Expert MLB Handicapping: 2018 Outlook for Last Year's Playoff Squads
Our goal here is simple. Last year there were 10 playoff teams in Major League Baseball. Several of them will return to the playoffs this year. Some won't. As we wait for spring training to end and games to really matter, it makes sense to go down that list and see which teams seem to fit into which group. (odds to win the World Series are from BetOnline ):
Houston Astros (+600): The Astros didn't make it easy - they went to Game 7 twice in a row - but they are defending champs. Defending a title is incredibly hard, but if any team can do it it's this one. They are loading in all phases - the bullpen less than the rest, but still fine - and they have brought pretty much everything back this year. They are confident and suddenly experienced, and the core is young enough that they should be able to handle the strain of the extra games they have had to play. This is a very easy team to like.
New York Yankees (+500): The Yankees surprised many, including myself, by making the playoffs last year. It was a youth movement that took off faster than anyone could have guessed. Well, the team predictably got a little impatient, so to the young core they added baseball's best slugger in Giancarlo Stanton. I don't still love the rotation quite as much as I could, and it's only because they are such a public team that they are favored over the Astros, but this team is going to be very tough.
Cleveland Indians (+800): This was an offensively productive team last year, and they are mostly intact this year - Yonder Alonso replaces Carlos Santana in the only move of note. The pieces are all there, but for reasons I can't entirely identify I just don't feel like they are going to be of the same caliber as they were last season. I am more pessimistic about this team compared to last year than most teams.
Boston Red Sox (+1000): J.D. Martinez is an interesting and much-needed injection of power on this team - Mookie Betts led the team with just 24 home runs. I like that addition, but it feels like they didn't do enough ultimately to keep pace with the Yankees or close the gap on the Astros. I'm not at all a fan of the prospects of David Price this year, either, and the team really needs to him to find his game again after a rough stretch of play.
Minnesota Twins (+5000): Last year this team came from nowhere to make the playoffs. They were young, but they found offensive productivity and just never went away. It was impressive. And yet the odds make it clear they haven't attracted any real respect. They have the same basic core, so they could be about as productive, and I guess that would put them in the wild card mix. I'm not that optimistic, though - but then I never for a second believed in them last year, so what do I know?
L.A. Dodgers (+600): I've been consistent with my view of this team for a long time - they have a whole lot of talent, but I just don't trust their mindset and never expect them to achieve all that they should as a result. And that remains the case this year - it has worked this long, so why change?
Chicago Cubs (+800): The first half last year was very sketchy, but after the all-star break they were as good as any team, and they looked like the dominant team they were in 2016. Their issues in the first half seemed mental - like they were believing the headlines and didn't think they had to work to win. If they can remember what helped them succeed in the second half then they should be very dangerous.
Washington Nationals (+800): No one seems to expect Bryce Harper to stay in Washington, so this seems like a last hurrah. The team has wasted a whole lot of talent over the years. So, will they continue to do so this year, or will they be motivated by the potential end of an era, and the needed change in management, and finally play like a team this talented should? I feel cautiously optimistic, but then I have felt that way about this team for a few years and don't have much to show for it.
Arizona Diamondbacks (+2800): They were a great story last year, but they lost more in the offseason than they added in the offseason by a wide margin - and they showed in the postseason last year that they just weren't good enough. And Zack Greinke isn't getting any younger and his fastball isn't getting any faster.
Colorado Rockies (+3300): They have some very nice offensive pieces already, and they had a quietly excellent offseason. Chris Iannetta is a big upgrade at catcher, and moving on from Carlos Gonzalez was tough after a long and productive career in Denver, but it was necessary. If rookie Ryan McMahon can establish himself at first, and the surprising young rotation can stay strong, then this team could certainly threaten for a postseason spot again.
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