With September starting this week, the playoff push for Major League Baseball is heating up fast. With that being said, it’s time to look at the World Series contenders by tier.
Tier I: World Series or Bust
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are currently flirting with a .700 winning percentage, and they have no doubt been the best team in baseball this season. Despite notable injuries among the pitching staff in Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, the Dodgers have shown they have the depth to still be one of the best rotations in the league with Tyler Anderson, Julio Urias, and Tony Gonsolin at the helm. The Dodgers have a lethal lineup as well with Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, Will Smith and Gavin Lux all having an OPS above .800. This combination of pitching and hitting makes the Dodgers the favorite to win the World Series.
New York Yankees
At one point this season, it looked like the Yankees were the clear-cut favorites to win the World Series. That isn’t the case anymore considering their current slump, but the Yankees should still consider anything less than a title a failure. Aaron Judge has been carrying this Yankees team on his back with his stunning 49 home runs and 1.048 OPS. D.J. LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo are great compliments to Judge to complete a lethal lineup. Pitching is an area of concern for the Yankees. Nestor Cortes and Jameson Taillon have been pleasant surprises for the most part, but Gerrit Cole and Frankie Montas will need to be better come October.
New York Mets
The Mets have controlled a challenging NL East for the majority of the season, and, like the Dodgers, they have a great combination of pitching and hitting. With a rotation consisting of Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker, the Mets are poised for a playoff push this season. Behind the plate, the Mets have a plethora of quality players, and they are led by the likes of Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso. Anything short of a World Series should be a disappointment for the Mets.
The Braves are hanging around in the NL East, and they now sit just 3 games behind the Mets. After a slow start to the season, the Braves have been playing great baseball over the last few months, and it looks like they are poised to repeat for another title. The Braves have plenty of firepower behind the plate in Dansby Swanson, Matt Olson, Austin Riley and Ronald Acuña Jr. On the mound, Max Fried and Kyle Wright, and Spencer Strider have been fantastic, but the Braves will need the rest of their starting lineup to improve if they are going to repeat as World Series champs.
Justin Verlander is having a Cy Young season with a 1.84 ERA, and he is leading a dominant Astros’ pitching staff consisting of Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier. Behind the plate, the Astros have had plenty of production from Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez. The Astros have been no strangers to late October runs, and this year should be no different.
Tier II: So you’re saying there’s a chance?
St. Louis Cardinals
This Cardinals team reminds me a lot of last year’s Braves team that struggled somewhat initially but got hot at the right time to win the World Series. It looks like the Cardinals will win the NL Central, and they have the potential to make a deep playoff run on the backs of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
San Diego Padres
The Padres made a huge splash at the trade deadline, but it has yet to pay off. With a lineup consisting of Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Josh Bell, anything should be possible for the Padres. Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish have been solid on the mound for the Padres, but they will need more from the rest of their rotation if they are going to go deep in the playoffs.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays were my preseason pick to win the World Series, but they have been far too inconsistent this season to keep pace with the Yankees in the AL East. Despite their inconsistencies, the Blue Jays find themselves in a great position to earn a Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays have plenty of firepower at the plate, but they will need two pitchers to emerge alongside Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman if they are going to push for a World Series title.
Tier III: Make the playoffs first
The Phillies are looking like a playoff team right now and are currently four games clear of the Brewers. They will have an uphill battle, though, if they are going to make a run against a loaded National League playoff field. The pitching staff has been good, but not great, so the Phillies will need to improve drastically if they want to win it all.
The Brewers are currently out of a Wild Card spot and have been losing ground on the Cardinals in the division rapidly. With a starting rotation that consists of Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, anything is possible, but the Brewers need to win some ball games soon.
Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Guardians, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox
I lumped these teams together because all of them are in the playoff race, but all of them have some serious weaknesses they need to address. The Guardians, Twins and White Sox have all struggled in a horrendous AL Central, and the Mariners, Orioles and Rays have all dealt with some pretty horrendous stretches of baseball this season too. It’s a long shot for any of these teams, but they all have a chance of at least making the playoffs.