July 16, 2012

With the All-Star game now in the rearview mirror, the focus moves toward the trade deadline, where Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, and Justin Upton will be the most sought after targets. The wild card races in both leagues are extremely tight, so if those stars land on contenders it could really move the needle as the playoff races heat up.

NOTE: All stats are through Sunday, July 15.

Rankings written by Ben Duronio of Fangraphs.com. The system used to rank the teams is based not on the current standings or a gut feeling about team quality, but on how well they've performed at the underlying traits that predict future performance better than wins and losses.

wRC+ is an offensive index where 100 is league average and every point above or below that denotes how far from league average a player's performance has been up to that point. It is adjusted for park and league, so it takes into account the context of a player's surroundings, and allows for comparison of performance from players in different situations and in different times.

MLB Power Rankings
1 Texas <a href=Rangers" title="Texas Rangers">
Last Week: 1
WAR Winning Percentage: .630; Current Winning Percentage: .607; WAR Wins: 56; Current Wins: 54
Matt Harrison continued his career year with a complete game shutout of the Seattle Mariners. The left-hander now has a major-league-best 12 wins to go with a 2.87 ERA after recording 14 wins and a 3.39 ERA last year. His strikeout numbers are low, but Harrison has had great success due to keeping the ball in the park and inducing ground balls at a high rate. Facing the Mariners in Safeco helps too.
2 Washington <a href=Nationals" title="Washington Nationals">
Last Week: 2
WAR Winning Percentage: .619; Current Winning Percentage: .593; WAR Wins: 53; Current Wins: 51
Jordan Zimmermann is tied for the most quality starts in all of baseball with 16. He has gone at least six innings in every start this year and has not allowed more than four runs in any start. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg have been the two Washington pitchers receiving the most attention this year, but Zimmermann's consistent performance has been just as important to the Nationals' success.
3 New York <a href=Yankees" title="New York Yankees">
Last Week: 3
WAR Winning Percentage: .587; Current Winning Percentage: .614; WAR Wins: 52; Current Wins: 54
The Yankees have endured a plethora of injuries to their rotation and a few key injuries to position players, but third baseman Alex Rodriguez has stayed surprisingly healthy throughout the season and is beginning to produce quality numbers after a slow start. Rodriguez is hitting .308/.357/.487 with a home run and four stolen bases in July, and his legs have been a big part of his game all season, stealing 10 bags in 11 chances, his most steals in a season since 2009.
4 St. Louis <a href=Cardinals" title="St. Louis Cardinals">
Last Week: 4
WAR Winning Percentage: .567; Current Winning Percentage: .517; WAR Wins: 50; Current Wins: 46
Lance Berkman has returned from knee surgery, which should improve St. Louis' already-imposing lineup. Berkman was hitting .304/.407/.522 when he landed on the DL in mid-April after playing just 15 games. The Cardinals, who lead the NL in runs, batting average and OBP and are second in slugging, are 4 ½ games out in the NL Central but now have their most complete lineup since the beginning of the season, when they raced out to an early lead in the division.
5 Boston <a href=Red Sox" title="Boston Red Sox">
Last Week: 5
WAR Winning Percentage: .567; Current Winning Percentage: .506; WAR Wins: 50; Current Wins: 45
The Red Sox are starting to get healthy, and at just 1 1/2 games behind in the wild card race, Boston is most certainly a serious playoff contender. With the returns of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia this week, the Red Sox will be close to full strength for the first time since the first month in the season. If Ellsbury can hit anything like he did last year in his incredible 150 wRC+ season, Boston will likely be one of the better second half performers.
6 Los Angeles <a href=Angels" title="Los Angeles Angels">
Last Week: 7
WAR Winning Percentage: .551; Current Winning Percentage: .551; WAR Wins: 49; Current Wins: 49
Erick Aybar has hit three of his four home runs this season in the past 11 games, all of which were absolute no doubters. Aybar has endured a rough season, with just an 87 wRC+ after posting a 109 mark last season, but he has hit .341/.391/.659 in July and could be a big boost to the top of the Angels' lineup if he can hit more like last year and less like this year's first half, when he batted .264 with a .297 OBP.
