Spring Training 2018: Way-Too-Early World Series Odds for Every MLB Team

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterFebruary 6, 2018

Spring Training 2018: Way-Too-Early World Series Odds for Every MLB Team

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Spring training is just about here, which means it's nearly time for all 30 Major League Baseball teams to start getting ready for the 2018 season.

    So, naturally, there's no time like the present to judge how they're shaping up for the World Series.

    These way-too-early preliminary odds of winning the 2018 Fall Classic are based on changes to 2017 rosters, strengths and weaknesses in various phases of the game and assorted other factors that must also be considered.

    Teams are listed from the worst odds to the best odds, with judgment calls breaking any ties. Let's get to it.

Miami Marlins

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2003

    2017 Record: 77-85, 20.0 GB in NL East



    In case anyone isn't up to date, this is far from the same Miami Marlins team that won 77 games last year.

    Although the team's ownership changed hands from Jeffrey Loria to Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter last September, you'd never be able to tell from the massive fire sale the organization has undertaken this winter.

    Gone are four of Miami's five most valuable players from 2017: reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon. Trading them only served to clear payroll and to add talent to the club's farm system, which still has a ways to go before it's one of MLB's best.

    And it's not over yet. Also sure to be goners are catcher J.T. Realmuto, second baseman Starlin Castro, first baseman Justin Bour and a few pitchers (e.g. Dan Straily, Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa).

    In short, this is a rotten team that hasn't even fully spoiled yet.


    B/R Odds: 200-1

Detroit Tigers

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1984

    2017 Record: 64-98, 38.0 GB in AL Central



    After staying open for many years, the Detroit Tigers' contention window finally shut in 2017.

    Their record only tells half the story. The other half covers trades of Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Ian Kinsler. With those four stars gone, the only real bright side is that the Tigers don't figure to be completely unwatchable in 2018.

    Miguel Cabrera might bounce back from the worst season of his career. Failing that, the Tigers will still have Michael Fulmer's pitching, Nicholas Castellanos' hitting and three good defenders up the middle: catcher James McCann, shortstop Jose Iglesias and center fielder Leonys Martin.

    There is, however, no ignoring the possibility those guys won't last long in Detroit. The club's farm system has improved only enough to rank as B/R's No. 15 overall. The Tigers need more trades to push it higher.

    When they come, they'll push Detroit's World Series odds even lower.


    B/R Odds: 100-1

Kansas City Royals

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 2015

    2017 Record: 80-82, 22.0 GB in AL Central



    If 2016 and 2017 didn't give off a strong enough "All good things must come to an end" vibe, the Kansas City Royals' 2018 season certainly will.

    When Lorenzo Cain signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Royals officially lost one cornerstone of their back-to-back World Series teams. With Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas also floating on the free-agent waters, they stand to lose two more.

    Mind you, the Royals aren't yet unrecognizable. Alex Gordon still roams left field. Salvador Perez is still behind the plate. Alcides Escobar is still at shortstop. Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera still lead the club's rotation and bullpen, respectively.

    Trouble is, there's little (if any) impact talent surrounding the core players who remain. Meanwhile, the Royals have Bleacher Report's No. 30 farm system. Put two and two together, and you get a team with little hope even before it's really started a rebuild.


    B/R Odds: 100-1

San Diego Padres

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2017 Record: 71-91, 33.0 GB in NL West



    Never mind the World Series. With three 2017 playoff teams and the renovated San Francisco Giants elsewhere in the division, the San Diego Padres' priority for 2018 is merely being visible in the NL West.

    Fortunately for them, this is doable.

    The Padres have some interesting players on their major league roster. Well-rounded first baseman Wil Myers leads the pack. Outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Jose Pirela can hit. Austin Hedges is an excellent defensive catcher. Manuel Margot is a superb defensive center fielder.

    Beneath the Padres, meanwhile, is Bleacher Report's No. 4 farm system. The big prize is shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who should make his debut this year.

    The mound is where San Diego needs help the most, however. The best arms in its system (e.g. RHP Cal Quantrill and LHP MacKenzie Gore) aren't likely to be able to solve that this year. That will limit the team to only a small step forward in 2018.


    B/R Odds: 90-1

Cincinnati Reds

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1990

    2017 Record: 68-94, 24.0 GB in NL Central



    The Cincinnati Reds are mostly bringing back last year's 94-loss team, save for one notable absence: shortstop Zack Cozart, who finished second on the squad to Joey Votto in wins above replacement.

