There is still an awful lot of baseball to be played in 2013, and the playoff picture won't begin to really take shape until after the All-Star break.
However, it's never too early to take a look ahead and see how things could potentially shake out for teams looking to contend for a playoff spot.
For the sake of this article, I have considered every team with a winning record at this point to be contenders. I've also broken non-contenders off by locks to teams that won't contend and teams who still have a chance to turn things around.
The contenders' roads to the postseason were then ranked from toughest to easiest. To determine that, I looked not only at their remaining schedule and how many games they have against clubs over .500, but also at the current profile of their team and what glaring weaknesses may hold them back.
Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo
Chicago Cubs (18-28)
The Cubs are still in the midst of a wide-scale rebuild, and while they aren't in a position to contend this season, there have been plenty of positives. Anthony Rizzo has continued to emerge as a star at the plate, while Travis Wood and Scott Feldman have exceeded expectations on the mound.
Chicago White Sox (21-24)
Surprise contenders last season when they were edged out for the AL Central title by the Tigers down the stretch, the White Sox are now in a position where a rebuild is necessary. They have a number of bloated veteran contracts and an incredibly thin farm system, so that may be easier said than done.
Houston Astros (14-33)
Essentially starting from scratch after gutting their roster over the past few seasons, the Astros have a long way to go before they're relevant again. They could push for the futility record this season, as their pitching is absolutely terrible with a 5.37 ERA as a team.
Miami Marlins (13-34)
An offseason fire sale left the Marlins roster decimated, and they have been completely inept at the plate so far in 2013. They're currently hitting .222 as a team and averaging just 2.7 runs per game. The pitching of 20-year-old Jose Fernandez has been one of the few causes for excitement.
Minnesota Twins (18-26)
Despite reworking their starting rotation in the offseason, the Twins are still the worst team in the AL Central by a decent margin at this point. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are having solid seasons at the plate, and Kevin Correia has been a plus on the mound, but that hasn't been nearly enough.
New York Mets (17-27)
Hey, at least Matt Harvey is really, really good, right? The Mets have the pieces and upcoming payroll flexibility to be a contender in the near future, but the 2013 season promises to be a long one for them. The biggest question now is when Zack Wheeler will join Harvey atop the rotation.
San Diego Padres (21-25)
The Padres are heading in the right direction, but they are still not quite there yet. They could certainly play the role of spoiler down the stretch against division foes Arizona, Colorado, San Francisco and perhaps Los Angeles, but they aren't likely to contend. Locking up Chase Headley has to be priority No. 1 for the team right now.
Seattle Mariners (20-27)
There is not team on this list with a brighter immediate future than the Mariners, as their farm system is loaded with high-end talent close to making a big league impact. Their arrival likely won't be enough to make the Mariners relevant this season, but fans can enjoy a slightly improved offense and the dynamic pitching duo of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
RF Jose Bautista
Kansas City Royals (21-23)
The Royals were aggressive this offseason with their acquisition of James Shields, giving up a number of top prospects in the process, as it is clear they are ready to take the step from rebuilding to contention. Shields and Ervin Santana have been great, and they're close, but the offense needs to pick things up for them to be a real threat in the AL Central.
Los Angeles Angels (20-27)
The Angels look awfully good on paper for the second straight season, but that hasn't translated to wins on the field so far. The reworked starting rotation has been subpar, and the slow start of Josh Hamilton has not helped things offensively. Getting Jered Weaver back healthy and Hamilton going at the plate will give them a chance, but they've got an uphill battle ahead of them.
Los Angeles Dodgers (19-26)
With the highest payroll in the National League, the Dodgers were expected to be serious title contenders this season. Instead, they have failed to come together as a team and have dealt with a number of injuries early on. They're an awful lot better than they're playing and have the best chance to turn things around in my opinion. How much longer will Don Mattingly keep his job, though?
Milwaukee Brewers (18-27)
The Brewers made a late-season push toward the playoffs last season, and given how potent their offense is I certainly wouldn't rule out it happening again. The bullpen was their biggest issue last season, but this time around it's been the starting rotation. If a young arm or two can step up and shore things up, they have an outside shot.
Philadelphia Phillies (23-24)
Is it just me, or did the Phillies get really old, really fast? It appears their window of contention has closed, and with the contracts of Roy Halladay, Michael Young and Chase Utley coming off the books at the end of the season they may be poised to rebuild. Still, they're a talented, experienced group so it's too soon to completely count them out.
