Only about a quarter of the MLB regular season has been played, but quite a few teams have emerged as legitimate contenders to make a run at the World Series. While things could change a lot between now and October, here is a look at the five top contenders right now.
Yes, the Tigers right now are battling to stay atop the American League Central, but they will more than likely eventually pull away from the Indians and Royals to win the division. Once they get into the playoffs, they have the perfect staff to make it back to the World Series. With the Giants struggling a bit, they have to be considered the favorites to win it all.
Offensively, reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera is as good as ever. Justin Verlander is a true ace, and they have other reliable pitchers to match up with anyone. Despite being 23-17 through their first 40 games, they have the highest run differential in baseball.
Last season, the Washington Nationals had the best regular season record in baseball. However, they were forced to go without their ace Stephen Strasburg for the last month of the season and the playoffs due to an innings limit. He will be able to pitch in the playoffs this year, which could be bad news for any team trying to make a push.
Washington needs the likes of Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche to start hitting better if they want to relieve some of the pressure their pitching staff faces. If they can do that, Washington will make it back in the playoffs and make a run.
After a super hot start, the Braves have cooled a bit, but still remain one of the top teams in baseball. Justin Upton has had an MVP-type season so far this year, offsetting the struggles of his brother BJ and rewarding anyone who took him in their fantasy baseball league. It’s weird to see an Atlanta team struggle on the mound, but they need to step it up a notch to be a strong contender. Their staff has the makings of a good one, so if they figure it out, they are right behind the Nationals as the favorites in the National League.
After losing Josh Hamilton, among others, the Texas Rangers were supposed to take a step backwards. Thanks to great pitching, the Rangers are sitting with the best record out West and striking fear into teams who have to face them if they make the playoffs.
The one reason why they aren’t higher is that Rangers Ballpark turns into a hitter’s park as the weather heats up. The staff will have to prove that they can still be effective when that happens.
San Francisco Giants
The St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds probably all seem slighted, but it’s hard to ignore the reigning champions. San Francisco is hanging around at the top of the National League West as usual, but this year they have been an impressive offensive team. If their pitching can return to normal, this is a squad that knows how to win when it matters most.