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MLB Power Rankings 2012: Second-Half Sleeper Teams That Will Make Noise

After the All-Star break, each MLB season shows its true colors.

Teams that dominated the first half must continue to play consistently well, otherwise a disappointing finish is in the works. And then there are the sleeper teams like the Los Angeles Angels, who from April through May have been hovering around the Wild Card standings.

Here, let’s look at the Angels and some other teams that will make noise when the second half of 2012 bats up.


Full view of MLB power rankings.


Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates never provided any glimmer of hope until the 2011 season began. And although they faded toward the end, Pittsburgh has clearly used that as a catalyst for 2012.

Currently in second place in the NL Central, Pittsburgh sits at 38-34 before Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia. Only two games back of the division leading Cincinnati Reds, the Buccos have a number of favorable series to start the second half.

Beginning with Milwaukee, Pittsburgh then plays the Marlins, Cubs (two series) and Astros before making the trip to Cincinnati. With one of the best ERA’s in baseball, if Pittsburgh’s offense can feed off the production of Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates will contend for pennant.


New York Mets

Until the Mets win a number of consecutive World Series, they will always play second-fiddle to the Yankees.

Well, 2012 has potential as the Mets sit third in the NL East at 39-35 heading into Tuesday’s game with the Cubs. Right now the Wild Card race is really wide open, and barring a late-season plunge like 2007 and 2008, the Mets will be the ones making noise down the stretch.

Ranking No. 2 in the bigs with 48 quality starts, the Mets also have an offense capable of pushing the pace. Now the beginning of the second half will test New York, however, because series against Atlanta, Washington and the Los Angeles Dodgers could put the Mets in the hole.

Fortunately the end of the season is a little lighter, with Miami (two series), Milwaukee and Philadelphia intermingled around Pittsburgh (home) and Atlanta.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim got off to a surprisingly slow start. At the end of April the Angels were sitting at 7-15, and weren’t much better with a 18-25 record as May began to close.

Since then, however, L.A. has avenged the early season woes and holds a 40-33 record as it prepares for a two-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. Saved by arguably the best and most consistently dominant pitching staff (No. 4 in ERA and quality starts), the offense has gradually improved.

What’s even scarier is how great the Angels will be in the second half. We know Albert Pujols will get back on track, and the current play of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo has been nothing short of impressive.

Provided the Angels simply continue to rise, opening second-half series against the Yankees, Tigers and Rangers will tell us how much we can expect from the Halos later on.


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MLB Rumors: Should the Cleveland Indians Make a Deal for Michael Young?

Back in early February, Texas Rangers third baseman Michael Young officially asked to be traded.

However, the Rangers have yet to be involved with any serious offers.

Part of the reason is that Young is set to make $48 million over the next three seasons. Also, Texas is asking for grade-A talent, which could only make matters more difficult.

On March 19th, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that the Rangers are willing to roughly split the $48 million in order to get a deal done.

With that said, should the Cleveland Indians attempt to make an offer?

Well, after trading away fan favorites in Victor Martinez, Casey Blake and Ben Francisco, the Tribe could use someone like Michael Young. They also traded away CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee (consecutive Cy Young award winners in 2007 and 2008).

As for Young, he is a seasoned vet with a legitimate amount of postseason experience who can be a leader for the younger players. In 2010, he batted .284 with 21 homers while driving in 91 runs and hitting 36 doubles.

Since 2002, he is averaging .303 at the plate with 16 jacks, 84 RBI and 36 doubles. The stats are there and are definitely worth considering.

Last season, only Sin-Shoo Choo on the Tribe was comparable to Michael Young, which shows that Cleveland could be in dire straits come 2011.

Also, only Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Fausto Carmona have multi-million dollar deals, so the Tribe possibly could afford to offer Young a rather long-term deal.

For starters, he is 34 years old and may only have a few good years left.

However, with a new contract and a new team, Young could be willing to take a bit less for a team in a smaller market. The difference here is that he would immediately become the big fish in a small pond.

In Texas, there was Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Hamilton, Cliff Lee (although now in Philly), Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler.

Michael Young could make an immediate impact in Cleveland and become a fan favorite in the process.

