With just a few weeks remaining before this season’s All-Star break, there’s still some time for teams to change the momentum they’ll eventually carry into the Midsummer Classic.
For some, they’ll be looking to continue hot streaks and the rise up their division; for others, they’ll look to reverse course and begin a late-season charge up the standings.
Let’s take a look at some developing stories across the league.
With a young roster, low payroll and unproven pitching staff, many expected this to be a bit of a transitional season for Cincinnati, a small step in the right direction as they begin to enter the competitive window of their seasons-long rebuild.
However, it seems that the competitive window is open a bit earlier than these experts expected.
Entering Wednesday’s games, the Reds have won each of their past 10 games and sit in first place in the NL Central, a half-game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers and three-and-a-half games ahead of the .
It truly can be any team’s for the taking, and the Reds are getting hot at the right time.
Over the past two weeks, the Reds rank eighth in baseball in team OPS (.797), ninth in average (.258), fifth in home runs (20) and first in stolen bases (20).
Despite this offensive prowess, the pitching has been slacking: the staff ranks 27th in MLB with a collective 4.89 ERA.
If Cincinnati wants to make a playoff run this season, they’ll need one of two things to happen: their young pitchers, like Hunter Greene and Andrew Abbot pan out; or to make a move at the deadline and acquire some pitching depth.
They can ride the hot bats for some time as there’s been plenty of teams to win a division without a top-tier pitching staff.
However, if they want to avoid a first-round exit, the Reds’ pitching staff will be crucial.
Keep an eye out as the deadline approaches: we would not be surprised to see Cincinnati as big buyers.
On the flip side of the Reds’ surprising success is some unsurprising failure.
Three of those clubs though – the Reds, Marlins and Pirates – are more than competitive, and certainly not bottom-dwellers.
However, the other two clubs – the Oakland Athletics and the Kansas City Royals – have been mired in mediocrity.
Much was made about the historically poor start the A’s and their fans had to suffer through, but they’ve won more games in the past two months than most expected, including a hot run as the winningest team in baseball over a small stretch.
Their status as the worst team in the American League West is not in doubt, but they’re surprising the league with wins here and there.
After all, with a miniscule payroll and a franchise with one foot out the door, it’s hardly reasonable to expect success.
Still, they have a promising young core led by superstar-in-the-making Bobby Witt Jr., young slugger Vinny Pasquantino, catcher/outfielder M.J. Melendez, possible Hall-of-Famer Salvador Perez and promising young prospects in Nick Pratto and Michael Massey.
However, the just-as-young pitching staff has been awful.
Brady Singer, who was projected to be the staff’s ace, has one of the worst ERAs among qualifying starters in the Major Leagues.
The team’s rotation is so bare, a 39-year-old Zack Greinke is the most consistent arm. And with the fading of Scott Barlow and Aroldis Chapman, the bullpen has been poor as well.
Losing Vinny Pasquantino for the season will put a huge damper on any potential run production in Kansas City, and the poor pitching staff will make it difficult for the Royals to stay in games.
With the future looking bleak, their goal should be to avoid becoming the worst team in the league.
As of now, they’re 20-53, while the A’s are 19-56.
If the A’s get hot and the Royals continue to play how they have, it’s possible the worst team in the league this season won’t be the club with the worst start in Major League history, but the Royals in their stead.
With just a few short weeks before the Midsummer Classic, All-Star voting has ramped up and we’re beginning to gain a stronger understanding of who is likely to be a starter.
Here are the leaders at each position for each league, as of the most recent data released by MLB.
Sean Murphy, ATL - 1,320,838
Will Smith, LAD - 836,754
Freddie Freeman, LAD - 1,649,166
Matt Olson, ATL - 638,984
Luis Arraez, MIA - 1,056,439
Ozzie Albies, ATL - 884,328
Nolan Arenado, STL - 936,057
Austin Riley, ATL - 832,996
Orlando Arcia, ATL - 1,060,559
Francisco Lindor, NYM - 508,168
J.D. Martinez, LAD - 879,474
Bryce Harper, PHI - 722,285
Adley Rutschman, BAL - 895,217
Salvador Perez, KC - 645,650
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR - 1,195,052
Yandy Diaz, TB - 1,124,166
Marcus Semien, TEX - 1,414,056
Whit Merrifield, TOR - 715,967
Matt Chapman, TOR - 929,590
Josh Jung, TEX - 876,096
Bo Bichette, TOR - 1,561,426
Corey Seager, TEX - 827,499