    The Reds don't have an answer for that now, but they should soon be able to bump Eugenio Suarez to shortstop to make way at third base for top prospect Nick Senzel. If there's also playing time for outfielder Jesse Winker, Cincinnati's lineup would then contain a quality mix of young and veteran hitters.

    Then all the Reds would need is some pitching.

    They finished last in the National League with a 5.17 ERA in 2017. Healthy versions of Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan and youngsters Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle can help bring down that number. Just not far enough to help the Reds contend in a top-heavy NL Central.

    Thus, the rebuild will go on for at least one more year.


    B/R Odds: 90-1

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2008

    2017 Record: 66-96, 31.0 GB in NL East



    Five years of rebuilding later, the Philadelphia Phillies are ready to be bold.

    Freshly signed first baseman Carlos Santana is the lone veteran in their projected starting lineup. The rest are all young, mostly homegrown players, led by slugger Rhys Hoskins and center fielder Odubel Herrera. Before long, second base prospect Scott Kingery should also break through.

    Led by underrated 24-year-old Aaron Nola, the club's rotation is similarly youthful, and they have a quality young closer in Hector Neris.

    New manager Gabe Kapler, a former player who served as a minor league manager and the Los Angeles Dodgers' director of player development, has a reputation as a progressive thinker.

    This doesn't add up to something good enough to challenge the Washington Nationals in the NL East. But it should be enough for, say, a 10-win improvement that begets more boldness in the 2018-2019 offseason.


    B/R Odds: 80-1

Chicago White Sox

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    Jose Juarez/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2005

    2017 Record: 67-95, 35.0 GB in AL Central



    The Chicago White Sox's rough 2017 season left them with some silver linings. 

    Yoan Moncada impressed enough at the end to earn a gig at second base opposite shortstop Tim Anderson, a fellow young talent. Nick Delmonico is another youngster who showed well last year. 

    Throw in ol' standbys Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia and new arrival Welington Castillo, and the makings for a solid lineup are there. And it'll be a big event when outfielder Eloy Jimenez and his literal light-tower power are added to the mix.

    Likewise, things don't look so grim on the mound, where there are live arms belonging to Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer. Michael Kopech, who easily clears triple digits, should join them soon, as will Carlos Rodon once he's healthy.

    In some far-out fan fiction, the White Sox ride their youth movement all the way to the World Series in 2018. In reality, they should at least do better than 95 losses.


    B/R Odds: 80-1

Atlanta Braves

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1995

    2017 Record: 72-90, 25.0 GB in NL East



    The Atlanta Braves' losses have been counting down, going from 95 in 2015 to 93 in 2016 to 90 last year. For 2018, another step in the right direction is in order.

    Atlanta's lineup features a solid veteran core (Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte and Tyler Flowers) plus a young double-play combination (Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies) with upside. And it's just a matter of time before outfielder Ronald Acuna, Baseball America No. 1 prospect, joins the fray.

    On the mound, 27-year-old Julio Teheran is the elder statesman of a group of young starters (Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Luiz Gohara. There's more where that came from in the club's top-ranked farm system: right-hander Mike Soroka and left-handers Kolby Allard and Max Fried.

    It's way too much to expect this group to take down the Washington Nationals in the NL East. But there's enough young talent for significant progress.


    B/R Odds: 70-1

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Steve Nesius/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: None

    2017 Record: 80-82, 13.0 GB in AL East



    One thing's for sure: The Tampa Bay Rays won't be contending on the strength of their offense.

    They managed just 4.3 runs per game in 2017 with a lineup that featured Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison. They're both gone now, and there's not much hope their production will be replaced in the aggregate.

    Run prevention is where Tampa Bay will fare better. Kevin Kiermaier still leads a defense that tied for fourth in efficiency in 2017. Starters Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi and closer Alex Colome still captain the pitching staff. Said staff will also have impressive youth once top prospect Brent Honeywell joins fellow young hurlers Blake Snell and Jake Faria.

    Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine the Rays getting enough pitching and defense to compete with the top AL East powers. They should be competitive but are more likely to sell at the deadline than to go all-in for a wild-card spot.


    B/R Odds: 70-1

Baltimore Orioles

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1983

    2017 Record: 75-87, 18.0 GB in AL East



    It seemed like no sure thing for a while, but Manny Machado's continued presence in the Baltimore Orioles lineup ensures the home runs will still be there in 2018.

    The Orioles have mashed 104 more homers than any team since 2012. Machado, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini have more where that came from. Thus, the Orioles might again beat expectations with plenty of homers and just enough pitching.

