2019 MLB Playoff Chances for Every Team 1 Month from Opening Day

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterFebruary 25, 2019

2019 MLB Playoff Chances for Every Team 1 Month from Opening Day

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Welcome to the home stretch to Opening Day for the 2019 Major League Baseball offseason. March 28 will be here before you know it.

    Technically, all 30 teams will have an equal shot at making the playoffs when the season begins, but we're here to be realistic with early prognostications for teams' actual odds of playing in October.

    We've gone division by division and assigned chances (from zero to 100 percent) of getting into the playoffs to each team. These were based on the general strength of their rosters compared to those around them. And a wild-card berth counts just as much as a division championship.

    We'll start in the American League East.

American League East

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    New York Yankees

    Following a 100-win season that only earned them a second-place finish in the American League East, the New York Yankees did what they had to in the offseason.

    By re-signing J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia and trading for James Paxton, the Yankees improved a starting rotation that posted a 4.05 ERA last year. With Zack Britton back for more and Adam Ottavino new to the mix, what was already arguably the best bullpen ever looks even better for 2019.

    The offense produced a single-season-record 267 homers last year. In 2019, it should get more from Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, not to mention fellow slugger Gary Sanchez.

    Another 100-win season and a return to October are very much in the cards for these Yankees.

    Playoff chances: 90 percent

         

    Boston Red Sox

    The 2018 Boston Red Sox won 108 games plus the World Series with shocking ease.

    Some of that was luck, though, and the Red Sox haven't safeguarded against regression as well as their rivals in the Bronx. They brought back Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce, sure, but their Joe Kelly-less and Craig Kimbrel-less bullpen looms as a huge weakness.

    On the bright side, Eovaldi, Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello anchor one of MLB's best rotations. Likewise, reigning American League MVP Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are back to lead what was the league's best offense last season.

    Even if the Red Sox do regress in 2019, it shouldn't be so bad that they miss the postseason entirely.

    Playoff chances: 80 percent

          

    Tampa Bay Rays

    Last year's Tampa Bay Rays surprisingly won 90 games by all ways.

    Their most innovative trick was to effectively strip their pitchers of labels and simply use their abilities strategically. This led to a 3.50 ERA after May 18. Led by reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and newcomer Charlie Morton, they have the goods to keep it up in 2019.

    The Rays also had a strong offense in the second half of 2018. New to the mix for 2019 are Mike Zunino and Avisail Garcia, both of whom have All-Star upside.

    Despite these kind words, the Rays look like the third-best team in the AL East. They may only have a shot at the AL's second wild-card spot, and they'll face competition for it from outside the division.

    Playoff chances: 40 percent

          

    Toronto Blue Jays

    The Toronto Blue Jays have lost 175 games since 2017, yet forward progress should be made in 2019.

    It won't be long before Toronto promotes Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette from its No. 3 farm system. If Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, Ken Giles and others live up to their established upsides, the Blue Jays could have a surprise playoff run in them.

    What's more likely, however, is that the Jays will lag behind the AL East powers and cut their losses with a fire sale at the trade deadline. The end result would be yet another losing season.

    Playoff chances: 5 percent

       

    Baltimore Orioles

    The Baltimore Orioles lost 115 games last season, and that was despite having Manny Machado for half of it.

    The Orioles focused their offseason on restructuring their leadership. Though this needed to be done and it should pay off in the long run, the downside in the meantime is that the roster doesn't look any better than it did at the end of 2018.

    Frankly, it's best not to give hope where there is none.

    Playoff chances: 0 percent

American League Central

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    Cleveland Indians

    What do you do after you've won three straight American League Central titles?

    If you're the Cleveland Indians, you cut payroll by shedding stars via free agency and the trade market. Factor in Francisco Lindor's strained calf, and the ice beneath Cleveland's feet is the thinnest it's been in years.

