings as a result.

    At this point, there are currently 16 teams around the league with winning records, and no team leads its division by more than six games. That should make for a great second half and an interesting trade deadline with so many teams still in contention.

    That said, here is a look at this week's MLB power rankings. Be sure to check back here each Monday for an updated look at where your favorite team stands.

30. Miami Marlins (25-50, Previous: 30)

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    Last Week's Results: 4-3

    at Arizona Diamondbacks (1-2)
    at San Francisco Giants (3-1)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    Things aren't likely to improve much for the Marlins going forward. They could actually get worse in the second half considering the team will likely be aggressive sellers at the deadline.

    Starter Ricky Nolasco (16 GS, 4-7, 3.68 ERA) will likely be their most valuable trade chip, and the possibility remains that they could also shop star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton.

    As for those who will still be suiting up in Miami, top prospect Christian Yelich could see a call-up at some point in the second half, while youngsters Jose Fernandez, Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich will continue to provide some hope for the future.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Minnesota Twins (2)
    vs. San Diego Padres (3) 

29. Houston Astros (29-48, Previous: 27)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    vs. Chicago White Sox (0-1)
    vs. Milwaukee Brewers (2-1)
    at Chicago Cubs (1-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    Not many teams that are 19 games under .500 can say they have exceeded expectations, but the Astros have been more competitive to this point than most expected them to be entering the year.

    They'll continue to be sellers at the deadline, though they don't have much left to move at this point in their rebuild. Starter Bud Norris and first baseman Carlos Pena appear to be the two most likely guys to be moved, and Norris could net a solid return if he keeps pitching like he has.

    The real story of the second half will be the potential debuts of top prospects Jonathan Singleton, George Springer and Jarred Cosart. Singleton is the future at first base, and Cosart is the team's top pitching prospect. Springer may be the most exciting of the group, though, as he has a .978 OPS with 19 home runs and 23 steals in 73 games at Double-A.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. St. Louis Cardinals (2)
    vs. Los Angeles Angels (3) 

28. Chicago White Sox (31-42, Previous: 28)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    at Houston Astros (1-0)
    at Minnesota Twins (0-3)
    at Kansas City Royals (2-1)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The White Sox have been unable to duplicate their success from last season so far this year, and as a result it appears to be time to tear things down and start a full-scale rebuild.

    Starter John Danks, shortstop Alexei Ramirez, outfielder Alejandro De Aza and setup man Jesse Crain could all be on the move. Crain, in particular, has been great this season, with a 0.52 ERA and 11.9 K/9 in 36 appearances.

    Higher-priced players Alex Rios and Jake Peavy should also have significant trade value at the deadline, but the team's asking price for them will no doubt be high, as they have both been solid producers this year.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. New York Mets (2)
    vs. Cleveland Indians (4)

27. New York Mets (30-42, Previous: 29)

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    Last Week's Results: 5-3

    at Atlanta Braves (3-2)
    at Philadelphia Phillies (2-1)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    At 12 games out of first place and with a number of holes on their roster, the Mets are already essentially out of it this season, though they'll likely avoid a last-place finish thanks to the Marlins.

    With the face of the franchise in David Wright locked up for the long term and the young pitching duo of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler living up to expectations thus far, the future is bright.

    Fans will get a look at another top prospect in the second half in catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who is currently rehabbing from a broken foot suffered back in April. He has the ability to be a franchise catcher, and he could give the offense a spark once he arrives.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Chicago White Sox (2)
    at Colorado Rockies (1)
    vs. Washington Nationals (3) 

26. Chicago Cubs (31-43, Previous: 25)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    at St. Louis Cardinals (1-3)
    vs. Houston Astros (2-1)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The Cubs sold aggressively at the deadline last year, and as they continued to rebuild, they'll likely do the same once again this July.

    They have plenty of talent to potentially move, as Nate Schierholtz, David DeJesus, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Kevin Gregg are among the top potential trade chips this time around. Their farm system is already light years ahead of where it was just two years ago and should only be better by the time the calendar reads August.

