Spring Training 2019: Way-Too-Early World Series Odds for Every MLB Team

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterFebruary 4, 2019

Spring Training 2019: Way-Too-Early World Series Odds for Every MLB Team

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    What are the chances of a Red Sox repeat?
    What are the chances of a Red Sox repeat?Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Now that the Super Bowl is over, the logical thing would be to preview Major League Baseball's spring training season.

    Instead, how about something a little more fun? As in, let's assess each team's chances of winning the 2019 World Series.

    We've conjured up championship odds for all 30 teams based on a variety of factors. Overall team strength is the big one. We also considered the ease or difficulty of each team's road to the postseason and how well-equipped it is for possible roster upgrades along the way.

    We'll go in order from worst odds to best odds.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1983

    2018 Record: 47-115, 5th in AL East

       

    Outlook

    It would be a heck of a story if the Baltimore Orioles followed a 115-loss season with a World Series shocker, but...nah.

    The Orioles have spent the offseason shaking up their power structure following the ousters of general manager Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. They've done well in this regard, yet their roster has gone neglected.

    Their Manny Machado-less offense is positioned to be MLB's worst. They've also done nothing to improve a pitching staff that finished 2018 with an MLB-high 5.18 ERA. Said pitching staff will suffer from a defense that finished dead-last in efficiency last year.

    The Orioles might have a shot at the World Series if some kind of curse afflicts the rest of MLB. Failing that, this year will be about taking their lumps while they try to build up their No. 20 farm system.

    Odds: 1,000-1

Miami Marlins

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 2003

    2018 Record: 63-98, 5th in NL East

       

    Outlook

    The 2018 Miami Marlins performed as expected following offseason trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon. Which is to say: extremely poorly.

    Still, the Marlins have some young talent to pin their hopes on going into 2019. Brian Anderson is coming off an underappreciated rookie season. Lewis Brinson is a former top prospect who could break out in a big way. Jose Urena and Tayron Guerrero have electric right arms.

    Then again, it likely won't be long before All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto is traded. Four-time All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro and relievers Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley are likely to follow.

    This points to how Miami's No. 28 farm system needs a lot of work before the team can hope to contend again. An honest World Series discussion for this team is several years away.

    Odds: 900-1

Detroit Tigers

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1984

    2018 Record: 64-98, 3rd in AL Central

       

    Outlook

    Nicholas Castellanos was the Detroit Tigers' only good hitter in the wake of Miguel Cabrera's season-ending biceps surgery. No thanks to an injury-marred season on the part of Michael Fulmer, good pitching was also hard to come by. The end result was a second straight 98-loss season.

    The Tigers might have a shot at surprising people in 2019 if they harvest a whole bunch of fruit from their No. 11 farm system. It's especially rich in pitching, and Christin Stewart and Daz Cameron (son of Mike) are two young hitters ready to contribute.

    That's a stretch, however. The Tigers are more likely to add to their farm system by making as many impact trades as they can, up to and including deals of Castellanos and Fulmer.

    We'll know the Tigers are ready to contend again when they're ready to spend again. By GM Al Avila's own admission, that won't be until 2021 or even 2022.

    Odds: 800-1

Kansas City Royals

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    Justin Berl/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 2015

    2018 Record: 58-104, 5th in AL Central

       

    Outlook

    Though the Kansas City Royals endured their first 100-loss season since 2006, last year wasn't without a silver lining.

    The Royals finished with a 20-14 stretch punctuated by strong hitting (5.1 runs per game) and strong pitching (3.80 ERA). Going into 2019, there should be some optimism for a lineup fronted by Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield and for a starting rotation anchored by Danny Duffy and Brad Keller.

    Trouble is, there's a lot of dead space in between the good parts of the roster. Kansas City's No. 24 farm system lacks the bodies to fill that space. If anything, the good parts will be subtracted so the Royals won't have the same problem in the future.

    It's fair to expect the Royals to be better in 2019. But a return to the World Series? Maybe hold off on expecting that until, say, 2021 at the earliest.