    Yet it could be worse. The rotation is still led by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger, who became the first 200-strikeout foursome ever last season. Lindor will eventually reteam with Jose Ramirez to form arguably the best superstar offensive duo in MLB.

    Besides which, the Indians really only have one challenger for superiority within the division.

    Playoff chances: 70 percent

         

    Minnesota Twins

    Following a disappointing 78-win season, the Minnesota Twins have rightfully treated Cleveland's cost-cutting as a window of opportunity.

    An offense that scored a solid 4.6 runs per game last season is deeper now thanks to the additions of Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron. The pitching staff, meanwhile, should benefit from Martin Perez and Blake Parker plus a healthy Michael Pineda.

    Yet the big question is whether Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano can push the Twins over the top by getting themselves back on their respective paths to stardom. How this will go is really anyone's guess.

    If all goes well, the Twins will challenge the Indians for the AL Central title. If not, they're likely a .500-ish team that will have trouble surviving a tough race for the second wild-card spot.

    Playoff chances: 40 percent

       

    Chicago White Sox

    There's a parallel universe somewhere in which the Chicago White Sox are a serious contender in 2019 despite their 100 losses in 2018.

    In that universe, the White Sox have signed either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. To boot, flame-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech has a healthy elbow.

    In this universe, however, the White Sox have already lost out on Machado, and they appear to be out on Harper as well. What's more, Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

    South Siders can still look forward to the arrival of top prospect Eloy Jimenez plus the further development of the White Sox's other youngsters. But hopes for a playoff berth are best reserved for 2020.

    Playoff chances: 5 percent

       

    Kansas City Royals

    Despite losing 104 games last season, the Kansas City Royals don't seem interested in a top-to-bottom rebuild.

    For what it's worth, there are some good pieces in the lineup (Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi) and pitching staff (Danny Duffy and Brad Keller). These will ensure that the Royals are at least watchable in 2019.

    But good? Nah. And whether they like it or not, they will have to consider using the trade market to build their No. 24 farm system.

    Playoff chances: 5 percent

       

    Detroit Tigers

    The Detroit Tigers lost "only" 98 games in 2018, but they don't look any better equipped to take on 2019 than the White Sox or Royals.

    In theory, a healthy Miguel Cabrera and fresh faces such as Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Christin Stewart should improve an offense that scored 3.9 runs per game in 2018. Yet the offense will suffer from the inevitable departure of Nicholas Castellanos. There isn't much hope for the club's pitching staff either.

    Detroit does have a good farm system, but it has more quantity than quality. Until that changes, it's hard to apply the power of positive thinking to the Tigers' playoff chances.

    Playoff chances: 5 percent

American League West

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    Houston Astros

    The Houston Astros went from 101 wins in 2017 to 103 wins in 2018, and they deserved even better.

    That was despite Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer's down seasons. That shouldn't happen again in 2019. Factor in newcomer Michael Brantley's presence, and this offense can recapture its history-making effort of two years ago.

    The rotation looks weaker than it did in 2018, when it had Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. in key roles. But it's still centered on co-aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Meanwhile, a bullpen that was one of MLB's best in the second half of 2018 is largely unchanged for 2019.

    In short, another 100-win season and further American League West superiority are in Houston's future.

    Playoff chances: 90 percent

        

    Oakland Athletics

    Following a surprise 97-win 2018, the Oakland Athletics won't sneak up on anyone in 2019. For that matter, the rotation could keep them from even getting off the ground.

    Sans Sean Manaea, who's out after shoulder surgery, the rotation lacks anything even resembling an ace. It's mostly composed of spare parts, the best of which are infamous home run magnets Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada.

    Then again, the A's didn't have great starting pitching in 2018 either. They survived on a powerful offense, spectacular defense and a great bullpen. All those elements are equipped to thrive once again in 2019.

    It will be tough for the A's to keep pace with the Astros, but they should be the top wild-card contender outside the AL East once again.

    Playoff chances: 50 percent

       

    Los Angeles Angels

    After winning 80 games for the second straight season in 2018, the Los Angeles Angels used the offseason to round out their depth.

