As the regular season portion of the year comes to a close for Major League Baseball, teams are beginning to look at the fact that it’s time to go back home and get ready for 2016. In the American League, most of the spots have been clinched already, but there is a final wild card slot left open.
The Toronto Blue Jays have won their division and clinched a playoff spot for the first time in 22 years. In the AL Central, the top spot has been taken by the Kansas City Royals, the defending AL champion. Two other spots have also been clinched: the New York Yankees have a definite wild card spot sitting comfortably in second in the AL East, and the Texas Rangers are currently winning the AL West. Although they haven’t mathematically won their Division as of Thursday night, they have secured a trip to the postseason one way or another. This leaves one spot open, and three teams are all within one game of having it as their own.
The Houston Astros sit at the top of the list, and then one game behind them are the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angels. All three teams have tough competition in their remaining two games each, but of them, the Twins face the toughest. They will be going up against the Royals, who have just dominated in the American League. Going into the postseason, there’s no reason why the Royals would stop winning games, unless they ease up to try to preserve player health and give some of their top players a small breather. This doesn’t seem like they would do that, though, especially because the Royals are one of those teams that doesn’t really have any stars; they are comprised almost entirely of good players that are not quite great. Resting them probably isn’t a thought within Kansas City management.
So the question comes down to the other games of importance. In the first, the Rangers will be facing the Angels in the season closeout. Both teams are strong, but the Angels have a bit more star power. Mike Trout has repeatedly been in the headlines this year because of his athletic prowess, but has had a slightly less than stellar year at the plate. He’s hitting only .297 with an OPS number of .984. He leads the AL with that final number, but his batting average leaves something to be desired. Still, Trout is a top outfielder, even if he isn’t always the greatest choice on your daily fantasy baseball team. When he plays well, he puts up big numbers thanks to his power, he’s just not as consistent this year as he is capable of. The Angels, as a result, seem to have the slight edge over the Rangers.
The final team to consider is the Houston Astros. They are the current leader for the wild card, one game up on both the Twins and the Angels. They have the easiest remaining schedule, going up against a less than .500 team in the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Astros are much like the Royals this year in that they don’t have much in terms of star power, but everyone on their team has been a contributor. With this spread out talent concept going for them, and the Diamondbacks not being a top producer this year, they have a really good chance of sweeping Arizona in the last two games, securing a playoff berth. Even if both the Twins and the Rangers win both of their remaining games, this would allow the Astros to go to the playoffs.