Rumor has it the Pittsburgh Pirates are on the verge of promoting Pedro Alvarez to the big leagues. Alvarez - the 23 year old third baseman who was the second overall pick in 2008 - has risen quickly up the ladder, and to date owns a .280/.365/.540 batting line with AAA Indianapolis.
Ordinarily, this wouldn't be very notable. Or, it would be notable, but not on a national scale. However, Alvarez would be just the latest high-profile National League prospect call-up. Already up and more or less established:
And more, that I'm sure I'm forgetting. The NL has seen a massive wave of young talent arrive on MLB's shores in 2010, and so many of the young players have performed, with few disappointments. It's been a wave with which the AL can't compete. Sure, the American League has Brennan Boesch, and Austin Jackson, and Wade Davis. And Carlos Santana just came up last Friday. The AL is not some vast wasteland, with a bunch of talented veterans and little in the pipeline. But the AL doesn't have a Strasburg. The AL doesn't have a Heyward. The AL doesn't have a Stanton. The AL doesn't have the NL's top guns, and its depth is at least equaled.
This is all, of course, a very subjective analysis, if it qualifies as analysis at all. But after years upon years of being ridiculed as the inferior league - after years upon years of getting slaughtered in interleague play - the NL, it seems, is building itself up, and it's building up from within. The stack of young talent we've seen arrive in the NL in 2010 is unlike many we've ever seen, and more than anything else, it represents hope. Hope for the present. Hope for the future. And hope that maybe, someday, a team from the National League will get home-field advantage in the World Series.
Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things.
SBN Blog: Camden Chat
2010 record: 17-47
Last week's rank: 30
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 28
A bad week hosting the New Yorks continues to hold the Orioles at the bottom of the American League. The O's earned one win over the Yankees in a three-game set, but then were swept by the Mets. The O's now sit 23.5 games back from the AL East's No. 1 teams, and in whatever a ten-game span can tell you, Juan Samuel has not offered much in the way of relief.
29. Houston Astros
SBN Blog: The Crawfish Boxes
2010 record: 25-39
Last week's rank: 29
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 30
Monday's off day came at a good time according to manager Brad Mills, after getting swept by the Yankees and walking 18 opposing batters in a three game series. Even with the sweep, though, the Astros are 8-5 in June...After starting the season with ten straight quality starts, Roy Oswalt has hit a bump in the road and posted a 6.61 ERA in his last three appearances. Felipe Paulino has picked up the slack, though, pitching eight innings in three straight starts with a 1.13 ERA.
SBN Blog: Bucs Dugout
2010 record: 23-40
Last week's rank: 28
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 29
The 9-25 Pirates and 9-22 D-Backs are the only NL teams remaining with fewer than ten wins on the road. After getting swept in both Washington and Detroit last week, they won't get another shot at that elusive tenth road win until a week from today when they host the Rangers. They're also 2-18 in games decided by 5 runs or more.
27. Seattle Mariners
SBN Blog: Lookout Landing
2010 record: 24-40
Last week's rank: 24
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 26
All year, Mariner fans had been waiting. They'd spent the season a good distance out of first, but never enough to write them off. Were they in it? Were they out of it? Mariner fans wanted some signal. Recently, they got that signal. The M's have lost nine of 11, including three to the Angels and three to the Rangers, getting outscored 82-28 in the process. Now toast, they turn their sights to the only interesting thing left to happen in the season - Cliff Lee getting traded. It's a wonderful, satisfying existence.
SBN Blog: Royals Review
2010 record: 27-37
Last week's rank: 23
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 24
David DeJesus is hitting .429/.493/.619 (ba/obp/slg) in his last 17 games, raising his season OPS to .871. DeJesus has a good defensive reputation and the Royals would reportedly like to trade him. DeJesus is making just $4.7 million this season, with only a $6 million dollar club option looming for 2011. Despite all those things pointing in a trade's favor, Dayton Moore hasn't made many in-season trades in the last few years. Moreover, the Royals seem committed to a fantasy that someone will sweep in and take Jose Guillen off their hands. Through it all, the Royals have stayed focused on their primary goal: playing Scott Podsednik and Jason Kendall as much as they can, deluding themselves into believing they're great additions to the ball club. The Astros would be proud.
SBN Blog: AZ Snakepit
2010 record: 26-38
Last week's rank: 26
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 22
Arizona managed a winning homestand, splitting a four-game set with the Braves, and then taking two of three from the slumping Cardinals. CF Chris Young leads all NL players at his position in HR and RBI - he's already driven in more runs than in all of 2009. Dan Haren looked as good against St. Louis as he has all season, but the bullpen continues to blow chunks. Closer Chad Qualls had to be rescued on Sunday: he retired one batter as Arizona blew a three-run lead in the ninth, before Young had a walk-off homer.
