Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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1. Yankees:  If they’re at the top of baseball with a half dozen problems at any given time, how good will they be when things really start clicking? I just feel like they’ve been playing the season with one hand tied behind their back and that pretty soon they’ll rip off like 14 wins in a row or something crazy.

2. Rangers: I was tempted to move them to the top slot for a minute, but the big recent push has come mostly against cupcakes. Not that it hasn’t been a nice push.

3. Red Sox: Banged up as all hell, but they have been all year, right?

4. Padres:  We’ve waited for them to turn into a pumpkin all year, and they just won’t. They’ve been the most consistent team in baseball. In this they remind me a lot of the 1991 Braves. A lot of people are gonna wake up in September and say “Jesus, the Padres clinched?”

5. Braves: No shame in getting beat up by the White Sox, but let’s be clear: they’re not playing great baseball at the moment. Heyward’s injury is bothersome, but let’s be honest: he has been only moderately effective for the bulk of the team’s turnaround. The real concern has been Troy Glaus’ recent slump and the sudden ineffectiveness of Tommy Hanson.

6. Mets: Every day they don’t trade for Cliff Lee is a day the Braves and Phillies breathe a bit easier. If and when they do pull that trigger, Phillies and Braves fans will freak the hell out.
 
7. Rays: They were bound to come down from their early season highs, but I wasn’t guessing it would be this far down.  Nothin’ is working right at the moment.

8. Reds: The Reds sign Gary Matthews Jr. and then surge back into first place. Coincidence? Why yes, yes it is.

9. White Sox: I try to keep some sort of connection to the reality of the standings, but I’m sorry, just because they’re a game and a half behind the Twins doesn’t mean I can’t put the White Sox here. They’re surging right now and it just feels right.

10. Phillies: Their recent bounceback has them looking a lot like the beast that roamed near the top of the Power Rankings earlier in the season.

11. Cardinals: The reason they can’t hold on to first place? Too many holes in the lineup.

12. Twins: Gleeman’s take on the current blah of the Twins: “Had the timing of the good and bad stretches been flipped, with the
Twins starting 10-14 and then playing well for two months, the
perception of their current situation would be different.” And if wishes were fishes we’d all have a fry. Not that Aaron’s wrong or anything. I mean, we can’t expect that the White Sox will continue to win just about every game they play, right?

13. Tigers: How Miguel Cabrera isn’t leading the league in All-Star voting at first base is beyond me.  Well, it’s not totally beyond me — I get that there are more Yankees fans than Tigers fans — but it’s pretty telling all the same.

14. Angels: The pitching has come around nicely. If they pick up a bat and the Rangers fall back to Earth as they must, we’re gonna have a good race.

15. Giants: Pablo Sandoval: .273/.331/.415. Vald Guerrero can get away with swinging at everything. Panda can’t.  I’d hate to see him not learn that lesson the way Jeff Francoeur didn’t learn that lesson.

16. Blue Jays: Time to think about dealing. Bautista? Overbay? Five years ago teams would jump at guys like that. Now I’m having a hard time seeing them bring back any value.

17. Rockies: They ought to do something with Manny Corpas, what with the laws against keeping dead bodies lying around and everything.

18. Dodgers: There were a lot of storms in the Midwest this past week. Must have blocked the V Energy from flowing from Boston.

19. Brewers: Nice week for the Brewers. I doubt they’ll be doing more this year than fighting the Cubs for third place, but unlike the Cubs, they’re approaching what has turned into a bummer of a season with dignity and some fight.

20. Athletics: If it makes anyone feel better, there were way more votes for contracting the Yankees than contracting the A’s in my little contraction post this morning.

21. Marlins: This ranking reflects the on-the-field product. If it reflected front office chaos, they’d be at 156.

22. Cubs: The only silver lining of the Carlos Zambrano insanity is that between his past history and their year of living with Milton Bradley, the Cubs have a handbook on how to deal with this kind of jazz.

23. Royals: Outside of the 1985 World Series it probably hasn’t ever counted as a true rivalry, but the Royals have to have enjoyed taking two of three from the Cardinals.

24. Nationals: I predict the Nats will score a half run in support of Stephen Strasburg tonight. Difficult, I know, but I think they have it in them.

25. Mariners: I may have lost count, but I think this marks the 23rd straight season in which a team has started the year thinking “sure, Casey Kotchman can handle first base for us,” only to cut bait before the trading deadline.

26. Diamondbacks: I was tweeting like crazy about this on Friday night, but I’ll reiterate here: I have no problem with Hinch leaving Edwin Jackson in to throw 150 pitches for a no-hitter. You don’t do it with some young franchise-quality pitching prospect, but you can do it with a solid, experienced contributor-type like Jackson. Odds are he’ll never win a Cy Young. The competitive part of the season truly is over for the Dbacks. You have to let him and the fans have this.

