2018 MLB Playoff Chances for Every Team 1 Month from Opening Day

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2018

2018 MLB Playoff Chances for Every Team 1 Month from Opening Day

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Spring training is just getting off the ground. We're more than a month away from games that count.

    Still, it's not too early to talk postseason chances. We can enjoy the languid pace of late February while peering ahead to October. 

    We're basing our chances (rated on a scale of zero to 100 percent) on rosters as currently constructed. When the final top-tier free agents such as right-hander Jake Arrieta sign, the calculus could change.

    For now, here's a look at how all 30 MLB teams measure up in the 2018 playoff scramble.

American League West

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Houston Astros

    The defending MLB champions are loaded offensively behind American League MVP Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa and a cast of hyper-talented supporting players.

    They boosted an already strong starting rotation when they acquired right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Other than left-handed bullpen depth, they don't have many weaknesses.

    Winning consecutive Commissioner's Trophies is hard. Since 1979, only two teams have done it. The Astros have a fighting chance to be the third and are prohibitive favorites to win the AL West.

    Playoff chances: 90 percent


    Los Angeles Angels

    The Los Angeles Angels scored arguably the biggest prize of the offseason when they won the sweepstakes for two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani.

    The Halos also added infielder Zack Cozart, who will slot in at third base next to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, along with veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler.

    They've still got Mike Trout, the best player on the planet until further notice. There are question marks in the starting rotation, where the Angels are thin behind the untested Ohtani and injury-prone Garrett Richards. 

    The Angels are much-improved, however. They probably won't seriously challenge Houston, but a wild-card berth is within reach.

    Playoff chances: 50 percent


    Seattle Mariners

    It was a head-scratching winter for the Seattle Mariners. They seemed to need reinforcements for their starting rotation, which was decimated by injury and inconsistency in 2017.

    Instead, the Mariners' biggest splash was acquiring Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins with plans to convert the speedy second baseman to center field, a position he's never played in the majors. It could work, but it could also be a disaster.

    That said, the M's have a solid offensive core centered around Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. If James Paxton can take the next step and become a rotation-fronting arm, and if Felix Hernandez can regain a semblance of his former dominance, Seattle could snap its 16-year postseason drought.

    Playoff chances: 25 percent


    Texas Rangers

    Texas Rangers pitchers posted a 4.66 ERA in 2017, and the front office didn't do much to strengthen that portion of their roster this winter. If an aging Cole Hamels continues to decline, the Rangers' staff could be in real trouble.

    The offense could be good enough to keep Texas afloat, with veterans Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo hoping to stay productive, Joey Gallo looking to cash in on his massive power and Nomar Mazara (22) and Willie Calhoun (23) providing young potential. 

    The Rangers are officially the Lone Star State's other team, and don't seem especially likely to improve on last season's 78-win total.

    Playoff chances: 20 percent


    Oakland Athletics

    If you're looking for a deep, deep sleeper pick, check out the Oakland A's.

    Oakland finished fifth in the AL with a .755 OPS last season and will get full seasons from 2017 bust-outs Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. They also made a nice addition by acquiring bounce-back candidate Stephen Piscotty from the St. Louis Cardinals. 

    Starting pitching could be the rubAthletics starters posted a 4.74 ERA in 2017. They can hope for a developmental leap from top pitching prospect A.J. Puk, but other than that they've done little to shore up this weakness. 

    Playoff chances: 15 percent

American League Central

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    Phil Long/Associated Press

    Cleveland Indians

    The Cleveland Indians won 102 games last season behind a superlative pitching staff and balanced lineup. The pitching remains intact, though they lost some offense with the departures of free agents Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce.

    They've still got superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and can cross their fingers for a healthy season from outfielder Michael Brantley, who is coming off ankle surgery.

    The AL Central is a weak, winnable division. It would be a shock if the Indians missed the playoffs. Whether they can win their first World Series since 1948 is the real question.

    Playoff chances: 90 percent


    Minnesota Twins

    The Minnesota Twins went from 103 losses in 2016 to the second wild-card spot in 2017. They can hope for another jump forward from outfielder Byron Buxton, who finally started to deliver on the hype that's followed him since his professional debut.

    They also acquired right-handed starter Jake Odorizzi from the Tampa Bay Rays and strengthened the bullpen by signing Addison Reed. 

    The Twinkies remain a rung below the Tribe, but another crack at the Wild Card Game is a reasonable, attainable goal.

    Playoff chances: 50 percent


    Chicago White Sox

    The Chicago White Sox are bursting with young talent. Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada (22) could be primed for an MLB breakout. Other young studs such as slugger Eloy Jimenez (21) and flame-throwing Michael Kopech (21) won't be kept in the minors for long.

    Add established players such as first baseman Jose Abreu and right fielder Avisail Garcia and a rotation stocked with promising arms, and it's possible the White Sox could blossom ahead of schedule.

    More realistically, they'll be a legitimate Junior Circuit factor in another year or two.

