Reasons for each MLB team to be optimistic — and pessimistic — about the rest of the season

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Believe it or not, we have played five weeks of the regular season, and already we’ve seen enough to identify reasons for optimism and pessimism for all 30 teams.

Is the glass half-empty? Half-full? From those at the top of the MLB power rankings to those at the bottom, every team has reasons for hope and concern in 2024.

NL East

Atlanta Braves

Reason for optimism: The Braves have the best lineup in baseball one to nine, with athleticism, power and speed. They have a plus defender at every position and the depth to withstand injuries across the diamond. Ronald Acuña Jr., the reigning National League MVP, has only one home run, Matt Olson has hit .202, Austin Riley has hit .226 and yet Atlanta still sits in first place in the NL East at the start of May.

Reason for pessimism: They lost their ace, Spencer Strider, the oddsmakers’ early favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award, to season-ending elbow surgery. Although his absence shouldn’t stop the Braves from making the playoffs, it hurts their chances of defending their NL East title (they’ve won six in a row) — and more importantly, their chances of winning another World Series.


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Philadelphia Phillies

Led by ace Zack Wheeler, the Phillies’ rotation is off to a strong start. (Bill Streicher / USA Today)

Reason for optimism: The Phillies have three starting pitchers (Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suárez and Spencer Turnbull) with ERAs under 2.00, along with Aaron Nola (3.20 ERA), Cristopher Sánchez (3.68) and Taijuan Walker, who has made one start since returning from the injured list. Overall, their rotation is 16-7 with a 2.50 ERA and leads the majors in strikeouts and batting average against. In the bullpen, José Alvarado has converted all five of his save opportunities, while righty Jeff Hoffman (1.29 ERA) and lefty Matt Strahm (1.50 ERA) have pitched well. In addition, third baseman Alec Bohm looks poised for a breakout season as he’s hitting .362/.432/.586 with four home runs and a team-leading 30 RBIs, which has lengthened the lineup.

Reason for pessimism: Nick Castellanos is hitting .186. Bryson Stott is hitting .225. Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper are at .211 and .233, respectively. That’s not going to get it done if the Phillies want to finish ahead of the Braves this year.


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New York Mets

Reason for optimism: Carlos Mendoza is doing a terrific job handling the pitching staff and dealing with adversity and has shown he’s one of the best rookie managers in MLB. The Mets’ starting pitching has been better than expected, most notably Luis Severino (2.31 ERA over six starts) and José Buttó (2.57 ERA, five starts). Edwin Díaz is healthy and has converted all four of his save opportunities, though he took the loss Monday against the Cubs.

Reason for pessimism: The Mets are middle of the pack in most offensive categories, and they’ve lost catcher Francisco Alvarez for significant time after he underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. Most of their top prospects are not ready for the majors. Their record (16-15) reflects who they are and it appears they’ll hover around .500 all season. To me, they’re much closer to a fourth-place team than a third-place team. They also might have to consider trading first baseman Pete Alonso at the trade deadline if they’re out of contention as he’s an impending free agent and they haven’t been able to extend him.


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Washington Nationals

Reason for optimism: CJ Abrams has become one of the most exciting offensive players in baseball, smashing seven home runs and stealing seven bases, which puts him on pace to join the 30/30 club. Jesse Winker looks like he could be a Comeback Player of the Year candidate, though he’s cooled off after a hot start. Left-handed starters MacKenzie Gore (3.19 ERA in six starts) and Mitchell Parker (2.53 ERA, four starts) look like they’re primed for breakout campaigns. In addition, top outfield prospect James Wood is ready to help the big-league team whenever the Nationals front office makes the phone call, as he’s hitting .314 with a .421 on-base percentage at Triple-A Rochester.

Reason for pessimism: Patrick Corbin is once again one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball and for some reason the Nationals just won’t release him. Corbin, who led the NL in losses the past three seasons, has a 6.82 ERA over six starts. Josiah Gray, a 2023 All-Star, is on the IL with an elbow injury after going 0-2 with a 14.04 ERA in his first two starts.

