by Kyle Stafford
With only two months left in the regular season, teams are gearing up for the final stretch. Divisional and Wild Card races are heating up with teams making one final push to reach a postseason berth. So going forward what are the biggest concerns for the top three teams in baseball?
Let's start with the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Any team that holds the best record and is on pace for well over 100 wins should be a lock to win it all, right? Possibly, but it all depends on the health of their starting rotation heading into October. Clayton Kershaw is currently on the DL with a back injury and is expected to miss at least a couple more weeks. The biggest question mark with him is will his back hold up, because this is the second straight year he has missed time due to a back injury. Last season he had a herniated disc, returning to pitch in the postseason, but wasn't as dominant as earlier in the year. If Kershaw returns and is healthy, fully expect the Dodgers to make a deep run in October, but if he can't, this team is still good enough to at least get to the NLCS.
The Washington Nationals hold a sizable lead in the NL East and are well on their way to another postseason berth. Is this the year they finally break through and get to either the NLCS or World Series? The only thing possibly stopping them is the health of Stephen Strasburg. Usually one would put the bullpen as the biggest concern but General Manager Mike Rizzo took care of that with some key trades. Strasburg is currently on the DL with a right elbow injury and is a guy that has been known for injuries in the past. Now the injury doesn't seem to be a major issue, but if he can't stay healthy for a postseason run, that rotation doesn't look as dominant as it once did.
In the American League, the Astros hold the largest divisional lead in baseball at 15 games, but there are several concerns for this club. Four of their key players are on the disabled list in Will Harris, Lance McCullers Jr., George Springer, and Carlos Correa. While all of them should be back by the postseason, the health of these guys is a concern. But the biggest concern for this club is a bullpen who has seen it's ERA rise every month. In April, they posted a 2.91 ERA, but since then it has bloomed about one run per month finishing off July with a 6.12 ERA. The bullpen was overused so much at the beginning due to rotational injuries and the lack of guys pitching deep into games. Going forward the bullpen may hold the key to whether or not the Astros are still the favorites in the AL.
While all three of these teams can make a run at the World Series, there are some concerns that could hinder them from getting there.