    Trouble is, they don't appear to have even "just enough" pitching. 

    They've done nothing to bolster a pitching staff that ranked 14th in the AL with a 4.97 ERA in 2017. Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are worth being excited about, but there's not much underneath them in the rotation. And the bullpen can only pick up so much slack until Zach Britton returns from his ruptured Achilles.

    All told, it'll be surprising if the O's are any better than .500 this year.


    B/R Odds: 60-1

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1979

    2017 Record: 75-87, 17.0 GB in NL Central



    The Pittsburgh Pirates have moved on from Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, so they're obviously going to be terrible in 2018, right?

    Actually, don't count on it.

    The McCutchen and Cole trades didn't leave the Pirates empty-handed. Colin Moran is a late-blooming slugger who'll fit well next to Starling Marte, Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco. Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick are more power arms for a staff that finished second in fastball velocity last year.

    The Pirates also have some in-house youth to rest their hopes on. Included are top prospect Mitch Keller and fellow right-hander Tyler Glasnow, a former top prospect who's now a post-hype sleeper. There's also no time like the present for outfielder Austin Meadows to live up to his potential.

    Although an NL Central title is out of reach, there's enough in Pittsburgh for a respectable .500 team.


    B/R Odds: 60-1

Texas Rangers

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    Reed Saxon/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2017 Record: 78-84. 23.0 GB in AL West



    The Texas Rangers went from 95 wins in 2016 to 78 wins in 2017. Going into 2018, they seem intent on landing somewhere in the middle of that range.

    This has much to do with their cringe-worthy collection of arms. They only managed a 4.66 ERA last year yet head into 2018 with a staff led by an aging Cole Hamels and a handful of dice-rolls.

    On the bright side, the Rangers have the offense to mitigate some of the risk.

    They scored 4.9 runs per game last year with the help of 237 homers, 41 of which were hit by notorious single-hater Joey Gallo. Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and Rougned Odor are also back. Nomar Mazara and Willie Calhoun offer plenty of youthful upside.

    It doesn't add up to enough to fight for the AL West title. A wild card pursuit, however, is doable.


    B/R Odds: 50-1

Oakland Athletics

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1989

    2017 Record: 75-87, 26.0 GB in AL West



    Don't overlook the 2018 Oakland Athletics. Particularly not when it's their turn to bat.

    They finished fifth in the American League with a .755 OPS last year. For 2018, they can look forward to more of the same from Khris Davis, Jed Lowrie and Matt Joyce, as well as full seasons from 2017 breakout stars Matt Chapman and Matt Olson and new addition Stephen Piscotty.

    The A's can dip into their farm system for more talent. Infielders Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo should be ready to contribute, as should outfielder Dustin Fowler. Best of all, well-regarded lefty A.J. Puk is almost ready to join the pitching staff.

    The question is whether Puk will push the staff over the edge. It struggled with a 4.67 ERA last year and has only gotten bullpen upgrades (Ryan Buchter and Yusmeiro Petit) this winter. That'll make it tough for the A's to be any more than a wild-card contender.


    B/R Odds: 50-1

New York Mets

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 1986

    2017 Record: 70-92, 27.0 GB in NL East



    The New York Mets have the potential to be a 2018 powerhouse because of all their, well, power.

    With new additions Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier in the fold alongside Yoenis Cespedes and, eventually, a healthy Michael Conforto, the Mets are equipped to enjoy a similarly explosive offense to the one that led the NL with 224 homers in 2017.

    Starters Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will lead a rotation full of live arms. The Mets also have an underrated bullpen in which A.J. Ramos and Anthony Swarzak will set up Jeurys Familia.

    One thing about those live arms, though: The ones belonging to Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler haven't functioned well lately. And despite the additions of Frazier and Bruce and the everyday presence of Amed Rosario, the Mets could again be stricken with a one-dimensional offense and a less-than-efficient defense.

    And this is assuming that the injury bug leaves the Mets alone, which certainly didn't happen last year.


    B/R Odds: 40-1

Seattle Mariners

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2017 Record: 78-84, 23.0 GB in AL West



    The Seattle Mariners head into 2018 with arguably MLB's most underrated lineup.

    With Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy joining Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Jean Segura, Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino and Mitch Haniger, Seattle's offense is plenty deep and features a solid balance between power and speed. 

    Plus, this is mostly the same crew that ranked fifth in defensive efficiency last year. If Gordon's speed translates to center field as well as it should, the Mariners can improve even more.

