Rankings see familiar force entering fray

Yankees' post-break success has them back in top 15

Rankings see familiar force entering fray

Teams are evaluating players and rumors are swirling, so it's hard to blame fans for wondering if movement leading up to Thursday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline will mean a shift in power at the top of the standings.

The A's have the best record in baseball and they recently acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but will they stand pat this week?

Fans want to know if more bullpen help will push the Tigers over the top. Others want to know if the Nationals need a third baseman because of the injury to Ryan Zimmerman, or how effective the new Dodgers' outfield alignment will be in the long term.

What will the Yankees do?

Is there a blockbuster trade on the horizon?

Here's what is certain: The A's, Angels, Nats, Dodgers and Tigers have all made a strong case to be considered the best team in baseball. The Orioles, Brewers, Giants and Braves have their fans thinking of the postseason.

For the fourth consecutive season, 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, executive editor Matthew Leach, columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Tracy Ringolsby, Phil Rogers and Lyle Spencer along with reporters Alyson Footer and Jesse Sanchez.

What do you think? Agree, disagree? Have your opinion counted by submitting your Power Rankings.

1. Athletics: The A's have the best record in baseball, and their record on the road (31-22) is almost as impressive as their mark at home (34-17). How good has Oakland been? The team clinched a winning record for July last week, marking a franchise-long string of 14 winning months.

2. Angels: The Halos are a season-best 22 games over .500 and trail the first-place A's by only two games in the American League West standings. The Angels, who have missed out on the playoffs the past four years, added Huston Street to an already solid bullpen and hope to get a boost to the starting rotation when injured starter C.J. Wilson returns from the disabled list next month. The Halos are 18-6 over their past 24 games.

3. Nationals: The Nats are coming off a successful road series against the Reds and were 1 1/2 games ahead of the Braves in the National League East standings entering the week. It's unclear how long the club will be without Zimmerman (hamstring), but it appears Anthony Rendon will shift to third base with Danny Espinosa at second. Washington inquired about Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre, but it was rebuffed, according to reports.

4. Dodgers: The first-place Dodgers are coming off a series sweep of the Giants in San Francisco, and they remain unbeaten in three games since manager Don Mattingly put Yasiel Puig in center field and flipped Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez in the batting order. Carl Crawford played in left field against the Giants and Matt Kemp was in right. Could this be the winning outfield formula?

5. Tigers: Detroit lost three of four to the Angels and managed only two runs on 13 hits over the final three games, but nobody is panicking. However, the Tigers' bullpen remains a major focus, and the club could make another move to bolster the staff heading towards the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Detroit traded for reliever Joakim Soria last week.

6. Orioles: The O's appear to be clicking at the right time, and that's not good news for the rest of the teams in the AL East. Baltimore, which is a season-high 12 games over .500, ended a crucial 10-game trip -- seven of which were decided by two or fewer runs -- with a 6-4 record, including series wins in Anaheim and Seattle.

7. Brewers: The Brew Crew lost two of three to the Mets over the weekend and now lead the Cardinals by only two games in the NL Central standings heading into a tough week of play. Milwaukee begins a three-game series in St. Pete against the Rays on Monday, followed by three in St. Louis.

8. Giants: San Francisco was outscored 17-4 in the three-game sweep by the Dodgers and now trail Los Angeles by 1 1/2 games in the NL West race. Newly acquired starter Jake Peavy allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in six innings in his Giants debut Sunday.

9. Braves: Ervin Santana has had mixed results on the mound this season, but he's one of the reasons why the Braves were only 1 1/2 game behind the first-place Nats in the NL East standings entering the week. The veteran has lasted at least five innings in all of his outings this year and at least six innings in 17 of his 19 starts. Santana has six quality starts in his last seven outings.

10. Blue Jays: There haven't been many years in recent history where the AL East has been up for grabs like this, and it's giving the Jays their chance to claim the throne. A series victory against the Red Sox this week would be a nice encore to Toronto's series win in the Bronx this weekend. The Blue Jays have won seven of their last nine games and have taken each of the past three series. Each of those series victories came despite losing the first game, the first time the club has done that since Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2006.

11. Cardinals: St. Louis fans were out in full force this weekend in Chicago for their series against the Cubs, and the Cards leaned on that support as well as seven shutout innings from ace Adam Wainwright on Sunday to take the series against their division rivals. Trevor Rosenthal leads the Majors with 32 saves, and St. Louis is above .500 at home (29-23) and on the road (27-25) this season.

12. Mariners: The M's are a whopping 11 1/2 games back in what amounts to most likely the toughest division in baseball, but by virtue of their competitiveness in the AL West, they still factor into the AL Wild Card race. The Kendrys Morales trade was a start, but for this team to move up in the Power Rankings (and perhaps make the playoffs), it likely needs another piece this week.

13. Pirates: The Bucs found out last year how difficult it is to get back into the playoffs after a long absence, and they're learning this year how hard it is to make it in consecutive seasons. The NL Central is a dogfight, but contributions from players like Josh Harrison -- four hits, two runs, two RBIs and the go-ahead homer on Sunday -- are what can propel Pittsburgh back to the postseason.

14. Yankees: Incredibly, with all the injuries and attrition, New York still remains just one game back in the AL Wild Card heading into this week. Brandon McCarthy (2-0, 1.45 ERA in 18 2/3 innings in pinstripes) and Chase Headley (8-for-23 with a home run and three RBIs) have turned out to be low-risk, high-reward acquisitions, and you have to figure Brian Cashman isn't finished yet.

15. Royals: Kansas City missed out this weekend on its first potential four-game sweep of the Indians at home since 1969, but the Royals have positioned themselves well within the race for the second AL Wild Card spot (two games back). They likely need a power hitter before the Trade Deadline, but it certainly wouldn't hurt if Billy Butler (6-for-12 with five RBIs in the series) stays hot.