Power Poll: Hot Braves move into top 10

The Braves entered May with the memory of a nine-game losing skid still very fresh in their minds. They enter June with a much different taste in their mouths.

They have recent winning streaks of four games, five games and five games. They’ve gone from battling to stay out of the NL East cellar to battling for first place, a combination of their vastly improved play and the Phillies’ newfound and befuddling inability to score.

How will they enter July? Good question. On to the poll …

Evan Longoria already has a career high in stolen bases.
Evan Longoria already has a career high in stolen bases.

1. Rays (1). Evan Longoria, apparently, has added "base-stealer" to his resume. Tampa Bay’s third baseman is one of only two players in the bigs to enter the week with double-digit home runs and stolen bases. He’s already set a career-high with his 10 stolen bases, to go with his .325 average, 10 homers, 42 RBIs and .968 OPS.

2. Twins (3). Same story as always in Minnesota: starting pitching is pretty consistent, Mauer and Morneau are excellent, Twins are in first place.

3. Yankees (4). Robinson Cano is enjoying his finest season, and that’s saying something. After a "slump" that dropped his average all the way down to .322, Cano enters the week riding a 13-game hitting streak that includes eight multi-hit games. He’s hitting .455 in the streak and .362 overall.

4. Padres (5). David Eckstein has 14 extra-base hits and just five strikeouts on the season. The only player who is even close to that ratio is Houston’s Jeff Keppinger, who has 16 extra-base hits and nine strikeouts.

5. Reds (10). Cincinnati’s two catchers, Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan, went 12-for-24 as the Reds took five of seven from the Pirates and Astros during last week’s homestand.

6. Cardinals (6). All nine of the runs the Cardinals scored Sunday against the Cubs crossed the plate with two outs. For the year, the Cardinals have 97 RBIs with two outs, good enough for sixth in the majors. They’re also hitting .283 (fourth in MLB) and have an .836 OPS (third) with two outs.

7. Blue Jays (9). Starting with Monday’s game against Tampa Bay, the Blue Jays play 24 consecutive games against teams that enter this week over .500—vs. Rays (3), vs. Yankees (3), at Rays (3), at Rockies (3), at Padres (3), vs. Giants (3), vs. Cardinals (3), vs. Phillies (3).

8. Braves (13). Entering this week, only one NL player has an OPS better than 1.000. Yep, the rookie Jason Heyward, who checks in at 1.017.

9. Red Sox (11). In 15 combined starts since April 23, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz—who were born just seven months apart—are 12-1 with a 2.02 ERA.

10. Phillies (2). This drop in the poll certainly is temporary, and the Phillies’ offense will be just fine in the long run. But getting shut out five times in eight games is impressive.

11. Dodgers (8). Matt Kemp, the NL leader with 41 runs scored, might never find a permanent spot in Joe Torre’s lineup—he’s hit fourth 18 times, third 12 times, second 18 times and fifth twice this year. This, after hitting in six different spots in the order at least 14 times last season.

Buster Posey's bat is living up to the hype.
Buster Posey’s bat is living up to the hype.

12. Giants (14). Stephen Strasburg’s much-anticipated call-up will generate more headlines, but catcher Buster Posey’s arrival in San Francisco likely will have more of an impact in the playoff race. In his first two games after arriving from Class AAA Fresno—where he was hitting .349—Posey went 6-for-9 with four RBIs for the parent club.

13. A’s (16). This was a good week for the A’s. Not only did they climb back into first place in the AL West, but they got Brett Anderson back in the rotation. In his first start since April 24, the 22-year-old lefty allowed just three baserunners in 5 2/3 shutout innings against the Tigers on Saturday.

14. Tigers (7). Speaking of the Tigers, they had a similar experience on Sunday—young fireballer Max Scherzer came back from the minors to strike out 14 A’s in 5 2/3 shutout innings.

15. Rangers (12). This was a horrible week for the Rangers. Not only did they fall out of first place in the AL West, but they had to put slugger Nelson Cruz on the disabled list, and young lefty Derek Holland had to leave his start Sunday in the second inning with a sore shoulder.

16. Rockies (18). Troy Tulowitzki has five homers and 10 RBIs in his past 10 games after just one homer and 16 RBIs in his first 38. Not coincidentally, the Rockies are 7-3 in that stretch.

17. Mets (19). The Mets have more wins at home (19) than any team in baseball. Of course, only one team (the Orioles) has fewer road wins than the Mets, who have just seven victories away from home.