    The anchor around this team's ankle is a pitching staff short on certainties: Felix Hernandez is past his prime, so it's up to James Paxton to be the team's ace. If injuries continue to get in his way, an unspectacular supporting cast will be tasked with more than they can handle. 

    The Mariners should have 85 wins in them. The questions are whether that'll be enough for October, and whether their pitching can carry them if they get there.


    B/R Odds: 40-1

Minnesota Twins

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1991

    2017 Record: 85-77, 17.0 GB in AL Central



    The Minnesota Twins place here mostly because of their terrific-looking lineup.

    While veterans Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier deserve their due, the exciting parts are the youthful ones. Byron Buxton is an tremendous all-around talent. Miguel Sano has enormous power. Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario are none too shabby in their own right.

    The ingredients for good pitching are also there. Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios can be one of the AL's top pitching duos. With top prospects Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves knocking on the door, the latter should soon get some youthful company.

    Still, a top-of-the-rotation arm such as Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta looks like more of a necessity than a luxury. Another gripe is that the additions of Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zach Duke likely won't make last year's leaky bullpen a thing of the past.

    In all, this is a talented team that's not quite equipped for the next step.


    B/R Odds: 40-1

San Francisco Giants

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2014

    2017 Record: 64-98, 40.0 GB in NL West



    Why put this much faith in a team coming off 98 losses? Because the San Francisco Giants will be dangerous if they reach the postseason.

    Nobody will want to face Madison Bumgarner, who should be healthy after last year's dirt bike-induced injury. Jeff Samardzija is a better pitcher than last year's 4.42 ERA would indicate. Johnny Cueto and Mark Melancon, meanwhile, are huge bounce-back candidates following rough 2017 seasons.

    The additions of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria give the Giants two more capable bats alongside Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik. A repeat of last year's .689 OPS (worst in MLB) and 3.9 runs per game isn't in the cards.

    However, it's enough of a red flag that this is an old team. Its lack of depth (particularly on the mound) makes that flag even redder. As a result, getting to October will be the hard part.


    B/R Odds: 30-1

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 1993

    2017 Record: 76-86, 17.0 GB in AL East



    Just two years after leading MLB with 5.5 runs per game, the Toronto Blue Jays tied for last in the American League with 4.3 per game in 2017.

    Better health for Josh Donaldson and continued excellence from Justin Smoak would be enough to ensure that doesn't happen again in 2018. And yet, the Blue Jays wisely added Randal Grichuk, Curtis Granderson, Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte.

    Assuming Aaron Sanchez, the 2016 American League ERA champion, is past the finger problems that plagued him last year, he'll re-team with Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ to form a terrific starting trio. Meanwhile, the absurdly underrated Roberto Osuna will anchor the bullpen.

    Mind you, the lack of quality depth in between those arms will hold the Blue Jays back in the regular season. But they're going to be wild-card contenders anyway, and their big pieces will make them scary if they can get into October.


    B/R Odds: 30/1

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2017 Record: 86-76, 6.0 GB in NL Central



    In no time at all, the Milwaukee Brewers have gone from rebuilders to no-holds-barred contenders.

    They made one of the biggest splashes of the winter when they added Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich in back-to-back transactions. They'll upgrade not only the club's offense, which scored only 4.5 runs per game last year, but also its defense, which tied for 14th in efficiency.

    The defensive upgrade will be of use to a pitching staff that put up a solid 4.00 ERA last year. Chase Anderson was the breakout ace and Corey Knebel was the breakout relief ace. Both are back in 2018.

    Simply on the quality of these strengths, the Brewers can be wild-card contenders and a sneaky World Series threat in 2018. But until they add more depth—second base, catcher and starting pitching are the big areas of need—it's hard to match them up with any of the National League's biggest heavyweights.


    B/R Odds: 25-1

Los Angeles Angels

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    Masterpress/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 2002

    2017 Record: 80-82, 21.0 GB in AL West



    You're looking at the team that improved itself more than any other this offseason.

    Much was made of the Los Angeles Angels' acquisition of ace/slugger Shohei Ohtani. But don't forget the additions of Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler, or the early extension of Justin Upton.

    Along with Andrelton Simmons, Kole Calhoun and what's left of Albert Pujols, the four of them will help Mike Trout, the best player in baseball, carry a much-improved offense. To boot, Cozart and Kinsler are two additional standout gloves for a defense that ranked ninth in efficiency last year.

