1. David Price, Rays SP
Price has re-established himself as the ace of baseball's deepest rotation while staging a comeback run at the Cy Young award after a few folks had already engraved Jered Weaver's name on the trophy (OK, I was one of those who did.) Price's 2.39 ERA is now tops in the American League, with his four main competitors for Cy Young honors -- Justin Verlander (2.53), Felix Hernandez (2.60), Chris Sale (2.72) and Weaver (2.74) -- trailing him. Price also now leads the league in wins with 16 and is third behind Verlander and King Felix with his 159 strikeouts.
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He has been consistently the hardest thrower in baseball this year, and lately he's been the most consistently dominant as well. In his last 10 starts, he's lasted at least seven innings, and in those games he's allowed zero runs or one run six times and two or three runs four times. The Rays may well have established themselves as the wild-card favorite this week with their domination of the talented but disappointing Angels (and that might be selling them short, as they could still catch the Yankees). But even when the Rays were struggling offensively, that hasn't kept Price (16-4) from marching toward a 20-win season.
2. Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers SS
The Dodgers suspected that all he needed was a change of scenery, and that appears to be the case so far. A 10-game trip in which Ramirez hit .395 with 14 RBI helped the Dodgers stay in a first-place tie with the Giants. The excursion began with three games at his old home in Miami, where Ramirez received a mostly negative reception, then responded with six hits in 13 at-bats and five RBIs.
A .240 hitter this year and last in Miami, he's now batting .313 with the Dodgers and has delivered several huge hits. In 24 games, he has 27 RBI, providing that needed third big bat to go with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.
Ramirez, still only 28, seems to have regained his mojo after the trade he welcomed. And the Dodgers look wise for being the one team willing to pay his entire $15-million-plus salary through 2014. The strapped-for-cash Marlins couldn't pass up the chance to extricate themselves from the contract of a player who was seen as a negative (even if he was the personal favorite of club owner Jeffrey Loria). But it still looks like a much better deal for the Dodgers.
3. Johnny Cueto, Reds SP
Cueto garnered his greatest publicity the week he became perhaps the biggest All-Star snub. But he's continued to pitch brilliantly, and under the radar. Overall, he's 16-6 with a 2.64 ERA, and his last two starts were bookend eight-inning gems against the Cubs.
Everything is breaking right for the Reds, who have continued to prosper even in the absence of superstar Joey Votto. Two more big reasons for that are infielder Todd Frazier, who has seven multi-hit games in his last 11 and is a viable Rookie of the Year candidate (also in an under-the-radar style) and outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who has a stunning 10 home runs in his last 20 games and 25 overall. Folks have only started to notice what Ludwick's doing, but at this point, it's unavoidable.
1. Dan Uggla, Braves 2B
He's made this undesirable list before, and he gets the dishonor again by going 3 for his last 25. It's true his .236 August might seem like a hot streak after Uggla hit .115 in July (when he represented the NL in the All-Star Game) and an only slightly better .160 in June. If the Braves have something special going, and it certainly seems they do, it's mostly in spite of Uggla, their highest-paid player.
2. Ryan Dempster, Rangers SP
Hard to believe he's here again, but it's been a rough go for the ex-Cub during his first couple weeks in the American League. And this week was a doozy. After getting toasted in his most recent start, it was reported in the Dallas Morning News that Dempster had to miss a start this weekend in Toronto because he couldn't find his passport (as a National Leaguer, he hadn't played there since 2004).
What's really odd is that he's a native of Sechelt, B.C., Canada. The team only said his absence was due to "personal reasons" but in any case, it's hard to believe it was a big loss for the team, as he has an 8.31 ERA in three starts for the Rangers after having a 2.25 ERA for the Cubs. Maybe he should have accepted the trade to the Braves, after all. At the very least, they don't have any more games in Canada this year.
3. Matt Holliday, Cardinals OF
Another All-Star, Holliday was one of the hottest hitters in the game through July. But he's really hit the skids lately, going two for his last 32 to drop his batting average to .301. His OPS (.899) is below .900 for the first time since July 1. He was 0-for-7 in the Cardinals 4-3, 19-inning defeat to the Pirates, one of their main rivals in the wild-card race. The victory was huge for Pittsburgh, even emotionally, as it was a 19-inning defeat last year that started them on a downhill slide.