    Odds: 700-1

Chicago White Sox

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2005

    2018 Record: 62-100, 4th in AL Central

       

    Outlook

    Even if they don't land Machado via free agency, you can see the Chicago White Sox as a surprise contender if you squint hard enough.

    Their lineup is built around three solid veterans—Jose Abreu and newcomers Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay—and they've made veteran additions to their starting rotation (Ivan Nova) and bullpen (Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera) as well.

    Meanwhile, the White Sox are constructing a young core that already includes infielders Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson and pitchers Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito. And they're sitting on MLB's No. 4 farm system, which includes such talents as uber-slugger Eloy Jimenez, who's MLB.com's No. 3 prospect.

    At least until the White Sox have secured Machado's signature, however, they won't be a real contender in 2019 unless everything goes right. Their best-case scenario is more like an improvement to the .500 mark.

    Odds: 500-1

San Diego Padres

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2018 Record: 66-96, 5th in NL West

       

    Outlook

    Even without any of the big names they've been linked to this offseason, the San Diego Padres are shaping up to be more interesting than usual in 2019.

    Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer can be veteran anchors in the lineup. It also shouldn't be long before shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., MLB.com's No. 2 prospect, joins a core of talented young hitters that includes Francisco Mejia, Luis Urias, Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero.

    Also, don't overlook the bullpen. Per FanGraphs, it led MLB in wins above replacement in the second half of 2018.

    The only way the Padres are contending, however, is if they find answers for a rotation that finished 2018 with an NL-worst 5.09 ERA. Unfortunately for them, the best arms (e.g., MacKenzie Gore and Chris Paddack) in their No. 1 farm system aren't guaranteed to help this year.

    Barring an "everything goes right" scenario in 2019, 2020 will be the year to watch out for the Padres.

    Odds: 300-1

San Francisco Giants

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 2014

    2018 Record: 73-89, 4th in NL West

       

    Outlook

    The San Francisco Giants should arguably be in the early stages of a rebuild. Instead, new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi seems willing to chance a last hurrah in 2019.

    It's hard not to be intrigued by the possibility of the team's core veterans turning back the clock. That means Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford on the offensive side. On the mound, it means Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija and Drew Pomeranz.

    The Giants also have some young talent—e.g., righty Dereck Rodriguez and outfielders Steven Duggar and Chris Shaw—to hope on. Throw in a solid bullpen headed by Will Smith, and there's enough for a "maybe."

    More likely, 2019 will play out like 2017 and 2018, across which the Giants accrued 187 losses in decidedly dispiriting fashion. The only difference this time would be a massive sell-off around the July 31 trade deadline for the sake of improving the team's No. 26 farm system.

    Odds: 250-1

Texas Rangers

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    Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2018 Record: 67-95, 5th in AL West

       

    Outlook

    The Texas Rangers are another club that should arguably be in the middle of a full-blown rebuild but that is angling to try winning instead.

    The lineup is the best reason to believe in them. Health (and in some cases, upside) permitting, a core of Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera is one that can drive an improvement over last year's 4.5 runs per game.

    The Rangers also boast a sneaky good bullpen. Jose Leclerc is coming off a spectacular star-making turn in 2018, and Jesse Chavez and Shawn Kelley are in for additional support.

    The rotation, on the other hand, is volatile enough to come with official guidelines for minimum safe distance. Mike Minor was solid in 2018, but Lance Lynn was not. After them come not one, not two, but three guys coming off Tommy John surgery: Drew Smyly, Edinson Volquez and Shelby Miller.

    At best, this is probably a .500 team.

    Odds: 200-1

Seattle Mariners

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    Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2018 Record: 89-73, 3rd in AL West

       

    Outlook

    The Seattle Mariners needed an extreme helping of luck to win 89 games last year, so it's understandable their response was to blow up the roster.

    At least they did so in an interesting way. Though they succeeded in pushing their farm system into MLB's top 10—which, granted, accounts for the signing for Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi—they also loaded up on recognizable names such as Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce, Domingo Santana and Mallex Smith.