    The Angels lack a true No. 1 starter, but Ohtani and Garrett Richards pack high-octane arms, and there's good enough depth around them to last the 162-game grind.

    An entirely different challenge, however, would be measuring their pitching depth against more star-laden American League staffs in October. That makes it hard to view the Angels as more just a World Series sleeper.


    B/R Odds: 25-1

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2011

    2017 Record: 83-79, 9.0 GB in NL Central



    The St. Louis Cardinals responded to two straight years of uncharacteristic mediocrity by undertaking a significant renovation this winter.

    Their trade for Marcell Ozuna is most significant because his brand of thunderous offense was sorely lacking in St. Louis last year. Add in Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, Yadier Molina, Jedd Gyorko and 2017 breakout stars Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong, and you get a solid lineup.

    There's not as much star power in the pitching staff; however, it does feature a legit No. 1 in Carlos Martinez and young guys with upside: Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and, when healthy, Alex Reyes. Along with their offense, it's enough to put the NL Central title within reach.

    The big question is whether the additions of Luke Gregerson and Dominic Leone are enough to fix a bullpen that had a meltdown problem in 2017. That's at once a stretch and a serious reason for skepticism about how far the Cardinals can go.


    B/R Odds: 20-1

Colorado Rockies

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2017 Record: 87-75, 17.0 GB in NL West



    The Colorado Rockies made the playoffs in 2017 largely thanks to the best pitching staff in franchise history.

    The gang's all back in the starting rotation. Jon Gray and German Marquez are the power pitchers of the bunch, while Chad Bettis, Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson are the crafty contact-managers. 

    The Rockies also have the bullpen to keep their starters' arms fresh. Wade Davis is an upgrade over Greg Holland, and he'll have a fine foursome (Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw, Adam Ottavino and Chris Rusin) setting him up.

    Ironically, finding enough offense was the hard part last year. But the Rockies snapped out of it with an .811 OPS in the second half. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon will once again do their part, and their supporting cast features a potential breakout star in young first baseman Ryan McMahon.

    Although they seem to be slipping under the radar a bit, this is a team that should not be underestimated.


    B/R Odds: 20-1

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2001

    2017 Record: 93-69, 11.0 GB in NL West



    The Arizona Diamondbacks are bringing back a starting rotation that, according to FanGraphs WAR, was the NL's best last year.

    That seems like a stretch until you really dive into it: Zack Greinke is one of the top No. 1s in the league. Robbie Ray is an elite strikeout artist. Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley each bring something to the table.

    By comparison, Arizona's bullpen isn't as strong. But Archie Bradley is about as good as they come at the back end, and new additions Brad Boxberger and Yoshihisa Hirano should form a solid bridge to him.

    The club's offense will miss J.D. Martinez, whose 1.107 OPS and 29 homers kept things afloat late last summer. But with Paul Goldschmidt in the middle and Jake Lamb, David Peralta and A.J. Pollock as support, the Diamondbacks should score enough runs to support their pitching.

    Come October, these things could turn a World Series dream into reality.


    B/R Odds: 15-1

Boston Red Sox

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2013

    2017 Record: 93-69, AL East Champions



    The Boston Red Sox are bringing back the same team from a season ago, but that comes with good and bad news

    The bad is that an offense that hit an AL-low 168 homers still lacks power. That will change if the Red Sox sign J.D. Martinez, but that staring contest seems destined to last forever.

    It could be worse, though. A full season of Rafael Devers, better health from Xander Bogaerts, continued improvement from Andrew Benintendi, and more consistency from Mookie Betts are just a few things that can boost Boston's power output in 2018.

    Further good news is that the Red Sox have one of baseball's best aces (Chris Sale) and best closers (Craig Kimbrel). They also have two prime bounce-back candidates in former Cy Young winners Rick Porcello and David Price.

    Under first-year manager Alex Cora, the Red Sox should once again be an American League power and World Series contender.


    B/R Odds: 12-1

Chicago Cubs

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2016

    2017 Record: 92-70, NL Central Champions



    The Chicago Cubs' encore to their long-awaited championship was a tale of two seasons: a 43-45 first half and a 49-25 second half.

    If nothing else, the latter is a reason to believe in a lineup that led the charge with an .811 OPS and produced 5.7 runs per game. With Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo leading a deep and diverse collection of talents, more of that is in order for 2018.

    The real question is what the Cubs will get out of a pitching staff missing Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Wade Davis. And yet, the Cubs have answers.