    The biggest beneficiary was the pitching staff, which has new toys in Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill and Cody Allen. On offense, Justin Bour, Jonathan Lucroy and Tommy La Stella are in to support Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and, when healthy, Shohei Ohtani.

    Yet the question of whether the Angels have enough stars around Trout persists. In particular, they would look a lot better if they had greater offensive upside on their infield and a No. 1 starter.

    At best, the Angels are probably an 85-win team. Even in the wild-card race, that would make them a long shot for the 2019 postseason.

    Playoff chances: 20 percent

       

    Seattle Mariners

    It took a huge degree of luck for the Seattle Mariners to win even 89 games last season.

    Rather than try to push their luck even further, the Mariners broke up the band and formed a new one around Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce, Mallex Smith, Domingo Santana, Yusei Kikuchi and quite a few more newcomers. If nothing else, the finished product is oddly interesting.

    Whether it's any good is another matter. The Mariners have many recognizable names, but Smith and Kikuchi are the only ones coming off successful seasons. Everyone else is trying to turn back the clock to better times.

    In all likelihood, this new band will only last as far as the trade deadline.

    Playoff chances: 10 percent

       

    Texas Rangers

    Even after losing 95 games last season, the only rebuilding move the Texas Rangers made this offseason was to trade Jurickson Profar to Oakland.

    Instead, they'll try to rally around a core of young hitters—Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara—and a veteran starting rotation. If it works, the upside could take the Rangers all the way to October.

    Yet it's hard to ignore that the rotation has three guys (Drew Smyly, Shelby Miller and Edinson Volquez) coming off Tommy John surgery. Likewise, there aren't any superstars in the lineup.

    At best, the Rangers are probably a .500 team. More likely, they'll be worse than that.

    Playoff chances: 10 percent

National League East

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    Richard Drew/Associated Press

    Washington Nationals

    The Washington Nationals won only 82 games with Bryce Harper last season. Now it seems inevitable he'll become an ex-Nat.

    However, the additions of Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough deepened the pitching staff around Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Those of Brian Dozier, Yan Gomes, Kurt Suzuki and Matt Adams did the same for the offense.

    Meanwhile, top prospect Victor Robles is standing by to fill Harper's shoes. Fellow young outfielder Juan Soto can become a superstar after achieving historic success as a teenager.

    The National League East is too deep for any team to win much more than 90 games. But the Nats have the best chance of reaching that threshold and therefore the best chance of winning the division.

    Playoff chances: 60 percent

       

    Atlanta Braves

    The Atlanta Braves won the NL East last year precisely because they took advantage of the division's weaknesses with a 49-27 record. That won't happen again in 2019.

    The Braves boosted their veteran depth by bringing in Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann and re-signing Nick Markakis, but they could still use a starter (e.g., Dallas Keuchel) and/or tried-and-true relief ace (e.g., Craig Kimbrel).

    Instead, they seem content to gamble on their young talent. That is risky yet not entirely unreasonable. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies can be the National League's answer to Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and contained within the team's No. 2 farm system is MLB-ready pitching galore.

    The wild-card race won't necessarily be there to catch the Braves—or any other NL East team—if they fall short in the division. But they can handle competing with the Nats.

    Playoff chances: 50 percent

        

    New York Mets

    The New York Mets could have torn it all down after losing 85 games last year. Instead, they hired a new general manager and went all-out to add stars and depth to the roster.

    For an offense that scored only 4.2 runs per game in 2018: Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie and Keon Broxton. For a pitching staff that was overly reliant on Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson.

    Questions remain about how the Mets are going to fit all their offensive pieces together. There's also still lingering doubt about a defense that's been a weakness for years.

    But altogether, the Mets should be right there with the Braves in pushing the Nats for the NL East crown.