    If the Mariners are lucky (again), they'll get the best out of their new additions, plus vintage seasons from veteran incumbents like Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager and Mike Leake. As a result, they would make a surprise play in the AL West.

    But if we're speaking honestly, the Mariners might be built on more "ifs" than any other fringe team. They look like a team that will have its moments but not enough of them to rise far above .500.

    Odds: 150-1

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 1993

    2018 Record: 73-89, 4th in AL East

       

    Outlook

    Let's imagine a 2019 in which the Toronto Blue Jays take a sudden yet not entirely unexpected leap forward.

    Start on the mound, where young righties Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez could stay healthy and fulfill their destiny as a dynamic one-two punch. The Blue Jays could also get the best out of Ken Giles, Matt Shoemaker and Clayton Richard.

    Then to the lineup, which could flourish around up-and-coming prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB.com's No. 1) and Bo Bichette (No. 11), fellow youngster Danny Jansen and veterans such as Justin Smoak, Randal Grichuk and Kendrys Morales.

    Alas, the Blue Jays will only contend in a top-heavy AL East if all this and more comes to pass. This season will be more about taking whatever bright spots they can get as well as cashing in items of value during the summer trade season.

    Ultimately, 2019 will just be another steppingstone on the way to better days in 2020 and beyond.

    Odds: 125-1

Cincinnati Reds

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1990

    2018 Record: 67-95, 5th in NL Central

                

    Outlook

    Much to their credit, the Cincinnati Reds have maneuvered to bring about an early end to their rebuild.

    Their lineup no longer revolves around Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett. Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp—who combined for an .819 OPS and 44 home runs with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018—are in to provide extra firepower. Top prospect Nick Senzel (MLB.com's No. 6) will also join up eventually.

    Along with hard-throwing righty Luis Castillo, newcomers Sonny Gray, Alex Wood and Tanner Roark can help get the team's rotation ERA back down under 5.00. Headed by Raisel Iglesias, the Reds also boast a solid late-inning relief corps.

    Trouble is, Cincinnati's new-look rotation has as much downside as upside, and not just because of the individual volatility of the principle members. Great American Ball Park is no country for pitchers, and the Reds aren't poised to improve on their poor defensive rating from 2018.

    If these things don't trip them up, the sheer depth of the NL Central might.

    Odds: 100-1

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2001

    2018 Record: 82-80, 3rd in NL West

                

    Outlook

    The Arizona Diamondbacks got off to a 21-8 start last season. Then came a 61-72 reality check, followed by a trade of franchise icon Paul Goldschmidt and losses of Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock to free agency.

    Yet we propose it's not all bad in Arizona.

    The Snakes have added some depth and also held on to starters Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, reliever Archie Bradley, infielder Eduardo Escobar and outfielder David Peralta, each of whom boasts All-Star potential. Ditto for big-time breakout candidate Ketel Marte, as well as Steven Souza Jr. and Jake Lamb if they stay healthy. 

    If it all comes together and the luck gods do them more favors than they did in 2018, the D-backs will be a well-rounded club capable of pulling off a surprise season, a la what they did in 2017.

    The top of the NL West is a tough nut to crack, however. And if there are any signs of trouble, the D-backs may not hesitate to subtract from their roster for the sake of improving their No. 18 farm system.

    Odds: 90-1

Minnesota Twins

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1991

    2018 Record: 78-84, 2nd in AL Central

                

    Outlook

    Given the amount of payroll space they still have, the Minnesota Twins might not yet be done building a contender for 2019. As it is, what they have is nothing if not interesting.

    Adding Nelson Cruz, who's averaged 41 homers per year since 2014, was a stroke of genius. C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop have power of their own, and there's a world of upside contained in incumbents Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler.

    Further, a rotation headed by Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and a healthy Michael Pineda could be quite good. Minnesota's pen looks weaker, but Blake Parker and Trevor May have the stuff to be a dynamic late-inning duo.

