The 2022 MLB season is in the homestretch. We have less than two weeks to go in the regular season, which will then lead to the start of the playoffs. While there are a lot of really strong teams this season, it’s clear that the Houston Astros are the favorite to make it to the World Series out of the American League.
It’s tough to see any team beating the Astros in a playoff series this season. Houston’s lineup hasn’t skipped a beat despite losing Carlos Correa and George Springer over the previous two seasons, and their pitching staff is arguably as good as it has ever been. Looking at Houston’s roster, it is tough to find many holes.
Still, anything can happen in the playoffs. We saw the Astros get upset by the Atlanta Braves in the World Series last season, and there will surely be some surprises throughout the 2022 MLB playoffs. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the three AL teams that are the biggest threats to sending the Astros home for the offseason earlier than they would like.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
Every single season, the Rays find a way to exceed their expectations and find their way into the playoffs. While they haven’t locked up their playoff spot just yet, they should do so over the next few days. The only question at this point is what spot will they finish in the AL wild card race.
The Rays have cooled off recently after nearly overtaking the Yankees for the top spot in the American League East, but they still are a dangerous team in the playoffs. They have a history of winning in the postseason, and they always seem to get better when the stakes increase. Tampa has an underrated lineup and a strong pitching staff that makes them a team to keep an eye on out of the wild card round.
Unless something crazy happens, the Rays will likely face either the Toronto Blue Jays or Cleveland Guardians in the wild card round. If they win there, they would likely move on to face Houston. The time off may help the Astros, or it simply may have allowed Tampa the time to get hot. The Rays beat the Astros on the way to the World Series just two seasons ago, so they know what it takes to beat them, and they may have what it takes to upset Houston if they can heat up before the postseason starts.
2. Cleveland Guardians
If you want to look at teams that have already gotten hot, look no further than the Cleveland Guardians. The AL Central race had been pretty close between the Guardians, Chicago White Sox, and Minnesota Twins all season long. But Cleveland has turned things up a notch recently and turned the race into a laugher.
Cleveland has already locked up the division, and will likely slot in as the third seed in the American League. They wouldn’t play the Astros until the ALCS, but it’s hard to see them losing in the wild card round, and they have a decent shot at overcoming the New York Yankees in the ALDS if they make it that far.
The Guardians have quietly amassed one of the deeper pitching staffs in the league, and while their lineup isn’t perfect, they have the star needed in Jose Ramirez to lead them to wins. Cleveland has been on a tear lately, and if they can continue to play this well once the playoffs roll around, they may end up shocking the Astros and the rest of the MLB.
1. New York Yankees
Even with the New York Yankees second half struggles, they are still an incredibly dangerous team that cannot be counted out. They have recovered after watching their huge lead a top the AL East vanish, and will likely clinch the division over the next few days. New York is getting healthier as the postseason nears, and that makes them the team most likely to upset the Astros once the playoffs roll around.
The Yankees have a deep starting rotation, a strong lineup led by the best hitter in the world in Aaron Judge, and a bullpen that appears to be turning the corner at the perfect time. New York is a bit more top heavy than the extremely deep Astros, but if their top players can get some support, they will have a really good shot at making a deep playoff run.
Similar to the Guardians, New York wouldn’t meet Houston until the ALCS, but the Yankees will automatically bypass the wild card round if they can hold onto the second seed in the AL, which is a huge advantage for them. New York has put themselves back together right before the playoffs, and if they can get hot again, they will have the best shot at upsetting the Astros in the playoffs this season.