As the second half of the MLB season approaches, the Trade Deadline has forced front offices to re-evaluate their respective team’s position during the time off. As a result, it gives us a chance to gain insight into which teams might tailspin out of sight and which may lay claim to being contenders.
Toronto Blue Jays
In a loaded AL East where the New York Yankees were expected to dominate, the Toronto Blue Jays continue to hang around. Sitting just above the Yankees in the standings, and also staring up at the Boston Red Sox and surging Tampa Bay Rays, the Blue Jays are still a team to keep an eye on.
To this point, Toronto has maintained the second-most runs per game and OPS+. The Blue Jays continue their fearless play behind American League MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr, who is posting a .332 batting average along with 28 home runs and an OPS of 1.089.
Starting pitching has been solid behind Robbie Ray (3.13 ERA) and Hyun-jin Ryu (3.56) to go with flashes of potential from rookie Alek Manoah. The front office has recently worked some trades in order to improve their bullpen, dealing for RHP Adam Climber in a deal with the Miami Marlins, as well as Trevor Richards from the Milwaukee Brewers.
They figure to be on the rise coming into the second half of the season and can look forward to their divisional matchups, including a total of 10 games against the Baltimore Orioles.
Before the season began, the smart money was on the Atlanta Braves to build off their impressive regular seasons from the previous two seasons. Last year, the Braves lead the league in hits, doubles, RBIs, and OPS. However, the team has not lived up to their potential to this point.
Atlanta had a key injury to starting pitcher Mike Soroka, while the arrest of outfielder Marcell Ozuna brought further misfortune. Entering the second half of play with a 44-45 overall record, the Braves are still not out of contention. In fact, the team is still favored by many to reach the postseason.
Still, the Braves appear to be destined to come up short this year. Recent reports indicate that Ronald Acuna Jr has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after suffering from a torn ACL injury. The bullpen has been lackluster, as its currently ranked 21st in all of MLB. In all, there may just be too many intangibles to move around.
New York Mets
After reaching the World Series in 2015, matters have quickly unraveled for the Mets.
Watching from the shadows as the Washington Nationals won it all, while the Braves rose to become contenders, the Mets have finished no higher than third place in their respective division in recent years. This has been despite consecutive Cy Young awards in 2018 and 2019 from starting pitcher Jacob deGrom. In addition, New York has maintained the talents of Rookie of the Year and the owner of a MLB-high 53 home runs in 2019 from Pete Alonso.
deGrom continues to be the face of the franchise and currently leads the league with a 1.08 ERA. There is reason to believe the Mets will find their rhythm in the second half of the season and find their way into the postseason.
Outside of a recently returning Brandon Nimmo, who is maintaining a .317 batting average, Francisco Lindor and his $341 million contract needs to start living up to its value. Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (2.74 ERA) and Taijuan Walker (2.50 ERA) join deGrom at the top of the rotation, with the bullpen ranked within the top five in the league.
Sporting the infamous tag of the longest active playoff drought in North American sports (19 years), the Mariners have headed in one direction only after their record-breaking 2001 campaign in which they set the record for the most wins (116) during a 162-game season. The Houston Astros and Oakland A’s have had their way in the AL West, and are positioned to continue to dominate the division.
In a season in which James Paxton lasted only 1.1 innings before departing for Tommy John surgery, and with 2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis continuing to miss significant time with a knee injury, matters don’t look set to change.
Still, Seattle is pegged for an outstanding second half of the MLB season. Starting pitchers Chris Flexen and Logan Gilbert have both pitched seven innings of shutout baseball in the past week; the third time in which Flexen has done so this season. He joins first-time All-Star Yusei Kikuchi in a formidable-looking rotation. If the Mariners can get starting pitcher Marco Gonzalez back on track, the table is set.
Los Angeles Dodgers
As the reigning World Series Champions, the Dodgers once again looked poised to be among the most complete rosters in the league. Los Angeles has maintained a successful starting rotation that so far is including a career-best year from Walker Buehler; who sports a 2.36 ERA entering the second half of play.
As we approach the second half of the season, an off-year from outfielder Mookie Betts and the continued absence of Corey Seager may showcase cracks in the roster.
Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer is currently on extended leave following an alleged assault, and while no one is expecting the Dodgers to spiral out of control, they sit locked in a three-horse race within the division along with the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. Nothing guaranteed.