SBN Blog: Let's Go Tribe!
2010 record: 25-37
Last week's rank: 27
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 27
After a horrendous start, the Tribe's lineup hasn't been too bad. Since May 8th, Cleveland is 5th in the AL in runs per game. This is the team many expected in the preseason: some interesting bats and not much pitching. Replacing Matt LaPorta with Russell Branyan at first base has helped, as has the steady production of Shin-Soo Choo. Choo, who has an OPS of .852 and is a plus defender in RF, has emerged as one of the most underrated outfielders in the game. Kerry Wood, meanwhile, simply isn't getting any better, and still appears to have no control over where his pitches are going. He won't enter the Hall of Very Good as an Indian.
SBN Blog: Brew Crew Ball
2010 record: 27-37
Last week's rank: 25
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 19
The Brewers have been below .500 in six straight months dating back to June of 2009, and that streak will continue unless they can find a way to go a game over .500 the rest of the way in June. That seems unlikely, since they still have games on the schedule against the Angels, Rockies and Twins...The team got better via subtraction when Jeff Suppan was released, but might have gotten a double bonus when he signed with the Cardinals. The Brewers play St. Louis four times in the first week of July, and have to hope Suppan is still in the rotation at that point.
22. Chicago Cubs
SBN Blog: Bleed Cubbie Blue
2010 record: 28-35
Last week's rank: 20
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 14
The Cubs have been held to one run or less in nine of their last 16 games, and not surprisingly they're just 6-10 over that span. The defense isn't bailing Cub pitchers out of many jams, either: entering play Tuesday, the defense was dead last in the NL with 45 double plays turned on the season. The Cubs, Giants and Pirates are the only teams under 50.
SBN Blog: Federal Baseball
2010 record: 31-33
Last week's rank: 21
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 25
Stephen Strasburg has been very good, but hopefully his ERA (2.19) doesn't give people false expectations about his performance going forward. Because if you regress his homerun rate, it should actually be much lower.
SBN Blog: South Side Sox
2010 record: 28-34
Last week's rank: 22
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 21
Chicago has been hovering around five or six games below .500 for a month, unable to make up any ground in the AL Central. On the other hand, they haven't really lost any ground either, and, at just 7.5 games back, are kinda sorta on the fringes of being still in it. Kinda. The lineup is littered with sub .300 OBPs, killing rallies and producing outs for the opposition. Essentially, only Paul Konerko (.990 OPS) and Alex Rios (.951 OPS) have really hit well. Given that the pitching staff and defense have allowed the fourth most runs in the AL, it's amazing that they've won 28 games.
19. Florida Marlins
SBN Blog: Fish Stripes
2010 record: 31-32
Last week's rank: 19
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 16
While another N.L. East rookie made his highly-touted debut, Mike Stanton registered three hits in his debut for the Fish. While Florida, however, slowly falls behind in an increasingly-competitive N.L. East, it's doubtful whether Stanton can save their season in the standings, a la Jason Heyward, or in attendance figures, like Strasburg. Sadly, his home debut in Miami doesn't figure to be very well attended. Neither will be for lack of talent, though. He averaged nearly a homer every other game in the minors before his call-up.
SBN Blog: Athletics Nation
2010 record: 32-33
Last week's rank: 16
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 12
The A's haven't exactly faced the friendliest schedule in June, getting the Red Sox, Twins, Angels, and Giants, but going 4-9 was no one's idea of how to hang around. Oakland now sits four out of first place, which matches their broadest gap of the year. The good news is that things get a lot easier over the coming few weeks, but with the Rangers facing a similar slate of opponents, it may not be too easy to make a run. I'm not certain this team has a run in it anyway.
SBN Blog: The Good Phight
2010 record: 32-29
Last week's rank: 12
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 15
It's been a bad month for the Phillies, most recently getting crushed twice by the Red Sox. To finish it out, they have a very tough schedule that starts on the road in Yankee Stadium and includes the Blue Jays, the first-place Reds, and the first-place Twins. Whether or not they can survive this month will have big implications on their playoff chances and likely approach to the trade deadline. And to survive, they'll need their #3 starter to average fewer than two homeruns per nine.
16. Colorado Rockies
SBN Blog: Purple Row
2010 record: 33-30
Last week's rank: 15
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 20
After dropping three of four against the Astros, the Rockies appeared to be reeling, but turned it around in interleague play, winning all three games against the Blue Jays over the weekend - Colorado is 5-1 against the AL this season. Ubaldo became the third pitcher since 1985 to get 12 wins in his team's first 61 games [Curt Schilling in 2002 and John Smoltz in 1996 also did it]. But Jason Hammel has been even better of late, with one earned run in 22 innings of work, and the Rockies' overall ERA of 3.16 is third-best in the league.
