2. New York Yankees (20–9, plus-52, LT: 9)
Aaron Judge is snaring all the headlines, which is what happens when an 8-foot-tall, 800-pound Colossus hits a home run every other at-bat. But there’s no way the Yankees would be where they right now—atop the AL East, best record in baseball, having just beaten up on the defending champs in their home park—if not for Luis Severino.
The 23-year-old righty looked like a phenom from day one, flashing a 2.89 ERA in his 11-start debut in 2015. Beyond that impressive number, Severino struggled at times with inconsistency, and those erratic ways caught up with him in 2016; despite posting basically identical strikeout, walk, and home-run numbers last season, his ERA spiked by nearly three runs.
This season, he’s started to put it all together. Severino’s put up the fifth-highest K rate in the AL, he’s done so as basically a two-pitch pitcher, with his 97-mph fastball and 87-mph slider making up more than 90% of his repertoire. The slider has gone from very good to unhittable this year, with opponents batting just .133 against it. If Severino can keep pounding the strike zone with that electric heater, the damage he could do with his slider could result in the Baby Bombers having a baby ace on their hands to boot.