Silver Linings For Non-Playoff Teams In The N.L.
Last week I discussed the silver linings for fans of American League clubs to look forward to in the last month of a season. It’s not easy to drag yourself to the ballpark or even flip on MLB TV for a team that has been out of contention since early-May.
This week it’s time to take a look at the National League. While the N.L. as a league has more times with more to play for than the A.L., there’s still a few teams whose players have been able to make October vacation plans for quite a while. The Dodgers put the majority of the N.L. West clubs on the radar of travel agents nearly as soon as the season started.
Here’s what fans of clubs who won’t be seen anywhere near a playoff game have to look forward to in the final month of the season.
All stats as of 8/21, via Baseball Reference
Pittsburgh Pirates (52-74) – Young Guys Battling for 2020 Jobs
Yeah, this isn’t exactly what you want to hear that you’ve got to watch for September, but after a brutal second half, that’s where the Pirates are.
While the playoffs won’t be sniffed, and they’re still trying to forget the Chris Archer deal, some really positive things have happened this season that bode well for the future.
Bryan Reynolds solidified himself as a solid franchise piece in the outfield, and Josh Bell finally tapped into his power potential (at least in the first half). The rest of September will be served for guys trying to lock down gigs in April.
Mitch Keller has been mostly a disaster in his brief appearances with the big club, but the Pirates don’t really have any reason not to give him the ball every 5th day in September and see if he can learn enough to compete in April. Kevin Newman will look to show enough to convince the brass that he might be the SS of the future after all, while Cole Tucker should get the ABs somewhere to compete for that same job.
Colorado Rockies (58-69) – Three Offensive Superstars
If we’re being honest, the Rockies not being in striking distance of a playoff spot as the calendar nears September is pretty surprising (especially to me, as I picked them as my N.L. West sleeper team). I at least assumed they’d be chasing down a Wild Card spot with reckless abandon, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Regardless, Rockies fans each game get to see three incredible talents in Arenado, Story, and Blackmon. Arenado is the rare player in modern baseball who’s just as fun to watch in the field as he is at the plate, and he’s really fun to watch at the plate (fun fact – Arenado’s current .918 OPS, which is elite, is his lowest in four years).
Story & Blackmon just continue to rake, and while some of that can be attributed to Coors Field (both do see a significant drop in their slashlines away from home), you can’t deny production when it’s in your face, and even if they’re not playing at home either guy is capable of hitting a moonshot. They might be out of contention, but the Rockies are a fun MLB TV team for any fan.
San Diego Padres (59-57) – Current & Future Superstars
The Padres are technically not out of it; they’re 8.5 back in the Wild Card, but would need an incredible September run. This is even more challenging considering they just put their best player, 20-year-old (still somehow just 20!) Fernando Tatis Jr. on the IL for the rest of the season.
By virtue of having a loaded farm system entering the year, combined with a front office that has actually (gasp) spent money in free agency, the Padres still have a lot of excitement to watch in September.
Manny Machado is still on a future Hall of Fame pace (he’s about to pass the lowest of bars, this year’s inductee Harold Baines, in WAR) and he’s surrounded by a bunch of exciting young guys.
Hunter Renfroe is never going to win a batting title (he might struggle to get on base at higher than a .310 clip for the rest of his career, frankly) but he can hit the ball to Mars. Chris Paddack might not win a Cy Young as a rookie, as it appeared after his first wo weeks in the big leagues, but he’s still nasty (but might be shut down to limit his innings in September).
Other young guys like Josh Naylor, Francisco Mejia, and Luis Urias could use September to get a crack at a big league job in April. September is a really exciting time for the future of the Padres.
Miami Marlins (45-80) – Nothing
Just watch someone else.
By Kyle Bandujo