    Getting Starlin Castro (.228 BA, .582 OPS) on track offensively remains a major concern. After signing an extension and with top prospect Javier Baez still at least a year away, he'll get every chance to figure it out.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Milwaukee Brewers (3)
    at Seattle Mariners (3) 

25. Milwaukee Brewers (31-43, Previous: 26)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    at Houston Astros (1-2)
    vs. Atlanta Braves (2-1)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The Brewers offense has once again been solid this season, a year after leading the National League in runs scored, but their starting pitching has been terrible, with a combined 5.00 ERA that ranks last in the NL.

    Shortstop Jean Segura (.336 BA, .897 OPS) and center fielder Carlos Gomez (.313, .925) have been among the biggest breakout stars of the season, and if they can keep it up, the future looks bright in Milwaukee.

    As for the second half this season, the team will have to decide whether or not to move Corey Hart at the deadline. They'll also need to take a long look at their stable of young starting pitching to decide who factors into their long-term plans.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Chicago Cubs (3)
    at Pittsburgh Pirates (3) 

24. Los Angeles Angels (33-43, Previous: 23)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    vs. Seattle Mariners (3-1)
    vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (0-3)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    Given the amount of money that the Angels have invested in the likes of Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton over the past two years, anything short of the World Series is a disappointment, and right now it's going to take a major turnaround to even make a run at the postseason.

    If they can't turn things around in the weeks ahead, they may even need to consider selling come July. Starter Jason Vargas is the most likely trade chip, as he's a free agent at season's end and has posted decent numbers.

    The real question, though, is whether Hamilton (.207 BA, .640 OPS) can get on track after signing a five-year, $125 million deal in the offseason. The success of the team now and moving forward hinges on the trio of Hamilton, Pujols and Mike Trout carrying the offensive load, and it just hasn't happened this season.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Detroit Tigers (3)
    at Houston Astros (3) 

23. Los Angeles Dodgers (32-42, Previous: 24)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    at New York Yankees (1-1)
    at San Diego Padres (2-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The Dodgers continue to be one of the biggest disappointments of the 2013 season, and while health has certainly not been on their side to this point, injuries are not 100 percent to blame for the struggles.

    One of the few bright spots has been the play of rookie Yasiel Puig, who took the league by storm shortly after being called up. With Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford both on the DL, he's seeing everyday at-bats, and it will interesting to see how the team handles playing time once everyone in the outfield is healthy.

    Looking to the future, an extension with Clayton Kershaw could come sometime in the second half, and with rumors of a 10-year, $250 million or even 12-year, $300 million deal (according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports), it'll likely be a record deal for pitchers.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. San Francisco Giants (3)
    vs. Philadelphia Phillies (4) 

22. Seattle Mariners (34-43, Previous: 20)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    at Los Angeles Angels (1-3)
    vs. Oakland A's (2-1)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    Most will agree that the Mariners are a team on the rise, but there was little expected of them in 2013. Their offense has been better than last season, but there are still holes and the back of the rotation has been a major issue.

    On the flip side, Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez have dominated atop the rotation, and the two-year, $12 million deal they gave Iwakuma in the offseason may have been the best deal of the winter.

    A youth movement is in the works, with top prospects Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino already in Seattle and more young impact players on the way. They'll deal Jeremy Bonderman, Joe Saunders and Aaron Harang at the deadline if they can and could also entertain offers for free agents-to-be Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (2)
    vs. Chicago Cubs (3) 

21. Philadelphia Phillies (36-40, Previous: 22)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    vs. Washington Nationals (2-1)
    vs. New York Mets (1-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    It's hard to believe the Phillies are just a season-and-a-half removed from a 102-win campaign in 2011, as they have gotten old fast and are left with a group of expensive former stars and a team that will likely hover around .500 for most of the season.

    Roy Halladay ($20 million), Michael Young ($6 million) and Chase Utley ($15.29 million) will all be off the books next season, so that will certainly help kick-start the rebuilding process.

    They'll have trouble moving anyone from that trio, but there would certainly be a market for left-hander Cliff Lee and closer Jonathan Papelbon despite their contracts, if they were made available. Either way, it will likely be a rumor-filled July in Philadelphia.