18. Marlins (15). Time for a minor-league update. Mike Stanton, the best Marlins prospect since Miguel Cabrera, is crushing the ball for Class AA Jacksonville as a 20-year-old—the 6-foot-5 outfielder has 18 homers and a 1.143 OPS. Yikes.

19. Nationals (17). Here’s a bit of a surprise. Entering the week, Josh Willingham leads the National League with his .429 on-base percentage. His previous career high is .367.

20. Angels (20). The Kendry Morales injury could be devastating. The switch-hitting slugger leads the Angels in homers, RBIs and batting average.

21. Cubs (22). Alfonso Soriano’s slugging percentage (.585) is higher than Aramis Ramirez’s OPS (.508)

22. Royals (25). Billy Butler enters the week with a .348 batting average, which puts him 20 points behind Justin Morneau, the AL leader. It also puts him 23 points ahead of Martin Prado, the NL leader.

23. White Sox (24). Remember the Longoria tidbit? Rios is the other guy with double-digit steals and homers, and he bests Longoria in both categories. Rios has 11 homers and 16 stolen bases to go with his .312 average and .958 OPS.

Corey Hart has put on a surprising power display.
Corey Hart has put on a surprising power display.

24. Brewers (26). Prince Fielder has played every game and Ryan Braun has missed just two. But, Corey Hart leads the team in home runs (12) and Casey McGehee leads the Brewers in RBIs (41). Though, to be fair, McGehee’s total leads the NL and Hart is tied for first in the league.

25. Pirates (23). Impressive work thus far from reliever Evan Meek, who has a 0.92 ERA and a 0.955 WHIP through 29 1/3 innings.

26. Diamondbacks (21). Ian Kennedy was the Diamondbacks’ best starter—by far—this April, posting a 2.54 ERA in his six starts.

27. Indians (27). Another minor-league update: He’s no Mike Stanton, but catcher Carlos Santana is crushing the ball for Class AAA Columbus—10 homers and a 1.013 OPS.

28. Mariners (28). Yes, it’s still early, but that 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio Cliff Lee is sporting is pretty impressive.

29. Astros (29). Fifteen Astros position players have at least 22 at-bats this season, and 11 of them are hitting .242 or worse.

30. Orioles (30). Brian Matusz is going to have a long, successful major league career, but he’s dealing with consistency issue at the moment. In his past four starts, he’s given up 6, 0, 7 and 6 earned runs.

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.

The Braves entered May with the memory of a nine-game losing skid still very fresh in their minds. They enter June with a much different taste in their mouths.

They have recent winning streaks of four games, five games and five games. They’ve gone from battling to stay out of the NL East cellar to battling for first place, a combination of their vastly improved play and the Phillies’ newfound and befuddling inability to score.

How will they enter July? Good question. On to the poll …

Evan Longoria already has a career high in stolen bases.
Evan Longoria already has a career high in stolen bases.

1. Rays (1). Evan Longoria, apparently, has added "base-stealer" to his resume. Tampa Bay’s third baseman is one of only two players in the bigs to enter the week with double-digit home runs and stolen bases. He’s already set a career-high with his 10 stolen bases, to go with his .325 average, 10 homers, 42 RBIs and .968 OPS.

2. Twins (3). Same story as always in Minnesota: starting pitching is pretty consistent, Mauer and Morneau are excellent, Twins are in first place.

3. Yankees (4). Robinson Cano is enjoying his finest season, and that’s saying something. After a "slump" that dropped his average all the way down to .322, Cano enters the week riding a 13-game hitting streak that includes eight multi-hit games. He’s hitting .455 in the streak and .362 overall.

4. Padres (5). David Eckstein has 14 extra-base hits and just five strikeouts on the season. The only player who is even close to that ratio is Houston’s Jeff Keppinger, who has 16 extra-base hits and nine strikeouts.

5. Reds (10). Cincinnati’s two catchers, Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan, went 12-for-24 as the Reds took five of seven from the Pirates and Astros during last week’s homestand.

6. Cardinals (6). All nine of the runs the Cardinals scored Sunday against the Cubs crossed the plate with two outs. For the year, the Cardinals have 97 RBIs with two outs, good enough for sixth in the majors. They’re also hitting .283 (fourth in MLB) and have an .836 OPS (third) with two outs.

7. Blue Jays (9). Starting with Monday’s game against Tampa Bay, the Blue Jays play 24 consecutive games against teams that enter this week over .500—vs. Rays (3), vs. Yankees (3), at Rays (3), at Rockies (3), at Padres (3), vs. Giants (3), vs. Cardinals (3), vs. Phillies (3).