    Jon Lester should bounce back from his 4.33 ERA and join Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood to form a strong rotation. In the bullpen, Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek should make up for the loss of Davis.

    Would the Cubs be better with Yu Darvish? You bet. But he'd only elevate them from great team to greater team.


    B/R Odds: 10-1

Houston Astros

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2017

    2017 Record: 101-61, AL West Champions



    Even coming off a 101-win season and their first World Series title, the Houston Astros look better in 2018.

    They're bringing back the same offense that led MLB in, oh, pretty much everything last year. Jose Altuve is the MVP in the middle, and Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bregman can still improve.

    The difference this year: Houston might have the deepest pitching staff in the league.

    Justin Verlander is in for a full season, followed by another former Cy Young winner (Dallas Keuchel), a couple of young flamethrowers (Gerrit Cole and Lance McCullers) and a veteran gunslinger (Charlie Morton). They're all backed up by a solid bullpen that will be anchored by Ken Giles, Chris Devenski and Will Harris.

    There is, however, one unfortunate reality to address: It's now the Astros' turn to try to beat a World Series hangover that no reigning champion has beaten since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees.


    B/R Odds: 8-1

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 1988

    2017 Record: 104-58, NL West Champions



    You wouldn't expect it from a 104-win team, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent the offseason doing a lot more subtracting than adding.

    It's now hard to ignore their big gambles. Second base and left field aren't in great hands. And trouble could arise on the mound if Clayton Kershaw's back acts up again.

    Nonetheless, it's hard to see the Dodgers as anything other than an elite team.

    They're mostly returning the same staff that led the NL with a 3.38 ERA and can look forward to top prospect Walker Buehler playing a larger role. Fellow top prospect Alex Verdugo can boost an offense already anchored by Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig.

    The Dodgers also don't have to fear the World Series hangover as much as the Astros. The 2010/2011 Texas Rangers and the 2014/2015 Kansas City Royals are recent examples of World Series losers faring better in the following season.


    B/R Odds: 7-1

Cleveland Indians

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 1948

    2017 Record: 102-60, AL Central Champions



    After losing the 2016 World Series and failing to make it out of last year's ALDS, it's possible no team is hungrier than the Cleveland Indians going into 2018.

    A unit that posted an MLB-low 3.30 ERA and struck out a record 1,614 batters last year hasn't changed much. Two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer are an excellent front three. Cody Allen and Andrew Miller are the game's best late-inning duo.

    Meanwhile, an offense that ranked second with a .788 OPS last year may not miss Carlos Santana. He's been replaced by Yonder Alonso, who was actually a better hitter in 2017. Elsewhere, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion lead a strong group of incumbents.

    Given the lack of challengers in the AL Central, the Indians should make it to October as easily as they did last year. Only this time, they must be better prepared for the stiffer competition that comes with the territory.


    B/R Odds: 13-2

Washington Nationals

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2017 Record: 97-65, NL East Champions



    This is it—the year the Washington Nationals must win a World Series before possibly losing Bryce Harper.

    Lucky for them, Harper is only one weapon that opposing pitchers must fear. With Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Eaton alongside him, the Nationals boast the most loaded lineup in the National League. Also looming is top prospect Victor Robles who's ready to make an impact.

    The pitching staff is led by a three-time Cy Young winner (Max Scherzer) and two 2017 Cy Young contenders (Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez). And thanks to a bullpen that added Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler last summer, new manager Dave Martinez shouldn't have to squeeze as many innings out of his starters as Dusty Baker.

    The lingering concern is health. Harper's durability is never a sure thing, and even Scherzer started to break down at the end of 2017. Any more of this, and the Nats will be in trouble.


    B/R Odds: 6-1

New York Yankees

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    Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2009

    2017 Record: 91-71, 2.0 GB in AL East



    The 2018 New York Yankees have a first-time manager in Aaron Boone, as well a roster that isn't without nits to pick.

    But as far as reasons to doubt them...that's pretty much it.

    With Giancarlo Stanton joining Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird, an offense that slugged an MLB-high 241 homers in 2017 has a chance to be the most powerful offense ever. To boot, top prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar can be big-time answers to the questions around second base and third base.

    Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray will lead the Yankees rotation, while numerous electric relievers (Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle) form arguably the most dominant bullpen ever.

    In all, this is a better and more experienced team than the one that came a win short of the 2017 World Series. It's impossible not to like their chances of doing better in 2018.


    B/R Odds: 5-1


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus. Special thanks to Roster Resource for helpful roster breakdowns.