    Playoff chances: 10 percent


    Kansas City Royals

    The Kansas City Royals have bid goodbye to center fielder Lorenzo Cain and first baseman Eric Hosmer, who signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres, respectively. Third baseman Mike Moustakas could follow.

    That's the majority of the offensive core that carried K.C. to a title in 2015. A rebuild now seems inevitable, with all the losing that implies.

    Playoff chances: 5 percent


    Detroit Tigers

    Speaking of rebuilds, the Detroit Tigers are in the beginning stages of one. They've still got expensive veterans, including franchise icon Miguel Cabrera, who is coming off his worst season in the big leagues.

    The Tigers should keep looking to shed salary and add MiLB chips at the July trade deadline, and shouldn't be afraid of letting the defeats pile up.

    Playoff chances: 5 percent

American League East

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    New York Yankees

    When you add the reigning National League MVP and his 59 homers to an already talent-laden lineup, it improves your postseason chances. In other news, the sky is blue.

    Yes, the Yankees are counting on some young players to step forward in the infield, and there are some questions in the starting rotation.

    Overall, though, the Giancarlo Stanton-Aaron Judge show should be the best in baseball and propel the Bronx Bombers to the top of the AL East.

    Playoff chances: 90 percent


    Boston Red Sox

    The Boston Red Sox got the power bat they desperately needed when they signed J.D. Martinez after a winter-spanning staring contest. A full season from third baseman Rafael Devers should further buttress an offense that also features outfield studs Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi.

    On the pitching side, Boston needs David Price and Rick Porcello to rebound from rough 2017 seasons, but can count on ace Chris Sale and closer Craig Kimbrel to be among the best in the business.

    They'll be hard-pressed to keep the powerful, archrival Yankees down, but the Red Sox are at least the favorite to nail down the AL's top wild-card spot.

    Playoff chances: 80 percent


    Toronto Blue Jays

    The Toronto Blue Jays tumbled to 10 games below .500 in 2017. If they want to avoid a repeat, they'll need a full, healthy season from third baseman and impending free agent Josh Donaldson.

    They'll also need the back end of the rotation to coalesce and the bullpen to produce behind closer Roberto Osuna.

    The Jays have enough to contend for a wild-card position, but a lot will have to break right north of the border.

    Playoff chances: 30 percent


    Baltimore Orioles

    The Baltimore Orioles held on to superstar Manny Machado and granted his wish of moving from third base to shortstop. That'll be a story to follow.

    Unfortunately for the Orioles, it'll be offset by the sorry state of their pitching staff, which ranked 14th in the AL with a 4.97 ERA in 2017. The O's have made zero significant pitching additions and are hoping closer Zach Britton can recover quickly from a ruptured Achilles suffered in December.

    In the top-heavy AL East, it's hard to imagine Baltimore even reaching .500.

    Playoff chances: 15 percent


    Tampa Bay Rays

    After trading third baseman Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants, Odorizzi to Minnesota and outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Tampa Bay Rays now seem committed to a full-scale sell-off.

    Ace Chris Archer could be on the block come July, along with other key pieces, and the Rays could be in for a long, dismal season at Tropicana Field. 

    Playoff chances: 5 percent

National League West

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    Los Angeles Dodgers

    It's been a quiet offseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then again, the defending Senior Circuit champions didn't have many weaknesses to improve.

    They've got a deep starting rotation, a solid bullpen and a potent lineup. Ace Clayton Kershaw is coming into what could be a contract year if he opts out next winter. Shortstop Corey Seager and first baseman Cody Bellinger are burgeoning superstars. Kenley Jansen might be the best closer in baseball.

    Other than some questions in the outfield, the Dodgers are pretty much set. Another NL West title is all but a foregone conclusion.

    Playoff chances: 90 percent


    Arizona Diamondbacks

    The Arizona Diamondbacks turned things around in 2017 and grabbed the NL's top wild-card position.

    They lost Martinez to the Red Sox but still have first baseman and perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt to anchor the offense, as well as a pitching staff led by Zack Greinke and strikeout machine Robbie Ray (NL-best 12.1 K/9 in 2017).

    The bullpen could be another area of weakness, though Arizona is hoping for good things from Japanese import Yoshihisa Hirano. 

    The D-backs aren't equipped to take down the Dodgers, but they pace the NL wild-card pack.

    Playoff chances: 75 percent


    Colorado Rockies

    The Colorado Rockies signed closer Wade Davis, arguably the best reliever on the market. Their offense features third baseman Nolan Arenado, center fielder Charlie Blackmon and a solid supporting cast.

    Pitching is always a question at Coors Field, but the Rockies staff made great strides under manager Bud Black. 

    Three teams, including Colorado, made the postseason out of the NL West last season. It would be no surprise if that happened again.

    Playoff chances: 45 percent


    San Francisco Giants

    After losing 98 games, the San Francisco Giants opted for a reload. They acquired Longoria from the Rays and outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates, and are hoping for no dirt-bike-related accidents from ace Madison Bumgarner. 

