MLB – World Series Contenders
As we set our sights on September, the race for the 2017 MLB title is getting real. That’s especially true with the non-waiver trade deadline now behind us.
Sure, seismic swaps could go down provided players clear waivers. However for the most part, contenders’ rosters are set. As such, we can calibrate World Series predictions with a degree of confidence, allowing for the usual fluctuations that come with hot streaks, cold spells and, above all, injuries. Dive in as we take a look at the legitimate class of 2017 World Series contenders.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in baseball. They pace the game with a plus-201 run differential. Then, at the deadline, they added one of the top right-handers in baseball by acquiring Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers.
The only caveat for L.A. is the health of Clayton Kershaw’s back. The left-hander offered reassuring words Tuesday.
“I feel healthy,” Kershaw said, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. “So I think now it’s just a matter of building back up at a good pace, obviously understanding where we’re at and the timeline and all that stuff.”
Assuming they get the best pitcher on the planet back in the fold at full strength, the Dodgers are the prohibitive favorites to win their first pennant and championship since 1988.
The Houston Astros didn’t make any major additions at the deadline, much to the consternation of ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel.
“I’m not going to lie,” Keuchel said, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. “Disappointment is a little bit of an understatement.”
The ‘Stros and Detroit Tigers have “had contact” about right-hander Justin Verlander, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Even without such a needle-moving deal, however, Houston owns the best record (71-41) in the American League.
Reinforcements would be nice, but this club is built for a deep October run.
After looking uncharacteristically hapless for much of the first half, the Chicago Cubs have gone 16-8 since the All-Star break to reclaim the top spot in the National League Central at the time of print.
Their 59-53 record isn’t going to blow anyone away, but the defending champions are trending in the right direction at the right time.
Plus, they acquired left-hander Jose Quintana at the deadline from the crosstown Chicago White Sox, bolstering a suspect rotation. They also nabbed lefty reliever Justin Wilson and veteran catcher Alex Avila from the Tigers.
Those ho-hum early results leave them open to doubters, but the Cubbies are poised to ascend the October stage once again and battle for a repeat.
The Washington Nationals got Max Scherzer back from a neck injury. Now, they need healthy returns from oft-injured right-hander Stephen Strasburg and speedy Trea Turner.
Other than that, the Nats are cruising to another NL East crown. Their offense is loaded, with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy and unheralded star Anthony Rendon leading the Senior Circuit’s highest-scoring attack.
Washington addressed its deficiency in the bullpen by acquiring Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the Oakland Athletics and Brandon Kintzler from the Minnesota Twins.
Now, the Nationals will try to get out of the division series for the first time since taking residence in the nation’s capital.
The defending American League champions didn’t go big at the deadline, as they did in 2016, when they acquired relief ace Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees.
“When you look at the guys we have returning from injury with [starting pitcher] Danny [Salazar], [second baseman] Jason [Kipnis] and [outfielder] Lonnie [Chisenhall], those guys definitely shaped our view of the deadline,” president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said, per Bud Shaw of Cleveland.com.
Fair enough. And the Tribe did bolster its bullpen by nabbing ex-employee Joe Smith from the Toronto Blue Jays. With a 60-50 record and the only positive run differential in the AL Central at plus-99, the Indians are a near-lock to win the division.
Now, we’ll see if they can end baseball’s longest active championship drought.
Boston Red Sox
At time of print the Boston Red Sox hold a four-game lead in the AL East. They’ve won eight of their last 10 and are finally doing what they were supposed to do: dominate.
The addition of speedy infielder Eduardo Nunez and right-handed setup man Addison Reed helped the cause, though there’s uncertainty in the rotation with expensive left-hander David Price nursing an elbow injury.
The Sox are a safer bet to win the division than they were even a few weeks ago, but they remain a tick below the Junior Circuit’s top contenders.
New York Yankees
The Yankees still have the best run differential in the AL East at plus-113. Yet, they’ve dropped six of 10 and sit four games back of the rival Red Sox.
They were aggressive at the deadline, netting relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and slugger Todd Frazier from the White Sox. They then landed ace right-hander Sonny Gray from the A’s.
In the process, general manager Brian Cashman wisely avoided mortgaging the farm.
With questions in the back of the rotation and a protracted slump by rookie Aaron Judge, however, the up-and-coming Yanks are holding onto wild-card hopes rather than legitimate World Series dreams.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are overshadowed by the Dodgers in the NL West, but make no mistake: These Snakes are for real.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is an MVP contender, while resurgent ace Zack Greinke is ready to pitch in a potential one-and-done wild-card play-in.
Overall, the D-backs rank fourth in the NL in runs scored and OPS and second in ERA.
They won’t catch L.A., but they wouldn’t be the first squad to ride a wild-card berth to a champagne-and-confetti shower.
Speaking of NL West clubs with October aspirations, the Colorado Rockies sit at 64-49, just a half-game back of Arizona for the Senior Circuit’s top wild-card position.
As per usual, Colorado has scored its share of runs and ranks third in that category in MLB. These Rockies can also pitch a little, however, as they own the eighth-best road ERA in the game.
They added All-Star right-hander Pat Neshek and veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy at the deadline. Neither is a game-changer by himself, but both signify a rising win-now mentality in the Mile High City.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals could have sold at the deadline, offloading a cache of soon-to-be free agents including outfielder Lorenzo Cain, third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer and left-hander Jason Vargas.
Instead, K.C. is going all-in for one more run with the core that brought it a pennant in 2014 and a Commissioner’s Trophy in 2015.
It’s not a ludicrous notion. At 57-55, the Royals are four games behind the Indians in the AL Central and one game back of the AL’s second wild-card slot.
They didn’t have the MiLB chips to add any headline-grabbing cavalry at the deadline, though they did snag outfielder and old friend Melky Cabrera from the White Sox.
Kansas City is mired in the AL’s second tier, a group that includes teams not mentioned here because of their FanGraphs’ odds, including Seattle, the Minnesota Twins, the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Angels.
These Royals have a recent championship pedigree, however, and while that doesn’t mean everything, it does mean something.
World Series Winner
|Los Angeles Dodgers
|Boston Red Sox
|New York Yankees
|St. Louis Cardinals
|Kansas City Royals