Miami Marlins

Reason for optimism: The Marlins have one of the best young managers in the game in Skip Schumaker. They are improving their technology and analytics departments in the front office under first-year president of baseball operations Peter Bendix. Bryan De La Cruz and Jazz Chisholm Jr. are healthy and have the potential to live up to high expectations despite their slow-ish starts to the season.

Reason for pessimism: The Marlins have a postseason-caliber rotation, but most of their starters are on the IL. Sandy Alcantara and Eury Pérez are out for the year after Tommy John surgeries. Jesús Luzardo (left elbow tightness) and Braxton Garrett (left shoulder impingement) are also on the IL. The Marlins were hoping to convert reliever AJ Puk to a starter but after going 0-4 with a 9.22 ERA in four starts, he, too, landed on the IL with a shoulder injury.

NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers

Do the Brewers have enough starting pitching behind Freddy Peralta? (Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

Reason for optimism: The Brewers have one of the top five offenses in the NL thanks to breakouts by catcher William Contreras (.345/.420/.538, five homers, 25 RBIs) and second baseman Brice Turang (.309 BA, .370 OBP, 14 stolen bases in 14 attempts). Willy Adames, an impending free agent, is also off to a fast start, hitting .278
with six home runs. First baseman Rhys Hoskins, who missed all of last season after knee surgery, has six homers and 18 RBIs and could become a Comeback Player of the Year candidate. Freddy Peralta has developed into a true ace; he’s 3-0 with 45 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings.

Reason for pessimism: Their rotation has absorbed a lot of blows: Corbin Burnes is an Oriole; Brandon Woodruff is out for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery last October; Wade Miley will have Tommy John surgery and is done for the season. Meanwhile, DL Hall, one of the players acquired in the Burnes trade, has a 7.71 ERA over four starts, and veteran Joe Ross has a 5.40 ERA in five starts.

Chicago Cubs

Reason for optimism: Shota Imanaga looks like the best value signing of the offseason as he’s gone 5-0 with a 0.78 ERA and is pitching like he’ll be in the Cy Young Award conversation this year. Javier Assad has broken out this season with a 1.97 ERA over six starts and Jameson Taillon has impressed since coming off the IL, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three outings. Michael Busch was another shrewd offseason pickup by the Cubs; the former Dodgers prospect has six homers and 17 RBIs as their new first baseman.

Reason for pessimism: Cody Bellinger is on the IL with a fractured rib, Ian Happ is hitting .211, Christopher Morel is at .209, Nick Madrigal is at .195. Nico Hoerner has yet to hit a home run and has been caught stealing twice in six attempts. (Last year he had an 86 percent success rate.)


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Cincinnati Reds

Reason for optimism: In April, Elly De La Cruz became the first player in MLB history to hit eight homers and steal 17 stolen bases in a calendar month. He’s the most exciting player on the Reds since Ken Griffey Jr. The team has held its own offensively despite losing Matt McLain and TJ Friedl to the injured list. The rotation has been solid, led by lefty Nick Lodolo (3-0, 1.88 ERA in four starts), while both Hunter Greene (3.63 ERA) and Andrew Abbott (3.27) are off to good starts through six outings apiece. Alexis Díaz has converted six of seven save opportunities despite some wildness.

Reason for pessimism: Half of the Reds’ lineup just hasn’t hit to start the year. Will Benson is batting .206, Jonathan India .221, Christian Encarnacion-Strand .196 and Jeimer Candelario .194.

St. Louis Cardinals

Reason for optimism: The three free-agent starting pitchers they signed have lived up to expectations to begin the year: Sonny Gray has quickly become their ace, posting a
3-1 record with a 1.16 ERA; Lance Lynn has a 2.64 ERA over six starts; Kyle Gibson has a 3.79 ERA and has eaten 38 innings. Ryan Helsley remains one of the most dominant closers in the game, converting 10 of his 11 opportunities.

Reason for pessimism: The offense is just not clicking as the Cardinals’ two most proven veteran bats, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, aren’t hitting. Arenado has just one home run, and Goldschmidt looks like he’s in his age-36 season, as he’s hitting .230 with only two homers. The Cardinals also are not getting much help from their young players: Jordan Walker hit .155 before being demoted; Victor Scott II hit .085 before he was sent out; Lars Nootbaar is hitting .185 and Nolan Gorman .190. Only shortstop Masyn Winn and DH Alec Burleson have held their own at the plate.


