Red Sox ascend to top of Rankings

Red Sox ascend to top of Rankings

The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in the Major Leagues, but at this stage of the season, does that necessarily mean they're the best team?

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds are in contention in the same division as St. Louis, the National League Central. Is either team talented enough to take over the top spot based on schedule strength or roster resurgence once injured players get healthy?

How about the American League East, where Boston, Tampa Bay and Baltimore are battling it out and the Yankees still own a winning record? What about out West, where the A's and Rangers are dueling again in the AL and the Dodgers are hotter than anyone in the NL?

And what about the biggest question of all: Will everything change come Wednesday, when last-minute non-waiver Trade Deadline deals could throw everything we thought we knew about the 2013 season completely out of whack?

We can only be sure about what we know at this very moment. So to determine who's baseball's best, we have to do so before the rosters might change dramatically.

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. Boston Red Sox
It's crunch time for high-flying Boston, which has been in first place in the AL East for most of the year … and remains there despite Tampa Bay's torrid recent run. Clay Buchholz's lingering injury is a major concern, but locking up heart-and-soul second baseman Dustin Pedroia long-term has created more good vibes. The Sox hope their starting pitching will follow down the stretch.
Last week: 2

2. St. Louis Cardinals
Despite being swept by Atlanta over the weekend, St. Louis is in great shape. The Cardinals have got pitching, with ace Adam Wainwright and emerging star Shelby Miller anchoring the starting rotation. They've got hitting, paced by NL batting leader and MVP candidate Yadier Molina, RBI machine Allen Craig, veteran Carlos Beltran and up-and-comer Matt Carpenter. And they play good defense, with it all starting behind the plate with Molina.
Last week: 1

3. Tampa Bay Rays
Here they are again. This time around, rookie Wil Myers is making a big impact, starter Matt Moore has righted himself after a rough stretch, Chris Archer is pitching like he not only belongs but will belong for a long time and the rest of the roster is doing enough to keep the team humming along.
Last week: 7

4. Oakland A's
Somehow, they keep grinding and doing what they do to not only stay in first place but extend their lead. This year, the ageless might of Bartolo Colon has been a beacon for their starting pitching, having lost Opening Day starter Brett Anderson for much of the year. Anderson could be back soon, and if outfielder Josh Reddick can really heat up in the late months, the deeper A's might go deeper into October than they did last year.
Last week: 3

5. Detroit Tigers
Max Scherzer's historic season continues and has made up for what hasn't been a typically dominant season overall for ace Justin Verlander. Banged-up Miguel Cabrera simply cannot be out for long if this team is to not only hold off Cleveland but make a run in the postseason. After acquiring Jose Veras to shore up the bullpen, this team seems poised to do even more at the Trade Deadline, so stay tuned in Motown.
Last week: 8

6. Atlanta Braves
The grisly right ankle injury to starter Tim Hudson is a tough blow to take for a team that's been in first place in the NL East for much of the season, but the return of Brandon Beachy from Tommy John surgery could help absorb that loss. Evan Gattis is back from his injury woes; the Braves wouldn't mind if his bat heated up again.
Last week: 6

7. Pittsburgh Pirates
The surprise team of 2013 isn't surprising anymore. An emerging Jeff Locke, a rejuvenated Francisco Liriano and a roster that's getting winning contributions from Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez plus its role players shouldn't surprise anyone. The recent injury to closer Jason Grilli hurts, but All-Star Mark Melancon should fit right into that role for the time being.
Last week: 4

8. Los Angeles Dodgers
It was too early to bury them, and now it's too early to crown them, but the high-payroll, even-higher-expectation Dodgers are getting it done. Yasiel Puig has been a revelation and Matt Kemp should be back soon. Clayton Kershaw might be having the best season of his career for this loaded club, which seems to keep adding to its newly found division lead.
Last week: 15

9. Cincinnati Reds
Dusty Baker's gang has become somewhat forgotten in a division with the high-flying Cardinals, which might be a good thing. There's still plenty of thunder in a lineup with Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo, and the starting pitching would be tough to face in a short playoff series.
Last week: 9

10. Baltimore Orioles
The offense has been formidable, with Chris Davis a constant in MVP conversations, Adam Jones continuing to blossom into a five-tool threat, and the rest of the lineup filling in all the blanks. The starting rotation? That's been a big issue for this team, which just got back Wei-Yin Chen and might be looking for more at the Deadline. They've already bolstered the bullpen with the trade for Francisco Rodriguez.
Last week: 10

11. Cleveland Indians
Terry Francona's group has weathered some ups and downs but overall is largely improved and has the makings of a great story. If reclamation project Scott Kazmir and youngster Corey Kluber can continue to provide consistency in the starting rotation, the improved lineup will continue to score runs.
Last week: 11

12. Texas Rangers
There have been bumps in the road of late and manager Ron Washington has been mixing and matching quite a bit with his starting rotation, but the Rangers are hanging in there once again in the AL West. The trade for Matt Garza will help big-time for rotation stability. The team might also be looking to add more before the Deadline.
Last week: 5

13. New York Yankees
The injuries have been many and significant, but Derek Jeter is back (again), the team just traded for Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson just began his rehab assignment, and the team is still afloat in the American League East against all odds.
Last week: 13

14. Arizona Diamondbacks
Kirk Gibson's team held first place for a while until the Dodgers got hot. Now the D-backs will have to regroup and stay in it. Thankfully for them, Patrick Corbin is still pitching like an ace, and the team should get Trevor Cahill back soon to augment a rotation that needs it right now.
Last week: 11

15. Kansas City Royals
Winning six in a row to get to the .500 mark is a good way to end up on this list, and here's skipper Ned Yost's club, which is getting solid work from an improved starting rotation and signs of life from its young offensive core. Starter Ervin Santana has been mentioned in trade rumors, so we'll see how general manager Dayton Moore decides to play it.
Last week: NR

Doug Miller is a senior writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.