    But for their grand plan to work, the Twins need Buxton and Sano, in particular, to achieve results that have thus far been frustratingly elusive. If they disappoint once again, it's hard to imagine the Twins leapfrogging a pitching-rich Cleveland Indians club in the AL Central.

    Odds: 80-1

Los Angeles Angels

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    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 2002

    2018 Record: 80-82, 4th in AL West

                

    Outlook

    For the first time since 1999, somebody other than Mike Scioscia will be managing the Los Angeles Angels in 2019. If nothing else, new skipper Brad Ausmus should be a nice change of pace.

    Otherwise, the Angels are still very much in the hands of the god of WAR, Mike Trout. For their part, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and (when healthy) Shohei Ohtani will ensure that Trout won't have to carry the lineup all by his lonesome.

    Elsewhere, the Angels did well to add Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill and Cody Allen to their staff. The first two join lefties Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs in a solid rotation. The third will head a bullpen that needed a ninth-inning linchpin.

    Yet one worry with the Angels is their lack of offensive upside around their core hitters. Another is their shortage of true star potential among their pitchers. Both could be exposed in a tough AL West race, resulting in yet another middling season.

    Odds: 70-1

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2008

    2018 Record: 80-82, 3rd in NL East

                

    Outlook

    The Philadelphia Phillies probably aren't finished filling out their roster for 2019, yet they're already equipped to following last year's step forward with another.

    An offense that struggled to score even 4.2 runs per game in 2018 now has a new-and-improved core, as newcomers Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura have joined forces with incumbent slugger Rhys Hoskins. In David Robertson, the Phillies have also added the experienced relief ace they needed.

    But while the Phillies are certainly better, they're not the best team in the NL East. Among the things standing in their way is the reality that they've barely upgraded their poor defense and that their rotation features a good deal of uncertainty after the star duo of Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta.

    The Phillies have enough stars to cause trouble if they ultimately play into October. But until they add more depth, getting there will be the hard part.

    Odds: 60-1

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1979

    2018 Record: 82-79, 4th in NL Central

                

    Outlook

    The Pittsburgh Pirates were never really out of the 2018 NL Central race until late in the season. They're now going into 2019 as an under-the-radar contender.

    Pittsburgh's rotation is headed by righties Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, who caught fire and combined on a 1.90 ERA in the second half of 2018. The Pirates can also look forward to full seasons from Chris Archer and Joe Musgrove. Mitch Keller, MLB.com's No. 19 prospect, should be along eventually.

    The Pirates are also returning a stellar late-inning relief trio of Felipe Vazquez, Richard Rodriguez and Kyle Crick. Throw in Keone Kela for a full season, and you get a dangerous bullpen and, altogether, a pitching staff fit to go deep in October.

    But then there's Pittsburgh's lineup. It isn't lacking in depth, but it is lacking in star power and, well, actual home run power. If that doesn't trip the Pirates up in the regular season, it could in October, when home runs can make a huge difference.

    Odds: 50-1

Colorado Rockies

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2018 Record: 91-72, 2nd in NL West

                

    Outlook

    The Colorado Rockies had to overcome a top-heavy lineup and an erratic bullpen last year, so it's hard to argue with numbers that suggest they were lucky to win 91 games.

    To their credit, though, the Rockies were legitimately good in the second half. It helped that Kyle Freeland and German Marquez pitched like aces and that their bullpen squared itself away.

    The Rockies will miss Adam Ottavino from said bullpen, but they'll be fine if Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee adhere to their track records. Newcomer Daniel Murphy, a healthy David Dahl and the eventual promotion of Brendan Rodgers (MLB.com's No. 10 prospect) will take some of the offensive load off the shoulders of Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon.

    A team like this should have a better chance of advancing in the postseason than last year's iteration. But unless the Dodgers cede ground atop the NL West, getting there will be the hard part.

    Odds: 40-1

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 2011

    2018 Record: 88-74, 3rd in NL Central

                

    Outlook

    Though they haven't exactly been hyperactive on the offseason market, the St. Louis Cardinals have done enough to improve on last year's near-miss.

