MLB Starting Nine Midseason Report

It isn’t the All-Star Break yet, but this Wednesday marks the actual halfway point of the season. Let’s take a look at each division, the wildcard standings and the midseason awards. Here is this week’s Starting Nine Midseason Report:

American League

AL East W L GB

New York 52 28 -

Baltimore 48 29 2

Boston 43 36 8.5

Tampa Bay 39 40 12.5

Toronto 35 43 16

AL Central W L GB

Cleveland 50 26 -

Minnesota 43 35 8

Kansas City 43 37 9

Detroit 36 42 15

Chic White Sx 21 59 31

AL West W L GB

Seattle 45 36 -

Houston 38 40 5.5

Texas 37 41 6.5

LA Angels 31 46 12

Oakland 29 52 16

Second Half Predictions: The Guardians and Mariners look like the clear winners of the AL Central and AL West Divisions. The AL East, however, remains very much up in the air. The Yankees currently have a two-game lead over the Orioles but the Orioles look to have more depth in their batting order and have the resources to make a move to help a bullpen that is in dire need of a reliable closer. The Yankees, as always, have the resources to spend money and take on salary if they think they are World Series-ready. The name that keeps coming to my mind is Vlad Guerrero Jr. He’ll likely be available as the Blue Jays fade out of contention and look to rebuild. Adding Guerrero to the Yankees batting order gives Aaron Judge better protection than Alex Verdugo offers and gives the Yankees another legitimate power bat to go along with the oft-injured Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees/Orioles loser will be the top wildcard team and that will be it for the AL East. The Red Sox are playing well now but relying on their youth will not be a long term solution. I look for the Twins and Rangers to end up as the other two wildcard teams. The Twins have the experience and lineup depth to get the job done over the Royals, who are a year away, and the Rangers will get back several key pitching pieces that will carry them down the stretch.

Awards

AL Rookie of the Year: P Mason Miller, Oakland (+450)

The current frontrunner, Luis Gil of the Yankees, will likely hit a rough patch as teams adjust to him in the second half. Boston’s Wilyar Abreu, an early front-runner, has been upstaged by two of his rookie teammates in recent weeks, Ceddanne Rafaela and David Hamilton. Miller has the best chance to be the most consistent with lights-out stuff and one of the few bright spots on this Oakland team. His stock rises even further should the Orioles come calling and offer the A’s the kind of package that nets them Miller. Keep an eye on Rafaela (+1300), the most dynamic of the bunch with perhaps the best upside.

AL MVP: CF Aaron Judge, NY Yankees (-140)

Judge is in line to win his second MVP in three seasons as the true heart and soul of this Yankees team. While Juan Soto has had a great first season with the Yankees, he doesn’t have the dynamic numbers that Judge has brought to the table this season. Jose Ramirez of the Guardians will be in the running as will Gunnar Henderson. Henderson’s case could increase if the Orioles surpass the Yankees in the standings but Ramirez could be a true threat if he keeps up his current RBI pace that could net him over 150 for the season. Keep an eye on Rafael Devers (+8000). He is a streaky hitter who is off to one of his best starts in terms of average. If he gets hot, he could end up with gaudy numbers that could threaten Judge.

AL Cy Young: Corbin Burnes, SP Baltimore Orioles (+250)

Burnes is a quality start-machine pitching for one of the two best teams in the AL. He has the kind of run support he never had in Milwaukee and consistently pitches deep into games. He’ll be in the top ten in ERA, quality starts, innings pitched and wins and that should push him over the top. Burnes will get a challenge from the Tigers’ Tarik Skubal and the Red Sox Tanner Houck but he has the pedigree and history on his side as well as the best team backing him of the three. One to watch could be the Guardians’ Tanner Bibee (+4000). He keeps lowering his ERA and has developed into the team’s ace while increasing his K/9 rate from last year. He may be a year away.

