MLB: Unlikely Division Leaders

With the MLB season just under 25% in the books, a quick glance at the standings will be met with two pretty surprising divisional leaders: The Minnesota Twins, and the Colorado Rockies. Which of these two is really the more surprising? And which is the most likely to sustain this early run of success? Let’s start with the most surprising, the Minnesota Twins.

Paul Molitor’s club sits at 19-16, good enough for first place in the so far middling AL Central. Their .543 winning percentage doesn’t exactly scream World Series, but they still have to be considered somewhat of a surprise at this juncture. Especially considering the offensive struggles of 2B Brian Dozier, who has more or less carried this team the past couple of years, and the overall struggles of a pitching staff who is currently 4th from the bottom in team ERA among AL clubs.

The pitching staff has struggled as a unit, but Ervin Santana has been a revelation. He leads the AL with a 6-1 record and his 1.50 ERA and 0.815 WHIP are among the league leaders as well. Should the Twins slip out of playoff contention, which I fully expect them to do, he could net Minnesota quite a nice haul at the trade deadline. The Twins had better hope Santana holds onto that magic for just a little while longer, because their farm system is just average, and Miguel Sano is going to need help down the line.

Moving on, the Colorado Rockies have been a surprise as well, but taking a deeper look at the how they’re doing lends to the idea that these Rockies might be hanging around for a while.

So, what? The Rockies are hitting a lot of home runs? Sure, they are, but there’s more to it than that. To this point, they’ve gotten very little offense from Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story, and they’re actually better on the road (gasp!), as they’ve tallied an 11-5 road record vs just 8-11 at Coors Field. That’s certainly unusual for this club. To add further intrigue, 3B Nolan Arenado has also been better away from the friendly confines, hitting .323 on the road vs .282 at Coors. It’s not as though he’s struggling anywhere, but the split still draws some attention. He’s not just raking where the ball flies further than anywhere else.

How can the Rockies sustain this early run at success? Well, for starters, the Giants suck, and that always helps. The Diamondbacks have been a bit of a surprise this season as well, currently occupying second place in the NL West, but the Dodgers are the smart money to be the long term obstacle here.

If the Rockies are going to make a long run at this thing, their starting pitching will have to improve. Nothing new there, right? Except that improvement doesn’t seem like a pipe dream. The assumed ace of the staff, Jon Gray, has been on the DL for a few weeks and will be an integral part of the rotation upon his return which should happen around mid-June. Further, it’s not unreasonable to expect some rebound from rotation members Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson, both of whom were much better in 2016 than they have been so far in 2017. If they can get better results from the Tyler’s, as well as a return to form by Gray, expect the Rockies to continue making noise deep in the dog days of summer.

 

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