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Who’s Next?

The St. Louis Blues and Toronto Raptors each earned their first championship for their respective leagues last week. Both had somewhat improbable runs, with the Raptors knocking off the modern day dynasty of the Golden State Warriors, and the Blues ranking dead last in the NHL standings on January 3. By virtue of the Raptors and Blues championships, we are left with 40 teams without a championship across the 4 major North American Sports. (MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL)

Of these 40 teams, seven come from the MLB. These teams are Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Brewers, Mariners, Rockies, Rays. Below, I’ll rank these teams from most likely to win a championship in the near future, to the fans who will be waiting a little longer.

1. Milwaukee Brewers
Last World Series Appearance: 1982
Last Postseason Appearance: 2018

After reaching game seven of the NLCS last year, the Brewers brought back the same core this year with a couple additions. With Christian Yelich looking once again like an MVP front-runner, the addition of Yasmani Grandal, and bringing back Mike Moustakas, the Brewers look primed for a deep run once again this October. While the Brewers do play in the stacked NL Central with the Cubs and Cardinals, I would expect them to win the division, but we should all anticipate a close fight with the Cubs. Starting pitching remains the question mark for the Brew Crew, but if they could add another quality starting pitcher at the deadline, it could turn the Brewers into a National League favorite. The Brewers window is now, and I expect them to make a deep October run.

2. Colorado Rockies
Last World Series Appearance: 2007
Last Postseason Appearance: 2018

After reaching the postseason each of the past two years, the Rockies appear to be in a race to reach October this year. After locking down franchise cornerstone Nolan Arenado for the next eight years, the Rockies are in a “Win Now” position. Brendan Rodgers looks like a top prospect, and, considering Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon are having all star caliber years, this team is set on offense. The question mark with this team is the pitching staff. The starting staff ranks dead last in the majors with a 5.77 ERA, and a bullpen that ranks 15th in ERA with a 4.39. The Rockies ace from last year, Kyle Freeland, who went 17-7 with a 3.67 FIP,  has struggled mightily and has been optioned to AAA. In order to make a deep postseason run, the Rockies are going to need the return of the 2018 Kyle Freeland, and another piece in their struggling rotation. If the starting rotation gets going, look out for this team to possibly reach the World Series for the first time since 2007.

3. Tampa Bay Rays
Last World Series Appearance: 2008
Last Postseason Appearance: 2013

I really wanted to put this team higher. They have been one of the best and most surprising teams in 2019 and don’t appear to be slowing down. What troubles me is there small market size, and playing in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox. But the Rays may have completed one of the most lopsided trade deals in recent history last July when they swiped Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow for Chris Archer. These two young studs, along with Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tommy Pham, should lead the Rays to at least a Wild Card spot this year, if not a division title. With that being said, playing in the American League provides a little more competition than the National League, giving the Rays a tougher path than the two aforementioned teams. The Rays will be contenders this year, and with eight prospects within MLB Pipeline’s Top-100 -including number one overall prospect Wander Franco, the farm system is one of the best in baseball. The Rays championship window is beginning to open, and doesn’t look like its closing anytime soon.

4. San Diego Padres
Last World Series Appearance: 1998
Last Postseason Appearance: 2006

The San Diego Padres have taken a major step forward. Signing Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer over the past two off-seasons, proves that the Padres are not been afraid to spend big dollars on free agents, and have regenerated the hype in San Diego. While this team is not going to compete for a World Series trophy this year, they should be serious contenders in the upcoming years. Their loaded farm system has ten players currently featured on MLB Pipeline’s Top-100, a sign that the rebuild in San Diego is nearly complete. Soon, the Padres will have prospects like MacKenzie Gore, Luis Urias, and Luis Patino expected to join a young core of Fernando Tatis Jr., Chris Paddack, and Franmil Reyes — and when they do, the Padres look like they are building a championship contender for many years to come. After the Chargers left San Diego for Los Angeles, a World Series championship would be huge for San Diego sports fans.

5. Seattle Mariners
Last World Series Appearance: Never
Last Postseason Appearance: 2001

Jerry Dipoto will have probably made another trade by the time this article is published, but he has done an adequate job of rebuilding the farm system. The Mariners appeared to be a contender in 2018 for their first postseason berth since 2001, but a second half collapse left the Mariners to “reimagine” their roster, as Dipoto put it. They dealt James Paxton, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, and Ben Gamel this past offseason, but did get significant prospect return. After acquiring Justus Sheffield, Jarred Kelenic, and Justin Dunn, the Mariners now boast 6 Top-100 prospects, which will leave a significant amount of money to spend on free agents. However, recent winters have hinted that luring them to Seattle could be a challenge. I would expect another three-to-four years before this Mariners are ready to spend big on free agents, and their prospects become impact players, setting them up for postseason contention.

6. Washington Nationals
Last World Series Appearance: Never
Last Postseason Appearance: 2017

The Nationals have made the playoffs four times in their franchise history, and each time they’ve been unable to advance past the Division Series. With Bryce Harper leaving this past off-season, and Anthony Rendon possibly following suit next winter, the Nationals championship window looks to be drawing to a close. Juan Soto and Victor Robles look like young studs, but deferred contracts to aging stars Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg give the Nationals little payroll flexibility to build around Soto and Robles in the approaching future, barring a trade of one of those starters. Playing in the NL East will not make it easier on the Nationals, as the Braves and Phillies both have young, talented teams, and don’t appear to be trending down in the upcoming years. After missing the playoffs by eight games last year, and already four games out of a wild card spot this year, the Nationals look poised to be sellers this trade deadline. It appears the once-promising championship window has come to a close in our nation’s capital.

7. Texas Rangers
Last World Series Appearance: 2011
Last Postseason Appearance: 2016

A fly ball that just cleared Nelson Cruz’s glove was the difference between the Rangers making this list or not. In fairness to the Rangers and their fans, they are having a nice season, but I wouldn’t consider them a serious contender this year, or the years to come. Outside of Joey Gallo and Willie Calhoun, this team lacks young, controllable talent with quality that is sought after. The farm system is average to below average with only two prospects within MLB Pipeline’s Top-100, though the Rangers were able to add third-baseman Josh Jung from Texas Tech with the eighth pick in this June’s draft. While we could see the Rangers challenge for a Wild Card spot this season, becoming a true championship contender likely won’t happen this year. In order to get back to the World Series, like they did in 2010 and 2011, the Rangers must rebuild the farm system to become a legitimate destination for free agents.

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