Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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At the outset, I’d like to say that there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I had a graduate coaching assistant fill out my power rankings last week. I take my responsibilities in this regard just as seriously as Urban Meyer and Nick Saban take their votes in the USA Today coaches poll. I mean, if they can take a day out of their schedule to break down the top teams in the country and analyze their strengths and weaknesses in order to fulfill a task that gives them no extra pay and often works counter to their best interests of their program, surely I can find the time to do this post once a week, right?

Anyway, here are last week’s rankings.  On to this week’s:

1. Rays: Getting swept by the Red Sox was probably a good reminder that the Rays haven’t won jack yet. Indeed, based in part on the sweep, this is the first week I have to go with the Rays in the top spot by default more than anything else. I was tempted to put the Yankees here, but we’re still only a week removed from the Rays taking two from them in the Stadium so let’s give them one more week before demoting them. But they will be punished a bit: instead of the customary picture of Rays players high-fiving, all they get today is the team logo.

2. Yankees: Saturday’s nightmare game against Cleveland was rather alarming.  Given how the bullpen is going the loss of Alfredo Aceves might loom larger than many think.

3. Twins: They still can’t figure out the Yankees, but now they’re done with them. For the regular season anyway.

4. Reds: Taking seven of ten and knocking the cover off the ball is a pretty good way to go through life, son.

5. Padres: They’re still cruising. Now the biggest question is whether the team everyone figured would be the summer’s big seller has the stones to go out and actually buy a bat.

6. Cardinals: Albert Pujols would like you to know that his “slump” is over.  The quotes are because at its nadir, Pujols’ OPS was at .925.

7. Phillies: Whether this is a temporary demotion or the beginning of a freefall depends on whether they can figure out how to score runs again. One cold series is understandable. It happens. Two in row with no firepower is a concern.

8. Red Sox: A bit of leap — and maybe controversial to put them ahead of a Jays team whom they currently trail in the standings — but a sweep of the Rays gives you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to these things.

9. Braves: The last time they hosted the Phillies they began a nine-game losing streak. The next three days will tell us if they can actually justify some of the more ludicrous preseason predictions.

10. Blue Jays: Their next nine games come against the Rays and Yankees. I have this feeling that the Cinderella story is about to end.


11. Dodgers: Ethier comes back today and the next three come
against Arizona, so the week starts out about as good as one can hope.

12.
Athletics
: In the future, every team will be in first place in the
AL West for fifteen minutes. Well, maybe not the Mariners, but the other
three will be.

13. Giants: Now that Buster Posey has been
called up I can no longer complain that Brian Sabean won’t call up
Buster Posey. I feel like a cold warrior the day after the Berlin Wall
fell.

14. Rockies: While I’m on these two teams, its worth
noting that Ubaldo Jimenez faces Tim Lincecum at 4PM Eastern this
afternoon, in a matchup I’d like to refer to as the “Screw Up the Family
Cookout Invitational.”

15. Tigers: In honor of Max
Scherzer’s 14K post-callup performance, Dave Dombrowski sent the entire
roster down to Toledo last night and called them up at about 11 A.M.
this morning to be ready for today’s game against the Athletics. Either
that or else there was an epic party in Toledo last night.

16.
Rangers
: A pretty rough patch for the Rangers made all the rougher
by watching Derek Holland whip up 85 m.p.h. fastballs last night. And
Nelson Cruz on the DL doesn’t bode well for a suddenly flailing offense
either.

17. Mets: Yesterday Oliver Perez refused a request
to reassign him to the minors. Pretty soon they’re gonna start moving
his desk around, refuse to send him his paychecks and take his red
stapler from him.

18. Cubs: They’re creeping up and now
have a chance to get redemption against a Pirates team that has
inexplicably owned them this year.

19. Angels: I was
optimistic about their chances to get a head of steam behind them and do
what the Angels tend to do (i.e. win the AL West), but the Kendry
Morales injury may be too big to come back from.  Who hits the ball now?
Do they have the chits to get a Lance Berkman or even an Adam LaRoche?

20.
Marlins
: There’s no shame in getting dominated by Roy Halladay like
the Feesh did during the perfecto. There is shame, however, in only
scoring three runs against Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and friends in the other
two games of the series.

21. White Sox: Ozzie Guillen said
after yesterday’s game that the team is motivated to play better to
keep Kenny Williams from making trades and breaking up the team if they
definitively fall out of it. I’ve never heard a manager say anything
like that. But then again, I’ve not heard managers say a lot of the
things that Ozzie Guillen says.

22. Nationals: Sinking.
Will they be able to maintain the optimism that has surrounded the team
until Strasburg arrives, or will he be seen as a mere consolation prize
by the time he debuts?

23. Brewers: A nice bounceback
week. Forgive me, however, if I don’t take the tarp off the bandwagon
just yet.

24. Royals: The Royals have a team OBP of .338
and a SLG of .412.  The Rays have a team OBP of .335 and a SLG of .410.
Yet the Rays have scored 40 more runs in the same number of games. I
feel like Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters,” sculpting stuff out of
my mashed potatoes, convinced that it means something important but not
knowing just what.

25. Pirates: Losers of three of four
to the Reds and three straight to the Braves. Guess they picked a bad
week to play good teams.

26. Mariners: They might have a
tough go of it without Mike Sweeney for a few days. Oh, you didn’t hear?
A
couple of anonymous Mets trashed a teammate to the press yesterday

so Sweeney hopped a flight back east to come and kick their ass.

27.
Diamondbacks
: Signs that summer is upon us: Memorial Day, higher
temperatures and the first Adam LaRoche trade rumors of the season. 
There are a lot of players worse than Adam LaRoche, but I don’t know of
any who are more inessential than he is, if that makes any sense.

28.
Indians
: In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance
you haven’t,
the Indians have continued to stink.

29. Astros: This has
nothing to do with the current Astros team, but I find myself strangely
affected by the Astros Daily’s
page of all of the former Astros and Colt .45s who have died
. One of
many random observations I had: I was aware that Eddie Matthews played
for the Astros, but I had never seen a picture of him in their uniform
before now. It’s jarring to see a guy who played for the Boston Braves
in an Astros cap.  Pretty jarring to see Nellie Fox in one too. I guess baseball went from a sepia toned golden age to whatever it is now at the exact moment the Astros came into existence. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

30. Orioles: Losers of five in a row
and now they have nine straight against the Yankees and Red Sox ahead
of them. Y’all best settle in and get comfy, Orioles, because you’re
gonna be in 30-ville for a good long while.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.