As we hit June in the MLB season we have realizations that even the boldest of MLB writers may not have predicted. The Brewers are tied with the Cubs for first place, the Twins lead everyone in the AL Central, Eric Thames can still hit and Masahiro Tanaka can’t keep the ball in the yard. As fun as the season has started out, the rest of the year is shaping up to be even better, and not at all what we expect.
1) The Astros will not have the biggest division lead by the end of the season.
This has nothing to do with the Astros team as a whole. They are playing like the best team in baseball and few can make an argument against them. Their ten game win streak was something we could possibly expect again this year. This has to do with the quality of the division they play in and the quality of the division the Washington Nationals play in. No team is currently over .500 other than the Nationals in the NL East, who are viewed as the second best team in the league at the moment. As of today, the Nats hold a 12 game lead and as the Mets self destruct and the Marlins, Braves and Phillies continue to rebuild the Nats face no competition for the rest of the year. If they can beat up on their competition in their division, nothing’s stopping them from wrapping up their division early and by a lot.
2) The Royals will sell
Two years ago the Royals were celebrating their first World Series championship in 30 years. Back to present day, the Royals check in in last place and with core players set to be free agents. With no clear direction the Royals best option is to set for another rebuild. They don’t have the room to keep both Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas amoung others. Contenders like the Red Sox should look to acquire Moustakas and teams like the Astros could call about Hosmer. As sad as it will be for George Brett and Royals fans, there is no other option.
3) The Diamondbacks will hang on, the Rockies will not, the Cardinals will prevail
The NL wild card race will be fierce. The Rockies and D-backs are locked in as of early June, but it’s very early and the St. Louis Cardinals are seasoned veterans. The Cardinals will sneak up behind the Rockies as the season ends and eventually overtake them in the standings. The Cardinals have simply underperformed all year. It shouldn’t take more than a few simple fixes or a trade or two to bring the team to wild card contention. The Rockies are full of young pitching and players who have never competed in competitive games in September yet in their careers. The Cardinals who do so every year, will fare better when the time comes. The Diamondbacks on the other hand have a mix of young players and experience. Their ace Zach Greinke has experience unlike any starter on the Rockies. I am also discounting the Brewers, who don’t have the depth in the rotation or the bullpen to stick around in contention.
The Astros need a starter if they want to go all the way. There is no doubt that they could possibly do it without the added bonus, but with their assets in the farm system, they will be able to take down the competition easier. Both Cole and Quintana have been heavily involved in trade rumors and are both expected to be on the move this year. Both would make sense on the Astros, as Cole has big game experience and Quintana would add depth. Although Cole would come at a higher cost, the Astros time is now and they will be willing to give up what it takes to get him.
5) Division winners will be…
Red Sox, Indians, Astros, Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers. At the end of the year, three of the six current division leaders will remain. The Red Sox will get fully healthy finally and overtake a Yankees team that just isn’t as good as they’ve been. The Indians are too good not to overcome the Twins and make a run at the Workd Series again. The Astros and Nationals already have their divisions wrapped up. The Cubs will overcome the early season struggles in a division that won’t offer too much competition. The Dodgers have enough talent to potentially make a run at a World Series finally and definitely enough to take their division.