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Atlanta Braves’ Win Streak Makes Them Favorite for NL Pennant

The Atlanta Braves have won each of their last 11 games and, in doing so, have firmly established themselves as the team to beat in the National League.

The team’s record now stands at 68-45, just one game in the loss column behind the Pittsburgh Pirates for the best record in the major leagues.

It’s no surprise that Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, two of team’s most talented players, have awakened from long slumps during the Braves’ recent run.

Batting out of the No. 2 hole consistently for the first time all season, Upton is hitting .405 with four homers and 10 RBI during the streak.

Heyward, meanwhile, has been batting leadoff for the first time all year, and the results have been magnificent for manager Fredi Gonzalez. 

The Braves right fielder has scored a whopping 17 runs in the last 11 games to go along with three home runs.

Should these two young outfielders continue their success for the rest of the season, the rest of the National League should be put on notice.

Though each has underperformed as a whole this season, both are capable of carrying a team for long stretches.

Another big reason for the team’s success has been the effectiveness of its pitching staff.

For most teams, losing a pitcher like Tim Hudson for the season would be a death sentence. Not for the Braves, though.

Mike Minor has established himself as the ace of the staff and has been at his best in recent starts, posting a 1.61 ERA in four second-half starts.

Other starters Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran and Alex Wood have ERAs below 4.00, and Brandon Beachy should only get better as he gets further removed from elbow surgery.

Add in a bullpen that has a major league-best 2.44 ERA on the season, and it’s difficult to find holes in this Braves team.

With a 13.5-game lead over the Washington Nationals, the Braves have all but wrapped up the National League East division.

Now they can focus on securing the best record in the NL and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The Braves have just seven games remaining against teams with records above .500, says ESPN’s Buster Olney.

That easy schedule and big divisional lead might even allow the Braves to rest their star players and get healthy for a deep run into October.

Don’t be surprised if the National League’s most complete team racks up over 100 wins by season’s end and runs away with the best record in the Senior Circuit.

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MLB Trade Talk: Borderline Teams Looking to Make Big Moves

The MLB trade deadline is just eight days away, yet many teams are still undecided about being buyers or sellers.

Since five teams in both the American and National League make the playoffs, even some teams that are hovering around .500 believe they still have a shot at playing in October.

Here are a few teams on the cusp of contention who may be in line to make a big move or two before the July 31 deadline.


Philadelphia Phillies


The Phillies are seven games back in both the National League East and Wild Card standings, yet they look like they’ll be buyers in the next week.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of last Sunday that he was “going to try to improve the club somehow.”

Amaro went on to add that he doesn’t think much of the available options right now, but that the team is interested in adding another outfielder and some bullpen help.

On the bullpen front, Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News reported that the Phillies had some interest in Joba Chamberlain of the Yankees.

When Ben Revere broke his foot on July 13, adding an outfielder became a big need for Philadelphia.

While there haven’t been any reported connections to any of the available outfielders, you can bet that Amaro is working the phones in attempting to find an outfielder to replace Revere.


Arizona Diamondbacks


The Diamondbacks are just a 0.5 games out of first place in the National League West, but with the Dodgers coming on strong of late, it’s looking more and more like Arizona will have to win a Wild Card spot in order to make the playoffs.

They’re aiming to improve the team in order to do just that, and have been connected to a number of players in the past few weeks.

The Diamondbacks have suffered through a number of injuries to their pitching staff and could be looking to trade for a reliable starter to pick up the slack.

Jason A. Churchill of speculates that the team could make a play for Bud Norris of the Houston Astros.

Buster Olney of ESPN also reports that the Diamondbacks are one of the teams that are discussing a possible move for Jake Peavy.


Cleveland Indians


The Indians have the best record of these three teams, but they still have a tough road to the playoffs in a very competitive American League playoff race this season.

They’re just 2.5 games back of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central, and according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, have had discussions about adding starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo.

Gallardo would give the team a No. 2 starter to slot behind their ace Justin Masterson.

Heyman also mentions that the Indians are aiming high and are only looking at the best starting pitchers on the market, but they are certainly entertaining other options as well.

Don’t be surprised if you see the Indians connected to other pitchers like Peavy and Norris in the coming days.

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MLB Trade Deadline: 5 Players Who Could Tip the Balance of Power If Moved

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away and there is no doubt that several high-profile players will be changing teams before it passes. Players like Matt Garza, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley could all be dealt soon and may end up having huge impacts on playoff races.

Even the teams in first place coming out of the All-Star break know they have holes to fill, and now that there are two Wild Card spots, more teams feel they can make a run, and you can bet that the players on this list will be pursued heavily.

The following players are ranked according to the impact they can have if traded.

Present and past statistics, as well as present ability, are the best ways to judge the impact a player might have if traded.

It is also important to note how a player’s current environment factors into their statistics. A power hitter who plays in a big park might not have great numbers, but could do a lot for a contending team that plays in a hitters’ park.

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Ranking the Top Five Players in Baseball Under 22 Years Old

More than any other time in recent memory, Major League Baseball is inundated with young budding superstars. Mike Trout has established himself as the best of these young studs, but Manny Machado and Bryce Harper aren’t far behind.

I use 22 as the cutoff since that is the age the majority of college seniors graduate and enter the workforce on a full-time basis. It’s quite amazing that several players in baseball have already established themselves as big-time players when many others their age are just graduating college. (Note: To make this list, players cannot have celebrated their 23rd birthday yet.)

To compile this list, I took into account not only what each player has done to date, but also the potential they offer in the future.

Potential is measured by each player’s performance in the major and minor leagues and their overall package of tools or stuff.

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Yasiel Puig: What People Are Saying About the Young Stud’s Rise to Stardom

Since his call-up from the minor leagues on June 3, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has set the baseball world on fire with a barrage of big hits, long home runs and laser throws (not to mention a few boneheaded base running mistakes).

In 24 games in the big leagues, Puig is hitting an amazing .424 to go along with seven home runs and a slugging percentage just shy of .700.

At this point, when checking the Dodgers’ box scores, it’s far more surprising to see that Puig didn’t do something amazing in a game than to see that he did.

Every hit he gets, it seems, comes in a big spot.

He’s hit a grand slam, he’s thrown out a man to end a game, he has a two-homer game and every single of one his at-bats has become must-see television.

In all my years of watching baseball, I can’t remember any prospect coming up and having the impact that Puig has had in such short order. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper became big-time players in their rookie seasons last year, but neither of them generated anywhere near the excitement that Puig has.

Puig plays with a kind of edge that separates him from his peers. Sometimes it can get him into trouble as he’s been thrown out on the bases and made fielding errors by being over-aggressive, but even his mistakes seem exciting.

He has shown little in the way of plate discipline in working only four walks compared to 19 strikeouts and it’s inevitable that he’ll cool down as pitchers around baseball adjust to him.

Still, Puig has uncanny athletic ability and playing in the big market of Los Angeles will ensure that he remains in the spotlight for a long time coming.

I don’t expect Puig to continue at anywhere near the pace he’s going at now, but he’ll continue to be the most exciting player in baseball even as his batting average drops.

Now, all there is to do is sit back and enjoy the amazing spectacle that is Yasiel Puig.

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