    With franchise catcher Buster Posey still on board and some intriguing additions, the Giants should improve on 2017's disastrous finish.

    Will it be enough to break through in a tough division? That'll take another dusting of even-year magic.

    Playoff chances: 25 percent


    San Diego Padres

    The rebuilding Friars can look forward to watching the development of their young talent. Center fielder Manuel Margot, in particular, appears ready to blast into the MLB firmament.

    Mostly, though, San Diego will serve as a punching bag for the four teams ahead of it out west. Hey, at least the weather's great.

    Playoff chances: 5 percent

National League Central

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Chicago Cubs

    The Chicago Cubs pulled off a late-winter blockbuster by inking ace Yu Darvish. He joins Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana to form a strong rotation.

    It'll be backed by one of the deepest, most talented lineups in the game, with third baseman Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo again leading the attack.

    All the pieces are in place for mix-and-match manager Joe Maddon to again guide his club to the top of the NL Central and for the Cubbies to break their devastating one-year title drought (wink).

    Playoff chances: 90 percent


    St. Louis Cardinals

    The St. Louis Cardinals needed to add a lineup-anchoring bat and did exactly that when they acquired outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins.

    The Cardinals are also looking forward to the healthy return of budding stud Alex Reyes, who could make a big impact out of the bullpen or rotation.

    Catching the Cubs will be a tall order. Getting back to the postseason, however, is in the cards.

    Playoff chances: 60 percent


    Milwaukee Brewers

    The Milwaukee Brewers remade their outfield by signing Lorenzo Cain and acquiring Christian Yelich from Miami.

    They're counting on first baseman Eric Thames and third baseman Travis Shaw to replicate their powerful 2017 outputs. 

    The weakness for Milwaukee could be starting pitching, with Jimmy Nelson coming off shoulder surgery. Ace Jake Arrieta is still dangling on the market, but barring a seismic move such as that, the Brew Crew will be on the edge of the wild-card picture.

    Playoff chances: 40 percent


    Pittsburgh Pirates

    By shipping out McCutchen and Cole, the Pirates waved a white flag.

    Any ancillary additions they've made fail to offset the optics of trading those key players and do nothing to move them back into the National League playoff mix.

    The Bucs might not be awful in 2017. Right-hander Tyler Glasnow and outfield prospect Austin Meadows are players to watch. But it's hard to imagine them doing much better than fourth place in the NL Central.

    Playoff chances: 15 percent


    Cincinnati Reds

    The Cincinnati Reds lost 94 games in 2017 and finished last in the NL with a 5.17 ERA. They said goodbye to Cozart, who signed with the Angels.

    Franchise icon Joey Votto is still around after a second-place MVP finish. Other than that, Reds fans will have to hope for the development of young players and wait till next year.

    Playoff chances: 5 percent

National League East

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    Washington Nationals

    This is it for the Washington Nationals. After winning four of the last six NL East crowns but never advancing past the division series, they've got one more crack before Bryce Harper hits free agency.

    The Nats have the talent to break through, with NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg atop the rotation, and Harper leading an offense that could be boosted by the healthy return of outfielder Adam Eaton, who played just 23 games last season because of injury.

    The Nationals should cruise in a relatively feeble division, but their sights are set higher than that.

    Playoff chances: 90 percent


    New York Mets

    It's all about the health of the starting rotation for the New York Mets. 

    If Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler can avoid the injury bug that bit them last season, they could join Jacob deGrom to renew what was once a significant strong point for the Amazin's. If they can't, nothing else will matter.

    The Mets offense isn't atrocious, especially if Yoenis Cespedes can stay healthy. New manager Mickey Callaway should have a simple mantra, however: pitching, pitching, pitching. 

    Playoff chances: 25 percent


    Atlanta Braves

    The Atlanta Braves should be excited about watching their young core, fronted by the middle infield duo of Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson and the impending arrival of hyped outfielder Ronald Acuna.

    Right-hander Mike Soroka and left-handers Kolby Allard and Max Fried are also marinating in a loaded farm system.

    Like the White Sox, the Braves are a year or two away from contending. In the meantime, enjoy these kids.

    Playoff chances: 10 percent


    Philadelphia Phillies

    The Philadelphia Phillies, too, have emerging youngsters. In particular, the Phils are crossing their fingers that touted shortstop J.P. Crawford can nail down the job and live up to his pedigree.

    The Phillies also have payroll flexibility and added a nice veteran piece in first baseman Carlos Santana. There are too many question marks—particularly in the starting rotation—to take them seriously this season, but there's hope for the future in the City of Brotherly Love.

    Playoff chances: 10 percent


    Miami Marlins


    By trading away their entire starting outfield and sending Dee Gordon to Seattle, the Marlins tossed 19.5 WAR, via FanGraphs, overboard. The new ownership group fronted by Derek Jeter has one obvious goal: gut the roster.

    Call it a rebuild if you want, and Miami did net some interesting prospects. As for their prospects of making the playoffs in 2018?


    Playoff chances: 1 percent


    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.