    This Week's Opponents

    at San Diego Padres (3)
    at Los Angeles Dodgers (4)

20. Minnesota Twins (34-38, Previous: 21)

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    Last Week's Results: 4-2

    vs. Chicago White Sox (3-0)
    at Cleveland Indians (1-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The Twins set out to improve their pitching staff in the offseason with the addition of three new starters, but their starting pitchers currently rank dead last in the MLB with a combined 5.23 ERA.

    The offense hasn't been much better, as Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are the only regulars currently hitting over .275 on the season.

    Top prospects like Miguel Sano and Trevor May are likely still at least a year away, so there's not much in the way of exciting young reinforcements. They'll likely sell what they can at the deadline, and it will be interesting to see what they do with free agent-to-be Morneau, who leads the team with 42 RBI and should have some trade value.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Miami Marlins (2)
    vs. Kansas City Royals (4) 

19. Kansas City Royals (35-38, Previous: 14)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-4

    at Cleveland Indians (1-2)
    vs. Chicago White Sox (1-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The Royals succeeded in upgrading their starting rotation this offseason, as the additions of James Shields and Ervin Santana via trade and the re-signing of Jeremy Guthrie have made the starting staff a plus.

    However, the offense has not held up its end of things, and as a result the team has not made the run at contention that many thought them capable of entering the season.

    If their bats can get on track over the next few weeks, they still have an outside shot to contend. If not, expect free agent-to-be Santana to be among the top arms available at the deadline. 


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Atlanta Braves (2)
    at Minnesota Twins (4)

18. Washington Nationals (37-38, Previous: 18)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    at Philadelphia Phillies (1-2)
    vs. Colorado Rockies (2-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    After posting the best record in baseball last season and following the offseason addition of Denard Span to fill the void atop the lineup, the Nationals were a popular pick to win the NL pennant this season.

    Instead, they currently find themselves one game under .500 and closer to the third-place Phillies than they are to the first-place Braves in the NL East.

    All the pieces are there; they just need to perform up to their potential. Keeping Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg healthy will be key, and a return to last season's dominant form by the pitching staff would help take some pressure off of the underperforming offense.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (3)
    at New York Mets (3) 

17. Colorado Rockies (39-38, Previous: 17)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-5

    at Toronto Blue Jays (0-3)
    at Washington Nationals (2-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The Rockies offense has been fantastic this season, and they have managed to remain in contention thanks almost entirely to their impressive performance at the plate.

    However, they'll be without Troy Tulowitzki for roughly the next month after he suffered a broken rib two weeks ago. Even without him, the lineup is stacked, as Carlos Gonzalez is a legitimate MVP candidate and Michael Cuddyer is currently riding a 21-game hitting streak.

    Pitching remains the issue, and the team has some attractive trade chips if they do fall out of contention. Closer Rafael Betancourt, starter Jorge De La Rosa and perhaps even Cuddyer could be among those shopped come July.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Boston Red Sox (2)
    vs. New York Mets (1)
    vs. San Francisco Giants (3) 

16. San Diego Padres (38-38, Previous: 11)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    at San Francisco Giants (1-2)
    vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (2-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The Padres shot up the rankings last week thanks to a six-game winning streak and a 9-2 stretch overall. The came back to earth a bit this past week, but they still have an outside shot at contention in a wide-open NL West.

    Their minor league system is stocked right now, but the bulk of the talent is still in the low minors, so there won't be much in the way of midseason call-ups. However, if they can string together a few more wins and remain in contention, they could be surprise buyers at the deadline.

    Given their budget restraints, the more likely scenario is that they'll hang around .500 and be happy with the progress they've made as a team. They're headed in the right direction, and finding a front-line starter and deciding what to do with Chase Headley long-term remain their biggest questions.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Philadelphia Phillies (3)
    at Miami Marlins (3) 

15. San Francisco Giants (38-37, Previous: 15)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    vs. San Diego Padres (2-1)
    vs. Miami Marlins (1-3)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The reigning champions have been far from the team they were down the stretch last season, but luckily for them, the NL West remains wide open. They're currently just three games back in the division, yet six out in the wild-card standings.

