With pumpkin spice lattes in hands across the country, it almost smells like October. September has rolled past its midway point and the road to the World Series is taking shape.
There will be eight teams vying for the prize, and there are a few more in the hunt for a seat at the table as the season’s end draws near. But which teams can claim the ultimate prize and call itself the World Series Champion?
There are the obvious answers – the talent-laden squads of Boston Red Sox (4/1), New York Yankees (10/1), Houston Astros (4/1), Cleveland Indians (8/1), Chicago Cubs (8/1) and Los Angeles Dodgers (6/1) – but there also are longshots who could turn some heads in the leadup to the Fall Classic.
Because an argument can easily be made for why the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Indians, Cubs or Dodgers can walk away with a title – just look at their respective lineups, rotations and bullpens – this will examine some contenders who maybe aren’t looked at as the challengers they are.
First up is the Atlanta Braves (11/1). Perhaps the biggest asset the Braves have is inexperience. While there’s a chance a team stacked with players that have limited or no postseason experience wilts under the brightest lights, there’s also a chance they’re naïve enough to not understand the magnitude of the moment and shine bright in October. Of course there are other reasons the Braves are contenders, but none are bigger than Mike Foltynewicz. To win a title, a team needs a true ace, and Foltynewicz has risen to the occasion this season (2.66 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and 186 Ks in 166 IP). Bullpen assets such as Brad Brach also figure to help keep some of those stacked lineups in check as the weather turns cold. The Braves have a tough climb, there’s no mistake about it, but guys like Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies could carry the team to World Series glory.
Next is the St. Louis Cardinals (35/1) They are in a fierce and unexpected battle with the Dodgers for the second NL wild card spot. To say the Cardinals’ standing is unexpected is an understatement given the team was all but left for dead around the trade deadline. However, the Red Birds have rallied around their combination of veterans — such as Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter – and young players such as the likes of Jack Flaherty, who surrendered just four runs across five starts in the month of August. Like the Braves, the Cardinals can’t match talent for talent with the big dogs in the race, but that hasn’t mattered in their rally over the past two and a half months. The Cardinals’ first playoff test is getting past the Dodgers in the wild card standings to claim their seat at the table. If they make it to the playoffs, why can’t the Cardinals continue their hot streak and fly to a World Series title?
Then there’s the Colorado Rockies (15/1). Of the three teams in a tight race for the NL West crown at the trade deadline, only the Rockies failed to make a splash in the trade market. At the time, this was either a concession of the division to the Diamondbacks and Dodgers or an extreme vote of confidence in the pieces they had in place. It turns out the Rockies front office did know what it was doing, as they have been neck-and-neck with the other two teams for the division title and even held a half-game lead as of Sept. 16. But the same statistic that seemed to doom the Rockies at the trade deadline is still a glaring weakness as the playoffs approach. Despite posting an 82-67 overall record and an impressively nearly equal home-road split of 41-33/41-34, the Rockies have a run differential of just plus-1. The 700 runs surrendered are easily the most among playoff contenders, including those from the AL. But on the bright side, Rockies playoffs games figure to be entertaining slugfests rather than the expected pitchers duels.
Current Value Plays: American League Winner: Boston Red Sox (2/1)
World Series Winner: Boston Red Sox (4/1)
We will be keeping a close eye on future matchups going into the playoffs. We plan on cashing on on the World Series.