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Pittsburgh Pirates

Reason for optimism: Rookie righty Jared Jones has been incredible, with 42 strikeouts to five walks over 34 innings and a 3.18 ERA in his first six starts. Paul Skenes, the top pitching prospect in baseball, has posted a 0.39 ERA through six starts at Triple A. He’s struck out 41 in 23 innings and is major-league-ready now. If the Pirates can get Mitch Keller straightened out after a slow start and promote Skenes, they might have the best top of the rotation, one to three, in the division, and might be able to stay in the NL Central race for most of the year.

Reason for pessimism: The Pirates are not getting enough offensive production from three of their best young players: Shortstop Oneil Cruz is batting .239 with three home runs, catcher Henry Davis is batting .162 and outfielder Jack Suwinski is also under the Mendoza Line, hitting .168. They’re also not getting much from veterans Andrew McCutchen and Rowdy Tellez, who are both hitting under .210.


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NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

Reason for optimism: The Dodgers’ lineup, one to four, is the best in baseball. Mookie Betts, the early front-runner for NL MVP, is batting .377 with 10 doubles, six home runs and eight steals in eight attempts. Shohei Ohtani is batting .336 with 14 doubles, seven home runs and five steals in five tries, Freddie Freeman is hitting .292 with an .833 OPS. Will Smith is batting .355 with 24 RBIs. Teoscar Hernández and Max Muncy have added six and five homers, respectively, in the bottom half of the lineup. Tyler Glasnow is in the early NL Cy Young Award conversation after going 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA over seven starts, while Yoshinobu Yamamoto and James Paxton are a combined 6-1 with a 3.31 ERA. Two-time All-Star Walker Buehler, who last pitched in 2022, is set to make his return from Tommy John surgery and start Monday against the Marlins. Closer Evan Phillips has converted all eight of his save opportunities and owns a 0.71 ERA.

Reason for pessimism: Starting pitchers Tony Gonsolin, Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May, Bobby Miller and Emmet Sheehan remain on the IL without a return date.

San Diego Padres

Reason for optimism: Manager Mike Shildt is doing an excellent job leading the Padres back into contention. Dylan Cease has become the ace of the staff, going 3-2 with a 2.78 ERA over six starts. Robert Suarez, their new closer, owns a 0.66 ERA and has converted all 10 of his save opportunities. Jake Cronenworth is having a bounce-back year and leads the team in RBIs (24). Jurickson Profar is off to a surprisingly strong start, hitting .342 with a .954 OPS in 111 at-bats. Rookie Jackson Merrill has made a smooth transition to playing center field while holding his own at the plate.

Reason for pessimism: Veterans Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts have been underwhelming overall; none of them are hitting above .250 nor have an on-base percentage over .325. They will have to dramatically improve for the Padres to secure a wild-card berth. Joe Musgrove has been a real concern in the rotation, posting a 6.37 ERA over eight starts with much slower arm speed out front than in the past.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants’ offseason additions, such as Jung Hoo Lee, are paying off. (Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)

Reason for optimism: The Giants hit on most of their offseason moves. Jung Hoo Lee is playing above-average defense in center field and he’s tied for first on the team in hits. Matt Chapman and Jorge Soler have provided much-needed right-handed power, combining for nine homers. On the pitching side, converted reliever Jordan Hicks has put up a 1.59 ERA over six starts (34 innings). The only offseason move that hasn’t worked out early on is the signing of Blake Snell, who was rushed to the majors after signing late in spring training; he was shelled in his first three starts (11.57 ERA) before being placed on the IL with an adductor strain. However, he should return to his Cy Young-level form once he’s healthy and can build his arm strength. The Giants also have improved a lot defensively from last year.

Reason for pessimism: Well, they’re in the same division as the Dodgers and both the Padres and Diamondbacks are capable of finishing ahead of them. And the Giants don’t have a single qualified hitter with an on-base percentage above .340. (LaMonte Wade Jr. leads the team with a .440 OBP in 84 plate appearances.)