    Starting pitching has been the biggest reason for their struggles, as Madison Bumgarner is the only starter putting up above-average numbers. Depending on how close they are to the division lead come July, they may look to add a starter, though their farm system remains relatively thin.

    If Matt Cain can get back to ace form and one other starter can step up, they should be in good shape. If that doesn't happen, though, it's conceivable that the Diamondbacks could run away with the division in the second half.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Los Angeles Dodgers (3)
    at Colorado Rockies (3) 

14. Tampa Bay Rays (39-37, Previous: 13)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    at Boston Red Sox (1-2)
    at New York Yankees (2-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    A healthy Evan Longoria, alongside offseason acquisitions Kelly Johnson and James Loney, has led to a vastly improved Rays offense. Add to that the fact that the Wil Myers era has officially begun in Tampa Bay, and the production at the plate should continue into the second half.

    However, the pitching has been a shell of what it was in past seasons. Jeremy Hellickson has been terrible, Matt Moore has fallen apart after a fantastic start and both Alex Cobb and David Price are currently on the DL.

    Getting reigning Cy Young winner Price back will help, though he was struggling before landing on the DL. Either way, the team will likely take an extended look at guys like Alex Colome, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer in the second half if the struggles continue.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Toronto Blue Jays (3)
    vs. Detroit Tigers (3) 

13. Cleveland Indians (38-36, Previous: 16)

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    Last Week's Results: 4-2

    vs. Kansas City Royals (2-1)
    vs. Minnesota Twins (2-1)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    After opening the season an impressive 26-18, the Indians have gone just 12-18 over their last 30 games, and it is looking more and more like the Tigers will run away with the AL Central in the second half.

    That said, they're still just four games behind Detroit, and while there is no question the Tigers have the more talented roster, they've been unable to pull away to this point.

    After the Indians were aggressive buyers in the offseason, the team could sell aggressively if they fall out of things by July. Mark Reynolds would bring a solid return, while pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Perez would be welcome departures as well. If they manage to stick around in the standings, they could look to go after a veteran starter to bolster the solid trio of Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Baltimore Orioles (4)
    at Chicago White Sox (4) 

12. Arizona Diamondbacks (41-34, Previous: 12)

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    Last Week's Results: 4-2

    vs. Miami Marlins (2-1)
    vs. Cincinnati Reds (2-1)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    So far, the Diamondbacks have been the class of what was expected to be a deep NL West, and the emergence of Paul Goldschmidt and Patrick Corbin as stars has been a big reason for their early success.

    They still have plenty of room to improve as well, with Brandon McCarthy and Ian Kennedy not pitching up to their potential and catcher Miguel Montero struggling at the plate. Also, rookies Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs are both potential X-factors in the second half.

    If someone from the trio of McCarthy, Kennedy and Wade Miley can't step up and Skaggs struggles again once he's called back up, the team could look to add a middle-of-the-rotation arm at the deadline. Aside from that, however, the roster is lacking any glaring holes, and they should have a solid chance to contend for a playoff spot.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Washington Nationals (3)
    at Atlanta Braves (3)

11. New York Yankees (41-34, Previous: 10)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-1)
    vs. Tampa Bay Rays (2-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    Though they're still 2.5 games ahead of Toronto in the standings, the Yankees fall behind the Blue Jays here in the power rankings, as they've gone just 4-7 over their last 11 games and Toronto is riding an 11-game winning streak.

    It appears that all of the injuries have finally caught up to the Yankees, as the veteran trio of Vernon Wells (.116 BA, .265 OPS in past month), Travis Hafner (.135, .467) and Lyle Overbay (.215, .636) have landed with a thud after their blistering starts.

    The return of Derek Jeter could provide a spark, but they're trending down right now, and in a deep AL East, they could fall out of things quickly if they're not able to turn it around.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Texas Rangers (3)
    at Baltimore Orioles (3) 

10. Toronto Blue Jays (38-36, Previous: 19)

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    Last Week's Results: 6-0

    vs. Colorado Rockies (3-0)
    vs. Baltimore Orioles (3-0)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    I was admittedly hesitant to move the Blue Jays too far up these rankings last week, but as they enter this week riding an 11-game winning streak, it's impossible to ignore just how hot this team is right now.

