With the ebb and flow of a 162 game MLB season having just crossed its halfway mark, both the National and American Leagues are sorting out their standings in an attempt to decipher who will be falling into the group of buyers and who will be selling off their talent before the trade deadline hits.
At this current moment, the Los Angeles Dodgers hold the best record in the NL and hold the largest lead for any NL division – in other words, their divisional title is all but wrapped up and the All-Star break has not even hit yet.
Out east, the Atlanta Braves have begun to pull away from the second place team, the Philadelphia Phillies, but this division is still up for grabs. Any of the teams in first through fourth place have a realistic chance at making the playoffs, regardless of through winning the division or by securing a Wild Card berth.
For the Central division, the preseason hype train has really slammed on the breaks so far, as there has been no distinct clubhouse leader established quite yet and all five teams had losing records in the month of June. The Milwaukee Brewers hold a slim one-game lead over the Chicago Cubs, while the third-place St. Louis Cardinals are quietly keeping pace at only three-and-a-half game behind.
As previously said, the Dodgers are well on their way to securing yet another divisional title, and this year seems to be one of the easiest seasons for them to achieve that, provided their run keeps going. Already sitting a whopping 13 games ahead of the second-place Colorado Rockies, LA can pretty much set their season on cruise control and begin to gear up for their postseason opponents.
The trade deadline will present an interesting time for this team, as while they do have a few spots that could use some fine-tuning, this team is already set and could stay status quo for the playoffs. If any help were to be added, a bench piece and a reliever or two would go a long way to helping solidify this team down the stretch.
In terms of likelihood of remaining in control of the division and eventually winning it, if there were odds that were higher than 100 percent they would be listed. Therefore, the chances of Los Angeles blowing their divisional lead, while possible and could happen if they suddenly slump and the right team (the Rockies or San Diego Padres) get hot, are next to not even close to happening.
Likelihood of the Dodgers winning the NL West: 100%
With the Braves and Phillies making this divisional race seem like a two-horse race out of the gates, both the third-place Washington Nationals and fourth-place Mets would like to have a say in that matter.
The Braves have the young talent to give up if they are looking to make a big-time move, the Phillies have already played their big pieces over the offseason in making their additions, the Nationals are still middling and are having issues keeping their head above water and the Mets seemingly have a wheel and deal methodology about everything that they do, so this division is a toss-up.
Atlanta has all the cards in their favor and looks to be the clubhouse favorite, but the Phillies have begun to figure things out just at the right time of the season. Bryce Harper finally realized that he has to begin to hit like his monster of a contract says he does, and his teammates, even with the season-ending injury to Andrew McCutchen, seem to be following suit.
The Nats are needing to get themselves out purgatory, and even with not having Harper on their team, they have the right pieces in the right spots to make that happen. Their starting rotation, led by Max Scherzer, Mr. Immaculate Inning himself, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin are all having solid seasons and helping keep this team moving along.
The Big Apple’s NL team is living life on the edge and their record reflects that, so while their playoff chances hinge on a buyer’s mindset come the trade deadline, they could always choose to reset, sell, recoup assets and try this whole slobberknocker again in 2020.
Likelihood of the Braves winning the NL East: 70%
The crapshoot that is keeping all of the NL on their toes is the Central division, where all teams are within 5.5 games of each other at a max. From the division-leading Brewers all the way down to the basement-dwelling Cincinnati Reds, this division has no idea what parity is and does not seem to be in favor of learning how to embody it.
For the Brewers, they have been teetering on success and trouble for what seems like the entire season, even with their fast start that once again saw them take over sole possession of first place. Having regressing pitching and hitters that seem to be one-hit wonders (looking at you, Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw), this team is desperate to find production from anywhere internally first, before looking outside the organization.
The Cubs also chose the same time as the Brew Crew to struggle, and their losing ways have come at the hands of opponents not necessarily seen as big-time threats. Getting spanked by the Pittsburgh Pirates currently in their series is something that is not new for the 2019 version of the Cubs but should be seen as concerning.
The Cardinals, Pirates and Reds, all in that order from third to fifth, have outside chances at making up ground to the two divisional frontrunners. While the Cards have the best chance based on their roster makeup and outlook, both the Pirates and Reds have been playing the role of the spoiler so far this season and has kept them within their divisional race.
July will become a very telling time for this grouping, as all five teams could realistically become buyers and attempt to indulge themselves on the open market, looking for improvements while shrinking the availability of certain players while driving up the prices.
Likelihood of the Brewers winning the Central: 55%