*Note: Originally published in Allentown High School’s Newspaper, the Nutshell*
Graduation is usually a great time to gauge the MLB season that has transpired thus far. By this time, we can usually tell which teams are contenders and which teams are pretenders, as well as which offseason moves have paid off and which haven’t.
Here’s your primer Around the MLB this graduation season.
1. Baltimore Orioles: The O’s surprisingly have the AL’s best record with a 23-13 figure. If the Orioles bolster their rotation at the trade deadline, they will go places; their offense is already locked and loaded.
2. Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz’s final season has been a shocking success (.320 AVG, 10 HR in 34 games), and the same can be said of the Red Sox themselves. Their hitting is the class of the AL right now.
3. Toronto Blue Jays: Things haven’t gone according to plan for Canada’s lone MLB team, but the Jays are too talented to keep up a .500 winning percentage all year.
4. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays always have excellent pitching (6th in runs allowed) and lackluster offense (25th in runs scored). The same old narrative applies this year too.
5. New York Yankees: A surprising cellar-dweller, look for the Yankees to continue their recent improvement. However, it may already be too late for a playoff spot.
1. Chicago White Sox: The ChiSox have had the roster on paper to contend for years, but only now have they put it all together. This team can be dangerous come playoff time if they keep this performance up.
2. Cleveland Indians: One can always count on the Indians teasing a playoff run but ultimately finishing around .500. Cleveland needs to improve to contend in the AL Central.
3. Kansas City Royals: The defending World Series Champions haven’t looked too titanic this year, but that’s sure to change. With a lockdown bullpen, proven offense, and the chance to improve the rotation, the Royals should take off soon.
4. Detroit Tigers: Only the Twins’ ineptitude has saved the Tigers from last place; Detroit has been a laughingstock this year. Manager Brad Ausmus is definitely on the hot seat after two straight poor seasons.
5. Minnesota Twins: The Twins have been pitiful this year, a major regression from last year’s team. The Twins still need some time to rebuild before they can contend.
1. Seattle Mariners: The M’s have surged this year, but need to do better at home to secure a playoff spot. An 8-10 home record doesn’t bode well for future success.
2. Texas Rangers: The Rangers have just been a Texas-Two-Step behind the Mariners this year, and look poised for a playoff berth. Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre lead one of the MLB’s best offenses.
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Injuries to the Halos’ top two starting pitchers have likely sunk this season. However, Mike Trout and company keep on trucking.
4. Oakland Athletics: The A’s have fallen a long way from where they were in 2013 and 2014. They simply don’t have a playoff roster at this point in time.
5. Houston Astros: The MLB’s biggest surprise has been the failure of the Astros, my original pick to win the AL Pennant. Their inability to win on the road or get consistent pitching has doomed them.
1. Washington Nationals: Dusty Baker has done a marvelous job getting everything out of the Nationals that former manager Matt Williams couldn’t. A team with Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Max Scherzer should be this good.
2. New York Mets: The Mets have taken over New York. Their rotation is truly one of a kind, and their offense is young, productive, and powerful. The Mets are one of the MLB’s top contenders.
3. Philadelphia Phillies: Another huge surprise this year, the Phillies’ hot start was most unexpected. While the Phils likely can’t keep this pace up, they may be able to sniff .500 this year.
4. Miami Marlins: The Marlins may have finally matured. Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna have finally grown into the compliments that Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez need so badly.
5. Atlanta Braves: There isn’t much for the Braves to look forward to this year. Sitting at 9-28 and having just fired their manager, it’ll be a long year in Atlanta.
1. Chicago Cubs: The North Siders look unstoppable right now. Playing .750 baseball and boasting the deepest roster in the bigs, the Cubs are the MLB’s apex predators.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates: The Buccos are always a sound team, yet they always draw the tough straw in terms of playoff opponents. It’ll be difficult to even make the dance given how stacked the NL is right now.
3. St. Louis Cardinals: The Cards haven’t taken off like they did last year, but they have some of the same old veterans and some new faces, as well as potential trade acquisitions to help out.
4. Milwaukee Brewers: The Brew Crew is finally out of the NL Central cellar, but there isn’t much else for them to realistically accomplish this year. The rebuild is strong in Milwaukee.
5. Cincinnati Reds: The Reds still have a solid offense, but their pitching is an unmitigated disaster. The Reds should look to sell, sell, sell at the trade deadline.
1. San Francisco Giants: The Giants’ even-year dominance has continued in 2016. While it’ll be tough to take the World Series again, the Giants are a very good team once again.
2. Colorado Rockies: A high-powered offense has kept the Rockies in the mix, but their pitching is too weak to keep them there.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers: New manager Dave Roberts has had an inconsistent Dodgers bunch to deal with this year. The expensive Dodgers’ roster has to kick it into gear now if they want to play in October.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks: Injuries to A.J. Pollock and David Peralta have killed the D-Backs so far. The road to overcome the adversity is too tough for the D-Backs to play in October this year.
5. San Diego Padres: Last year’s offseason overhaul hasn’t benefited the Friars like some thought it would. General Manager A.J. Preller may have to sell what he brought in last year to recoup some prospects.
Playoff Predictions (Updated as of May 17, 2016)
AL East Champs: Toronto Blue Jays
|NL East Champs: New York Mets
AL Central Champs: Kansas City Royals
NL Central Champs: Chicago Cubs
|AL West Champs: Texas Rangers
NL West Champs: San Francisco Giants
Wild Cards: Chicago White Sox,
Wild Cards: Washington Nationals,
St. Louis Cardinals
AL Champs: Toronto Blue Jays
NL Champs: Chicago Cubs
World Series Champs: Chicago Cubs