Expert predictions: Tight races, award winners and more

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

After five months of baseball, more than a few things have not worked out exactly the way some of us foresaw back in spring training. The expectation that the Washington Nationals would easily win the NL East isn't looking so hot while they're playing .500 ball and have traded away multiple veterans. And no, the Twins aren't going to be a wild-card team this year. On the happier side of things, several players are having unexpectedly huge seasons that will shake up the awards picture.

In light of all of these developments and more, we went back to 21 of our experts to see how the rest of the regular season will unfold, which teams fighting for playoff spots will reach the postseason and what records and results September will deliver.

Our preseason predictions.

Who will win the AL West?

Astros (20); A's (1)

Houston doesn't have the momentum, but it does have the better roster, especially now that Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer are back healthy. A month of play isn't enough to say talent will definitely win out, but the Astros' league-best run differential -- better even than Boston's -- is pretty convincing evidence of their talent. -- Sam Miller

How many games will the Red Sox win?

107 (6); 109 (5); 108 (3); 105 (3); 112 (1); 111 (1); 110 (1); 106 (1)

I put the Red Sox down for 111, which sounds like a lot when they could cruise to an AL East title with a .500 month. But the Sox haven't won fewer than 17 games in any month this season. With two in the bank already, I'm just expecting more of the same -- 16 more wins in their last 23 contests. Their schedule isn't that daunting -- scattered between facing the reigning champion Astros in Fenway this weekend and their six games against the Yankees at the end of the month, they'll see the Blue Jays, Mets, Orioles and an Indians club that won the AL Central in May. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have bids to win some hardware and perhaps make history; they're not going away. And although key pitchers Chris Sale and David Price might need only a few shortened turns to show that they're healthy and ready for October, the Sox have guys playing for their postseason roles, like Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi. The Sox won't let up; they'll dial this season all the way up to eleventy-ten. -- Christina Kahrl

Who will get the two NL wild-card spots?

Cardinals (17); Dodgers (8); Brewers (6); Rockies (5); Diamondbacks (3); Phillies (3)

I drew these names out of a hat. OK, anything can happen in these races. The Cardinals are counting on several young pitchers in the rotation and the Rockies are hoping the rotation, which has been excellent all season, can hold it together the final month. You know, this just feels like one of those Cardinals seasons -- think 2006 and 2011 -- where the team just squeaks into the playoffs and then goes on to the World Series. -- David Schoenfield

Who will win the NL West?

Diamondbacks (11); Dodgers (9); Rockies (1)

Hey, L.A. is the easy answer after the Dodgers pulled off dramatic late-game wins over the Diamondbacks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with Matt Kemp twice playing the hero. The key here is the depth in the Dodgers' lineup, which has the chance to beat up on tired pitching down the stretch (although Arizona pitched them very tough, holding them to 10 runs in four games). The Dodgers do have 16 of their final 25 games on the road, including a season-ending trip to Arizona and San Francisco, but I think last weekend's series win over the D-backs pushes them to a strong finish. -- Schoenfield

Who will win the AL MVP?

Mookie Betts (14); J.D. Martinez (3); Jose Ramirez (3); Jose Altuve (1)

Sure, if J.D. Martinez wins the Triple Crown, he may get the same boost that Miguel Cabrera did in 2012. But voters are a lot wiser than they were even six years ago, and I think Mookie's all-around brilliance makes him the MVP favorite on the league's best team. Really, it could come down to Betts versus Jose Ramirez -- another player with defensive value and huge numbers at the plate -- with Betts' advantage being playing in a tougher division while Ramirez has beaten up on four bad teams in the AL Central. -- Schoenfield

Who will win the AL Cy Young?

Chris Sale (13); Corey Kluber (1); Blake Snell (1); Edwin Diaz (1); Justin Verlander (1); Gerrit Cole (2); Carlos Carrasco (1); Luis Severino (1)

Chris Sale leads the league in ERA, FIP, WHIP and K/9; in the latter, he is on track to set the all-time record if he can just reach the 162 innings needed to qualify for such records. In a season where the top three candidates could all finish shy of 180 innings, Sale could win not with gaudy totals but by dominating like no pitcher since Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. -- Miller

Who will win AL ROY?

Miguel Andujar (11); Shohei Ohtani (5); Gleyber Torres (4); Ryan Yarbrough (1)

Miguel Andujar has had a tremendous rookie season at the plate, hitting close to .300 with more than 60 extra-base hits. Gleyber Torres missed some time with an injury, but has been almost as good. So why Ohtani? Defense matters, and in Andujar's case, the metrics suggest he has been terrible (minus-24 defensive runs saved). Ohtani has actually outhit both Yankees on a rate basis, then throw in 51 2/3 innings pitched with a 3.31 ERA and you have the best and most exciting AL rookie of 2018. -- Schoenfield

Who will win the NL MVP?

Matt Carpenter (8); Javier Baez (4); Freddie Freeman (3); Christian Yelich (3); Paul Goldschmidt (1); Aaron Nola (1); Nolan Arenado (1)

Javier Baez. It's certain that nobody is going to run away with the award in the NL, where Lorenzo Cain leads the league in one WAR model, Matt Carpenter leads in another and Nolan Arenado in a third. But it's Baez who seems most interwoven with his team's success this year. While many of his slugging teammates have fallen back a bit, Baez has broken out; while the infield has been hit by injuries, he has starred defensively at three premium positions; and while the Cubs' season could have easily turned complacent, Baez has played like a man on fire. -- Miller

Who will win the NL Cy Young?

Jacob deGrom (11); Max Scherzer (5); Aaron Nola (5)

I sort of expect the BBWAA ballot to play out much like our voting, as Scherzer and Nola split votes between people hung up on wins, leaving the way open for deGrom to win thanks to his just flat-out pitching better than either of them. Admittedly, it will help if this year's Cy Young electorate includes a strong contingent of people who look beyond the win column -- like we saw in the 2010 voting that put a Cy trophy on Felix Hernandez's mantel -- and that's not guaranteed. But it helps that Scherzer and Nola are posting near-identical ERAs or ERA+ or FIP, so there isn't a reason to favor one over the other. DeGrom simply has pitched better than both. -- Kahrl

Who will win NL ROY?

Ronald Acuna Jr. (17); Juan Soto (3); Jack Flaherty (1)

This is exactly like the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year vote, where voters had to pick between Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor for No. 1, and there was no wrong answer. Between Acuna and Soto, there's no wrong answer this time, and they'll be battling it out in the NL East for years to come. But just as Correa beat Lindor in 2015 thanks to some flashier power numbers playing for a team that went to the postseason, Acuna has more homers, more steals and he's probably going to the postseason. Now as then, those little things add up enough to tip the scales Acuna's way. -- Kahrl