Arizona Diamondbacks

Reason for optimism: Ketel Marte, Christian Walker and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. picked up where they left off last year. Marte is batting .307 with five homers, Walker is playing Gold Glove first base with seven homers, 22 RBIs and a .390 OBP, and Gurriel is swatting homers (five) and driving in runs (22). The top of their rotation — Zac Gallen, Jordan Montgomery and Merrill Kelly — should be formidable this season once they’re healthy and settle in. So far, Zac Gallen is 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA and Jordan Montgomery is 1-2 with a 5.63 in three starts since being activated, while Merrill Kelly went 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA over four starts before he was placed on the IL with a right shoulder strain.

Reason for pessimism: They’ve been hit with a lot of injuries. In addition to Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez (lat injury), their top free-agent signing, is on the IL and has yet to throw a pitch for Arizona. Others on the IL include closer Paul Sewald (left oblique strain), starter Ryne Nelson (elbow contusion), shortstop Geraldo Perdomo (meniscus tear), and outfielder Alek Thomas (hamstring strain). At the back of the rotation, Brandon Pfaadt and Tommy Henry have been inconsistent. Corbin Carroll, their best overall position player, is experiencing the “sophomore jinx” as opposing pitchers are getting him out early and often at the top of the strike zone. He’s batting .197 with one home run.

Colorado Rockies

Reason for optimism: The Rockies are getting good production, offensively and defensively, up the middle: Ezequiel Tovar, 22, is batting .260 with three home runs and playing plus-plus defense at shortstop; Brenton Doyle, 25, is batting .300 with three home runs and playing plus-plus defense in center field; catcher Elias Díaz, who will be a free agent after this season, is batting .292 with 15 RBIs. The Rockies also just called up outfield prospect Jordan Beck, who had two hits in his debut Tuesday.

Reason for pessimism: Nolan Jones, who joined the 20/20 club last year, was batting .170 with one homer when he went on the IL with a back injury. Age and decline have caught up with Charlie Blackmon, who is batting .217. Kris Bryant remains one of the biggest free-agent busts in recent years; he was hitting .149 with one homer before going on the IL once again. The Rockies’ rotation is 1-17 with a 6.46 ERA and the fewest strikeouts in the majors. The Marlins and White Sox are the only teams in MLB with a chance to finish with a worse record than the Rockies, who are currently 7-24.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles

Corbin Burnes has been as advertised. (Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)

Reason for optimism: The Orioles lead the American League in runs scored, home runs and OPS. Gunnar Henderson is a legitimate MVP candidate after starting the year by hitting .272 with 10 home runs. Adley Rutschman, the best overall catcher in the sport, is off to a fast start, hitting .310. The Orioles’ lineup is so deep that they have bench players as well as hitters in Triple A that would all be starting for most teams in the majors. Corbin Burnes is the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award after a dominating start to his Orioles career.

Reason for pessimism: The Orioles can’t keep the rest of the rotation after Burnes off the injured list. Kyle Bradish, their best starter last year, had spent the entire season on the IL due to elbow issues before making his 2024 debut on Thursday. However, Grayson Rodriguez is arguably their second-best starter and on Wednesday he went on the IL with right shoulder inflammation. (Lefty John Means was activated from the IL on the same day.) They need to get the rotation healthy if they’re going to achieve their ultimate goal of winning a World Series. In addition, bullpen depth is their weakest link and closing out games has been a problem as the Orioles already have blown seven save opportunities, including three by Craig Kimbrel.

New York Yankees

Reason for optimism: Juan Soto has been the AL MVP thus far, slashing .331/.441/.589 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs. Anthony Volpe is raising his game offensively, batting .262 with three home runs and seven steals. Anthony Rizzo was the AL Player of the Week last week. The team is first in the AL in on-base percentage after ranking 10th last year. The pitching staff ranks third in the majors in team ERA at 3.07. The Yankees have been winning with their best starter, Gerrit Cole, on the IL and they’re hoping he’ll return by the end of the month if all goes well. Aaron Boone is once again proving why he’s one of the best managers in baseball in leadership, strategy and building team culture.

