Five teams for two spots. In what is potentially the final year of Major League Baseball’s 10-team postseason format, the fight for the AL’s Wild Card berths is going down to the wire.
With all due respect to Starling Marte, Sergio Romo, Yusmeiro Petit, Mark Canha and the Oakland Athletics, their chances have dwindled so much recently that although they’re still mathematically alive, FanGraphs doesn’t foresee any scenario where they sneak in (0.0% playoff odds).
However, the other contenders—and their Marlins connections—are each worth covering in greater detail.
New York Yankees
90-67, 92.8% playoff odds
Giancarlo Stanton—The former NL MVP and reigning AL Player of the Week has been the key to New York’s current winning streak. Rewinding farther back to the start of August, he ranks second in baseball only to Salvador Pérez in home runs (19) and runs batted in (50). Across the board, Stanton’s rate stats in 2021 are remarkably similar to his elite career averages.
Michael King—King finally snagged his first winning decision of the season Tuesday night in his 20th appearance. He was the relatively anonymous right-hander who the Fish traded to the Bronx nearly four years ago in exchange for Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith. It isn’t clear how/if the Yankees would use the 26-year-old if they qualify for the postseason, but he will be available in their bullpen this weekend to help punch that ticket.
Domingo Germán—He just returned last week after a bout with right shoulder inflammation. Germán has been the epitome of an average MLB pitcher during parts of four Yankees campaigns (4.50 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 1.21 WHIP in 340.0 IP).
Boston Red Sox
88-69, 73.5% playoff odds
Nathan Eovaldi—For the first time since his Miami days, Eovaldi has enjoyed a completely healthy, full-length season. He shattered his previous career highs in Wins Above Replacement and strikeouts and got a well-deserved All-Star selection. The Sox will send Eovaldi to the mound Wednesday against the Orioles. From there, he’s lined up to start the Wild Card Game for them, though he’ll presumably be available as an emergency reliever on Saturday and Sunday if the club’s postseason berth is still in doubt.
Kiké Hernández—I embedded a photo of Hernández for those of you who forgot about his cup of coffee with the Marlins in 2014. He was acquired as a complimentary piece in the Jarred Cosart trade, then flipped the following offseason in the Dee Strange-Gordon trade without much fanfare. The Puerto Rican utility man was an exemplary role player for the Dodgers, but went to Boston seeking additional playing time (and money, of course). Down the stretch, they’re relying on him to be their leadoff man and everyday center fielder. It’s hard not to root for Kiké.
88-70, 15.2% playoff odds
Drew Steckenrider—Anybody who claims they have bullpens figured out is a fraud. Two consecutive injury-plagued seasons completely sapped Steckenrider’s value. The Marlins understandably cut him in October 2020 to make room for more likely contributors. Stunningly, he leads Seattle in relief innings (64.2 IP) while holding opponents scoreless in 20 of his last 22 outings. Steckenrider is sharing closer’s duties with Paul Sewald as the Mariners aim to snap a two-decade October drought.
Toronto Blue Jays
87-70, 18.5% playoff odds
Adam Cimber—Cimber has turned his good first half in Miami into a full-blown breakout year (2.09 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 1.07 WHIP in 69.0 IP). He’s not getting save chances like Steckenrider, but the Blue Jays will still lean on him heavily during their final five games.
Corey Dickerson—Although Dickerson’s power has deteriorated in September, the 32-year-old continues to be a useful part-time player because of what he brings in the other facets of the game.
Trevor Richards—It’s been a hectic season for Richards, getting traded from one postseason team (Rays) to another (Brewers) to one that’s fighting to join them. He was the unfortunate victim of Stanton’s latest long ball that I embedded earlier in this piece. Richards has actually bested Steckenrider and Cimber in terms of limiting baserunners, but his vulnerability to homers (12 HR allowed in 63.2 IP) keeps him away from most high-leverage situations.