MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Power Rankings: Angels continue to climb

Power Rankings: Angels continue to climb

Four National League teams occupy the first five spots in the MLB.com Power Rankings heading into the second half, but does that mean the NL is that much stronger than the American League?

MLB.com Power Rankings

Not necessarily. Of the top 20 teams in this week's rankings, 11 play in the AL. The top 10, in fact, are evenly split, 5-5. And the AL now has the added bonus of knowing it will have home-field advantage in the World Series, thanks to the Junior Circuit's 6-3 win over the NL in the All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile on Tuesday.

It should be noted, however, that the bottom part of the rankings is a little thin. The Braves enter the second half on a five-game losing streak, while the Rangers, so strong a month ago, have lost eight of 10. The Indians and D-backs have shown flashes that they're on a better track, only to fall back. In fact, the teams who are ranked 17-20 -- the D-backs, Indians, Braves and Rangers -- all have losing records.

Biggest jump: The Angels and Tigers both jumped three spots, but the spotlight is on the Halos, who over the course of two weeks moved from 17th to sixth. The Angels closed the first half by winning 11 of 14, and they start the second half with a 10-game homestand. They're also making a push to pass the Royals for the best record in the AL. There is lots of intrigue surrounding the surging Halos.

Iannetta on Angels' momentum

Biggest drop: The Astros dropped from third to eighth, due to a rough stretch of eight losses in 10 games heading into the break. There was a question of how the offense would hold up without George Springer, who's out until around early September. The answer may already be clear.

The MLB.com voting panel's top five

1. Cardinals
How much fun is this NL Central race? We've talked a lot in this space about the Cardinals being the runaway favorite, but after a breathtaking four-game pre-All-Star break set with the Pirates, things aren't quite so definitive. The Cards are still plenty good, and their 56 wins are best in baseball. They have two main elements working in their favor: one of the best, if not the best, rotations in the NL, and dominance at home. They're 31-11 at Busch Stadium, and they lost one game there in June.

Carpenter's two-run homer

2. Pirates
All the Bucs were trying to do the final two games before the All-Star break was win, but in doing so, they also made a statement. They took two heart-stoppers from the Cardinals to close out the first half, and they sit just 2 1/2 games back in the division heading into Friday's opener in Milwaukee. Another good week could unseat St. Louis from its months-long run as No. 1.

3. Royals
The AL Central for most of the first half suggested the race for the division title would be a tight one. But the Royals, while still not entirely pulling away from the competition, could end running away with it. Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain are hitting a stride neither quite reached last year, even in a pennant-winning campaign. Despite injuries and early-season controversies, Kansas City is still the class of the AL.

Cain's two-run homer

4. Dodgers
When you go through the list of the Dodgers' maladies through the first half -- losing two-fifths of their rotation for the year and a slew of injuries to an ever-evolving bullpen -- it's hard to imagine that they'd be not only in first place in the NL West, but be there with a pretty healthy lead. If the Dodgers do make it to October, they'll have to get through teams with much better track records that those from their own division. But despite their issues, they have Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw at the top of the rotation, and that can mask plenty of other problems.

5. Nationals
If the Nats do anything at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, look for more tweaking than wholesale changes. Any additions would be supplemental to a strong foundation that has more than enough to win this division. Sure, a couple of hitters not named Bryce Harper could do a little more offensively, and there's always the question about Stephen Strasburg's long-term health. But Washington is in a good place and could be set up for a monster second half.

Looking back at the Nats' week

The rest

6. Angels (9); 7. Yankees (7); 8. Astros (3); 9. Twins (11); 10. Cubs (8); 11. Giants (12); 12. Orioles (10); 13. Tigers (16); 14. Mets (15); 15. Blue Jays (13); 16. Rays (14); 17. D-backs (18); 18. Indians (NR); 19. Braves (NR); 20. Rangers (17).

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.