Reason for pessimism: They are in the same division as the Orioles and third baseman DJ LeMahieu continues his stay on the IL with a fractured foot.

Boston Red Sox

Reason for optimism: The Red Sox lead the majors with a staggering 2.58 ERA after 32 games thanks to the leadership and direction of chief baseball officer Craig Breslow and pitching coach Andrew Bailey who have their pitchers filling up the strike zone with more secondary pitches than fastballs. They’re pitching ahead, getting early count outs, and pitch sequencing at an elite level. Kutter Crawford has a 1.56 ERA, Tanner Houck a 1.60, Cooper Criswell a 1.65 and Garrett Whitlock a 1.96. In addition, their best young starter, Brayan Bello, is 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA. Wow. Who saw that coming? Manager Alex Cora continues to push all the right buttons.

Reason for pessimism: Trevor Story is out for the year after shoulder surgery, Triston Casas is on the IL with torn rib cartilage and Vaughn Grissom still hasn’t played a game for the Red Sox due to a strained hamstring. And, they’re in the same division with the Orioles and Yankees who have much better overall rosters.

Toronto Blue Jays

Reason for optimism: Justin Turner has quickly become a team leader and one of their best offensive players, reaching base at a .376 clip with four home runs and 15 RBIs. They are also one of the best defensive teams in the sport, leading the majors with 85 defensive runs saved according to FanGraphs.

Reason for pessimism: They are 26th in the majors in runs scored and 22nd in home runs. Their three best hitters have not produced to start the year. Bo Bichette is batting .205 with one home run, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is batting .231 with three homers and George Springer is batting .212 with three home runs. The Blue Jays’ pitching staff is 11th in the AL in team ERA. Kevin Gausman (4.50 ERA) and Chris Bassitt (5.45 ERA) have not looked like themselves.

Tampa Bay Rays

Reason for optimism: The Rays have one of the game’s best leadership teams with Erik Neander running the baseball operations department and Kevin Cash managing the club. Ryan Pepiot, acquired as the headliner in the Tyler Glasnow trade with the Dodgers, has more than lived up to expectations, posting three wins and a 3.12 ERA over his first six starts. Zack Littell has put up a 3.27 ERA in his six starts and Zach Eflin has lowered his ERA to 4.17 after a shaky start. Isaac Paredes has been their best offensive player, hitting seven dingers and leading the team with 17 RBIs.

Reason for pessimism: The Rays’ offense outside of Paredes has not produced enough as they are 25th in the majors in home runs and tied for 21st in runs scored. They are expected to get back second baseman Brandon Lowe and right fielder Josh Lowe later this month after both sustained oblique injuries. In addition, their bullpen outside of Jason Adam and Garrett Cleavinger has been a huge disappointment and is not as dominant as it’s been in recent years.

AL Central

Cleveland Guardians

Reason for optimism: They are in first place with the AL’s second-best run differential at plus-40. Josh Naylor is having a breakout-type season with a .347 OBP, seven home runs and 24 RBIs. Steven Kwan has been one of the game’s best leadoff hitters, batting .349 with 28 runs and José Ramírez continues to be one of the best all-around third basemen in the league. The bullpen is one of the best in the game with Emmanuel Clase logging an 0.55 ERA and converting nine of 11 save opportunities, Tim Herrin providing a 0.69 ERA, Hunter Gaddis with 17 strikeouts and three walks in 16 appearances and Nick Sandlin with a 2.35 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings.

Reason for pessimism: The starting rotation outside of Tanner Bibee has struggled; Logan Allen has posted a 5.11 ERA, Carlos Carrasco a 6.59 ERA and Triston McKenzie a 4.34 ERA. In addition, the bottom half of the Guardians’ lineup includes two hitters who are batting under .200, Tyler Freeman and Bo Naylor.

Kansas City Royals

Reason for optimism: Their starting rotation and team defense have kept them in most games. Lefty Cole Ragans has posted a 3.44 ERA in seven starts, Brady Singer a 2.62 ERA over six starts and newcomers Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha have both delivered too. Lugo is 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA and Wacha has logged a 4.24 ERA. James McArthur won the closer’s job and has converted seven of eight save opportunities. Bobby Witt Jr. is now clearly a top-five player in the entire sport, hitting for both average and power, stealing bases and making highlight defensive plays daily.

