Two weeks of the MLB The Show Players League have come and gone. This time next week, the first playoff games will be underway. If this were the MLB regular season, we’d be past the Trade Deadline and moving into the dog days of August.
That means it’s time to start looking at the postseason picture -- or perhaps, since we’re talking about a video game tournament, the postseason pixels.
Keep in mind: Players are taking part in 3-5 games every time they log on, so the standings can change in a hurry. One night can alter the course of a player’s season, and we still have six nights to go before the playoffs begin on April 30.
The top eight players will advance to the postseason, which will start with best-of-three Division and Championship Series. Then comes the best-of-five World Series to determine the Players League’s first champion.
Conveniently enough, the eight teams that would be in the postseason if it began tomorrow were in action on Thursday night. Let’s go through the standings.
1) Joey Gallo (Rangers)
Gallo is a monster at the plate, having scored 117 runs thanks to a league-leading 47 home runs. He went 2-1 on Thursday with wins against Jeff McNeil (Mets) and Carl Edwards Jr. (Mariners), with a loss to Brett Phillips (Royals) sandwiched between the victories. Gallo’s 9-2 rout of McNeil featured the kind of offensive outburst that’s made him a favorite in this league.
After McNeil took out deGrom with one out in the third and brought in reliever Justin Wilson, Gallo homered with himself … then homered with Willie Calhoun … then singled with Shin-Soo Choo … then homered with Rougned Odor … then singled with Robinson Chirinos … then homered with Todd Frazier … then homered with Hunter Cole. He couldn’t quite believe it, either.
Even Gallo’s loss on Thursday took five innings before Brett Phillips (Royals) homered with himself to break a 2-2 tie.
2) Blake Snell (Rays)
Snell showed his stuff during the league’s first televised game on ESPN2 on Thursday, when he beat Lucas Giolito (White Sox), 9-2. With his talented Rays team, skilled play and catchphrases -- “I need it so bad” and “punchy season” -- Snell is definitely a player to watch down the stretch. He’s only allowed 36 runs so far, the lowest total in the league.
"Bragging rights are huge, and with everyone in the league, we're all going to be friends and talking about this,” Snell said during his televised game. “If I win it all, I'm definitely going to be talking trash to Amir Garrett. That's happening. I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully, I can do it. I think Rays fans would love it, too."
3) Bo Bichette (Blue Jays)
Here we present to you the most absurd statistic in the Players League thus far: Bichette has played 15 games without striking out a single time. That’s right: zero strikeouts. Zero. In 233 plate appearances. It’s amazing.
He needed a big hit to beat Dwight Smith Jr. (Orioles) on Thursday, and he got it from Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
But seriously, zero strikeouts! Maybe he took it personally when Jesús Luzardo (A's) struck him out back when they were kids, a story the A’s lefty recounted just before beating Bichette on Thursday night.
4) Gavin Lux (Dodgers)
Lux reeled off a bunch of early wins and hasn’t slowed down since then, pulling off a pair of one-run wins on Thursday against Lance McCullers Jr. (Astros) and Matt Carpenter (Cardinals). His only loss on Thursday came to Jon Duplantier (D-backs), who called his walk-off victory “the best 'W' I’ve gotten on this game” -- and celebrated accordingly.
5) Jeff McNeil (Mets)
McNeil took a couple tough losses against Gallo and Luzardo on Thursday but beat Trevor May (Twins). Maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise given the Mets’ high-end arms, but McNeil leads the league with a 5.40 team ERA and 1.33 WHIP.
6) Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres)
In much the same way that it feels appropriate for Gallo to lead the league in homers, it seems about right that the dynamic Tatis leads the league in stolen bases -- by a lot -- with 27. He’s also second in home runs, with 38. Tatis was tied with Luzardo, 1-1, despite being held hitless into the third inning on Thursday -- but he pulled ahead and won, 3-1, on a two-run homer by Manny Machado.
7) Lucas Giolito (White Sox)
Record: 14-8 … 6363636
Giolito was dealt a couple tough losses on Thursday, one by Luzardo and a 4-3 defeat against May. He also beat Tatis, 7-5, thanks in part to a grand slam he hit with Edwin Encarnación. Giolito had to keep it quiet with a cat in the room, but fortunately he had White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti around to do the moment justice.
8) Dwight Smith Jr. (Orioles)
This might be the surprise of the league through two weeks, an unexpected contender looking to prove he’s for real. Smith has the lowest-rated roster in the league, as the Orioles are a 69 overall, but he owns the league’s third-highest run total (100) and the sixth-best ERA (5.93) with his 29-game schedule nearly complete.
Others to watch: Luzardo (12-8) and May (12-9) would be the first two teams out of the eight-team playoff bracket. Just behind them is a trio of 10-9 players: Juan Soto (Nationals), Josh Hader (Brewers) and Duplantier.
Friday’s games to watch
There’s another full slate of games on deck, with 15 players set to play on Friday starting at 9 p.m. ET. Snell, Bichette and Luzardo are expected to be back in action, and Snell has five games on his schedule.
Also scheduled to play on Friday are Soto, Hader, Duplantier, Amir Garrett (Reds), David Dahl (Rockies), Edwards, Niko Goodrum (Tigers), Luke Jackson (Braves), Tommy Kahnle (Yankees), Eduardo Rodriguez (Red Sox), Carlos Santana (Indians) and Ryne Stanek (Marlins).
Where to watch
Over the next few weeks, the league will be livestreamed on MLB social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch), MLB Network's Twitch site, "MLB The Show" social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch), the clubs’ social media accounts and MLB.com. Each player will also stream it from their individual Twitch or YouTube accounts. Select matchups will return to ESPN2 on Saturday.
Aside from those streams, in order to provide a full gameday experience, MLB Network will provide a livestream in which it will select the best one-on-one matchups and look into other game results and friendly banter.