July has always typically signified a lull in the sports calendar – the NBA and NHL postseasons have come to an end and NFL training camps are just about to get underway. That leaves baseball front and center and as evident by last night’s exciting Home Run Derby, the future of Major League Baseball is in good hands. The finals featured 21-year-old Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners narrowly come up short to 23-year-old Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals, who won amidst news that he recently rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract extension. Will he be on the move this season? Time will tell. But in the meantime we get to enjoy tonight’s All Star Game featuring some of the game’s most incredible talents like Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Manny Machado, Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuna Jr. For those with a taste for nostalgia, commissioner selections Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols have been added to the rosters and will be sure to get an at-bat or two this evening. Combined they have tallied for an eye-popping 6,402 hits, 1,190 home runs and 4,008 RBI’s! If this is the end of the road for both players, at the end of this season Pujols will be 3rd on the all-time RBI list and Cabrera will be 14th. One other thing to watch for tonight – hometown hero Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers will get the start for the National League tonight. Kershaw is in the final year of his contract and has been pretty tight-lipped on whether he plans to keep playing, stay in Los Angeles, or explore free agency. He is the greatest pitcher of the last 15 years hands down with some incredible credentials to back that statement up – 5x ERA champion, 3x Cy Young Award Winner, 1x MVP, 9x All Star and a career WHIP (Walk+Hits per Inning Pitched) of 1.001. That WHIP is good enough to be 4th all time only behind Addie Joss, Ed Walsh, and Mariano Rivera. Pretty awesome stuff. Enjoy tonight’s game – onto the rankings!
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (60-30) – Previous Ranking: 3 – The Dodgers have been scorching hot as of late winning 9 of their last 10 games and opening up a 10 game lead in the NL West. They have the 2nd best run differential in the majors and are essentially an all-star team unto themselves. If they ever get former ace Walker Buehler back? Look out.
2. Houston Astros (59-32) – Previous Ranking: 4 – The Astros may not have the best record in the American League but they have been playing like it the past 2 months. To put it in perspective, the Seattle Mariners have won 14 straight games (more on that later!) and are STILL 9 games behind the Astros. Will Justin Verlander win a 3rd Cy Young award?
3. New York Yankees (64-28) – Previous Ranking: 1 – Good news for the Yankees is that despite playing in a division where every team is playing .500 ball, they still have the luxury of enjoying a 13 game lead. Area of concern? As always health. Aroldis Chapman still doesn’t look right, Luis Severino has had a setback with his shoulder and the bullpen has shown some signs of slowing down. Being buyers at the trade deadline would be a smart move.
4. New York Mets (58-35) – Previous Ranking: 2 – The Mets have had a fantastic start to the season especially considering playing most of it without Max Scherzer and all of it without Jacob Degrom. That said, the Atlanta Braves are right on the doorstep and the Mets will need their aces back in order to extend their lead in the division again.
5. Atlanta Braves (56-38) – Previous Ranking: 8 – Speaking of those Braves, what a run they’ve made the past couple of months. After a slow start the Braves offense has hit their stride with All Star Austin Riley leading the way. Max Fried has been Cy Young caliber thus far and if Ronald Acuna Jr. plays up to his potential the Mets may be in a battle the rest of the summer.
6. San Diego Padres (52-42) – Previous Ranking: 5 – Joe Musgrove has been a top notch starter this season and Manny Machado has performed admirably trying to carry the offense but the Padres need to score more runs in order to be a threat in the postseason. Getting Fernando Tatis Jr. back would be a huge addition.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (50-44) – Previous Ranking: 9 – At the time of our last rankings I mentioned that the Cardinals weakness is at the back end of their rotation and they should look to add some depth. As it stands today they are only a ½ game behind the Milwaukee Brewers. The division is in their sights, it’s time to pull the trigger and get a big arm for their rotation.
8. Milwaukee Brewers (50-43) – Previous Ranking: 6 – Brandon Woodruff has returned to the rotation and the timing couldn’t be better for Milwaukee who is trying to fend off the previously mentioned Cardinals. Christian Yelich needs to be better than he’s performed thus far as does the rest of the offense.
9. Tampa Bay Rays (51-41) – Previous Ranking: 15 – I should have taken my own advice when I said that writing off the Rays typically comes at your own peril because much like a cockroach in the apocalypse, the Rays just won’t die. They’re in strong contention for the wild card and Shane McClanahan may be the best pitcher in all of baseball.
10. Minnesota Twins (50-44) – Previous Ranking: 7 – The Twins have been stumbling as of late and are only up 2 games on the Cleveland Guardians and 3 games on the Chicago White Sox. The offense has been very solid but the pitching has not and they rank 5th in the majors in terms of giving up the most home runs. A wild card spot may be more realistic than a division title.
11. Seattle Mariners (51-43) – Previous Ranking: 23 – What in the name of the Space Needle is going on in Seattle? The hottest team in baseball, Seattle is the proud owner of a 14 game winning streak behind the bats of Ty France and Home Run Derby runner-up Julio Rodriguez. I had mentioned last time that Robbie Ray needed to pitch to last year’s level for the Mariners to improve and he has done so as of late. Is this simply a mirage? Maybe, maybe not but we should enjoy the fun while it’s still happening.
12. Toronto Blue Jays (50-43) – Previous Ranking: 11 – The Blue Jays are still struggling against the AL East (16-18) but the offense has performed very well this year and the pitching metrics seem to indicate that the Jays may be a little unlucky rather than underperforming. They’re a young team with room to grow. Will they grab a pitcher at the deadline?