Toronto Blue Jays (20-27)
Turns out all those people calling the Blue Jays this season's version of the 2012 Marlins weren't all that far off. The offense has the potential to be dynamic and is starting to get on track. It's the pitching that has been the real issue, as the newly-acquired trio of Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey have been awful. If the pitching can right the ship, all the pieces are there for this team to make a serious run. That looks like a big "if" though.
SS Troy Tulowitzki
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 55
San Francisco-12, Arizona-9, Washington-7, Cincinnati-6, Pittsburgh-6, Atlanta-4, Boston-4, St. Louis-4, Baltimore-3
From a schedule standpoint, the Rockies have a more favorable remainder of the season than a number of teams on this list. However, as far as the roster is concerned, they have a tougher path ahead than any team currently labeled as a contender.
The lineup has been dynamic, as a healthy Troy Tulowitzki (1.014 OPS) and Carlos Gonzalez (.977 OPS) have led one of the highest-scoring groups in all of baseball.
The trouble lies in the starting rotation, which got off to a nice start, but has regressed in the weeks since. Jorge De La Rosa (6-3, 3.40 ERA) has been solid, but the rest of the staff is a serious question mark. At this point, it doesn't look like they have enough offense to overcome their lack of pitching.
CF Adam Jones
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 75
Boston-16, New York (AL)-13, Tampa Bay-10, Cleveland-7, Texas-7, Detroit-6, Washington-4, Arizona-3, Colorado-3, Oakland-3, San Francisco-3
The Orioles offense has been one of the best in baseball this season, even with significant holes at second base and DH, and should continue to be a weapon moving forward.
However, consistency from the starting rotation remains the team's biggest weakness. The duo of Chris Tillman (9 GS, 3-2, 3.52 ERA) and Wei-Yin Chen (8 GS, 3-3, 3.04 ERA) have been solid, but the rest of the staff is a mess.
Reinforcement may come in the form of top prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, the latter of which made his debut on Thursday, but relying on them to carry the load down the stretch may be asking too much.
CF Andrew McCutchen
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 63
Cincinnati-16, St. Louis-14, San Francisco-7, Colorado-6, Detroit-4, Washington-4, Arizona-3, Atlanta-3, Oakland-3, Texas-3
Aside from their 30 remaining games against the Reds and Cardinals, the Pirates also have to contend with the fact that they haven't had a winning season since 1992 and have endured massive second-half collapses each of the past two seasons.
While they are off to another hot start this season, they are essentially the same team that has been unable to get over the hump the past two seasons.
The duo of Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett atop the rotation has been solid, as has rookie Jeff Locke. However, the back end of the rotation is an issue, and the offense is still inconsistent top to bottom. They Pirates are a talented team on the rise, but they have their work cut out for them.
1B Mike Napoli
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 71
New York (AL)-16, Baltimore-16, Tampa Bay-13, Detroit-7, Colorado-4, Arizona-3, Cleveland-3, Oakland-3, San Francisco-3, Texas-3
The Red Sox loaded up on veteran talent in the offseason, and it has paid dividends so far, as they have looked like a completely different team than the one that lost 93 games last season.
The front of the rotation has been fantastic, led by Clay Buchholz (7-0, 1.73 ERA), Jon Lester (6-1, 3.15 ERA) and a healthy John Lackey (2-4, 3.31 ERA). However, the rest of the staff has struggled, and they will need to sort out of the back end of the staff moving forward.
They have also dealt with injuries to their bullpen, with newly-acquired closer Joel Hanrahan already lost for the season. Luckily they have Andrew Bailey to take over for him, and as long as he can stay healthy, they should be fine.
3B Evan Longoria
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 62
New York (AL)-16, Boston-13, Baltimore-10, Detroit-6, Arizona-4, Texas-4, Cleveland-3, Oakland-3, San Francisco-3
The Rays offense has been significantly improved this season, with newcomers James Loney (.902 OPS, 22 RBI) and Kelly Johnson (.828 OPS, 25 RBI) making a significant impact as low-cost offseason signings.
The duo of Alex Cobb (5-2, 2.73 ERA) and Matt Moore (8-0, 2.29 ERA) has enjoyed breakout starts to the season, helping offset the loss of James Shields. However, incumbents David Price (1-4, 5.24 ERA) and Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 5.37 EAR) have struggled mightily.
