Power Poll: First-place Reds enter the top 10; middle-of-the-pack Nationals add big arm

Drew Storen was on the phone last fall, not long after he completed his dominating (2-0, 0.66 ERA, four saves) spin through the Arizona Fall League.

Drew Storen joins the Nats bullpen.
Drew Storen joins the Nats bullpen.

Storen, the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft, talked about how he saw his Washington Nationals as a franchise on the rise, and he talked about building on his first professional season and the possibility of making his big-league debut at some point in 2010.

"Hoping to be an impact guy next year," he said. "That’s the one goal I do have. If I am able to pitch in the big leagues next year, that I’m going to be an impact guy and not just a guy who’s there for some coffee, just kind of hanging out. I want to be a guy that’s a factor."

Sponsored link: Nationals tickets available

He’s getting that wish.

Storen was called up from Triple-A Syracuse this weekend to join a Washington bullpen that has been very effective, but also heavily used. His powerful right arm—he’s expected to eventually take over as the team’s closer—will be a welcome boost for a Nationals team that is in the thick of the wild-card race after back-to-back 59-win seasons. Anyway, on to the poll (where the Nationals are 14th this week).

1. Rays (1). They enter the week 26-11—two full games better than any other team in baseball—despite the fact that four starters—catcher Dioner Navarro, first baseman Carlos Pena, shortstop Jason Bartlett and center fielder B.J. Upton—are batting .236 or worse. Pena, especially, is struggling. He has just three hits in his past 49 at-bats (.061)

2. Yankees (2). Nick Swisher is quietly putting up one of his most productive seasons. He has seven homers and 24 RBIs entering the week, and his .293 average, .537 slugging percentage and .915 OPS are all above his career bests.

3. Phillies (4). Philly’s finest are 11-3 in May. The Phillies are 9-1 against the NL Central so far this year, and the Pirates and Cubs are in town for series this week.

4. Twins (3). Despite ERAs that range from 2.63 to 4.93 and WHIPs that range from 1.101 to 1.564, all five Twins starters have four wins on the year. Yet another reason the big "W" is an overrated stat.

5. Blue Jays (8). Entering the week, Vernon Wells, Alex Gonzalez and Jose Bautista have identical home run and RBI totals (10 homers, 29 RBIs). Their averages—.298, .256, .241, respectively—aren’t too similar, though.

6. Padres (6). Odd week for the Padres. They went into San Francisco and swept the Giants—they’re now 6-0 against them this year—and then were swept at home by the surging Dodgers.

7. Reds (14). Seven wins in eight tries—including two of three against the Cardinals—vaulted the Reds to first place in the NL Central. The last time they were in first this late in the season was 2006, when they were tied for first place for one day after a win on Aug. 24.

8. Giants (7). Future star catcher Buster Posey is crushing the ball at Triple-A (.346 average, .985 OPS) but the Giants feel no need to rush him because starter Bengie Molina (.330) and backup Eli Whiteside (.324) are helping the parent club offensively.

9. Tigers (12). Bold moves by the front office this weekend, demoting starting pitcher Max Scherzer and second baseman Scott Sizemore to the minors to work out their struggles.

10. Dodgers (18). After his disastrous start against Milwaukee on May 4 (seven earned runs in 1 1/3 innings in an 11-6 loss), Clayton Kershaw has been dominant. In two starts since then, the young lefty has allowed just 10 baserunners and one earned run in 15 innings.

11. Marlins (19). The Marlins’ four-game series against the Mets started with a 2-1 pitchers’ duel and ended with a 10-8 slugfest, but all four games had the same outcome—a Marlins win. The sweep pushed Florida two games over .500 for the first time in three weeks.

Vlad Guerrero has been hitting like his old self.
Vlad Guerrero has been hitting like his old self.

12. Rangers (9). Hard to imagine where the Rangers would be without Vlad Guerrero and his .336 average and 31 RBIs this season.

13. Cardinals (5). Rough stretch for the Cardinals. They’ve lost nine times in their past 12 games; they’ve scored more than three runs just once in those nine losses.

14. Nationals (11). Since opening the season with a pair of bad outings, Scott Olsen is 2-0 with a 1.11 ERA in his past five starts. In his worst start of the stretch, he gave up two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.

15. Rockies (16). Was there a more important start on Sunday than the one turned in by left-hander Jeff Francis? In his first game since 2008, the former ace gave up just one run in seven innings. Adding a healthy Francis—he won 17 games with a 4.22 ERA in 2007—to the rotation would be huge for the Rockies.

16. Red Sox (15). Still not time to panic, Red Sox fans. Lots of baseball left to play. Ignore this disconcerting fact: 24 of the other 29 teams in baseball enter the week closer to first place in their own division than the Red Sox, who are 7 1/2 games behind the Rays in the AL East.

17. Braves (23). Eric Hinske has taken over as the starter in left field, and he’s rewarding that decision—he’s 9-for-17 (.529 average) with eight RBIs in his past five games.

