Okay, this is it. These are the teams that will race for spots in October and then battle for World Series supremacy. The MLB trade deadline gave baseball’s deck a thorough shuffle, but now the teams will have to play their hands as it is. So with deals in the rearview and the stretch run up ahead, who has the best team going forward?
It’s time to reset our understanding and gauge who has the best roster to win over the next two (or three) months.
We’ve spent a lot of the season so far, but sure enough, the Dodgers have pulled ahead. They both entered Thursday with baseball’s best record, full stop, and are expected to finish with it by and .
With the Padres’ huge trade deadline, the Braves’ perpetual winning and the general powering up of the Mets, the Dodgers will certainly have competition in October. The top line of their depth chart — you know, the one that includes Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman — is as strong as anyone’s, but admittedly closer competition than it did a week ago.
What distinguishes the Dodgers, as ever, is the depth of starter-level quality. Suddenly, that includes the Joey Gallo reclamation project, as well as promising young hitters like Miguel Vargas.
You can never be sure a team will win a World Series, but the Dodgers being in the hunt is becoming a near certainty.
3. New York Yankees
Remember, we’re looking forward, not back. The Astros have a slightly worse record than the Yankees right now, but they have a more well-rounded, well-stocked team heading into October. And really, that’s really where this matchup is headed.
Veterans of five consecutive ALCS appearances, Houston boasts the best starting pitching depth in the league. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier form the rotation right now, but GM James Click and manager Dusty Baker will soon have the enviable task of deciding what to do with an extra arm or two when Lance McCullers Jr. returns from injury.
The Yankees have Aaron Judge, which is a pretty enormous deal. And they have legitimately found sterling contributors in Nestor Cortes, Jose Trevino and several others. The thing that may cost them against the Astros, or someone else, is the uncertainty in the back of their rotation. Trading away Jordan Montgomery means they need to cross their fingers that Luis Severino returns on time and that their otherwise extremely good injury luck continues.
4. New York Mets
5. San Diego Padres
6. Atlanta Braves
Did the Padres make up ground ()? Well, of course they did. They’re not going to actually catch the Dodgers in the NL West, who are a dozen games ahead. But they can stand eye to eye in a playoff series — or in a delicious three-game set coming up this weekend.
If you ask, the Padres have pulled into a virtual tie for the rest of the season with the Dodgers … and the Mets and Braves. The NL East titans are in a closer race, and no matter how that turns out, both figure to have something to say about the NL pennant. The Braves did more at the trade deadline to bolster their chances, but the Mets’ ultimate edge still comes down to the health of one Jacob deGrom. If he can stay on the field and pitch alongside Max Scherzer, the Mets have the best starting pitching on the planet.
One X-factor to keep an eye on, though? Mustachioed rookie Spencer Strider has a 3.02 ERA since joining the rotation in May, and has allowed one run or fewer in eight of his 13 starts while striking out the world. Braves management said he’s not on any sort of innings limit. He’s lined up to face deGrom — one of the only starters who throws harder than he does — at Citi Field on Sunday.
7. Toronto Blue Jays
8. Philadelphia Phillies
9. Milwaukee Brewers
All of these teams are waiting for things that should happen, but may not, to achieve their ultimate forms. The Blue Jays need more from Bo Bichette and Jose Berrios. The Phillies need Bryce Harper to come back and their deadline additions to stabilize black holes. The Brewers need Freddy Peralta to return and the lineup to pick it up just a little bit.
These are all teams capable of rampaging through October — largely due to dominant starting pitching — if they can hit their stride.
10. Seattle Mariners
11. Minnesota Twins
These AL contenders can smell the playoffs, and added pitching to help. The Mariners aren’t going to win their division, as the Twins likely will, but they might have the higher October ceiling. The addition of Luis Castillo shifts their young duo of Logan Gilbert and George Kirby from “nervy Game 2 options” to “exciting Game 3 options.”
12. Tampa Bay Rays
13. St. Louis Cardinals
These teams are each working with a coin flip’s chance of making the playoffs, according to PECOTA’s estimation. You’d be hard pressed to say they made huge moves at the deadline. The Cardinals made smart, if stealthy, additions to their pitching staff in Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana, while the Rays added a characteristically interesting on-the-fly development project in center fielder Jose Siri.
Do we believe they will both? .
14. San Francisco Giants
15. Chicago White Sox
16. Boston Red Sox
17. Cleveland Guardians
If there’s a team on the periphery that can make a run and shake things up, it’s probably in this group. But if you feel strongly about one of them, well, you apparently have more confidence than any of their front offices.
18. Baltimore Orioles
19. Miami Marlins
I don’t think the Orioles actually have a Miracle on Grass playoff run in them, but they don’t need to do that to count this season as a resounding win. Top pick turned rookie catcher Adley Ruschman looks like the real deal: He’s hitting .252/.353/.446, looking like a poised leader and banging on the door of the game’s elite catcher club less than 60 games into his major league career.
20. Arizona Diamondbacks
21. Chicago Cubs
22. Los Angeles Angels
23. Texas Rangers
We have reached the rudderless portion of the rankings. None of these teams are going anywhere this season — and two of them just seriously compromised their chances of going anywhere anytime soon with befuddling trade deadlines — so the Diamondbacks get the top spot for having a super promising farm system.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates
25. Kansas City Royals
26. Detroit Tigers
27. Cincinnati Reds
28. Colorado Rockies
29. Oakland A’s
30. Washington Nationals
Look, if you’re going to watch a bad team the rest of the season, may I recommend the Pirates? Oneil Cruz — a circus mirror of Aaron Judge who plays shortstop — is still getting his sea legs in the majors. He strikes out too much, doesn’t walk enough, etc. But he’s starting to swing it. Since the All-Star break, he’s hitting .257 with four homers, .