Dodgers surge to top spot in Power Rankings
Rangers, Cards, Rays, Yanks following along closely in polling
Few people are arguing that Matt Kemp isn't the best player in baseball right now. But is Kemp's team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in the Major Leagues as the calendar is poised to turn to May?
Well, it wouldn't be wise to count out the Rangers right now, not with their lineup clicking and new starter Yu Darvish picking up right where he left off in Japan.
Maybe it's the St. Louis Cardinals, who haven't had Chris Carpenter in their rotation and haven't gotten very many quality starts out of ace Adam Wainwright, but are still doing their World Series championship pedigree proud in the early going.
What about the Yankees? They're doing just fine. Or the surprising Nationals? Can they keep their momentum going or even get stronger now that 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper has been called up? And don't look now, but there are those Tampa Bay Rays again, making everything interesting.
For the third season, MLB.com has set up a panel of experts to vote on the top 15 teams each week. Three former Major League players -- Larry Dierker, Mitch Williams, and Frank Thomas -- are part of the process, as are columnist Peter Gammons and Carlton Thompson, vice president and executive editor of MLB.com. Former general manager and current MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette, along with MLB.com columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Matthew Leach and Jesse Sanchez are also part of the group.
Agree? Disagree? The power is yours.
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A three-game home sweep of the Nationals over the weekend has put the boys from Chavez Ravine in our top spot this week. Their 16-6 record is tied for tops in the Majors with the Rangers, and a lot of it still has to do with Kemp, who continues to astound. The latest feat of heroicism was a 10th-inning walk-off homer deep, and we're talking DEEP, into the Los Angeles night on Saturday.
How good are you when you only win six of your last 10 games but still manage to be tied for the best record in the game? Well, as good as a two-time defending American League champion should be. Texas heads up to Toronto now for a competitive road battle against an AL East opponent, but the Rangers are still rolling along.
The Cardinals went 5-5 in their last 10 games and suffered a Sunday loss to the Brewers because of some costly baserunning gaffes. In other words, not everything's perfect for the defending World Series champs, and despite all that, look where they are: 14-8, in first place in the National League Central despite pitching woes, and on Tuesday they'll get another bat back in the lineup courtesy of a healthy Allen Craig.
The Rays started to roar again, winning six in a row before dropping a decision in Texas. So what did they do? Beat the Rangers again on Sunday, taking advantage of a stellar performance by one of their many young pitching stars, David Price. The victory gave the Rays their fourth consecutive series win. They have won nine of their past 11 games to remain in a tie with the Orioles for first place in the American League East. They just never seem to go away.
And neither do these guys. Despite the devastating news of the loss of starter Michael Pineda for the season with a torn labrum, the Bronx Bombers are still right there in contention in the AL East. A Sunday win over Detroit put them at 12-9 and 1 1/2 games behind co-division leaders Tampa Bay and Baltimore. A big reason why: Derek Jeter is back. And Andy Pettitte could be soon.
Don't let the weekend sweep at the hands of the Dodgers fool you. This team's pitching is very much for real, and we'll see how the rook (Harper) fits into an improving team that's already serving notice that it could contend all year.
Sunday brought more good news to Atlanta, with veteran starter Tim Hudson returning from back surgery to help anchor the Braves' pitching rotation. With their young core of hitters producing and the bullpen still led by closer Craig Kimbrel, the Braves' 14-8 record has them in great shape atop the NL East.
It's not how you start, but how you keep things going after your hot start dissolves into regular-season growing pains. The Tigers have more storms to weather now, with outfielder Delmon Young's well-publicized trouble, but they seem to be doing OK, and within a few weeks they should have No. 2 starter Doug Fister back to help shore up the rotation.
Who would have predicted this? Sure, it's still early, but the young arms Baltimore has spent so much time developing might finally be paying off, and Sunday's walk-off win over the A's at Camden Yards was just another example of the good times that are going on in Charm City. Can the Birds keep flying high? We'll know more at the end of May.
Everyone knows how good this team can be if it's healthy, and that's the big question. Fortunately for Phillies fans, that question might be closer to being answered. Rotation stalwart Cliff Lee isn't far from returning from an oblique strain, and lineup fixtures Ryan Howard (Achilles) and Chase Utley (chronic knee soreness) are progressing well in their recoveries and could both hit rehab fields before long.
Hey ... Tim Lincecum won again! This, as all Giants fans know, is not just good news. It's required news if San Francisco is to make a run that even remotely resembles the one they put together in winning it all two years ago. Good things are starting to happen all over the rotation by the Bay, however, and that's the main component for success for Bruce Bochy's club. And Pablo Sandoval's continued hot hitting doesn't hurt, either.
Remember the Tribe started off last season like gangbusters but faded quickly as the summer got hotter? Well, the Indians are at it again, putting together a solid early season under skipper Manny Acta. They took a home series from the Angels on Sunday and should welcome a veteran -- and a winner -- in Johnny Damon this week, which should help the team on the field and in the clubhouse.
They play hard every night, and there's a lot to be said for that, especially in a wide-open NL East. New York is suddenly a contender again, getting contributions from veterans such as a rejuvenated Johan Santana and newcomers like outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
All it took was a week away from home, and it seems that the Red Sox are right back where they want to be. Sure, they'll have to do it without Carl Crawford, and sure, their bullpen situation isn't exactly fluid, but when you're hitting the ball the way Boston has been during victories in six of their past seven games, those crooked numbers tend to hide a lot of weaknesses.
Jay Bruce has homered in four straight games, the Reds took a series from the Astros, evened up their record at 11-11, and continued to show progress. They've won seven of their past 10, their early-April woes are a distant memory, and they're heading into May with as much momentum as anyone.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.