This is a special feature article from Covers.com.
With the dog days of summer marching on and the Midsummer Classic behind us, the Major League Baseball playoff race is finally starting to come into focus. Historically dominant starts by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros have firmly entrenched the league leaders as the World Series odds favorites, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only game in town. Several other teams have also made compelling cases as legitimate contenders to reach – and even win – the Fall Classic, so let’s take a deeper look at three sleeper teams capable of shaking things up come October.
Early in the season, it appeared the Colorado Rockies could be one of the surprises of the year. Mid-June saw the Rockies looking like one of the best teams in baseball, but the Rockies have taken a steep tumble since then. Still, despite a relative lack of star power and a rough stretch to close out the first half, Colorado looks like a team that could make some noise in the fall. They’re led by a young and very deep – if less than spectacular – pitching staff, and their hitting has managed to be just good enough to keep pace. Trade rumors have swirled that could see a big bat or two added to the lineup, but even if no moves are made, the Rockies have earned recognition as a team to contend with as the playoffs approach.
After making a strong impression early in the summer, Arizona has had a few disappointing series leading into the All-Star break. Nonetheless, the Diamondbacks look destined to make the playoffs, and the club undoubtedly has the talent to make a run. It begins with the perennially underappreciated Paul Goldschmidt, who has been destroying the baseball all year long in what has thus far been an MVP-caliber season. He’s got Jake Lamb, Chris Owings and other solid bats around him, and he’s complemented by a great pitching rotation built on the arms of the enigmatic Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley. The offense may still need some help, and the bullpen is undeniably vulnerable, but the D-backs are capable of surprising in October.
New York Yankees
At one point, it looked as though the Yankees could be the best team in the American League. A terrible summer slump promptly ended that talk, but the Yanks are still a young and talented club. Suspected human-giant hybrid Aaron Judge continues to do his best Babe Ruth impersonation, mashing the ball at a nearly unprecedented rate for a rookie. Gary Sanchez has largely continued the scintillating start he put together last season. The bullpen has been a sore spot and injuries have put a hurting on the rotation and offensive depth, but the Bronx Bombers have shown they can slug it out with anyone in the majors when healthy. After all, there’s a reason they boast better World Series odds than their recent performance would suggest.
The Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers
This season has been filled with great storylines and surprise teams, but at the end of the day, there can be only one champion. If any of the sleeper teams above is to win it all, they’ll likely have to go through the powerhouse LA Dodgers to do it. It’s no surprise the Dodgers are in first place, but the magnitude of their first-half achievements can’t be overstated.
The pitching staff leads the majors in ERA and wins, ranks second in strikeouts and is tied for first in fewest home runs surrendered. Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood represent arguably the best one-two punch in the game, Kenley Jansen and Pedro Baez have been great in relief and Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and others have torn the cover off the ball. The team even has a realistic shot at cracking 110 regular season wins. If you’re looking for a team built to win it all, you can’t do much better than the Boys in Blue.