1. Boston Red Sox (58-39) –
The Red Sox dropped two of three in Oakland to end the first half, but wrapped a 10-game West Coast road trip at 5-5. Boston made what could be the first significant trade of the month by adding southpaw Matt Thornton from the Chicago White Sox. Thornton isn’t the dominant force he used to be, but he’ll help fill the void left by the Andrew Miller injury.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (57-36) +1
The Cardinals have the best record in baseball and sent six players to the All-Star Game in New York. Every time they lose a player, they simply come up with another one who performs at a high level. Case in point: Edward Mujica was the third option to close games for the club this year and all he has done is go 26-for-27 in saves and walk exactly two batters in 41 innings this year.
3. Oakland Athletics (56-39) +1
The A’s are 8-4 since the calendar flipped to July and they’ve done it while Yoenis Cespedes has produced a .214/.327/.214 line in his last 49 plate appearances with just a single RBI. Perhaps his huge performance in winning the Home Run Derby can jump start what has been a disappointing sophomore season for the Cuban sensation.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates (56-37) -2
The Pirates went 3-3 last week, but they increasingly look like a far better team than the one that collapsed during the second half in each of the last two seasons. Left fielder Starling Marte has quietly become one of the elite offensive players in the league. He has an OPS above .800, has swiped 28 bags, and has reached base via hit by pitch 15 times already this season.
5. Tampa Bay Rays (55-41) +1
The Rays have rattled off 14 wins in their last 16 games to climb into the top-five of the rankings for the first time this year. While Evan Longoria and Wil Myers are drawing praise for their numbers during this run, DH Luke Scott has posted a .415/.500/.756 line with three homers in his last 12 games.
6. Atlanta Braves (54-41) +1
The Braves were listed among the biggest winners of the off-season, adding the brothers Upton to go with Jason Heyward in their outfield. After a red-hot start to the year, Justin Upton has cooled considerably and B.J. has never gotten on track. After a great rookie year, Heyward has a collective .247/.328/.428 line over the past three seasons (nearly 1400 plate appearances).
7. Texas Rangers (54-41) -2
Losers of four of their last five and with even more injuries mounting (plus the possible suspension of Nelson Cruz), the Rangers are said to be in the market for pitching help and could move prospect Mike Olt to facilitate a deal. It might take more than that to land Matt Garza, however, as the Cubs will have a big price tag on their right hander.
8. Cincinnati Reds (53-42) +4
9. Los Angeles Dodgers (47-47) -1
It’s said that you can’t start taking a team seriously until they get back to .500, well it’s time to take the Dodgers seriously. Yasiel Puig looks like the real deal and Matt Kemp‘s latest injury could actually be a blessing for Don Mattingly‘s club. Kemp was in the midst of a terrible year and his absence clears the log jam in the outfield.
10. Baltimore Orioles (53-43) -2
Chris Davis has 37 home runs and 93 RBI at the break and according to most advanced metrics, he’s not even having the best offensive season in the American League.
11. Detroit Tigers (52-42) –
12. Washington Nationals (48-47) +1
The Nats are getting healthy and seem poised to make a move on Atlanta. Perhaps the best news was getting catcher Wilson Ramos back. Ramos has an .854 OPS with 17 RBI in just 23 games this year. Veteran Kurt Suzuki has driven in only 19 in 66 contests.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks (50-45) +3
The Diamondbacks might not be the sexy story of the NL West, but they still hold a 2.5 game lead on the Dodgers. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt has very quietly emerged as an MVP candidate with 21 bombs and 77 RBI to go with a .952 OPS.
14. Cleveland Indians (51-44) +1
Every time it looks like the Indians are going to drift back in the pack, they make another run. After dropping three of four to the Tigers, the Tribe has won five of their last six. Reclamation project Scott Kazmir is 2-0 with a 2.32 ERA over his past five starts.
