Somehow we’ve already hit the All-Star break, and what a MLB first-half it was. Home runs flew at a record pace (even in the Home Run Derby) and MLB continued its further descent into a three-true-outcomes league.
Aside from a few surprises though, right now division races have gone mostly chalk, as with most favorites pulling ahead. Here’s a look at how the first half played out, and what to watch out for in the second half.
Pre-Season Favorite – New York Yankees
Current Leader – New York Yankees (57-31)
What if I told you that the Yankees would have gotten almost zero contribution from:
- Giancarlo Stanton
- Luis Severino
- Dellin Betances
- Miguel Andujar
- Greg Bird
plus less than half the season of contribution from Aaron Judge, and still be in first place? Turns out when you get excellence from DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez, you don’t even really need the guys above.
Just kidding, they’ll totally need them at some point, but right now the Yankees have a strong 6.5 game lead.
Sure, the Rays are only 6.5 back as opposed to the Sox’s 9, but after a slow start they’ve come on strong, winning 5 of 6 heading into the All-Star Break. They’ll need to add pitching to make a run, but if anyone can catch Yankees, it’s Boston (or the injury bug).
Tampa needs perfect health and a second half where Brendan McKay looks like an above average big league starter (a tall task for a guy in his first taste of the bigs) as they unfortunately won’t be getting a boost from Brent Honeywell, and any hope for Tyler Glasnow to return might be wishful thinking.
Pre-Season Favorite – Cleveland Indians
Current Leader – Minnesota Twins (56-33)
The All-Star Game host Cleveland Indians have had a really rough go of it so far this year, especially for a team only 5.5 games back. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber has only thrown 35 innings and won’t be throwing anymore until at least August. All-Star RHP Carlos Carrasco has been sidelined with leukemia (fortunately though he should be back by July), and 2019 pre-season MVP candidate Jose Ramirez has symbolized most of the Cleveland offense by somehow turning into a below average player.
The Minnesota Twins have taken full advantage. They entered the break tied for the MLB lead in runs, buoyed by leading MLB in home runs (#bombas). After years of being stricken by pitching woes, they’ve also been surprisingly effective on the mound, ranking 6th in MLB in ERA (ironically right behind Cleveland).
However, 5.5 games can turn in a week, and the Twins are going to have to hold on for dear life to steer this team to an AL Central crown. They’ll look to be buyers at the deadline, maybe targeting a Ken Giles or Kirby Yates (or *eye emojis* a Bumgarner/Smith combo package) and staving off a charge from Cleveland. Health may really be the key factor in the AL Central, if Cleveland gets back to full strength it really could be a tossup.
Pre-Season Favorite – Houston Astros
Current Leader – Houston Astros (57-33)
Honestly, the fact that the A’s are only 7.5 back & the Rangers only 9.0 back is a small miracle, because this Houston team is GOOD. They’ve got a great mix of stars (Bregman, Verlander, Cole, Springer) and guys providing solid production (All-Stars Michael Brantley & Ryan Pressly, Wade Miley, Josh Reddick) to really cruise to an AL West crown.
Oh, and they’ll get Carlos Correa back hopefully later this month, along with Brad Peacock. As many advantages as this team already has over the rest of the division, it may even have the biggest trump card in terms of prospect Kyle Tucker, who’s the best trade chip of any team in the division.
Don’t count out the A’s or Rangers for a Wild Card spot, though. The Rangers are currently in the middle of a buy/sell debate for the deadline, so the next couple weeks are crucial to see if they’ll hang onto Minor & Pence or decide to wave a white flag and stock up for next year.
By Kyle Bandujo