15. Detroit Tigers
SBN Blog: Bless You Boys
2010 record: 33-29
Last week's rank: 18
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 8
Lots of things going Detroit's way at the moment. The Pirates rolled into town just in time for the Tigers, who took full advantage with a three-game sweep. Not only did the Tigers pick up three wins, they also gained some hope in escaping Magglio Ordonez's $15 million dollar option for 2011. Ordonez hasn't played since June 6th with a sore oblique, and if he starts fewer than 135 games this season, his contract with Detroit will end. Somewhat quietly, Miguel Cabrera is having an MVP-caliber first half, hitting .330 with 19 home runs. It seems like Cabrera has been around forever, but he's still just 27 years old. Meanwhile, in his last six starts, Justin Verlander has posted a 2.66 ERA, erasing memories of a mediocre April.
SBN Blog: Bluebird Banter
2010 record: 35-30
Last week's rank: 6
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 7
The Jays are falling fast. Toronto is just 4-8 since the beginning of June and has only scored four or more runs in three of those games. Their biggest hitter this season, Jose Bautista, has also hit a skid, going 1 for his last 27. At six back, they're actually closer to first than they were when they were 26-20 in late May, but the difference now is that both New York and Boston have passed them by. When a team comes as a surprise, fans will treat the first adversity as a sign of regression. That's the response here, and sure enough, the Jays are in trouble.
SBN Blog: Viva El Birdos
2010 record: 35-29
Last week's rank: 5
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 6
The Cardinals had lost six of seven games entering play Monday and sat more than a game back of first place in the division for just the second time all season. Fortunately, the Mariners showed up. In a move that sounds a lot like desperation, the team has brought Jeff Suppan back as pitching coach Dave Duncan's latest reclamation project. If Duncan can salvage Suppan, who posted a 7.84 ERA as a Brewer, then he just might be the greatest pitching coach who ever lived.
12. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
SBN Blog: Halos Heaven
2010 record: 36-31
Last week's rank: 10
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 23
The Angels may not be red-hot anymore, but they've still won four of six and swept a good Dodgers team over the weekend. It's worth noting that the offense may finally be feeling the effects of losing Kendry Morales, posting an OPS of just .717 over the last eight games, but then, three of those took place in an NL ballpark. At 36-31, there should be some degree of concern that the team has a negative run differential, and that the team's OPS+ and ERA+ are both below average. Math is a stronger force than Mike Scioscia, no matter what a lot of people might suggest.
11. Texas Rangers
SBN Blog: Lone Star Ball
2010 record: 35-28
Last week's rank: 14
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 10
Nothing like a little Mariners to cure what ails you. The Rangers slaughtered whatever remained of Seattle's hopes earlier in the week, then went on to a series win over the Brewers in which even the loss came with the bright side of pushing Rich Harden to the DL. Now this is where the fun starts. Through July 11th, the best team - the best team - the Rangers will face is the Angels, who have allowed more runs than they've scored. After that, it's the Marlins, and after that, it's the White Sox. This will be perhaps Texas' best opportunity to run away, and they have the pieces to do it.
10. New York Mets
SBN Blog: Amazin' Avenue
2010 record: 35-28
Last week's rank: 17
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 17
Much like teams used to "get better" by beating up on the Nationals, the Mets easily swept the Orioles to continue their winning ways and solidify their lead over the Phillies in second place. By the end of this week, the Mets roster could look incredibly better than the one that started opening day, with Carlos Beltran over Gary Matthews Jr. in center, Angel Pagan in for Jeff Francoeur in right, Jose Reyes instead of Alex Cora at shortstop, Ruben Tejada filling in for Luis Castillo at second base, Ike Davis over Mike Jacobs, and R.A. Dickey/Hisanori Takahashi where Jon Maine and Oliver Perez once were. In their centerfield swap, the Mets are arguably about to replace the worst centerfielder in baseball with the best, a nice move for an aspiring contender.
SBN Blog: McCovey Chronicles
2010 record: 36-27
Last week's rank: 13
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 13
Taking three games from their Bay Area neighbors in Oakland and then stomping Baltimore saw San Francisco climb to just 0.5 games back in the NL West. Aubrey Huff has been lighting up the plate of late: he's hitting .333 in June, with a slugging percentage of .762, and veteran Pat Burrell has proved a great pick-up so far, batting .407 for the Giants since they picked him up from the Rays. Matt Cain almost appears to have taken over for Lincecum as the staff ace, and has allowed two earned runs over his past three outings, covering a total of 24 innings of work.
