One year ago, there was no guarantee a 60-game MLB season would get completed. At the start of the season, it looked like the COVID-19 pandemic was on a mission to derail the season, and it was going to accomplish its goal fast. However, baseball derailed COVID 19’s quest for a World Series, barely. The Los Angeles Dodgers lifted the trophy and were crowned world champions. As the unforgettable 2020 campaign ended, the million-dollar question remained. Will we ever see a season with more craziness and drama than the 2020 season? Well, the 2021 season has tried to live up to the task, in a much better way.
From home runs to no-hitters and from Shohei Ohtani to the Spider Tack dilemma, baseball has delivered almost everything fans want in a season; however, we still have the second half of the season on tap. As we embark on the second half journey and approach the end of August, the playoff picture will start coming into focus. Before we get there, we still have a ton of baseball to sift through. As the season winds down, eyes will need to be glued to certain teams for various reasons. Some of the teams you need to watch will make a playoff push, others have issues and need to make a move. Who are the 10 must-watch clubs? NGSC Sports did their homework and found your answer.
10. New York Yankees
You are probably thinking “this kid is crazy!” However, the Yankees are trying to right the ship; Brian Cashman and his crew understand their farm system is the start of the success train. So, on July 15, the Yankees promoted outfielder Trey Amburgey to the major league level. Amburgey had a short 38-game stint with Triple-A Scranton, and while he was there he boasted a .312 batting average had seven home runs and was responsible for 35 RBI’s. Not only are the Yankees making strides by using pieces of their minor league system, but they also have their eyes set on adding veterans before the trade deadline too.
Although it is not urgent, the Colorado Rockies are willing to shop shortstop Trevor Story; it has been reported, the Yankees have made calls to the Rockies. However, two new players total and one prime veteran will not be enough to make a playoff push, but if Cashman makes moves at the trade deadline, the team could look different by the end of the year. If they have a different morale, they can look at sustaining that into the offseason. Then, they can worry about vying for a spot in the playoffs next October.
- Tampa Bay Rays
There might be something brewing in Tampa Bay. No, I am not talking about a craft beer, but I am talking about the Tampa Bay Rays. Over the last five seasons, they have proven to be one of the biggest turnarounds, they have gone from a laughingstock to an impressive squad. Rays manager Kevin Cash did not coach the All-Star Game as a joke. Since May 13, the Rays have a mark of 34-17 and won six straight before losing 3-1 to Toronto at home, in their last game before the break. Although those two stats are impressive, the resilience of Tampa Bay’s club is what really stands out, to fans and others alike. “We continue to grow. It is such a young group. Guys are maturing every day and getting better every day. As long as we get better every day and continue to play good team baseball, we will be in a really good spot,” Rays catcher Mike Zunino recently told Forbes. Zunino knows his team is right where they want to be to make a push, but there will be a few challenges.
As of Saturday night, Cash’s crew has a record of 55-38. However, they have been hit by the injury plague; one of the most significant blows went to pitching ace Tyler Glasnow. Cash says Glasnow is likely done for the year. Several other players are currently sidelined for the time being, and the million-dollar question remains. Can the Rays recover from the injuries, or do they get burnt too fast?
- Toronto Blue Jays
COVID-19 has sent teams through the wringer, but nothing like what it has done to the Toronto Blue Jays. Unlike other teams, the Blue Jays have had to find a “home away from home” in Buffalo, NY. The team adjusted well to Sahlen field for the second year in a row. The Jays currently hold a 48-42 record and sit third, behind Boston and Tampa Bay in the American League East standings. The Yankees are within striking distance of the Blue Jays, with a 48-44 record. Although it is unlikely, Toronto will be a real contender if they clinch the wild card spot. Baseball fans should take notice and see how they adjust after July 30, when they get back to Rogers Center.
- Houston Astros
There really should not be much of an argument here. America’s most hated baseball team is on the road to recovery after the sign-stealing scandal. Houston currently leads the American League West with a record of 56-38. The Oakland Athletics are three and a half games back and 4-6 in their last 10 contests. Houston knows they have company within striking distance, and that is when they seem to perform best. In their last 10 games, they have a record of 5-5. The Astros have been firing on all cylinders, but there are just a few teams putting on a show for other reasons, and arguably have a better chance to snag the magical win.
- Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have not impressed a ton, so far this season. They have been banged up by several injuries. However, players like Omar Narvaez have stepped up to try and keep the team afloat. Milwaukee also has a strong pitching core led by Freddy Peralta, but it certainly will not be enough. The Brewers, who have gone 5-5 in the last 10 games and have an overall record of 56-39, need to use their minor league clubs and the trading block to make strides towards their playoff push.
- Boston Red Sox
Alex Cora! He has caught my eye, and he is making his case for American League Manager of the Year. Last year, the Red Sox finished with a record of 24-36, good enough for a subpar winning percentage of .400. Thus far in 2021, Cora’s squad boasts an American League East leading record of 56-38, but they are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Although the recent slip is astonishing, there is something even more concerning.
Red Sox Pitching ace Chris Sale is on a rehab assignment after having Tommy John surgery in March of 2020. Yes, Boston is better than number five, but they are missing a piece, and I think it is Sale. Regardless of Sale’s status in October though, the Red Sox probably have the best squad to represent the American League in the 2021 World Series.
- Oakland Athletics
Oakland started the season dropping the first six contests of the year. However, once they caught on to the groove, they never looked back. Oakland is a team baseball has been looking forward to seeing back in the promised land. Unlike most teams, the A’s know it takes baby steps to reach that point, and the first step was to be victorious against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and they swept them in a three-game series. SI’s Nick Selbe knows the recipe for the A’s to cash in. He recently wrote, “The key for Oakland’s success thus far has been balance. The A’s are one of five teams—along with the White Sox, Dodgers, Rays, and Red Sox—to rank in the top 10 in both pitching and hitting fWAR this season. While no singular addition this offseason made significant waves, improvements by the collective group have replenished the club to make up for the absences of guys like Semien, Grossman, Liam Hendriks, and Joakim Soria, among others. The lineup has also taken advantage of promising scoring situations, with a .269 batting average with runners in scoring position ranking second in MLB. “ If the A’s, who have a record of 53-42 can stay balanced, look for them to come swinging for a deep playoff run.
- New York Mets
Where the hell did the New York Mets come from? People almost forgot the Mets were a big-league club. Granted, 2020 was Luis Rojas’ first season at the helm in New York. During his first season, Rojas led his team in an effort that tied them for last in the National League East. In 2021, Rojas proved the baseball wrong and reversed the curse. The Mets are currently reversing their trend and prove why they belong in the playoffs. The current Mets may be one of the most complete baseball teams we have seen in years. A large reason this team is so complete comes because of their chemistry, and when you have position players like Francisco Lindor or pitchers like Jacob DeGrom, you are expected to contend for a spot in the players. However, in their last 10 games, the Mets sit at 5-5, and they need to prevent a major skid before they focus on playing for a championship.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have always been an interesting story, and this season’s path may be similar to 2020 The Dodgers are holding second place with a record of 58-36. They are always a contender for the World Series title, but aside from last year, the Dodgers always seem to slip down the slope. Clayton Kershaw is usually one of the most prolific regular season pitchers and slips during the playoffs, but this year seems a little different. Kershaw has an ERA of 3.39, the second-best of his career to a 4.26 in 2008. The Dodgers know they have unfinished business, and Kershaw is in a great position to put his team in a solid position when he is on the mound in the postseason.
1. San Francisco Giants
When will someone tell the San Francisco Giants something is not right? The Giants have finally found their brand of baseball. Their brand is unique, and they have produced a product everyone should check out before time runs out. The way Gabe Kapler has navigated his way through the transition from Philadelphia to San Francisco has been nothing short of spectacular. Most baseball fans know the Giants look dangerous right now, without their star catcher, Buster Posey. Posey, who is currently on the 10-day injured list, had been impressive behind the dish as catcher, he had been even more impressive at the plate. Posey was batting a .328, just eight points from his career-best .336 batting average. Despite Posey’s injury, continuity is flowing for the Giants, and if the Giants can get healthy, they could lift the trophy in October.