Provided those two can turn things around, which they certainly have the talent to do, the team is in good shape with its improved offense. Top prospect Wil Myers will likely be called up at some point and could make a significant impact as well.
3B Josh Donaldson
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 46
Texas-13, Cincinnati-4, Detroit-4, San Francisco-4, Baltimore-3, Boston-3, Cleveland-3, New York (AL)-3, Pittsburgh-3, St. Louis-3, Tampa Bay-3
The A's got off to a 12-4 start this season, but they have gone just 13-18 since. That said, they just had a five-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday after taking the first two games in a three-game series against division rival Texas.
That said, it's hard to get a good feel for just how good the A's are going to be this season here in the early going. Their offense has been solid, led by breakout star Josh Donaldson, but the pitching they relied so heavily on last year has been inconsistent.
If Opening Day starter Brett Anderson and talented second-year man Jarrod Parker can turn things around alongside A.J. Griffin and Tommy Milone, they will be a force to reckoned with. If not, they may not have the horses to be a serious contender in the AL.
1B Paul Goldschmidt
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 59
San Francisco-13, Colorado-9, Cincinnati-7, Washington-6, St. Louis-4, Tampa Bay-4, Texas-4, Atlanta-3, Baltimore-3, Boston-3, Pittsburgh-3
The Diamondbacks entered 2012 with lofty expectations after winning the NL West in 2011, but they wound up finishing third in the division at 81-81.
They made a number of changes in the offseason, highlighted by their trades of Chris Young and Justin Upton, and so far they look like a better team for it.
Paul Goldschmidt (.996 OPS, 12 HR, 36 RBI) is an emerging star and Patrick Corbin (7-0, 1.44 ERA) has come out of nowhere to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. With a talented rotation and plenty of room for improvement from their lineup, they seem like serious contenders.
LF Bryce Harper
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 44
Atlanta-12, Colorado-7, Arizona-6, Baltimore-4, Pittsburgh-4, Cleveland-3, San Francisco-3, St. Louis-3, Detroit-2
Viewed by many as the most complete team in baseball entering the season, the Nationals have been something of a disappointment so far this season despite sitting in second place in the NL East.
Key hitters Adam LaRoche (.219 BA) and Danny Espinosa (.163 BA) have scuffled early, and the pitching rotation has been good, but not nearly as dominant as last season.
Jordan Zimmermann (7-2, 1.62 ERA) and Bryce Harper (.994 OPS, 12 HR) have emerged as stars, and if the rest of the roster around them can take a step forward, they have the potential to reach the expectations they entered the season with. For now though, the Braves look like the team to beat in the NL East.
1B/3B Mark Reynolds
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 49
Detroit-14, Baltimore-7, Texas-6, Cincinnati-4, Atlanta-3, Boston-3, New York (AL)-3, Oakland-3, Tampa Bay-3, Washington-3
The Indians have been one of the biggest surprises of 2013, as they are currently first in the AL Central and are surprise contenders after many believed they'd begin rebuilding in the offseason.
New additions Mark Reynolds, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn have transformed the offense into one of the league's best, and Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister have thrived atop the rotation.
In the end, though, their starting rotation may not be deep enough for them to maintain their currently level of play, as the back end of the staff has struggled. Their next 22 games are against contenders in the Red Sox, Reds, Rays, Yankees, Tigers, Rangers and Nationals, so the next couple weeks will go a long way in determining if they're for real.
If the can manage to hold on until the end of the season, they finish the year with six games against the Mets and White Sox, four against the Twins and Astros and three against the Mets.
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 64
Tampa Bay-16, Boston-16, Baltimore-13, Texas-7, Cleveland-3, Detroit-3, Oakland-3, San Francisco-3
Aside from playing 45 more games against fellow AL East contenders, the Yankees also have seven games against the Rangers and three with Detroit, two teams who figure to be vying for the best record in the American League.
The Yankees have surprised early despite injuries to a number of their star players, and it stands to reason that they will only be better down the stretch when they're playing at full strength.
There are undoubtedly holes on their roster, most notably at the back of their rotation, but they at least look to be in a better position to make a playoff push than fellow division foes Boston, Baltimore and Tampa Bay.
C Buster Posey
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 64
Arizona-13, Colorado-12, Cincinnati-7, Pittsburgh-7, Oakland-4, St. Louis-3, Atlanta-3, Baltimore-3, Boston-3, New York (AL)-3, Tampa Bay-3, Washington-3
The reigning World Series champions have looked like a different team so far this season, as their offense has been among the best in the league, but their pitching has failed to live up to expectations.