    Playoff chances: 50 percent

       

    Philadelphia Phillies

    Everything will change if the Philadelphia Phillies stop dilly-dallying and finally bring Harper aboard. Adding the 2015 NL MVP would boost their upside tremendously.

    To their credit, the Phillies have already greatly improved a roster that produced 80 wins last season. In particular, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura will improve both an offense and a defense that struggled in 2018. For his part, David Robertson should stabilize the bullpen.

    Yet some concerns persist. There's a drop-off in the rotation after Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Likewise, there's a drop-off in offensive upside after the new additions and incumbent slugger Rhys Hoskins.

    So at least until Harper is in the fold, the Phillies are the fourth-best team in the NL East.

    Playoff chances: 40 percent

       

    Miami Marlins

    And then there are the Miami Marlins, who are going into 2019 as the clear black sheep of the NL East.

    With Realmuto gone, Miami's ongoing rebuild has rendered the major league roster without any stars. But given that the team's farm system only checks in at No. 25 in MLB, further trimming via the trade market is inevitable.

    It's hard to go backward from a 98-loss season, but the Marlins should do exactly that in 2019.

    Playoff chances: 0 percent

National League Central

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    Milwaukee Brewers

    Rather than risk disappointment in 2019, the Milwaukee Brewers kept the pedal to the proverbial metal following a 96-win 2018 campaign.

    They made a huge upgrade at catcher by signing Yasmani Grandal. They also reinserted Mike Moustakas into their infield. Along with reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar, the lineup is one of the league's best.

    If there's a red flag in Milwaukee, it concerns the club's lack of a No. 1 starter. That wasn't a problem in 2018, however, and the Brewers have the starting pitching depth and overpowering bullpen for more of the same in 2019.

    Like the NL East, the National League Central is deeper than it was a year ago. Nonetheless, these Brewers have 95-win upside that could net them either a division crown or a wild-card spot.

    Playoff chances: 70 percent

       

    Chicago Cubs

    The Chicago Cubs are projected to finish last in the NL Central by Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection system, and they're not happy about it.

    To be fair, they did win 95 games last year. And they're going into 2019 with a healthy Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez in the middle of a lineup that's oozing with upside. A starting five of Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish has loads of upside in its own right.

    But at least until Brandon Morrow is recovered from elbow surgery, the bullpen is an obvious weakness. And while the offense has explosive potential, it will be realized only if Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras and Ian Happ make the strides that were expected of them in 2018.

    Though the Cubs almost certainly won't be the worst team in the NL Central this year, their playoff odds nonetheless look like a toss-up.

    Playoff chances: 50 percent

       

    St. Louis Cardinals

    The St. Louis Cardinals reacted appropriately to missing out on the 2018 postseason with 88 wins.

    Their big move was to add MVP-caliber slugger Paul Goldschmidt to a lineup that was good enough to score 4.7 runs per game without him. They also outfitted a leaky bullpen with Andrew Miller.

    It's nevertheless fair to be worried about the sheer volatility within the pitching staff. Neither Miller nor Luke Gregerson was healthy last year, and Jordan Hicks' results were less impressive than his stuff. In the meantime, Carlos Martinez has already run afoul of the injury bug again.

    If the pitching staff holds together better than expected, the NL Central crown will be within the Cards' reach. Otherwise, it'll be a struggle.

    Playoff chances: 40 percent

       

    Pittsburgh Pirates

    If the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to improve on last season's up-and-down road to 82 wins, it'll be because of their pitching.

    Somewhat quietly, Pirates hurlers put up a 3.52 ERA in the second half of 2018. Almost all the key contributors—namely Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Felipe Vazquez and Richard Rodriguez—are back to keep runs at a premium in 2019.

    It's too bad the front office did virtually nothing to improve a weak offense. It'll be up to the incumbents—particularly Starling Marte, Josh Bell, Corey Dickerson and, when healthy, Gregory Polanco—to drive an improvement on that, and they may not have the power to make it happen.

    Barring any surprises, the Pirates will be hard-pressed to crack the top three of the NL Central.