    The unexpected contributions of Esmil Rogers and Chien-Ming Wang have helped turn around what was a disaster of a rotation, while the offense has continued to perform and should benefit from the returns of Brett Lawrie and Jose Reyes.

    Just two weeks ago, this team was sitting at 27-35 and appeared as though they might have been looking to cut their losses at the deadline. Instead, they're finally starting to live up to the tremendous hype with which they entered the season. They look like they could be a force in the second half.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Tampa Bay Rays (3)
    at Boston Red Sox (4)

9. Atlanta Braves (44-33, Previous: 7)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-5

    vs. New York Mets (2-3)
    at Milwaukee Brewers (1-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    After a torrid 30-18 start to the season, the Braves have limped along at 14-15 over their last 29 games. With the rest of the NL East struggling mightily, though, they remain a comfortable six games up in the division.

    The combination of strikeouts (686; 26.8 percent of at-bats) and a complete lack of clutch hitting (.224 BA with RISP; 30th in MLB) has made their offense a liability, and it's a matter of the team changing their entire approach at the plate, which may be far-fetched at this point.

    The pitching has been there, as the bullpen is once again one of the best in baseball, and the already-stacked rotation will benefit from the return of Brandon Beachy, but the offense remains a major concern heading into the second half.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Kansas City Royals (2)
    vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (3) 

8. Baltimore Orioles (42-34, Previous: 5)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-4

    at Detroit Tigers (2-1)
    at Toronto Blue Jays (0-3)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    Much like last season, starting pitching is going to be the deciding factor in just how competitive the Orioles are in the second half, as their offense is stacked and their bullpen is solid.

    Once top prospect Dylan Bundy is deemed healthy, he'll likely be on the fast track to Baltimore, and he could be the pickup of the deadline if he pitches like the ace he's projected to be. As of now, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen (once he's healthy) look to be a solid trio, but the back end of the staff has been a constant shuffle.

    On the offensive side of things, it will be interesting to see if Chris Davis can maintain his torrid pace at the plate, as he's a legitimate MVP candidate at this point and has a real chance at 40-plus home runs.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Cleveland Indians (4)
    vs. New York Yankees (3)

7. Boston Red Sox (45-33, Previous: 6)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    vs. Tampa Bay Rays (2-1)
    at Detroit Tigers (1-3)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The Red Sox's busy offseason has paid off handsomely so far, as they have done a complete 180 following a 93-loss campaign in 2012. They sit atop the AL East right now, but they are not without some major questions moving forward.

    Undefeated Clay Buchholz (9-0, 1.71 ERA) has been sidelined with a strained neck since June 9, and after being scratched from his latest scheduled bullpen session, his return date remains up in the air at this point.

    The team is also now on their third closer this season, as Andrew Bailey was recently demoted in favor of Koji Uehara. This, after Joel Hanrahan lost the job early on before being lost for the year to Tommy John surgery. A reunion with Jonathan Papelbon, should the Phillies decide to sell, could be a possibility if Uehara can't lock the job down.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Colorado Rockies (2)
    vs. Toronto Blue Jays (4)

6. Oakland Athletics (44-34, Previous: 2)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-5

    at Texas Rangers (1-3)
    at Seattle Mariners (1-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The hottest team in baseball a few weeks ago when they were riding an 18-3 stretch, the A's have gone 6-9 over their past 15 games as they've leveled out. 

    They're not likely to do much at the deadline, though they may be forced to look for a veteran starter if Bartolo Colon (10-2, 2.93 ERA) winds up suspended as a result of his ties to the Biogenesis scandal.

    As it stands, however, they resemble last year's team in many ways as they are once again led by a young rotation, a dominant bullpen and an ever-shuffling lineup that is devoid of superstars but effective as a group.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Cincinnati Reds (2)
    vs. St. Louis Cardinals (3) 

5. Detroit Tigers (42-32, Previous: 8)

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    Last Week's Results: 4-3

    vs. Baltimore Orioles (1-2)
    vs. Boston Red Sox (3-1)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    On paper, there may be no team in the American League more talented from top to bottom than the Tigers. But while they are currently in first place in the AL Central, they lead the Indians by just four games and have not pulled away from the pack by any means.