27. Indians: I’m surprised the Tribe found a taker for Russell Branyan so quickly. I figured they’d have to wait a few weeks for that kind of a deal to develop. Pure gravy for them that they could get that done, get some bodies in return and open up a slot for LaPorta to prove himself with so much of the season left to play.

28. Astros: Are Astros fans experiencing some delicious schadenfreude seeing Nolan Ryan — the man who many in Houston feel abandoned them twice — having so much trouble assuming ownership of the Rangers, or are they worried that all that difficulty is killing the market for Roy Oswalt and thereby preventing them from getting their hands on a prized Ranger prospect or two?

29. Orioles:  When you’re in as deep a hole as the O’s have been in all year it’s not likely that you’ll ever climb out, but they won some damn games this past week, and they at least deserve to be out of the cellar.

30. Pirates:  I saw some glimmers of faint hope as the season began. Now it’s like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none.
None more black.

Joe Panik says he’s “100 percent” recovered from back injury

San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik follows through on a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Scott Oberg in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a baseball doubleheader Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Denver. The Giants won 10-8. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Giants second baseman Joe Panik missed nearly all of August and September last season due to a nagging back injury, but he told Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com on Friday that he’s feeling “100 percent.”

Panik, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, originally landed on the disabled list in early August due to what was described as lower back inflammation. He made his return in September, but appeared in just three games before being shut down. The good news is that he was cleared by doctors in mid-December and considers himself “back to normal.”

“It was right around the time of all the signings,” he said, smiling. “I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I’m good to go. I’m happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I’m healthy. My swing feels strong.”

Panik altered his offseason workout routine and plans to spend less time in his spikes in the early part of spring training. The hope is that these changes will prevent future issues.

After a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 25-year-old Panik proved to be one of the best second baseman in the majors last season by batting .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 100 games while playing solid defense.

Baseball America names Corey Seager as baseball’s top prospect

Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager follows through a single that scored Austin Barnes, in front of Colorado Rockies' Wilin Rosario during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
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Baseball America unveiled their top 100 prospect list Friday night during a special on MLB Network. It should come as no surprise that Dodgers infielder Corey Seager came in at No. 1.

This makes Seager the consensus top prospect in the game. He was also ranked first by MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN’s Keith Law. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was ranked second on all four lists.

Baseball America has the most aggressive ranking of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada from the Red Sox, who checked in at No. 3. He was followed by pitching prospects Lucas Giolito from the Nationals and Julio Urias from the Dodgers to round out the top five.

You can see Baseball America’s full top 100 list here.

Jenrry Mejia: “It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything.”

New York Mets' Jenrry Mejia reacts after getting the last out against the Milwaukee Brewers during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 25, 2014, in Milwaukee. The Mets won 3-2. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
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Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia was permanently suspended on Friday after testing positive for a third time for a performance-enhancing drug. The right-hander is maintaining his innocence, as ESPN’s Adam Rubin notes in quoting Dominican sports journalist Hector Gomez. Mejia said, “It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything.”

Mejia has the opportunity to petition commissioner Rob Manfred in one year for reinstatement to Major League Baseball. However, he must sit out at least two years before becoming eligible to pitch in the majors again, which would mean Mejia would be 28 years old.

Over parts of five seasons, Mejia has a career 3.68 ERA with 162 strikeouts and 76 walks over 183 1/3 innings. He was once a top prospect in the Mets’ minor league system and a top-100 overall prospect heading into the 2010 and ’11 seasons.

Bryce Harper on potential $400 million contract: “Don’t sell me short.”

Bryce Harper
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is at least three years away from free agency, but people are already contemplating just how large a contract the phenom will be able to negotiate, especially after taking home the National League Most Valuable Player Award for his performance this past season.

When the likes of David Price and Zack Greinke are signing for over $200 million at the age of 30 or older, it stands to reason that Harper could draw more as a 26-year-old if he can maintain MVP-esque levels of production over the next several seasons. $400 million might not be enough for Harper, though, as MLB.com’s Jamal Collier reports. He said, “Don’t sell me short,” which is a fantastic response.

During the 2015 season, Harper led the majors with a .460 on-base percentage and a .649 slugging percentage while leading the National League with 42 home runs and 118 runs scored. He also knocked in 99 runs for good measure. Harper and Ted Williams are the only hitters in baseball history to put up an adjusted OPS of 195 or better (100 is average) at the age of 22 or younger.