20. Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners have not made the postseason since 2001. While this team may not look like a playoff team on paper, they certainly have the potential to earn a spot. The offense for the mariners should be improved this season after their 15th place finish in runs in 2017. The addition of Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy should provide some help to Seattle’s offense. It will be interesting to watch Gordon’s transition into the outfield as well as the performance of aging superstars Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.
The Mariners pitching staff will need to stay healthy if they hope to compete in the competitive AL West. James Paxton looks poised to establish himself as the ace of the staff, while 31 year old Felix Hernandez will need a bounce back season as he has been slowly declining the last 3 years. The back end of the bullpen will be led by Edwin Diaz and Juan Nicasio.
19. Philadelphia Phillies
The city of Philadelphia is looking to ride the momentum from their recent Super Bowl win into the baseball season. The Phillies last won the World Series 10 years ago in 2008. The offense of the Phillies will need to improve greatly if they have any hopes of making it back to the postseason. Philadelphia’s lineup features youngsters Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco who will be joined by rookie J.P. Crawford. The Phillies lineup has a great core group of young talent that will continue to get better.
The Phillies staff is young but very talented. With an average age of 25.4 years old, the rotation will need to grow up quick. The staff is led by 24 year old Aaron Nola who will look to improve upon his 3.54 era in 2017. Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez will aim to lock down rotation spots and their build upon their sub-par seasons in 2017. Closer Hector Neris will need to be on top of his game all season to make sure the Phillies don’t let any wins get away.
18. Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals finished 2017 with an extremely mediocre 72-90 record. This lackluster year came just one season removed from a world title in 2015. The offense will need to improve after finishing 24th in runs in 2017. Whit Merrifield emerged as a solid leadoff hitter with 19 HR and 34 SB. Alex Gordon will need to return to All-Star form if the Royals want any chance of competing in the AL Central.
The Kansas City pitching staff has several question marks and injury concerns. The starting rotation is currently banged up with both Nate Karns and Jesse Hahn out with injuries. In the meantime, these spots will most likely be filled by the inexperienced Jakob Junis and Trevor Oaks (16 MLB starts between the two of them). Kelvin Herrera remains the rock of the bullpen with help from Brandon Maurer and Wily Peralta.
17. Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles are potentially going to be another casualty of the AL East. While they appear to have weapons on both offense and defense, they lack the depth needed to compete against the stacked Red Sox and Yankees. The offense is led by perennial MVP candidate Manny Machado with plenty of help from Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo. Playing in one of the more hitter-friendly ballparks in baseball will certainly help this offense remain strong.
The Orioles pitching staff was one of the worst in baseball last season. The likelihood of this staff being able to shut down some of the offenses in the AL East seems very unlikely. Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman will aim to anchor the rotation in 2018. Brad Brach and Darren O’Day will look to hold down the back end of the bullpen until Closer Zach Britton returns from a ruptured Achilles.
16. Texas Rangers
After making the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, the Texas Rangers had a down year in 2017. A few additions to the pitching staff this offseason could put the Rangers back into the playoff discussion. Offensively, the Rangers didn’t really change anything in the offseason. The offense will be led by veterans Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus with help from rising stars like Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara. Expect the offense to remain the strength of this team.
The Rangers signed Tim Lincecum and Bartolo Colon in hopes to squeeze out any quality innings they have left. Doug Fister, Matt Moore, and Mike Minor were also acquired this offseason to help provide much needed depth to the Rangers rotation. This pitching staff has the potential to be better than last year’s staff which finished 21st in era (4.66), but there are still a lot of question marks surrounding this group.
15. New York Mets
The New York Mets may be back in playoff contention in 2018. The offense will be led by Yoenis Cespedes, who is hoping for an injury-free 2018. The additions of Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez should add strong veteran leadership on and off the field. This lineup features a healthy mix of young talent and established veterans.
The Mets take into 2018 a pitching staff that was plagued by injury as they finished 28th in era. The rotation that the Mets had long hoped for is finally together and healthy heading into 2018. Noah Syndergaard’s stuff seems to be sharper than ever this spring as he looks to be a top contender for a Cy Young Award. As long as the rotation can stay healthy this year and perform up to their abilities, expect to see a much improved Mets pitching staff. Jeurys Familia will be back to closing games for the Mets after a suspension and a blood clot limited him to only 24 innings in 2017.
14. San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants were the worst team in baseball in 2017. However, the Giants made a couple key moves this offseason that might turn things around in San Francisco. The signing of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria will provide the lineup with two high-performing veterans. Add those two to the likes of Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Hunter Pence and you have yourself what looks like a very strong lineup.
Three veterans will lead the Giants rotation into 2018 in Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton will round out the rotation. Mark Melancon will look to have a bounce back year in the bullpen after a disappointing 2017. Sam Dyson, Hunter Strickland, and Tony Watson will help to give the Giants great depth in the pen. Expect the Giants to have a big bounce back year after a huge down year in 2017.
13. Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies made it to the NL Wild Card Game in 2018 after failing to make the postseason in 7 straight seasons. Although they lost the wild card game, the Rockies have emerged as a legitimate playoff contender. The Rockies high-powered offense is led by two MVP candidates in Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. DJ LeMahieu, Gerardo Parra, and Ian Desmond help round out the supporting cast.
Rockies’ ace Jon Gray will look to take the next step in his career after putting together a solid 2017 season (3.67 era). While Coors Field remains the most hitter-friendly ball park in the Majors, the Rockies have taken a major step in improving their staff. Colorado rebuilt the back end of their bullpen this offseason with the additions of Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee. An improving rotation and a rebuilt bullpen could potentially take the Rockies one step further and carry them into postseason play.
12. Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels need to capitalize on having the best player in baseball and they are running out of time. Mike Trout has three more seasons before he hits the open market. In an attempt to surround Trout with top talent, the Angels went out and got veteran Ian Kinsler and signed their late August acquisition Justin Upton. Kole Calhoun and the aging Albert Pujols will look to help provide much needed production in the middle of the Angels’ lineup.
The Angels also made the headline of the offseason when they signed Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani. Shohei will likely be stationed somewhere towards the top of LA’s rotation and potentially see a handful of at bats in the DH spot. The rest of the Angels rotation is finally all healthy this year as they look to put together a strong campaign. Blake Parker and Cam Bedrosian will be tasked with the duty of locking teams down in the late innings.
11. St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals have been one of the most consistent franchises in baseball over the last 15 years or so. The Cards made a big splash this offseason when they traded for Marcell Ozuna to add a punch to the middle of their lineup. With Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham, and Ozuna in the outfield, St. Louis has one of the strongest offensive/defensive outfields in the game. Yadier Molina will lead the pitching staff as he continues to play gold glove caliber defense behind the dish.
While the St. Louis offense appears to be strong, the strength of the Cardinals team might be the pitching. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha headline the rotation, with veteran Adam Wainwright and youngsters Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty rounding it out. The bullpen may be the Cardinal’s biggest weakness as they currently lack depth and a proven lockdown closer. Luke Gregerson looks to be the closer heading into the season with Dominic Leone and Tyler Lyons backing him up.