15. New York Yankees (51-44) -1
It seems the stars have been aligned against the Yankees all year long. Derek Jeter‘s injury during his debut game was just the latest in a series of set backs for the Bombers. Lost in all the drama is yet another all-time great season by the timeless Mariano Rivera, who has 30 saves at the break.
16. Los Angeles Angels (44-49) -6
Just when it looked like the Angels could salvage their season, they drop four of five before the break, including a sweep in Seattle. Right hander Joe Blanton leads the league with 12 losses on the year and has an 8.59 ERA over his past three starts.
17. Philadelphia Phillies (48-48) +2
It might be fool’s gold, but the Phillies have won nine of their last 13 and four consecutive series to stay relevant in the NL East race. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has a history of buying when he should be selling and this year looks no different.
18. Toronto Blue Jays (45-49) –
Another team that should be selling is the Blue Jays. They went all-in during the Winter, but things haven’t gone as planned, especially with the pitching staff. Right hander and free-agent-to-be Josh Johnson could fetch a decent return from an NL suitor.
19. Chicago Cubs (42-51) +1
Team president Theo Epstein won’t be fooled by his team’s better-than-expected play this year. Matt Garza is expected to bring a big return in a trade later this month and Alfonso Soriano‘s recent hot streak might make him attractive to a contender down the stretch as well.
20. Kansas City Royals (43-49) -3
Losers of five in a row headed into the break, the Royals fell back into a funk at the plate, scoring just 12 runs over that span.
21. Seattle Mariners (43-52) –
Seattle swept the Angels last weekend and open the second half with three in Houston before returning home. Rookie catcher Mike Zunino is off to a disappointing .230/.277/.299 line; a slightly worse effort than what got Jesus Montero demoted earlier this year.
22. New York Mets (41-50) –
The Mets hosted the All-Star and showcased the future of their pitching staff with Matt Harvey getting the ball for the NL squad and Noah Syndergaard playing in the Futures Game. Those two, along with Zack Wheeler, have the potential to give the Mets a dominant starting staff for years to come.
23. Colorado Rockies (46-50) –
Michael Cuddyer is having a career year and his value will never be higher than it is right now. The Rockies should trade him and regroup for next year, but they’ll probably hold on thinking he’s found some past-his-prime improvements in his game. He hasn’t.
24. San Francisco Giants (43-51) –
Tim Lincecum threw 148 pitches in his no-hitter and it could be one of the last appearances he makes for the Giants. The two-time Cy Young Award winner is drawing interest as both a starter and a reliever on the trade market.
25. Minnesota Twins (39-53) +1
Minnesota continues to eye the future and they’d do well to move Josh Willingham this month. Doing so would create more at bats for rookie Oswaldo Arcia, who had been putrid in July (.159/.196/.182), to work through his slump.
26. San Diego Padres (42-54) -1
The Padres continue to free fall, losing 14 of their last 16 games. Second baseman Jedd Gyorko is 0-for-11 since returning from injury.
27. Chicago White Sox (37-55) +2
It doesn’t take much, usually, to make a jump from the bottom of the rankings. Chicago’s series win in Detroit was encouraging, especially so if Dayan Viciedo‘s good showing (.360/.448/.720) over his last six games is a sign of things to come.
28. Milwaukee Brewers (38-56) –
Injuries on top of injuries and poor performances from their pitchers have sent Milwaukee plummeting to the basement of a division they were expected to contend in. To make matters worse, there are whispers that Ryan Braun could be facing a possible lifetime ban thanks to his connection to the Biogenesis investigation.
29. Miami Marlins (35-58) –
The Fish have some very good young pieces and look like they’ll be winners again in the not too distant future. Do they have enough talent to convince Giancarlo Stanton to want to stay? Jacob Turner and Jose Fernandez are a pretty good start.
30. Houston Astros (33-61) –
Jarred Cosart was more than impressive in his big league debut, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh against the Rays last week. His could be just one of a handful of debuts for talented young Astros players this year. Expect to see Jonathan Singleton, George Springer, and maybe even Mark Appel before the season is over.