The 2015 MLB season is more than three months old, but there’s still plenty of baseball to be played. While certain teams and players made their mark before the All-Star break, a lot can change over the final 70-plus games of the year.
Many of the favorites in spring training are performing as they were projected to, with four of last year’s division winners currently in first place. Mike Trout is still playing like the best player in the American League, and Bryce Harper is realizing his potential with the National League MVP award in his sight.
But there are a few teams and players that haven’t reached expectations in the first half, and they should be able to do so in August and September. Conversely, some of the biggest surprises of the season could come back down to earth after the All-Star break.
Below are a few predictions for the second half of the 2015 MLB season, looking at who might improve and who might struggle.
On The Rise
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto entered the All-Star break in fourth place in the AL East and one game under .500. But the Blue Jays are far from out of the divisional race. They trail the first-place New York Yankees by just 4.5 games, and they sit just one game behind the second-place Tampa Bay Rays.
Eight AL teams have a better record than the Blue Jays, but their plus-82 run differential is 19 runs better than the next closest team. The stat has historically been a strong indicator of future performance, and Toronto could be in for a big second half. Toronto has the league’s best offense with 486 runs scored, and the combination of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion might be the most deadly trio in any lineup. Opening Day starter Drew Hutchison has a 5.33 ERA, but his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) indicates that he’s pitched into some bad luck, and he could put up much better numbers in the second half.
The A’s had a disappointing finish to last season, stumbling down the stretch and losing to the Kansas City Royals in the wild-card game. The team’s inability to win games has continued into 2015, as they enter the All-Star break in last place in the AL West with the league’s worst record. But Oakland seems to be playing better than their record would indicate.
The Athletics are one of the most well-balanced teams in all of MLB. Despite being nine games under .500, Oakland is the only team in all of baseball that ranks in the top six in both runs (390) and ERA (3.37). The A’s have a plus-44 run differential, which ranks fourth in the AL. Oakland is only eight games out of the second wild-card spot, and they should stay in the race if they don’t trade any of their top players. With all five of their starting pitchers posting an ERA of better than 3.40, the team still has a chance to make a run towards the playoffs.
After having one of the best seasons in recent memory for any starter, Kershaw has had a disappointing first half. He went 6-6 with a 2.85 ERA, a far cry from the historic numbers (37-12, 1.80 ERA) he put up in the previous two years. While he pitched in the All-Star Game, he wasn’t named to the NL team until Max Scherzer needed a replacement when the break had already begun.
But Kershaw remains among baseball’s best pitchers, and his numbers didn’t reflect how well he perfomed in the first three months. He ranks third in FIP, indicating that he hasn’t had the best luck this season, and no pitcher has struck out more batters. His teammate Zack Greinke has garnered most of the attention with his 1.39 ERA, but last year’s NL MVP could end up having the better overall 2015 season.
The Houston Astros rookie has had a limited impact this season because he didn’t make his MLB debut until June 8, but he could be one of the AL’s best players in the second half. It’s taken him just 32 games to hit seven home runs, and he could be one of the league’s top power hitters for the rest of the season.
At just 20 years old, Correa should only get better. He’s a five-tool player, and his combination of speed and power has helped him post a slugging percentage over .500, as well as become the second-youngest player in 100 years to steal three bases in one game. Correa has drawn comparisons to a young Alex Rodriguez, and the rest of baseball will see why over the final two and a half months of the regular season.
On The Decline
Few experts predicted the Twins to have a big 2015 season, and they’ve somehow managed to be one of the best teams in the AL. Having their best year since 2010, Minnesota’s 49-40 record has them in first place in the wild-card race with the league’s second-best record. But the Twins could find it difficult to keep up that pace in the second half.
While they’ve found a way to win games, Minnesota has proven to be no better than an average team. They’re in the middle of the pack in the AL in both hitting and pitching, ranking seventh in runs scored and eighth in ERA. Seven teams have a better run differential, giving further proof that they were somewhat lucky in the first half.
A-Rod has probably been the biggest surprise of the 2015 MLB season. Hip surgery and a suspension forced him to only play 44 games in the last two years, and he hit just .244 with seven home runs during that time. Through 82 games, he’s been one of the AL’s best hitters, ranking sixth with an .898 OPS, and it’s hard to see him keeping up that pace.
Rodriguez has been able to stay healthy by mostly playing at designated hitter, but the odds don’t favor him participating in 93 percent of the Yankees’ second half games, like he did before the All-Star break. He hasn’t played more than 138 games in a season since 2007, and he’s set to turn 40 years old on July 27. A-Rod should be productive, and even above average, as New York tries to win the AL East. But a bit of a drop off is reasonable to expect.