The Indians need an experienced third baseman, and it would make their infield very good along with Luis Valbuena and Asdrubal Cabrera.

So, Tribe fans, should the Cleveland Indians make a deal for Texas Ranger Michael Young? You be the judge. 

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Los Angeles Dodgers: 9 Innings of Trade Candidates for James Loney

After a disappointing 2010 campaign, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed first-baseman James Loney only to a one-year deal.

With a decrease in home-runs and batting average each of the last four seasons, anything more than a one-year deal may have been questioned.

So, the question remains; Should the Dodgers give him one more year to get back on track, or put him on the trade block?

Well, here are some potential candidates if L.A. chooses the latter. 

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Philadelphia Phillies: Have We Already Seen the Best of Chase Utley’s Career?

After thumb surgery in July of 2010, Chase Utley was limited to only 115 games last season.

This is a bit of a concern because, prior to becoming a significant part of the Phillies in 2005, Utley had only played in 137 games through his first two seasons.

From 2005 though 2009, Chase averaged 150 games per year, so a 35-game drop in 2010 definitely shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Heading into 2011, Utley has yet to play in a spring training game after receiving a cortisone shot in his right knee.

The reason for the shot was the abnormal longevity of pain that Chase has felt in his knee.

In an article by the news services, Utley said:

“I’ve had it maybe in terms of pain here and there. But this is lingering longer than it has in the past. So with that said, there is a little bit of level of concern. But I think we’re doing the right things to try to get it better.”

So, baseball fans, has the City of Brotherly Love seen the best of Chase Utley?

Well, we need not worry about the glove, because the Phils’ starting pitching staff (Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt and Blanton) makes his job that much easier.

However, Utley’s bat may be of concern since his average has been gradually on the decline since 2008.

He has also seen a decrease in home runs, doubles, hits and RBI since 2008 as well.

With all this being said, it is expected that his numbers will also decrease in 2011, especially if his knee doesn’t get better.

But, even in that event, his intangibles are second to none, which play a pivotal role in the dugout.

At age 32, Chase Utley may be on the back nine of his career; however comebacks can happen, and don’t be surprised if 2011 acts as a lead into a healthy/sensational 2012.

Therefore, how will Chase Utley fare in 2011 Philly fans? Play ball! (Or, I mean, debate.)   

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Los Angeles Dodgers: Breaking Down Each Big Injury Concern Heading into 2011

Heading into the upcoming season, new skipper Don Mattingly and the Los Angeles Dodgers have not been hit with a slew of injuries.

However, that’s no excuse for not being concerned with what injuries they do have.

There are only four of note:

1. Pitcher Vicente Padilla’s elbow surgery.

2. Outfielder Jay Gibbons with the flu.

3. Pitcher Tim Redding with an illness.

4. Pitcher Dana Eveland’s strained hamstring.

Spring training has just begun; therefore, Dodger fans, let’s hope this is as bad as it gets.

Here is a breakdown for each injury/illness and what else to look for as time progresses.

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Adam Wainwright Injured: 11 Reasons Chris Carpenter Will Move If Waino’s Done

When it became known that Adam Wainwright was injured and may need Tommy John surgery, virtually every sports media outlet was all over it.

like any serious sports fan, questions from every angle must have come to your mind:

“How exactly did he get injured?”

“How will the Cardinals adapt to his injury?”

“Does this affect Albert Pujols?”

However, one person that may be of particular concern is Chris Carpenter.

With that being said, don’t be surprised if he moves on. Take a look.

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Michael Pineda vs. Dustin Ackley: Who’ll Have Better Seattle Mariners Career?

Outside of the Seattle Mariners farm system, both of these players are virtually unknown.

Also, both have taken different routes prior to being put on the Mariners’ active roster list.

Ackley went the college route and played three years for the University of North Carolina.

Not to mention he finished runner-up to Stephen Strasburg for the 2009 Golden Spikes Award (nation’s top amateur baseball player).

As for Pineda, he bounced around through six different minor leagues from 2006 through 2010.

However, currently he ranks as the Mariners’ second best prospect.

The Seattle Mariners look to be on the rise, and 2011 has higher expectations.

Both players have a great amount of potential, but who will be the better Mariner?

There’s only one way to to stir up a discussion.

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