7 Detroit <a href=Tigers" title="Detroit Tigers">
Last Week: 10
WAR Winning Percentage: .550; Current Winning Percentage: .517; WAR Wins: 49; Current Wins: 46
The Tigers have jumped up three spots this past weekend, signaling how close the second-tier teams are to one another in talent. Miguel Cabrera has been a huge reason for the Tigers' recent surge, hitting four home runs with a .460 on base percentage in 11 July Games. The Tigers are 7-3 over their past 10 and sit just 3 1/2 games out of first place in the AL Central. They started slow last year before finishing strong, and look like they may be trying to pull the same trick again this season.
8 Chicago <a href=White Sox" title="Chicago White Sox">
Last Week: 6
WAR Winning Percentage: .549; Current Winning Percentage: .557; WAR Wins: 48; Current Wins: 49
Seven of the nine White Sox regulars have a wRC+ over 100, which shows how deep their lineup really is. Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have had big comeback seasons, but outfielders Alejandro De Aza (103 wRC+) and Dayan Viciedo (101 wRC+) have been very solid role players all season. De Aza has brought the speed with 15 steals while Viciedo has brought the power with 15 home runs.
9 Cincinnati <a href=Reds" title="Cincinnati Reds">
Last Week: 8
WAR Winning Percentage: .546; Current Winning Percentage: .568; WAR Wins: 48; Current Wins: 50
Bryce Harper is the popular pick right now, but Todd Frazier may actually be the top performing rookie in the National League. Frazier has hit 10 home runs with 18 other extra base hits in just 204 plate appearances, as his wRC+ sits at 141. In contrast, Harper's is 121. With Scott Rolen healthy-ish, Frazier is still not an everyday player, but the Reds need to find room for his bat in the line-up in the second half.
10 San Francisco <a href=Giants" title="San Francisco Giants">
Last Week: 11
WAR Winning Percentage: .540; Current Winning Percentage: .551; WAR Wins: 48; Current Wins: 49
The rest of the National League may be happy that the Giants fans came out to vote for the All-Star game, as Melky Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval had two of the NL's biggest hits in the summer classic to help deliver homefield advantage to the Senior Circuit for the World Series. The Giants now have a 1 1/5 game lead in the NL West and Tim Lincecum is coming off of his best start of the year, which is bad news for the Dodgers and reeling Diamondbacks.
11 Atlanta <a href=Braves" title="Atlanta Braves">
Last Week: 12
WAR Winning Percentage: .536; Current Winning Percentage: .557; WAR Wins: 47; Current Wins: 49
The Braves swept the Mets in their first series after the All-Star Break, backed by a stellar start from Ben Sheets. Yes, Ben Sheets. It was his first start in nearly two calendar years, but he threw six shutout innings against the Mets with five strikeouts, one walk and two hits allowed. If Sheets can pitch like he did in his final years in Milwaukee, his midseason signing may end up being one of the best moves Atlanta general manager Frank Wren has ever made.
12 New York Mets
Last Week: 9
WAR Winning Percentage: .526; Current Winning Percentage: .517; WAR Wins: 47; Current Wins: 46
The Mets have lost four straight and now sit 6 1/2 behind the Nationals, who they play in a three game series in Washington this week. This could be a make or break series for the Mets, who would be all but finished in the division race if they get swept. With Dillon Gee receiving shoulder surgery, the Mets pitching depth is being tested, and it's unreasonable to expect the starting staff to carry the team in the second half the way it did in the first.
13 Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 13
WAR Winning Percentage: .519; Current Winning Percentage: .477; WAR Wins: 46; Current Wins: 42
Starting the second half by getting swept by the Cubs was not exactly what the Diamondbacks had in mind. Arizona has fallen three games further back since Friday, which has caused the Justin Upton trade rumors to heat up. It is a tough move to trade such a talented player, but the Diamondbacks would surely receive a haul if they do choose to move their star rightfielder. Given the team's struggles and the recent public comments about his poor play, it seems like a break-up is inevitable.
14 Milwaukee <a href=Brewers" title="Milwaukee Brewers">
Last Week: 14
WAR Winning Percentage: .513; Current Winning Percentage: .477; WAR Wins: 45; Current Wins: 42
Ryan Braun has now hit 25 home runs in each of his first six seasons, which is a very impressive feat. Braun has followed up his MVP campaign of 2011 with a season that is nearly as great offensively, with a 174 wRC+ compared to last year's 179 mark. His .303 isolated power would be the best mark since his rookie season.
15 Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 16
WAR Winning Percentage: .513; Current Winning Percentage: .533;WAR Wins: 46; Current Wins: 48
As the Dodgers continue to struggle, catcher A.J. Ellis' lack of production continues to loom large. He has hit just .200/.269/.267 over his past 30 games, a stretch in which the Dodgers are 7-18. The Dodgers welcomed Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp back this weekend, but they will need Ellis to perform if they want to remain near the top of the NL West standings, as his early season success was one of the keys to their strong start.
