1 Word to Describe Every MLB Team Heading into Stretch Run
The 2022 MLB season is winding to a close, with a little more than a month to go before the postseason begins and this year's 12 playoff teams set their sights on a World Series title.
That said, teams out of contention still have plenty to play for, from answering questions about 2023 roster construction to giving some of their young up-and-coming players valuable MLB experience.
As we gear up for the final month of the year, we have attempted to describe every MLB team with a single word.
There are some positives, some negatives, and everything in between.
Off we go!
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: Revitalized
The Orioles entered 2022 coming off a 110-loss campaign and with an ugly .326 winning percentage over the past four seasons. Regardless of whether or not they sneak into a wild-card spot this year, hope has been restored for a franchise that has long been an afterthought. Rookie catcher Adley Rutschman looks like a superstar in the making, and the front office has already made it clear it intends to spend more freely this offseason.
Boston Red Sox: Closed
The window of contention has closed for the Red Sox current core. J.D. Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi are free agents, Xander Bogaerts is poised to opt out of his contract and join them, and Chris Sale has pitched 48.1 innings the past two seasons. The time has come to either retool or rebuild, and this will be a pivotal offseason for the Chaim Bloom-led front office.
New York Yankees: Back?
After an ugly 4-14 start to the month of August that had more than a few Yankees fans pressing the panic button, the team has won three in a row. They beat Toronto Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah to avoid getting swept on Sunday, then scored a pair of 4-2 victories over the New York Mets to begin the week. Will that be enough of a momentum swing to put them back on the winning track?
Tampa Bay Rays: Stealth
Once again, the Rays are receiving very little attention at a national level, and once again, they're zeroed in on a wild-card spot and set to make things difficult for their postseason opponent. No organization does a better job piecing together a pitching staff every year, and this season it's been guys like Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs and Jason Adam stepping into prominent roles. It shouldn't need to be said at this point, but don't sleep on the Rays.
Toronto Blue Jays: Talented
On paper, the Blue Jays stack up to any team in baseball in terms of talent if everyone is healthy and playing up to their potential. That's why they were No. 2 in our preseason power rankings. However, it doesn't feel like we've truly seen them at their best at any point during the 2022 season, due in part to injuries. With a 6-1 record in their last seven games, they might finally be hitting their stride at the perfect time.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: Asleep
Over/under a dozen, how many innings do we think White Sox manager Tony La Russa has fully slept through so far this season? With his out-of-touch hand on the wheel, the White Sox have fallen flat after entering the season as clear favorites in the AL Central race. Can they awaken from their slumber in time to salvage the season?
Cleveland Guardians: Rolling
The Guardians entered play on Thursday with the best record in the American League since the All-Star break at 20-12 with a plus-34 run differential. During that span, they've gone from 2.5 games back to four games up in the AL Central standings, and with eight games left against the Minnesota Twins and three with the Chicago White Sox, this burst of momentum has come at the perfect time.
Detroit Tigers: Disillusioning
Big things were expected from the Tigers this year after they quietly won 77 games last season on the strength of a 37-34 record during the second half, and the excitement was further fueled when they spent big to sign Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez in free agency. Rather than taking a step forward, the 2022 season has been a huge step back, and the future outlook is now uncertain with longtime general manager Al Avila sent packing earlier this month.
Kansas City Royals: Hopeful
The win-loss record might not reflect it, but there have been plenty of positive takeaways this season for the Royals. Enough to provide some real hope that there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel on their current rebuild. Young players Brady Singer, Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez, Vinnie Pasquantino, Daniel Lynch and Michael Massey all look like potential building blocks.
Minnesota Twins: Squandered
The Twins held at least a share of the AL Central lead in 92 of their first 108 games, but a sub-.500 record since the All-Star break coupled with the Cleveland Guardians' recent run of success has sent them sliding down the standings. If they can't salvage the division title, they could wind up squandering a postseason opportunity,: They currently sit fifth in the AL wild-card standings.
American League West
Houston Astros: Stacked
Despite losing Gerrit Cole, George Springer and Carlos Correa in consecutive offseasons, the Astros roster remains as stacked as any in baseball, and amid the Yankees' recent struggles, they again look like the team to beat in the American League. A healthy Justin Verlander has certainly helped, but behind him they have assembled a pitching staff that leads the AL with a 3.06 ERA.
Los Angeles Angels: Crossroads
With Shohei Ohtani one year removed from free agency and owner Arte Moreno preparing to sell the team, the Angels are at a very important crossroads as a franchise. Does the next ownership group extend a massive contract offer to Ohtani to keep him slotted alongside fellow superstar Mike Trout, or do they blow it up and start over, trading away Ohtani and perhaps even exploring the idea of moving Trout? The answers to those questions could reshape the MLB landscape.
Oakland Athletics: Non-Factor
Catcher Sean Murphy is really good, left-hander Cole Irvin is having a nice under-the-radar season, and Paul Blackburn was an All-Star this year, but the Oakland roster is largely a cast of unknowns playing out what could be the franchise's first 100-loss season since 1979. The front office has done a great job in the past assembling a contender on a shoestring budget, but they have been a complete non-factor in 2022.
Seattle Mariners: Flood
A flood, as in the opposite of a drought, as in the Mariners' long-standing playoff drought that stretches all the way back to 2001 when Ichiro Suzuki was a rookie. On pace for 87 wins and currently slotted in the third AL wild-card spot, the M's are on track to finally reach the playoffs once again, and this doesn't look like a one-off contender. With an exciting young core led by Julio Rodriguez, this could be the origin point for a perennial postseason team.
