Chris Moore| BKD TV Insiders
With The All-Star break over and the second half of the season ready to start up, there are a lot of questions heading into the home stretch of the MLB season. With the addition of the second wild card team, many more teams believe they are contenders therefore there are less teams willing to call themselves “sellers” at the trade deadline. We are going to go division by division giving a “team to watch for” and the predicted winner of the division.
Team to Watch: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are a team many people believe will be sellers. They have two very desired pieces for many teams in Ben Zobrist and David Price. So why are they the team to watch for? Joe Maddon still believe his team can win the division and rightfully so. The AL East has been riddled with injuries. The Rays are 9.5 games out and were playing very good baseball going into the break. If they can shrink that gap to six by the trade deadline, the Rays may just try and make a run to win the division.
Predicted Winner: Baltimore Orioles
The American League East is a three team race right now between the Blue Jays, Orioles, and the fading Yankees. To me the winner of this division will be determined by the General Manager who makes the best deadline deal. That very well could be any of the three teams but I will take the Orioles because they are good defensively, and can hit. I think they are a good starting pitcher away from running away with this division. Don’t count out New York or Toronto. The Yankees will be sure to add a pitcher and the team will play inspired to get Derek Jeter to the playoffs in his final year. Toronto meanwhile, like the Orioles are a very good offensive team that is looking for a starting pitcher. My problem with them? Edwin Encarnacion’s injury. Therefore I’ll give the Orioles the slight edge.
Team to Watch: Kansas City Royals
The Royals are a young team that have been on the rise the past couple of years. They showed there ability to get hot earlier this year when they lead the division for a short period of time. I think they are a couple pieces away from competing with the Tigers and will certainly be buying at the deadline. But this team as constructed could earn a wild card and it will be interesting to see if their youth can carry them through the dog days and into the postseason.
Predicted Winner: Detroit Tigers
The scariest part about the Tigers is I don’t think they’ve played their best baseball yet. In our preseason predictions, we all at BKDTV had the Tigers running away with the division and it certainly looks like they will. I don’t expect much movement with them at the deadline. Maybe a bullpen addition or a utility guy but the Tigers are built to win the World Series now and certainly look like a team to beat in the American League.
Team to Watch: Seattle Mariners
Remember when Robinson Cano signed in Seattle and everyone said Cano didn’t care about winning? Well those people were wrong. Seattle is a solid young team much like the Royals and have a very talented pitching staff. They have been in talks with Tampa Bay to get David Price and that kind of deal would immediately make Seattle World Series contenders considering they already have Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners currently hold the second wild card and are buyers at the deadline for the first time in a long time.
Predicted Winner: Oakland Athletics
Not much question about this one in my opinion. The Angels are playing some great baseball and this division (barring something drastic) will certainly take at least two teams to the postseason. But I think the additions of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel make this rotation as complete as any in baseball. The A’s made the big move to put them as my favorites to win the World Series. Everything the A’s touch turns to gold and it may turn into a World Series if all goes well for them this year.
Team to Watch: Atlanta Braves
The Braves, despite being decimated by injuries this season are hanging around and are tied for the division lead. Their rotation has been hampered by multiple injuries early and they had guys like Aaron Harang keep them afloat early. I expect them to be in the market for a starting pitcher and be in wild card contention.
Predicted Winner: Washington Nationals
While the Nationals are under achieving again this year, I fully expect this team to make a run and get this division by three games. They are talented enough to win the World Series and have been for the past two years. Last year didn’t go how they wanted it to and I think they are hungry to make a second half push and start living up to expectations.
Team to Watch: Cincinnati Reds
The Reds and Pirates have quietly gone under the radar in the Central but are just 1.5 and 3.5 games out of the division respectively. So why the Reds and not the Pirates? I think the Reds are a better team. They’ve been without Joey Votto for much of the year and are now without Brandon Phillips. If they get healthy and stay healthy they might just be the best team in this division with the loss of Yadier Molina in St. Louis. Johnny Cueto has been stellar and so has Alfredo Simon. Mat Latos is back in the rotation as well and I like the look of this Reds ball club.
Predicted Winner: Cincinnati Reds
This division is a toss up and could be anyone of the four teams in contention. I’m taking the Reds though because they have kept pace through their injuries. I would’ve taken St. Louis but Yadier Molina is the most important player in baseball in my opinion and we are going to see the effects of his injury. I expect the Cards to be a playoff team but these Reds seem focused with guys like Todd Frazier stepping up. When Brandon Phillips gets back I fully expect the Reds to take command of this division.
Team to Watch: San Francisco Giants
The Giants and Dodgers have been inconsistent this season. The Dodgers however are the more talented team. The Giants have not been able to rely on Matt Cain as much this year. They’ve faded back to the Dodgers after a hot start and I expect them to make a move to try and right the ship and hang with the Dodgers. There’s a lot of talent in San Francisco and there’s something about this team in even years. They won the World Series in 2010, and 2012. If they get into the playoffs their even year magic could rise again.
Predicted Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
The most talented team in baseball in my opinion is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The question is, can they live up to all the talent? Josh Beckett has been reborn this year and has been a pleasant surprise for them making the Dodgers rotation as deep as anybody in the National League. I firmly believe when August rolls around the Dodgers will find their stride and might just end up with the best record in the National League.
So there are my second half previews. After the trade deadline there are the waiver movements and trades that will surely go on and we could see some big names swap teams even after the deadline. With the second wild card there are many teams that will be trying to make a push and will make the second half of the season a fun one to watch.