5. Cleveland Indians (17–13, plus-9, LT: 4)
The Indians’ run to the World Series last year wasn’t just remarkable because of how rare such success is for a historically star-crossed franchise. It was also extraordinary because Cleveland pulled it off despite several key players missing much of the regular and postseason. Starting pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, starting catcher Yan Gomes, and All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley were all either limited or mission in action as the Tribe nearly won their first Fall Classic in 68 years.
That’s what made Brantley’s return this year all the more satisfying. In 26 games, Dr. Smooth has hit .282/.343/.475, conjuring up a performance not far removed from his 2014–2015 peak, and erasing the memory of a 2016 campaign in which a shoulder injury knocked him out for all but 11 games.
Now, the bad news: Brantley left Sunday’s game against the Royals early with a sprained right ankle. There’s no word yet on the severity of the injury, and the fact that a shoulder injury that some feared could have lingering negative effects hasn’t been a problem. Still, a DL trip just as Brantley was finally mashing again would be a lousy pill to swallow. Throw in staff ace Corey Kluber’s recent trip to the DL and a return timetable that’s a little more vague than you’d like, and not everything’s rosy for an otherwise very good Indians club.