    An offense that scored 4.7 runs per game in 2018 is now anchored by two the NL's five best hitters: Matt Carpenter and newcomer Paul Goldschmidt. If healthy, fellow newcomer Andrew Miller will team up with Jordan Hicks, Luke Gregerson and Dakota Hudson to form a bullpen that should be more reliable than what the Cardinals endured last year.

    After what happened to Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright last year, however, volatility in St. Louis' rotation remains an issue. The Cards also don't really know when or in what capacity top prospect Alex Reyes will be available.

    The Cardinals will be a legit World Series contender if fortune smiles on their rotation. If not, a tough NL Central race could finish them before they even get to October.

    Odds: 25-1

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2018 Record: 90-72, 3rd in AL East

                

    Outlook

    The big challenge for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019 will be closing space between them and the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Even in winning 90 games, they fell well short of both in 2018.

    On the plus side, Rays pitchers aren't going to make it easy on anyone this year. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow bring nasty stuff to the top of the rotation. After them comes a menagerie of arms for mastermind manager Kevin Cash to deploy however he sees fit.

    The Rays are also returning the core members of a defense that ranked second in efficiency in 2018. To boot, an offense that was one of MLB's best in the second half now has additional upside in Avisail Garcia and Mike Zunino.

    If the Rays played in, say, the AL Central, they'd be looking at an easy road to the playoffs and better odds of going all the way. But even if they so much as nab a wild-card spot, they'll be a team to fear in October.

    Odds: 20-1

Cleveland Indians

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 1948

    2018 Record: 91-71, 1st in AL Central

                

    Outlook

    The Cleveland Indians have succeeded in their quest to cut payroll, but their roster is worse off because of it.

    Gone via free agency are Michael Brantley, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Josh Donaldson. The trade market has claimed Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso. Cleveland's lineup and bullpen, respectively, look especially inferior relative to last year as a result.

    Yet the situation in Cleveland is far from hopeless.

    Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are the most dynamic offensive duo in baseball right now. Cleveland's rotation led MLB in FanGraphs WAR in 2018, and Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber are back for more in 2019. Meanwhile, the Indians bullpen at least still has Brad Hand and Adam Cimber.

    As per usual, the Indians are looking at little resistance along the path through the AL Central. If any of the three superteams in the American League (more on them soon) hit any walls this season, Cleveland's road to the World Series will be easier than it was in 2018.

    Odds: 19-1

Oakland Athletics

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 1989

    2018 Record: 97-65, 2nd in AL West

                

    Outlook

    The Oakland A's are going into 2019 with an obvious flaw. Their rotation, which is headed by human homer magnets Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada, is projected by FanGraphs to rank 28th in WAR.

    Young lefty Jesus Luzardo, MLB.com's No. 12 prospect, is one reason to hope for better things. There's also the reality that the A's are as well-equipped to downplay their rotation as any team could possibly be.

    On the run prevention side, the A's boast arguably MLB's best defense and a deep bullpen headed by nigh-unhittable closer Blake Treinen. On the run production side, Khris Davis, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson are back to lead a lineup that ranked third with 227 homers in 2018. 

    Maybe another 97-win season isn't in order, but the A's have enough to return to the postseason. Once there, they could minimize the role of their starting pitchers much like the Milwaukee Brewers did in coming one win short of the 2018 World Series.

    Odds: 18-1

New York Mets

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    Richard Drew/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1986

    2018 Record: 77-85, 4th in NL East

                

    Outlook

    If they were going to contend in 2019, the New York Mets sorely needed to address a lineup that produced 4.2 runs per game and a bullpen that led the NL in meltdowns in 2018. 

    The first mission was accomplished through the additions of Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie, J.D. Davis and Keon Broxton. The latter, through the additions of Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson and Luis Avilan. 

    One thing that figures to hinder the Mets in a crowded NL East race is the top-heaviness of their rotation. But if Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler can stay healthy, they'll have as many as three contenders (yes, even Wheeler) for the NL Cy Young Award.

