It's July, so we've asked our experts to make predictions regarding baseball's busiest month. (Yes, we're a couple of days late, but it's not even Independence Day yet.)
1. Which team do you expect to make a big playoff push in July?
Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick
), ESPN.com: The Cardinals. They're only four games over .500, but they have the second-best run differential in baseball, and Lance Berkman could return shortly after the All-Star break. The Red Sox have a chance to turn it on soon if Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford return and play to their ability, but check their schedule for the rest of July: It's brutal. I think they'll turn it on in August and September.
Josh Worn (@walkoffwoodward
), Walkoff Woodward: I think the Tigers are poised for a breakout month. I tried to look around the league for a more talented team that has underperformed to this point, and I kept coming back to them. Given that their offense is starting to click and Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello are pitching well, I can see the Tigers taking off.
Matt Meyers (@mtmeyers
), ESPN.com: I'm going with the Diamondbacks. They just got Stephen Drew back, Trevor Bauer has been promoted, and Justin Upton is bound to break out. Also, their schedule this month includes the Cubs, Astros and Rockies, which is a recipe for success.
2. Which current "contender" do you expect to drop out of the race by the end of the month?
Crasnick: The Orioles. They've dropped 10 of their past 13 games, and when Cleveland and Seattle start cuffing you around, you know the pitching staff has issues. Baltimore's starters rank 12th in the AL in innings pitched, which means the bullpen will keep getting taxed. Is it too late for Jim Thome to learn a changeup?
Worn: I hate to rain on the Baltimore parade, but I can't see the Orioles continuing to sustain an overall record of more than .500 through the month. This is the time of the season when bats around the league start to get hot, and the Orioles' pitching is starting to tank.
Meyers: Staying in the NL West, I'll say the Dodgers. I never really believed in them to begin with, and their offense is being exposed for what it is -- bad. Also, they have a late-July road trip that takes them to New York, St. Louis and San Francisco, then finish the month at home against Arizona. I expect the D-backs to have passed them by then.
3. Who do you think will be the most prominent player to switch teams this month?
Crasnick: Ryan Dempster. Sure, Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke could be moved, but we don't know that for sure. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are the most motivated (and mobilized) sellers in baseball, and Dempster will be a nice fit for a lot of contending teams' rotations once he returns from the disabled list.
Worn: Hamels has all but won his lottery ticket out of town thanks to the Phillies' losing ways. Quite disappointing, really, but I suppose we can simply look forward to where he goes and who slaps him five on the way past him back to Philadelphia.
Meyers: Greinke. There is no way the Brewers re-sign him between now and the deadline, and I bet they can get an elite prospect and a second-tier prospect in return for his services. That would be worth Milwaukee's while.