6. St. Louis Cardinals
Albert Pujols chasing 700 home runs and Paul Goldschmidt chasing his first-ever Most Valuable Player honor have dominated the headline this season in St. Louis, but the Cardinals have played solid baseball all season, but turned things on since August 1, posting a 33-13 mark since that date.
Can the hitter-heavy St. Louis offense outslug teams in the postseason? That could determine how far the Cardinals will go as opposing hitters are hitting .247 against St. Louis pitchers, tied with Toronto for 17th overall and the highest marks for any team heading to the postseason.
5. New York Yankees
Yes, Yankees fans, barring a complete collapse down the stretch, your team is very likely heading to the postseason. The question is this … which New York team will show up under the bright October lights? The Yankees are 24-30 after the All-Star break and New York’s .231 team batting average during that stretch is the eighth-worst in baseball.
A relatively soft schedule to end the season (with only a three-game series in Toronto as the only games against postseason-bound teams) could give New York enough time to rediscover the mojo they had during a blistering 64-28 first half of the schedule. But … can the Yankees find a way to beat the Astros if the two teams meet in the ALCS? Houston was 5-2 against New York this season.
4. New York Mets
Realistically, whichever team doesn’t win the National League East could fall to the fourth spot in our rankings since they will have to play an extra round of games in the Wild Card. With the Mets having a one-game lead in the standings and a three-game series in Atlanta coming at the end of the month, can New York hold off the Braves before even getting to the heat of the postseason?
Since the All-Star break, New York’s team .268 batting average is tied for the best in baseball. If New York’s rotation can stay healthy and perform up to expectations, the Mets will be a tough out. But the potential road to the World Series could include matchups against the St. Louis Cardinals and/or Los Angeles Dodgers depending on how things shake out. Can Buck Showalter guide the high-payroll team through that gauntlet and get to the Fall Classic?