American League Wild Card: Contenders and Pretenders
With the addition of one more Wild Card Postseason spot in each league, we can expect that more teams will feel like they are right on the cusp of seeing October baseball! As of right now, the American League is stacked with a number of teams that have real chances at grabbing one of the two spots by season’s end. In fact, there are currently eight teams within three games of a Wild Card spot. However, I think that there are clearly both contenders and pretenders in this league, and here is a rundown of my thoughts. (Note: I am excluding my predicted division-winning Rangers, Tigers, and Yankees, and the team order reflects the standings as of 7.22.12)
Los Angeles Angels: CONTENDER
This team stacks up as a top three team in the league, but they play in a division with the team I consider to be the best in the majors (Rangers). Of all of these teams, I feel the strongest about their chances to make the Postseason.
Baltimore Orioles: PRETENDER
I have been predicting that this team would fall off for weeks now, and it definitely looks like they are starting to cave under the pressure of that division. I think that two teams from the AL East will make the playoffs, but the O’s are not one of them.
Chicago White Sox: CONTENDER
The sleeping giant Tigers have definitely woken up, and I think the best that the White Sox can hope for is a Wild Card spot. Their solid pitching and lineup, coupled with the fact that they still play the Royals and Twins 24 more times this year should help keep them in the hunt.
Oakland Athletics: PRETENDER
Billy Beane might be a genius, but I just do not see this team getting or staying hot enough to eclipse the cream of the AL crop. They are on a run right now, but they just do not have the roster to compete long term, especially in the same division as the Rangers and Angels.
Tampa Bay Rays: CONTENDER
If this team makes it to the Postseason, their pitching staff will be a major force to be reckoned with. It is that pitching staff that will keep them competing even if Longoria’s injury trouble keeps him out longer than expected.
Boston Red Sox: CONTENDER
You cannot underestimate the importance of Ellsbury’s and Crawford’s returns to the squad. The injury bug has debilitated this team at times, but I think that their current roster and their ownership’s willingness to make moves will allow them to make a run to the playoffs.
Cleveland Indians: PRETENDER
I have never fully believed in the Indians' playoff chances, and I have seen nothing convincing enough to change my mind. Starting pitching and lineup concerns will be too much to overcome as they hit the grind of the second half of the season.
Toronto Blue Jays: PRETENDER
Injuries have decimated this team, but they have somehow remained in the hunt. However, I think that this team is still several important pieces away from being able to contend within their own division, much less the American League.
Agree or disagree with my assessment? Is there another team that should be in consideration? Give us your thoughts by commenting below and tweeting to @MLBFanCave and @KyleOKC.