    Playoff chances: 10 percent

      

    Cincinnati Reds

    Despite losing 95 games in 2018, the Cincinnati Reds took the novel approach of trying to construct a winner in the offseason.

    Hence a batch of new stars headlined by Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood. They figure to improve an offense that relied too heavily on Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett as well as a rotation with an NL-worst 5.28 ERA since 2017.

    Still, Cincinnati's new additions arguably have more name value than star power. The pitchers are in particular trouble, as they have to contend with Great American Ball Park and a weak defense.

    The Reds are certainly better than they were a year ago, but they're in basically the same boat as the Pirates.

    Playoff chances: 10 percent

National League West

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    With a second straight World Series defeat in their wake and reset luxury-tax penalties in their future, most everyone expected the Los Angeles Dodgers to have a wild offseason.

    Yet they settled for adding A.J. Pollock, Russell Martin and Joe Kelly. In so doing, they effectively placed all their chips on their incumbent stars. To this end, it's not the best omen that Clayton Kershaw is already fending off the injury bug again.

    However, nobody will bemoan Los Angeles' quiet offseason if a healthy Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler live up to their extraordinary potential. And in general, these Dodgers don't look decidedly worse than the club that was much better than its record indicated last year.

    Further, it helps that the Dodgers don't have any natural predators in the National League West, which isn't as deep as the other two NL divisions.

    Playoff chances: 80 percent

       

    Colorado Rockies

    If anyone's going to overcome the Dodgers in the NL West, it'll be the Colorado Rockies.

    With help from newcomer Daniel Murphy and a healthy David Dahl, the offense shouldn't need Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon to do all the heavy lifting again. And atop the rotation is the excellent one-two punch of Kyle Freeland and German Marquez.

    But if the bullpen is going to survive the loss of Adam Ottavino, it will need Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw to do better jobs of adhering to their track records. And while the offense is better, it figures to remain weak away from Coors Field.

    In short, the Rockies will need more of last year's good luck to even have a hope of beating L.A. or nabbing a wild-card spot.

    Playoff chances: 40 percent

       

    Arizona Diamondbacks

    The 2018 Arizona Diamondbacks won 82 games even with Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock. They're all gone now.

    Yet it's possible the 2019 D-backs will surprise people. All it would take is Zack Greinke doing his usual thing while Robbie Ray, Steven Souza Jr. and Jake Lamb bounce back and Ketel Marte, Carson Kelly and Luke Weaver break out.

    What's more likely, however, is that pitfalls will open up and the Snakes will struggle to adhere to even the .500 mark en route to difficult decisions at the trade deadline.

    Since their No. 17 farm system needs improving, chances are they'll choose to sell and put themselves on a path to a losing season.

    Playoff chances: 10 percent

       

    San Diego Padres

    Now that the San Diego Padres have signed Machado to a $300 million contract, all they have to do is wait for the best players from their No. 1 farm system to form a championship contender around him.

    Trouble is, that probably won't happen until 2020.

    In the meantime, the Padres are coming off a 96-loss season that the Machado signing can't fix by itself. What they really need are starters who can improve a rotation that posted a 5.09 ERA last year.

    Since such pitchers don't appear to be forthcoming, 2019 is looking like a bridge year for San Diego.

    Playoff chances: 5 percent

       

    San Francisco Giants

    The San Francisco Giants have been heavily connected to Bryce Harper, but it'll nonetheless be a surprise if they actually end up with him.

    As of now, the Giants are set to pin all their hopes on a modified version of last season's 89-loss roster. A return to October will only happen if their many veterans (i.e., Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Evan Longoria) turn back the clock while their few youngsters (i.e., Dereck Rodriguez and Steven Duggar) become stars in their own right.

    It's easy enough to bank on the youngsters, but the veterans are another matter. They're too long in the tooth and, worse, too far removed from being stars.

    Playoff chances: 5 percent

        

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.

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