Reason for pessimism: Outside of Witt and team leader Salvador Perez, who is batting .355 with seven home runs, the Royals aren’t getting consistent offense. Maikel Garcia has four homers and 20 RBIs but is batting just .226. Vinnie Pasquantino has four dingers but a .221 average. MJ Melendez is hitting a mere .172 with four home runs and right fielder Hunter Renfroe is batting just .148.

Detroit Tigers

Spencer Torkelson, who hit 31 homers last year, has yet to go deep in 2024. (Rick Osentoski / USA Today)

Reason for optimism: The Tigers are fourth in the majors in team ERA at 3.12. Tarik Skubal has led the way, going 4-0 with a 1.72 ERA, and both Reese Olson and Casey Mize are pitching to ERAs in the low threes. James Foley has been excellent, closing games and converting all nine of his save opportunities. In addition, Riley Greene is blossoming into a star, reaching base at a .383 clip with seven homers and 15 RBIs.

Reason for pessimism: The Tigers haven’t been able to get consistent offense as first baseman Spencer Torkelson has yet to hit a home run, center fielder Parker Meadows is batting .100, Javier Báez hitting .191 and rookie Colt Keith a dismal .160. They’ll have to get their offense going if they’re going to stay in the race all year.

Minnesota Twins

Reason for optimism: After a slow start and a boatload of injuries, the Twins have reeled off 10 wins in a row to get back in the race. Ryan Jeffers has led the way offensively, reaching base at a .393 clip with five home runs and a team-leading 19 RBIs. Edouard Julien got off to a slow start but now has five doubles and seven home runs. The Twins’ starting rotation also started slowly, but it looks like Pablo López and Joe Ryan, their two best starters, are turning things around. The addition of Simeon Woods Richardson has been a real plus as he’s put up a 2.45 ERA over his first three starts. The Twins’ bullpen has been dominant without their best reliever, Jhoan Duran, who was activated on Tuesday from the IL.

Reason for pessimism: Royce Lewis, their best player, is on the injured list with a strained quad and there is no timetable for his return. The oft-injured Byron Buxton left Wednesday’s game with another knee injury. In addition, the back of the rotation, including Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack and Louie Varland, has struggled; Varland was already sent to the minors.

Chicago White Sox

Reason for optimism: They have a lot of new offerings at their concession stands including the Southside and Smoke House Smash Burgers, Ogden Foods Bratwurst, barbecue pulled pork and the Impossible dog. However, the best offering is the s’mores-inspired Campfire Milkshake, a chocolate shake with graham crackers, whipped cream, chocolate and a toasted marshmallow on top. You might have to watch a lot of losses, but at least you’ll have tasty food (if you’re there in person).

Reason for pessimism: Their best player, Luis Robert Jr., is on the IL with a hip injury. Offensively, the White Sox are 30th in runs scored and OPS and 29th in home runs. On the pitching side, they are 29th in ERA, 28th in WHIP and last in the AL in walks allowed. Oh, and they have a bottom-third farm system.

AL West

Seattle Mariners

Reason for optimism: They have the best starting pitching in MLB. Logan Gilbert is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA, Bryce Miller is 3-2 with a 2.04 ERA, George Kirby and Emerson Hancock have been lights out over their past two starts, and Luis Castillo is among the league leaders in innings and remains the staff ace. The bullpen is deep and strong and closer Andrés Muñoz has converted five of six save opportunities. If the Mariners make the playoffs, they’ll be well-positioned to run the table with that type of dominant pitching.

Reason for pessimism: Their offense leads the majors with 323 strikeouts and ranks 27th in on-base percentage, two areas they were hoping to improve in the offseason. Julio Rodríguez, like last year, is off to a slow start with only one home run, and 11 of their 14 hitters with at least 20 plate appearances are batting .222 or worse. They’ll need to acquire a bat or two between now and the trade deadline.