    The strength of their team, despite what the presences of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder may lead you to believe, is their starting pitching. Max Scherzer (11-0, 3.05 ERA, 10.6 K/9) looks like the odds-on favorite to start the All-Star Game, and the rest of the staff has been strong as well.

    Figuring out the closer situation following the recent DFA of Jose Valverde remains an issue, but Joaquin Benoit should be able to handle things for now. Top prospect Nick Castellanos could be one to watch in the second half as well, as the 21-year-old outfielder continues to hammer minor league pitching.


    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Los Angeles Angels (3)
    at Tampa Bay Rays (3)

4. Cincinnati Reds (45-32, Previous: 3)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (2-2)
    at Arizona Diamondbacks (1-2)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    It's safe to say the Reds are the best third-place team in baseball right now, as they've played up to expectations so far and have done so in an NL Central that is absolutely stacked at the top.

    Offensively, the team has managed to overcome the Opening Day injury of Ryan Ludwick, as Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and Shin-Soo Choo are all All-Star worthy at this point.

    Pitching is where the question marks lie, specifically in the bullpen, where the team has been unable to find a reliable setup man for closer Aroldis Chapman. Getting Sean Marshall healthy will certainly help, but don't be surprised to see the team make another Jonathan Broxton-type deal at the deadline to shore things up.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Oakland Athletics (2)
    at Texas Rangers (3) 

3. Pittsburgh Pirates (46-30, Previous: 4)

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    Last Week's Results: 5-2

    at Cincinnati Reds (2-2)
    at Los Angeles Angels (3-0)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    The Pirates have been in a similar position entering the All-Star break each of the past two seasons, only to suffer major second-half collapses. However, this year's team looks to have a much better chance of going the distance for a few reasons.

    First off, the offensive production has been much more balanced after Andrew McCutchen carried the team in the first half last year. They could use another power bat, as Pedro Alvarez (19 HR) is the only player with double-digit home runs, but as a whole the offense has improved.

    On the pitching side of things, Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano have been pleasant surprises, while the veteran duo of A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez (once they're healthy) should provide a stabilizing presence. The bullpen has been dominant, and rookie Gerrit Cole looks to be the real deal through three starts. 


    This Week's Opponents

    at Seattle Mariners (2)
    vs. Milwaukee Brewers (3)

2. St. Louis Cardinals (47-29, Previous: 1)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    vs. Chicago Cubs (3-1)
    vs. Texas Rangers (0-3)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    After spending the past four weeks in the top spot of these rankings, the Cardinals are bumped to second after being swept by the surging Rangers.

    That said, I still feel that they're the best team in baseball at this point, even if they're not the hottest. Their pitching staff has overcome the losses of Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte masterfully to this point, and their offense continues to score despite middling power production.

    Top prospects Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras are both waiting in the wings should the team be hit by an injury of some sort, and they've already flashed their impressive pitching depth. There really doesn't seem to be much that could derail this team in the second half, but they'll have their work cut out for them in winning the NL Central.


    This Week's Opponents

    at Houston Astros (2)
    at Oakland Athletics (3) 

1. Texas Rangers (44-32, Previous: 9)

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    Last Week's Results: 6-1

    vs. Oakland Athletics (3-1)
    at St. Louis Cardinals (3-0)


    What to Watch for in the Second Half

    In the midst of a bumpy 2-9 stretch and riding a six-game losing streak entering last week, the Rangers got back on track in a big way, as they went 6-1 against the teams at No. 1 and No. 2 in these rankings entering the week.

    It's hard to put them anywhere but the top spot as a result, and while they are not without their share of issues that will need addressing in the second half, it looks like it will be a two-man race between them and the A's for the AL West title at this point.

    The starting rotation behind Yu Darvish and Derek Holland is a major question mark, and whether improvement comes from Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando getting healthy or the team making a trade, they'll need to address that in the second half.


    This Week's Opponents

    at New York Yankees (3)
    vs. Cincinnati Reds (3)