May 22, 2024

6 Teams that could sneak into the MLB Postseason

The 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) season was the first where three Wild Card teams [MO1] from each league could qualify for MLB’s Postseason.  The pandemic-shortened 2020 season where there were four Wild Card series after 60 games was the only exception. 

Adding a third Wild Card berth to the mix has already made the MLB Postseason more exciting.  The Seattle Mariners clinched a postseason berth last season for the first time since 2001 and made it to the Division Series.  The Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres were NL Wild Cards who met in the NLCS.  The Phillies won the NL Pennant as a Wild Card before falling to the Houston Astros in the World Series.

The third Wild Card berth was designed to allow more teams to stay in contention for a longer period over the course of the baseball season.  That’s exactly what it’s done.  You never know when a team will get hot late and sneak into the MLB Postseason.  Here are six teams who have a shot of sneaking into the MLB’s “big dance” this year.

Miami Marlins (64-60; currently tied for the 3rd and final NL Wild Card spot)

What if I told you that reigning NL Cy Young award winner Sandy Alcantara was having his worst season to date (6-10, 4.11 ERA, 8.4 Hits/9 IP)?  Pair that with Jazz Chisholm, Jr. missing over 50 games and first basemen Garrett Cooper being traded to the San Diego Padres.  The Miami Marlins wouldn’t be competing for a postseason berth, right?

Wrong.  The Marlins have been one of MLB’s surprise teams this season under first year manager Skip Schumaker and are currently in a three-way tie for the third and final NL Wild Card spot.  Newcomer and reigning AL Batting Champ Luis Arraez flirted with hitting .400 for most of the season.  Jorge Soler has provided some much-needed pop around youngers Jesus Sanchez and Bryan De La Cruz.  Youngster Eury Perez has provided a spark in the Marlins starting rotation.

The Marlins were BUYERS at the trade deadline.  GM Kim Ng managed to add veteran first baseman Josh Bell from the Guardians and former White Sox slugger Jake Burger at the deadline.  Both Bell and Burger have posted plus-.900 OPS as Marlins so far.  Miami is within striking distance of a postseason berth but will have a tough schedule the rest of the way.  Series against Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Milwaukee (twice), and the MLB-leading Atlanta Braves still loom for the Marlins.

Boston Red Sox (65-58; currently 3 GB AL Wild Card)

The Red Sox are currently 10.5 games behind the AL-leading Baltimore Orioles and in 4th place in the AL East.  Yet, Boston is somehow only 2.5 games back of the last Wild Card spot in the American League.  That’s how stacked the AL East is this year!  Four teams are in contention for six of the AL Postseason spots.

Rafael Devers has been among the AL leaders in home runs and RBI all year.  Newcomers Masataka Yoshida and former-Dodger Justin Turner have both posted an OPS of over .830.  Rookie first baseman Tristan Casas is starting to show serious pop at the plate.  On the mound, youngster Brayan Bello has emerged as the best Red Sox starter.  Veteran James Paxton has had a comeback season.  New closer Kenley Jansen has converted 28 of 31 save opportunities and ace Chris Sale just returned from injury.

Still, the Red Sox face an uphill battle to get into the MLB Postseason.  Boston has the second-toughest [MO2] strength of schedule remaining.  They still have series against Houston, Texas, Tampa Bay (twice), Baltimore (twice), Toronto, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  That’s a tough remaining schedule against anyone, but Boston could seize the opportunity and sneak into an AL Wild Card berth.

Toronto Blue Jays (68-56; 0.5 GB behind AL Wild Card)

Sitting just 2.5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East in 3rd place are the Toronto Blue Jays.  After going just 11-17 in May, the Blue Jays have posted a 39-29 record since.  They haven’t exactly come out on fire after the All-Star break, going just 17-15 since the break.  Still, they find themselves in the middle of the AL Wild Card race.  Pitching hasn’t been the issue in Toronto, especially with the starting rotation.

The Blue Jays own the AL’s best ERA going into play on Sunday (3.68).  Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassett, Jose Berrios, and Yusei Kikuchi each have at least 9 wins.  They also all have sub-4.00 ERAs.  Surprisingly, the Blue Jays offense has been up and down.  Bo Bichette is competing for the AL batting crown and just returned from injury.  Whit Merrifield has had a bounce-back season.  Sluggers George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. have been okay, but both have performed below their normal baseball card stats.

Toronto will need both their pitching staff and lineup to turn it up a notch if they want to qualify for the MLB Postseason.  The Blue Jays have a relatively soft schedule until September 11th.  Toronto then faces Texas, Boston, New York (twice), and Tampa Bay (twice) to close the season.  Sneaking into the last Wild Card spot in the AL is doable for the Blue Jays.

