Time to take a good look at the American League and those I think will make a run at the pennant, and those who really have no likely shot. Contenders: Wait, what? That's right a team in second place in their own division is a contender. 3rd in runs scored and 2nd in runs allowed in the AL makes them a legitimate threat and I stand by this prediction. Finally my boy Brian has gotten things turned around. It all starts with the $134 million man, Clayton Kershaw. He has been better than advertised and has been pitching very well in the band box that is Yankee stadium. He's thrown 2 complete game shutouts on the year, and is the "Ace" every contender needs. He's not alone though as SP Taylor Whitenton is putting it together himself. I am sure the Yankees are happy about this as the kid was highly touted and yet couldnt perform. The bullpen has also been a tremendous asset to the Yanks and is the best in the AL. 24 year old closer James Stroud is getting it done, and is already one of the best closers in the game. On offense, Justin Lumsd and Cole Frenzel are the big names here. Both are putting up monster numbers, but Frenzel's are a big surprise for a kid no one heard anything about. This ladies, is why you don't pay any attention whatsoever to stars. .285/.361/.612 are his triple slash numbers and any MVP talk has to include Frenzel Biggest Need: Health As we were writing this column... Whitenton strained his elbow and will miss extended time. Thankfully he is expected to be back for the post season, so the Yankees just have to hold on until he gets back. In addition they have 2 excellent bullpen arms on the DL, and a solid OF bat. They have to hope that they can hold things together until everyone is back. If so? This is a dangerous team. The rest of the American League should be embarassed. A CPU team is considered a legit contender for the Pennant. The Rays are getting it done on both offense and the pitching fronts and are easy favorite to win it all. They lead the American League surprisingly with 500 runs scored, and the lineup is highlighted by names all vets will recognize: Dietrich, Guerra and Connor. This is a dangerous lineup and although no numbers jump out at you, they just keep coming. On the pitching front, 3 pitchers may be in the Cy Young discussion at the end of the year: Michael Nash, Matt Moore and Wilmer Almonte. Oh yeah, and they have Carson Kelly too. This is quite possibly one of the best rotations put together. Biggest Need: Relief Pitching This was something AJ tried to address when he led the team, and this year is no different. Middle relief is a big problem here, and the team really needs to hope their starters go deep in games. If they do? They shoudl be fine, but if they get in trouble early, this could lead to an early exit in the playoffs. Pretenders: Another AL East team finds itself in the thick of things. Boston is 5th in runs scored, and 5th in runs allowed which shows their balance on both sides of the ball. On offense, Lynwood Abbott continues to make his name known and is a legit superstar. This is one of the best hitters in the league and of course he resides in the AL East. Another guy that Boston was high on was 1B Anthony Aliotti and he is having a good year. We won't talk about his contract in this segment, but they will need his bat to continue to push. Their rotation is solid and led by formerly unheard of Cody Kukuk. Cody pitched a perfect game less than a month ago and he has to be riding a high. The ace of the staff is Kevin Gausman and he is the early favorite for Cy Young. The bullpen is solid, nothing spectacular but a good bit of depth. They were able to hold on pretty well with CL Al Albuerquerqe hitting the DL, and he is expected back soon. Biggest Need: Improved Defense That's right... I like this team from top to bottom, but if they want to beat high scoring teams like Tampa and the Yankees, they need to catch the ball better. Perhaps they should look at putting defensive subs in their lineups and adjusting their strategies a bit. The best team in the AL is a pretender. Yes, I said it. God I love this rotation and defense. But boy do I hate this offense. Tampa has a very good rotation, but I feel the Mariners is even better. What makes them really strong in a playoff series is the fact that they have two quality LH Starters in Danny Hultzen and Jeremy Dobbs. The top of the rotation is anchored by "King" Felix and Taijuan Walker. The bullpen on the other hand is still a work in progress which needs figured out ASAP. They lost a ton of great relievers from the last few years, and the combination to success hasn't been found yet. Half Star CL Dan Runzler has come out of nowhere and has 39 saves. Craziness. But outside of that, no one has been all that impressive. On offense, the star is CF Tommy Morris. One of the best picks in Redshirts draft history. A real star, I for one hope he has a long, great career. Mickey Wiswall continues to get it done, and his entire career has been a huge surprise I am sure. Unfortunately, those are the real highlights here and this team just needs to score more runs to compete. They are next to last in on base % and this is an ugly trend for a team that wants to win a championship. Biggest Need: Leadoff Hitter The Mariners would be benefited greatly by someone who they can count on to get on base consistently, and score runs. Base Stealing is optional, but base running is a requisite. Add just 30 more runs to their total right now that they would get from him, and we are talking about a top 5 offense.