Texas Rangers: Puzzling
Why would the Rangers let president of baseball operations Jon Daniels spend all of that money last offseason if he was on such thin ice that he was fired earlier this month? It's kind of like letting the previous regime draft a franchise quarterback in the NFL, only to have the next coach come in and want to find his own guy. It has been a puzzling few weeks in Arlington, to say the least.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: Peaking
With a 14-2 record in their last 16 games entering play on Thursday, the Braves are peaking at the perfect time. Series wins over the rival New York Mets and first-place Houston Astros last week proved they belong in the top tier of teams right now, and another tough test awaits this week as they take on the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Miami Marlins: Punchless
The Marlins have scored 48 runs in 22 games in August, and they've plated more than three runs just twice during that stretch. That's dead-ball era production. Spending on Avisail Garcia (342 PA, 67 OPS+) and Jorge Soler (306 PA, 94 OPS+) last offseason did nothing to shore up the offense, and they need to find multiple bats this winter if they want to be a serious contender.
New York Mets: Healthy
It's a simple word, but it should be a scary one for the rest of the league. The Mets not only survived, but thrived with both Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer watching from the sidelines during the first half of the season. Now they're both back, and this team looks poised for a deep October run on the backs of those two aces.
Philadelphia Phillies: Bronze
The Phillies are a good team. They are also very clearly the third-best team in their own division, and that has been the case the entire season. To that point, May 26 is the last time they were anywhere but third in the NL East standings. With seven games remaining against the Atlanta Braves, they still have time to change that narrative, but right now, they are firmly locked into the bronze-medal spot in their division race.
Washington Nationals: Gutted
After trading away Juan Soto and Josh Bell at this year's deadline and Trea Turner and Max Scherzer last summer, the current iteration of the Nationals hardly resembles an MLB-level team. In fact, Soto and Bell still lead the team in WAR, despite not wearing a Nationals uniform for nearly a month now. It's been a while since we've seen an MLB roster gutted to this point.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: Unrecognizable
With Kyle Hendricks and Jason Heyward both shut down for the season, free-agent-to-be Willson Contreras is now the only active player on the Cubs roster still standing from the 2016 World Series team. In six short years, the North Siders went from the pinnacle of the baseball world to completely unrecognizable and irrelevant.
Cincinnati Reds: Building
The Reds finally seem to be building toward something. Elly De La Cruz (20), Noelvi Marte (33), Edwin Arroyo (45), Cam Collier (63) and Spencer Steer (98) all currently rank among Baseball America's Top 100 prospects, with Marte, Arroyo and Steer all acquired in deadline deals. The farm system is now as highly regarded as the days when Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Drew Stubbs ranked among the game's top prospects
Milwaukee Brewers: Complacent
The Brewers are hitting .199 with a .659 OPS as a team in August, and since the trade deadline, they've seen a three-game lead in the NL Central standings devolve into a 5.5-game deficit. The front office failed to make a single move to upgrade a middle-of-the-road offense, and now things have unraveled to the point they could miss the playoffs entirely.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Hodgepodge
Boston Red Sox announcer Dennis Eckersley called the Pirates lineup a "hodgepodge of nothingness" earlier this month, and with all due respect to Bryan Reynolds, he's not wrong. The All-Star center fielder is the only regular with an OPS+ above 100, and even promising young players like Ke'Bryan Hayes and Oneil Cruz have been below-average producers.
St. Louis Cardinals: Compelling
Albert Pujols is hitting .487 with seven home runs in 42 plate appearances over his last 13 games, and suddenly, a run at 700 career homers is within reach: He needs just seven more. Meanwhile, Paul Goldschmidt is three home runs and two RBI shy of leading the NL in all three Triple Crown categories in the midst of a season that will almost certainly end in NL MVP honors. The Cardinals are must-see TV right now, folks.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: Intriguing
Zac Gallen (7 GS, 0.80 ERA, 45.0 IP) and Merrill Kelly (6 GS, 1.80 ERA, 40.0 IP) have been two of the best starters in baseball since the All-Star break. Christian Walker just reached 30 home runs. Daulton Varsho is enjoying a breakout season. Alek Thomas is gaining some valuable MLB experience. Add all of that to a farm system that features some great high-end talent, and things are getting interesting in the desert.
Colorado Rockies: Directionless
Why did the Rockies hold on to C.J. Cron at the trade deadline? Why did they give 37-year-old closer Daniel Bard a two-year, $19 million extension when they're not contending? When was the last time the Colorado front office had an actual plan? There is not a more directionless franchise in professional sports right now than the Rockies, and that's not going to change until Dick Monfort sells the team.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Juggernaut
The Dodgers lead the majors in team OPS (.790), runs scored (664), team ERA (2.85) and team WHIP (1.05). They have a 2.33 ERA in August, despite being without Walker Buehler, and they've gone 18-4 this month while outscoring opponents by a staggering 138-58 margin. Simply put, this squad is an absolute juggernaut right now, and they'll be the team to beat when the postseason arrives.
San Diego Padres: Dramatic
The Juan Soto blockbuster. The Eric Hosmer no-trade clause. The Fernando Tatis Jr. suspension. The Josh Hader implosion. It just feels like much of the season's biggest drama can be traced to San Diego, yet they are still in position to earn a wild-card berth. Can they rally around it all in October?
San Francisco Giants: Overoptimistic
Despite a 51-52 record heading into deadline day, the Giants front office opted to hold on to Carlos Rodon and Joc Pederson in hopes of making a late push. Instead, they've gone 10-10 in their last 20 games and sit 5.5 games out of the third NL wild-card spot entering play on Thursday. It was an overoptimistic approach that likely cost them some quality prospect talent.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Wednesday's games.