Sizzling Braves have the power in rankings
Nine-game winning streak puts Atlanta comfortably in first place over Nationals
Fans in Arizona knew how good Justin Upton could be at times. So folks in Atlanta had high hopes for the young outfielder when he came over in a trade with the D-backs.
But nobody, and we mean nobody -- outside of the Upton family, of course -- is not a little surprised with how well Upton is hitting and how he has almost single-handedly powered the Braves to a nine-game winning streak and a spot at the top of the standings in the National League East.
Watch out, Nats fans, the Braves are sizzling in Hotlanta and there's a new beast in the East.
Don't look now, but the Giants, D-backs and Rockies are already in a dogfight for the top spot in the NL West. And don't forget about the Cardinals and the Reds in the NL Central.
In the American League, the magical A's are back on top, the Red Sox's pitching has been dominant and the new-look Royals are not going to roll over for anyone.
Not this time. Not this year.
Once again, it's time to hear your voice and your vote.
MLB.com has set up a panel of experts to vote on the top 15 teams each week. The group includes MLB.com vice president and executive editor Carlton Thompson, VP and executive producer Jim Jenks, columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Matthew Leach, Terence Moore and Tracy Ringolsby, reporters Barry M. Bloom, Marty Noble, Jesse Sanchez and Lyle Spencer, and MLB Network analyst Mitch Williams.
Agree? Disagree? The power to rank the teams is yours.
Atlanta is streaking, Justin Upton is on a tear and folks who once believed the Nationals were going to run away with the NL East are starting to reconsider. It's a good time to be a Braves fan. But isn't it always?
Last week: 3
The defending World Series champions are on top of the standings in the NL West in large part because of contributions from every single player on offense. Barry Zito's resurgence should not be overlooked, too. The veteran left-hander is 2-0 and has not given up a run in 14 innings.
Last week: 5
The high-powered Nats have seen better days. Not only were they swept by the Braves over the weekend, they had to put catcher Wilson Ramos on the disabled list because of a strained left hamstring and second baseman Danny Espinosa left Sunday's game with a sore right wrist after being struck by a pitch. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has also committed an error in three consecutive games. That said, nobody is panicking.
Last week: 1
The A's are back to their winning ways and quickly proving that last year's AL West championship was not a fluke. They've already had a nine-game winning streak and they have a walk-off victory. Oakland won 15 games last season in walk-off fashion.
Last week: 9
Texas' offense hasn't yet clicked on all cylinders, but the pitching sure has. The Rangers are hitting .251 with a .398 slugging percentage and averaging 3.8 runs per game, but the pitching staff boasts a 2.92 ERA and their defense has committed just five errors.
Last week: 7
Martin Prado has not been everything the D-backs expected. He's been more. Prado has played four positions in the first 12 games, including three on Saturday. He's hitting for average and has been the glue in a tightly-knit clubhouse.
Last week: 10
Detroit has one AL Most Valuable Player Award winner in Miguel Cabrera and fans in the Motor City believe they could have another in Prince Fielder. The first baseman is hitting .429 with four home runs, five doubles and 19 RBIs. He's slugging at a remarkable .833 clip and has an OPS of 1.361.
Last week: 6
8. Red Sox
The first-place Red Sox have found their groove on the mound. Jon Lester was outstanding on Saturday and Clay Buchholz was almost unhittable on Sunday. Boston starters have held opponents to three runs or fewer in all of its 11 games.
Last week: 14
The hot-hitting Rockies have won three in a row, seven of their last 10 games and are among the league leaders in batting average, home runs, runs scored and RBIs. They start a 10-game homestand on Monday against the Mets.
Last week: 15
Losing Zack Greinke for two months to a broken left collarbone -- sustained when San Diego's Carlos Quentin charged the mound after being hit by a pitch -- was a big blow and dropping two of three to the D-backs over the weekend didn't help matters. The good news? Adrian Gonzalez has found his rhythm at the plate and Matt Kemp is right behind him, even if the statistics suggest otherwise.
Last week: 8
The starting pitching has been dominant and the Cards have had success hitting with runners in scoring position, but erratic performances out of the bullpen were the difference between a 4-2 homestand and an eight-game winning streak.
Last week: 13
Cincinnati has lost five in a row and is temporarily without the services of staff ace Johnny Cueto, who left Saturday's game with right triceps pain. On the bright side, Shin-Soo Choo is on fire and already has seven multihit games. What's more, the Reds are on a 10-game homestand, their longest of the season.
Last week: 2
Robinson Cano has been outstanding offensively, and he'll have to continue his dominance at the plate if the club hopes to cruise back to the top of the AL East standings. The All-Star second baseman entered Monday 11-for-21 with six runs, four doubles, three homers, eight RBIs and two walks in his past five games. He had three extra-base hits in consecutive games last week.
Last week: Not ranked
Questions about the Halos' pitching staff have come into focus with the injury to Jered Weaver, who broke his left elbow falling on the mound trying to elude a line drive. The Angels will have to hit their way to the top of the AL West, and that's what Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout intend to do.
Last week: 4
These are not last year's Royals. Just ask Ervin Santana and James Shields. Kansas City completed its first homestand with a 4-2 record, quite a turnaround from the 0-10 mark the Royals endured in their first homestand last season.
Last week: Not ranked