Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Optimism abounds for these 10 surprise teams

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Are we enjoying watching the Braves and Phillies and Pirates play baseball? All that youth and energy and winning is wildly entertaining. Suddenly, possibilities abound.

That's what happens with teams that aren't quite sure how good they are. As they begin to win, confidence grows, and suddenly these teams are capable of upending postseason races.

Are we enjoying watching the Braves and Phillies and Pirates play baseball? All that youth and energy and winning is wildly entertaining. Suddenly, possibilities abound.

That's what happens with teams that aren't quite sure how good they are. As they begin to win, confidence grows, and suddenly these teams are capable of upending postseason races.

Will it last? Who cares? Instead of pondering that one, why not sit back and enjoy the show? Yes, it's a long season. Strengths are revealed, weaknesses exposed and that's the genius of a six-month schedule.

Ten teams considered borderline contenders enter the weekend on an early roll, so let's offer fans reason for optimism.

1. Mets

OK, Mets fans, take a big deep therapeutic breath. Did you expect your guys to play .917 baseball all season? So far, the Mets have checked three important boxes: rotation, bullpen and offense. While Matt Harvey is Topic A, it's the poor defense that should worry fans. Bottom line: The strengths outweigh the weaknesses.

2. D-backs

Regression? What regression? The D-backs will have plenty of offense once third baseman Jake Lamb and outfielder Steven Souza Jr. return from the disabled list. But the reason for optimism is a pitching staff that has been the National League's best this season. The front four of Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley was terrific last season and probably is the NL's best in 2018.

3. Angels

They are the real deal. First, they mash. Only the Red Sox have scored more runs. As long as the rotation stays intact, the Angels are going to be in it until the end. The Red Sox beat up on the Angels' starting pitching this week. Not to worry, as long as Shohei Ohtani, Garrett Richards and the others stay healthy and can continue to take the ball, the Angels will contend.

Video: LAA@KC: Trout crushes a two-run homer to left field

4. Blue Jays

Right-hander Aaron Sanchez has had three straight solid starts and continues to offer every indication that he's going to be as dominant as he was two seasons ago when he led the American League with a 3.00 ERA. The Blue Jays have won five of seven while their best player, third baseman Josh Donaldson, is on the DL with a sore shoulder. He probably will return next week.

5. Pirates

The Pirates have enough pitching to stay in contention. Right-handers Trevor Williams and Jameson Taillon have done a nice job anchoring the rotation, and Chad Kuhl is coming off his best start of the season. Meanwhile, two of the organization's top prospects, Mitch Keller and Taylor Hearn, are off to great starts at Double-A.

Video: COL@PIT: Kuhl hold Rockies to one over six innings

6. Twins

Only the Astros, Red Sox and Indians have a lower staff ERA in the American League. Jose Berrios has been the best starter in a rotation that also has Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi and Ervin Santana (who is on the DL). Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed have been tremendous additions to a solid bullpen.

7. Braves

The NL's best offense is a good place to start. Only the D-backs and Phillies have lower ERAs among all NL teams. Mike Foltynewicz and Brandon McCarthy have been dominant at the front of the rotation, and the first month of the season has amounted to a coming-out party for shortstop Dansby Swanson. Top prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. could make his Major League debut any time.

Video: NYM@ATL: Albies hammers a Thor fastball for a big fly

8. Phillies

Is there a weakness? First, the Phillies have one of the NL's best rotations, led by right-hander Jake Arrieta, who has been a perfect addition. Offensively, only the Braves and Pirates have scored more runs in the NL, and Rhys Hoskins is playing his way into the NL MVP Award conversation.

9. Cardinals

The Cardinals got things rolling during a 5-1 road trip to Cincinnati and Chicago. Adam Wainwright, who could be the key to the rotation, had his best start of the season Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Once Marcell Ozuna gets hot -- and he will -- the offense will be fine.

Video: STL@CHC: Wainwright tallies 1st win of season

10. Rockies

The Rockies have recovered from a slow start with a nice run by the rotation. Right-handers Chad Bettis and German Marquez are pitching the best baseball of their careers, and the three new relievers -- Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw -- entered Friday having allowed two earned runs in their last 10 2/3 innings.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.