SBN Blog: Red Reporter
2010 record: 36-28
Last week's rank: 11
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 11
The Reds are starting to wear out their bullpen, and John Fay reports that pitchers Travis Wood and Matt Maloney could be on their way up to help out. The team won't consider Aroldis Chapman, however: they're treating him as a starting pitcher only, and will hold him in AAA until one is needed. Scott Rolen continues to lead the team in home runs (14) and slugging percentage (.601). His previous career high for slugging was .598, set with the Cardinals in 2004.
SBN Blog: True Blue LA
2010 record: 36-27
Last week's rank: 9
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 18
Los Angeles made it to the top of the NL West after sweeping St. Louis. But their stay at the top was short-lived, thanks to a sweep at the hands of the Angels in the Freeway Series, with the Dodgers being outscored 20-8 over the three games. The Dodgers have a nine-game road-trip coming up, facing Cincinnati, Boston and then the return series in Anaheim. It's part of a tough stretch where they play 15 of 18 away from Chavez Ravine - and their only home games are a trio against the Word Series champion New York Yankees.
SBN Blog: Gaslamp Ball
2010 record: 37-27
Last week's rank: 7
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 5
San Diego went 3-4 in the week, which proved enough to keep them in first place at the end of it, as they were when it started, despite a brief encounter with second midweek. As usual, their pitching has been their strength, allowing a total of only 21 runs in those seven contests. The Padres' bullpen has been particularly impressive, with a collective ERA of 1.67 in June, boasting a strikeout rate of 9.8 per nine innings, and a walk rate of 1.5 BB/9 IP. Additionally, Adrian Gonzalez is 20-for-48 in the past 12 games, with six homers and 16 RBI.
SBN Blog: Twinkie Town
2010 record: 36-27
Last week's rank: 8
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 3
A 3-4 week for the Twins, who can't quite shake the unheralded Tigers and in general appear to be settling into their usual place atop the B-list of baseball's contenders. After starting 19-9, the Twins have gone 17-18. The Twins aren't great outside the friendly confines of the AL Central, as they've been pedestrian on the road. The Twins are 21-12 at home and 15-15 away from Target Field. Same old Minnesota.
SBN Blog: Over The Monster
2010 record: 37-28
Last week's rank: 4
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 4
The Red Sox continue to climb their way toward the top of the AL East, but they haven't been taking full advantage of their easy schedule. The Sox could have swept the Orioles, but lost game three. Then they split a series with the Indians, losing 11-0 and then 8-7, despite holding a 7-6 lead going into the 9th inning. The Red Sox will need to keep going with Daisuke Matsuzaka just hitting the DL with a forearm strain. Right now, they're dealing with just two reliable starters.
SBN Blog: DRays Bay
2010 record: 40-23
Last week's rank: 1
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 2
The Rays are slowly starting to slip in the AL East. In June, Tampa Bay is 6-5, and since May 24th, they're just 8-10, having been outscored 98-93. That pitching staff that once seemed invincible is now getting hit pretty hard. Fortunately the offense is starting to click, with Carlos Pena hitting .345 with seven home runs in his last seven games. Also on the bright side, Sean Rodriguez is proving to be quite the steal as the Angels have to suffer through Scott Kazmir every five days.
SBN Blog: Talking Chop
2010 record: 37-27
Last week's rank: 3
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 9
"Troy Glaus: The New Chipper Jones or a one-year wonder?" It's a bizarre title, considering the respective careers of Glaus and Jones, but it exemplifies the popularity of the Braves' first baseman. After starting May under the Mendoza line, Glaus is providing the necessary offense the Braves have lacked from the position since Mark Texeira left. Meanwhile, the youngsters Kris Medlen - filling in very ably for Jair Jurrjens - and Brooks Conrad - already with a game-winning grandslam and squeeze bunt - have earned career reputations as clutch, no matter to what extent their performances eventually come down to Earth.
SBN Blog: Pinstripe Alley
2010 record: 40-23
Last week's rank: 2
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 1
The Yankees have played well lately and a lot of that is due to a nice easy schedule. Since ending a series with the Twins on May 27th, the Yankees have played the Indians (four games), Baltimore (six), Toronto (three) and Houston (three). Their record in that span is 12-4. Things are getting harder down the line with series against the Phillies, Mets and Dodgers coming up, but the Yankees should continue to play well enough to be No. 1 or 2 in the AL East. It's worth noting that, with a 9-5 win over Houston on Sunday, the Yankees officially passed the Rays in reaching the best run differential in baseball, at +103.