The Major League Baseball season is 162 games. After that 162-game schedule is complete, there are six division winners, three in each league, and four Wild Card survivors that play in October. The Playoff Picture is the focus of this week’s If the season ended today, but included is the up-to-date 2014 draft order.
In the American League, the Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox have total control of the three divisions. Each lead their division by at least six games. Most of the contenders have played at least 149 games, leaving 12 or 13 games for those in the rear view mirror to make their move.
In the National League, the Atlanta Braves are up 10 games on the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers are 9 1/2 up on the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Central is a real race, with three clubs — Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds — at battle. The Cards and Bucs are tied at the top with the Reds 2 1/2 back.
The Wild Card spots aren’t settled, either, not in either league, though it’s much closer in the junior circuit where six clubs are within 3 1/2 games of each other.
Entering play Tuesday:
Wild Card Game
Texas Rangers (81-68) at Tampa Bay Rays (82-67)
League Division Series
Rays or Rangers at Boston Red Sox (92-59)
Detroit Tigers (87-63) at Oakland Athletics (88-62)
AL Contenders’ Remaining Schedules
Boston — vs. BAL (3), Tor (3), at COL (2), at BAL (3)
Detroit — vs. SEA (3), vs. CWS (3), at MIN (3), at MIA (3)
Oakland — vs. LAA (2), vs. MIN (4), at LAA (3), at SEA (3)
Tampa Bay (+1.0, WC) — vs. TEX (3), vs. BAL (3), at NYY (3), at TOR (3)
Texas (E, WC) — at TBR (3), at KCR (3), vs. HOU (3), at LAA (4)
Cleveland (-0.5, WC) — at KCR (2), vs. HOU (4), vs. CWS (2), at MIN (4)
Baltimore (-2.0, WC) — at BOS (3), at TBR (3), vs. TOR (3), at BOS (3)
Kansas City (-2.5, WC) — vs. CLE (2), vs. TEX (3), at SEA (3), at CWS (3)
New York (-2.5, WC) — at TOR (3), vs. SFG (3), vs. TBR (3), at HOU (3)
Cincinnati Reds (85-66) at St. Louis Cardinals (87-63)
League Division Series
Reds or Cardinals at Atlanta Braves (89-60)
Los Angeles Dodgers (86-64) at Pittsburgh Pirates (87-63)
Pirates win tie-breaker with Cardinals based on 10-9 head-to-head record, for this exercise only
NL Contenders’ Remaining Schedules
Atlanta — at WAS (3), at CHC (3), vs. MIL (3), vs. PHI (4)
Pittsburgh — vs. SDP (3), vs. CIN (3), at CHC (3), at CIN (3)
St. Louis — at COL (2), at MIL (3), vs. WAS (3), vs. CHC (3)
Los Angeles — at ARI (3), at SDP (3), at SF (3), vs. COL (3)
Cincinnati (-2.5, NLC) — at HOU (2), at PIT (3), vs. NYM (3), vs. PIT (3)
Washington (-5.0, WC) — vs. ATL (3), vs. MIA (4), at STL (3), at ARI (3)
The Houston Astros are four games up on the Miami Marlins for the No. 1 spot, with the Chicago White Sox four games back of the Fish for No. 2 and the Chicago Cubs four games behind their crosstown rivals for the No. 3 pick. The Minnesota Twins sit at No. 5, but are just a game and a half back of the Cubs for No. 4 overall.
The Seattle Mariners and the Milwaukee Brewers are just a half game apart for the No. 6 pick and the New York Mets are just a game back. The Toronto Blue Jays, who will have two picks after failing to sign first-round pick Phil Bickford this past summer, are tied with the Colorado Rockies and a half game up on the San Francisco Giants for the No. 9 pick.
As of Tuesday, the Giants will pick No. 12, with the Jays’ compensation pick ahead of them at 11, the first two of the unprotected selections in next year’s draft.
Next June the Kansas City Royals will select outside the top 15, as their first pick in the first round, for the first time since 1995. The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had that same distinction since 1993. The Royals and Pirates haven’t won 85 or more games in the same season since 1979. That may end this season with the Royals on pace to win at least 86.
If the New York Yankees, who are tied with the Royals and just a half game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals, lose their way to a pick higher than 17 and do not give away the selection via free-agent compensation, it will be the first time the club has drafted that high since ’93, the year after they drafted shortstop Derek Jeter at No. 6.
The White Sox have not drafted higher than No. 4 (Alex Fernandez, 1990) since 1977 when they had the No. 1 overall choice and drafted Harold Baines. The Giants haven’t drafted above No. 20 since ’09 (Zack Wheeler, No. 6) and 2008 (Buster Posey, No. 5), and the Los Angeles Angels haven’t had a first-round pick higher than 17 since 2004 (Jered Weaver, No. 12).
The clubs in the top 10 most likely to take advantage of the protected picks are the Mets, Mariners, Brewers and both Chicago clubs.
The ’14 draft class is deeper than the previous few, and the favorite to go No. 1 overall is North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon. Much of the depth is in the prep pitcher class, but there also appears to be more solid second-to-sixth round talents than the past two drafts.
Rodon’s teammate, shortstop Trea Turner, is among the top 10 prospects, and the high-grade prep prospects include SS Jacob Gatewood of Clovis High School (Calif.), RF/C Alex Jackson of Rancho Bernardo High School (Calif.), and right-handers RHP Grant Holmes of Conway High School (S.C.) , Dylan Cease of Milton High School (Ga.) and 6-foot-5, 240-pound Shepherd High School (Texas) star Tyler Kolek.
One of my favorites from talking to scouts in the south is Ole Miss commit Ti’quan Forbes, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound shortstop from Columbia High School (Miss.). He’s raw, but is the youngest of the first-round talents and has huge upside with at least a shot to stick at shortstop.