It’s the middle of July and you know what that means! Sports fans get to watch baseball and only baseball for the next few months! If you’ve been caught up in all of the NBA craziness and haven’t been keeping tabs on the action since my 2017 MLB Predictions, have no fear… I’ll bring you up to speed. Let’s take a look at what’s been going on in the AL and what chaos lies just around the corner.
In the AL, the Astros have jumped to an astounding 16.5 game lead in the AL West, and their 60-29 record is just .5 games shy of the Dodgers for the best in the MLB. While I had predicted Houston to win their division, I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the dominance that Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer have unleashed across the league. Three of the All-star leading vote-getters, the trio never seems to have an off night (and it’s been great having Correa and Springer on my fantasy team). With the lead the Astros hold, they would literally have to lose for an entire month straight to be in danger of dropping out of the division lead. With that in mind, whether or not they keep up their hot play, consider them a lock for the AL West crown.
The other talking point is whether or not the Rangers and Mariners will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. With these teams only a handful of games out of Wild Card contention, they must quickly decide if they can build a World Series around their current assets, or if they should let them go for top future talent. It’s always a tough spot to be in with only a few weeks left to determine if they have what it takes, but remaining stagnant is never a good option.
In my opinion, I think the Rangers certainly need to be sellers. Their roster has an average age of 29.5 which is good for 26th out of 30 MLB teams. That’s not a recipe for future success, and Texas needs to be honest with themselves here. Even if they pick up controllable bullpen help or the power hitter they’ve been lacking, and it happens to be enough to squeak into the Wild Card, I can’t imagine they’ll get past the division winners in the ALDS. Then, they’ll be in an even worse position in 2018. It’s always tough to give up halfway through the year, but they have to look at the bigger picture.
Unfortunately, both the Rangers and Mariners are currently anticipating buying, and I hope they don’t go through with this huge mistake. Also, keep in mind that they still trail a Trout-less Angels team for second in the division. If Texas and Seattle aren’t better than L.A. now, there is no way they will be after Trout returns… no matter what new bat they could acquire. They better change their tune in the next two weeks before its too late.
The surprise team of the American League is undoubtedly the Minnesota Twins. In fact, I still don’t know how they’re within a series sweep of 1st place. If you remember, I ripped them apart in my preseason predictions, placing them 4th because the White Sox traded away all of their good players last offseason (and now Jose Quintana). Nonetheless, I must have lit a fire under this gang of misfits as they have showcased a balanced hitting attack night after night, as well as strong outings from their starters. Not to mention, Brandon Kintzler is probably the most underrated closer in the game today right beside Corey Knebel. But seriously- if you want a good laugh, read what I said about the Twins in my AL Central Preview at the beginning of the year. At least I’m proud to say I called Jose Berrios’ rise in the organization!
As I previously mentioned, the last place White Sox traded their ace to the Cubs. Luckily for Quintana, he won’t need to hire a real estate agent as his new home ballpark is 30 minutes away from his old one. I love this move to the “friendly confines.” Quintana has an ERA north of 4.48 this year, but he has seemingly shrugged off a rocky start by avoiding a loss in every appearance since June 11. While it hasn’t been the season Quintana would have liked to this point, the Cubs are showing a great deal of confidence in the 28-year-old to revive their ailing starting rotation.
As for the White Sox, the best farm system in the MLB gets even deeper. Yes, the Yankees have a great one too, but I’m seeing a lot of guys being promoted to the MLB so Chicago will carry the torch. As GM Rick Hahn seems prone to do, after he fleeced the Nationals for most of their prospects, he did the same to the Cubs. CWS picks up MLB top-10 prospect Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease (who is a really strong young arm), as well as two other deep options to load up the minors. Soon enough, the White Sox are going to be MLB’s version of the Celtics… leading the division with all of the chips to help them go all the way.
Finally, the Cleveland Indians. Quietly the reigning AL Champions (just 2 runs away from MLB Champions might I remind you), they find themselves in 1st place again. It took the majority of the first half of the season for Cleveland to overcome the Twins, but now they’re in prime position for another deep playoff run. Assuming the Twins dip off and the Tigers sell at the deadline, the Indians will only have to fend off the Royals to secure back-to-back AL Central titles. Because of recent successes and stability in the organization, I won’t be surprised if you don’t hear Cleveland pop up in any rumors over the coming weeks. As long as they stay the course, they can look ahead to a best-of-5 series in October.
At last, you get to hear more about the most-talked-about team of 2017 so far. The Yankees rise and fall back to Earth has been well documented, but hardly surprising in my opinion. New York has long held the most prized farm system in the league, and when it was time for the best young talent in the world to finally showcase their skills in the MLB, there’s no wonder as to why they’ve exploded out of the gate. Of course, the unprecedented success of Aaron Judge is an outlier, and I’m anxious to see just how long he can make a mockery of the MLB.
Anyway, the baseball season is 162 games long for a reason. Sure enough, the Yankees hot streak has fizzled out, and they are now on the bubble for a Wild Card spot. As I said at the beginning of the year, unless GM Brian Cashman makes one more big move at the deadline, New York will be on the outside looking in come October. If that disappoints you, they’re my 2018 World Series favorite so hang in there.
As for the division leader and my World Series champion, the Boston Red Sox are in a great position to finish the season on top. With the rest of the division floundering and the 2nd place Rays losing one of their hottest hitters in Colby Rasmus, there isn’t a lot to get in Boston’s way. Chris Sale has benefited leaving Chicago and is now having perhaps the best year of his career with the Red Sox, and besides David Price, the rest of the staff is following suit.
Furthermore, after a sluggish start by Mookie Betts and Co., the Boston bats have caught fire leading up to the break. Despite not quite having the offensive year fans had anticipated, there are plenty of signs anticipating a solid second half of the season. The only question will be if they have a roster that has what it takes to win in October. I’m looking forward to seeing what depth they might add around July 31 to ensure a deep postseason run.