18. Angels (22). Angels pitchers allowed just three runs in the three-game sweep of the A’s last weekend. Joe Saunders and Joel Pineiro both fired complete-game shutouts.

19. A’s (10). Getting swept in Anaheim was the end of a nasty road trip for the A’s, who also lost two of three to the Rangers.

20. Mets (13). Since reaching a high-water mark of five games over .500 on the last day of April, the Mets have gone 4-11 and enter the week in last place in the NL East.

Andrew McCutchen has been a bright spot for the Pirates.
Andrew McCutchen has been a bright spot for the Pirates.

21. Pirates (20). Please, somebody notice Andrew McCutchen. Kid’s hitting .340—that’s 76 points higher than anyone else on the team—with a .915 OPS, five homers and 12 stolen bases.

22. Indians (28). Great googlymoogly. Austin Kearns is batting .330 and tied for the team lead with 20 RBIs.

23. Cubs (21). Just like the division rival Cardinals, the Cubs are 3-9 in their past 12 games. Of course, the Cardinals were 18-8 at the start of the skid; the Cubs were 13-13.

24. White Sox (25). It’s been a rough season for the White Sox, but Alex Rios has been a bright spot. After struggling horribly last year for the Pale Hose, Rios enters the week with a .318 batting average, seven homers and 12 stolen bases.

25. Brewers (17). Sure, Casey McGehee had a breakthrough rookie season for the Brewers last year, but who could have imagined he’d be leading the Brew Crew—with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder healthy—in homers and RBIs 37 games into the season?

26. Diamondbacks (24). Yes, many players who come from the AL to the NL post better numbers in the Senior Circuit. Not Edwin Jackson, though. He was an AL All-Star last year; he has a 7.43 ERA through eight starts for the D-backs this year.

27. Mariners (26). How bad is the Seattle offense? Despite ERAs of 1.72, 2.08, 2.93 and 3.88 from their four top starters, the Mariners are nine games under .500 entering the week. The M’s are dead last in the AL in runs scored.

28. Royals (29). Well, Trey Hillman is gone. Let’s see if that works.

29. Astros (30). You’ve probably seen this by now, but it’s worth repeating. Bud Norris is 4-0 with an 0.35 ERA against the Cardinals, and 4-7 with a 7.03 ERA against everyone else. Amazing stuff.

30. Orioles (27). Well, Nolan Reimold and Rhyne Hughes were demoted. Let’s see if that works.

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at rfagan@sportingnews.com, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ryan_fagan.

Drew Storen was on the phone last fall, not long after he completed his dominating (2-0, 0.66 ERA, four saves) spin through the Arizona Fall League.

Drew Storen joins the Nats bullpen.
Drew Storen joins the Nats bullpen.

Storen, the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft, talked about how he saw his Washington Nationals as a franchise on the rise, and he talked about building on his first professional season and the possibility of making his big-league debut at some point in 2010.

"Hoping to be an impact guy next year," he said. "That’s the one goal I do have. If I am able to pitch in the big leagues next year, that I’m going to be an impact guy and not just a guy who’s there for some coffee, just kind of hanging out. I want to be a guy that’s a factor."

Sponsored link: Nationals tickets available

He’s getting that wish.

Storen was called up from Triple-A Syracuse this weekend to join a Washington bullpen that has been very effective, but also heavily used. His powerful right arm—he’s expected to eventually take over as the team’s closer—will be a welcome boost for a Nationals team that is in the thick of the wild-card race after back-to-back 59-win seasons. Anyway, on to the poll (where the Nationals are 14th this week).

1. Rays (1). They enter the week 26-11—two full games better than any other team in baseball—despite the fact that four starters—catcher Dioner Navarro, first baseman Carlos Pena, shortstop Jason Bartlett and center fielder B.J. Upton—are batting .236 or worse. Pena, especially, is struggling. He has just three hits in his past 49 at-bats (.061)

2. Yankees (2). Nick Swisher is quietly putting up one of his most productive seasons. He has seven homers and 24 RBIs entering the week, and his .293 average, .537 slugging percentage and .915 OPS are all above his career bests.

3. Phillies (4). Philly’s finest are 11-3 in May. The Phillies are 9-1 against the NL Central so far this year, and the Pirates and Cubs are in town for series this week.

4. Twins (3). Despite ERAs that range from 2.63 to 4.93 and WHIPs that range from 1.101 to 1.564, all five Twins starters have four wins on the year. Yet another reason the big "W" is an overrated stat.

5. Blue Jays (8). Entering the week, Vernon Wells, Alex Gonzalez and Jose Bautista have identical home run and RBI totals (10 homers, 29 RBIs). Their averages—.298, .256, .241, respectively—aren’t too similar, though.

6. Padres (6). Odd week for the Padres. They went into San Francisco and swept the Giants—they’re now 6-0 against them this year—and then were swept at home by the surging Dodgers.

