School is back in session and I am finally able to get back to my routine. The pace is picking up around Major League Baseball and contenders are beginning to separate themselves from the pretenders. With September roster expansions looming, here are the teams that have set themselves up to win this Fall.
1. Houston Astros(85-47)
The one team that has not shown any weakness so far this season are the Astros. They have multiple Cy Young contenders in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Wade Miley has exceeded expectations as the number three starter. Five eligible batters are batting over .280 with three of them batting over .300. Houston fits the bill to win their second World Series in three years.
2. New York Yankees(85-47)
The Yankees dominated the Los Angeles Dodgers in Chavez Ravine and look to be heading towards a rematch with the Astros in the ALCS. The Bronx Bombers still have an untrustworthy rotation but their home run hitting can make up for it as they set the single-month record for team home runs. DJ LeMahieu should be the current front-runner for MVP. Can New York hang with Houston?
3. Atlanta Braves(80-52)
Move over Dodgers, there is a new best team in the National League and they are hunting you down at a rapid pace. With an eight-game winning streak, the Braves only trail the Dodgers by six games for full NL-home field advantage. Atlanta has the bullpen, the rotation, and the hitting to take out the Dodgers. They are the one team that can end LA’s NL reign.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers(86-46)
In a series where the Dodgers needed to stomp their foot on the MLB, they ended up being stomped on. The Yankees outclassed the boys in blue and LA is left with more questions than answers. Has Hyun-Jin Ryu run out of gas? Is Cody Bellinger back to his inconsistent ways? Will the bullpen ever stabilize? A World Series trilogy is in jeopardy at the moment.
5. Minnesota Twins(79-51)
Everyone is waiting for Minnesota to fold but it has not happened yet. While I believe the Twins are nowhere near the Yankees or Astros, they can make a statement by holding on to the AL Central title and getting three chances to prove their worth instead of a one-and-done wild-card game.
6. Washington Nationals(73-57)
You see what happens when Bryce Harper is no longer a distraction? The Nats have exceeded expectations and have set themselves up to play in the wild-card game. Why no one is talking about Anthony Rendon for MVP is beyond me. He is hitting a stellar .329 with 29 home runs and 104 RBIs. A steady rotation consisting of Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Stephen Strasburg, and Anibal Sanchez could put them in a spot to be the dark horse contender for the NL pennant.
7. St. Louis Cardinals(71-58)
Either the NL Central is dreadful or the Cardinals just know how to get the job done without the attractive stats. I said the Cardinals would win the Central due to the addition of Paul Goldschmidt but they are winning the division by process of elimination because of poor performance by the Cubs and Brewers.
8. Oakland Athletics(74-55)
The Bay Area team are the Clippers of the MLB as they are once again surging late without a major star. With plenty of offense to go around in Marcus Semien, Mark Canha, Matt Olson, and Matt Chapman, the A’s could be the one team on the outside that could shock the baseball world.
9. Cleveland Indians(76-55)
Trading Trevor Bauer may be a blessing in disguise for Cleveland as Bauer has allowed at least seven runs in three of his past six outings but there is nothing really to buy from the Indians as they will just fill one of the AL playoff spots once again.
10. Tampa Bay Rays(76-56)
20 wins above .500 but have not been a talking point at all this season. I feel bad because I can only name Charlie Morton and Blake Snell from their roster. They deserve respect and it would be cool to see them reach the playoffs and receive national attention.
Photo via Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo