1 Aaron Judge Will Have the Greatest Rookie Season of All Time
The Yankees' rightfielder has already done enough to ensure he'll be the unanimous AL Rookie of the Year: 30 home runs, 66 RBIs and a Wins Above Replacement—5.5, according to Fangraphs—more than double that of the NL's rookie sensation, Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger. One of the many remarkable things about Judge (left) is his consistency: He has yet to go more than six games without a homer, nor has his OPS dipped below 1.000 in any month. The seemingly slump-proof slugger could cool off a little and still finish with the highest WAR ever for a rookie, besting Mike Trout's 10.3 from 2012. In fact, Judge is on pace for 10.7 WAR, a stratosphere that just 14 players—all Hall of Famers, except Barry Bonds—reached in their careers.
2 The Cubs Will Trade for the Modern Mr. October
Starters José Quintana or Sonny Gray would be helpful, but for the disappointing Cubs to repeat as champs, they'll need to add a postseason ace; only one regular member of their rotation, Eddie Butler, has a sub--4.00 ERA. Thanks to an ill-advised April dirt-bike ride, an ace could be available: Madison Bumgarner (left). The lefty's mishap helped wreck the Giants' season, but he should be back just in time for them to trade him for future help—a lot of it, as Bumgarner is under team control for two more seasons at just $12 million a year. Theo Epstein is unafraid of big moves, and he'll do what it takes—say, second baseman--outfielder Ian Happ plus the Cubs' top two prospects, leftfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease—to bring Bumgarner, still just 27, to Chicago.
3 The Angels Will Win Their First Playoff Game with Mike Trout
Los Angeles's 2017 season, never particularly promising, appeared to end in the fifth inning on May 28. That was when Trout (left) dived headfirst into second during a stolen-base attempt and ruptured a ligament in his left thumb. What happened next was shocking: The lineup got better without the game's top offensive threat, edging up from 4.02 runs per game to 4.21. The Angels stole more bags (44) in their first 39 games sans Trout as they did in 53 games with him (37). "It's like, All right, now you've gotta take it upon yourself," says rightfielder Kole Calhoun. L.A. is now in the thick of the wild-card race, and once Trout returns, it could go further than that—as long as the players remember to perform the way they did when he wasn't there.
4 The Royals Will Hit the Trade Deadline At .500—and Sell Anyway
After a 10--20 start, Kansas City has gone 34--23 to climb into the extremely crowded AL wild-card picture—but don't count on another World Series run. GM Dayton Moore is in position to control the trade market, with five central contributors on the cusp of free agency: outfielder Lorenzo Cain (left), shortstop Alcides Escobar, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas and AL ERA leader Jason Vargas. Can he really sell off his stars with a playoff spot within reach? He can, and unless he's got a chance to win the AL Central, he must. The Royals have to build from within, and a thin farm system (ranked 26th by Baseball America) badly needs replenishing. They won't risk another drought for an outside shot at a one-game playoff.
5 The NL West Will Provide Only Two Playoff Teams
The division appeared to have locked down both of its league's wild-card berths weeks ago. The last time any other club was within five games of the Diamondbacks, Dodgers or Rockies in the race for the second spot was on June 8. But one thing will prevent all three of them from sailing into October: one another. The D-Backs (including first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, left) and the Dodgers each have 16 games against their two main divisional rivals in the second half; the Rockies meet Arizona and L.A. 14 times. Meanwhile, other clubs—like the talented but left-for-dead Mets—will have an easier go of it, with 23 post--All Star break dates against the Braves, Marlins and Phillies. In other words, there's plenty of time for an outsider to crash the NL West's round robin.