Through the halfway point of the 2022 MLB season, we have a firm grasp on who’s a contender and who’s a pretender. Even if some people would rather follow the latest NASCAR odds, seeing what becomes of each playoff-caliber team will be exciting to watch.
After MLB’s grueling 162-game regular season comes to a close, 12 teams will fight for a World Series title. The great thing about baseball is that each of those teams could catch lightning in a bottle and win it all. However, there are five clubs in particular who already look the part of a real championship contender.
5. New York Mets
The Mets opened up the checkbook last offseason, signing longtime ace Max Scherzer and adding standout vets like Starling Marte and Eduardo Escobar to their lineup. With those names joining All-Stars Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor, New York’s National League team has led the NL East nearly all season.
Led by the aforementioned Alonso and Lindor, the Mets boast a top-five offense in baseball. And while the pitching has been somewhat underwhelming, Scherzer is back after missing nearly two months of action. Not to mention, two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom should be back sometime after the All-Star break.
With a healthy deGrom and Scherzer anchoring the rotation, the Mets have arguably the best 1-2 combo of any playoff team. That said, New York has to hope its bats stay hot when the weather cools in October.
4. Atlanta Braves
Last year, the Braves took down the Houston Astros to win their first World Series since 1995. This year, the defending champs should once again be in the mix for a title, especially if health is on their side.
One thing many baseball fans forget about the 2021 Braves is that their World Series victory came without Ronald Acuna Jr., who tore his ACL just before the All-Star break. Acuna is back now, but Freddie Freeman is gone, Ozzie Albies is out with a broken foot, and NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario just returned after eye surgery and a lengthy rehab.
Despite their hardships, the Braves still rank inside the top ten in hitting and pitching, while leading the league in slugging percentage. Even if they’re unable to overtake the Mets for the NL East crown, their playoff experience will help them in any playoff series.
3. Houston Astros
The Astros have become a Fall Classic staple in recent seasons, securing World Series berths in 2017, 2019, and 2021. While there’s no guarantee they’ll be back this fall, they’re a near-lock to win another AL West title and earn a first-round bye. Not to mention, they’re still as strong as ever.
Last year’s runner-up has many of the same stars anchoring its lineup. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez are all dangerous hitters, with Alvarez leading the team in average, home runs, and RBI. But Houston’s success lies in its pitching, as Justin Verlander and company have the second-lowest ERA and the lowest batting average against in baseball.
Verlander was out for all of last season, which played a major role in Houston falling short of a title. Assuming he’s healthy, along with the rest of the team’s core players, the Astros will be a fierce opponent come playoff time.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
There are no guarantees in baseball, but a Dodgers playoff appearance is the closest thing to one. The highest-spending team in MLB is once again on a fast track to October baseball, thanks to superstars like Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman, and Clayton Kershaw.
Even in a tough NL West division, LA is starting to pull away from the rest of the pack. It makes sense considering its lack of flaws, going into the rest of the season ranked second in runs and third in ERA. Even as key players like Betts and Walker Buehler go on the IL, standouts like Tony Gonsolin keep the Dodgers rolling along.
The reason LA isn’t number one on this list is because of the stiff competition they’ll face in the NL playoffs like the Mets and Braves, along with the division rival San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. Still, on paper, the Dodgers could very well be baseball’s best team.
2. New York Yankees
Simply put, the 2022 Yankees are an absolute juggernaut. Even as the rest of the AL East continues to fight for playoff spots, the Bronx Bombers have been head and shoulders above their division rivals for the entire season.
Though 80 games, New York leads the league with an astonishing 58-22 record. Thanks to MVP frontrunner Aaron Judge and sluggers like Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees have more runs than every other team in the sport. On the mound, Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Nestor Cortes anchor a pitching staff that ranks first in ERA and WHIP.
The best hitting? Check. The best pitching check? Check. The Yankees have it all going for them at this point. A lot can change, but right now, no team should be considered a World Series favorite over the 27-time champions. If you’re eager to witness this historic team’s potential victory and be part of the thrilling atmosphere, be sure to secure your World Series Tickets early.