MLB Futures Update: Taking Stock of Struggling Contenders

By Sidelines July 11, 2022

MLB Futures Update: Taking Stock of Struggling Contenders

The infamous “June swoon” has expanded into July for several preseason contenders who can’t get to the All-Star break soon enough. 

While teams like Atlanta, Houston, the New York Yankees, and Boston have thrived since the weather has turned warm, other contenders are as cold as the air conditioning as we get ready for the dog days of summer. 

In our final futures update before the All-Star break, we’re looking at four struggling teams and evaluating which can bounce back and which are likely to continue to fade in the coming weeks.

Stock Up: Tampa Bay Rays

Odds to Win 2022 World Series: +3500 (Caesars Sportsbook)

 

The Rays were 12-14 in June and lost the second of a five-game series at Toronto on July 1. After that, Tampa Bay took the following three games and then won two out of three against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Over the weekend, however, disaster struck in Cincinnati, as the lowly Reds handed down a three-game sweep to the two-time defending AL East champs. 

This is when the Rays really could use Tyler Glasnow, who is out for the year recovering from Tommy John surgery, but Tampa Bay has an excellent ace in Shane McClanahan, who is 9-3 with a 1.73 ERA (2nd in MLB) and leads the majors with 141 strikeouts in 101 innings pitched. 

Corey Kluber has stabilized in recent weeks to be a solid addition to the rotation and can provide the veteran leadership that Charlie Morton did in 2020. Drew Rasmussen has also had some good starts, as has Jeffrey Springs, who is currently on the injured list with some leg tightness, but it doesn’t appear to be serious.

Tampa Bay is excellent in finding hidden gems at the trade deadline, and expect them to find some arms that can help in the rotation and bullpen.

On offense, the Rays can use an upgrade or two, especially in the power department. Isaac Paredes has been a bright spot, leading the team with 13 home runs, but Randy Arozarena’s 10 long balls is the only other player in double figures in that category. 

The Rays are also 24th in runs scored and 21st in batting average in MLB, but this team is used to getting as much as it can out of the team it’s assembled and is currently on a three-year playoff streak, so we’re going to give Tampa Bay the benefit of the doubt for the time being.

Stock Up: San Diego Padres

Odds to Win the 2022 World Series: +1800 (DraftKings Sportsbook)

 

The Padres put together a 16-13 June after losing the last game of the month in Los Angeles, but they started July by losing two of the next three at LA–with a ninth-inning rally leading to the only victory in that series. San Diego is 3-6 in the month after being swept by red-hot Seattle and splitting a four-game set with San Francisco.

San Diego, however, has plenty of promise in the pitching rotation–something we thought the Padres had in 2021 but seem to have greater depth this season.

Last year’s team relied on new acquisitions Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, both of whom were disappointing amid injury-plagued seasons. Darvish has somewhat returned to form this year, and while Snell is still struggling, Joe Musgrove is having a Cy Young-caliber first half of the season. 

The offense, outside of Manny Machado’s .309/14/50 splits that all lead the team, has struggled a bit, but the team is going to have a late-July acquisition without having to trade anyone away. Fernando Tatis Jr. is expected to return around that time, which will certainly give a jolt to the offense and a huge bat in the middle of the order.

Even with the slow start to July, the Padres are still one of only two teams in baseball to be 10 games over .500 but not be a division leader, so their standing in the wild card race is still quite solid, so we’re still bullish on San Diego.

Jul 10, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Adam Cimber (90) walks back to the mound after surrendering a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners during the eighth inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Adam Cimber (90) walks back to the mound after surrendering a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners during the eighth inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Stock Down: Toronto Blue Jays

Odds to Win the 2022 World Series: +1500 (DraftKings Sportsbook)

 

The odds on the Jays are still high despite a record so far in July of just 2-9, and a four-game sweep at the hands of the Mariners in Seattle put the two teams at 45-42–tied for the final wild-card spot in the American League. 

The problem we see with the Jays, who were the preseason favorites in the AL, is that outside of a 14-8 start in April, the team hasn’t looked dominant. In fact, since May 1, Toronto is 31-34 after this rough West Coast trip. 

The Blue Jays–led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer, and other young talent, haven’t had much of a problem on offense. They are in the top five in batting average and the top 10 in home runs and runs scored.

The issue is the pitching. Toronto’s 4.10 team ERA ranks just 22nd in MLB, whereas all other playoff contenders are in the top 15. The Blue Jays also have their fill of the Red Sox (the team with MLB’s highest batting average) and the Yankees (MLB’s highest-scoring team). 

The front end of the rotation has been solid with Alex Manoah and Kevin Gausman both posting ERAs under 3, but the back end has struggled. Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi sport ERAs over 5, and Hyun Jin Ryu has been battling injuries. 

Will Toronto strike at the trade deadline and add a front-line starting pitcher or two (Luis Castillo, perhaps)? Given that there’s currently no value in the Jays’ +1500 odds, there’s plenty of time to see back and wait to see how the Blue Jays improve themselves by the end of the month–and to see if they can get out of this current slump as well. 

Stock Down: San Francisco Giants

Odds to Win 2022 World Series: +5000 (Caesars Sportsbook)

 

The Giants were the feel-good story of 2021, holding off the powerful Dodgers to win the National League West with 107 victories. That gave San Francisco home-field advantage in the Division Series over rival LA, but the Giants lost the series in the deciding fifth game.

San Francisco started April with an impressive 14-7 mark, but since then, they are just 29-34 and at 43-41 on the season are two games behind the Phillies for the final wild card spot in the NL. 

What has been the difference? In 2021, the Giants were in the top 10 in both runs scored and batting average. The team is again scoring plenty of runs, but their team average of .235 is nearly 15 points lower than a year ago and ranks just 23rd this year. 

The pitching side of things has seen a steeper drop. Last year’s team ERA of 3.24 was second in the big leagues. This year’s crew stands at 3.99 and ranks 18th in the majors. These are more in line with how the Giants performed in years prior to 2021, and many thought that last year’s results were an outlier.

While San Francisco is staying somewhat competitive, they are in a difficult division and more than just a trade or two away from being able to contend, so we agree with the oddsmakers that now have the Giants as a longshot to win the Fall Classic.

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