Less than a month remains in the 2016 Major League Baseball regular season, which provides us with a tidy occasion to examine where the races for the individual awards stand. This time out, we’ll look at the AL Manager of the Year derby.

Before we dive in, let’s point out that these aren’t our predictions or even necessarily how we would vote. It’s a snapshot of where things stand, and we’re making subjective judgments on how the vote could turn out based on recent historical voting tendencies.

These days the Manager of the Year award seems to go to the manager whose team most exceeded expectations, and/or has improved the most from last season. With that in mind, let’s power rank the AL Manager of the Year hopefuls with just a few weeks to go.

usatsi9501671.jpgFrancona and the Indians have seen success this year. USATSI

1. Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

Francona, who was named the 2013 AL Manager of the Year with Cleveland, oversees a team that has already matched its win total from last season (81) with 23 games still to play. The Indians have been able to do that despite getting only 11 ineffective games from Michael Brantley , their best player. He’s been out most of the season with ongoing shoulder trouble.

On top of that, the Indians lost starters Danny Salazar (elbow) and Carlos Carrasco (hamstring) for long stretches of time. Ditto catcher Yan Gomes (shoulder). And yet, despite all of that, they Indians currently hold a six-game division lead. The improvement from last season and the firm grip on the AL Central title makes Francona the AL Manager of the Year favorite at this point in time.

2. Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers

No AL team has spent more days in first place this season than the Rangers (127). They’ve done that with a rotation that, at times, could legitimately be described as patchwork. Yu Darvish , Derek Holland , and Colby Lewis all spent significant time on the disabled list, as has outfielder Shin-Soo Choo . Prince Fielder was medically forced into retirement at midseason as well. The Rangers survived a July surge by the Houston Astros and have been in first place since May 29.

The reason I have Banister, last season’s AL Manager of the Year, behind Francona is the fact the Rangers won the AL West last season. They won 88 games a year ago and were again expected to contend in 2016. The Indians were just about a .500 team a year ago and this season they’re on pace to win 94 games. History suggests the voting body will consider that and lean Francona.

3. Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

We had Showalter atop our previous Manager of the Year power rankings three weeks ago, and he’s slipped to third because the Orioles have fallen out of first place and into a fight for the second wild-card spot. They spent 111 days in first before the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox passed them in the standings. The O’s are still in the postseason mix despite some major pitching problems, and that’s why Showalter is third in our power rankings. That rapid fall from first place into the wild-card race will cost Showalter some votes, however. No doubt about it.

Also in the mix: John Gibbons, Blue Jays; Joe Girardi, New York Yankees ; A.J. Hinch, Astros

Source: CBS Sports Headlines / AL Manager of the Year Power Rankings: Indians’ Terry Francona ahead of the pack