The World Series is over, and the Houston Astros have emerged victorious. Tanking works, and the Astros have risen to glory thanks to Jeff Luhnow’s shrewd decisions (plus some luck — there’s always luck involved). Houston, the city and the team, will celebrate, but everybody else is already thinking ahead to the 2018 season.
In theory, every team has a dream of winning the World Series, even if some teams don’t have a chance. We’re looking at you, Oakland. Let’s focus on the teams that actually have a decent shot of winning it all next season. Here are the five best bets to be World Series champions in 2018.
1. Houston Astros
Let’s start with the champs, because this was not a fluke. The Astros went 101-61 with a plus-196 run differential despite the fact Carlos Correa missed a chunk of the season with injury. They didn’t even have Justin Verlander for the bulk of the season, and now they do. He’s one of the better pitchers around. Repeating is hard, but not impossible. Especially, since all their best players are in, or are entering, their prime.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have a great chance of redemption in 2018. After all, they only fell one win short. Their lineup is stacked, and they have the amazing Clayton Kershaw. Their one question is the rest of their rotation, especially since Yu Darvish likely won’t be back after his struggles in the World Series. Fortunately for Los Angeles, the Dodgers have all the money in the world and can pay to fix their problems.
3. New York Yankees
Speaking of money, the Yankees gave Joe Girardi the boot, probably shortsightedly, but they are a team on the rise. Aaron Judge may not replicate his 2017 performance, but he doesn’t have to, because there is plenty of talent around him. New York also has one of the best farm systems in baseball. That means they can call up some prospects, or use them as trade bait. The Yankees actually had a better run differential than the Astros (plus-198), and could be primed to be atop the baseball world for the first time since 2009.
4. Washington Nationals
The clock is ticking on the contract of Bryce Harper, so the Nationals better win now. Fortunately, they have the talent to do it. In addition to Harper they have Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner, and that’s a trio you can build an offense around. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are two legitimate aces, and the Nationals realized last season they had to boost their bullpen.
Dusty Baker got the boot as manager, which may seem harsh, but the dude did bat Jayson Werth second all postseason long, and he’s never been the best technical manager. Dave Martinez is not guaranteed to be any better, but he may not need to be. The truth is the NL East is a thoroughly mediocre division and a little more luck may be all Washington needs.
5. Boston Red Sox
The final spot came down to the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, two teams who know a little something about lengthy championship droughts. Well, Cleveland is also in the running, and probably deserve a mention. Here’s the mention. Anyway, the Cubs still have a ton of talent, but there are reasons to question their pitching staff. John Lackey doesn’t seem good anymore, Jon Lester isn’t what he used to be, and Jake Arrieta may be gone.
Boston, meanwhile, has Chris Sale, one of the best pitchers in baseball. They also have David Price, if he can stay healthy. Rafael Devers will be around all season (one assumes). Xavier Bogaerts and Mookie Betts will both likely hit better, and Andrew Benintendi is still a young player with a lot of promise. The Red Sox should be better in 2018 than they were in 2017, especially if Alex Cora proves to be a better manager than John Farrell.