Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Youkilis throwing bat.jpg1. Yankees: The only critical thing I can say is that for the past few years the Yankees have gotten off to slow starts and everyone with half a brain has said “don’t panic, it’s early.” I suppose that’s a two-way street and that we shouldn’t become overly optimistic before the break of May. But really: does anyone think that this Yankees team is as likely to crater as last year’s team was to rebound? I don’t. 

2. Rays: Lost in all of the Boston navel-gazing is the fact that the Rays are a pretty awesome team.

3. Twins: Second best in runs scored per game in the A.L., second best in runs allowed per game in the A.L.

4. Giants:  With Zito and Sanchez pitching like they have the rotation has gone from really good to phenomenal. And while I don’t think the offense is going to hold up, right now they’re third in the NL in runs scored. With their pitching, anywhere in the top 10 will keep them in it all season.

5. Phillies:  The recent mini-skid drops them down a couple of notches, but taking care of the Braves in the next three games would easily restore their early-season luster. 

6. Cardinals:
For all the ink that was spilled over Saturday’s game, it was only one game and I assume everyone in Cardinals Nation is pretending it simply didn’t happen. More germane: the fact that the team directly behind St. Louis in the Central is a pretender, and the no one else below them looks particularly good.

7. Athletics: I feel like I’m sleeping on the Athletics having them this low, what with their rotation and everything. I suppose I’m just flashing back to last season, however, when every time I looked up Gio Gonzalez was getting creamed or something. But you know what? Throw a bunch of young arms at the wall and a few are going to stick. Braden, Gonzalez and Anderson have stuck, Sheets and Duchscherer are providing some special veteran seasoning and this A’s team boasts some pitching you just don’t want any part of.  We’ll know soon whether I’m truly underestimating them: the Yankees come into town for three starting tomorrow.

8. Marlins: Two of three from the Phillies is nice indeed. The Phillies were quoted yesterday saying that they truly view Florida as a contender. If the past few years have taught us anything it’s that we discount Florida at our peril. My thing, though, is that you’re not going to go far in life betting on things like Nate Robertson being a pillar of your rotation, and I don’t think that anyone can ride Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla to glory.  We’ll see, but I still think that this team does the slow fade thing over the course of the season.

9. Braves: They survived the west coast swing, which usually kills them, they absorbed an utter shellacking by San Diego and a no-hitter from Ubaldo Jiminez, and at the moment their offense consists of three guys, one of whom is 20 years-old and is bound to slump eventually. The fact, then, that they’re only a game back is practically a miracle. The Phillies series is bigger for the Braves than it is for Philadelphia.
10. Tigers: You don’t lose two of three to the Royals and keep your lofty ranking.

11. Blue Jays: Losers of four of five and, in my mind at least, a
little less than halfway towards finding their true level. At least
insofar as the Power Rankings are concerned.

12. Rockies: The no-hitter from Ubaldo Jiminez was nice, but
having their closer back would be nicer. Or at least having their
current closer not walk so many damn guys.

13. Padres:
Three wins in a row for the Padres, courtesy of the Diamondbacks’ awful
bullpen. But you know what’s cooler than that? The
Padres are now giving away free programs at all home games
. I find
that very cool for some reason.

14. Dodgers: The play of
the year happened over the weekend: no, not Manny’s pinch-hit homer, but
Ned Colletti designating Russ Ortiz for assignment.

: Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana’s excellent outings over the
weekend are a nice couple of steps on the journey back towards the top
of the pitching rankings, which is where this team needs to be in order
to do what’s expected of them.

16. Pirates: A very
deceiving 7-5, as they have been outscored by 22 runs this season, which
is the second worst in the NL.  Don’t get used to them being in second
place in the Central.

17. Indians: Four wins in a row has
everyone vibing optimistic, and now they’re getting Russell Branyan and
his attendant power added to the mix. I fear that a nine-game road trip
through Minnesota, Oakland and Anaheim is going to bring everyone
crashing back to Earth, however.

18. Mariners: Two of
three from Oakland and Detroit and now three games against the hapless
Orioles may prove to be the springboard back to respectability.

: Four losses in a row, and now they face an angry Boston
Red Sox team. Not sure if it’s a good Boston Red Sox team, but
they’re certainly angry.

20. Diamondbacks:  Their bullpen
is an utter mess. How messy? They gave up 14 runs in 7.2 innings vs.
the Padres over the weekend.

21. Royals: Reason to worry?
Zack Greinke did not top 94 mph with his fastball and averaged 91.2 mph
for the game against the Twins on Friday night.

22. Brewers:
Pitching, it was the Brew Crew’s downfall last year, and so it appears
to be again this year.

23. Cubs: After losing two of three to the Astros I should do
what they sometimes do in college football rankings and give them a
ceremonial last place slot. But hey: Soriano
isn’t going to be hopping anymore

24. Mets: Ike
Davis’ callup is a reason for optimism. Know what would be even better?
Firing Jerry Manuel and moving Jenrry Mejia to the rotation.

25. Nationals: Pfun Pfact: Ivan Rodriguez is leading the NL in
hitting. Bet you didn’t know that. And hey, between him and Livan
Hernandez pulling his mini-Hershiser act, at least the team is trying to
be interesting until Strasburg comes.

26. White Sox: A
suddenly sputtering offense and a four game losing streak has the White
Sox off to their worst start in 13 years. If only someone had predicted
this maybe it could have been avoided. Oh, wait, everyone predicted

27. Red Sox: This is being covered everywhere — including
— so I’ll spare you. Come back next week, though, as we’ll
have the results of [bleeping]
Brookline High’s
game against
this Thursday. 

28. Reds: The starting
pitching — expected to be a strength — has been terrible. Where have
you gone Aroldis Chapman, Reds’ Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

: The Astros have hit three home runs this year. Three.
That’s only three more than you’ve hit.

30. Orioles: The
team is skidding, the manager is on the ropes and the owner is
sorta-kinda-but-probably feuding
with the historical face of the franchise
.  I remember back when
Orioles fans were looked at with jealousy. Now I pity them.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.