Chicago Cubs: (63-59; currently tied for the 3rd and final NL Wild Card spot)

The Cubs were a season-high 8 games below .500 in mid-June.  Cubs President Jed Hoyer was close to selling at the trade deadline.  Pending free agents Cody Bellinger and Marcus Stroman were rumored to be on the move.  The guys in the Cubs’ clubhouse then took matters into their own hands – and started winning.

The “North-Siders” have gone 34-22 since that point and Hoyer even traded for now-former Washington Nationals third baseman Jeimer Candelario at the deadline.  The Cubs got to within one game behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.  They have either been in the final NL Wild Card spot of within a game of it over the past two weeks.

Bellinger has been playing like an MVP candidate since July 1st.  He was named NL Player of the Month in July after hitting .400 with 8 homers and 24 runs batted in.  Justin Steele has emerged as an ace and made his first All-Star game last month.  He’s become an unexpected NL Cy Young candidate.  At the time of this article, Steele is tied for the NL lead in Wins (14) and is second in ERA (2.80).  Candelario has been a boost to the Cubs lineup since joining the club three weeks ago.

The Milwaukee Brewers haven’t pulled away in the NL Central yet.  The Cincinnati Reds are just a half game ahead of the Cubs.  The “North-Siders” still have four games left against the Reds and the last the games of their season are against the “Brew Crew.”  They will have their chances at the MLB Postseason if they continue their good play as of late.

Cincinnati Reds (64-60; currently tied for the 3rd and final NL Wild Card spot)

Would you have believed me at the beginning of the season if I told you that the Cincinnati Reds would be in a three-way tie for the last Wild Card berth on August 20th?  Probably not, but here we are.  They have been one the best stories in Major League Baseball this summer led by young talent.  The Reds have called up prospect after prospect – including 21-year-old infielder Noelvi Marte [MO3] , today!

Spencer Steer, Matt McLain, Andrew Abbott, and Elly De La Cruz are each currently in the top-10 in NL Rookie of the Year odds according to [MO4] .  De La Cruz has been one of the most exciting players in MLB since he was called up in early-June.  Abbott has emerged as the Reds’ staff ace (8-3, 2.99 ERA, 1.119 WHIP).  They are about to get fireballer Hunter Greene back from injury and they still have veteran Joey Votto as a calming presence in the Cincinnati clubhouse.

Can the Reds sneak into the MLB Postseason?  Sure.  They are a young and loose group that doesn’t know any better.  The one thing the Reds didn’t do was add a solid veteran starting pitcher at the trade deadline.  Cincy’s starting staff will be a question mark down the stretch.  The bats are there and so is a semi-favorable schedule.  Their remaining opponents winning percentage (20th) of .488 is currently tied with the Cubs – but unlike Chicago, the Reds don’t have to face the Braves during the final week of the regular season.

Seattle Mariners (68-55; ahead by 0.5 GB for the third and final AL Wild Card spot)

Last season, the Mariners ended a 20-year postseason drought and clinched in dramatic fashion [MO5]. They went 69-44 after June 1st and were sparked by 2022 AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez.  Seattle clinched an AL Wild Card berth on a Cal Raleigh walk-off homer against the Oakland A’s.  Can the Mariners do it again this year?

The M’s are hot at the right time once again.  Seattle has gone 30-13 since July 1st.  Raleigh is having another solid campaign.  Julio Rodriguez is white-hot at the time of this article.  He’s had at least 4 hits in each of his last four games, making him the second ever player in MLB history to accomplish that according to ESPN.  He has 17 hits in his last 22 at bats, including two homers and eight RBI.  Think he’ll be AL Player of the Week?

The Mariners pitching staff is 2nd in all of MLB in ERA (3.70) and tops in WHIP (1.17).  This is despite losing ace Robbie Ray at the start of the season.  Luis Castillo has assumed the role of M’s ace.  He along with youngsters Logan Gilbert and George Kirby each have at least 9 wins each while posting sub-4.00 ERAs.  Rookie Bryce Miller has filled in well for Ray, going 8-4 with a 3.78 ERA and 1.014 WHIP so far.  Closer Paul Sewald was traded to Arizona at the deadline, but the bullpen has kept chugging along.

Seattle is poised to chase an AL Wild Card berth once again.  They have the 7th easiest strength of schedule remaining.  However, they face the Dodgers, Rangers, and Astros in 13 of their final 16 games.  That third and final AL Wild Card spot is there for the Mariners to take, but they will definitely have to earn it.

Photo Credit: Envato Elements