7. Reds (14). Seven wins in eight tries—including two of three against the Cardinals—vaulted the Reds to first place in the NL Central. The last time they were in first this late in the season was 2006, when they were tied for first place for one day after a win on Aug. 24.

8. Giants (7). Future star catcher Buster Posey is crushing the ball at Triple-A (.346 average, .985 OPS) but the Giants feel no need to rush him because starter Bengie Molina (.330) and backup Eli Whiteside (.324) are helping the parent club offensively.

9. Tigers (12). Bold moves by the front office this weekend, demoting starting pitcher Max Scherzer and second baseman Scott Sizemore to the minors to work out their struggles.

10. Dodgers (18). After his disastrous start against Milwaukee on May 4 (seven earned runs in 1 1/3 innings in an 11-6 loss), Clayton Kershaw has been dominant. In two starts since then, the young lefty has allowed just 10 baserunners and one earned run in 15 innings.

11. Marlins (19). The Marlins’ four-game series against the Mets started with a 2-1 pitchers’ duel and ended with a 10-8 slugfest, but all four games had the same outcome—a Marlins win. The sweep pushed Florida two games over .500 for the first time in three weeks.

Vlad Guerrero has been hitting like his old self.
Vlad Guerrero has been hitting like his old self.

12. Rangers (9). Hard to imagine where the Rangers would be without Vlad Guerrero and his .336 average and 31 RBIs this season.

13. Cardinals (5). Rough stretch for the Cardinals. They’ve lost nine times in their past 12 games; they’ve scored more than three runs just once in those nine losses.

14. Nationals (11). Since opening the season with a pair of bad outings, Scott Olsen is 2-0 with a 1.11 ERA in his past five starts. In his worst start of the stretch, he gave up two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.

15. Rockies (16). Was there a more important start on Sunday than the one turned in by left-hander Jeff Francis? In his first game since 2008, the former ace gave up just one run in seven innings. Adding a healthy Francis—he won 17 games with a 4.22 ERA in 2007—to the rotation would be huge for the Rockies.

16. Red Sox (15). Still not time to panic, Red Sox fans. Lots of baseball left to play. Ignore this disconcerting fact: 24 of the other 29 teams in baseball enter the week closer to first place in their own division than the Red Sox, who are 7 1/2 games behind the Rays in the AL East.

17. Braves (23). Eric Hinske has taken over as the starter in left field, and he’s rewarding that decision—he’s 9-for-17 (.529 average) with eight RBIs in his past five games.

18. Angels (22). Angels pitchers allowed just three runs in the three-game sweep of the A’s last weekend. Joe Saunders and Joel Pineiro both fired complete-game shutouts.

19. A’s (10). Getting swept in Anaheim was the end of a nasty road trip for the A’s, who also lost two of three to the Rangers.

20. Mets (13). Since reaching a high-water mark of five games over .500 on the last day of April, the Mets have gone 4-11 and enter the week in last place in the NL East.

Andrew McCutchen has been a bright spot for the Pirates.
Andrew McCutchen has been a bright spot for the Pirates.

21. Pirates (20). Please, somebody notice Andrew McCutchen. Kid’s hitting .340—that’s 76 points higher than anyone else on the team—with a .915 OPS, five homers and 12 stolen bases.

22. Indians (28). Great googlymoogly. Austin Kearns is batting .330 and tied for the team lead with 20 RBIs.

23. Cubs (21). Just like the division rival Cardinals, the Cubs are 3-9 in their past 12 games. Of course, the Cardinals were 18-8 at the start of the skid; the Cubs were 13-13.

24. White Sox (25). It’s been a rough season for the White Sox, but Alex Rios has been a bright spot. After struggling horribly last year for the Pale Hose, Rios enters the week with a .318 batting average, seven homers and 12 stolen bases.

25. Brewers (17). Sure, Casey McGehee had a breakthrough rookie season for the Brewers last year, but who could have imagined he’d be leading the Brew Crew—with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder healthy—in homers and RBIs 37 games into the season?

26. Diamondbacks (24). Yes, many players who come from the AL to the NL post better numbers in the Senior Circuit. Not Edwin Jackson, though. He was an AL All-Star last year; he has a 7.43 ERA through eight starts for the D-backs this year.

27. Mariners (26). How bad is the Seattle offense? Despite ERAs of 1.72, 2.08, 2.93 and 3.88 from their four top starters, the Mariners are nine games under .500 entering the week. The M’s are dead last in the AL in runs scored.

28. Royals (29). Well, Trey Hillman is gone. Let’s see if that works.

29. Astros (30). You’ve probably seen this by now, but it’s worth repeating. Bud Norris is 4-0 with an 0.35 ERA against the Cardinals, and 4-7 with a 7.03 ERA against everyone else. Amazing stuff.

30. Orioles (27). Well, Nolan Reimold and Rhyne Hughes were demoted. Let’s see if that works.

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at rfagan@sportingnews.com, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ryan_fagan.

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