    Brodie Van Wagenen said he wanted to win now when he was introduced as the Mets' new GM last October. Against all odds, he's constructed a team that's very much capable of following through on that promise.

    Odds: 17-1

Atlanta Braves

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 1995

    2018 Record: 90-72, 1st in NL East

                

    Outlook

    The Atlanta Braves essentially ran unopposed in the 2018 NL East race. Following the division's offseason arms race, they won't be so lucky in 2019.

    But along with the ever-excellent Freddie Freeman, Atlanta's additions of Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann and re-signing of Nick Markakis have created a strong veteran core around Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and reigning NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. Collectively, this is also an excellent defensive lineup.

    The Braves mound staff would look better with an established No. 1 and/or a proven closer. But they can count on Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Kevin Gausman to carry their rotation. And whether it's through promotions or trades, their pitching-rich No. 2 farm system will have a role to play in adding talent wherever it's needed.

    In all, it's hard to see a scenario in which the Braves aren't better in 2019 than they were in 2018. Even if they don't get in via the NL East crown, they'll be a serious threat in October.

    Odds: 16-1

Chicago Cubs

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 2016

    2018 Record: 95-68, 2nd in NL Central

                

    Outlook

    The Chicago Cubs haven't done much this offseason, and their positions in the NL Central and wider National League race look all the worse for it

    But despite its slow descent into futility in the second half of 2018, the Cubs offense—which should benefit greatly from a healthy Kris Bryant in 2019—nonetheless looks like one of the best in all of MLB. Lest anyone forget, this is also a terrific defensive unit.

    At least until Brandon Morrow returns from elbow surgery, the Cubs will need their starters to minimize the role of a mediocre bullpen. To this end, they could count on a worse starting five than Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish.

    Because they likely don't have the prospect depth in their No. 29 farm system to pursue impact trades, the Cubs will need their current group to lead the way this season. Fortunately for them, they have enough talent and experience to win the NL Central and go from there.

    Odds: 15-1

Washington Nationals

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2018 Record: 82-80, 2nd in NL East

                

    Outlook

    As other teams have pinched pennies, the Washington Nationals have spent the offseason sparing no expense.

    Their biggest expense ($140 million, to be exact) was on All-Star lefty Patrick Corbin. Along with three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and fellow newcomer Anibal Sanchez, Corbin is now part of one of MLB's very best rotations.

    Rather than re-sign Bryce Harper, the Nats have gone for replacing him in the aggregate by bringing aboard Brian Dozier, Yan Gomes, Matt Adams and Kurt Suzuki. They join a lineup fronted by established stars (Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner) and two wunderkinds with explosive potential (Juan Soto and Victor Robles).

    Even Washington's bullpen looks better. The criminally underrated Sean Doolittle is back to close games, and he'll get help from hard-throwing newcomers Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough.

    It feels weird to say this about a Harper-less Nationals team, but this one has "NL East favorite" and "World Series contender" written all over it.

    Odds: 14-1

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: Never

    2018 Record: 96-67, 1st in NL Central

                

    Outlook

    The 2018 Milwaukee Brewers proved that following a big offseason win with a whole bunch of actual wins can indeed be done. And despite what the projections say, they can do it again in 2019.

    Once NL MVP Christian Yelich got locked in, Milwaukee's offense took off and produced five runs per game in the second half of 2018. As long as he stays locked in while Lorenzo Cain, Travis Shaw, Jesus Aguilar and newcomer Yasmani Grandal do their part, more explosive offense is on tap for 2019.

    Grandal's framing talent and the overall excellence of Milwaukee's defense can only help the team's pitching staff. Regarding this, anyone fretting about the absence of an ace is forgetting about Jimmy Nelson's pending return. Besides which, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel lead a bullpen that's plenty deep enough to save the rotation some trouble. 

    Even if they don't get in via the NL Central crown, the Brewers look like the division's best hope of producing a World Series champion in 2019.

