Spring training is underway, and with each sun-soaked pitch anticipation grows for the regular season. As we get ready for the long, glorious march to the playoffs, this is a good time to look back at the 10 teams that made the postseason last year. It is a near certainty that all 10 won't be back this year. So, which ones are more likely to return than not? And which ones should bask in the memories of last season because they won't be making new ones? Let's take a look: (Odds to win their division are from BetOnline)
Toronto Blue Jays, +200: I am higher on the Jays' chances than many. There are several reasons. First, I don't respect the division as much as some - Boston is overhyped and still relies on unreliable players, and the Yankees have problems. Toronto's rotation isn't as bad as some think, the bullpen is excellent, and they should still hit it like crazy - though the Jose Bautista contract standoff isn't a good thing. At this point I am bullish on this team and expect that it is far more likely that they will make the playoffs than that they will miss them.
New York Yankees, +375: I didn't like much about this team last year, and they didn't do enough in my estimation to improve over the offseason. The roster is proof that money can't always buy happiness, and the rotation just isn't good enough - at least not reliably so - to be a big factor here. I'd bet against them returning.
Kansas City Royals, +165: The only thing that will get in the way of the Royals is themselves. They are in a division that they can handle easily - the Indians are the only real threat, and Kansas City has a big edge. They have the talent and the experience to thrive, and their offseason wasn't perfect but wasn't a disaster, either. The biggest concern is the World Series hangover and the impact it will have on the team. I trust the coaching enough that I am not too concerned and expect to see them in October again.
Texas Rangers, +400: I don't really see them making it this year, but then again I didn't see them making it right up until they did last year, either. The Astros are much better than them in their division, and I think Seattle is better, too. At best they can pick up scraps like they did last year, but I am confident in betting against them making the postseason again.
Houston Astros, +100: It would be among the biggest disappointments in the league if the Astros didn't make it back this year. They are on the rise and are building things well. They have talent to burn and strong coaching that suits their situation well. They are clearly the best in their division. This price to win the division offers no value, but they are legitimate favorites to repeat as divisional champs.
New York Mets, -120: I am perhaps not as high on the Mets as most. The rotation is very talented but also young. The success of last year could have an impact on the clubhouse chemistry, too - they are no longer plucky underdogs looking to take down the man. Washington should be better than they have been, too, and that's a big threat in the division. I wouldn't touch this price to win the division, but despite my misgivings I still think it's more likely than not that the Mets return to the postseason.
St. Louis Cardinals, +300: I don't expect there to be three playoff teams in the NL Central again. It's just too hard for that to happen. That being said, I don't necessarily think that the Cards will be the odd team out. You just can't bet against them these days. They are so well-run, and so well-coached, that you just assume every year that they are a playoff team.
Pittsburgh Pirates, +400: That sound you hear could be that of a window closing in Pittsburgh. Their departure from the playoffs last year was soul crushing, and it doesn't feel like they have responded by improving their team to avoid it happening again. They aren't a bad team by any means, but I just don't think they have kept pace with their rivals. With others like Arizona, Washington and San Francisco looking to claim a playoff spot they didn't have last year, I find it hard to have faith in the Pirates.
Chicago Cubs, -200: If the Cubs don't make the playoffs this year then I will have to re-evaluate just how much faith I put in curses. They have absolutely no excuses. Good pitching. Excellent depth and strong top-end talent in the field. Strong coaching. The division is tough, but it was last year, too. They are a playoff team - the most certain one in all of baseball, for what that's worth.
L.A. Dodgers, -110: If there is one team in the league I would gleefully bet against to win their division at the posted price it is the Dodgers. Their rotation isn't what it was last year, and it took another hit when Brett Anderson was lost for at least half the season. The coaching change helps but would help more if the new guy was someone more inspiring or proven than Dave Roberts. The roster is still overpaid and overly cocky. I just don't trust anything about this team and don't think that they are as good or nearly as tough or determined as their divisional rivals in San Francisco. I don't see the Dodgers as a playoff lock at all - not even close.
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