Baltimore: Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada are both having nice years offensively, and Ty Wiggington has found a major power stroke, having hit nine home runs. While Matt Wieters isn't having a great year, he is having a good one, and is clearly going to be everything he was touted as when he was the consensus best minor league catcher in baseball that was brought up last summer. Kevin Millwood and Brian Matusz have pitched well in the rotation. And as bad as the bullpen has been, Jason Berken and Cla Meredith have done well, and are likely to get expanded roles.
Pittsburgh: Adam LaRoche is the one player in this lineup hitting for some power, while Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones and Ryan Doumit get on base with consistency. Middle reliever Evan Meek has been dazzling, with an 0.53 ERA in seventeen innings of work and Javier Lopez has also pitched well. Of course the careful reader notes the complete absence of any starting pitching from the good news in Pittsburgh. A franchise in need of power arms might see if Ben Roethlisberger's available now that he won't be playing any football until baseball season is well over in the Steel City.
Houston: Starting pitching can sustain itself for the long haul. Roy Oswalt's been very good, with Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez being solid right behind him. The Astros get effective relief work from Matt Lindstrom and Chris Sampson, the latter who might be finding his niche in the pen. Offensively, Jeff Keppinger is doing well, but the best news is really that Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman can't be this bad for an entire year, even allowing that both are on the downside of their careers.
Kansas City: The Royals have a lot of guys who are hitting--Billy Butler and David DeJesus have been solid. Jose Guillen has been a power machine, with eight home runs. Scott Podsednik has been great at getting on base, as has Jason Kendall, who is no longer the worst-hitting catcher in baseball. Now they just need to hit the nights Zack Greinke pitches. The ace has a 2.27 ERA, but is a hard luck 0-3. KC has too many problems to win, but if they hit for Greinke, with Joakim Soria, they'd at least be the best team in baseball the nights last year's Cy Young Award winner pitches.
Prognosis: This may be the bias that comes from seeing a team up close, and having your wife love that team, but I don't see any reason the Orioles should be in with this group or why the fan base should accept being also-rans any longer. The base of talent might be behind the AL East's Big Three of New York, Tampa & Boston, but it shouldn't be in with the trio I've bracketed them with here. They are the one team with hope of becoming more. The Pirates are clearly in the worst shape. Houston and Kansas City could get up to a respectable 75 wins or so, but not much more.
Be back Sunday night to recap Week 5.