That the Orioles are .500 through the first 28 games is actually quite remarkable, but the feel-good story also gave way to reality when the O’s lost six in a row before coming back to win the last two against a bad Red Sox club Aug. 22-23.
We all know that when the Orioles are really ready to contend, most of the everyday players will have been swapped out for upgrades, and the same goes for the rotation. That changeover is already taking place with slugger Ryan Mountcastle coming up to play left field on a regular basis.
Designating outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. for assignment and placing Chris Davis on the injured list signals that without a minor-league season providing competition for prospects, the club wants to start looking at certain players.
In addition to Mountcastle — and we already saw Keegan Akin and will see him again — it looks like we’ll get all of September to watch Dillon Tate, Hunter Harvey (fingers crossed) and a couple of potential starting pitchers in Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann.
General manager Mike Elias knows that with this lost season of development mucking up the rebuild, he’s got to find a way for prospects to face competition. That process is fully underway now.
No, it does not mean that we’ll see DL Hall or Grayson Rodriguez any time soon. It doesn’t mean Adley Rutschman is coming up this season. But the club appears ready to start unblocking the path for some near-ready prospects who were previously blocked.
Here are my power rankings:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (22-8, No. 2 last week)
The Dodgers had a nice 6-1 week against weaker sisters Seattle and Colorado. They are getting some pressure from upstart Padres, which may be a good thing in such a condensed season.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (19-10, No. 5)
The Rays have gone 14-3 over last 17, and that’s without their top three starters — Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell — playing a major role.
3. Oakland Athletics (20-9, No. 1)
Through Aug. 8, Athletics outfielder Ramon Laureano was batting .288 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in his team’s first 15 games. The next day, Laureano had his confrontation with Astros coach Alex Cintron. Since that day, Laureano has had to serve a four-game suspension and he has batted just .138 with four singles and two RBIs. His average now sits at .229.
4. Minnesota Twins (19-10, No. 6)
After a four-game losing streak two weeks ago, the Twins have gone 9-4 as the AL Central still runs through them. To have any chance to win a playoff series, they’ll need Rich Hill to give them some important innings this year. They don’t have the pitching a serious contender typically has.
5. New York Yankees (16-9, No. 3)
One wonders if the ghost of George Steinbrenner is monkeying with his old team. Why would he do that? Maybe he doesn’t want son Hal to succeed. The number of injuries does feel like a higher power is at work. In recent days, they’ve lost Luis Avilan, Zack Britton, Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton and Gleyber Torres.
6. Cleveland Indians (17-11, No. 7)
Indians management continues to keep Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac at the club’s alternate site. The team was very agitated that the two pitchers broke protocols, and reliever Oliver Perez reportedly threatened to opt out if they had been allowed back.
7. San Diego Padres (18-12, No. 11)
The Padres went 7-0 this against the two teams in Texas … despite the fact that they lost top-flight closer Kirby Yates to Tommy John surgery and his immediate replacement, Drew Pomeranz, is now on IL with shoulder stiffness. Could the Padres make a big play for Mychal Givens?
8. Atlanta Braves (16-12, No. 8)
The Braves were expected to be at or near the top of a very tough NL East. They are on top, but the rest of the division hasn’t really shown up with the Mets, Phillies and defending champion Nationals all below .500. Still, something is missing. The season-ending Achilles injury to Mike Soroka makes it necessary that they make a play for a top-tier starter. That is, if they really are Big Game Hunting.
9. Chicago White Sox (17-12, No. 16)
Rick Renteria’s boys have moved into the top 10 after winning nine of their last 12. Lucas Giolito finally looked like the version they counted on to be “the man.” It also looks as if pitching coach Don Cooper has Dallas Keuchel back to his old self. And the pitching coach’s newest pupil, Dylan Cease, is coming on fast. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Jose Abreu hit six homers in a three-game series against the Cubs.
10. Chicago Cubs (17-10, No. 4)
Jon Lester’s six-year, $155 million deal comes to a close at the end of 2020. The Cubs do hold a team option for 2021. Would you be looking to pick that up? I am asking for a friend. Lester’s ERA is 5.06, and he has given up seven home runs in 26.2 innings. Don’t rule out a return to Boston in 2021.
11. Houston Astros (15-13, No. 10)
12. St. Louis Cardinals (9-8, No. 14)
13. New York Mets (12-14, No. 21)
14. Toronto Blue Jays (13-13, No. 23)
15. Colorado Rockies (13-15, No. 9)
16. Washington Nationals (11-14, No. 13)
17. Arizona Diamondbacks (13-16, No. 17)
18. San Francisco Giants (14-16, No. 28)
19. Cincinnati Reds (11-15, No. 22)
20. Milwaukee Brewers (11-15, No. 15)
21. Philadelphia Phillies (10-14, No. 12)
22. Miami Marlins (11-11, No. 19)
23. Baltimore Orioles (14-14, No. 20)
24. Kansas City Royals (11-17, No. 24)
25. Texas Rangers (10-17, No. 18)
26. Seattle Mariners (11-19, No. 29)
27. Detroit Tigers (11-15, No. 26)
28. Los Angeles Angels (9-20, No. 25)
29. Boston Red Sox (9-20, No. 27)
30. Pittsburgh Pirates (7-17, No. 30)