Making the playoffs in Major League Baseball, which used to be a hugely difficult achievement, has gotten a lot easier in the past five years. With the expansion of the MLB postseason to six teams per league, suddenly a lot more organizations are thinking of playoffs on a yearly basis, but with the knowledge in mind that they may only need about 85 wins to get there.

Expansion has had a number of negative effects, including front-office executives admitting out loud that the goal is to win 54% of games on a yearly basis as opposed to, you know, winning a championship. But we cannot deny the results thus far: a six-seed has made the World Series in each of the first two MLB seasons of expanded playoffs. And that means any team that may be hovering around .500 right now could just as easily make it to the Fall Classic as one of the league's top powers.

So today, let's look closely at all those mediocre teams across MLB at the moment. There are seven teams whose records are either exactly .500 or so close to it that changing the results of one of their games would get them there. But what do we actually know about those teams? And based on what we've seen, how likely is it that they will make the playoffs? Time for a good old-fashioned mini-power ranking!

1. San Diego Padres (MLB record entering play Tuesday: 29-28, +9 run differential)

Trusting the Padres to make the playoffs a year after they famously did not do so despite having one of the most talented rosters in the game? It's a scary proposition, no doubt. But even though their record is once again close to .500, this Padres team feels different, if only because it doesn't seem to have the close games/extra innings curse that plagued its predecessor.

With Dylan Cease bolstering a starting rotation full of premium stuff and Luis Arraez providing a phenomenal spark at the top of the lineup, the Padres simply have more high-end talent than anyone below them. They have also had a brutally tough schedule thus far and are 18-16 against teams above .500, so now they will have a chance to fatten up against some of the league's lesser teams.

2. Chicago Cubs (27-27, -7 run differential)

A couple weeks ago, the Cubs were nowhere near this debate because they were fighting with the Milwaukee Brewers for control of first place in the MLB National League Central, so it can't feel great to be all the way down to .500. But when looking at this Cubs roster from top to bottom, it's hard to imagine they won't be closer to the team they were in April and early May than the one they've been masquerading as during this losing skid.

Shota Imanaga alone gives the Cubs a massive edge among the mediocre crew, because he might well win the NL Cy Young Award in his rookie season. Justin Steele seems to be trending upward as well and Javier Assad has been fantastic, so the rotation has an edge on most of its competition. And a lineup that should eventually feature healthy versions of Cody Bellinger, Dansby Swanson, Seiya Suzuki, and Nico Hoerner all together ought to produce better results than the diminished versions of the Cubs that have been struggling to score this year.

3. San Francisco Giants (28-27, -15 run differential)

May 27, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Matt Chapman (26) scores a run against the Philadelphia Phillies in the second inning at Oracle Park.
Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants have arrived at the party in a big way over the past two weeks, winning nine of their last 11 games and finally climbing past the .500 mark after a pretty awful start to the MLB campaign. It's taken a lot of contributions from sources both expected and surprising, but the depth talent on both sides of the ball is becoming apparent as San Francisco has begun winning.

There are many names to highlight, but Matt Chapman's stands out after the resurgence he's seen of late. Since May 11, he has 11 extra-base hits and a 1.076 OPS in 15 games. Luis Matos has been key in replacing Jung Hoo Lee in center field and in conjunction with Heliot Ramos and Marco Luciano, has brought a surge of youth to the starting lineup. And as bad as he's been, one has to believe Blake Snell will regain his form at some point this season. With Robbie Ray and Alex Cobb eventually returning from injuries, this could end up being the best 1-5 rotation in baseball.

4. Boston Red Sox (27-27, +24 run differential)

In April, the Red Sox might have ranked closer to the top of this list, because the starting pitching was truly special. But with the news that Garrett Whitlock has a torn UCL, the rotation is looking far too thin, which is a familiar story for fans who suffered through the team using just three regular starters for most of the 2023 second half. All in all, it feels appropriate that this team, which has been mediocre for three straight years, should be in the middle of the middle.

Triston Casas coming back sometime in mid-to-late June should do wonders to help the Boston offense, which has been trotting out two to four starters that probably belong in AAA just about every night. But a playoff push would likely require relatively unproven hitters like Wilyer Abreu and Connor Wong to keep up their torrid season paces. It feels like it's probably not happening this year, but there's a lot of promise for the future with the talent coming up through the pipeline.

5. Tampa Bay Rays (26-28, -47 run differential)

It's a credit to the Rays that they aren't buried in last place with such an abysmal run differential, especially since the team has also dealt with a rash of injuries. But this also doesn't feel like a signature Rays team that manages to make the playoffs in spite of the anonymous names on the backs of the jerseys. Too many players who excelled last season are unavailable this year and too many others have just not shown up.

What on earth is going on with Randy Arozarena? His .563 OPS is the fifth-worst of all qualified MLB hitters and his 64 strikeouts are tied for ninth-most. He was always strikeout prone, but he also seemed to be a lock for 20-20 seasons and a high-.700s OPS and now, that Randy doesn't seem to exist anymore. As he goes, so do the Rays, so as long as the 2024 version of Arozarena keeps trotting out there nightly, this team isn't scaring anyone they face.

6. St. Louis Cardinals (25-27, -43 run differential)

It's admittedly nice to have a respite from the doom-and-gloom atmosphere that has circled the Cardinals franchise for the past year and a half. The Redbirds have been winning, Paul Goldschmidt has been hitting home runs again and Busch Stadium is full of cheers instead of boos and scoreboard messages with pleas to fire the manager.

However, it's hard to envision this iteration of the Cardinals sustaining the good times through the long MLB summer. Behind Sonny Gray, the rotation is always on the verge of crumbling. Willson Contreras' bat hasn't been missed much so far, but that could easily change. And even if Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado continue to heat up, this team is only built to win if both of them are MVP candidates, as they were in 2022. Last year, we learned that a mere .800 OPS for each won't cut it.

7. Detroit Tigers (26-27, 0 run differential)

You know what? This feels a little bit harsh. The Tigers have a legitimate AL Cy Young candidate in Tarik Skubal, a strong, deep pitching staff, and a few really solid hitters who are enjoying breakout-type seasons. But at the end of the day, it just doesn't feel like enough offense, especially in an AL Central that shockingly features three teams that are too good right now to qualify for this ranking.

It comes down to Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson. If the two former first-round picks can live up to the potential they've each flashed the past couple of seasons, the Tigers might have a chance to hang in the playoff race this summer. But if not, they've got a ton of valuable players waiting to be traded and if their season results in getting a nice prospect haul to join the burgeoning core, that might end up better in the long run than a quick exit in the Wild Card round.