    Odds: 13-1

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Jae Hong/Associated Press

    Last World Series Title: 1988

    2018 Record: 92-71, 1st in NL West

                

    Outlook

    The Los Angeles Dodgers finally got under the luxury tax in 2018, yet they haven't celebrated by throwing piles of cash at superstars. Indeed, their budget has barely budged.

    In the Dodgers' defense, they played more like a 102-win team than a 92-win team in 2018. They thus didn't need to fix too much, and they haven't gone backward enough to surrender their status as the easy favorites in the NL West.

    A healthy Corey Seager should do plenty for a lineup with enough depth and firepower to place as one of the best in MLB. Clayton Kershaw isn't what he once was, but Walker Buehler is ready to claim his place as the Dodgers ace. Newcomer Joe Kelly is merely one part of the ultra-deep pitching staff around the two of them.

    Should the Dodgers find themselves in need of big upgrades at the trade deadline, their No. 8 farm system can help them with that. Ultimately, a third straight trip to the World Series will be firmly within reach.

    Odds: 12-1

Boston Red Sox

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 2018

    2018 Record: 108-54, 1st in AL East

                

    Outlook

    Recent history is working against the Boston Red Sox. No team has repeated as World Series champions since the Yankees won three straight between 1998 and 2000. 

    Boston's bullpen doesn't exactly alleviate doubt about the team's chances of breaking the cycle. Sans Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel, it just doesn't look very good. Having MLB's worst farm system and limited luxury tax breathing room won't help them fix this problem at the trade deadline.

    Fortunately for them, the Red Sox have one of the best starting rotations in MLB. Chris Sale is an annual Cy Young Award contender, and he's followed by two actual Cy Young winners in David Price and Rick Porcello. Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez are a 4/5 combination that other teams would die for.

    In AL MVP Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, Boston's offense is anchored by the best 1-2 punch in the entire league. Otherwise, the same players who contributed to the team's MLB-best 5.4 runs per game in 2018 are still around.

    Ominous history and weak bullpen aside, the defending champs still look very, very dangerous.

    Odds: 11-1

New York Yankees

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 2009

    2018 Record: 100-62, 2nd in AL East

                

    Outlook

    Much like the Dodgers, the Yankees haven't gone as wild as expected after finally getting under the luxury tax in 2018. What they have acquired, however, is a whole bunch of depth that gives them a real chance of taking down the Red Sox in 2019.

    Said depth is most visible on the mound. The Yankees spent to bring back J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia and Zach Britton, and they used money and prospects to bring aboard James Paxton and Adam Ottavino. As a result, they've upgraded a vulnerable rotation and augmented what was already arguably the best bullpen in history.

    Offensively, the Yankees didn't need to do much to a lineup that clubbed an MLB-record 267 home runs in 2018. They really just need as much (Aarons Judge and Hicks and Luke Voit) or more (Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar) from their incumbents. 

    The Yankees should win 100 games once again in 2019. But this time around, it'll be a shocker if they make another early exit from October.

    Odds: 10-1

Houston Astros

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Last World Series Title: 2017

    2018 Record: 103-59, 1st in AL West

                

    Outlook

    Though they weren't by record, the Houston Astros were probably the best team in MLB last season. And they accomplished that despite down years from several key players.

    This is a scary thought for the competition going into 2019, particularly where Houston's offense is concerned. If Alex Bregman and newcomer Michael Brantley pick up where they left off in 2018 while Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer rediscover their 2017 form, it'll be the very best in MLB. What's more, the defense should once again be outstanding.

    It's harder to have faith in a rotation that's missing Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. But Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are as good as they come at No. 1 and No. 2. After them, the trio of Wade Miley, Josh James and Collin McHugh has solid potential. Forrest Whitley, MLB.com's No. 7 prospect, should be heard from at some point as well.

    Houston's bullpen, meanwhile, quietly cemented itself as one of the best in the second half of 2018. Full years of Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly will help keep the party going.

    This, folks, is a team without a true weakness. It should be hyped accordingly.

    Odds: 9-1

                   

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.