Ace Matt Cain (3-2, 5.12 ERA) has not pitched like the stud he was expected to be, but those numbers are inflated by a pair of terrible outings. The bigger concern is Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 7.19 ERA) who was terrible before landing on the DL with a fractured hand.
If the offense can continue playing at its currently level and Cain can turn things around, they should be in a great position to contend once again. They may need to look into acquiring another starter, though, if Vogelsong can't get on track.
1B Mitch Moreland
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 56
Oakland-13, Baltimore-7, New York (AL)-7, Cleveland-6, Arizona-4, Boston-3, Cincinnati-3, Detroit-3, Pittsburgh-3, St. Louis-3, Tampa Bay-4
Despite losing a big chunk of their offensive firepower in the offseason with the departures of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli, the Rangers have remained one of the top teams in all of baseball this season.
Instead, it's been the pitching that has carried the team, with emerging ace Yu Darvish (7-2, 2.84 ERA) leading the way. Beyond him, Derek Holland has been solid, and rookies Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch have made an unexpected impact.
Mitch Moreland (.905 OPS, 10 HR, 24 RBI) is enjoying a breakout season, and the rest of the offense has stepped up to overcome its losses. As long as their unexpected producers don't fall off, they have the pieces to be a force in the American League.
1B Joey Votto
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 64
Pittsburgh-16, St. Louis-13, Arizona-7, San Francisco-7, Colorado-6, Atlanta-4, Cleveland-4, Oakland-4, Texas-3
The Reds have as complete a team as any in baseball, and once Ryan Ludwick gets healthy they will have few weaknesses.
With Tony Cingrani waiting in the wings, they could overcome an injury to their pitching staff, and their offense is deep enough that a key injury would not necessarily do them in either.
On top of all that, their final 18 games of the season are very favorable, as they play three-game series against the Cubs, Brewers, Astros and Mets and six against a Pirates team that has made a habit of collapsing late.
RF Carlos Beltran
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 54
Pittsburgh-14, Cincinnati-13, Atlanta-7, Arizona-4, Colorado-4, Oakland-3, San Francisco-3, Texas-3, Washington-3
The Cardinals battled through some serious bullpen issues to open the season, with Jason Motte on the shelf and Mitchell Boggs unable to handle the closer role. However, Edward Mujica (13-for-13 SV, 2.25 ERA) has shored up the closer job and rookie Trevor Rosenthal has thrived in a setup role.
The offense, aside from third baseman David Freese (.223 BA, .574 OPS), has been terrific, and it is an experienced veteran group. Matt Carpenter has been a breakout star at second base, and rookie Matt Adams is a serious weapon off the bench.
Barring a significant injury, they should once again be in the thick of things for the stretch run. They made a late-season push to earn a wild-card spot last year, but with a relatively favorable schedule the rest of the way they look to be the favorite in the NL Central right now.
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 49
Cleveland-14, Boston-7, Baltimore-6, Tampa Bay-6, Oakland-4, Pittsburgh-4, New York-3, Texas-3, Washington-2
The reigning AL champion Tigers may not currently have the best record in the American League or even in their own division, but they have looked like the team to beat in the AL.
Miguel Cabrera (.391 BA, 14 HR, 55 RBI) is in position to make another run at the Triple Crown, and the offense as a whole has been dynamic as the highest-scoring group in all of baseball.
The starting rotation boasts four frontline arms, led by ace Justin Verlander, and the bullpen has been solid despite lacking a shutdown closer.
They close to season with what could be a cake walk, with six games against the Royals, six against the White Sox, four against the Mariners, three against the Twins and three against the Marlins.
RF Justin Upton
Games Remaining Against Teams Over .500: 39
Washington-12, St. Louis-7, Cincinnati-4, Colorado-4, Arizona-3, Cleveland-3, Pittsburgh-3, San Francisco-3,
With 16 games each remaining against the Marlins and Mets, there appears to be no team in baseball with an easier rest of the season from a scheduling standpoint.
Despite the struggles of B.J. Upton (.155 BA), Jason Heyward (.173 BA) and Dan Uggla (.182 BA), and a ton of strikeouts from the entire lineup, the Braves have the offensive firepower to continue piling up wins this season.
Their starting rotation has been great and should get Brandon Beachy back within the next couple weeks. The loss of Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters for the season to Tommy John surgery hurts, but even without them they look to be legitimate contenders.