10. Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins went from the worst team in baseball in 2016, to playing in a wild card game in 2017. The lineup is led by veterans Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer. Five-tool player Byron Buxton has one more year of experience under his belt and looks poised to have a breakout season. The Twins will need Miguel Sano to continue to be one of the best power hitters in baseball if they hope to match their run output in 2017 which placed them 7th in baseball.
Ervin Santana was the rock of the rotation in 2017. However, Minnesota will have to do without their ace till at least late April as Santana suffered a wear and tear finger injury that required surgery. 23 year old Jose Berrios will look to step up and lead the staff. The young right-hander will be backed up by veterans Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn, and Phil Hughes. Minnesota closer Fernando Rodney has 300 career saves over his 15 year Major League career. The Twins will need a strong season out of the 41 year old if they hope to build upon last season’s performance.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks won 93 games in 2017 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Although the D’backs got swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS, the team took a huge step forward. Perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt leads the offense once again with a strong supporting cast. The acquisition of Steven Souza Jr. provides a solid replacement both offensively and defensively for J.D. Martinez. David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb will look to continue playing solid baseball for Arizona.
Zack Greinke finished 7th amongst Major League pitchers in WAR in 2017. Greinke and Robbie Ray will headline the D’Backs starting rotation while Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin, and Zack Godley help round out what appears to be one of the best rotations in baseball. After posting a 1.73 era in 73 innings, 24 year old Archie Bradley will step into the closer role. Brad Boxberger and Andrew Chafin will offer quality innings out of the pen as well.
8. Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers missed out on a spot in the Wild Card game by 1 game. In an attempt to take the next step forward, Milwaukee went out this offseason and acquired Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. Travis Shaw and Ryan Braun will anchor the middle of the lineup as well as the corner spots in the infield. The Milwaukee offense finished 20th in runs scored in 2017. They will need to improve in 2018 if they hope to compete in the competitive NL Central.
Ace of the staff, Chase Anderson, will look to repeat his 2017 numbers when he went 12-4 with a 2.74 era. 25 year old Zach Davies is a strong number 2 starter as he’ll look to build on his 17 wins in 2017. Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacin will provide strong veteran leadership to the entire staff. All-Star closer Corey Knebel will look to once again be lights out in the back end of Milwaukee’s bullpen. Josh Hader and Matt Albers will join Knebel in the pen, which appears like it will be a strength for the Brewers in 2018.
7. Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians won 102 games in 2017 but fell to the Yankees in 5 games in the ALDS. The Indians return one of the best teams in baseball in 2018. The offense is led by emerging superstar Francisco Lindor. After a breakout season where he finished 3rd in MVP voting, Jose Ramirez will look to repeat his 2017 performance. Jason Kipnis, Edwin Encarnacion, and Michael Brantley help to create one of the deepest lineups in baseball.
Cleveland had the best pitching staff in baseball last season with a 3.30 team era. 2017 Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber leads the staff. Kluber won 18 games in 2017 and struck out 265 batters in 203 innings. Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer play a key role in arguably the best starting rotation in the Majors. Cody Allen is a reliable arm in the back end of the pen, along with Andrew Miller and Dan Otero. A strong offense and the best pitching in baseball give Cleveland one of the most well-rounded teams in baseball.
6. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox lost in the ALDS to the eventual World Series Champion Houston Astros. Boston won the AL East in 2017 with strong hitting and even stronger pitching. To help try and take them to the next level in 2018, the Red Sox went out and picked up J.D. Martinez to help bolster the offense. Martinez hit 45 home runs in 2017 while hitting .303. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. make up arguably the best offensive and defensive outfield in baseball.
The Boston Red Sox pitching staff finished 4th in the Major Leagues in era in 2017 (3.70). Chris Sale finished 2nd in Cy Young voting and struck out 308 batters in 214 innings. At 32 years old, David Price remains a very strong left-hander. Rick Porcello and Drew Pomeranz will provide quality innings in the middle of the rotation. Closer Craig Kimbrel is one, if not the most, dominant closer in baseball (16.4 k/9 in 2017). Carson Smith, Matt Barnes, and Joe Kelly are all closer-quality arms that give Boston great depth in the bullpen.
5. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs won the NL Central last season after winning the World Series in 2016. However they lost in 5 games to the Dodgers in the NLCS. A very similar Cubs team is back in 2018 looking to get back to the World Series. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo continue to be the nucleus of this offense. A leaned out Kyle Schwarber aims to be an asset in the outfield this season as well as at the plate. Willson Contreras will be the leader of this Cubs’ pitching staff while continuing to offer solid offensive production.
Veteran Jon Lester and recently acquired Yu Darvish are at the top of this deep rotation. Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quitana, and Tyler Chatwood help round out one of the best starting rotations in baseball. The Cubs also went out and picked up Brandon Morrow to sure up the back end of their bullpen. Along with Morrow, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., and Steve Cishek make up an extremely deep bullpen.
4. Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals won 97 games in 2017 but eventually lost to the Cubs in the NLDS. The Nationals return the same offense that scored the 5th most runs in baseball in 2017 (5.06 runs per game). Bryce Harper is the star of this team and enters 2018 with a lot on the line (becomes a free agent at end of season). Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy are two elite hitters that will help provide Harper with much needed protection. Don’t be surprised if Trea Turner has a breakout season at the top of this lineup.
Washington’s pitching staff is one of the strongest in baseball. Max Scherzer, who has won back-to-back Cy Young Awards, leads the starting rotation. Stephen Strasburg is arguably the best number 2 in the game, while Gio Gonzalez, Taylor Roark, and A.J. Cole round out the rotation. The bullpen is the only area of concern with the Nationals. Sean Doolittle has been injury prone throughout his career and Ryan Madson is 37 years old. It will be up to unproven arms such as Koda Glover and Enny Romero to help provide support to this Washington bullpen.
3. New York Yankees
The Yankees won 91 games in 2017 and were one game away from advancing to the World Series. To try and take this next step, the Yankees went out and acquired the NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees lineup is scary. Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez combined for 144 home runs in 2017. The San Francisco Giants hit 128 home runs as a team in 2017. With Greg Bird and Didi Gregorius providing support, the Yankees appear to have the best offense in baseball on paper.
The New York Yankees finished 2017 with the 5th best pitching staff in baseball (3.72 era). Luis Severino took a huge step forward in 2017 and became the ace of the staff (2.98 era). Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray make up a solid middle of the rotation with veteran C.C. Sabathia and youngster Jordan Montgomery rounding it out. The Yankees bullpen might be better than their offense. Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, and Chad Green are just a few of the names that make up one of the deepest bullpens in baseball.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers made it back to the World Series for the first time since 1988. Unfortunately they came up one game short as they lost in 7 to the Houston Astros. The same team is back in 2018 hoping to make it all the way back to the World Series. Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger will look to stay healthy and repeat their 2017 performances. Leadoff man Chris Taylor had a breakout season in 2017, the Dodgers will need a similar performance out of him in 2018 if they hope to get back to the World Series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers had the 2nd best pitching staff in baseball in 2017 behind only the Cleveland Indians. The staff is led by one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in the history of the sport, Clayton Kershaw. Behind Kershaw stand Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Although the Dodgers lost Brandon Morrow to free agency, the Dodgers bullpen remains strong. Kenley Jansen is one of the best closers in the game and will need to be on top of his game to help the Dodgers return to the postseason.
1. Houston Astros
The defending World Series Champion Houston Astros return the same lineup that led all of baseball in runs scored in 2017 (5.53 runs per game). AL MVP Jose Altuve leads the core group of young Astros superstars. Altuve has led the American League in hits the past 4 seasons. George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa help round out the nucleus of young Houston talent that played a huge role in their 2017 championship season.
The Houston Astros had a very strong starting rotation in 2017. However, Houston went out and acquired Pittsburgh ace, Gerrit Cole. Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander lead the top of the Houston rotation, while Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton make up the rest of one of the best rotations in baseball. Ken Giles and Chris Devenski will continue to be one of the most dependable bullpen combos in the Majors.