Entering the 2018 MLB season, there didn’t seem to be much mystery about who would claim the postseason spots. Then, the season happened. When it was over, we saw a postseason that included the Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, and Oakland Athletics. Which teams are ready to make the leap this year?
The Braves are positioned to have another good year. But in addition to the Washington Nationals, two other NL East opponents will make life difficult on Atlanta. The Cleveland Indians have dominated the AL Central over the last three seasons. But they also have two division rivals that could end their reign. The Brewers and Chicago Cubs will have a lot of work to do in what figures to be a loaded NL Central.
These 10 MLB teams have all come across some hard times in recent seasons. But all are in position to make the leap towards the playoffs.
Philadelphia has been tied to both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Moreover, signing one of them wouldn’t preclude the Phillies from signing Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel. Even better is that even without these moves, Philadelphia is a good team. The Phillies contended for much of 2018, eventually falling out at the end. The signings of David Robertson and Andrew McCutchen alone have already made this team better. Even if the remainder of the offseason is relatively quiet, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Philadelphia playing into October in 2019.
Chicago White Sox
The Cleveland Indians have already cut some payroll this offseason and more moves might be coming. The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are both in the early stages of a rebuild. That’s a potential open door for Chicago. Eloy Jimenez will make his debut early in the season. Other prospects from the team’s loaded system, like Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, and Zack Collins, may not be that far behind. On top of that, the White Sox are serious players for Machado. Chicago has a lot of raw talent. But even without the injured Michael Kopech, the talent is immense.
St. Louis Cardinals
Of course, any conversation about the 2019 Cardinals has to start with the acquisition of Paul Golschmidt. Working against St. Louis is that the NL Central is the best division in the Senior Circuit and top to bottom, probably the best in all of MLB. Fortunately, there’s more to like. Alex Reyes, once ranked as baseball’s best prospect, will return. Also, the acquisition of Goldschmidt allows the Cardinals to potentially trade Jose Martinez and Jedd Gyorko. Both have value. As such, the potential return on the trade would help make St. Louis even better. Even in a tough division, the Cards are in good shape.
Tampa Bay Rays
Generally, a 90-72 record in 2018 would have been good enough for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, the top-heavy American League just wouldn’t let that happen in 2018. But with Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell leading the way, the Rays remain a very good team. Youngsters Willy Adames and Austin Meadows will be there all year, as will veterans Tommy Pham and Tyler Glasnow. Newcomers like Mike Zunino and especially Charlie Morton also should provide a huge jolt. Breaking through in the American League will be tough. With that understood, Tampa actually looks better than it did last year.
Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, and Jose Peraza are one of the best offensive infields in the league. With a full season of Jesse Winker and the newly acquired Yasiel Puig, the outfield is also potent. The Reds are going to score runs, especially in that ballpark. Pitching is admitedly something of a concern. But the acquisitions of Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Sonny Gray make the rotation more formidable. Contending in the NL Central will be no easy task. But the proven talent on this roster is good enough to compete for a spot in the postseason.
San Diego Padres
One thing working in San Diego’s favor is that the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks don’t figure to be especially competitive. But more importantly, the Padres have a lot of young talent that we could see in 2019. Fernando Tatis Jr. is the big name. But pitchers Adrian Morejon, Michael Baez, and Logan Allen could all make an impact, as well. That’s in addition to youngsters on the current roster like Luis Urias, Manuel Margot, and Hunter Renfroe, and vets like Eric Hosmer, Ian Kinsler and Wil Myers. San Diego hasn’t fielded a good team in a while. But that could change very quickly.
Minnesota has also made some solid upgrades, especially on offense. The additions of Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron make the lineup much more formidable. Pitching is a concern, for sure. But we do like the strides that Jose Berrios has made at such a young age. Based on his continued improvement, especially in strikeouts, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him make a bigger leap in 2019. On top of all of that, like the White Sox, the Twins will be well positioned to feast on a weak American League Central. If Minnesota can take advantage of that, the playoffs are anything but a pipe dream.
While not quite as good, the Pirates were similar to the Rays in 2018. They had a decent year, going 82-79. But in the NL Central, it just wasn’t near good enough to compete. But like Tampa, Pittsburgh also looks to be better in 2019. Chris Archer will be with the Pirates all year. He’ll slot somewhere a very solid top-three with Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams. Josh Bell had something of a sophomore slump in 2018. But he’s only one year removed from a darn good rookie season in which he hit 26 home runs. It’s a tough division. But Pittsburgh’s roster is capable of making the playoffs.
Los Angeles Angels
Much like the NL West, the top two of the AL West is tough to crack. But also like the NL West, the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers should give the Angels a chance to boost their record. Mike Trout is the obvious headliner. But after him, the offense still has a lot of talent. Justin Upton, Zack Cozart, Albert Pujols, and of course, Shohei Ohtani, are not easy to pitch to. The Halos probably do need to invest more in the rotation. But there’s plenty of talent available. Upending the Houston Astros will be a difficult task. But if Los Angeles does improve its pitching, a Wild Card spot is well within the realm of possibility.
New York Mets
New GM Brodie Van Wagenen has come out swinging, landing Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano in a big trade and signing Wilson Ramos in a very solid move. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom anchors a rotation that, if healthy, is one of the best in baseball. Van Wagenen has labeled his team as favorites in the NL East. We’re not quite going that far. The division has three other playoff contenders, after all. But even against that competition, this team can absolutely qualify for the postseason if it finds a way to stay healthy.