MLB Power Rankings: Pretenders or Contenders?
1. Philadelphia Phillies (59-44, First NL East, Previous Rank 3)
The Phillies boast Major League Baseball’s best lineup. The lineup features former, future, and potential MVPs, and that does not include 2009 NL All Stars Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, and Jayson Werth. The Cliff Lee acquisition puts them over the top and the favorites to win it all again in 2009.
2. New York Yankees (63-42, First in AL East, PR 2)
3. Boston Red Sox (62-42, .5 GB of Yankees, Wild Card Leader, PR 1)
The Victor Martinez trade was due in large part to David Ortiz (.231 average) and Jason Bay’s struggles (.213 since June and five RBI in July). Martinez will inject some life into an aging offense but if they depend on Brad Penny, Clay Bucholz, and John Smoltz they will become pretenders.
4. Los Angeles Angels (63-40, First in AL West, PR 6)
I have said it before and I will say it again: The Angels have no business being this good.The Halos have actually improved since my last power rankings, winning eight of their last 10, and I still cannot believe how good they are.
They have dealt with injuries up and down their roster, the Nick Adenhart tragedy, and still find themselves with the second best record in baseball.
The Angels are one of my favorite teams of the 2009 season and Mike Scioscia is the AL Manager of the Year.
5. Tampa Bay Rays (58-48, Third in AL East, PR 5)
The Rays are one of the best teams in baseball but only two AL East teams can make the postseason. Tampa Bay will be contenders for years to come, and is one this season, but they are currently on the outside looking in.
6. St. Louis Cardinals (58-50, First in NL Central, PR 10)
The Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa trades helped St. Louis leap ahead of the Dodgers and Cubs and become the second best NL team. They went from a good offense to having a great one and they have a great 1-2 punch atop their rotation. The Cardinals can beat you in a number of ways.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers (65-40, First NL West, PR 4)
The Dodgers did not make a big splash at the deadline but did solidify their strained bullpen by acquiring LHP George Sherrill. LA has a great team but the NL improved dramatically with the Matt Holliday trade, hence the Dodgers dropping a few spots. The Dodgers need another SP to be legitimate contenders and until then they will remain below St Louis and Philadelphia.
8. Chicago White Sox (54-52, Second AL Central, PR 8)
The White Sox made the biggest splash at the trade deadline by acquiring ace Jake Peavy. A healthy Peavy gives the South Siders a very good rotation and they already have an explosive offense (fifth most HR in MLB). They are the most talented team in the AL Central and remain the favorites to capture the division crown.
9. Texas Rangers (59-44, Second AL West, PR 11)
The Rangers are another team that has no business being as good as they are (14 games over .500?!). I do not trust their starting staff, but Kevin Millwood and Scott Feldman have thrown well all season, Vicente Padilla is healthy again, and rookie Tommy Hunter has started nicely.
Their offense is legit (Josh Hamilton is batting seventh) and their bullpen has been a very nice surprise but Ian Kinsler’s injury will hurt them and I do not think they will make the playoffs.
10. Chicago Cubs (55-48, Second NL Central, PR 7)
The Cubs have struggled all season long but found themselves in first place last week. Aramis Ramirez is healthy, Milton Bradley is finally hitting above .250, and Alfonso Soriano has been on fire since the All Star break (.364 post All Star BA). They have gone 12-5 in the second half of the season but will need Geovany Soto and Ted Lilly back if they want to contend for the NL Central title.
11. Toronto Blue Jays (51-54, Fourth AL East, PR 9)
The Jays have a very good lineup. Aaron Hill (.291 BA, 26 HR, 76 RBI) has established himself as an offensive force at 2B and Adam Lind (.301 BA, 22 HR, 71 RBI) has emerged. Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan were supposed to be the second and third starters in 2009 but they lost McGowan for the season and Marcum is finally starting his rehab. If the Jays had some healthy pitching they would be contending.
12. San Francisco Giants (58-47, Tied for Second NL West, PR 13)
The Giants probably have the best starting rotation in MLB, as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain may be the two frontrunners for the NL Cy Young Award. Their offense is anemic and will likely be the reason they do not make the playoffs but they will be Wild Card contenders as long as their staff stays healthy.
13. Colorado Rockies (58-47, Tied for Second NL West, PR 12)
If the Rockies had a healthy Jeff Francis they would be one of the best teams in the NL and even without the former 17-game winner, Colorado still has a great starting staff.
Aaron Cook is 10-3, All Star Jason Marquis is tied for the NL lead with 12 wins, and both Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa are in the top 20 for strikeouts. If their pitching holds up, Colorado can contend for the NL Wild Card.
14. Detroit Tigers (54-49, First NL Central, PR 17)
The Tigers made a nice addition to their starting staff by acquiring savvy veteran Jarrod Washburn. Washburn (2.64 ERA) is one of the best pitchers in baseball this season and the Tigers already have Justin Verlander (12-5, 3.16 ERA, second most Ks in MLB) and Edwin Jackson (2.64 ERA).
The Tigers have an average offense and the struggling Brandon Inge (0 HR since All Star break) may have to go on the disabled list with a nagging knee injury.
15. Seattle Mariners (54-51, Third AL West, PR 16)
The M’s were in a buying/selling mode at the deadline. They received Jack Wilson and Ian Snell from the Pirates for one of their best prospects (Jeff Clement) and sold Jarrod Washburn to the Tigers for Luke French and a prospect. Seattle can contend next season if they can get 200 IP out of Erik Bedard and figure Brandon Morrow out, but that is asking for way too much.
16. Florida Marlins (55-50, Second NL East, PR 19)
The Marlins have a good offense and could be better if they cut down on an MLB-leading 832 strikeouts. Nick Johnson will help their OBP and balance out the order, but it is not a season saving trade. The pitching is average and remember, this is the fourth youngest team in MLB.
