Yanks challenging Rangers, Cards in rankings

New York overcomes injuries, doubts to take over first place in AL East

Yanks challenging Rangers, Cards in rankings

A familiar favorite is back on top in a division known as one of the toughest in the game.

That's right, the Yankees -- despite all of their injuries and questions surrounding their pitching -- are back in first place in the American League East, and they are making believers out of everyone who doubted them.

Yes, it's true that the Red Sox are jockeying for the top spot and the Orioles have already proven that last year's success was not a fluke, but this was supposed to be the year the Blue Jays and Rays charged to the top of the standings, not the Yanks.

Yet here we are, two weeks into the second month of the season, and the Bronx Bombers have exceeded expectations and emerged as one of the most powerful teams in the game.

But the question remains: Are the Yankees the team to beat in the AL? Or does that distinction belong to the Rangers or the Tigers, the defending league champions?

What's more, can any team in the AL match up with the Cardinals, Giants or Reds?

You decide.

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.

1. Rangers
Fans are having a good time in the Lone Star State. The Rangers have the best record in the big leagues and are riding a four-game winning streak. Yu Darvish (6-1 with a 2.73 ERA) leads the Major Leagues with 80 strikeouts, and the club has won 15 of its past 22 games.
Last week: 1

2. Cardinals
Solid pitching all season is one of the many reasons the Cards (23-13) have the best record in the National League. St. Louis pitchers have the lowest ERA in the Majors (3.03) and have only allowed 23 home runs. Only the Tigers, who have given up 17, have allowed fewer.
Last week: 2

3. Yankees
The Yanks have been plagued by injuries all season and still have questions about their starting rotation, but they have still won five in a row and lead the AL East by one game. Vernon Wells continues to exceed expectations, while Robinson Cano remains the driving force behind New York's offense.
Last week: 5

4. Giants
The defending World Series champs have won three in a row and seven of their past 10 games. Barry Zito has been dominant, Tim Lincecum has found his groove and the offense is stringing together hits. San Francisco outscored Atlanta 23-4, with 16 extra-base hits in the final three games of their series.
Last week: 6

5. Orioles
The O's have won nine of 12 series this season and trail the first-place Yankees in the AL East by only one game. Manny Machado is a big reason for the success. The young third baseman has 12 multihit games in his past 19 contests and is hitting .406 during that stretch.
Last week: 10

6. Reds
Cincinnati has won three in a row and is a season-best six games above .500 despite inconsistent performances from its starting rotation. Reds starters had not posted a quality start and were saddled with 6.06 ERA in a nine-game stretch before Bronson Arroyo pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings Sunday.
Last week: 11

7. Red Sox
The Sox have seen better days. They once boasted the best record in baseball but have now lost eight of 10 and three consecutive series. David Ortiz, who had a 27-game hitting streak dating to last season, has one hit in his last 20 at-bats.
Last week: 4

8. Tigers
Detroit is coming off a series loss to the Indians and now shares the top spot in the AL Central with Cleveland. Once again, Jose Valverde has become a focal point in the bullpen. He blew a save on Sunday but has allowed only one hit and one run in six appearances this year.
Last week: 3

9. Pirates
Pittsburgh has won three in a row and remains within striking distance of the first-place Cardinals in the NL Central after winning 18 of 28 games. The Bucs have hit 13 home runs in their past 14 games, and they have 41 homers since April 7.
Last week: 14

10. Braves
Justin Upton's numbers have tailed off, but he still leads the NL with 12 home runs and is playing like an NL MVP Award candidate. The Braves have lost three in a row and six of their past 10 games, but they still hold a one-game lead over the second-place Nationals in the NL East.
Last week: 7

11. D-backs
The combination of outfielder Gerardo Parra and rookie shortstop Didi Gregorius at the top of the lineup has provided a much-needed spark for Arizona's offense. Brandon McCarthy is back on track and the club is hoping Heath Bell can hold down the closer's job until veteran J.J. Putz returns later this summer.
Last week: 15

12. Nationals
The Nats have won five of their past seven games and will look to add to the win column when Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound Monday against the Dodgers. The NL's first six-game winner, Zimmermann is 6-1 with a 1.59 ERA. In contrast, Stephen Strasburg is 1-5 with a 3.10 ERA.
Last week: 12

13. Indians
Here's all you need to know about the Indians: They were in last place in the AL Central on April 28, but after 12 victories in 14 games, they are tied with the Tigers for first place.
Last week: Not ranked

14. Rockies
Colorado snapped a four-game losing streak with a near no-hitter by Jorge De La Rosa against the Cardinals on Sunday, but it's the offense that could use a real boost. The Rockies were shut out for 28 consecutive innings during the weekend before a three-run homer by Troy Tulowitzki in the series finale.
Last week: 8

15. Rays
Tampa Bay has won five in a row and is above the .500 mark for the first time since early April. Matt Moore has been a rock. The left-hander is 6-0 with a 2.14 ERA and has won seven straight decisions dating back to last season. Moore can tie a franchise record, held by David Price, if he wins his next decision.
Last week: Not ranked