Texas Rangers

Jacob deGrom’s potential return is a storyline to watch as the season progresses. (Joe Camporeale / USA Today)

Reason for optimism: The starting rotation has been solid with Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Michael Lorenzen and Dane Dunning. (Andrew Heaney less so, but he pitched well his last time out.) Cody Bradford started 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA before a back injury put him on the IL. Kirby Yates has been dominant as a closer, converting five of five save opportunities, and David Robertson has been excellent in the setup role with a 1.08 ERA. Adolis García has been their best offensive player, reaching base at a .349 clip with eight home runs and 25 RBIs. It’s amazing how competitive they’ve been even though Corey Seager hasn’t started to hit yet, third baseman Josh Jung has played only four games, and rookies Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford are off to slow starts. The most important reason to be optimistic is Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tyler Mahle are all expected to return sometime later in the season, which will potentially be a game-changer for them, especially if deGrom can return to his Cy Young form.

Reason for pessimism: Manager Bruce Bochy won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 during his tenure with the Giants, but never in back-to-back seasons. Was that because of a World Series hangover? Pitchers throwing too many innings the year before? Or just a coincidence? The Rangers’ season has started with many injuries and players underperforming, similar to what Bochy’s Giants teams went through during those odd years. However, I believe this team is too good not to find a way to at least make the playoffs.

Oakland A’s

Reason for optimism: They have one of the best bullpens in baseball, led by rookie Mason Miller, who has converted all eight of his save opportunities while logging a 1.26 ERA and 29 strikeouts to four walks in 14 1/3 innings. Austin Adams has posted a 1.86 ERA in 14 appearances and Lucas Erceg has a 1.42 ERA in 13 games. If the A’s have a lead late, they can beat you.

Reason for pessimism: No one is showing up for home games and the A’s are 29th in runs scored and on-base percentage while striking out 309 times this year. Only three teams (the Mariners, Red Sox and Rockies) have struck out more.

Los Angeles Angels

Reason for optimism: Manager Ron Washington has brought positive energy and enthusiasm to the dugout. Jo Adell is having a great start to the season, hitting .290 with four home runs. Logan O’Hoppe is developing into one of the better young catchers in the league. Reid Detmers and Tyler Anderson have been solid and kept the Angels in most games they’ve started this year.

Reason for pessimism: Shohei Ohtani is a Dodger. Mike Trout is back on the injured list with a torn meniscus in his left knee and first baseman Nolan Schanuel is hitting .227 with two homers. On the pitching side, Patrick Sandoval has a 5.91 ERA over seven starts and Griffin Canning has a 7.45 ERA in six starts.

Houston Astros

Reason for optimism: They’ve been to the playoffs each of the past seven years and have the experience to overcome adversity and their last-place start to the season. Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez are all doing damage offensively as expected and although Alex Bregman got off to a slow start, it’s hard to believe he won’t get going soon. Injuries to the rotation are mostly to blame for the poor start as Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez spent time on the injured list and Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia, José Urquidy and Lance McCullers Jr. are still sidelined. Their replacements couldn’t hold their own: J.P. France was optioned to the minors after going 0-3 with a 7.46 ERA, while Spencer Arrighetti is still with the big club but has an 8.27 ERA. Ronel Blanco has been the lone bright spot, going 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA. Interestingly, their back three relievers, considered the best trio in the sport going into the season, have been a disaster. Josh Hader has a 6.39 ERA, Ryan Pressly a 5.68 ERA and Bryan Abreu a 4.02 ERA. Once this pitching staff is healthy and pitching at full strength, the Astros should get back in the pennant race, no matter how difficult that looks right now.

Reason for pessimism: The Astros are 11-20 and in a tie for last place. Only a handful of times in baseball history has a team dug a hole that big and still made the playoffs. Hunter Brown can’t seem to get on track in the rotation, going 0-4 with a 9.78 ERA, and first baseman José Abreu looks done as he was hitting just .099 when he accepted an optional assignment to the club’s spring training facility.


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(Top image: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic. Photos: Spencer Strider: Kevin D. Liles / Atlanta Braves / Getty Images; Juan Soto: Brandon Sloter / Icon Sportswire / Getty Images) 

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