16 Philadelphia <a href=Phillies" title="Philadelphia Phillies">
Last Week: 15
WAR Winning Percentage: .507; Current Winning Percentage: .433; WAR Wins: 46; Current Wins: 39
The returns of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have not had the impact Philadelphia had hoped for. Utley is hitting just .262 with a 2.2 percent walk rate in his first 12 games while Howard is hitting .125 with no home runs in his first five starts. This is obviously a small sample size, but the Phillies needed them to perform well right out of the gate to get back in the playoff race, and their struggles have pushed the team into likely seller mode. Reports indicate that the team is preparing a big offer for Cole Hamels, and if he doesn't take it, expect him to be on the trade market shortly thereafter.
17 Pittsburgh <a href=Pirates" title="Pittsburgh Pirates">
Last Week: 17
WAR Winning Percentage: .494; Current Winning Percentage: .557; WAR Wins: 43; Current Wins: 49
Right now, Andrew McCutchen looks like the best player in baseball. McCutchen now has 21 home runs, hitting five in his past four games, adding power to his already impressive overall package of skills. He is leading baseball in with +5.2 WAR, which is what happens when you lead the league with a 190 wRC+ while playing centerfield. The Pirates have gotten good performances as of late from other position players, but McCutchen has surged past Joey Votto to take the lead as frontrunner in the NL MVP race.
18 Cleveland <a href=Indians" title="Cleveland Indians">
Last Week: 19
WAR Winning Percentage: .481; Current Winning Percentage: .511; WAR Wins: 42; Current Wins: 45
Derek Lowe was surprisingly effective early in the season, but the wheels have come off over the last month or so. Over his past five starts, Lowe has struck out just 3.41 batters per nine innings and has a 6.21 ERA, and the team has lost seven of his last 10 starts. The Tribe is still in the AL Central race, but a pitching upgrade might just be in order.
19 Tampa Bay <a href=Rays" title="Tampa Bay Rays">
Last Week: 18
WAR Winning Percentage: .476; Current Winning Percentage: .517; WAR Wins: 42; Current Wins: 46
Only the Mariners and Orioles have received fewer WAR from their hitters than the Rays (9.2) have gotten. The pitching staff has battled enough to keep Tampa Bay three games above .500, but its run differential is now dead even and it still isn't sure when star third baseman Evan Longoria will be back from a hamstring issue that has come him nearly the whole season. The good news is that Matt Joyce, who has been the team's best hitter this year, should be returning from the disabled list this week.
20 Miami <a href=Marlins" title="Miami Marlins">
Last Week: 21
WAR Winning Percentage: .468; Current Winning Percentage: .477; WAR Wins: 41; Current Wins: 42
The Marlins may be ready to pull the plug on the season, as they sit 10 games out of first place and seven games behind the second wild card. The team could opt to trade second baseman Omar Infante, who has a 103 wRC+ and 1.9 WAR, and starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who has a 4.12 ERA and 3.43 FIP in 17 starts. However, owner Jeffrey Loria is an unpredictable fellow, so they could just trade for every available player on the market too. Selling makes more sense, but anything is possible in South Beach.
21 Toronto <a href=Blue Jays" title="Toronto Blue Jays">
Last Week: 24
WAR Winning Percentage: .457; Current Winning Percentage: .506; WAR Wins: 41; Current Wins: 45
Sergio Santos was acquired to be the closer for the Blue Jays, but a shoulder injury kept him on the disabled list for nearly the entire season and surgery will now sideline him for the remainder of the year. In his place, Casey Janssen has been phenomenal, with 13 saves and just one blown save this year. Janssen also has a stellar 2.21 ERA and a 7.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
22 Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 20
WAR Winning Percentage: .456; Current Winning Percentage: .523; WAR Wins: 40; Current Wins: 46
Losing Jason Hammel to a knee injury for the next three weeks may prove to be a death blow for the Orioles, who have now scored 43 fewer runs than they've allowed. The O's would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, but it is difficult to project them holding this position with so many questions in their rotation and their ace out for a big chunk of the season, especially given that the Red Sox are right on their heels.
