New York Yankees' Aaron Judge points skyward after hitting a fifth-inning solo home run against the Milwaukee Brewers in a baseball game in New York, Friday, July 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) ORG XMIT: NYY114

It’s early, but there are a number of teams in the American League that are playing well right now. Let’s examine them and see how likely they are to be standing at the end of September.

Cleveland (20-20)

The Indians have had bullpen issues which have resulted in a failure to protect leads. According to Baseball Reference, they’re 5-9 in one-run games and 0-4 when a game goes extra innings. Manager Terry Francona admits there is issue when he was asked about the bullpen. “We’ve got to figure it out. There’s no getting around it.”, said Francona.

The starters have been good with Corey Kluber (6-2, 2.34 ERA), Mike Clevinger (3-0, 2.70 ERA), and Carlos Carrasco (5-2, 3.66 ERA) holding their own. If they can figure out the bullpen, the Indians should fare better in close games.

Batting has not been a major problem considering that Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion are playing well.

Cleveland appears to be more of a second-half team as well and according to SportsBettingDime, their odds of advancing into the playoffs are (1/3).

Verdict – Contender

LA Angels (25-16)

The Angels are playing good ball, winning 17 of their last 30 games. Mike Trout, Justin Upton, and Andrelton Simmons are hitting the ball well. And Albert Pujols is still on the roster. On the surface, all seems to be well in Anaheim.

The area that puts some of this in doubt is their 16-4 record against teams under .500 and their 9-12 record against teams over .500.

This does not mean that things will continue this way, as it’s quite possible that the pitching has come together and the good hitting will continue. Much of their success will depend on how well they play against the Astros and beating them Monday is a good start.

Verdict – Contender

Houston (26-17)

It would be foolhardy to label the World Champions as “pretenders”, but they have the same issues as the Angels. They’re not very good right now against good teams and they’re feasting on bad teams.

That being said, this team is too good to worry about as it’s only May. The lineup and pitching rotation are too good.

Verdict – Contender

Seattle (23-17)

The Mariners have a glaring problem as Robinson Cano has been suspended for 80 games.

In the AL West, it’s difficult to see them catching both LA and Houston, which would leave them on the outside looking in.

While they have strengths at other positions and at pitching, the loss of Cano likely keeps Seattle out of the postseason.

Verdict – Pretender

New York (28-12)

The Yankees have been unbelievable over the last three weeks and it appears they are the most dominant team in the Majors. They are 23-7 over their last 30 games and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Their batting has been stellar. Aaron Judge is poised to have another year like 2017. Giancarlo Stanton has 10 homeruns and is playing much better. Offensively, they’re playing as well or better than expected.

The Yankees are also pitching better. According to calltothepen.com, the Yankees have a 3.66 team ERA while the league average is 4.14.

If the Yankees continue to get production like this, expect them in the ALCS.

Verdict – Contender

Boston (28-13)

The Red Sox came out of the gates looking dominant, winning 17 of their first 19 games. Since then, they’ve gone 11-11. Their pitching has probably been the biggest reason for that as they started with a 2.17 ERA over those first 19 games, but has dipped to 4.80 since.

Boston’s hitting, as in times past, will have to pick up the slack and has the firepower to accomplish that. Mookie Betts (.362. 13 HR, 27 RBI), J.D. Martinez (.346, 11 HR, 34 RBI), and Mitch Moreland (.318 BA) lead the way and if they can continue putting up over 5 runs per game, they should be fine.

Verdict – Contender

Toronto (21-20)

The Bluejays have the makings of a pretender at only a 21-20 record and Josh Donaldson not playing as much. (only 103 plate appearances)

They are, however, near .500 against good teams and are scoring about 5 runs per game this year. In the pitching department, the Blue Jays have the best ERA in the majors at 2.28 and could snatch up one of those Wild Card spots.

It’s early, but the Blue Jays don’t look like a team that will fade.

Verdict – Contender