Thursday August 19th, 2010

MLB Power Rankings
21Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 21
Casey McGehee recently did something that hitting virtuosos and Hall of Fame Brewers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount never did: Get a hit in nine straight at bats. McGehee had a hit in last at bat last Tuesday, which he then followed with a pair of four-hit games to set the Milwaukee franchise record. McGehee is hitting .359 in August with an NL-leading 19 RBIs. His 18 home runs while playing third base this year are tied for fifth-most in the majors with David Wright and more than Alex Rodriguez or Evan Longoria.
 
22Houston Astros
Last Week: 22
In the last week the Astros haven't allowed any team to score more than three runs. Then again, their two opponents were the Mets and Pirates, two of the NL's three lowest scoring offenses. Most impressive in that stretch was last Saturday's career day by young Bud Norris, who struck out 14 Pirates -- a Minute Maid Park record -- in seven innings en route to his fifth win. The first two batters of the game, Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones, tripled and homered, but Norris, 25, held Pittsburgh to just three singles after that. He also went 2-for-2 with a double and a sacrifice bunt.
 
23Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 25
Since trading Jose Guillen, the Royals' new active team leader in home runs is shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt with 12. The team as a whole has only 80, or only about twice as many as Jose Bautista. Should they want to hit more, the Royals ought to look at this fascinating read in the Kansas City Star, explaining why a batter can hit a curveball farther than a fastball, primarily due to the spin of the ball.
 
24Washington Nationals
Last Week: 23
The building blocks are in place: The Nationals now have two franchise players at the major-league level -- third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and starter Stephen Strasburg -- and on Monday signed a potential third marquee name in Bryce Harper. But Harper wasn't the only draft pick with a record contract: high school pitcher A.J. Cole received a $2 million bonus, the most ever given to a fourth-round pick. In all Washington spent the most of any team on amateur players, a total of $13.7 million, which shows a rightfully aggressive pursuit of building through scouting and development.
 
25Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 26
The youth movement is being executed up in Wrigleyville. On Wednesday afternoon the Cubs used 10 rookies, including all six of their pitchers. The last time the Cubs used nine or more rookies before the Sept. 1 roster expansion was on Aug. 30, 1974 when they used 11. But Chicago needs more young help in their lineup: Six of their regulars are 30 or older. Catcher Geovany Soto, shortstop Starlin Castro and outfielder Tyler Colvin are all 20-somethings who can produce, but everyone else is on the backside of their careers.
 
26Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 29
Chone Figgins is on the verge of an historically weak season. The second baseman has played in 120 of the Mariners' 121 games thus far and has a meager slugging percentage of only .295. He's only batting .248, with 16 doubles, one triple and one home run among his 110 hits. If he continues on this pace, he'll become only the fifth player in baseball history to have played at least 160 games while slugging less than .300. The last player to do so was Sandy Alomar Sr. in 1970.
 
27Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 24
Rookie right-hander Jeanmar Gomez has been an unexpected bright spot for the Indians in the past month. The 22-year-old native of Venezuela with a strong sinking fastball was just 8-8 with a 5.20 ERA in Triple-A when he got called up, but he has gone 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA in his first five major-league starts. He has yet to allow more than two earned runs in any start.
 
28Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 27
Cesar Izturis can make a strong case as baseball's worst player, which prompted a recent essay about the Orioles shortstop with the title, which prompted a recent essay about the Orioles shortstop with the title, "Cesar Izturis' Inexplicable Continued Employment." Among the 161 players who have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, Izturis is dead last in OPS at .562, a full 45 points worse than the second-worst player, Seattle?s Jose Lopez. Izturis brings nothing to the table: a poor average (.240), no plate discipline (.283 OBP), no power (one HR), middling speed (eight steals in 13 attempts) and mediocre defense (a 0.2 Ultimate Zone Rating).
 
29Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 28
It's unfathomable that in this day and age when so much more attention and so much more money is being paid to draft picks and building teams through scouting and development that clubs are not allowed to conduct their own pre-draft medical tests, and as a result the Diamondbacks stopped negotiating with their first-round pick, former Texas A&M pitcher Barret Loux, after discovering shoulder and elbow issues in the right-hander. While the NFL, for instance, holds a scouting combine in which teams can closely inspect and workout prospective draft picks, in baseball a team can only review medical information provided by the player's college but conduct no new test. Both the D-backs and Loux are being quiet about what was discovered, but MLB made an unprecedented move to grant Loux free agency on Sept. 1 rather than make him sit out a full year as is what normally happens when a club doesn't sign a draft pick.
 
30Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 30
Hey, there's some good news! Both of the Pirates top two picks in the June draft -- Jameson Taillon, the second overall choice, and Stetson Allie, who was taken No. 52 overall -- were hard-throwing right-handed high school pitchers and both were not only signed but given above-slot bonus money to lock them up. Taillon received a $6.5 million bonus, which was actually a bigger bonus than even Bryce Harper got, though Taillon's contract has less guaranteed compensation as it is not a major-league deal. Allie received $2.25 million, and Pittsburgh spent $11.9 million on all of its picks, second only to Washington.
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