National League

NL East W L GB

Philadelphia 52 26 -

Atlanta 43 33 8

Washington 38 40 14

NY Mets 37 39 14

Miami 27 51 25

NL Central W L GB

Milwaukee 46 33 -

St. Louis 40 37 5

Pittsburgh 37 41 8.5

Cincinnati 37 41 8.5

Chic Cubs 37 42 9

NL West W L GB

LA Dodgers 49 31 -

San Diego 42 41 8.5

Arizona 38 40 10

San Francisco 37 42 11.5

Colorado 27 51 21

NL Wildcard Standings W L GB

Atlanta 43 33 -

St. Louis 40 37 -

San Diego 42 41 -

Arizona 38 40 1.5

Pittsburgh 37 41 2.5

Cincinnati 37 41 2.5

Chic Cubs 37 42 3

San Fran 37 42 3

Second Half Predictions: The Phillies and Dodgers are locks to win the NL East and the NL West. The Phillies have an abundance of pitching depth and a lineup that appears to be slump-proof. The Dodgers are the clear class of the NL West even with their injuries on the starting staff and Betts hand injury that will keep him out until August. Expect both teams to try and shore up their bullpens at the trade deadline. The NL Central Division is led by the Brewers thus far but its unclear whether or not they can maintain this pace for the season. The Brewers lack starting pitching and their bullpen could run out of steam with all the usage they’ve already had. The Braves are a lock for a wildcard spot but they’ll be shopping for pitching help next month as well. The other wildcard spots are all up for grabs. At least one will come from the NL Central with the remaining four teams all bunched together. One will jump to the forefront and I’m leaning toward the Pirates. The Pirates have the best rotation in the division and Bryan Reynolds is putting together his best season. The Diamondbacks or Giants should benefit from all the jockeying going on in the NL Central and one will emerge as the third wildcard team. My money is on the Diamondbacks. I think Corbin Carroll finds his stride sooner than later and the D’Backs pitching will get healthy and carry the day down the stretch to earn another playoff spot for the defending NL Champs.

Awards

NL Rookie of the Year: P Paul Skenes, Pittsburgh (-190)

Skenes has already emerged as the clear frontrunner in the NL ROY race and already looks like he’s the ace of a very good Pittsburgh staff. The one everyday player that could make this race interesting should Skenes falter would be Cardinals SS Masyn Winn (+2500). Winn’s defense has been as good as advertised but few could have predicted that he would be hitting close to .300 while leading off for the resurgent Cardinals. Brewers’ third baseman Joey Ortiz (+1300) and Padres CF Jackson Merrill (+450) have both been good but far from spectacular. With Cubs’ lefty Shoto Imanga (+500) looking hittable as teams get the book on his stuff and lay off the high fastball, this looks like a two-horse race.

NL MVP: DH Shohei Ohtani, LA Dodgers (-105)

The injury to Mookie Betts paved the way for Ohtani to jump to the head of the line. Despite being strictly a DH, Ohtani’s uncanny power and ability to produce makes him the clear-cut favorite to win the MVP for the first-place Dodgers. Ohtani’s main competitor will likely by Bryce Harper (+200). Harper is the best player on the best team in the NL. He is also the one player in baseball that can be nearly as eye-catching as Ohtani. If Harper gets hot and ends with 40+ homers and 120+ RBI, he has a shot at the award. On the outside looking in will likely be Marcell Ozuna (+1200) of the Braves. He is having a career year for the playoff-bound Braves. A long shot to keep an eye on: Elly De La Cruz (+2000). He will end up with well over 50 steals and could get hot enough to put up over 40 home runs while playing elite shortstop for a Reds team that will be fighting for a playoff spot.

NL Cy Young: Zack Wheeler, SP Philadelphia Phillies (+290)

This race is still very much wide open. Don’t forget that last year, Blake Snell didn’t emerge as a true candidate until August. Wheeler will have to contend with teammate Ranger Suarez (+350) but neither has been in this position before and could have a dropoff in the second half. The Braves’ Chris Sale (+800) is healthy and pitching as well as he has in at least five years. An interesting long shot will be ROY favorite Paul Skenes (+3500). He’ll be favored for this award for the next several years but is fully capable of putting together a dominant second half and emerge from this crowded field.



*All odds courtesy of Draftkings.com



By Mark Ruelle

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Mark Ruelle

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.