13. Philadelphia Phillies (49-43) – Previous Ranking: 14 – The Phillies have cooled off a little after their initial run following Joe Girardi’s ouster as manager. That said, the Phillies are only 8 ½ back in the NL East and are in strong contention for a wild card spot. Kyle Gibson has had bad luck on the mound this year but has been very solid as a 3rd starter.
14. Cleveland Guardians (46-44) – Previous Ranking: 12 – The Guardians are still within striking distance of the first place Twins but they now have the Chicago White Sox to deal with as well. Zach Plesac is 2-7 with a 4.02 ERA but he owns a 1.266 WHIP so he is a candidate to watch for a bounce back second half.
15. Boston Red Sox (48-45) – Previous Ranking: 13 – The AL East has been an extremely tight race in spots 2 through 5 in the division. Boston is in a good spot for one of the wild card positions but are an abysmal 12-26 against the rest of the AL East. Losing Chris Sale also hurts, but the Red Sox have an offense that will keep things interesting in the second half.
16. San Francisco Giants (48-43) – Previous Ranking: 10 – Still going. The Giants are riding Logan Webb and Carlos Rodon to success this season despite a less than stellar offense. Manager Gabe Kapler has pushed all the right buttons and has the Giants overachieving once again. A bat with some power would do wonders down the stretch.
17. Chicago White Sox (46-46) – Previous Ranking: 16 – The White Sox are only 3 games out of first place yet it seems like the team has very much underperformed thus far. There have been rumors that Tony LaRussa is losing the clubhouse. If things continue in that direction I’d expect changes as this roster is way too talented not to be running away with the division.
18 Baltimore Orioles (46-46) – Previous Ranking: 21 – At the time of our last rankings the Birds of Baltimore were 30-38. How times have changed. The pitching is still inconsistent but has improved and the Orioles actually find themselves contending for a wild card spot. Will that change ownership’s mind and prevent them from being sellers at the deadline?
19. Texas Rangers (41-49) – Previous Ranking: 18 – The disappointing year continues as the Rangers look further away from a wild card than even earlier in the season. Jon Gray and Martin Perez have pitched well but beyond that the staff is a mess and the offense has underperformed.
20. Colorado Rockies (43-50) – Previous Ranking: 22 – Sometimes baseball is really easy to explain. The Rockies have a 4.88 ERA and the next to last WHIP in the league. The offense has performed well but with no pitching this franchise is incapable of making it to, let alone succeeding in the postseason.
21. Miami Marlins (43-48) – Previous Ranking: 20 – The Marlins have one of the worst outfields in the major leagues in terms of production and are wasting the efforts of Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez this season. The rotation after those 2 is absolutely terrible. Don Mattingly has done a great job with very little talent.
22. Los Angeles Angels (39-53) – Previous Ranking: 17 – The careers of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout are being wasted by a franchise that clearly has been mismanaged for years. Clearly former manager Joe Maddon wasn’t the problem as new skipper Phil Nevin has managed a 12-24 record since taking over.
23. Arizona Diamondbacks (40-52) – Previous Ranking: 19 – The Diamondbacks have been moving in the wrong direction after a pretty solid start and are now in last place in the AL West. Starters Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen have been the lone bright spots in a long season.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates (39-54) – Previous Ranking: 24 – Who is David Bednar? If you answered in this manner on an episode of Jeopardy that names Pittsburgh Pirates all stars you would have guessed correctly. Otherwise, the fact that David Bednar is the lone representative in the All Star Game for the Bucs is a sad testament to how bad things have become.
25. Detroit Tigers (37-55) – Previous Ranking: 25 – The Tigers have now finished 26th, 25th and 25th in our rankings. They are dead last in the league in runs scored and home runs. In today’s game that is simply not going to cut it. Rough times in the Motor City.
26. Kansas City Royals (36-56) – Previous Ranking: 29 – Andrew Benintendi looks like a prime candidate to be traded – the only wrinkle? Due to vaccination guidelines he is unable to play games in Canada, so would an AL East team (here’s looking at you New York) be willing to still roll the dice? Going to be an interesting couple of weeks.
27. Chicago Cubs (35-57) – Previous Ranking: 26 – The Cubs have one of the worst starting rotations in all of baseball with 4 of their 5 primary starters having an ERA over 4.00. There are some pieces on offense but with no pitching the Cubs are going nowhere fast.
28. Cincinnati Reds (34-57) – Previous Ranking: 27 – After showing a little life the Reds are back to their losing ways again, as evident by a 5.30 team ERA, good for last in the league. The Reds have some tradable assets on offense like Brandon Drury and Tommy Pham; it may be the time to add to their depth on the farm system.
29. Washington Nationals (31-63) – Previous Ranking: 28 – Why did Juan Soto pass on a 15 year $440 million extension? The Nationals have been on a downward slide since winning the World Series in 2019 and there are rumors that the team is up for sale. The instability of the franchise may be the reason that the Nationals lose a generational talent like Soto.
30. Oakland A’s (32-61) – Previous Ranking: 30 – How bad is it in Oakland? Lone All-Star Paul Blackburn was booked to fly coach to the game by the A’s until the Houston Astros caught word of the situation and allowed him to fly on their team charter to the game. Please get this team to Las Vegas asap.