17. Atlanta Braves (53-52, Third NL East, PR 20)
The Braves have a very nice starting staff. Javier Vazquez (3.01 ERA, third most Ks in MLB) loves his return to the NL and Jair Jurrens (2.69 ERA) is thriving in his second NL season. Ace Derek Lowe has 11 wins, rookie Tommy Hanson has a 3.25 ERA, and the staff will get Tim Hudson back sometime in August.
The Atlanta offense is not very good and is why they picked up Adam LaRoche at the deadline. Look for the Braves to contend next season.
18. Minnesota Twins (52-53, Third AL Central, PR 18)
After sweeping the division rival White Sox, the Twins took two steps backwards and were swept by the Angels this weekend. The Twins offense is 10th in Runs but other than Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, and Michael Cuddyer there is nothing to be afraid of. The Delmon Young trade was disastrous and their pitching staff has the sixth worst ERA in MLB.
19. Baltimore Orioles (44-60, Fifth AL East, PR 15)
The Orioles play in the wrong division and if they played in any other, they may be in the division or wild card hunt. They have a nice offense, mixed with veterans and youngsters, and we know Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis can play at an elite level. The O’s are starting to call up their young talented pitchers (Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz) and they will be a much better team next season.
20. New York Mets (50-54, Fourth NL East, PR 23)
Every year it is something different with this organization. The latest Omar Minaya fiasco will leave an indelible mark on his tenure and the clubhouse has become a circus. However, this team would be contending if Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, J.J. Putz, John Maine, and Jose Reyes were not injured.
21. Milwaukee Brewers (52-53, Tied for Third NL Central, PR 14)
The Brewers cannot pitch (fifth worst team ERA) or play defense and when that happens you will find yourself below .500. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun will be there for a few more years, but if Milwaukee wants to contend and keep them around they will need to find some pitching.
22. Houston Astros (52-53, Tied for Third NL Central, PR 21)
When I evaluated the Astros in the preseason, I thought Mike Hampton and Brian Moehler would be their weakness, but it is actually a below average offense. Any offense with Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, Miguel Tejada, and Hunter Pence should not struggle but the Houston offense ranks 23rd in Runs this season. If they want to contend in the future they need to add another bat and acquire more pitching.
23. Arizona Diamondbacks (46-59, Fourth NL West, PR 25)
Remember two years ago, when the Diamondbacks were the future of the NL? They made the 2007 NLCS with a bevy of “future stars” and they even traded for Dan Haren to help put the team on top of the NL.
Well, Brandon Webb and Conor Jackson have been out for most of the season, Stephen Drew has not blossomed as planned, Chris Young is awful, and the team has players I have never heard of (Gerardo Parra, Alex Romero, Ryan Roberts, and Josh Whitesell) getting playing time.
24. Cleveland Indians (44-61, Fourth AL Central, PR 29)
The Tribe has a very nice offense (sixth most runs in MLB) but have the worst team ERA (5.16) in MLB. It does not help when you trade back-to-back AL Cy Young Award winners and it also does not help when your No. 2 starter Fausto Carmona goes back to the minors.
After trading Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, and Ben Francisco look for Andy Marte, Trevor Crowe, and catching prospect Carlos Santana to get extensive playing time.
25. Pittsburgh Pirates (45-59, Tied for Fifth NL Central PR 24)
The Bucs have been making making moves all season long and their future is finally looking somewhat bright.
They traded Freddy Sanchez for former first round pick RHP Tim Alderson. Pittsburgh’s OF features two very exciting young athletes, Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge. C/1B Jeff Clement, a former top five pick, was acquired from the Mariners, and they still have Pedro Alvarez waiting and almost ready to mash at the big league level.
For the first time in nearly two decades, the Pirates have a nice future.
26. San Diego Padres (43-63, Fifth NL West, PR 26)
Trading Jake Peavy ended a very successful era in San Diego, and for the first time since the early 90s the Friars will be without Peavy or Trevor Hoffman. The Pads are trying to clear as much pay roll as possible and next in line to be traded will be slugger Adrian Gonzalez.
27. Kansas City Royals (41-64, Fifth AL Central, PR 27)
I had high hopes for the Royals this season.
I thought Coco Crisp would provide an impact at the top of the lineup (wrong). I thought Jose Guillen would be an RBI machine (wrong).
I thought Alex Gordon and Billy Butler would hit more than the 12 HR they have combined (wrong) and I thought they had a nice pitching staff (wrong).
The Royals are my 2010 sleeper.
28. Cincinnati Reds (45-59, Tied for Fourth NL Central, PR 22)
After the Jay Bruce injury, the Reds have two feared hitters (Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto) and the rest of the team is futile.
The Scott Rolen acquisition was made to help a miserable clubhouse led by perpetual douche Brandon Phillips, but the Reds will not contend in the near future. I watched the Cubs play the Reds a few weeks ago and saw Phillips throw the ball to first with his right foot in front. Inexcusable.
29. Oakland A’s (44-60, Fourth AL West, PR 28)
The A’s will contend again…just not this year or the next. Their starting pitchers are all going to be good, just not this year. This is one of the youngest teams in MLB and the offense is bad. If this team wants to contend in the near future they will need to totally fix the offense, as only Mark Ellis should be starting on an MLB team.
30. Washington Nationals (33-72, Fifth NL East, PR 30)
The Nats are the worst team in baseball because of their awful offense and the second worst team ERA in baseball. They have very little talent on their roster and will not be legitimate contenders for many years. If they want to speed up the rebuilding process they should look to trade Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, and Christian Guzman this offseason.
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