8. Braves (13). Entering this week, only one NL player has an OPS better than 1.000. Yep, the rookie Jason Heyward, who checks in at 1.017.

9. Red Sox (11). In 15 combined starts since April 23, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz—who were born just seven months apart—are 12-1 with a 2.02 ERA.

10. Phillies (2). This drop in the poll certainly is temporary, and the Phillies’ offense will be just fine in the long run. But getting shut out five times in eight games is impressive.

11. Dodgers (8). Matt Kemp, the NL leader with 41 runs scored, might never find a permanent spot in Joe Torre’s lineup—he’s hit fourth 18 times, third 12 times, second 18 times and fifth twice this year. This, after hitting in six different spots in the order at least 14 times last season.

Buster Posey's bat is living up to the hype.
Buster Posey’s bat is living up to the hype.

12. Giants (14). Stephen Strasburg’s much-anticipated call-up will generate more headlines, but catcher Buster Posey’s arrival in San Francisco likely will have more of an impact in the playoff race. In his first two games after arriving from Class AAA Fresno—where he was hitting .349—Posey went 6-for-9 with four RBIs for the parent club.

13. A’s (16). This was a good week for the A’s. Not only did they climb back into first place in the AL West, but they got Brett Anderson back in the rotation. In his first start since April 24, the 22-year-old lefty allowed just three baserunners in 5 2/3 shutout innings against the Tigers on Saturday.

14. Tigers (7). Speaking of the Tigers, they had a similar experience on Sunday—young fireballer Max Scherzer came back from the minors to strike out 14 A’s in 5 2/3 shutout innings.

15. Rangers (12). This was a horrible week for the Rangers. Not only did they fall out of first place in the AL West, but they had to put slugger Nelson Cruz on the disabled list, and young lefty Derek Holland had to leave his start Sunday in the second inning with a sore shoulder.

16. Rockies (18). Troy Tulowitzki has five homers and 10 RBIs in his past 10 games after just one homer and 16 RBIs in his first 38. Not coincidentally, the Rockies are 7-3 in that stretch.

17. Mets (19). The Mets have more wins at home (19) than any team in baseball. Of course, only one team (the Orioles) has fewer road wins than the Mets, who have just seven victories away from home.

18. Marlins (15). Time for a minor-league update. Mike Stanton, the best Marlins prospect since Miguel Cabrera, is crushing the ball for Class AA Jacksonville as a 20-year-old—the 6-foot-5 outfielder has 18 homers and a 1.143 OPS. Yikes.

19. Nationals (17). Here’s a bit of a surprise. Entering the week, Josh Willingham leads the National League with his .429 on-base percentage. His previous career high is .367.

20. Angels (20). The Kendry Morales injury could be devastating. The switch-hitting slugger leads the Angels in homers, RBIs and batting average.

21. Cubs (22). Alfonso Soriano’s slugging percentage (.585) is higher than Aramis Ramirez’s OPS (.508)

22. Royals (25). Billy Butler enters the week with a .348 batting average, which puts him 20 points behind Justin Morneau, the AL leader. It also puts him 23 points ahead of Martin Prado, the NL leader.

23. White Sox (24). Remember the Longoria tidbit? Rios is the other guy with double-digit steals and homers, and he bests Longoria in both categories. Rios has 11 homers and 16 stolen bases to go with his .312 average and .958 OPS.

Corey Hart has put on a surprising power display.
Corey Hart has put on a surprising power display.

24. Brewers (26). Prince Fielder has played every game and Ryan Braun has missed just two. But, Corey Hart leads the team in home runs (12) and Casey McGehee leads the Brewers in RBIs (41). Though, to be fair, McGehee’s total leads the NL and Hart is tied for first in the league.

25. Pirates (23). Impressive work thus far from reliever Evan Meek, who has a 0.92 ERA and a 0.955 WHIP through 29 1/3 innings.

26. Diamondbacks (21). Ian Kennedy was the Diamondbacks’ best starter—by far—this April, posting a 2.54 ERA in his six starts.

27. Indians (27). Another minor-league update: He’s no Mike Stanton, but catcher Carlos Santana is crushing the ball for Class AAA Columbus—10 homers and a 1.013 OPS.

28. Mariners (28). Yes, it’s still early, but that 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio Cliff Lee is sporting is pretty impressive.

29. Astros (29). Fifteen Astros position players have at least 22 at-bats this season, and 11 of them are hitting .242 or worse.

30. Orioles (30). Brian Matusz is going to have a long, successful major league career, but he’s dealing with consistency issue at the moment. In his past four starts, he’s given up 6, 0, 7 and 6 earned runs.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*