23 Oakland <a href=Athletics" title="Oakland Athletics">
Last Week: 23
WAR Winning Percentage: .454; Current Winning Percentage: .517; WAR Wins: 40; Current Wins: 46
Oakland is now 9-1 in their past 10 games and have pushed their run differential to +17, a not tremendous number but one that points to their record potentially being sustainable. Oakland is just one half-game out of the wild card, so it may not actually end up being sellers at the deadline, though its bullpen does feature a few solid trade candidates. The next few weeks will be very important for the Athletics, as they will decide whether they want to try to compete for the playoffs or trade for prospects and continue building for the future.
24 Kansas City <a href=Royals" title="Kansas City Royals">
Last Week: 22
WAR Winning Percentage: .450; Current Winning Percentage: .437; WAR Wins: 39; Current Wins: 38
In his third major league season, Alcides Escobar is finally performing up to his capabilities. In fact, Escobar may even be exceeding expectations, as his .313/.356/.438 line is rather phenomenal after he hit just .254/.290/.343 last year. If Escobar can continue this level of performance, he will be one of the top shortstops in baseball.
25 Colorado <a href=Rockies" title="Colorado Rockies">
Last Week: 25
WAR Winning Percentage: .443; Current Winning Percentage: .386; WAR Wins: 39; Current Wins: 34
The Todd Helton era may be coming to a close, as the potential Hall of Fame first baseman has hit just .235/.332/.398 this year and has now landed on the disabled list. His replacement, Tyler Colvin, is having a breakout year and the Rockies could opt for Colvin to replace Helton full-time for the remainder of the season and next year. Helton has had a tremendously underrated career, but he'll be 39 next month, and the Rockies are certainly a team that should be looking toward the future.
26 Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 27
WAR Winning Percentage: .421; Current Winning Percentage: .409; WAR Wins: 37; Current Wins: 36
The players the Cubs are gearing up to trade -- Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza, and Ryan Dempster -- all had big weekends as the Cubs swept the Diamondbacks. Soriano hit two home runs and had a hit in each game, while Dempster pushed his scoreless inning streak up to 33 and Matt Garza threw seven shutout frames with just six baserunners allowed. The Cubs may be able to reload in a hurry if they decide to eat most of Soriano's remaining contract and deal both Garza and Dempster to contenders looking for pitching help.
27 Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 26
WAR Winning Percentage: .421; Current Winning Percentage: .411; WAR Wins: 38; Current Wins: 37
Casper Wells deserves a shot at a full-time role. In 480 career plate appearances over the past three seasons, Wells has recorded a 116 wRC+ with 19 home runs and five stolen bases. While his strikeout rate is through the roof at 26.9 percent, he has solid power and respectable on-base skills. The Mariners' offense is one of the worst in the league, and Wells playing full-time for the remainder of the season looks like the wise decision, especially given Seattle's limited options.
28 San Diego <a href=Padres" title="San Diego Padres">
Last Week: 29
WAR Winning Percentage: .405; Current Winning Percentage: .400; WAR Wins: 36; Current Wins: 36
Third baseman Chase Headley is looking like a very nice trade target for a team interested in acquiring a solid bat. He is hitting .269/.368/.428 this year and has a career line away from Petco Park of .299/.366/.449. Most teams would absolutely love that type of production from a third baseman, and Headley's ability to play first base or the outfield only enhances his value.
29 Houston <a href=Astros" title="Houston Astros">
Last Week: 28
WAR Winning Percentage: .386; Current Winning Percentage: .371; WAR Wins: 34; Current Wins: 33
The Astros will soon begin to unload veterans, likely including relievers Brandon Lyon and Brett Myers as Houston continues with a full scale rebuild. Lyon is having one of the best seasons of his career, backed by the highest strikeout rate of his career, while Myers has performed well as the Astros' closer. The returns for relievers will likely be hurt by the new CBA eliminating draft pick compensation for players traded in-season, but every contender would like to add a solid bullpen arm after watching St. Louis and Texas ride their relievers to the World Series last year.
30 Minnesota <a href=Twins" title="Minnesota Twins">
Last Week: 30
WAR Winning Percentage: .371; Current Winning Percentage: .409; WAR Wins: 33; Current Wins: 36
Francisco Liriano became the first pitcher ever to strike out 15 batters and allow a grand slam in the same game. The start was a microcosm of Liriano's entire career, as he is absolutely brilliant at times but can also blow up at any moment. Still, there will be teams looking to acquire Liriano and outfielder Josh Willingham, the two prime trade pieces on the Twins' roster. Willingham might stick around due to his team-friendly contract, but free-agent-to-be Liriano should almost certainly be moved.

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