Five of the six MLB division winners repeated in 2017, and the same could be the case in the 2018 season. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers are among the top contenders after meeting in the World Series, though they’ll have plenty of competition throughout the year.
Here are predictions for the playoffs and World Series, as well as picks for each division:
AL East: New York Yankees
It’s a two-team race between the Yankees and Red Sox to win the division. Both teams have their question marks in the backend of the rotation, but New York has the edge because of all the power they have in the lineup. Gary Sanchez might be a better hitter than NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton and AL MVP runner-up Aaron Judge, and the Yankees have plenty of pieces to trade and money to spend if they need to make an upgrade.
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
Cleveland came one victory away from winning the 2016 World Series and they had the AL’s best record in 2017. Even if they take a small step back, they can win 95 games this season. Corey Kluber is the AL’s best pitcher, and the Indians might have baseball’s No.1 pitching staff. The Royals, White Sox and Tigers could all conceivably finish in last place with the Twins being Cleveland’s only real competition.
AL West: Houston Astros
It wouldn’t make much sense to bet against the defending champs after they seemingly got better in the offseason. Not only did Houston trade for Gerrit Cole, but they’ll have Justin Verlander for the entire year. The Astros won 101 games when they only had Verlander for a month in 2017. It will be difficult for anyone else in the division to reach 90 wins.
NL East: Washington Nationals
The Marlins are the worst team in baseball, and a lot has to break right for the other three teams to contend for a wild-card spot. Washington has won 95 games or more in three of the last four seasons, and they could be as good as ever in 2018. The Nationals have two Cy Young candidates in the front of the rotation, and Bryce Harper might put up monster numbers as he looks to prove that he’s worth a $400 million contract in the offseason.
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
Even after battling a World Series hangover in the first half of last year, Chicago still managed to win the division and reach a third straight NLCS. One through five, the Cubs might have the NL’s best rotation, and the same could be said about their lineup. The Brewers could challenge Chicago for much of the year, though the Cardinals probably aren’t good enough to win the division. It should be another long season for the Reds and Pirates.
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Despite not winning a World Series, L.A. has been baseball’s most consistent team this decade. They’ve been the NL West champions in each of the last five years, and after they led MLB with 104 wins in 2017, it’s safe to say they’ll have another first-place finish in 2018. Some of the league’s best young hitters, a dominant bullpen and maybe the greatest regular-season pitcher in the sport’s history should easily get the Dodgers to 90-plus wins. The Giants were expected to have a bounce-back year, though they’ve already suffered some major injuries. The Diamondbacks could win a wild-card spot for a second straight year.
AL Wild-Card: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins
Boston’s offense should be improved from last year when they won the AL East, even though they finished last in the league in home runs. Minnesota made a couple of additions in the offseason that went under the radar and could make them better than the team that won the second AL Wild-Card spot in 2017.
NL Wild-Card: Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets
Milwaukee’s rotation could take a step back from last year, but that could be negated by additions like Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain that give the Brewers one of the NL’s best outfields. New York still has some immensely talented arms that will be a problem for the rest of the NL East if they can stay healthy.
World Series: Cleveland Indians over Washington Nationals
After blowing big playoff series leads in each of the last two years, this could finally be Cleveland’s chance to end their championship drought. They’ve got an elite starting pitcher and a dominant bullpen that can carry them in the postseason, and they are in the right division to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It could be Washington’s turn to represent the NL in the World Series, though the Nationals have to prove they can get the job done in October.